Social Sphere: One Giant Block in a Sea of Viral Stories
Posted on 2021 Apr,30  | By Christina Fakhry

From rising concerns over anti-Asian sentiment in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to everyone’s eyes suddenly being stuck on a giant cargo ship blocking one of the world’s biggest trade routes, the past few weeks had a lot in store for the online community to feed on and learn from. Join us aboard, as we look back at some of the highlights in another jam-packed edition of Social Sphere.

















Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s First Ever Tweet Sells for a Whopping $2.9 Million

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s famed first tweet “just setting up my twttr” got auctioned in the form of a non-fungible token (NFT) for $2,915,835.47 on its 15th anniversary. Dorsey donated the amount to basic-income charity GiveDirectly, which helps alleviate extreme poverty in East Africa through direct cash transfers. Dating back to March 2006, the tweet was bought using cryptocurrency Ether [second-largest of its kind after Bitcoin] through Cent-owned auction platform Valuables, which allows users to bid on their favorite tweets from verified creators using crypto. The lucky highest bidder and now proud new owner of Dorsey’s tweet is 29-year-old Sina Estavi, CEO of Malaysia-based blockchain firm Bridge Oracle. “It's a piece of human history in the form of a digital asset. Who knows what will be the price of the first tweet of human history 50 years from now," Estavi told the BBC when asked about the purchase. NFTs, which by simple definition are a form of unique digital asset that comes with its own blockchain-based digital signature allowing anyone to verify its ownership/authenticity, have been markedly growing in popularity lately, with some selling for millions of dollars. It will be interesting to see how the NFT market, which currently encapsulates everything from memes to art, develops in the future.


Suez Canal Container Ship Blockage Unleashes Meme-fueled Twitter Deluge

The major international news of year so far came from Egypt after a massive container ship dubbed Ever Given got stuck sideways in the Suez Canal for days, disrupting global trade and unleashing a deluge of jokes on Twitter in the process. From people attempting to suggest creative solutions to those projecting their emotional state onto emerging images of a bulldozer trying to dig out its best at the side of the ship, it did not take long for the incident to turn into meme material. Another viral image of two site workers and a digger trying to keep their heads above water at the shore sparked the birth of a brand new Twitter account sarcastically dubbed @SuezDiggerGuy, which currently boats over 65k followers. The flood of jokes carried on for quite a few days. “Why isn't there a livestream of the ship stuck in the Suez Canal? I feel that would be very relaxing to watch and make me feel a lot better about my own problems,” one user wrote. “Hey is the Suez Canal really slow for anyone else right now?” another user joked. After creating a maritime traffic jam of hundreds of vessels and preventing an estimated $9.6 billion worth of trade across a waterway that otherwise channels almost 10 percent of global seaboard oil trade, the ship was ultimately cleared from the canal on April 29. Safe to say, gone but not forgotten.


#BoycottBurgerKing: Fast Food Chain’s Suez Real-time Marketing has Egyptians Fired up

A real-time marketing attempt by Burger King Chile capitalizing on the Suez Canal incident by replacing the stuck cargo ship with a Double Whopper under the tagline “Maybe it is too big” garnered positive attention in the creative/agency world but did not seem to sit well at all with Egyptians. The humorous social media post, which was subsequently picked up by Burger King Global CMO Fernando Machado on Twitter for its ingenuity, drew heavy criticism on the platform from Egyptian social media users who found it to be exploiting their country’s crisis. This led them to escalate their anger in the form of a bilingual hashtag inviting people to #BoycottBurgerKing, which attracted thousands of supporting tweets. This is not the first time the fast food giant finds itself in hot waters over a tweet recently. Remember Burger King UK’s “Women belong in the kitchen” International Women’s Day gaffe that was meant to empower women to break through the country’s male-dominated kitchens but instead sparked major online backlash and prompted the company to delete it and issue an apology? Is this sequence of online events likely to push the brand towards changing its social media approach or is bad publicity good publicity after all?


Vile Anti-Asian Violence in the US Sparks #StopAsianHate Online Movement

Over a year after COVID-19 emerged, Asians continue to receive hate and racist messages on social media. Anti-Asian sentiment took a deadly turn on March 16, when a series of mass shootings occurred at three different spas in Atlanta, leaving eight people dead, six of whom being Asian women. As the 21-year-old perpetrator was taken into custody later that day, people took to Twitter to express their outrage, branding the cruel incident as a hate crime and calling for increased awareness around anti-Asian violence. This prompted the hashtag #StopAsianHate to turn into a global online movement reminiscent of #BlackLivesMatter, in parallel with mass protests against anti-Asian violence that were happening in multiple cities across the US. Many celebrities, businesses and agencies joined the movement, with brands like Coca-Cola and Etsy pledging thousands of dollars to AAPI organizations and companies like Starbucks, Netflix and Facebook posting statements of support. In the past year alone, Asian-Americans have been the target of nearly 3,800 hate incidents in the US. And as the Coronavirus pandemic rages despite ongoing vaccination efforts worldwide, more awareness is needed around the issue both online and offline.


