Mocking Blackout Reactions Is Too Easy: Let's Learn From Them Instead

from the stupidity-online?-well-I-never! dept

Unsurprisingly, yesterday's Wikipedia blackout caused a lot of reaction on Twitter. The whole point of a move like this is to shock people, get their attention, and make them start asking questions—and the primary target is those who don't already know about the issue at hand. So it's also unsurprising that some of the reactions were pretty damn stupid. And since there's nothing the internet likes more than making fun of stupid people, it's once again unsurprising that a few different sources decided to catalogue and mock them.

@herpderpedia sprung up to retweet the various freak-outs and desperate pleas of stymied users—mostly students. There's a lot of misdirected anger, with people blaming Obama or denouncing Wikipedia, and a lot of general ignorance: many thought the site had already been shuttered forever, or that the blackout itself was mandated by congress. And since memes are always in their fifth stage of irony for some people while others have yet discover them, there are also quite a few tweets that look like parodies.

But what I see most of all are questions. People are asking why? in huge numbers, and that's fantastic. Granted, a lot of them are directing their questions to the wrong people, and it's not as if all of them are going to use this as a starting point to genuinely learn more about these issues. But some will. And you can bet they'll all be paying more attention to SOPA/PIPA now—not to mention any future legislation that sparks chatter about Wikipedia's Black Wednesday.

Some will say they shouldn't be asking when the blackout page provides plenty of information, but when you look closer you see that several tweets complain about complicated language and unclear explanations, and most are just shouts of extreme frustration (remember, these are all people with a looming deadline on some other project). More importantly, this speaks of broader themes online: people have two primary means of finding information now—search and social—and when one fails, they go to the other. When you want fast facts you Google something then click through to Wikipedia, but when you have a more immediate human need borne of panic—OMG OMG OMG OMG WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED TO WIKIPEDIA? CAN SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME? Omg [actual tweet]—you turn to your social circles.

But it's the internet, and there will be mockery, and that's fine. I just hope the mockers realize that this isn't like when Kim Jong Il died and some Twitter users thought it was Lil Kim (that was both less excusable and more hilarious). Beneath the surface idiocy, most of these people have been nudged in the right direction by Wikipedia's blackout, even if only slightly—and their reactions provide a lot of insight if you can resist taking the potshots, most of which are too easy anyway.

Now that's out of the way, here are some easy potshots at tweets:

fuck jimmy wales. fuck him and fuck wikipedia. dickhead my works taking ages to do now cos i goota go on so many wesbits.wt a prick.'protest [What sort of company employs a quasi-illiterate to surf Wikipedia all day? I'm genuinely curious]

WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE? WHY AM I THE LAST TO KNOW WIKIPEDIA IS BLOCKED! I BE ON THERE DAILY!!! [I like that she is less annoyed about losing Wikipedia than she is about the fact nobody told her. I've often thought SOPA/PIPA supporters are just mad because they were the last to find out about free movies.]

I will cry if they shut down Wikipedia forever.. :'( [Why, because you won't be able to look up "sissy"?]

WHY THE FUCK IS MY WIKIPEDIA BEING A BLACK ONE I DIDNT WANT THAT OH GOD IM SO MAD [Swap "Wikipedia" with "President" and this would be the perfect redneck tweet]

I think Wikipedia planned this shit. [Really? I figured it was a typo.]

Gay no Wikipedia!? I was about to search something fucking bitch.. ["The page 'Something fucking bitch' does not exist. You can ask for it to be created, but consider checking the search results below to see whether the topic is already covered." Incidentally, the first result is "Flavor of Love (season 1)"]

Filed Under: blackouts, informed, learning, mocking, pipa, protect ip, protests, sopa, twitter users
Companies: twitter, wikipedia

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  1. icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), 20 Jan 2012 @ 12:40am


    I had hoped my comic reversal at the end of the post would make it clear that I do acknowledge and appreciate the value of mockery, comedy and even vulgarity to make a point - indeed I have argued in their favour many times in the past. The true intention of this post was simply a reminder: that there is something to be learned alongside the mockery, even if the mockery is admittedly kinda fun... (though, really, most of the herpderpedia retweets are not even that funny)

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