The social media issue that I chose to discuss in this blog post happened just a few days ago, on the night of April 1st.
After meeting a 17 year old fan following an Of Mice and Men performance on Broadway, James Franco contacted her via Instagram and then later text, trying to persuade her to sleep with him. The teenager took screen shots of the conversations and then posted them on Imgur.
Though many people initially thought this was a hoax, Franco sent the underage girl multiple pictures of himself attempting to prove it was really him, and then apologized for his actions on Live with Kelly & Michael.
I think this is a particularly interesting example because the issue was created using social media (Instagram), then was posted on another social web platform (Imgur) and is now continue to generate controversy on several other social web platforms including Twitter and Tumblr.
Typically, issues such as this carry little weight especially when posted on the internet. However, due to the pictures sent by Franco, it is difficult to argue that the exchange didn’t take place.
What He Is Doing
James Franco addressed the incident on TV earlier today, focusing mostly on his embarrassment of the exchange being captured and posted online, not of his actions being inappropriate – It’s also important to note that while hitting on a 17 year old girl is sleazy (for lack of a better word), 17 is the age of consent in new york, so it is not illegal.
Since the incident, Franco has been using his social web platforms, including Twitter and Instagram, to maintain that he does not pursue young girls, and that he was mislead as to this girls age. He added to his bio on Instagram “Please do not message me if you are under 18”, and has tweeted that he hopes parents keep their teenagers away from him. He seems to have forgotten that screenshots of the entire conversation have been posted, and that it is obvious he was actively pursuing her.
What He Should Be Doing
Franco responded to the issue quickly, which is essential, discussing it on television earlier this morning. However, I personally hadn’t heard of the issue until today, making me wonder how big this would have been if he didn’t draw more attention to it.
Though Franco did take advantage of multiple social web platforms to get his messages across to as many people as possible, the message itself is problematic. I think his time on social media would be better spent establishing transparency as to what happened, and not trying to create a different side to the story, turning it into a “he said, she said,” issue. Be honest. Especially when the facts already appear to be documented. If the exchange happened differently than it appears to have went, then he needs to provide proof, not just denying it.
The tone of his messages also need to be addressed. It is ideal that the tone during an issue or crisis comes across as “confident humility” (Neil, 2014 – Course Notes). During the interview segment, Franco presented himself this way, however with his social media content, he is coming across much more pompous and unapologetic – This is never a good idea.
In order to salvage his reputation, James Franco should also use multiple media formats – post a video addressing the issue, use photo’s, etc., in addition to text.
Franco needs to apologize. Though he has addressed the issue, he does not appear to be ashamed of it in any way. In my opinion, whether illegal or not, aggressively pursuing a 17 year old girl on vacation with her mother is not appropriate behaviour. Now that it has become public, it’s time to apologize and acknowledge this is not appropriate behaviour for a 35 year old.
Some people believe this is a publicity stunt to gain attention for Franco’s new movie coming out, in which he plays a coach who begins a relationship with one of his underage athletes. If this turns out to be the case, I think it will be just as interesting to see how fans react to such a tasteless attempt at publicity, and if it turns into an even bigger social media issue than the original story.