Once again I find myself in a love-hate relationship with the Internet. It's really a very important thing to society and me personally. But the Web 2.0/Social Media movement leaves me fearful. I shouldn't be because people aren't any different than before. We just get to hear more of what used to be their inner monologues or things that were said one-on-one during personal conversations.
It seems that the social side of the web has enabled everyone to rally support for a cause. This is a fantastic ability. The unfortunate nature of our fickle society means we rally around a new cause as often as we change our underpants. Additionally, putting things in text makes it easier to associate feeling words that don't necessarily reflect how we actually feel. You wouldn't tell someone you love or hate them in person unless the feeling was very truly there. Slinging those words around online seems to come much more naturally.
By the way, a meme (pronounced meem) is a fairly new word that revolves around an idea or belief that is transferred from one person to another. The reposting, retweeting, reblogging that happens online where one person says something and before you know it, all 300 of your Facebook friends are saying the same thing is an example of an Internet meme. It is not totally dissimilar from the chain letters of yesteryear. Sometimes these memes are funny, but more often than not, they are annoying and pointless and exhibit the "drama queen" nature of social networking participants.
Some time ago there was the Facebook meme that required users to change their default photo to that of a cartoon character in order to raise awareness for and prevent child abuse. I still fail to make the connection between thumbnails of cartoon characters and child abuse prevention. There have been others. Post a picture of your pet to prevent animal cruelty. What is the line of thinking here? That the offenders will see these pics and have a crisis of conscience and mend their evil ways? That would imply rational thought, something the deviants who commit these crimes lack in the first place.
Last week was some anniversary of the rapper Notorious B.I.G. He was shot and killed many years ago. I believe I read this was the tenth. In any event, my Twitter feed was peppered with 140 characters worth of gangster rap lyrics by the dead crack dealer turned rapper; all taken out of context to illustrate some poetic justice about the all too soon passing of a musical visionary. The guy could rhyme. So could Dr. Seuss but he didn't go to jail on a weapons charge. Of course, people were weeping on their virtual walls and asking the "why?" to the great virtual abyss. Some were reminding the still anonymous assailant that he is worthless and robbed us of our musical culture. People were literally crying little digital tears throughout the day. One poster mentioned she just couldn't find her way to work that morning, as she was too upset about it all. You have GOT to be kidding me.
Two days ago, Japan was brutally assaulted by a tsunami as a result of an 8.8 magnitude earthquake. This is awful. It created death and destruction. People are missing and unaccounted for. Terrible news indeed. Hearing about these events in the world saddens me. I've felt the pain of having family and friends of ripped away suddenly during a catastrophe. I wish everyone in Japan the best and I hope they can recover from this. First it was the atomic bomb, then Godzilla, now this. Poor Japanese folks have it rough.
I'm not making light of the situation, truly I'm not. What I'm also NOT doing is pouring my heart out and praying for everyone. I'm not heartbroken. I'm not devastated. The denizens of affected areas are devastated. I'm sympathetic to their plight but certainly cannot empathize, seeing as how the closest I've come to a tidal wave was when some quarter-ton bimbo did the bikini bonsai into my pool (notice the alliterative Japanese reference there?). So let's get back to the real issue here - Americans are heartbroken and devastated. Is that really possible? I had to define these two words. Heartbroken = suffering from overwhelming distress. Devastate = destroy or ruin. Both of those sound like feelings that there's no coming back from.
To make matters worse, shortly after the event, up cropped the messages to text "help" to 123456 and donate $10 to the Red Cross for aid for Japan. You can text JayVig to 50500 and get contact information for me. What's the correlation? Setting up a text message service like that takes all of about 5 minutes. Do you know your 10 bucks is going to the Red Cross? Do you know it's only $10? Even if both are true, how much of the $10 you appropriate to Japan will find Japan and how much will be used for "overhead" of the organization? If you are into blindly sending money across the Information Superhighway in hopes it lands at its intended destination, I have a solution. Send it to me. I promise I will NOT use it as intended, but at least you won't be left wondering.
I'm not saying that you shouldn't be upset or concerned. I'm not saying you shouldn't help. I'm just saying that your level of distress should be commensurate with your involvement and more importantly, a sane perspective. If you are truly devastated over what happened in Japan or go to pieces when you remember that the ex-convict rapper died a decade ago, how will you handle things that actually happen to YOU or your family?
Can we have some semblance of sense and react in a way that is not analogous to running around with our hair on fire?