The emotional magnitude of an event is lessened when you apply a hashtag to itSeptember 15, 2011
“I had a horrible thought this past week,” I say.
“Horrible in a general sense, or horrible for you?” says Tina the Lesbian. “Because your threshold for horribleness is a bit skewed compared to the national average.”
“It’s about the 10-year anniversary of 9/11,” I say. “Pretty much everyone had some sort of status update about remembering 9/11, which then was replaced in an hour with a status update about watching football.”
“Yeah, I found that odd too,” says Tina the Lesbian. “But then I figured that sort of mood swing is actually very American. Remember 9/11, go Steelers! The only way it could be more American is if they did while firing a gun.”
“Then I remembered the story about the guy in Pakistan who inadvertently live-Tweeted the Navy Seal raid on the compound where Osama bin Laden was hiding,” I say. “I didn’t even know they had Twitter in Pakistan, but apparently that guy did.”
“And your horrible thought is…?” says Tina.
“What would 9/11 have been like if all this social media we have now was around then?” I say.
Tina the Lesbian contemplates this for a moment while sipping on an margarita. “You’re saying someone would be live-tweeting the worst terrorist attack on American soil.”
“I’m saying millions of people would be live-tweeting and updating their Facebook while 9/11 happened,” I say. “Now you’re well aware of the dumb shit that already gets bandied about on Facebook and Twitter. Now crank that up to a frickin’ googol.”
“A nation wounded, and pouring its guts out online,” Tina says. “It would get ugly real fast. Rumors jumping to light speed. Racist remarks flooding forth straight from the lizard brain. Mental breakdowns documented for all time on the World Wide Web. Oh, and the news coverage… it’s already insipid enough with them checking in with their Facebook comments and Twitter feeds…”
“Our only solace would be that it would keep people from sharing their ‘where were you heard we got attacked on 9/11?’ stories afterwards, as most of them would just consist of hearing about it on Twitter or Facebook,” I say. “Unless people lie about it just to say that they have a 9/11 story.”
“I just had a more horrible thought, what if Facebook and Twitter were around for other American tragedies?” says Tina the Lesbian. “The Kennedy Assassination, Pearl Harbor, the Civil War…?”
“Actually, I’d probably enjoy General Sherman live-tweeting his fiery March to the Sea through the South,” I say. “@Confederacy, just burned down Atlanta, you fuckers! #burnbabyburn”
“Thank you for proving my point,” says Tina the Lesbian. “Or rather your own point.”
“Ken Burns presents: The Facebook updates of the Civil War,” I say. “Foursquare says General Lee has just checked into at Antietam with 20,000 of his friends.”
“My beloved Petunia, OMG I just lost my arm to gangrene! FML!” says Tina the Lesbian.
“And if you make your $50 PBS donation now, we will throw in a tote bag and this three-volume set of ‘9/11 Tweets’ absolutely free,” I say. “Remember the day everything changed with the most definitive collection of people documenting this event 140 characters at a time. See every hashtag used that day, from #ohmygod to #fuckingtowelheads.”
“I don’t know what’s worse, the horrors we’ve thought of for this alternate Facebook/Twitter 9/11 universe or the things we haven’t even conceived,” says Tina the Lesbian. “Just when you think the Internet can’t shock and appall you, it finds a way.”
“Well… maybe we could have done with some LOLCats when the space shuttle Challenger exploded,” I say. “Might have made my birthday a little better. All we had back then for dark humor was the joke about NASA meaning Need Another Seven Astronauts.”
“Is there anything that Internet social media can’t make worse?” says Tina the Lesbian.
“Eh, don’t look at it so negatively,” I say. “It’s like fluoride. In small amounts it keeps your teeth free of cavities, in large amounts it can kill you. Except Facebook doesn’t leave your mouth minty fresh.”
And we didn’t even discuss what YouTube would have brought to the whole 9/11 disaster… best not to ponder that for too long…