Several months ago I wrote a lighthearted piece about how social media could have been a contributory factor in the Kim Kardashian jewellery heist in Paris. Some of the polemic I received from certain quarters was intriguing – the main issue from the naysayers was that there was far more ‘worthy’ news than this which should be covered. Someone even went so far as to suggest that I should kill myself for writing it. Possibly a little harsh although, for reasons of personal preservation, maybe that’s just me?
Anyway, beyond suggestions of my (admittedly earlier than planned) demise there was a slew of comments about the frivolous nature of the piece and that I should focus on the more important events happening right now. Now, beyond the fact that I was trying to make a valid commentary on the notion that we are all capable of oversharing on social media, I was also perplexed by the thought that we should only ever discuss ‘worthy’ matters and in a serious manner. I would be foolhardy to admit that we are not plagued by a plethora of ills on our planet… terrorism, starvation, poverty, crime, disease, deforestation, corruption, war, physical / mental / sexual abuse etc. And this (far from comprehensive list) sadly goes on. And on. And on.
This discourse really got me thinking and I concluded that we cannot simply write or, for that matter, constantly read about these more worthy topics without some humor to temper the darkness. There has to be some brightness to counterbalance the shade. There needs to be the occasional comedic interlude to make the despair more tolerable. It doesn’t diminish what is happening out there in the real world, it doesn’t mean that it becomes more palatable or even that we can make it go away, it simply serves to act as a little light relief. And in the face of adversity, isn’t that what we all need? Gallows humour, maybe, but humour nonetheless.
Matt Damon. Seriously?
Take the example of Matt Damon. On the surface of it maybe a strange choice but please bear with me…
We all know that Damon is a massive movie star regularly churning out Hollywood blockbusters such as the Bourne series, The Martian etc. However, what you may not be aware of is that he is the co-founder of Water.org which is a charity seeking to transform the lives of millions of people around the globe by providing them with safe drinking water and decent sanitation. Now that is what I call worthy. The movie premieres, the red carpet parties, press junkets, glossy interviews and awards ceremonies? Not so much. But do people berate him for doing those things because they are not worthy? Nah.
He cleverly uses his fame platform as a gilt-edged opportunity to talk about Water.org. Indeed, he even guest-starred in an episode of ‘House of Lies’ where he played a rather unflattering egomaniacal version of himself just so that he could get some exposure for his charity. So, does the fact he is using a prime time TV show to get his message across to a broader audience make it less worthy? Again, I don’t think so.
Worthy & funny
Or what about the creation of ‘World Toilet Day’ to highlight the fact that 1 in 3 people around the globe have no proper bathroom to use and that, in turn, is having a detrimental effect on the availability of safe drinking water. And then? Putting a toilet seat around his neck to promote it. And even though it was a crappy thing to do he never flushed once. It was worthy and funny all rolled into one.
Let’s put it another way, if Damon suddenly decided to make an even more concerted effort to push his charity and took a much more earnest, solemn and dour approach to how he communicated his message about Water.org, would we be anywhere near as interested? Somehow I doubt it.
Am I professing to be ‘worthy’ in the same way as Matt Damon? Not one iota. I do my bit for charity (like many of us do) but clearly I am nowhere near as prolific as Mr D. And it’s not like I can use fame or fortune to assist me either, because I have neither. But in my own way, I try to raise the occasional smile with the readers of my articles as I attempt to impart a modicum of information across an eclectic range of topics.
Message sent but not received
So is it possible to be both serious and funny with your written content? In my humble opinion, of course you can. Being worthy is, well, worthy but if the message being broadcast isn’t being received then it’s pretty much pointless. Political comedians figured this out centuries ago and their techniques have been carried into the modern era by the likes of Bill Maher, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Their blend of seriousness and satire has evidently worked for them, so maybe we should more accepting of the philosophy. Now what do you think? As ever, I’m keen to hear your point of view…
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A version of this article was originally published on Inc.com