We’re just echoing awareness, not creating it.

elvistwitter

Pierce Gleeson wrote a short story titled “Four Million Followers” about an unemployed post-grad who starts writing and managing the Twitter page for a popular beverage company called Quark Cola.

More than a soft critique on corporate communication or Twitter, the story examines how our interaction becomes where, “We’re just echoing awareness, not creating it.” This leaves a lot of sad lonely people in the world. You’d think technology could solve a problem like this (*wink).

He was staring listlessly at the incoming tweets one Tuesday afternoon when a message appeared. Hey @quarkcola, I’m going to commit suicide tonight. Thanks for all the sugary memories. The icon next to the tweet was an ordinary self portrait of a young man. He checked the user’s page and found it had been active, intermittently, for more than two years.

He replied with three tweets in quick succession. The first was a link to suicide prevention hotlines in the man’s apparent country. The second: @gregorpegor You need to tell a real person before you do this. Just in case you are confused and they can help. Thirdly, he recommended the man read Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus.

There was no reply in the following days. The user was a very infrequent poster, and so the lack of follow up could not be considered proof of anything. He informed Samantha about the incident, and she submitted it to the legal team, who advised him to forget it, but to ignore all such entreaties in future. The very act of responding to such a message made you an active participant in what followed. Were a user to later kill themselves, then their family could potentially claim damages against Quark Cola for its interference. A non-reply could reasonably be interpreted as an unseen message, and would as such clear Quark Cola of any potential liability.

Two weeks later, during which he often agonised over his replies to the suicide announcement, he received a direct message from the user…

Facebook is the tool which represent the past (ie. yesterday’s pictures, last month’s vacation, that one crazy night, etc.) while Twitter represent the consciousness of the present. This is one reason why Twitter is utilized to analyze an audience reaction to a television show or a politician’s speech.

After Obama’s State of the Union address Florida Sen. Marco Rubio gave his rebuttal and took an awkward pause to drink from a Poland Springs bottle of water. The Poland Springs marketing department must not exist. While Twitterverse blew up with memes and jokes, Poland Springs Twitter lay dormant.

Poland Spring Water hasn’t Tweeted since July, 2010. Right now, their rep is frantically trying to remember the password. #PolandSprings

— Jory John (@joryjohn)

Read the story because I imagine you’ll laugh and relate. But then also think about some of the broader implications of what it means to @reply, hashtag, and direct message. They’re more than ways of living or learning or being. And they have little to do with Twitter.


(story found via kottke, image borrowed/manipulated via ffffound)

Also read: A Series on Creativity.

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As I watched him breathe out the last part of air, I thought: Is this the best thing I’ve ever done, or the worst thing I’ve ever done?

zd30

The Navy SEAL who shot and killed Osama Bin Laden is staying anonymous, but speaking out in a recent Esquire article (“The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden… Is Screwed) about how he’s unemployed and afraid for his wife and children’s lives.

About killing Bin Laden, he says:

And I remember as I watched him breathe out the last part of air, I thought: Is this the best thing I’ve ever done, or the worst thing I’ve ever done? This is real and that’s him.

If you’ve watched the recent film Zero Dark Thirty then you already have a picture in your head about how this killing went down. If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s about how they found Bin Laden and how they killed him.

The movie ends with a similar sentiment as The Shooter’s above quote. In the last scene of ZD30, Jessica Chastain, who plays Mya the CIA agent who’s spent the last 12 years and her entire CIA career hunting down Bin Laden, boards an empty plane. In the last few moments before the movie ends something interesting happens.

After Mya sits down in the empty plane, she cries. It’s possible she’s finally shedding happy tears, or mourning the friends she lost in the war, or she’s simply having a cathartic moment. But I want to suggest an alternative interpretation to the moment, to the movie, and to the real life story that’s closely aligned to the questions of The Shooter.

I believe Mya is doubting whether it was all worth it. The years, the lives lost, the resources expended, and the eventual anti-climatic feeling of elation mixed with disgust.

Hunting down a man in order to kill him, regardless of his crimes, I think, will always force one to question the purpose of the particular/personal death, especially when the hunt comes at a great worldly cost.

Was this the best thing to ever happen to Mya? Or the worst?

I think the movie and the real life story want us to wrestle with the latter. In real life, Mya’s character did cry when she saw Bin Laden’s body. I think I would too if finding him was my life’s work.

This is not a question of whether or not a mastermind behind mass-murder should be brought to justice, that goes without saying. But the collateral damage becomes something more than ever imagined. It’s fair we ask the question. And then ask more questions…

Violence, in its many forms, raises for us questions about evil in our world that we would rather avoid asking. If we believe in a God, why does our God allow such evil to exist? If we believe in peace, when is it proper to resort to the violence of war? If we believe in a state of social equilibrium called justice, how do we restore it after violence has created chaos? (Tom Palaima, Higher Education)

As the Esquire article narrates, how does a Navy SEAL create a civilian/family life after war? As Zero Dark Thirty suggests, what’s a worthy life goal besides hunting down a man? And what we must consider about our own world, how do we restore it?

Grant to them even now glimpses of your beauty

O God, whom saints and angels delight to worship in
heaven: Be ever present with your servants who seek through
art and music to perfect the praises offered by your people on
earth; and grant to them even now glimpses of your beauty,
and make them worthy at length to behold it unveiled for
evermore.

Thank you for this great and mysterious opportunity for my life.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord,