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Bill Nye The Science Guy Collapses, Audience Tweets Instead Of Helping

Submitted by on November 22, 2010 – 9:55 am3 Comments

Let me start by saying this: I enjoy Twitter.

I don’t use it as much as I used to, but I still find myself using it once or twice a day (okay, maybe four, five or six times a day!) to see what the people that I follow are talking about. And I usually walk away with at least one piece of information that I wouldn’t have otherwise known. If Kanye West drops a new single that’s worth my time, I usually find out through Twitter. If there’s an NBA game in overtime that I should be watching, I usually find out through Twitter. And if something particular newsworthy happens and I don’t happen to be by a computer or a TV, I usually find out through Twitter.

In that regard, I love it. It’s like having a recorder that sits next to the water cooler all day long and tells me everything that people are talking about.

But I’ve also realized lately that Twitter has turned everyone into a reporter of some sort. Some people choose to report about everything that they read online. They post links to the things they read along with a short sentence about what they thought about whatever it is they read and share it with their followers. Some report about things that actually matter, things that are going on in the news that they feel aren’t getting enough coverage elsewhere. And then some people report about, well, nothing. They tell me what they’re eating, where they’re drinking, how they’re feeling and on and on and on.

I bring this up because that last group of people has me a little concerned. That sudden need to report and the fact that everyone now has the power to report on what’s going on around them has turned a lot of Twitter users into self-important reporters who turn to their Twitter accounts before they act out on something in real life.

Need an example? Well, what got me to thinking about this was a story that I read at the end of last week involving Bill Nye the Science Guy. If you don’t know Bill Nye, he used to have a TV show where he’d make science seem super-fun, despite the fact that, well, it isn’t. Not to me, at least. Anyway, Bill Nye was apparently speaking at the University of Southern California last week when, out of nowhere, he collapsed on stage. According to several reports, he stayed down for about 10 seconds before popping back up, mumbling something about how he’d had a similar incident that morning and then disappearing from the stage.

And the audience in front of him? They just sat there. Wide-eyed. Confused. Perplexed. And, of course…tweeting. “Nobody went to his aid at the very beginning when he first collapsed,” one student said later. “Instead, I saw students texting and updating their Twitter statuses. It was just all a very bizarre evening.”

Bizarre, to say the very least. A man collapsed in front of a room full of people, laid on the floor momentarily, got up speaking incoherently and then got off stage for good…and no one thought to get up to help him? No one bothered to see if he was okay or ask him if he needed a bottle of water? No one thought to call for help, seek out a professor or simply tell Bill Nye (the Science Guy, for Pete’s sake!) to have a seat? They all just sat there updating their statuses and @ing people? Is that really what’s good in the tweets?

I’m not saying this type of behavior is abnormal—even without the influence of Twitter. I wasn’t in the room when Bill Nye went down, so I can’t tell you how long he was out for, what he did or didn’t say when he got up or if anyone ever did get around to asking him if he needed help. There’s a chance everyone was so stunned that they didn’t know what to do for the guy.

But this incident does point out an alarming trend: People are becoming so obsessed with letting Twitter and Facebook know every detail of everything going on in their lives that they’re actually less in tune with the real world than ever before. People would rather report on what’s going on around them than actually live in the world that’s going on around them.

Do you know how many Twitpics I see everyday of an old lady with purple hair or a guy passed out on the train or some jackass laying on the floor at a bar? I’m not lying when I say I see at least a half-dozen of these photos every single day. Rather than wait to tell the tale of the purple-haired lady at a dinner party later or save the story about the passed-out gentleman on the train for the dinner table, people have become obsessed with sharing these details of their life immediately, as they happen, in real time. And if someone else beats them to it? It’s almost like a reporter losing an important scoop.

As a result, things like this Bill Nye incident are happening. Because people are too wrapped up in their own little worlds, real life is going on and they’re too busy to notice. A man could have died on the floor at a major university and the first reaction of a classroom full of students would have been to jump on Twitter and tell the world about it. Doesn’t anyone else see something wrong with that?

As I said earlier, I enjoy Twitter. When used properly, it’s a great way to gather news, keep up with your friends and find out what’s going on out there in the world. But if this is the way it’s being used, I want no part in it.

It might be the best lesson I’ve ever learned from the Science Guy.

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