Lebanese Psycho-sexologist Sandrine Atallah Hits Back at TV Interview Misogyny

Renowned Lebanese sexual medicine consultant and psycho-sexologist Dr. Sandrine Atallah appeared in an episode of popular evening show 3a Gheir Kawkab [On Another Planet] to talk about some of her recent sex education social media videos. During the interview, two of the show’s male panelists made derogatory comments about the doctor, branding her content as ‘arousing’ as opposed to educational. The comments were quickly deemed misogynistic by social media users and Dr. Atallah herself, who later took to Twitter to address the issue, garnering a wave of online support and prompting the show’s host Pierre Rabbat to issue an apology in this regard. “What happened on Sunday’s episode while talking about sex education videos and debating about their availability for general public, went unintentionally in the wrong way…And on a pure personal level, I would like to express my apologies for what happened with Dr. Sandrine Atallah during this segment,” he tweeted. The apology did not seem to cut it with Atallah who hit back at Rabbat with a reply that kept the debate further heated. “Apologies received but not accepted. You could have: checked your facts instead of sharing fake news about my videos & my previous show. Silenced your anchors instead of encouraging them by saying I was seductive. Given me a space to express myself instead of interrupting me,” she retorted. The incident remained a trending topic on Lebanese Twitter for a few days after, fueling the conversation around patriarchy, misogyny and the lack of sex education in Lebanon and the Arab World.


Twitter Loses it Over Surprise WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Outage

On March 19, social media users around the world experienced a major outage affecting both Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, alongside some other Facebook services. In the wake of the unexpected incident, people eventually turned to Twitter to comment on the situation, prompting the hashtags #InstagramDown and #WhatsAppDown to the top of the platform’s trending hashtags. At one point in the outage, over 100,000 users reported issues with Instagram on real-time issues and outages overview platform DownDetector. Some people even tried to delete and redownload the app prior to learning of the global outage. And while Facebook was ultimately able to resolve the issue and get everything gradually back on track, the outage period was a true moment of bonding and joke-cracking for Twitter users worldwide. “Some people were having issues with their Instagram accounts earlier, but we're back now. The issue's been fixed and we're sorry for the trouble. #instagramdown,” Instagram tweeted in an attempt to clarify the incident. Lebanese people, on the other hand, were quick to connect the outage to the country’s escalating electricity and internet problems amid rumors of such basic services being at risk due to the ongoing economic crisis.


French Footballer Thierry Henry Quits Social Media over Racism and Bullying Concerns

Prominent French footballer and Arsenal legend Thierry Henry announced his decision to quit social media on March 26 as an act of protest against online racist abuse and bullying. “Hi Guys. From tomorrow morning I will be removing myself from social media until the people in power are able to regulate their platforms with the same vigour and ferocity that they currently do when you infringe copyright,” Henry tweeted to his 2.3 million followers. He presumed to say that the level of racism, bullying and resulting mental torture has become too toxic to ignore, calling for more accountability across major social networks. The decision comes in the wake of multiple incidents of online racist abuse targeting black footballers. Henry is not the first celebrity to have taken on such a move recently. Just a few days earlier, American model and entrepreneur Chrissy Teigen who has always been one of the most active celebrities on Twitter announced she was leaving the platform, also citing online abuse. “For over 10 years, you guys have been my world. I honestly owe so much to this world we have created here. I truly consider so many of you my actual friends. But it’s time for me to say goodbye. This no longer serves me as positively as it serves me negatively, and I think that’s the right time to call something,” she tweeted prior to deactivating her Twitter account. This comes amid increased Twitter efforts to target online harassment and reduce cyberbullying on the platform. But as more people continue to be affected by online abuse on a daily basis, could this prompt more social media users to follow suit?



Young Woman’s Heartwarming Cancer Fundraiser Garners Instant Support

After being recently diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease, a type of blood cancer that starts in the lymphatic system, young Lebanese Yasmina Abou Sleiman did not give up but rather decided to use her voice to help other cancer patients get their treatment. In a selfie video posted to IGTV, Abou Sleiman briefly revealed her diagnosis then went on to call upon people to donate and spread the message about the fundraiser in order to help other cancer patients who are currently unable to afford their treatment amid Lebanon’s ongoing economic crisis. The video went viral on Instagram, garnering over 292k views, which resulted in the needed amount being quickly reached as people flocked to support the cause on crowdfunding platform GoFundMe. “With the current economic crisis, the pandemic and the aftermath of the August Port Explosion, it is even harder for people to get the treatment that they need,” Abou Sleiman’s fundraiser read. “I am working closely with my doctor to make sure funds are well allocated,” she continued, thanking everyone for their support. As Lebanon’s political, economic and currency crises rage on, many people are resorting to crowdfunding for support, with similar campaigns emerging regularly on Instagram, notably in the aftermath of the devastating Beirut blast.


