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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Social Media: How It Enables Stupidity Disguised As Outrage Disguised As Social Conscience

On Friday May 14, James Volpe, a seventeen-year-old student at one of the high schools in the town I live in was tragically killed in a senseless automobile crash. His death marked the second such tragedy in our town in a little over a month. At times like these, its completely understandable for emotions to be raw and unfiltered - as a scan of the comments section of the local daily newspaper affirm.

However, there is a secondary story related to this tragedy that clearly points out the danger of emotion being broadcast on a large scale. It is also a lesson on how emotion can be manipulated by people with less than honorable agendas.

James' girlfriend had purchased her prom gown at a local store that had also been featured on the Oxygen Network show Jersey Couture. As the story unfolds, the girlfriend's mother, shaken by this horrible tragedy, innocently attempted to return the $1200 dress for a refund and was refused.

Fox News in New York City was quick to jump on this story as an example of the little guy (the girlfriend) being crushed by corporate America (the store). One headline says it all: Freehold retailer denies prom dress refund to teen after date is killed in car accident. That headline was grabbed from a story written by Bob Holt at newjerseynewsroom dot com. Read the story here.  How heartless for the owners of Diane & Co to deny a full refund after this tragedy! And to make matters worse, according to the girlfriend's mother, the employees at the store were rude to her as well! The outrage! A friend of the mother of the girlfriend fronted a Facebook page entitled "Boycott Diane & Co." The outrage was so severe that the Facebook page had over 15,000 followers as of yesterday afternoon.

You have to love the power of the new media!

Except for one thing: the story was made up by the girlfriend's mother. She was simply exploiting the tragedy to gain a refund for the dress. A refund she had tried to get the very afternoon before the car crash. A refund she wasn't entitled to because she didn't buy the dress in the first place.

According to the Facebook page of the father of the girlfriend, Click to read his entire note.
"After being made aware of what was going on with the dress that I PURCHASED not anyone else Diane had repeatly tried to contact met to resolve this issue at hand. When I finally reach Diane she first expressed her feeling of the tragedy over James’s death , further in the conversation without me even asking Diane reinsured  me that what ever I wanted whether it would be a refund or store credit, she would be more than happy to do."
The website The Reputation Doctor (read the story here) did a detailed examination of the story and concluded the girlfriend's mother had nothing to do with the purchase of the dress. The afternoon before the accident occurred, the mother, Dana West Santanastaso, threatened to ruin the reputation of the store after being rebuffed. It seems that Ms. Santanastaso simply used the tragedy to further her war against her ex-husband.

The outrage should not be channeled at the store, who by all accounts (except for Ms. Santanastaso's) were completely reasonable at this horrific time. The outrage should be channeled toward the people who perpetrated and propagated this senseless abuse of a tragedy to further their own twisted agenda. And I'm sorry friends, but if you're one of the 15,000 plus people who "Liked" the Boycott Diane & Co page, you are party to the fraud and evilness as well.

My heart is heavy for the family of the young man, for his girlfriend and her father, and for everyone who was legitimately touched and affected by this tragedy. I am disgusted by the people who used this tragedy to perpetrate their fraud.

I feel sorry for those of you who mindlessly jumped on the band wagon and who were subsequently made to be fools. That's what happens when you put emotion before intellect.

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