It's been hard lately not to be reminded of Steve Jobs. Full page iPhone5 advertisements pop up with every new Safari window, and the new feature drama "Jobs" was just released in August. The film has star-power Ashton Kutcher playing the title role of a slightly taller, slightly handsomer version of the late Steve Jobs. The trailer alone sets the tone for potential movie-goers, who then know to expect a very clearly Jobs-sympathetic and Jobs-as-hero biopic with a tearful, if not happy, ending.
Jobs is an accomplished man, to be sure. He built his own personal computer in his mother’s garage at age 20, owned the multi-billion dollar Apple Inc. by 30, founded an entirely separate company NeXT, and headed the world renown Pixar animation studios. His resume is extremely impressive, and there is no problem understanding how Steve Jobs could be a suitable subject for a feature length blockbuster, or so much the object of national recognition and praise that his Wikipedia page quotes descriptions of him like “master of innovation” or even “Father of the Digital Revolution.” However, his resume does not seem to warrant the stream of love messages that are even now being added to his public obituary, the web page that Apple Inc. put together at his death.
“Remembering Steve” is a single page comprised of a directory of constantly refreshing quotes, apparently written by anyone and anybody who felt the overwhelming need to email firstname.lastname@example.org. The design is simple yet artsy, centered and chunked for the ultimate user-friendly experience. It is entirely within the Apple spirit, which is also "Steve's spirit," as one memorializer pointed out. Really, it’s smart marketing, and it’s working. The public has sent in their messages, one word to a paragraph long: The short but sweet "Bye Steve" or "RIP Steve" and their variations are common. Others go further, expounding upon Jobs’ greatness and praising his contributions to humanity: "One of the most remarkable human beings on our planet," someone writes, or another says simply, "Hail the Genius." Just looking at these smaller contributions, it’s still possible to maintain the sense that the writer is being fascicious, but after taking in as much of the whole body of work as possible, it becomes clear that people are apparently sincerely moved by something about Mr. Steve Jobs. Here are just a few more:
Steve was and is my biggest hero i have, he inspired me to become a enthusiast for computers and i love his products. He is the greatest man I have ever seen and the greatest business man there ever was. My only goal in life is to become like him.He will be missed.
He was an inspirational leader, a gutsy businessman, a risk taker and a believer. I like that in a person and he had it in spades.
Thank you, Steve Jobs, for all you have done to connect us to each other and to the world. You made computers easy to use. You listened to us and incorporated our wishes, thoughts, and desires into your products. You have made my life ever so much easier. For this I am ever so grateful. Rest in Peace, Steve Jobs. Bon Voyage as you start your next adventure.
User friendly computer products can make life easier, agreed, but have they “connected” people any more than the rest of the daily technological advances have done? Hopefully, an enthusiasm for Apple products and gusty business skills aren’t the only arguments for Steve’s heroism and greatness. Surely that is not enough to inspire a young adult to “become [just] like him.” Right? What in the world could explain this level of personal attachment to a man only known to people through the public media lens?
Maybe his cancer played a part. There is something about the combination of a successful public figure and a heartwarming story of fighting cancer that might help explain it. Usually, those in a position of significant fame achieve that, through no apparent wish of their own, after having gone through a very personal event very publicly. Isn’t there just nothing more attractive than the image of a very glamorous star in pain and not appearing to desire the attention? But this article can’t be a thorough analysis of the deep drives behind the fascination with celebrity (the author isn’t yet equipped for that).
What this article can explore is this need, of so very many, to comment publicly on their admiration for Steve Jobs. A person can find connection to and meaning in anything in the world, and sharing that meaning with others is just as vital and beautiful. This group-obituary, however, is not a conversation about a shared treasure, this is not one individual listening to and caring about another’s pain and inspiration, responding to each other and growing everyone’s understanding of some real feelings. This reads more like a disjointed regurgitation of unclear, unexamined sentiments. Each has some feeling, and each throws it onto the page using the same vocabulary and the same phrases as everyone before, but none seems to make sense on its own. If anything, the only purpose and the only accomplishment of “Remembering Steve” is a community of people wanting to belong to each other, and doing so by recycling the same nonsense which no one understands in the first place.
Was Jobs smart? Yes. Was he a creative businessman? Definitely. He was also a pretty solid speech writer, based on his 2005 Stanford commencement address. But was he a genius and a hero and mover and a changer of the world for the better? Maybe to his kids, maybe to his closest friends and loved ones who could possibly have known him enough to be able to explain clearly how he could deserve such titles. Although even in his parenting he was known to have a particularly abrasive and narcissistic personality. But no one outside of that circle can possibly explain that, as “Remembering Steve” proves.
In claiming someone to be your hero, you say a lot more about yourself than about the hero. In declaring someone a genius, you not only reveal your desire to belong to a like-minded community, but you also separate yourself from this genius. This person and whatever makes him strong is suddenly unattainable because you have placed him on a pedestal and you below them. At the same time you might declare your membership to the community of Jobs worshipers you also give up on any possibility of achieving your own greatness. Another commenter wrote:
There are no words to describe my pain. There are no words to describe my feelings. There are no words to describe his genius. There are no words to describe his grandiosity. There are no words for such a loss.
If Jobs, or anyone, ever heard himself addressed as a genius, I hope this is how he would respond: Well go find your own words then! Don’t use their’s and don’t use mine. Thanks for the compliment, but I’m not a genius. I’ll honor your pain, your feelings, your loss, once you find your own voice. But you have to go and live your own life. Go find your own genius and become your own hero. There is so much more greatness than this. Please, do not stop at me.