By Kevin Wilson
The names change, but the results rarely do. I had planned to talk a little about a lesson to be learned over the weekend, but now it’s just something to bring up briefly. Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston participated in an online Q&A with Twitter users.
The problem with the #AskJaemis campaign was a combination of three things. First, the Heisman Trophy winner drew attention when police investigated him but never charged him for sexual assault. Second, he was punished for shoplifting seafood from a grocery store. Third, there are more than two college football teams, so odds are the average person is rooting against Florida State.
The outpouring was funny and scathing and all too predictable. My favorite was, “Of all of the coaches you’ve played for, why did you steal those crab legs?”
The major lesson is that if you are relatively famous with a less-than-stellar past, don’t subject yourself (or be an athletic department who lets a star be subjected) to a forum where anybody can ask anything. Because they won’t ask what you want to answer.
That was going to be the big lesson, but that was Saturday. On Monday, it was another famous person that touched off the predictable social media circle or horror.
Robin Williams was found dead at his home, and all evidence indicates suicide.
We’re becoming scary good at the social networking rule. Since social networking turns every person into the publisher of their own special interest magazine, I knew it would only be hours or minutes before people heard the question, “How is the death of Robin Williams really all about you?”
It starts small and respectful. People share their favorite movie quotes from the celebrity. Odd because you’re quoting what somebody else wrote for the celebrity, but OK.
It escalates from there. Still respectful, but a little more odd, is when people post pictures of the Robin Williams movies they own. Not sure how that adds to the conversation. He’s been in about 100 movies or TV shows, so it would be more surprising if you didn’t own one.
Now we escalate to narcissism:
• There’s the person who says they didn’t care about Robin Williams, oddly in an attempt to get us to care about them not caring.
• “Why is there so much news about a celebrity dying, but we don’t hear anything about (story I think isn’t being covered adequately)?” If your chosen issue wasn’t being covered before one of the country’s most recognizable stars suddenly died, what expectation do you have of it being covered today?
• Some people used it to forward their own agenda. Less than 24 hours after the news broke, an article went up titled, “5 Things Robin Williams Taught Us About Career Transitioning.” That’s not what I got from “Mrs. Doubtfire,” honestly.
Fortunately, some people seem to get a lesson out of it. When word came out it was suicide, plenty of my friends shared the number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Others went further, and posted their own number. Others, I’d bet, posted nothing and instead called somebody they feared might be having a hard time.
My takeaway from Monday (and Saturday, to a smaller degree) is that saying something takes little effort. It’s more difficult, and more impactful, when we do something.
The names and situations change, but the lessons don’t. We just have to learn them.
Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Clovis Media Inc. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 319, or by email: