Monday, April 9, 2012

Alive And Kickin'

Late last year, I read a book.  That's newsworthy in itself, but that's not the main purpose this blog post--maybe another day.  It wasn't just any book; it was a Facebook book called The Facebook Effect, which told the true story behind the rise of Facebook.

I have next to nothing to compare it against, but the book was an interesting read.  I was a late Facebook adopter, at least within my age group, joining in 2006 on the day of my final college class.  Reading this book, I was fascinated to learn about what went on inside the company and how many of the common Facebook features, like the News Feed and photo sharing, came to exist.  It was intriguing to compare the book's recap of how these new features were originally received by users with my own firsthand experience.

The book's epilogue told the story of a man in South America who started a Facebook group opposing the oppressive local government.  To his surprise, the group quickly exploded in membership within his country, sparking demonstrations and protests that spurred real change within the government.  The man's efforts took hold among other oppressed populations across the world, and more people are using Facebook as a platform to communicate and organize against injustice.  It's a very inspiring story.  And with today's big announcement that Facebook bought Instagram, I figured the timing couldn't be better for a Facebook-related blog post.

Like everything, Facebook has its pros and cons--when you have a tool that can so rapidly mobilize thousands of people for a good cause, you'll occasionally run into the same phenomenon, but with a slightly less noble effort at its core.  For every story like that of the South American man, you'll run into one less...uplifting.  In reading someone else's blog last week (and wondering how a clearly inferior blog could have earn a following so much larger than my own), I found a random photo that I had to learn more about:

This story seemed too hilarious to be true.  The photo looks like a screenshot from an actual newscast...but was it real?  Sure was!  I looked up Aaron Mishkin and found plenty of articles.  It turns out the event took place more than three years ago, but Aaron truly was the victim on "Kick A Ginger Day," a little-known Canadian holiday that is apparently heavily celebrated in Sooke, British Columbia.

I had no idea when I started my search that Facebook was indirectly behind all this.  Inspired by an episode of South Park, someone created a Facebook group called "Kick A Ginger Day," celebrated on November 20th, which encouraged kids to do exactly what the name suggests.  

The quotes from the article were sad, yet hilarious.  Here's one from Mishkin himself, who, over the course of the day, estimates he took somewhere in the neighborhood of eighty shots from his darker-haired classmates: "...we have seven minutes to get to the next class, and I was amazed by the amount of people that kicked me along the way."   A school official commenting on how quickly the prank gained traction said, "They started looking for redheaded students and kicking them in the shins, then other students thought it looked like fun and it grew rather rapidly."

I can't help but feel bad for the kid--I imagine going through life as a redhead is tough enough without having a whole day devoted to other people kicking you in the shins.  And this kid hardly looks tough enough to put up much of a fight.  When I first saw the picture, I felt like I'd seen Aaron Mishkin before:

Could it be?  It's the kid who played young Lex Luthor in the pilot episode of Smallville!  Maybe not--turns out that was Matthew Munn, a young actor with an equally unfortunate hair color. But if nothing else works out for Aaron, maybe he can be a stunt double for this kid.  He certainly knows how to handle some bumps and bruises...and later in life, he can look forward to becoming a man so rich and powerful that he'll be able to take on Superman himself.

Here's a link to one of the articles:

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