Twittering a new story
The oil spill in the Gulf is everybody’s story, but from our distant vantage points, we are not always sure how to influence it.I write on Day 68 of one of the world’s most horrendous environmental disasters, with little to cheer as we watch scenes of wildlife coated in sticky goo and read stories of the psychological toll on coastal residents.
The Twitter universe is abuzz with 140-character messages. The satiric BPGlobalPR taunts the oil giant with messages purportedly from BP, such as: “Keep in mind, the more your interest in the oil spill wanes, the less damage the oil does” and “We are doing everything we can to stop the information leaks in the gulf”. Others post links to breaking news or to the reflections of dozens of bloggers.
Paul Steele decided to ask fellow Twitter users (aka Tweeps) to join him with one, simple message: “Clean the Gulf”. The video starts with the ubiquitous Twitter “fail whale”, the cartoon character who cheerfully—and frequently—sails onto the screen with the message that Twitter is “over capacity”.
Spliced between some of the most wrenching photographs of the oil spill and its aftermath, people sing their pleas or hold signs with messages such as: “Save the oceans and the animals”, “Don’t blow it. Good planets are hard to find” and “We are all complicit. We must end our fossil fuel addiction”.
Will a Twitter video reverse the damage spreading like a cancer over the Gulf? Not likely, but when a dominant story is one of such magnitude and impact, we have to find a way to deal with it. So we tell stories to put it in context, stories based on the news we see or hear, the opinions of friends, and our own experience of life.
By becoming part of this Twitter video, people from around the globe took the chance to edit at least a part of their own oil spill story. The new story they created together says more than “Clean the Gulf”. It also says, “We are in this together”. It reminds those responsible, “We are holding you accountable”.
For the participants themselves it says, “I am not powerless in the face of disaster.” And that is the only story that leads to action instead of paralysis.