There’s no compassion on social media, only passion.
If you don’t believe that, just search for the name “Elizabeth Holmes” on Twitter.
The founder of the now defunct blood testing firm Theranos is currently on trial for fraud, but if you wade through some of the Twitter comments, you might think she is a beloved reality television star or possibly a hardened criminal.
For some, the verdict is already out, since of course the typical account holder knows all about the vagaries of startup culture and Big Science. Others are still trying to decide. We all have opinions and they have never been easier to share. Holmes talks in a low voice that might be fake, so therefore she must be guilty. It doesn’t take much.
Some of the posts make fun of her hair and clothes, others are taking issue with what must have been happening behind the scenes at the company.
One of my favorites so far is a meme related to the movie Dune and how Holmes just has to “use the voice” to impress the courtroom and sway the outcome. (I’ve watched a few documentaries and YouTube videos where she gave interviews and I will admit she seems to use a slightly different voice depending on the subject at hand.)
A few posters have decided that the actress Rosamund Pike should play her in an upcoming film. Someone else keeps posting a picture of fake wigs for sale.
The most common tweet includes a link to an article about the trial with a picture of Holmes walking into the courtroom, usually adding a snarky comment just so we know this is all just too much. Of course, there are a few video clips, usually showing her arriving at court:
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Which is all to day, there’s not a lot of depth to the legal analysis.
I can’t quite decide if social media users like her or hate her. There is an obvious fascination with the founder of such a major company that went belly-up so quickly.
I’ve been writing about Theranos for years myself, once with just a hint of praise at least for the sheer audacity and about how someone could get sucked into such an alleged fraud. (In the trial, her lawyers are arguing that it was other people at the company who deceived her, and not the other way around.)
What to make of it all?
For starters, that social media users are fickle. We love something one day and hate it the next. Like any gossip magazine, the object of our social media scrutiny must have at least some appeal for us to take the time to criticize it in the first place.
We take a step back and say, what kind of genius could end up on the cover of several famous magazines? There’s also this nagging sense that, whatever crimes might have been committed, we envy the fact that someone rose to such a level of prominence and must have had some skill and talent. And envy is a driving force.
Eventually, we’ll find out how the trial finally ends, but for now, the jury of social media is completely undecided. They love to make fun of her, that’s for sure.