Live From New York It’s Betty White!

Who would have thought that Facebook and The Golden Girls would ever even go together in the same sentence.  Well, apparently the 500,000 Facebook fans who rallied for Betty White to host SNL did, proving the incredible, universal power of social media and crowd-sourcing.   It started with one passionate fan and led to an overwhelming amount of admiration and support for a sweet old woman better known as Rose Nylund on the 80’s hit, The Golden Girls. While Betty White is best known for her TV and movie roles stemming back to the 50’s, this generation will likely remember the actress for her triumphant return to live television through the means of Facebook love.   Betty offered her gratitude to the social network in her comical opening SNL monologue:

I really have to thank Facebook.  I didn’t know what Facebook was, and now that I do know what it is, I have to say, it sounds like a huge waste of time. I would never say the people on it are losers, but that’s only because I’m polite.

Betty White made a TV revival with recent accolades including a lifetime achievement award from the Screen Actors Guild in January, last year’s role as Ryan Reynolds’ crazy grandma in The Proposal and an appearance in a Super Bowl candy commercial in which she was tackled in the mud by a football player.

According to USA Today, the spot brought White back to the forefront of popular culture, and fans started hoping out loud that she might get the “SNL” host slot.  Although fans expressed their love for Betty White, her hosting SNL wasn’t a sure thing- until Facebook was in the picture thanks to one particular passionate fan.

It began with fan David Mathews, 29, of San Antonio.  What prompted him to start the group “Betty White to Host SNL (please?)!” in late December that attracted nearly half a million members in only a few short months?  According to Mathews, “I never considered myself to be a super fan of anything, but if there was somebody to be a super fan of, it would be Betty White.  She’s been in most of your lives, whether you’re 70 years old or 17.” White had never hosted SNL – a gig that stands as a gold standard milestone for many a funny man and woman. “One of the funniest and most admired actors in the history of television has never been on,” the 29-year-old says, who was been a fan since college.  He adds, “Betty White is a person that truly transcends age, gender, race, socioeconomics and politics.  Perhaps this is why she is as admired as she is.”

According to Mashable editor, Brenna Ehrlich, the page really started taking off on February 4, 2010, “It went from 8,300 fans to over 22,000 after being picked up by USA Today and Perez Hilton.”  When asked what he did to promote the movement, Mathews answered:

I invited all my friends to it when I first created it. I wrote a letter to Lorne Michaels upon reaching 5,000 fans, which I posted on the discussion portion of the Facebook page. I did reach out to Rosie O’Donnell to ask her to mention it on her blog, which she did. I think one of the keys to the enormous response to the page is simply that it’s a good idea with which many other folks also agree.  Once the media began picking up the story, the growth just exploded.

The buzz on Facebook proved too loud for Lorne Michaels to ignore.  “It took on a groundswell,” Michaels told USA Today. “It isn’t something we would have said no to, but the campaign validated that…It was the outpouring of affection from fans, and we feel the same way.”  It was decided that the Golden Girl would host, very appropriately on Mother’s Day weekend, however, NBC had no clue that the episode would give SNL its best ratings in a year and a half.  Reception from fans and critics alike was mostly positive, and a day later White’s gig was leading Google searches and Twitter conversations.  As for Betty, she was flattered and flabbergasted by the attention: “It’s lovely, and at my age it’s certainly unexpected.”

This isn’t the first (or last time) that Facebook has played a powerful role in action or change taking place.  Another recent example of Facebook being used as a vehicle for change is the group formed as a result of Arizona’s Immigration Law recently signed.  Examiner.com pointed out that when Arizona Governor Jan Brewer recently signed into law a controversial immigration bill that would require law-enforcement officers to check the status of those they suspect are in the country illegally, the social-media response was immediate and incredibly passionate.  Within hours, a Facebook site named “1 MILLION Strong AGAINST the Arizona Immigration Law SB1070” was formed where members expressed sadness, anger and disappointment with the new law.  By the next day the group had nearly 70,000 members (later in the week it had more than 580,000).

For the first time ever, the average citizen has an open platform for being heard.  Social media has proved its effectiveness and power.  Sometimes, it’s something silly and trivial such as with Betty White, and other times it’s more of a grass-roots effort to make a lasting impact, inspire the masses and create significant change.  Social media lets us have a voice and it will be interesting to see how our media and society changes as a result of this freedom.

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