What, you ask, was trending on Twitter recently? Perhaps the #TrumpKimSummit to mark the meeting between the presidents of the US and North Korea? Or, closer to home, #SBC18 for the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Dallas? No, the internet was enthralled with a critter: a raccoon scaled the 24-story skyscraper, the UBS building in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, and seemed stuck for hours.
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Local news crews began live feeds of what became dubbed #MPRRaccoon (the Minnesota Public Radio inhabits a nearby office). The Twitter hashtag began trending: “The world anxiously awaits the fate of a raccoon that’s scaling a skyscraper.” People’s responses varied from scoffing (very few), to cheering, to highly anxious worrying. The vast majority of commenters indicated they’d been following the story for hours and were emotionally invested in the furry bandit’s safety.
I can relate. My own eight-year-old caught me refreshing my Twitter feed while watching the live stream on Facebook. As I explained why the raccoon was sleeping on the ledge, the critter woke up and started crawling up to the highest window. We held our breath and cringed until it sat safely on the next windowsill. I couldn’t take it. I sent my son to bed (it was 10 p.m.) so he would not be scarred for life if #mprraccoon should lose his footing and fall to his death.
Why were people around the globe glued to their social media accounts, collectively willing this wild animal to safety? People prayed for it, created funny and touching memes in its honor, lost sleep and work productivity due to the unfolding drama. Why?