Is It Any of My Dang (Digital) Business?

The theater lights had blinked, signaling the end of intermission. As people straggled back to their seats, I watched several gather in a row below us in the section to the right. An older man with a waxy face was lying back in his seat, eyes closed, while a woman rubbed his cheeks and forehead and whispered to him. I couldn’t tell if she was trying to rouse him or whisper encouragement. An usher hurried up and away. I was relived. The man would get help. But as the seats around us began to fill, help did not arrive. A few more people joined the cluster around the man, but the usher was nowhere to be seen. Finally, the lights dimmed all the way. As the performance began, a man called out, “We need a doctor over here!”

Three men in nearby sections hurriedly rose from their seats. Then the usher returned and looked across the mezzanine at another usher, who spread her hands in a gesture of helplessness and shook her head. Finally, after a few minutes, several people began to lift the man from his seat and carry him out of the auditorium.

As I watched the ushers doing nothing, I grew more and more irritated. Why weren’t they calling for a doctor? I picked up my phone, about to tweet about the venue and its lousy procedures. Suddenly I stopped.

Who cared? Who in my Twitter feed would benefit from my comment? The theater management might see it, but probably not in the moment when action was necessary. In the meantime, I might sit back, flushed with my own importance of having thrown my comment into the Twitterverse. But ultimately, what would it change?

We live in a time where our culture is newly “participatory”– our technologies make it possible for any and all of us to become reporters. Ordinary people become witnesses to events that somehow become elevated beyond their mundane significance simply by virtue of the fact that they can be tweeted.

Don’t get me wrong– I’m a Twitter fan from its early days. I’ve formed valuable personal and professional relationships via Twitter; professional chats have added a lot to my life. But I’ve stepped back from Twitter lately. The stream of political hooha just wears me out; the voices that once informed and/or entertained begins to sound more like the cawing of crows that regularly wakes me at 4:30 a.m.

Maybe that’s why I could stop myself from opening my Twitter app.

Because, really. Was the poor man’s personal circumstance any of my dang business?

I say, No.


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Slice of Life is the weekly Story Challenge on Two Writing Teachers. Come write along with us!

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