I thought I’d be able to settle into 2019 focused on a year-long daily art project I am undertaking with any leftover time devoted to more frequent blogging. Ha! Turns out I’ve been spending most of my free time helping one of my children secure their very first ‘grown up’ job. That said, no matter how busy I am I always find time to read every day…
Many of my recent reads have involved social media. How to use it to share your vision and grow your brand (more on that in an upcoming book review post). How a simple ‘WTF’ post can impact the world (‘An Absolutely Remarkable Thing’ by Hank Green). And finally, how one second in time can be captured, posted, and go viral, changing everything forever, as happens in ‘Talk to Me’ by John Kenney.
In Mr. Kenney’s story revered anchorman Ted Grayson gets angry and momentarily loses it, lashing out at a young woman and calling her a ‘Russian whore’. Unbeknownst to him, his ‘moment’ was recorded and later posted. The rest of the story details deals with the aftermath, playing out as you might expect. There’s the rush to judge and convict by the media and special interest groups. Defender will be demonized into silence while risking of their own public shaming. Meanwhile, anyone with a clever avatar will pile on, posting the most vile, malicious, and cruel comments imaginable. It’s what’s happening every day, with the only exception being it hasn’t happened to most of us…yet.
I stumbled upon an interview with Mr. Kenney (found here) and will let his thoughtful comments echo some of my own thoughts on the times we live in.
“Why do we think we have context simply by seeing a photo, a clip, a quote? It’s so easy to vent spleen on a Tweet. Harder to do so in person, face to face. We speak differently to another human being than we do to a keyboard. But more and more we live on keyboards.”
“…It’s middle school on crack cocaine out there. So I liked playing in that space. The speed of life in the digital age. The lack of pause, thoughtfulness. The need not just to be right, but to be superior, louder, meaner. That said, I think it’s too easy to say that social media is this way or this way. I think it’s too big, too far-reaching, too world-redefining. Also, I don’t have a Facebook page so what the hell do I know. I’m fascinated by what it could be. Right now, I feel like it’s an adolescent that just wants to scream whatever enters its mind, sure of its own rightness. I’m interested to see what it grows up into.”
I don’t want to imply Talk to Me isn’t an enjoyable read, because it is. Like. many books I enjoy reading, the story really revolves around family, love, re-finding one’s way and redemption. But the story did add fuel to my fears about our new reality: any of us can have our lives destroyed by a captured moment gone viral thanks to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, after which the guilty must beg for forgiveness across platforms while wearing the internet equivalent of Hester Prynne’s scarlet A.