In the span of a couple of weeks, two events got me thinking about the existence of social media - most notably YouTube - and how living in the moment doesn't necessarily mean sharing it with everyone. This isn't necessarily negatively geared toward making an ass out of yourself via the web, but I'm more referring to the death of storytelling and the aspect of keeping a special moment unshared and locked away in your memories and then gauging how special it will mean to you against how long the moment stays vivid as the years go on.
Two weeks ago, Patton Oswalt got into a scuffle with an audience member during a surprise set where he intended to try out some new jokes for an upcoming special he's going to film later this year. Like most people at any event these days with a smartphone, someone was filming it and Oswalt's dispute started thereafter. Though one local comedian commented on Oswalt's behavior in handling the situation as being less than stellar, Oswalt later released a statement concerning the entire incident and the reason for handling the situation like he did. Honestly, I can see where Oswalt is coming from on this - you get to see something in the works, be a judge and say you lived the moment. Why do you have to archive it for the world to see, especially when "I" - the artist - do not want the final product to surface before I get the right to say it's complete.
Understandable right? We base a lot of our reactions on expectation - and our expectations are judged against what we first hear or see. Whether it be a new joke, a demo from a band or even the first seven minutes of a movie where we have difficulty hearing a certain character's lines, our judgement is based on what is given to us. Oswalt isn't the first person to experience such a thing, and it's all too rabid in the music industry as labels and artists alike are doing their best to show you the finished product "when they want to" rather than "when you want to" finally see it. From demos to playing a new song live - the Internet has sort of killed that reveal and power that an artist has. To an extent, an artist has the ability to kill it too by letting it out in the public through his or her own right - and that's an exception.
So while that was on my mind for almost a week, Keith Buckley then wrote a lengthy blog (but very well written and worth reading) on the power of social media and the effects it has on both the public and our private lives we choose to share with said public. He makes a lot of good points, but the one that struck me was this line in particular: I cant count how many times at shows I’ve implored people in the crowd to stop watching us with their viewfinders and come back to the moment with us. To make it “theirs”; something they could talk about in a real conversation with real friends at a later date, embellishing in the details and captivating the listener. Be able to say “I was there” before that term loses all importance.
That's just it! We lost that. Can't make it to a reunion? See it on YouTube the next morning in semi-okay quality off an iPhone or some other unprofessional device. Want to hear the new song your favorite band played live in shitty quality to judge? It'll be on Mediafire soon - I promise that! Not only are we not "living" the moment, we're also not keeping it special. The idea of telling someone how awesome something was is lost, and on top of that, they witness it in a worse quality than how you originally lived it. There's no rise in your voice of excitement or uncontrolled body language - it's 140 characters of lifeless banter that reads as bad as a misread text message.
The bigger problem lies somewhere on the fine line of trying to capture those experiences and sharing them with the public who in turn hold so many expectations. This is why things like the SOPA Act sound good to certain people. There really is no control of the "reveal" anymore. I'm not saying that what SOPA intends to instate is good for the archival of ideas and forward progress, but what I am saying is that we've pushed these people to go a bit insane because of our actions. We carry a bit of the blame. We finally reached the point where we can't have "nice things."
I'm curious as to how this "blackout" will effect us for the day. Ironically, on the day of the blackout, I'll be working all day, and will hopefully catch a few write-ups on the digital protest once I hit a mid-day break. Maybe we all need to shut down our networks for a week, maybe even a few days. Enjoy a movie with some friends and a few beers without tweeting a joke from the room. Go to a show and bang your head without checking your Facebook to see what your friends not at the show are doing. If you witness something spectacular and spur of the moment that caught you off your guard - hesitate for a minute and ask yourself if you should share this, or feel special that you're there with a few other people experience the moment and get to embellish how fucking awesome it was to everyone you know later. I'm not saying we should forever shutdown the "sharing of ideas," I'm just saying that maybe we should think before we let them out there. Once they're there - you're 1,000 views away from not being able to change your story - or at the very least, tuck it away as a special memory.