Culture & Entertainment

Why real life shouldn’t be turned into Internet memes

Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

Why real life shouldn’t be turned into Internet memes

Baseball kid Chances are you’ve seen the video already: a little boy at a baseball game catches a foul ball. Instead of keeping it, he gives it to another boy, who had been on the verge of a tantrum and shouting, “Mine! Mine!” Predictably, the clip has gone viral, supplying the world with its daily dose of warmth and inspiration. “See, there’s still goodness in the world,” we can all say. Then we can post the video to our Facebook walls, aligning ourselves with the boy’s innate goodness. The problem, of course, is that life can’t—and shouldn’t—be reduced to mindless, bite-sized “hits” of inspiration. It’s too complicated for that, and the real people involved become reduced to shallow caricatures, sometimes cruelly so. Just look at how the Huffington Post sets up the video: “Kind 8-Year-Old Kid Gives Away Foul Ball, Stops Other Boy's Epic Meltdown.” Not only has the first kid been set up as some kind of pint-sized angel—a reputation he won’t be able to live up to, being an actual human being—the other kid has been demonized as a spoiled brat. And who knows—maybe he is a spoiled brat. But maybe he’s just, you know, a kid, one who still has a lot of growing and learning to do. And maybe he doesn’t deserve to be vilified in front of the whole world just so that we can all have our daily “awww” moment. Do the millions of people re-posting the video even stop to think about the real children involved, and how they’ll be affected? It’s worth noting, too, that the video has been very misleadingly interpreted. (As is almost always the case with inspirational viral videos.) First of all, if you’re actually paying attention, you’ll see it wasn’t just a foul ball—the ball was tossed directly to the “spoiled” boy by one of the players, who fell short of the mark. So already the “spoiled” boy had at least a reasonable claim of dibs. Meanwhile, the “angelic” boy actually leaves his seat to stand directly in front of the “spoiled” boy, where he accepts the ball from the distracted umpire. In some versions of the video, we even hear the announcers side with the “spoiled” boy, saying he was robbed. So was it pure selflessness that made the “angelic” boy hand it over, or the looks of anger and dismay in people’s eyes? Don’t get me wrong—the “angelic” boy’s action was admirable no matter the context. But by elevating him to the status of Internet saint, we turn him into something he isn’t. He becomes a cardboard emblem, and his life becomes mere fodder for our speculative fantasies. That’s the truly troubling issue here: our willingness to cast judgment on the real lives of real people for the sake of a momentary warm-fuzzy. It’s not the “spoiled” child who’s the monster here, it’s us.
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Culture & Entertainment

Why real life shouldn’t be turned into Internet memes

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