Robin Williams has passed away.
There’s no getting around such a heavy, monumental moment, so there it is. I write this to provide no new insight or theories about the method or cause of death. It is far beyond my understanding to say what the man was going through, what he had seen. What I do offer today is what I would say to an internet genie if I had three wishes.
I know that sounds completely unrelated, maybe even flip. But I assure you, this post, in part inspired by the charismatic Genie that enraptured us all as children. It is also inspired by a truly funny man.
So although I may not find myself in Agrabah, these are my three wishes to the internet genie:
1. Stay informed.
You probably have seen something like this in the last 24 hours.
Yes, similarly to the Maya Angelou/Rosa Parks and Nelson Mandela/Morgan Freeman mixups (Search twitter, both really happened), people have mixed up the two Robins. It’s very easy to dismiss this people as dumb, but the real problem is a lack of information. We live in an age with huge access to information. As such, it’s becoming harder and harder to determine what is real, not, and the blurred lines* (*I couldn’t help myself) in between. So we can’t write this people off just yet.
After all, many others were subject to being uninformed before. Does KONY 2012 ring a bell? How about Occupy Wall Street? Both movements were meant to bring long-lasting change. But since the masses were largely uninformed, it was impossible to move forward, however unified people were. Yes, there were some that knew what was going on, but far from enough to be effective. If you want to make a long-lasting impact on the world, you have got to look around and see what’s going on. And you don’t have to start outside of the country.
Look to your city. Down the block. The seat next to you. More likely than not, there’s somebody there that could use your help. The only thing that is separating you from doing that:
2. Don’t Fight Negativity with Cruelty
Behold the next type of tweet you’ve been seeing in the last 24 hours:
Put aside any thought of your personal opinion of Robin Thicke. Yes, even though he blurred the lines** (**again!) with a song that had a undeniably catchy tune and undeniable sexism, I want that to go away (like Robin Thicke will eventually. Have you heard his album Paula? Yikes) for a moment. Gone? Good. Now read the above again.
Those people above called for a person’s death for no reason.
Death, along with other negative events, has a way of clouding things, particularly our judgment. It is my sincere wish that these people misspoke while attempting to cope for a dark incident. But it seriously needs to stop. It is never funny, no matter how much time has passed. If you’re close to someone who made a status or tweet like those above, please call them out. “But it’s just a joke!” They might say, “I don’t mean it!”. Counter them with this:
“For this exercise, your name will be Alex (or any other unisex name) Imagine if you were a famous firebreather. The one that everybody gets soooooo excited about. But your significant other leaves you because of all the attention you get…and because you always smell like smoke. In order to cope, you breathe a fire dragon right outside of her house. Unfortunately, you accidentally light her cat on fire. No worries! The cat is okay! (The tail is a little singed though) Now the whole world knows you as the guy who committed cat arson.
A week later, famous musician Alex dies of mysterious causes. Immediately after, your ex, holding a slightly singed cat, puts on social media “Why couldn’t they take firebreather Alex instead!!!??” You see the tweet, and it hurts. You knew your ex didn’t like you, but that’s a little extreme.
Now multiple that one tweet by a thousand. How much does that hurt?
Because maybe you’ll get close to the people requesting the deaths of Justin Beiber. Or Robin Thicke. Just like you, they made mistakes. For that, people call for them to die every day. Still funny?”***
(***If your friend still says yes, and they are over the age of 12, reconsider the friendship. Just a thought.)
3. Either Help People or Let Them Pass
The below is a comment that someone made after a person confused Robin Williams with Robin Thicke. They have a point, but can you spot what’s wrong here?
Didn’t catch it? It actually relates to wish number 2. This facebook commenter is correct in saying that it is right to be angry over people “Milking” someone’s death. But in the same breath, the commenter says that these hundreds of fan pages are just for likes. And again, this person could be correct. But every single page? Is it so hard to believe that there are a lot of people that honestly loved Robin Williams and wish to pay their respects the only way they know how? This is a problem we often run into on social media. People offer a solution or try to promote activism (e.g. KONY 2012) but don’t get any further than the like/share buttons. As a result, commenters like these arise to tell them they’re wrong.
But where does that get us?
Look at it this way: You’re walking down the street from that awesome firebreather show. You see an old lady on a mac book that is trying to send an email. You look over and notice that she’s not connected to the internet, but is holding up her laptop in the air. “Whatcha doin there?” you ask casually, being from the south. “Getting Internet by holding it up in the air. All my friends say that this works.” The old lady says in a British accent. You now have a choice. Tell her that she’s wrong or maybe even dumb for holding up that laptop, or help her get on the wi-fi. What’s it going to be?
I hope most of you go for stealing wi-fi from the unsecured Starbucks. But those who chose option one are essentially being that commenter from above. Yes, people may be misguided in thinking that a “like” is enough to change the world. But if you don’t help them to understand what needs to be done, how can they change? I know that every issue isn’t that simple. Go back to the old lady. Instead of Wifi being the problem, it was a DNS blue screen malware virus bug error cache. Unless you understood what I just described (and I don’t even understand what I just described) you don’t have a solution. So, since you can’t help the old lady, you have two choices:
A. Yell at her.
B. Let it go and walk away.
Again, I hope people go with the second option. Maybe some of you went for C and will still try to help the old lady. B or C are great answers, and hard as hell. But imagine how much better the i-net would be if people always chose B or C. Another great example is the ice water challenge. I for one have no intention of dousing myself with ice water (such a waste of ice!) but I’m totally down for donating to charity. And numbers show that most people agree, as donations have gone up for ALS.
Yes, some people are doing the challenge in order to save 100 bucks (Ice is 2 bucks top). But why waste energy complaining about them? Instead, either help them try to donate or let them douse themselves with ice.
Also consider that they may be doing both.
Got that all, Internet Genie? Good! I now release you to spread cats and youtube trends around the world.
I’m out of firebreathers and old ladies: now we return to reality. Here people are sometimes cold, bitter and all around negative. For now. As I said before, death and other negative events in our lives have a way of clouding things, inducing a haze that spreads and covers everything around it. We can move through it and become stronger or get lost in the fog. If we get better, we can help others too. If not, I hope that my third wish will come true and someone will help you. Maybe it will be hard. Maybe it’s not as easy a writing a single blog post. Maybe we don’t have a genie in the world that we can see in front of us right now.
But we did.
Rest in peace, Robin Williams.