Lying In Wait For Lance

by · January 14, 201318 comments

Unless the unexpected occurs, we will hear this week from one of the world’s greatest heroes that he is not what we’ve thought him to be. The Lance Armstrong Interview allegedly happens today for a Thursday airing on the Oprah network. All accounts are that he’ll finally admit to doping.

The Internet will have a blast, blasting the seven-time Tour de France champion (now stripped of those titles), cancer survivor and Livestrong founder.

Depending upon which and how Armstrong answers questions, he may see the end of his public career. He could draw considerable sympathy for the “I overcame cancer and doping helped me inspire millions of others to do the same,” play. He could also become the biggest fish to be publicly filleted since O.J. Either way, the Internet piranha are circling and the cyclist is the feast.

Like the mass media, the Internet and social media have become cesspools of extremism. One little slip-up or misstep and the Twitterati eat you alive. If you’re not careful or immediately apologetic, you can lose everything from curb appeal to your career.

And no one is immune. The day of the horrific shootings in Connecticut, I posted a reference to the movie A Christmas Story and said something about not shooting out your eye, a predominant theme from the movie. Having my head down in work all day and not knowing of the shootings, there was little reason for me to resist the post and reference. I’m pithy and irreverent. It fit just fine.

Moments later, I was being called names even I’d rather not repeat. One employee of a notable social media agency called me, “Disgusting,” — a label he put on anyone that day who posted anything other than profound sympathies for the dead or wounded. While I acted quickly, apologized, explained and the furor over my particular comment faded away, there was no apology or retraction from the dozens who just assumed my inappropriateness was intentional.

The problem is that we live in a polarizing world of black and white when it comes to our communications. Every headline has to be sensational. Every adjective has to be superlative. Every analysis has to be extreme.

For heaven’s sake, we’re naming winter snow storms now?!

We flippantly label people wrong, unethical or even disgusting because we’ve got some ill-conceived notion the rest of the world actually gives a shit.

The problem with black and white is the world we live in happens to be gray. No person or organization’s sins are typically extreme, diabolical or even intentional. Sure, there are bad people in the world and we’ll always run into Bernie Madoffs, Enrons and Celine Dions. (Come on?! Tell me you don’t also have nightmares on days you hear her sing? Just me? Fine.) But we flippantly label people wrong, unethical or even disgusting because we’ve got Twitter accounts, Facebook friends and some ill-conceived notion the rest of the world sees what we think and actually gives a shit.

We want the links. We want the retweets. We want the attention, even if it means inaccurately portraying someone who did something we assume we would not.

What will likely happen this week is Armstrong will admit he did something wrong, the world will label him a sinner and he will decide whether he wants to earn back that respect. Unfortunately, while the sins of Lance Armstrong certainly carry with them plenty of victims and a disappointed public, he succumbed to basic human flaws we all do — greed and glory.

Sadly, those are the basic human motivations behind telling your followers Lance Armstrong is a horrible person.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • Kevin Kirkpatrick

    So true Jason. The media, politics, Apple vs PC we are forced to land on one side or the other. I am hopeful the NRA and Mr Biden’s team can find common ground and not be Black or White……Great Post!

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Amen to that, Kevin.

  • http://twitter.com/bobledrew Bob LeDrew

    Hi Jason: I’m a cyclist (nowhere near LA’s level, obviously). I’m also a cancer survivor, and I’m a social media guy. I haven’t written publicly about Lance’s interview, but I may, once it happens. I’m not going to do so for “greed” or for “glory”, but to express my sadness and anger that someone who’s done a great deal in his life that is laudable — Livestrong — has also been a profoundly destructive force on an individual level to so many people. 

    The irony and complexity of LA’s impact on cycling is this: without him, cycling and the Tour de France would have nowhere near the profile it does. But his actions have contributed to the sport’s crisis of confidence as well. 

    LA was an inspiration to many. He may still be. But at the heart of his inspiring acts was a fundamental lie. Surely we can express our outrage that we were lied to and duped without striving for “greed or glory.” 

