Roger Ebert on Ryan Dunn: Twitter Folly Strikes Again

Roger Ebert on Ryan Dunn: Twitter Folly Strikes Again

Jun 21, 2011

Yesterday news broke that Ryan Dunn of “Jackass” fame had died in a car crash. Roger Ebert, of all people, wasted no time starting the latest culture war over Twitter.

 Roger Ebert on Ryan Dunn: Twitter Folly Strikes Again

Roger Ebert has always been a caustic and outspoken critic—especially so after the loss of his voice to thyroid cancer and the replacement of his jaw with a prosthetic chin.

Having gone quiet for a spell after his diagnosis, Ebert was the subject of a monumental profile in Esquire shortly after undergoing cancer surgery and, and immediately afterward seemed to bounce back more prolific than ever, reviewing films in a rapid-fire bender in his Chicago Sun Times column and taking to Twitter like a man making up for lost time.

Yesterday, Ebert became the latest in his generation to perpetrate a Twitter folly, commenting on the death of Ryan Dunn, 34 year-old costar of the “Jackass” franchise.

Yesterday morning news broke that Dunne had died in a serious car crash also killing one passenger. Dunn had been driving, and had allegedly posted a picture of himself drinking at a bar shortly before the crash, although Washington Post points out that no autopsy has yet been completed.

Just hours after the news permeated the web, Roger Ebert tweeted: “Friends don’t let jackasses drink and drive.”

Most of Dunn’s Jackass peers had already released statements on Dunn’s death, but Bam Margera had remained quiet in his grief. Until Ebert’s tweet—after which he piped up, also on Twtitter, to respond with this:
Picture 110 Roger Ebert on Ryan Dunn: Twitter Folly Strikes Again

Ebert then predictably went on to make things worse, defensively tweeting “Perez Hilton’s readers agree with me and not with Perez about my tweet on Ryan Dunn. He drank, he drove, 2 people died.”

From Anthony Weiner to Sarah Palin’s famous “refudiate” to Roger Ebert’s latest unsolicited attack on the Jackass camp, it seems older people—even the very smart and savviest—have a tough time successfully navigating Twitter. Maybe they simply don’t understand the magnitude of Twitter readers and therefore the ramifications of their statements. Or maybe they simply have a hard time grasping the etiquette norms of the new technology, in which communication gets magnified in the echo chamber of re-tweets.

Whatever the case, a serious generation divide seems to be manifesting on Twitter. When was the last time you remember someone under the age of 35 sparking this kind of controversy with a Tweet? Even the relatively inept stars of the young generation—Snooki, for instance, seem to be able to handle themselves on Twitter without starting vendettas or getting themselves fired.

Even controversial tweeters of a younger generation know how to bend the boundaries without shattering social etiquette. Kanye West, for instance, masterfully walks this line and makes it look easy.

Ebert joins a long line of egregious transgressors on Twitter, usually of an older generation, who grievously imperil their reputations with their inability to self-edit. I believe the time has come for Ebert and his fellow Twitter offenders to have their own nickname: Twatters, perhaps.

The question remains: Will young people today suffer the same social-technological ineptitude when they grow older, or will having been raised on social media make them more malleable to new technologies? For the sake of everyone’s feelings, hopefully. But still: won’t you miss this drama when our Twatters are no longer with us?

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