By Jason Offutt
With everything going earlier this summer, like the political upheaval in Egypt, racial violence in America, chemical weapons used in Syria, and the ever-present danger of bear attacks, social media exploded with the life-changing news that Ben Affleck will be the new Batman.
Not Batman as in someone who will beat criminals almost to death in an attempt to rid the world of injustice. That’d be pretty cool … especially for Ben Affleck. I mean Batman, as in the movies.
Posted on Facebook:
“I … uh … what?” Mac.
“And it was all going SO well,” Sean.
“I’m not really upset about Ben Affleck as Batman … but definitely confused,” Bethany.
“Really looking forward to seeing Affleck bring the depth and gravitas to Batman that he brought to Daredevil and Gigli,” Wil Wheaton.
“Ben Affleck officially cast as Batman in the Man of Steel sequel. For the first time in history, I kind of want Superman to win,” The Batman.
… crickets chirping …
Social media is a powerful tool. The 2011 political upheaval known as the Arab Spring was spurred by social media, as was the protest against Philippine President Joseph Estrada.
What do Americans use social media for? Posting pictures of food we’re about to eat, and the sloppily empty plate after we’ve eaten it. Duck faces in the bathroom mirror. Wildly inaccurate political messages during presidential elections. Photographs of our children. Cartoons I always hated to get as forwards when people used email as social media. And, of course, non-news related news. Like when a pub in my town called, incidentally, The Pub, partially collapsed Sept. 1, 2011.
On that day, my Facebook newsfeed, usually clogged by the memes planking, a movie video of Hitler hating everything from the Kansas Jayhawks to vanilla pudding, and Admiral Ackbar from Return of the Jedi saying “It’s a trap” (remember those?), was instead filled with people announcing their bar was dead.
I’ll admit I was saddened as well, but let’s look at some of the other headlines from that day:
“4.3 magnitude earthquake rattles central Los Angeles – aftershocks follow.”
“Oil spill in Kalamazoo River far more toxic than admitted.”
“Sugary drinks add 300 calories a day to youths’ diets.”
“NATO keeps war footing in Libya until Gaddafi regime smashed.”
None of that showed up on my social media feed because, apparently no one cared.
With the potential to change society, or at least better inform it, we’ve taken social media and turned it into a club of like-minded people (I’ll de-friend the hell out of you if you don’t think like me), doing like-minded things that mean nothing to anyone.
I don’t care what you’re going to have for dinner, thank you, nor do I care that you just watched the entire series of Harry Potter movies – again.
Americans are using social media wrong simply because, looking at the world, we have nothing to complain about.
By the way, you can find me on Twitter. Ugh, my stomach hurts.
Jason Offutt’s column has been in continuous publication since 1998 appearing in newspapers and magazines across the United States. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheJasonOffutt.