Thursday, June 9, 2011

Musing on Memes - June 9, 2011

Last night, something flickered across my Twitter feed. A 15-year-old girl dying of cancer wants to be a trending topic! Retweet! Now! Yes! And oh, the retweeting - I saw it over and over again, from famous and non-famous people alike.

Then Neil Gaiman, always the voice of reason, poked through. He noted that the girl in question actually never said anywhere on her blog that she wanted to trend on Twitter. In fact, she never mentioned Twitter at all. (I don't know how Neil found her blog, nor do I have a clue how ANYONE found it. I do sincerely hope it's real and not a hoax, by the way - I believe it's real, I just have been taken before...) The girl had a wish list, but it was devoid of Twitterage - instead she wanted to spread awareness for bone marrow donation, get an iPad, and meet a band, among other things.

But no, nobody wanted to hear that. They wanted to click retweet and have a hashtag "trend." A hashtag that didn't mention the girl's last name. A retweet without the all-important blog URL attached. Did anyone know where she was from? (She's in the UK somewhere, apparently.) Did anyone know what kind of cancer she had? No. Just hey, click and retweet! Make her happy! But...did anyone care if she was even REAL? Apparently not, as the tag did trend, and as I saw people pat themselves on the virtual back for helping to make it happen.

Martin Luther King Jr. "said" something and whoosh, it spread all over the Internet like wildfire, with the only sources being random quote pages that took their information from...misinformation. And then in situations like this, I look like the ass, because I took 5 extra seconds to dig into the story and find out what the reality is. And then I get all frustrated because TEH INTARWEBZ ARE WRONGZ! (Admittedly, it's easier to get angry at THIS sort of harmless-ish misinformation than it is to get worked up about crap like breastfeeding myths or people using the R-word willy nilly - those actually hurt...) I usually try to correct it for a few minutes and then walk away. (Sure. I really do. I swear.)

I don't know what I'm trying to say. Just venting a bit. I was about to retweet too, by the way. I'm not perfect, I would've thought "Oh, this kid will be pleased as punch to see a hashtag referencing her name!" But a famous author stopped me in my tracks and made me realize that there was more to the story, and more that the girl actually wanted, and an awareness that actually COULD be shared and spread about a cause that was actually important. And in fact once he tweeted that, he got TONS of people sharing bone marrow donation information - and THAT could hopefully make a difference.

And some people did correct the retweet, and some tweets did contain her URL. So she DID get attention and awareness spread. But the vast majority of people will never know what was behind that tag.

The Internet makes things happen so quickly. I'm hopelessly addicted and yet I wish I could just go away from it for a month. But I'd miss so much...

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