BP oil spill Twitter activist looks back one year after the tragedy


LOS ANGELES (CBS) BP is trending across social networks because today is the anniversary of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

To date, it is the nation's most devastating environmental disaster. Social media in the form of tweet donations, pictures and even a live stream of the massive leak quickly captured the attention of the world in real-time.

While most of the world turned to social media to express its outrage and helplessness in face of the unfolding live tragedy, one man took a different approach and the Twitter account, @BPGlobalPR was born. The parody feed acting as official BP representatives immediately caught the attention of the web for its Daily Show-esque comments mocking their real PR efforts--or lack thereof.

He quickly gained over 100,000 Twitter followers. The man behind the tweets even remained anonymous throughout the buzz, revealing himself only in October as 26-year old Josh Simpson, a former Funny or Die employee.

A year later, it seems the online conversation leading up to the anniversary has reflected the general attitude toward the disaster--it's been largely out of mind. Even @BPGlobalPR has stopped tweeting as frequently (his last tweet was on March 25th) about the ongoing catastrophe and when he does, social media fatigue has resulted in the account losing followers.

I caught up with Simpson-- who also caught the attention of the Conan O'Brien staff and is now working in digital for Team Coco-- at our What's Trending studios.

"I think we kind of tapped into something that people were already feeling, just a frustration they didn't know how to express," he told me. "We said what people were thinking. I tapped into people's anger at BP, how they were handling the situation. I think it's partially that our tweets were funny, and I think partially, I mean i didn't even know what it was, it was kind of a new thing."

While the account and Simpson became a fixture for the story on the social media circuit and even on TV, he has seen a shift in interest and attention. "I think we did reach a point...where people got sick of hearing about it, which is really unfortunate...it came to the point where when I'd tweet, I'd lose followers."

Why has the hype subsided and can social media movements like his actual create impact on real world disasters and corporate responsibility?

What's Trending's mission is to give you the inside scoop behind the top stories and people shaping the conversation online. Keep checking back for more video interviews and stories in our beta phase before the full launch May 17 about what you need to know to be in the now.

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    Shira Lazar is the Host and Executive Producer of CBSNews.com's new weekly live interactive show and 24/7 news hub, "What's Trending".