Should You Meet Your Heroes?

March 10, 2010

I had coffee with a former classmate from high school the other day and the topic of heroes came up. Actually we going through that crazy hypothetical exercise: if you could have five people sitting around a dinner table, any five people, who would it be? Mine were mainly rock stars including Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, John Lennon, and Mozart. However I snuck in Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. to make it six. I felt like I needed to add someone like Einstein, Darwin, Stalin, or Napoleon, but I couldn’t visualize who would sit next to whom. Anyway we got to talking about how social media, especially Twitter, gives people the feeling of being closer to the ones they admire. But following someone is not nearly the thrill of going backstage, or if you’re really lucky getting asked onto the tour bus. In fact in most cases, simply being a Facebook Fan or a follower on Twitter doesn’t get you any closer to the artist. But it’s the perception that you’re closer. In reality you’d have a better chance of meeting that person by hanging out at the stage door after the show. (If you haven’t seen Almost Famous – see it).

This line of conversation led to the question: is it better to meet your heroes or not? My buddy has been a life-long Bob Dylan fan; attended hundreds of shows, collected memorabilia, camped outside waiting to buy tickets – you get the picture. Last year his big moment came in Chicago. He was in the Windy City to see Dylan and on his way through the hotel lobby, there sat Bob Dylan, alone, in a corner, wearing sunglasses, reading the paper, and drinking coffee. This was it – 30 years in the making – my buddy’s big opportunity. He approached Bob, said “Excuse me, Mr. Dylan?.” Dylan looked up – my friend started to tell him how much his music has meant to him – and Dylan pushed away from the table, got up and simply walked away. That was it. So if he had it to do all over again? He would’ve kept walking and never approached his hero.

I struggle with this issue – not that I’ve met my hero – but I have a feeling one day I’ll be in a position to meet Dave Matthews and I’m not sure what to do. What if he turns out to be like Dylan? Will I never listen to his music the same again? What would I say? “Dave your music inspires me” – gee I’m sure he’s never heard that before! But if I don’t take advantage of the opportunity I’ll never get that photo – you know where the artist puts his arm around the fan and the fan looks a thousand times more excited than the artist? I don’t want to be that guy. I also don’t want to follow Dave on Twitter because I’m afraid I’ll start to believe that we’re somehow connected – which we’re not.

Social media has some addictive qualities to it – a strange brew of sorts. One sip, you want more, it makes you believe you’re closer to people than you really are, it makes you believe you have millions of friends, and you just can’t get enough of this concoction. We check it – first thing in the morning, middle of the day, on our mobile devices, and last thing at night. But most of us are not any closer to our heroes than we were before Facebook and Twitter. Maybe that’s a good thing? Maybe not. So I leave you with this one question: should we ever meet our heroes?

Howie

PS: Dave…are you out there?

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