You might remember Patton Oswalt from such movies as “Ratatouille” or TV shows like “King of Queens” or his hilariously geeky improv on “Parks and Rec”. Mr. Oswalt may not be a household name, but he does have a dedicated following on Facebook and Twitter. Oswald uses his social media at times to express some real thoughts. Last year after the Boston Marathon bombing, he posted this a short response. His first reaction is to say all people are bad, but, after reflection, Mr. Oswalt came to the “shocking” realization that humanity is not intrinsically evil:
“[T]he vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak”.
The piece was raw, personal, and a little funny. Just what we needed on that day. It gained 353,089 likes and almost a quarter of a million shares.
In Late May of this year, there was a twitter campaign #YesAllWomen. It was a response to the killings at University of California Santa Barbara. The killer said that the killings were retribution for women rejecting him. and Mr. Oswalt tweeted this, in support of that campaign:
Fellow nerds: y’know how mad we get when jocks confuse Marvel & DC? Women feel that way when men confuse rape with sex (x1000) #excelsior
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) May 30, 2014
His comment set off what I believe is called a “twitterstorm”. Mr. Oswalt was applauded by many and the object of anger from others. He saw too many tweets making fun of the campaign and a lot of misunderstanding about what is rape and wanted to respond to those misconceptions. He did it as a comedian, and as can be the case with comedy, many people did not get the joke.
After the storm, Mr. Oswalt decided to do something rarely seen in today’s culture of instant feedback. He decided to take some time off, roughly 3 months, of Social Media. He didn’t like the person he was becoming on Social Media, he needed a break. He doesn’t quite know if he’ll come back to the social networks or not. He ends by saying “But whatever options are left? They’re on the other side of the silence bath I’m about to take.”
Mr. Oswalt, for all of his jokes and ruminations on life, has stumbled on to something very important. In Ignatian language he is taking time away for discernment. He is not asking for feedback of his followers on what he should do. He knows the best way to understand how he can best use his talents is to reflect in the silence and look at the options that lay before him. In that sense he has provided a great gift to us, his “fellow nerds”, the need to recognize that all we do, even on social networks, is a reflection of who we are and ask ourselves, “is that who we really want to be?”