Film critic Roger Ebert caused a stir yesterday when he Tweeted and Facebooked a comment regarding the death of Jackass star Ryan Dunn. For those of you just now crawling up from under a rock, Mr. Dunn and a passenger were killed in an automobile accident a couple of days ago. The police have now confirmed that Dunn was intoxicated and speeding. Ebert made the comment, "Friends don't let jackasses drive drunk." The world of Ryan Dunn/Jackass fandom went into outrage-overdrive. Ebert (kind of) apologized. The whole thing wasn't pretty.
I sat back and watched all of this develop with a mix of incredulity and bemusement. I've never cared for the antics of the Jackass crew. That someone associated with the program would die in such a way is hardly shocking. I like Roger Ebert. That he has a seemingly constant online presence, and would tweet his thoughts about a celebrity's death so quickly is hardly surprising. But this begs the question: How much of the online world is too much?
We live in an age of immediate satisfaction. I am old enough to remember life before the internet, before widerange cell phone usage, heck, even before cable TV was a major player. Information wasn't readily at our fingertips. Nor was the ability to instantly communicate our thoughts. I'm not someone who thinks of our technological advancements as bad, per se, but it's definitelty a mixed bag. It requires one to pause for thought. Perhaps now more than ever.
Roger Ebert is in a... different place than he was five years ago. I get that. Having lost the ability to speak, he has found a treasure trove of communication within online social media outlets. I think that's great. But even Ebert, whom I consider to be one of the greatest intellectuals of our time, is obviously susceptible to the dangers of typing before he thinks. I mean, his journal entries on his blog are, well, pretty awesome. But those are well-thought-out pieces that aren't rushed (or don't feel as though they are), and are not 'immediate.' His Twitter and Facebook communiques? Eh... not so much. Some of them are interesting. Some of them leave me scratching my head at their inanity. His Ryan Dunn tweet fell somewhere inbetween. I understood it. I just didn't understand why he did it.
Ryan Dunn died a pointless, stupid death. Let's be clear about that. He did a dumb thing -- drinking & driving. But, you know what? He's definitely paid for that now. Let's keep that in perspective. And, yes, it's fortunate that no one else was injured, besides Mr. Dunn and passenger Zachary Hartwell, and this is certainly a teachable moment. But Dunn wasn't Hitler. He wasn't Osama Bin Laden. His death did not deserve a flippant tweet from someone who knows better, especially not before the coroner had even begun the autopsy.
No one's conduct has been exemplary throughout this incident. Who knows, perhaps not even mine, for writing this post? But if there are any lessons to be learned (or re-learned) through all of this, they are: Don't drink & drive, and: Think before you Tweet.