It was the best of times and it was the worst of times when it came to the Internet this week. There were events proving that not only are people terrible (or, at the very least, lazy and motivated more by self-interest than anything else), but also that they could be kind and helpful and, sure, enjoy making parody videos and rushing to be first with the news despite not having all the facts. Whatever your take on the human condition, it’s almost certainly going to be both challenged and supported by the past seven days’ worth of world wide webbery. We’re so, so sorry. Or maybe you’re welcome.
Because Tumblr Demanded It, Even If It Didn’t Realize It
What Happened: Webmath 101: George R.R. Martin + Taylor Swift = Internet Gone Wild.
Where It Blew Up: Twitter, blogs, media think pieces
What Really Happened: Look, we might not understand why we’re getting a “Blank Space” parody video starring someone pretending to be George R.R. Martin right now—the original Taylor Swift video came out in November last year, and Game of Thrones is off the air until mid-April—but there’s absolutely no denying that the Internet is very happy that it happened. It was covered almost everywhere, with only the What If Wes Anderson Directed The X-Men? video coming anywhere close to that level of ubiquity. (No, really, that was also everywhere.)
The Takeaway: All it needed was a couple of escaped llamas and a color-changing dress, and this would’ve been peak Internet right there. Wait, wait: What if we did a video that was Wes Anderson directing Taylor Swift in Game of Thrones? Somebody call our agent. Or maybe get us an agent first.
The Boy Who Facebooked Wolf
What Happened: A man told social media that he was being kidnapped as it was happening, and social media responded exactly as you’d hope. The problem was, he was lying.
Where It Blew Up: Facebook, Twitter, blogs, media think pieces
What Really Happened: Adam Hoover is a gay rights’ activist best known for creating what was called “the largest rally for marriage equality in the Midwest” at the age of 17—or, at least, that was what he was best known for, before this message appeared on his Facebook and Twitter feeds this week: “Please help me I’m in the trunk of my ford escort red 2000 gbh 2812. They said they are going to kill my family please call 911 I don’t want them to hear me. Please please call. I don’t want to die.”
Before too long, social media had mobilized in reaction; the hashtag #FindAdamHoover was all over Twitter, and Hoover was located by authorities safe and sound. Twitter was jubilant with the outcome:
Hoover was charged with making a false claim, a first-degree misdemeanor, prompting a round of reports about the story (including this must-read one by Dan Savage), but surprisingly little response on social media. That may be due to postings on Hoover’s Facebook page from his mother, explaining that what had happened was “my son’s way of REACHING OUT for help [and] he is truly sorry if he has hurt anyone with his actions,” and asking those on social media to remove mentions of the event.
The Takeaway: There’s a lot going on here, not least of which the emotional breakdown that led to the hoax. Beyond that, there’s some pride in the way that social media responded to the hoax before it was known that it was a hoax, and maybe just a little concern that everyone was taken in so easily. But which is better: having people react so quickly and selflessly, or being a little bit more cynical and suspicious when it comes to this kind of thing?
Self-Interest Versus Public Interest, The Twitter Edition
What Happened: Which do you think got more attention on Twitter this week: the release of the new Avengers trailer, or the release of the Department of Justice’s report on the Ferguson Police Department?
Where It Blew Up: Twitter
What Really Happened: Here’s something to make you feel good about the Internet at large: Following the release of the Justice Department’s report into the Ferguson PD, Twitter was flooded with more than 170,000 tweets in response. It makes sense; the report revealed that people of color were arrested more frequently than whites, often as the result of a focus on revenue demands rather than, you know, anything to do with justice.
Twitter released a graphic of mentions of #FergusonReport on the service for March 4, showing that mentions peaked at 12:30 Pacific that day, with 760 tweets a minute. That’s pretty great, right?
Well, here’s something to make you feel a little less good about the Internet at large: When Marvel Entertainment demanded that fans tweet the hashtag #AvengersAssemble in order to “unlock” the third trailer for this May’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, that reportedly unleashed a rush of online interest that resulted in an average of 8,100 tweets a minute across the just-over-four-hour window it took to hit its goal. With a little math, that means that #AvengersAssemble got about 10 times as many tweets per minute on average as #FergusonReport got at its peak. It’s a good thing that everyone’s realized that fake heroes fighting monsters are more important than real world justice.
