Unlikely Heroism

In a world with no shortage of bad news these days, sometimes we can find comfort in the unlikeliest of places.  When it feels like the day-in, day-out political sniping of election season has us by the throat, we relish shaking it all off with a good laugh. And when the discourse of the day seems reduced to the transactional, to the ‘what have you done for me lately?’s’ – it is during these times that the simple kindness of strangers can be a much-needed relief.

Indeed, during these dark days of a year some are considering as ‘the worst year in history’ and others already wrote off months ago, there’s one person who can always be counted on to shine a little light.  And it is this person – “personality” might be the better word – whose light shines in one of the quirkiest places of all: the Twitterverse.

I’m talking about @darth, of Twitter fame.  Not the Star Wars anti-hero, but the little red panda obsessed with potatoes and cuddly pets. And quite honestly one of the kindest human (?) beings on the planet.

Now, I’m not the first one to point out @darth’s unusual penchant for what we at C.Fox like to call “doing good for the good of others”.  Long the subject of media admiration and speculation, @darth’s been lauded for critically-acclaimed Photoshop skills, and his/her unlikely, but hugely influential, championing of adopting shelter animals – especially the neediest and cutest of canines.  All of these skills provide real-life evidence of the power of using social media for good.  And @darth is at his or her internet-best when relaying those gentle and sweet observations about friendship and kindness at the most unexpected times and places.

Just who is this spreader of sunshine?  Your guess is as good as mine.  All I’ve been able to piece together is that @darth appears to live on the West Coast (Bay Area, I believe). And although s/he seems connected to the media industry in some way, his (or her) identity has still been the subject of much media speculation (not to mention failed attempts at uncovering).

Long-time @darth-watcher and Washington Post reporter Caitlin Dewey has observed that @darth has staying power, and more:

The account dates back to 2007, but didn’t pick up steam until roughly the time of the 2012 elections. Since then, Darth … has developed a few great shticks: mashing up movie posters with current events, for instance, and adding Christmas hats to his followers’ photos on request. […] This goes a long way toward explaining Darth’s popularity. […] In fact, Darth’s success functions as a pretty decent case study of the diffuse way cultural information and trends seep through Twitter — bestowed less by major media organizations or other traditional authorities, and more by a scattered echelon of ‘influencers’ who together command an audience of hundreds of thousands of followers.”

So here’s to you, @darth, champion of such feel-good hashtags and memes as #hugadog, “Goodbye weekend we’ll miss you,” and (in this writer’s humble opinion) the funniest open tweet-thread of missed messaging opportunities surrounding the recent political conventions.  Thank you for not just showing us how social media influence can be used for good, but for restoring our faith in humanity, and spreading a little light and goodness along the way.