3 Things the Dapper Laughs incident told us about social media

If you’ve been anywhere near Twitter – or news websites – in the last few days, chances are you would have come across the name Dapper Laughs, a comedy character created by comic Daniel O’Reilly that went from social media sensation to TV star and finally to media whipping boy in an extremely short amount of time.

Ever since it came to light that the “character” of Dapper Laughs told an audience member at a comedy gig that she was “gagging for a rape”, social media exploded in a frenzy that saw a wave of action against him – from online petitions to have his ITV2 show Dapper Laughs On The Pull taken off the air and Cardiff University’s petition to have him banned from performing there, to millions of Tweets from both women and men to have him kicked off the air (and in more abusive cases, the planet) – that resulted in ITV2 canning his series, BBC Newsnight holding Daniel O’Reilly to account for the character’s crimes of rampant sexism, making light of rape and misogynistic behaviour.

Twitter essentially cheered when O’Reilly – looking like a schoolboy being told off by his scary headmistress (AKA Emily Maitlis) – went on Newsnight, publicly apologised, and retired the character live on the BBC. The Dapper Laughs saga brought up many questions about the media, the web, freedom of speech, mob mentality online and, of course, the central point of how rife sexism and misogyny is in the world.

Let’s leave those debates to one side for now, and concentrate on what the Dapper Laughs saga has taught us about social media in general. As Dapper Laughs began as an internet sensation, and how support for his demise essentially started on social media, it seems only right to do so.

#1 – A Social Media Following can Launch a Lucrative Career

Take a look at Dapper Laughs online profile:
• 594,000+ Followers on Vine
• 1.7 million+ Likes on Facebook
• 370,000+ Followers on Twitter
This was built up over a year (his Facebook page launched in October 2013), and culminated in ITV2 giving him his own show. Whilst you might not agree with the content, it shows that if you put the graft in and build an audience over social media, it can take your career to new heights. Whether you’re a comedian, an actor, a filmmaker, musician or a writer, if you get enough people interested in what you’re doing, chances are you are going to come to the attention of the big wigs.

#2 – Trial by Social Media Exists

The Dapper Laughs situation has shown that if enough people are angry or upset about something, they have the power to collectively end what it is they are unhappy about. The same way that Justin Bieber and One Direction fans are fiercely loyal and more than a little terrifying at times, the Dapper Laugh “haters” – the majority of them armed with realistic and intelligent arguments and views about feminism, decency and sexism – ultimately led to the cancellation of his TV show, the cancellation of his live tour, and the “retirement” of the character.

Tom Zephyr’s Change.org petition received 68,000 supporters in 4 days, and you can make an argument that without the likes of Twitter and Facebook to share the petition and its aim to get ITV2 to take the show off the air, it might not have made as much of an impact as it did.

#3 – It Brings out the Best and the Worst in us

Here are a few Tweets that highlight the best and the worst of the Dapper Laughs situation: There are a helluva lot worse out there too, and most of it aimed at supporters of the campaign to get the programme taken off the air. Talk of “angry feminists” and “PC brigades” will continue for a while, especially in the 100,000 or so people who were watching the ITV2 show when it aired, and for anybody who wants to question the future of mankind, search Twitter for Dapper Laughs and then follow that with pretty much any derogatory term.

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