Beirut Port Graffiti Gets Painted Over [Only to Come Back Stronger]

In the aftermath of the Beirut blast and its devastating impact on the country, the words “my government did this” were graffitied upon the roadside wall facing Beirut port, becoming a staple of the explosion site. Months after the graffiti emerged, on April 8, the wall was repainted, causing the words to completely disappear in the process. The move sparked major public outrage, notably amid the ongoing political deadlock further aggravating the country’s multiple crises. But it did not take long for the iconic statement to come back again, this time with added emphasis. “You cannot erase your crime, my government did this,” the updated line read. Regardless of the intentions behind the repainting, this incident only goes to affirm Lebanese people’s determination to hold those in charge accountable for their crime sooner or later after their city was wrecked to ashes in one of the world’s most powerful non-nuclear explosions on August 4, leaving hundreds dead and triggering ever-present trauma among the living.


Public Outrage Over Death of Injured Lebanese Doctor at Hospital Door

Lebanese doctor and October 2019 activist Mohamad Ajami died at a local hospital’s door upon failure to secure the required 500,000 LPB deposit. The tragic incident, which is sadly becoming a recurrent reality in Lebanon, sparked major outrage on social media as people took to their Instagram stories to mourn Ajami and denounce what the country has come to amid its ongoing economic and health crises. Dr. Ajami’s death came after he was admitted to the hospital with critical injuries following a severe car accident caused by a pothole that made his vehicle flip over. He had spent around three hours in front of the hospital prior to his passing as the administration refused to admit him into emergency care until a deposit was paid. Another sad day for a Lebanon in slow death.


Lebanese Designer Becomes First Arab Woman to be Shortlisted for Prestigious LVMH Prize

As the country continues to disintegrate, Lebanese talents continue to make us proud. Lebanese designer and Renaissance Renaissance brand founder Cynthia Merhej recently became the first ever Arab woman to be shortlisted for the prestigious LVHM Prize. Every year, the fashion prize rewards select young fashion designers for their outstanding creative talent, thereby enabling the emergence of a new generation of designers. Upon studying Visual Communication at the Royal College of Art and Central Saint Martins in London, Merhej followed in the footsteps of three generations of women in her family to launch her own atelier. “Her vision is strongly shaped by her experience in a female-dominated culture in Beirut and seeks to reflect the multifaceted nature of women throughout the different stages of their lives,” the prize’s official Instagram page read. The semi-finalist also took to her brand’s Instagram to share the news and urge the public to vote for her. “As a Lebanese person who often found themselves being the only Arab within global institutions - it was not lost on me the way our stories were time and time again being appropriated and simplified into tragic or exoticized narratives,” she captioned the post. “As the first Lebanese, and Arab, woman to be nominated for this prize, I take pride in representing all the incredible local talents in my country that have supported this brand and helped it thrive with their dedication, talent, and sweat. Thank you.”


Upcoming Friends Reunion Sends Fans into Meltdown as Filming is Wrapped

News about a Friends reunion special in the works at HBO Max have kept fans on their toes ever since it was first announced in 2019. Initially set to honor the cult sitcom’s 25th anniversary, the project faced some production delays in the process. But the dream is finally coming true! According to a post shared to the official Friends Instagram account [@friends] on April 10, the special has finally wrapped filming. “That’s a wrap! Could we BE anymore excited!? Friends: The Reunion is coming to @hbomax,” the post’s caption read, sending fans into a frenzy. The post was shared countless times to ecstatic user’s stories and boasts over 3.1 million likes to date. “Could I BE any more impatient,” one commenter wrote. “The one where I can’t wait,” another rightfully added.


Adam Levine Joins His Girls for Some Outdoor Fun in Viral Instagram Snap

Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine’s posted a heartwarming outdoor snap alongside his wife and daughters on April 6, melting scores of hearts in the process. In the viral photo, Levine and his Namibian model wife Behati Prinsloo are seen from the back holding hands and matching tie-dye dresses with their two daughters Dusty, 4, and Gio, 3. “Girls just wanna have fun,” the singer captioned the shot, adding a playful nail polish emoji in the end. Instagrammers were quick to express their love for the idea, flooding the post with supporting comments and sharing it onto their Instagram stories.


Chevrolet Arabia Drops Revolutionary Corvette Controller on April Fool’s

“Turn any Chevrolet into a #Corvette, with the All-New Corvette Controller!” Chevrolet Arabia announced in an Instagram post on April 1, urging followers to leave corresponding emojis in the comments to pre-order theirs. Eventually, some things are just too good to be true. Combining two passions that go hand in hand for young drivers in the region: performance vehicles and gaming, the April Fool’s prank garnered positive attention among target Instagram users who rushed to drop their emojis in the comments. The epic-looking wireless controller that can give any Chevrolet the beastly performance of the All-New 2020 Corvette Stingray is surely keeping our imagination alive in these weird times for humanity.