April 26, 2012

TELEVISION FOR THOUGHT: Connecting in the Internet Era

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The Big C tells the story of Cathy Jamison (Laura Linney) and her family as she battles stage four melanoma, and how each member deals with their own lives in consequence. And now, in Season 3 of the hit show, her husband Paul (Oliver Platt) also has a medical problem of his own: he has survived a massive heart attack, one in which he died for a little.

You’re probably wondering how much more a family can handle, but it is fascinating to see how each one copes with the situation, both on individual and familial terms. As for my friend Paul, he has taken to blogging about his new perspective on life since seeing the light. In doing so, he recounts the events leading up to the heart attack and how each day is going for him. Although therapeutic, Paul gets himself into some trouble when he divulges certain private and embarrassing details. He learns a big lesson on the pitfalls of being an open book on the Internet.

In this day and age, anyone can decide to stand on his or her soapbox and speak for days on the Internet. You can say whatever, whenever. However, there are consequences not to be ignored about the content of our statements. Although Paul intends for his blog to be read primarily by others who have heart problems or have also had near-death experiences, it does not mean that other eyes are not privy to his postings. Case in point, Adam (Gabriel Basso), his son, finds his blog posting about Cathy cheating on him the previous summer and how that has affected their relationship. Sure, it is meant as a cathartic exercise, but this ends up hurting his son, making him angry at his mother for undermining her marriage with his father. Paul’s ignorance to the accessibility of the Internet may seem like a problem because of his age, but it’s not a problem exclusive to this age group. It is a problem that grows everyday with seemingly “insightful” and “pithy” tweets and statuses and blog rants (No judgment please). In reality, most seem to air their dirty laundry or cross that boundary of socially acceptable dialogue. But in the Internet age, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, however unpleasant they may or may not be.

Not that social networking does not present its own benefits for society. Despite his nearsightedness, Paul is using his blog for good by creating a community with no prior knowledge or judgments of his situation; it is a community of like-minded individuals who may have also survived or lived through the situation themselves or with a loved one. Blogs can bring those together to make a difference or be supportive of each other when in need. People inherently post on blogs, Twitter, or Facebook to know that there are people out there that recognize their existence and life situation. It is a way to feel value when everyone is connected through one convoluted information highway. It is an extension of globalization on a social front that connects one another in times of need, prosperity, depression, happiness, etc.

So sure, Paul should not have posted about his wife’s affair to protect the dignity of his family, but that does not demean his blogging. It is, rather, a cautionary tale of how to use one’s soapbox correctly. No one wants to know how much of a player you are, or about a cause that you may not even fully understand. Do not say things that you may regret in the morning or may inevitably hurt others. Just because you have the right and capability of saying something does not mean you should. It can haunt you as you pursue relationships or jobs in the future. Nevertheless, blogging and posting a new status may just be that way we can remain interconnected to human civilization, sharing in the human experience of daily life. For Paul Jamison, that means creating that community of those who have found new life and meaning, finding a community of others who have had near-death experiences. Sometimes floating heads thousands of miles away are what you need as a support system as a supplement of your real one at home.

Natalia Fallas is a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences. She can be reached at nmf28@cornell.edu. Television for Thought appears alternate Wednesdays and Fridays.

Original Author: Natalia Fallas