Balloon Boy, Kanye West and Lady Gaga Walk into a bar. Bartender says, "Hey, wait a second -- how old is that kid? You can't bring a kid in here!" Lady Gaga says nothing and just tries to keep a poker face, but you can tell she's pissed that the kid is getting all the attention. Kanye West says, "Yo Bartender, Imma let you finish, but ..." -- but then the bartender, fumbling with his cellphone, says, "Actually, hold that thought, I've gotta get a TwitPic of this!" First, though, he starts to tweet "Balloon Boy, Kanye West and La" -- but before he can finish, I grab the phone out of his hands and smash it to the ground while screaming, "Stop it!! For the love of God, just STOP IT!!"
On Monday, I published a column about how the rapid dissemination of misinformation through Twitter and other real-time social media is increasingly causing a "general derangement of reality" that's "becoming more and more endemic to the way we consume information and communicate -- and think -- now." And that that social-media-enabled nonsense filtered back "through the prism of the worst of the old media -- particularly cable news channels and talk radio" -- is making us all a little bit nuts.
For the latest Trendrr Chart of the Week, I thought about trying to parse yesterday's Twitter insanity, wherein "Balloon Boy," "#balloonboy," "Colorado" (where the boy is from), "#saveballoonboy," "CNN" (which was offering wall-to-wall Balloon Boy coverage), "Falcon" (the kid's first name) and other Balloon Boy-related terms dominated the trending topics list for much of the afternoon and evening as word got out that a 6-year-old boy -- later found, of course, to just be hiding in the attic of his family's garage -- had supposedly floated away in a homemade helium balloon contraption.
At one point yesterday, I Twitter-searched "balloon boy," then stepped away from my desk to refill my coffee cup -- it couldn't have taken me more than two minutes -- and when I got back, I saw that a message had popped up: "More than 584 more results since you started searching. Refresh to see them." (Holy crap!) And then, of course, Balloon Boy Mania got meta, with people tweeting about the Balloon Boy T-shirt, and passing around tasteless Balloon Boy jokes, including Michael Jackson ones (e.g., "This was clearly Michael Jackson ordering take-out in heaven") and the inevitable riff on Kanye West's recent notorious upstaging of Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards. In fact, so many people retweeted the Kanye bit -- "Yo balloon boy, imma let you finish, but Anne Frank had the best attic hide out spot of all time, of all time!" -- that "Anne Frank" popped up in the evening as a top-10 Twitter trending topic. (Oh dear God. This is what we've come to.)
By now you probably know that young Falcon "Balloon Boy" Heene let it slip on CNN's "Larry King Live" last night that he didn't respond from his attic hiding spot when his parents were calling his name, even though he heard them, because, "Um, you guys [his mom and dad] said we did this for the show." (The apparently publicity-hungry parents had previously subjected their family to appearing on the ABC reality-TV show "Wife Swap.") And then Falcon's dad did a pretty lousy job of trying to talk his way past that stunner. (I can't wait until he gets a bill for the presumably hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of government emergency services deployed to help "rescue" his son.)
This morning, on live TV, poor Falcon puked twice (once off-camera on ABC, once on-camera on NBC). I'm sure as hell not going to link to those clips, but you should know that that bastion of journalism, The Huffington Post, has a piece titled "Falcon Heene Vomits: WATCH Balloon Boy Throw Up on Today and Good Morning America (VIDEO)" -- and just to make sure it pops up no matter how people might search for it, it's helpfully coded with no less than 11 puke-related tags:
- Balloon Boy Puke
- Balloon Boy Pukes
- Balloon Boy Throw Up
- Balloon Boy Throws Up
- Balloon Boy Vomit
- Balloon Boy Vomits
- Falcon Heene Puke
- Falcon Heene Throw Up
- Falcon Heene Vomit
- Falcon Throws Up
- Falcon Vomits
As Jezebel editor in chief Anna Holmes wrote this morning, "Okay, enough. Regardless of what happened yesterday, it's time to get the child away from the television cameras. They're literally making him -- and everyone watching -- sick."
So, you know, screw it -- no more Balloon Boy tracking. I've defaulted to the Trendrr chart I originally planned, which shows that, while Jay-Z was big in September, since the start of October Lady Gaga has had more Twitter buzz than any other pop star. Good for her, I hope her parents are proud, etc., etc.
Anyway, thanks, Balloon Boy, for proving my point.
I'm now going to climb up into my attic, curl into the fetal position and sob myself to sleep.
~ ~ ~
Dumenco's Trendrr Chart of the Week is produced in collaboration with Wiredset, the New York digital agency behind Trendrr, a social- and digital-media tracking service. More background here. A basic Trendrr account is free; Trendrr Pro, which offers more robust tracking and reporting tools, comes in various paid flavors (get the details here).
Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.