Media Perspective: Social media pack mentality will be the ruin of the industry
A view from Jeremy Lee

Media Perspective: Social media pack mentality will be the ruin of the industry

Using the type of hyperbole not entirely dissimilar to some of the more ludicrous agency mission statements, Charlie Sheen launched his unique interpretations of "winning" and "tiger blood" on to the global public last week.

He did it with some success - both terms have now entered the vernacular - but the whole exercise was rather uncomfortable.

While many of us will have fond memories of his appearance as Topper Harley in Hot Shots! Part Deux, Sheen's more recent body of work has generally been more elusive. So when the stories broke about his behaviour at a hotel that led to him being sectioned, and the subsequent suspension from his US sitcom Two And A Half Men, I ignored them.

Sadly, social media revels in disseminating this sort of stuff (and is certainly more successful at it than it is as an instrument in revolution). It wasn't long before I, and I expect many others, were seeking it out on YouTube.

To my shame, I found myself devouring as much footage as I could find online of what looked like a man with addictions suffering some sort of breakdown, being interviewed gleefully by every US network about his behaviour. It was gripping stuff. The next step was for Sheen to launch on Twitter, where, with a depressing predictability, he acquired more than two million followers in less than a week. I was also one of them.

Quite what we all collectively hoped to achieve from following his ramblings was unclear but I rather expect it was a heady mix of voyeurism and being drawn to the pack - an experience that PHD was on the wrong end of last month.

By now, the feeders in this pack were in a frenzy and it was time for mainstream media to respond. The Sun helpfully sent over a reporter to interview Sheen and his non-traditional family - a bespectacled former nanny and a porn star who used to go by the unfortunate name "Bree".

Sheen dutifully supplied the paper with the requisite quotes - "you ride this cosmic mercury surfboard down the face of a tsunami and tell me you don't feel bitchin'" - and the reporter presumably returned pleased.

Even the more highbrow press were happy to hitch themselves to the social media-powered bandwagon. The Guardian ran an online quiz where you were asked to identify whether the quotes (sample: "Your face will melt and your children will weep over your exploded body") had come from Sheen or Colonel Gadaffi. It was the former. We all sniggered dutifully, as if we were back in the playground.

When social media leads the news agenda, as it appears to in this example, I think the industry will find itself going down a very dangerous dead-end route. Aside from the morality of following the pack, how on earth do you expect anyone to want to pay for it?