On August 30th, the Republican National Convention took place in Tampa, Florida. Veteran actor Clint Eastwood gave a speech endorsing the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. During his speech, Eastwood rhetorically addressed an empty chair as if current President Barack Obama were seated in it, conducting an 11-minute mocking “interview” with him, asking questions on behalf of the Republican party. Now, this event, in of itself is not really what I want to focus on, I think it’s rather trivial. What I found interesting was the immediate and subsequent reactions of the press, the global community and online.

Not even within hours, but as the event itself was occurring the public were reacting on Twitter, Facebook and Google+, many of them were somewhat baffled, to say the least. Within the first hour, 78,200 tweets were posted about Clint Eastwood. During the first 24 hours after the speech was televised, approximately 93, 200 tweets were recorded, many of them posting jokes and images online, many also using the hashtag #invisibleobama. The following day, the story made it to Iran, where people were even more baffled. The speech has become a notable topic among Iranians posting on social networking sites with reference to the video.

It is responsible for starting a photo fad, just like instagram and planking before it. Referred to as ‘Eastwooding’ this is simply the practise of taking a photograph of an empty chair and posting it to a social networking site. This began trending on Twitter almost immediately, beginning with Salt Lake Tribune reporter Robert Gehrke posting a photograph of his colleague Thomas Burr pointing to an empty chair while the pair were in fact attending the convention and had witnessed the speech personally. Gehrke coined the term Eastwooding in his post, and within an hour it had generated over 7,100 related tweets. By noon the following day, 23,325 tweets were associated with the hashtag #Eastwooding, including ones from comic actor Zach Braff, actress Mia Farrow and comedian Hal Sparks.

A photograph of Obama taken some days earlier seated in the sunshine next to an empty chair then also started making the rounds on photo-sharing sites like Tumblr and Reddit, usually captioned with something about President Obama and an invisible Clint Eastwood sharing an awkward lunch. Just after midday on August 31st, President Obama’s official Twitter account posted a response. A photograph of the president, taken from behind showing his head as he is seated in a chair, upon which is written “The President – January 20th 2009”. The photo was posted with the caption “This seat’s taken”.

There are countless variations on the theme all over the internet at the time of writing. But personally, I find it interesting that a silly joke on the internet was in fact responded to by the President of the United States, or perhaps more likely, someone in his press office. Of course, none of this is in any way particularly significant or meaningful, but I wish to highlight the fact the internet allows these silly situations or jokes and the amusing images that inevitably follow to be spread around the world so quickly can tell us something about the present nature of our world. This has happened before, it will happen again with next week’s internet trends, but nothing is forgotten. These things are archived and remembered and referenced. The key thing is quick and free access to information. Unfortunately, a lot of this information is composed of silly jokes and viral videos. But I guess that’s our culture now, online is the way we do business and is becoming an essential part of modern life for many, but I wonder if the human race’s penchant for constant distractions may hinder us from achieving what we’re really capable of.

The author is a director at My Outdoor Store. The premier price comparson walking and hiking outdoor gear store

Author's Bio: 

Bruno Blackstone is a freelance writer interested in all things to do with the outdoors and helping others get the most from the outdoors. Starting with a psychology degree his early career was as a social worker and family therapist working with families to help them achieve more positive and stable relationships. In his more recent career he has coached many senior executives in both small and large organisations in areas such as strategy, human resources, organisational design and performance improvement. He now continues his work in the business world but he is also co-owner of My Outdoor Store a price comparison site for outdoor enthusiasts.