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Side eye: it is what it is... until it isn't

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Last week, something strange started appearing on Twitter. A bunch of users over on the tech-corner of Twitter changed their handles to the eye-mouth-eye emoji meme.

What did it mean? Was this a new social platform? Or, as these emojis are often used to denote something embarrassing on TikTok, was it something I had missed a new trend again?

Then a URL, .fm, was listed on Product Hunt, the site to find the best new products from across the web and is home to some of the biggest hit products of the last few years. The URL had an email sign-up and discussions started popping up on major Reddit threads – even some journalists had picked up a whiff of a story.

But what was this site? The latest social phenomenon? At this point, no one knew but the air of mystery and the sense of FOMO was palpable.

The reality: a diverse, “ragtag group of young technologists” – their words, not mine – were behind the craze, and they had unknowingly stumbled onto something. As the post from the website on Friday night revealed “What started out as a meme in our small group chat grew bigger than we ever imagined.”

How did they use this moment of internet fame? Rather than try and launch the next big social media platform, they decided to use this moment for good. As the statement on their website says: “Honestly, we didn’t have to think too hard. In this moment, there’s pretty much no greater issue to amplify than the systemic racism and anti-Blackness much of the world is only beginning to wake up to”.

So they encouraged those that visited and signed up the website to donate to a group of organisations including Loveland Foundation Therapy Fund, The Okra Project and The Innocence Project, all set on working towards racial justice.

From a Twitter meme that had started less than a week ago, these technologists had racked up 20k email signups for a product that didn’t exist, had thousands of people on Twitter sharing their link, and been covered in mainstream media like The Independent and Forbes. But most importantly they raised a considerable amount of money for the #BlackLivesMatter cause.

Leveraging the hype

So, why is any of this important? Well, in their own words, ‘It is what it is‘ managed something remarkable. In just a week they “leveraged the relentless hype of exclusive apps and redirected it towards a critical social need.”

A collective of people came together around a single cause. By showcasing the folly of social trends and commandeering our vacuous need to discover the new (let’s be honest, we are all suspended in a never-ending FOMO hype cycle) they were able to make a real difference.

They also demonstrated that while being an ally can take many different forms, at the end of the day it’s our actions that are more important than our words.

There’s something gloriously simple in ‘it is what it is‘ and I, for one, salute their quest to “keep giving back as best as we can”.

Tom Jarvis, founder and managing director, Wilderness Agency

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