On January 25, 2013, I began tweeting about what was supposed to be a routine commuter flight from Washington-Dulles International to my home in Charlotte, North Carolina. My tweets grew increasingly frantic though, as I began detailing an emerging,mysterious disaster. Over the course of the next few days I continued this narrative, which eventually wound up with my interrogation at the hands of a strange foreign agent. And finally, after four days of such tweets, following the release of a murky video to my family, my Twitter account disappeared. Poof! I was gone.
Of course, the whole story was made up.I had seen some of the early messages on Twitter, and I had been worried--worried enough, anyway, to check various news sites to see if there was other news confirming this, and worried enough to mention it to Spouse. Since I don't know Mark Sample, the internet prankster, in real life and didn't see other confirmation, I concluded that others, whom the writer did know, would take care of it. I still wondered about it, though.
Stupid me. I was worried about a person, another human being whom I thought might be in danger, not realizing that I was part of a War of the Worlds-type prank. People aren't accountable on the internet. I was stupid for worrying that something bad was unfolding, even though all of us have seen plenty of bad things unfolding on the internet with early intimations being posted to social media.
The writer is now outraged that other people have picked up on this story: some who were, like me, worried, took it upon themselves to find out what really happened; others have hacked into his account and continued it. It's all apparently a form of performance art.
But it made me think.
- Does each new form of media bring with it a kind of credibility on the part of the medium--or, if you prefer, a stupid naiveté or credulity on the part of its readers-- until their trust is violated by enough Onion-style news or pranks?
- How long does it take before you read everything in a new medium as just more faux news on the internet?
Something about this story
bothers me, but aside from learning valuable lessons (1. Ignore Twitter. 2.
Ignore Twitter. 3. Ignore Twitter), I can't quite figure out what it is.
Your thoughts? [Edited to add: I had taken this down but a comment on the other post convinced me to put it back--thanks, Stacey!]
Edited to add: here's a link to the #OccupyMLA hoax, otherwise known as more pranksters wasting the time and patience of everyone on a serious issue so that tweets about genuine injustices will be ignored next time when people believe it's a hoax: http://www.chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/occupying-mla/45357
All three of these hoaxers dressed it up in theory-speak and tried to spackle it over with pretensions to doing something useful, but this is the same juvenile mindset that makes 11-year-old boys put firecrackers in mailboxes every 4th of July. I don't see why we should either excuse it or trust the perpetrators.
3/15/21 Edited to add: Eight years later, and I've purposely never read any "scholarship" that the prankster bros have written. Once bitten, twice shy, indeed.