2016 is a year that will long be remembered for its long list of celebrity deaths. I can’t recall the number of times I saw someone on my Facebook or Twitter feed saying they were in tears because a celebrity they like had passed away.
In February 2016, I was in a car with a friend called Jason. He mentioned that Terry Wogan had died (a famous British radio/TV presenter).
“Yeah I know,” I replied. “Its really sad.”
“Why?” asked Jason.
“Because he’s dead. Its sad.”
“Yeah, but you didn’t know him. What does it matter to you? Only his friends and family should be sad.”
To be honest, I was slightly annoyed at his words. You can’t tell someone not to feel sad about something – you either feel sad or you don’t. Its more of a reflex than a decision.
However, I did acknowledge the point he was trying to make. I only knew Terry Wogan from his television career. I didn’t know what he was truly like when the cameras were off and he didn’t even know I existed.
There have been many celebrity deaths that have brought tears to the eyes of their fans. Yet for all the deaths that have occurred… none have actually reduced me to tears. Sure, I’ve felt sad about some of them but crying at the death of a stranger? I’ve never felt that way.
Earlier this year, I was listening to a podcast called We Have Concerns, which is hosted by two guys called Jeff Cannata and Anthony Carboni. The death of Prince (or the artist formerly known as Prince) had hit Jeff particularly hard. He was very honest about how upset he’d been that week…he was so upset that he said he had to apologise to his wife for being so miserable.
That got me thinking… which celebrity death would make me cry? Which stranger had a strong enough influence on me that I would shed tears if they passed away? In the end… only one name to mind. Jeff Cannata.
So who the hell is Jeff Cannata?
Not an unfair question. He’s not a famous actor or musician. He’s not even a celebrity. He’s a podcaster I listen to during my commutes into Central London. We Have Concerns is a comedy podcast discussing news stories from around the world. DLC is a video game podcast. The SlashFilmCast is a movie podcast he participates in. He has done other things too, but those podcasts are mainly what I know him for.
Why do I enjoy listening to him so much? Its not just for his opinions on games, films, and current affairs. I enjoy listening to him because we live in a terribly cynical world, and Jeff is an island of optimism in a sea of digital cynicism. One of his several catchphrases is “I love loving things” because he unabashedly gets excited by things such as films, gadgets, and video games.
Even if they turn out to be disappointing once they’re released, he allows himself to be caught up in the hype beforehand. And furthermore he doesn’t regret getting excited, because its such a good feeling to look forward to something. One such example of this is his reaction to early footage of an Amazing Spiderman game (which turned out to be mediocre once it was released).
Jeff has another catchphrase. At the end of every episode of DLC, he signs off with the words “Think about what you put out into the world and make it a better place.” This is a direct reference to how much trolling happens these days on the internet… To everyone who has ever made a glib or cynical remark… To anyone who ever wrote words or spoke words that were specifically designed to make someone else feel bad.
How great would it be if we all followed that suggestion? How great would it be if every troll stopped to consider how destructive their words were, then chose not to say them? I’m no saint myself. In the past, I’ve tweeted something sarcastic or criticised something that someone else was enjoying. And why? What did I hope to achieve? Making someone else feel bad instead of happy? That’s not an achievement.
I’m not saying we have to tip-toe in a politically correct bubble-wrapped world of politeness. But we certainly don’t have to live in a world of trolling. There’s so much of it out there. And because of 2016’s EU referendum and US election, I feel like trolling now comes with an official stamp of approval. Politicians like Nigel Farage and Donald Trump used trolling to win their respective elections. That’s a terrible message to send to future generations… be aggressive and confident and you can win.
Jeff Cannata spoke out about this. He used what little influence he has on the internet to decry the use of malice and trolling to achieve one’s political objectives. Sadly, his Twitter feed was subsequently bombarded with abuse… primarily from Donald Trump supporters. But he continues to be true to himself and his own moral stance.
This is a man I admire. This podcaster from America is someone that I genuinely believe makes the world a better place with his voice. I doubt we’ll ever meet, but if any stranger’s death is going to make me cry, it would be his. I’d probably feel about Jeff’s passing the way he felt about Prince.
I guess what influences each of us is about as subjective as you can get. And if any old stranger can influence you with just some words, then I’ll always try to live by Jeff’s ideology.
Think about what you put out into the world and make it a better place.
Thanks for reading, everyone 🙂