Thoughts on @jomnysun
"remimder that if u replace 'i have to...' with 'i get to...' then human life becoms AMAZIMG "–@jomnysun
Why should you spend 5 minutes learning about @jomnysun? I guess the first reason would be for the short (less than 140 character) succinct truths about this world, ourselves, and the society we've built. Jonathan Sun is a twitter comedian who takes on the persona of a clueless alien from outer space with close to no knowledge on why earth is the way it is. His tweets connect us through naive optimism, human nature, and observations on the absurdity of our everyday lives.
Jonathan Sun is an architect, engineer, artist, and PHD candidate at MIT in the Department of Urban Studies + Planning. I found this shocking, as his twitter persona (@jomnysun) suggests naivety and feeble-mindedness. In an interview with NPR, Jonathan stated, “... this character kind of emerged just through writing on Twitter and writing jokes on Twitter and playing with the idea of misspellings, so I guess on the alien’s side, I thought it would be interesting to look at the world as an outsider, to kind of use that naive viewpoint and this idea of curiosity and learning about the planet that we live on.”2
His character reminds me of Candide, the protagonist in the eponymous satire Candide written by Voltaire. I have only read the wikipedia article about Candide, but I bought the book, and hopefully I will get to reading it sometime after the publishing of this article. Anyways, Candide is an optimist who goes on this grand adventure with the attitude of “everything in this world has a purpose”. Though terrible things happen to Candide and those who Candide meets along the way, this mentality persists until the end of the novel. In the very end, this optimistic philosophy evaporates, and Candide rejects the idea of optimism, instead, wanting to just work in his garden. The character of @jomnysun is like Candide at the beginning of the story. Naive, optimistic, and overall, a character who we really, really want to see win. Jomnysun is someone who we relate most to because we feel the same optimism as Jomnysun and Candide, just for jomnysun, the world hasn’t failed him yet. My favorite Jomnysun quote is as follows:
“look. life is bad. evryones sad. we’re all gona die. But i alredy bought this inflatable boumcy castle so r u gona take ur shoes off or wat”1
In another interview, Jonathan was given the chance to say something that he thought “might make everyone who has read [the interview]’s life just a little bit better.”3 Jonathan responded by asking us to consider that we’re all going to die. He says that once we recognize that, then “you know that your time is limited”3 and you can devote more time to being happy. I wasn’t all that surprised by his answer, considering the amount of philosophical tweets his account has cultivated over the years. Using the inevitability of death as a reference for life isn’t a new idea, but it’s one that can be utilized to create a simpler, happier lifestyle. Fun Fact: the reason why shakespeare and others put skulls on their desks wasn’t just to adorn their rooms with quirky decor, it was to remind them that one moment they would be dead, and to live life to the fullest. I think jomnysun’s account acts as a reminder that optimism can be good for us, and in the grand scheme of things, being happy and optimistic about the state of our future can allow us to live better lifestyles. Voltaire could learn something from jomny if he weren’t dead.
We can also learn a lot from thinking about his twitter account from a rhetorical standpoint. What audience is he reaching? How? What purpose is he trying to fulfill? What affect does his persona have? I think that the popularity arising from jomnysun comes from the fact that all of us love the acutely unaware nature of a well-meaning outsider—it's a comical common-ground of sorts, allowing us to view our lives, our society, even our universe from a lighter, less convoluted perspective. The realm of Twitter is filled with sudden change, charged with emotional toil, and flooded with useless nonsense, and Jomny offers us a temporary glimpse into freedom. Freedom from all the clutter in the world through the eyes of someone who cannot see it.
How does he do it? The answer partially lies in the structure of Twitter: 140character pieces of writing. This constraint forces Jomnysun to make his messages short and sweet. People prefer terse truths—quotes, etc.—to think about profoundly, as ideas and concepts explained in pages upon pages may bore or confuse us. The second component to the answer is that he writes in awkward formatting and spells things incorrectly (not just to fit a word into the constraint, but as part of his "alien-space-guy persona"). An incorrect spelling hooks us, and when a word is spelled wrongly on purpose, we find it amusing. The situational irony in spelling a profound philosophical concept wrongly—especially one which is usually seen as sophisticated or intelligent thought—amuses us. This phenomenon of profound thought being almost accidental, or at least being able to be thought of by a naive alien space guy is not only intended to be amusing, but also to build up his ethos, his persona, his character, his brand. It's why we follow anyone on Twitter, the content we're promised when we follow someone. For instance, you may block the person who posts a bunch of cat pictures a day, but follow the person who posts a bunch of funny stories from their everyday life. Jomnysun exploits this concept, giving us a personality who we adore, a break in time—even if for the 10 seconds it'll take for you to read a tweet and think about it—to lose yourself in thought, and content which we are content with.
In the end, Jomnysun is great because his tweets are funny and connect with us on a personal level. There's so much that goes on in almost every aspect of life, but I took particular note of his Twitter account because of how effective it was towards me. I looked inwards a little, and tried to see why I thought it was so hilarious and profound. I'm going to write an entire piece about this thought, but here's the basic concept I've been struggling with recently: everything we see just blocks another thing. For instance, if you look at a chair, that chair blocks the floor. If you look at a tree, there's more behind it. Simple, right? But we never think about it, and furthermore, as Rene Magritte said, "Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see". I find it comical that I chose a quote like that, because it relates back to the Jomnysun article you just read. A short, profound truth. But detail is everywhere, and perspective is everywhere, and we only get to see what we cognitively choose to see, and what is unseen is often just as beautiful if not more beautiful than we choose to see. I guess that's what I like about Jomnysun's twitter account. It allows us a glimpse into what is usually unseen, and i find it beautifel.
Sun, J. (n.d.). Jomnysun's Twitter. Retrieved October 7, 2016, from @jomnysun website: https://twitter.com/jonnysun?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor
Sun, J. (2015, December 19). An Odd, Uplifting 'Alien': Meet The Man Behind A 'Weird Twitter' Star (Interview by NPR) [Transcript]. Retrieved October 7, 2016, from npr.org website: http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2015/12/19/459387407/an-odd-uplifting-alien-meet-the-man-behind-a-weird-twitter-star
Sun, J. (2016, March 2). How Jonny Sun Creates Community with Humor and Philosophy (Interview by P. Stamato) [Transcript]. Retrieved October 7, 2016, from splitsider.com website: http://splitsider.com/2016/03/how-jonny-sun-creates-community-with-humor-and-philosophy/