Social media users and crows: What we have in common

A murder of crows

A murder of crows

Some years ago, I witnessed a “crow funeral” on the street in front of my house. What seemed like hundreds of crows suddenly appeared in the air, in the trees, on the lawns, on the roofs, everywhere around my neighbourhood. A young crow had just died on the roadway, and the noise its friends and relatives made was awe-inspiring. Fifteen minutes later the “service” was over and they all flew off in different directions, but I doubt I’ll ever forget impression they made on me.

When I related this story a little while ago, Tom, one of our lunch party, told me that a group of crows is called a “murder” because, when they work together, they can take down large beasts, one peck at a time.

Somehow, after experiencing what it felt like to have a murder of angry, grieving crows surround my house, I can believe it!

I shake my head in wonder at Horizon Realty’s ridiculous $50k lawsuit naming a twitterer who complained to her ~20 friends online about her moldy apartment (see: “Horizon Realty Sues Woman for $50,000,” at And I laugh at Sons of Maxwell’s hilarious music video jibe at United Airlines for wrecking a band member’s guitar, and marvel at United’s refusal to “make things right” until SoM’s video hit millions of views within a week of being posted to YouTube (see: These stories, and others, get me thinking about parallels between a murder of crows and (dare I say it?) a “murder” of twitterers, bloggers and YouTube-ers.

Individually, customers and observers might be small but, once agitated by a perceived injustice, together we are mighty. Corporate (institutional, governmental, etc) behavior, good and bad, has never been so exposed, and individuals have never been so powerful. And, like the crows, we’re a mostly a pretty smart lot. We’re noisy, too, when we want to be.

I’m curious to see how social media re-shapes communications between ordinary people and big, historically strong organizations in the weeks, months and years to come!

What do you think?


-originally posted on my old blog on July 31, 2009

– updated link to Horizon story after link to Chicago Sun article was broken (Dec 3, 2009)