Archive - Mar 27, 2011

Then came Darius: Rethinking Social Media in the time of Rebecca Black

Life is complicated, but that is also what makes it beautiful. Yet unfortunately, we do not often enough hear the stories of life’s beauty and complexity. The stories don’t fit into the news or sitcoms of mass media, except rarely in some special news of the weird section.

Yet life is made of stories of hurt and triumph, which I stumble across more and more in my daily life. Some of it is work related where I gather stories of people whose lives have been touched by the Community Health Center. These are people that have battled dysfunctional families, homelessness, difficulties with the law. They have fought health issues, often hypertension, or diabetes which threatens their life and limb. They have struggled with obesity as the try to find places to get affordable healthy food in the inner city.

Others are people that I’ve met online or at various gatherings who have fought cancer, either in themselves or cancer attacking their loved ones. They have fought other debilitating and terminal diseases. They have dealt with cyberbulling.

Many of these stories end up partaking in the Hero Myth, stories of victory over difficult circumstances bringing wisdom and a chance to share the experiences with others. Back at the end of the sixties, there was a brief lived television show called Then Came Bronson. The forty second anniversary of the airing of the pilot was earlier this week The hero of the show was Jim Bronson, a newspaper reporter who became disillusioned after the suicide of his best friend. He takes off on a motorcycle to rediscover himself and through out the episodes enters the lives of others, bringing healing as they confront their issues.

Now, journalists are looking for new ways to gather and tell the stories of our country, and they might want to look at Jim Bronson. They might also want to look at Darius Weems. Darius has Duchenne muscular dystrophy and a friend of his made a movie about taking Darius on a 7,000 mile journey across the country to promote awareness of the disease.

Darius captures the hero myth and the movie has won numerous awards. Recently, I was speaking with a friend whose brother had cerebral palsy. He had commented about how his brother had been over protected by his caring and well meaning parents. The story of Darius came to mind.

This leads me to Rebecca Black. Rebecca is the thirteen year old girl that paid $2,000 to get a music video produced that was panned so badly that it became an Internet sensation. In an interview, she said, “Those hurtful comments really shocked me,.. At times, it feels like I’m being cyberbullied.”

On the one hand, it seems very different from cyberbulling cases you often hear about where kids are harassed to the point of heaving their schools or committing suicide. Yet there is something very similar. It is the story of a young girl trying to do something special, to stand out, only to have the crowds go against her.

As I read her story, my mind drifted to Thus Spake Zarathustra. In the prologue of the famous work, Zarathustra presents the idea of the Superman. “Man is something that is to be surpassed.” It is an idea that many of my cyber-idealist friends long for, a networked technology enabled superman, perhaps part of the ‘singularity’.

Yet Zarathustra goes on to talk about the rope-walker saying “Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Superman- a rope over an abyss." The rope-walker falls, perhaps analogous to the fail of Rebecca Black and Zarathustra tells the rope-walker, “thou hast made danger thy
calling; therein there is nothing contemptible.” The same needs to be said to Rebecca.

We live in a society that distrusts and laughs at “the other”, whether it be a young aspiring musician willing to take chances and put everything on the line, a young man with a terminal disease raising awareness of the disease, or people that struggle with dysfunctions in their lives and the lives of their families.

Life is complicated, but that is also what makes it beautiful. The stories of Rebecca, Darius, Bronson and Nietzsche may be laughed at by some, but they can bring healing and help us all become better people.

It brings me back to Woody Allen’s famous joke from Annie Hall about the person who goes to the shrink saying his brother thinks he’s a chicken. The doctor suggests bringing the brother in, and the man says, we’d like to, but we really need the eggs.

Woody Allen goes on to say,

Well, I guess that's pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y'know, they're totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and... but, uh, I guess we keep goin' through it because, uh, most of us... need the eggs.

I guess that’s pretty much how I feel about stories on the Internet as well, as well as the stories heard over coffee and other places when people open up their hearts. All of our lives are totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd. Yet it is these stories that make us human, that make us interesting, that make us beautiful. This is where social media can come in, we can share our stories and help those around us be healthier and happier. The Social Media Superman.

I guess I need the eggs as well.

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