Since Andy Warhol died a couple of decades before Twitter emerged from the churning gumbo that is cyberspace, it’s reasonable to assume he never gave a thought to sharing his own unique world view in 140-character bursts.
But two totally unrelated articles in my Sunday paper, both of which offer strong evidence of the power of personal history, had me briefly considering the possibility. What if?
The first article was about Warhol and the efforts to catalogue some 610 cardboard boxes, a filing cabinet and a shipping container that Warhol left behind. Apparently Warhol never threw anything away, choosing instead to dump just about everything that came his way into boxes, which were promptly sealed and whisked away by aides and placed in storage.
Now archivists – working with a $600,000 grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation – are working their way through the eclectic stash with the precision of an archaeological dig. To date, among the finds are $17,000 in cash and an autographed picture of a naked Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, as this Associated Press story explains.
Sometime in the next few weeks, the archivists plan to start a blog about the “Object of the Week.”
The other story by Tory Brecht of the Quad-City Times told the sad tale of Justin Reedy, a 28-year-old from East Moline, Ill., who shot and killed himself playing Russian Roulette following a series of disturbing Tweets to a friend who died in a car crash four days earlier.
Reedy’s family believes that the social networking site made it possible for Reedy to connect with his dark side. Justin Reedy’s mother, Pam Reedy, told Vickie D. Ashwill of the Des Moines Register, “I just want people to know that social networking can be harmful.”
Over 300 people attended Justin Reedy’s funeral. He had just 39 followers on Twitter and probably none of those saw his frightening Tweets as he posted them in the early morning hours of July 13.
There are two basic lessons here, I think.
From the Warhol story: A lot of family history gets tossed into drawers and boxes and is promptly forgotten. Our “junk” may not come from the rich and famous, but it may be just as valuable to a select audience. Be your own family archivist and look things over before disposing of them.
From the Reedy story: There’s value in social media, but don’t let it intrude on those real person-to-person relationships that don’t rely on the click of a mouse. If Justin Reedy had contacted any of the 300 people who cared enough to attend his funeral instead of sending his cries of anguish into the cold and empty depths of cyberspace, he may have been around to celebrate his 29th birthday on Aug. 18.
Flickr photo courtesy of Clearly Ambiguous.