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Fair points, Bob. I think you and Ethan above both hit on something worth responding to. While the tone of my piece is certainly a “he who casts the first stone” vibe, I don’t always think posting for “greed or glory” is a bad thing. I post articles like this all the time and I do so because it leads to monetary gain … thought leadership begets speaking engagements, books, cool clients, jobs, etc. So yes, “greed” is one reason I write. Maybe it’s better expressed as “monetization” and not so vile and sinful. But I would argue that  your reaction you may post is nothing more than an attempt at attention (i.e. – greed). I don’t think it’s bad or sinful of you. But some will take it to an extreme. (Okay, most will.) So your reactions still fit in my argument, but certainly tempered. Fair?

  • http://twitter.com/lizscherer Liz Scherer

    I don’t see this issue as black and white; I see it as someone who places himself in the public arena, lies repeatedly and then starts to backpedal when it seems that he will no longer be able to compete in any sport and not just cycling. The fact that he is choosing Oprah as a medium for his confession speaks volumes to his integrity. Personally? I don’t care if he lied or not but what I do care about is the impact that his actions has had on cancer survivors, the world of cycling and his non profit. We are all less than perfect; Lance Armstrong acts as though he is (or should be) above criticism. I wish him well and only hope that he’s learned a few lessons from this travesty. 

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Good points, Liz. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://twitter.com/cksyme Chris Syme

    If I could venture a guess, I would say that Armstrong has two motives in this interview: first is to begin the process of getting his lifetime ban from Olympic sports overturned so that he can compete in triathlons (ultimately to get into the record books). He is the consummate competitor and at this point I don’t think his reputation is his priority. I think his goals are more athletic. But I could be wrong. Second is to help out his buddy Oprah whose new network is struggling.  

    I believe he’s smart enough to know that confession will put the final nail in the coffin of his public reputation. 

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Interesting. I don’t know if I’d buy he’s in it for anything athletic. He’s not young anymore. But you may be right. Competitors never seem to give up.

  • Jade Makana

    Jason-Great article. I feel like theme of “polarity fatigue” is riding high after the Presidential election and with the dawn of a New Year.Your article immediately reminded me of Alain De Botton’s powerful video “A kinder, gentler philosophy of success” about how ridicule has become such an industry: http://www.ted.com/talks/alain_de_botton_a_kinder_gentler_philosophy_of_success.html . As you allude, obviously the ridicule is only so extreme because we feel like if we don’t loudly distance ourselves from these normal human impulses, we’ll be lumped in with them. But, we need to have more compassion and stop feeding the ridicule machine. Great post! 

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks, Jade. Appreciate the comments, and the link! Love a good TED now and then.

  • Carol

    Excellent analysis

  • http://twitter.com/ethanbeute Ethan Beute

    For a post about staying above the fray, it’s sure loaded with judgments about anonymous masses of people (flippantly, gives a shit, want the links, etc).

    There’s no question the Lance Armstrong is a liar and hypocrite.  The same desire for attention and adoration that allowed him to earn more than $20 million dollars in 2010 alone is directly related to the attention and disdain he’s received since the lies began to unravel.

    I like the observations here – and the nature of the post.  I don’t accept, though, all its judgments and conclusions.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Completely fair. Thanks for the perspective.

    • Tom Murphy

      I agree with Ethan. We are way too fast in pointing our fingers at others and making ill informed judgements, but you’re also missing some serious perspective here.  This wasn’t just cheating, this was a man who thought he was above the law, who bullied people, taunted, and belittled people so he could keep his cheating a secret. 

      I’m all for forgiveness, but first he must repent.  An appearance on Oprah doesn’t pass the sniff test.  Let’s see him make the effort by personally apologizing to all those poor individuals who tried to call foul on his cheating and suffered abuse as a result.  Then let’s get him back into society – but he needs to make the effort.

  • http://twitter.com/WalshMichaelR Michael Walsh

    Are you actually having nightmares about Celine Dion, or just when she sings? Wonder if there is a support group for that type of condition.

    Great article man, going to be real interesting to see what he comes out and says.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      I have nightmares about her if I hear her singing the day before. Sometimes she’s godzilla sized and eating me like a snickers. Or stabbing me to death with her razor sharp chin. Heh.

  • nannasin smith

      your reactions still fit in my argument, but certainly tempered. 
    S8050

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