As we talked about in the last post in this series, Lorenzo the Magnificent had a pretty sad ending to his life, thanks in part to a kind of crazy guy named Girolamo Savonarola. Savonarola was a Dominican priest who came to Florence and swiftly became deeply disenchanted with Florentine society. Much of this bad feeling was directed to Lorenzo, who was commissioning and supporting works by artists like Botticelli.
Wait, Botticelli? But he’s considered one of the great Renaissance masters! How could anyone have a problem with Botticelli’s works?
Well, up until the Renaissance, art had mostly focused on the story of Jesus. Something sacred or holy tended to be the focal point. Botticelli could do that kind of work, but under the wing of Lorenzo, he started doing things like this:
What’s the problem with this beautiful painting? Well, the subject of the painting is Venus, goddess of beauty. To guys like Savanarola, these kinds of paintings symbolized a turning away from the religious world in favor of the “Pagan” world.
Of course, paintings weren’t the only things that bothered Savanarola. Lorenzo’s big palace and huge parties influenced Florentines to care a little bit more about things like appearance and other “worldly” ideas and concepts. To Savanarola, these were all signs that Florence was becoming a hell on earth, and Lorenzo de Medici was leading the way.
From Lorenzo’s point of view, and indeed from the point of view of many who view the works of Botticelli today, Lorenzo had not commissioned a bunch of rabble rousers. He had commissioned a societal revolution.
Revolutions almost always yield counter-revolutions
Humans are kind of predictable, especially once you start reading history books. Wherever there is a revolution, a counter-revolution is almost always sure to follow. The revolution that Lorenzo created in Florence led to a very different kind of revolution led by Savanarola. With his Jeremiads about how everyone was going to hell, Savanarola convinced Florentines that they had been led astray from the path of goodness. What followed is what is now referred to as the Bonfire of the Vanities. Jewels, make-up, books, and paintings were thrown into a great fire. Even Botticelli threw many of his own paintings into the fire, fearing for his soul. Heck, even Lorenzo threw some stuff into the fire.
Revolutions and Counter-Revolutions in the Online World
It’s easy to get excited about a growing amount of success in the online world. Your hard work is paying off. Those months and months of no responses are finally yielding to great conversations, more followers, and a more lively community. However, this revolution (or evolution) in your online world, just like any revolution, can lead to a counter-revolution. Just like Lorenzo the Magnificent, you might find that the more power you have, the more prominent you become, the more you attract people who vehemently disagree with what you are saying and doing. They might take issue with how you recommend people navigate the online waters. They might take issue with things you think can’t possibly be argued with, like the tonality of your tweets or that link you chose to post to your Facebook page. If you’re really unfortunate, your opposition, like Savanarola, might play upon the anxieties and fears of those in your community and they all might turn against you. Chances of a bonfire are hopefully pretty slim, but you can end up feeling pretty beaten down in these kinds of scenarios.
You might even find yourself rethinking everything you’ve done, wondering if you really were leading people astray. Does your opposition have a point?
The Potential Counter-Revolution
Beyond the individual level, there is also the chance that another counter-revolution is brewing, but on a much wider scale. You probably remember the viral video from a couple of years ago that talked about the Social Media Revolution that was changing everything. Well, guess what? A bit of time has passed, and people are starting to mutter a little bit about missing face-to-face meetings. People are wondering just how deep these online connections go. People are starting to miss seeing facial expressions and hearing vocal intonations.
Could we be heading towards a Social Media Counter-Revolution that would be as revolutionary as the revolution that spawned it? What would that look like? Will people delete Facebook accounts in favor of “old-fashioned” golf outings? Will tweet-ups go back to just being meet-ups? It’s hard to predict which way this counter-revolution will go, but human history indicates that the chances are good that it WILL come. Will you throw social media into the fire or will you hold on to what you have been doing for the last few years?
Kind of interesting to think about, isn’t it?
First image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stefdp/456153618/ via Creative Commons