Screen shot from WFAA television.

I was visiting with my mom yesterday and glanced down at my Twitter feed (while she was talking. Yes. I am a terrible daughter), then I interrupted her to ask that she turn on the news.

According to my little screen, a man with a gun was in a crane above Southern Methodist University. We watched the man in the crane cab remove his shirt and kind of lay his head against the dash. Later police confirmed he didn’t have a gun. We watched for several moments, but nothing new happened.

Throughout the afternoon, Facebook was alive with jokes both funny and un about Crane Guy: “Must have just received his student loan bill” and “Maybe he hates the Bush Library design”.

Meanwhile, SMU Crane Guy garnered more than 2,000 followers on Twitter (@tywilliams4 created the account and delivered fake tweets from the man in the crane).

Robert Wilonsky stayed with the story for a dozen hours or so, keeping us posted and amused in regard to Crane Guy, and the Twittersphere rivaled Facebook with Crane Guy jokes (“Insane in the membrane. Insane in the crane …”) into the evening.

Crane Guy sat in the hot cab through a thunderstorm and while his followers drifted off to sleep.

Then, at 1:45 a.m., after replacing his red shirt, the man fell/jumped from the cab of the crane to his death on the SMU campus.

SMU Crane Guy has not been identified. The story: he stole a truck before fleeing to Ownby Drive, abandoning the vehicle and climbing the crane. He told police he was afraid to come down because the “department has a hit on him”. He also indicated to the police that he had a weapon, hence the long standoff.

Following Crane Guy’s death, the jokesters are awkwardly silent. Some have become defensive “Hey, no one MADE him jump.”

How will we feel when we learn more about him — his real name or maybe that he had a mental illness (just guessing)?

I firmly believe that social media has enhanced our experience of the world. We can get unfiltered news from around the earth, which can be a good thing. We can interact, react and comment as stories unfold. However, progress allows us, as the old saying goes, to have just enough information to be dangerous.

And, as another old saying goes, “It’s all fun and games until somebody dies.”


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