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A wizard, a girl, a tree – Reactions to Social (Media)-ly Accepted Rowdiness

Currently, I’m reading “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern. Great read, if you looking for something amazing to do with a week of your mind.

There’s a chapter in the middle of the book called “The Wizard in the Tree”, where one character is telling his sister a story about a wizard who, having spent a lot of time alone, meets a beautiful woman who he tells all of his secrets to. The woman betrays the wizard and uses his magic to lock him in a tree before going out into the world to flaunt her new powers until they are faded and useless. In the end, the woman becomes old and the wizard gains immortality as he becomes one with the tree, spreading his root and seed as far as nature would take him. In the end, the brother ends the story by saying, “Though if he were given the chance to do it all over again, he likely would have been more careful with his secrets.”

Somehow, I read this chapter and instantly thought of social media. Today, (sometimes regrettably) everyone has a voice. We have to power to broadcast our praises and contempt about everything worldwide. It’s like being gifted with a new magic that is quickly fading into uselessness the more that we abuse it, just like the powers given to the woman in the story.

I was amazed at the amount of uproar that occurred yesterday when Netflix announced their plans to split into two companies. My Twitter timeline was full of complaints and negativity asking “How dare Netflix do this?” “How stupid must they be?” I wonder if Netflix (and other companies that have been on the receiving end of a barrage of social media hate speech) feels like the old wizard from the story – that maybe it would be better, at times, to keep ones cards facedown and not let those who we think are our supporters in on the secret plans?

I’ve seen (and been a part of) this too often: a company releases a statement outlining new plans, or a new technology or a new service that, in their business model, is quite productive. As soon as it reaches the ignorant masses, ::boom!:: a tidal waves of tweets and Facebook statuses and blog posts spreading the story, commenting on how the company should have done it, poking holes in their ideas. In the case of Netflix/Qwikster, we’ve already tarnished the brand of something that we’ve never even seen or used. Not only that, but, again, the rowdy masses have painted consumers as a whole as “whiny”, “ungrateful”, “quick to judge” spouting heads who will never be satisfied by anything. Who are we to expect companies to take what we say to heart when we’re aiming at the jugular with everything we say?

However, by the end of the story, the wizard gains immortality through the prison that he is placed in. He becomes one with the tree and his leaves and acorns spread far and wide, spouting new tress that the wizard is a part of. Netflix, George Bush, Apple, Lil’ Wayne – the more trash you talk about them, the more pages you’re adding to their chapter in history books. If you’re not remembered, you never existed, right? Moreover, the more hype you give something, negative or otherwise, the more likely it is to grow and affect other people.

Maybe I’m thinking too hard, and letting my disappointment in society get the best of me…Either way, it’s something to think about.



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September 2011
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