The Takeaway: Maybe in future, we can drive attention to important news stories by partnering with movie studios and requiring people to read about current events in order to get trailers released. Let’s comfort ourselves with the fact that there was a lot more conversation happening elsewhere about Ferguson, just not tagged with that particular hashtag. (But still.)
Internet Connectivity Becomes Another Hurdle to Diversity in TV
What Happened: HBO launched a new program intended to find “emerging writers from diverse backgrounds.” Unfortunately, it was too successful for its own good.
Where It Blew Up: Twitter, blogs, media think pieces
What Really Happened: Last week, HBO announced something called the HBOAccess Writing Fellowship which, it claimed, is “designed to give emerging, diverse writers the opportunity to develop a half-hour or hour script suitable for HBO or Cinemax.” Submissions were to open March 4, with those looking to apply needing to submit applications, resumes, and a screenplay through a specially-designed online portal. You can all see where this is going already, can’t you?
Those frustrated with the flawed process took to Twitter to voice their complaints:
A suitably-embarrassed HBO released a statement explaining that the portal was “unable to handle the volume of activity at the time of launch,” noting that as a result, HBO was planning to “expand the number of applicants it will review and grant waivers to some who were unable to access the site at the time of launch.” And if that doesn’t work, well, apparently there are always alternatives:
The Takeaway: On the plus side, at least everyone now knows that there are definitely a lot of new writers out there trying to be heard. If only someone could work out a way to let them find an audience.
Memo to Fugitives: Stay Off Facebook
What Happened: Here’s a tip to any wannabe criminal masterminds out there: When Johnny Law posts something on Facebook about wanting to locate you, don’t reply.
Where It Blew Up: Facebook, Twitter
What Really Happened: On March 2, the Butler County Sheriff’s Office posted the following on Facebook: “BCSO is looking to apprehend ANDREW DALE MARCUM on numerous warrants. He has previously been known to reside on Route 4 in Lemon Township, but also tends to commit crimes in Hamilton and Middletown.” The post listed some highlights of his criminal career, along with some photographs of Marcum, and contact details for the sheriff’s office for anyone who knew where he could be found.
Four-and-a-half hours later, Marcum himself commented on the post, writing “I ain’t tripping half of them don’t even know me.” Cunning taunt or inexplicably stupid move? We’ll leave that decision up to you, but the sheriff’s office saw its chance, responding to Marcum by saying, “If you could stop by the Sheriff’s Office, that’d be great.” The next day, apparently emboldened by the success of its Facebook pleas, Richard K. Jones—the Butler County Sheriff himself—took the issue to Twitter:
Apparently, it worked. Marcum turned himself in later that day, leading to his mugshot being posted on Facebook with the message “Andrew Dale Marcum will be off Facebook temporarily, because there is no social media access in the Butler County Jail.”
The Takeaway: At least our streets are a little bit safer because of this. Not that Marcum was dangerous, per se, but someone who doesn’t seem to realize how Facebook works might have accidentally have been a danger to himself and others if left unattended.
“I Love You.” “I Know.”
What Happened: Harrison Ford was in a plane crash on Thursday afternoon. Depending on when you saw the news, he was either in critical condition or just fine, thanks very much.
Where It Blew Up: Twitter, blogs, news reports
What Really Happened: The race to be first with the news on the Internet can mean that, sometimes, things like “facts” get a little lost in the rush. On Thursday, Harrison Ford proved that truism when a small plane he was flying crashed into a golf course in California. Initial reports made it sound as if Ford was near death as a result:
But, as more details became known, the extent of his injuries lessened:
As the intensity of the crash lessened, social media responses went from concerned…
…to, well, not so concerned:
The Takeaway: Look, we’re not really over losing Leonard Nimoy, if we’d lost Harrison Ford as well, we’re not sure the collective Internet could have handled it. Happily, it’s looking like Ford will make a full recovery. But nonetheless, we don’t like this slow ramping up of “Harrison Ford Reminds Us That We’re All Mortal” thing that is going on. Last year, it was injuring himself on the set of the new Star Wars movie, now this. We’re already dreading what he’s got planned for next year at this point. Can’t someone just get him to sit down and take it easy for a while?