To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, the London Police took to social media, spending the day tweeting out funny images and updates around their “Don’t Invite Us” campaign to curb student rowdiness in the city. This was all well and good until mid-afternoon, when one tweet boasting the shut-down of a student party used the phrase “Bye Felicia” and included the street address of the house party. Upon seeing the tweet, my reaction went from “hehe” to “cringe” to “…yikes, that’s offensive” in the span of about five seconds.
While this may seem like an innocuous (cute? sassy?) inclusion of a popular meme, the tweet raised eyebrows around the city, largely rooted in the racial origins of the “Bye Felicia” meme and the flippant public shaming of people being fined by police. Intentionally or otherwise, this tweet is wrapped up in some complex racial history that left many with a bad taste in their mouth. Shortly after posting, the tweet was deleted.
Now before you get all huffy about PC culture, censorship, buzzkill-a-trons, this isn’t a blog about naming and shaming bad behaviour (…well, not exclusively). I think there is a more interesting story here about digital public relations and the pitfalls of meme culture in social media market in a nonprofit/government environment.