Motown legend Smokey Robinson is working on launching a new social change program called “Smoke Alarms” (get it?) using the networking power of Twitter. Robinson and other celebrities with a large number of Twitter followers will tweet about pressing issues around the world that need attention and donations fast. The idea is for these tweets to get retweeted by Smoke Alarm heavyweights and get the resources to where they need to go as quickly as possible. Robinson has already recruited James Franco, Eva Longoria, and Brandy Norwood to participate. Combined, they have over five million followers, and celebrities who are even bigger heavyweights on Twitter are poised to join the effort, as well.
I imagine this would work very well for things like disaster relief, but could also inspire bursts of work toward longstanding issues by setting “micro-goals,” if you will. Perhaps Robinson could one day say, “Let’s make a dent in world hunger right now and raise x number of dollars for food banks in the next 24 hours,” or something. It will be interesting to see how effective it is. Undoubtedly, there will be a lot of well-intended tweets from people who can’t or won’t make donations for a cause, so it will be interesting to see what the rate of donations is as compared to retweet rates. However, this will have a measurable outcome, as opposed to empty social movements like changing the color of your avatar as some sort of way of participating in a revolution. (Spoiler: that didn’t really do anything. Sorry.)
What we really need to work on is getting my mom and every woman in her generation on Twitter. They still scream any time Smokey Robinson opens his mouth. They would be the fiercest virtual street team the world has ever seen.
Twitter is, I think, one of the more pristine examples of the democratizing effect of the internet. So many different types of people are on it, from the least interesting friend of yours whose tweets are always automatic horoscope updates to some of the biggest celebrities in the world. And it’s opened up interaction between celebrities and their fans in a way that didn’t really seem possible with any other platform. My sister-in-law, for example, is Twitter friends with Lady Gaga and a big part of my resume is devoted to detailing my Twitter relationship with MC Hammer. (He retweeted me once. I’m still dining out on it.)
Some celebrities resemble the average Twitter user, with less than thrilling updates on their lunch or their, um, “poetry,” which Paris Hilton has chosen to inflict upon the world:
Other celebrities more openly interact with fans or critics. A hilarious example of this is MamaPop darling Louis CK:
No one is obligated to use their power and influence to any particular end, but it’s always cool to see people taking advantage of how effectively they can reach a large group of people and helping others. Bravo Smokey!