Yesterday the social airwaves were taken over by a viral video from Invisible Children. We saw it on our feeds, watched as people met it with positive, negative, and even trolling opinions of the video and we all learned more about Joseph Kony in one afternoon than some of us had ever known about this horrid person before. To be honest with you, I watched only about half the video before I turned it off in disgust of what someone would do to others, especially children. (In that sense, the purpose of the video made its mark I guess.) All of the research and commentary I read thereafter happened outside a classroom, a library, without news networks or periodical publications. After about an hour of going back and forth between arguments for and against the video's relevance and the organization behind it, I realized that none of the links I clicked on were "official press releases" or news network pieces - they were found throughout blogs and social airwaves. Even a piece from one of the heads of the organization defending statements made about the Kony 2012 video and Invisible Children was released over his Facebook. For about an hour's worth of reading opinions and what could be taken as fact or fiction depending on the side of the piece being discussed, I just sort of subconsciously said to myself, "It must be true. This is a reliable source. It's on a page that looks legit." Then I clicked and clicked and clicked and ideas and discussion gathered like a game of Katamari Damacy.
We somehow just sort of put our trust in the systems of people that we "know" through various social portals to never lie to us. Well, spoiler alert: people lie, exaggerate, embellish a lot of things all the time. It's not the way America works, it's the way the world as a whole works on the largest level of interest to the smallest feeling of self-interest and feeble behaviors we have every single day. We're all guilty of it. Because of this, at the beginning of last month, I turned my social network off completely. No Facebook. No Tumblr. No Twitter. No feeds. If I wanted information I either had to consciously search for it or it had to be told to me in person, by text, e-mail, and other personal and business devices off the now "normal" grid. For a minute there, it was relieving. Without hours to waste on social feeds moving from one story to the next, I got a bit more work done. I sat in a room and paid more attention to conversations being held in front of me than what was happening to everyone else that wasn't in the room sharing the moments that mattered at that time. After about two days, I realized that I was more aware of my surroundings, and less worried about others.
Here's the drawback to all of this: you reside outside the "now" of everyone else. Everyone else. Your friends ask you if you saw "that post" or if you witnessed the "twitter debacle" and so on. We even broke information on Jonny Craig from a fucking Tumblr post the same week I was off said grid. That blows my mind. Do you know I see news on my social networking feed a few minutes, sometimes an hour before I get a press release or see the information on a respectable news outlet (if those exist anywhere…) Then there's the "keeping quiet." Being in the know and telling a few friends is a dangerous business these days. There's the person who wants to get that information out first for more hits or showboating or whatever it may be, and then there's containing it outside social webs such as Facebook and Twitter. I mean, was Ryan Gosling really at the Boston American Nightmare show? Or did we just believe it because a trolling joke gained enough momentum from a few people we inherently, but blindly trust because we're part of their inner circle of knowledge by either close relationships, business networks or even the casual retweet.
Yet still, we've all sort of bought into the social system of trust. That system is sort of necessary when things like the Invisible Children video exists. It's necessary to open discussion for both sides of the topic, or any topic of that matter that may arise with heated feelings on either side of those educated or uneducated about a particular topic. What I mostly witnessed today was the blind leading the blind in said discussion. There were comments I read both for and against the video that were simply ignorant. Creating awareness of any issue has to be met with an open mind and open discussion - I think that's why I wanted to step away from social feeds for at least a week, because I wanted to see where my discussions brewed from - was it my ideas based on research or based on "public" opinion. With social networks, we've taken the concept of morning radio and have essentially given everyone a microphone and their own personal booth to blurt out any insane thought that pops into their head. It's sort of the reason why I stayed away from Twitter for so long, and how I've realized I'm now part of the problem having manned one currently. Through all the profound thoughts we share, there's so much muck of sarcastic and irrelevant conversation that exists among relevant intellectual property worth talking about.
Tomorrow starts the first part of South by Southwest with their "interactive" portion of the festival. These are the days based around tech heads and business solutions. What will technology do for their business and their brand? People want their products out there, and with of social networking, sharing, (re)tweets, reblogging and one giant clusterfuck of continual handing off of this thing (thing defined as a story, a product, a craft, brand, etc.) - I don't think anyone really has a real clue if any of what they try to harness is really working, and when something out of the ordinary happens with a new venture (Kickstarter, Bandcamp, Rdio and Spotify, turntable.fm to name a few in the current state of the industry), everyone goes into a day-trading frenzy of trying to figure out how they can make the concept work for them. It's seeing someone with something different and special and wanting to feel a part of it somehow. Traced all the way back to our young days of trends on the playground, basically no one wants to be left out of the know. As we grow older, that concept turns into wanting to be successful in some way that contributes something to the whole, it's an older subconscious version of wanting to "fit in" and be part of the "cool" club - just on a business level where you make money instead of trading POGS or baseball cards.
The thing is that we live too far into the future to turn back from gaining most of our information from hundreds of voices and sharing of links. I think today's actions held by many about a video many of us would have not seen had it not been for these social airwaves just goes to show how far away we are from getting a grip on how to properly open discussion about real issues using these systems we generally share memes and dick jokes on. This entry isn't to make you aware of Joseph Kony, you should be more than aware of who he is, what Invisible Children does or doesn't do by the end of today or you missed the point of having a social feed to begin with: these are the new town halls and community centers of outreach. We'll never truly grasp that concept until we open ourselves up to others and hear what they have to say, as opposed to either following what they have to say or simply rejecting it based on our "knowledge" or "opinion" we stubbornly adhere to. Tonight on Gunz's interview with Jason (ahem, with no mention of mwah?), he said something pretty important not only about this website, but I took it as it resonating more so, "Other websites want to talk to you…we want to talk with you. We want to have a discussion about new music..." While putting that quote in here seems a bit biased, replace website with anything - a chat room, your social feed, a tweet, commenting on a news article. This entry isn't about Kony 2012. This is entry is about how open you were to knowing more when you may have just heard about it today. How open were you to sharing your knowledge as opposed to turning up your nose because other people were just now in the "know" of things? How open were you to hearing another side of the then issues brought up about Invisible Children as well as the organization's defense - and then forming an opinion? I'm not here to tell you how you should feel, I'm here to discuss why you feel that way you do for or against my opinion of this story or any other for that matter. The next time we talk, I'll be telling you what exciting things I witnessed during the "music" portion of South by Southwest. But honestly, I'll be more interested in what you were stoked on - because without that, I'm just sitting here in my boxers and a t-shirt talking to a wall.