FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE, we hardly knew ya.
No, really—we hardly knew you.
Last week, Savannah’s social media feeds were abuzz with the latest click-bait “contest,” this one sponsored by Garden & Gun magazine and based on the good ol’ March Madness theme.
(I’m convinced that many more people use the March Madness theme to promote things than actually watch those games.)
These “brackets” involved a bout between cities under 130,000 population—oops, more about that later—for the title of “Greatest Southern Town.”
Savannah was in a tough bracket, facing off against high-profile heavyweights Charleston, Asheville, and Key West.
Franklin, Tennessee—wait, what?—was meanwhile pitted against titans like Hot Springs, Arkansas and Florence, Alabama.
Facebook and Twitter went nuts for days as individuals, nonprofits, businesses, and media outlets (including us) shamelessly solicited frequent voting so that Savannah could “win.”
And get.... what, exactly, in exchange for all those clicks Garden & Gun gets?
Anyway, it was all for naught when Savannah faced Franklin in the “championship.”
Our index fingers no doubt fatigued from defeating Charleston and Asheville, Savannahians (me included) boasted that there was no way little Franklin—who? where?—could possibly beat mighty us.
And.... you can guess the rest.
Savannah promptly got its ass digitally kicked in an epic blowout.
Not that any of this matters. But Franklin is essentially a suburb of the Nashville metro area. It’s “130,000 people or under” in the same sense that Decatur and Marietta are under 130,000 people.
I don’t know if any of you have visited Nashville lately, but it’s no podunk country music hamlet. It’s a big, fast city and a major entertainment capital, more like L.A. than Charlotte.
So I shouldn’t be surprised that Franklin “won,” and I also shouldn’t be surprised that so many people here got so worked up about taking part in the online contest.
It’s just good clean fun, in the same sense that our annual “Best of Savannah” reader’s poll is good, clean fun (get your votes in now at connectsavannah.com!)
I did catch myself wondering, however, how different things might be around here if we put a tenth as much effort into local issues and politics as we do in ubiquitous online contests.
I know it’s a lot easier to flex your index finger on a computer mouse than vote in a school board election, or call your alderman, or register to vote, or organize a neighborhood watch, or write a letter to the editor.
Bragging-rights contests are fodder for PR efforts, and certainly help keep Savannah in the national eye, which helps our tourism and service industries.
But the other part of it is the inside game. It’s important to present our best face to the outside world, but how are things running inside, when the makeup is off?
I think there should be a new rule: For every mouse click, an actual civic effort. For every online vote, a real vote. For each participation in a social media election, a commitment to take part in a real election.
Not as much fun, but food for thought anyway.