Every Monday, FADER editorial director Peter Macia will ease in to the work week by writing semi-extensively and somewhat incoherently about something that is making his head hurt. This week, he ponders the potential of Twitter to destroy or save the Earth.
On Saturday morning, as news picked up on the magnitude-8.8 earthquake that hit Concepcion, Chile and a potential resulting tsunami headed for Hawaii, I went to Twitter to get up-to-the-minute reports directly from Chileans and Hawaiians. Most of the updates were just retweets of news reports, but very soon after the quake, #Prayfortheworld became a global trending topic, just above regular mainstays #nowplaying and Justin Bieber. As Chileans greeted their horrific day and the alleged tsunami rolled over the Pacific, #Prayfortheworld swelled in unison, reaching a peak just as the governor of Hawaii announced the tsunami was no longer a threat. Soon after the alert was withdrawn, @JoyThompson78 tweeted "#prayfortheworld It worked guys!! not?
@lalalydiaaa: #ifeelbad more people are tweeting about justin bieber than chile. #ibelieve #prayersforchile #prayfortheworld
@lyleatienza: #Prayfortheworld Let's not make 2012 happen!!! NO2012!!!!!!!!!!
@0LYMP1C do you mean the olympics? #no2012 RT @lyleatienza: #Prayfortheworld Let's not make 2012 happen!!! NO2012!!!!!!!!!!
@carlito1171 did bud light really make a commercial in autotune????.... #imdone #prayfortheworld
That's why not. It took thousands of years for human beings to become even remotely skeptical of a supreme being, but the dark side of Twitter is that it condenses all of human cognitive history into mere seconds and a handful of letters. To see belief systems deteriorate this quickly is, to the say the least, a little disturbing. The world does need prayer, but more so its inhabitants need to feel like they can say a prayer without some dude trying to play semantic dodgeball. It is the double-edged sword of free speech, but in moments like this Twitter reveals itself as the most cynical of all internet creations.
It's difficult to tell how old the people are who either use #Prayfortheworld or reject it, but judging by icons, the former span generations, while the latter appear to be part of Generation Y, or the millenials. Terribly flimsy evidence suggests that millenials are less cynical and "are really about authentic reality and family." Meanwhile, their predecessors in Generation X have been non-scientifically proven to be cynical because of a scorching case of "historical underdosing," or "the belief that history has come to an end, with such institutions as the family and government becoming ever more corrupt and exhausted." #Prayfortheworld seems to disprove both of those assumptions.
What Twitter proves, more than a hashtag's ability to halt tidal waves, is that cynicism and idealism are not characteristics of any particular generation. In fact, you probably know plenty of older people who think the world is generally pretty awesome and/or exciting and plenty of young people who think it sucks and/or is boring. And many others who fall somewhere in between, in both age and attitude. It reminds me of a friend's recent variety show pilot taping, during which his first guest, Tim Harrington of the band Les Savy Fav, came onstage in character as an over-the-top trend forecaster. He made a bunch of really funny jokes about absurd trends and then launched into an extended riff about how hot Haiti was on Twitter. This was, incidentally, just days after the earthquake in Port-au-Prince. The audience of obviously pretty trendy people was noticeably uncomfortable as Harrington relentlessly continued. But it was really funny because it was sadly true, that Haiti would only remain a trending topic until something more trendy, like Justin Bieber, came along. Harrington is no millenial, but as far as I can tell, is also no cynic. Neither was my grandfather, who despite having spent his entire life in the military and growing up in a mining family in Tombstone, Arizona of all places, never saw the downside of a single day. If he'd been on Twitter, he probably would've posted the same thing every day for thousands of days in a row.
Another successful day. Good night.
less than a minute ago via web
Who's the Boss? That Tony is something.
about 1 hour ago via web
Finished writing letters and journal entry. Blondie napping.
about 2 hours ago via web
Made Blondie lunch. Read her the comics. Peanuts quite funny.
about 6 hours ago via web
Swam 2 miles in the pool. Time a little off. Will try to improve tmrw.
about 8 hours ago via web
Drank orange juice this morning with a spoonful of bran. Delicious.
about 9 hours ago via web
Getting to this point, honestly, is my goal in life. My grandfather had no tolerance for cynicism, as a matter of fact, and probably the biggest capacity for helping other people of anyone I've ever known. Who knows what he'd think of me even discussing religion or other people's suffering as a trending topic, but I know for a fact that he would've thought #Prayfortheworld was a good look for the human race.
Haiti's trend-life actually ended up being pretty long, but Chile—and Japan, France or Madeira, for that matter—barely lasted a day at the top, if that. None of them are on the scale of devastation of Haiti, but presumably all are worth a prayer or two. This is why #Prayfortheworld is a strong development for Twitter. It is generic and timeless, but also looking for positive results. It's not being used to lump people into a moment of zeitgeist but so that they can put positive energy into the world. #uknowubroke and #AmITheOnlyOne just don't do this. But this still doesn't prove if Twitter saved Hawaii, or whether it can and should be used to affect change in other problem areas. We need to hear it from the horse's mouth, so I found several gods on Twitter and looked at their tweet patterns over the weekend.
Vishnu doesn't tweet. Then I started getting tired, so I only looked up one more: Christian god. Jackpot! Very active in general but noticeably hadn't tweeted at all over the weekend. Suspicious. I messaged him/her/it.
No response yet, but I will RT if and when it happens (PS probably wise not to follow me unless you're dying to know what my dog is doing several times a day).
Hopefully, the response will never come because the last thing the world needs is another reason to lose faith. We need to feel like we can hope for something, whether it's a prayer to save human lives or reverse the honestly quite terrifying recent pattern of natural disasters and cataclysmic weather, or just a scream into the abyss for a wish as-yet-unfulfilled.
Here then, are my top 10 Twitter prayers (in no real order). And no I am not being sarcastic, I just lead a very simple life.
1. #prayfortheworld (might as well)