Working at a retail store like Target may build a solid work ethic but most likely won’t make you an Internet sensation, right? For 16-year-old Alex Lee, otherwise known as #AlexFromTarget, that is exactly what happened. It all began when an anonymous Twitter user snapped a photo of Alex while he was swiping items at a Target store in Frisco, Texas.
After the photo was shared online with the caption, “YOOOOOOOO,” the photo quickly gained popularity due to the teenager’s good looks. A meme was created, the hashtag #AlexFromTarget was born, and the rest is history. The dreamy store clerk, who has been compared to Justin Bieber, jumped from 144 Twitter followers to nearly 600,000 in just a couple days.
Lee has since appeared on CNBC, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and Good Morning America, as well as being featured in the New York Times and countless other news articles. His overwhelming fame is not the first of its kind, but many have questioned whether the whole story is real, or just a well-crafted marketing scheme by Target.
As a member of the Illinois State University Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America, Lee’s story is an effective reminder of how powerful a tool social media is and how quickly a harmless photo can become a news story. Whether a social media post is meant to be lighthearted or serious, anything shared online can be “retweeted,” “liked,” and sometimes misinterpreted. Take advantage of the positive benefits of social media, but keep in mind that everything posted online has the potential to backfire.
Recently, Lee has experienced the downside of social media fame. Bombarded with death threats, rumors, and vulgarities, the once unknown Target employee is receiving attention, both positive and negative, in cyberspace. The mask of the Internet allows users to be anonymous, thus hatred can be spread without consequence. Each individual has a choice to make about how he or she uses the Internet, and for a public relations professional, that choice can make or break a career. Remember to be cautious and critical of the content you post, as well as how you respond to others.
By Becca Williams
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PRecisely PR is the blog of the Illinois State University Chapter of the PRSSA. We write about Chapter events, the public relations industry, member profiles, and more.