Each Wednesday in What Memes Mean, Kirk Bozeman questions the significance, humor, and subtexts of viral videos, memes, and other Internet fads.
The Twitter-verse is the constant stream of consciousness of the post-modern, the place where the common man can voice his concern about anything that pops into his head. Sure, comedians can work on crafting the perfect one-liner and celebrities can grace the world directly with their brilliant insights, but the vast majority on Twitter is just us regular folk. It keeps track of our complaints about everything from grocery lines to baggage check-ins, and it documents things like new purchases, political opinions, and current locations. Twitter is a strange, open record of contemporary life.
But while big brother Facebook is accused primarily of promoting façade, Twitter is accused of promoting inanity. Do people really need to air every thought they have, all the time? Is every thought a person has worthy of space in the database? Twitter says yes, but constantly broadcasting our every thought in pursuit of “followers” comes across as a tad narcissistic, right?
That’s why “WW2 Tweets From 1939” is an absolutely brilliant bit of Twitter. Starting with 1939 (i.e., 2011 = 1939), the feed tweets bits of history that occurred on today’s date in 1939 (i.e., 11/22/2011 = 11/23/1939, etc.). The tweeting began on August 31 of this year, the anniversary of the day Hitler invaded Poland. The author — a former Oxford history student named Alwyn Collinson — promises to tweet the war’s daily events over the next six years, following WWII from start to finish. It’s incredibly fascinating, even for a non-history-buff like me.
I call this “brilliant” for the following reason: Feeds like this help us balance out the inherent danger of inanity that Twitter fosters. “WW2 Tweets” is essentially answering the question: What would it have been like to have Twitter during WW2? And what do we find? Well, it looks a lot like history happening right in front of your face, with all of the seemingly inane details culminating in punctuated points of obvious meaning. It looks a lot like… most people’s Twitter feed.
Am I saying that all of Twitter is historic? No, not at all! But I am saying that what we often today call “inanity” is what future generations will call “history.” The moments of our lives may be much more important than we realize. I love Paul’s sermon recorded in Acts 17, especially the lines: “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him.”
Paul saw history as a sovereign ordination of God, a placing of normal people in specific times and places in order that they might seek him and find him. “WW2 Tweets” reminds me that I am a sovereignly placed part of a gigantic story. And we should celebrate, treat, and tweet about all aspects of life with that in mind.