The story of Jack the Cat, lost by American Airlines baggage handlers at JFK International Airport, continues to captivate public attention six weeks later–as evidenced mostly by tweeting, clicking the Like button on Facebook and commenting on Facebook. This is a guest post by a Delaware-based “Friend of Jack,” Andrea Baumann, who writes about why she felt moved to join the 15,000 or so fans of “Jack The Cat is Lost in AA Baggage at JFK.”
I logged onto Facebook August 29th. There is an adorable little cat out there in cyber-land, called Willow. She has her own page because she’s “different”–she’s not everyone’s idea of a “normal cat.” Willow has a physical disability with a spunky, outgoing personality, which is showcased through the efforts of her family to show the world their version of a “normal” cat. Props to them. Willow commented on a news item–“omg! There’s a cat lost in the airport!” I clicked the link–what the heck, I thought, the noodles are still cooking–and began to read.
We need your help. Please–we have no way to do this alone. Our sheer frustration, worry and concern has brought us here to Facebook to share the story of Jack the Cat. The honest desperation just jumped off the screen as I scrolled. And didn’t click away. I was there on day two of the Facebook page, with just under 1,000 likes. Over the course of the next few days there were times I’d log in to see numbers doubling, tripling, and often it appeared people were caring and listening at the rate of one per a minute. I’d never seen anything like it.
Few people can sit down and write on Facebook something that propels strangers to care; act, or even keep reading. Maybe it was the writing, or the story, or the pure honesty of Karen (Jack’s owner) and Mary Beth’s statements, who from the very beginning were overwhelmed by the love and support. Maybe we–the public–are so starved for truth and sincerity that we latched onto the story and vowed to stick with them until Jack was found.
And stick with them we did; for almost five weeks–until day 35 rolled around–until the ticker clicked 15,000 likes on September 29th. What was in this story, or group, or mission, that had people all over the globe joining in with encouragement, blessings, advice, suggestions and thoughts? In such a short period of time I’d seen comments from Brazil, the UK, Hong Kong, Australia, France, and the one that we needed a spanish-speaking person to translate and post underneath for us, the best wishes for the quick recovery of Jack the Cat.
HOW was it possible that this one little cat could draw this assembly of fans?
What is so special about a long-haired debonair cat who looks as if he could be in show business? How did 15,000 fans like his page in a little over a month? And who are these many people spending hours on emails, flyers, posting, phone calls, walking the streets, etc., for a cat that is not theirs?
I’ve been around the internet for a while; am familiar with websites, news blogs, social media. However, I never in a million years thought that an event happening the day after my 40th birthday in August would have me hooked; sucked in; addicted to watching a Facebook page. Was I–at my age–actually becoming a groupie?? Am I really following a fan site at all hours and even getting text updates sent to my phone?
Maybe it’s because we don’t get honesty a lot. Corporate biggies, mainstream advertising, media – they never give off the “We are really, truly sincere” vibe, do they? It’s sort of manipulative the way political news is fed to us; how we’re told to eat; where we should be shopping; what we should be driving. We all sort of watch the news with a cynical eye, right? So I’m betting that when something comes into our lives that looks real … FEELS real … appears genuine; maybe we just grab hold of that and hang on. Because the “rest” of the world is well, out to manipulate how we think and offer us only carefully-screened information, and deep down, I think we know that. And resent it.