A few years ago several very important people visited our back of beyond, the neck of the woods, the middle of nowhere, the small academic town. The VIP group included the heads of such social media companies as eBay, Twitter, Cisco, EDventure, and surprisingly for us Ashton Kutcher who came not as a Hollywood star but as head of Katalyst social media company. While everybody was at least a little bit curious about the IT giants and diplomats, most people wanted to see Mr. Kutcher. It was not too easy at first because some of the meetings were held behind closed doors with the local dignitaries. However, it turned out that the actor and some other participants were blithely tweeting and streaming the whole proceedings so that anybody with internet access could follow those rather boring long sittings. The consensus after three-day discussion and meetings was clear: working together, helping young educated people realize their potential may help make the world a better and safer place. The Internet is a great tool for developing contacts, working at joint projects, information and ideas exchange, and naturally communication.

On the last evening there was to be a small session with the local press. Naturally there was security everywhere. Aha, but here is how it works for us educators. I went to the venue with my husband and just hovered near the entrance. Sure enough, one of the guards stationed there turned out to be a former student of mine. He waved us in and we unobtrusively sat at the round table near the exit. It was fascinating just listening to the questions and answers. Since I am well-known in my town, I was asked to help out with translation several times, which gave me an opportunity to actually move around a bit and take some pictures. No, I was not eager to have my own picture with a celebrity snapped though I did take a photo of Mr. Kutcher. He impressed us with his obvious understanding of the uses of the internet and the social media, with his good manners and very good language. We saw up close that the portrait, the kind of role an actor creates is not necessarily close to what a person is in real life.

As the meeting was drawing to a close we quietly stepped out to be a little ahead of the general rush, and also not to be tangled among the security measures. And we emerged straight into the waiting crowd of about two hundred young women waiting with those crazy expectant ecstatic faces you routinely see at rock concerts. When they saw my husband instead of the celebrity their faces fell. He stopped for a second, then waved good-naturedly and said loudly, “It’s OK girls, you can wave to me, I’m also famous!” Their faces showed total gloom. Suddenly a phrase I read on the web in an interview with (I think) Robert Pattinson after the “Twilight Saga” release floated into my mind: “And then all that crazy screaming starts”. I grabbed my husband’s arm and we ran. We almost managed to escape it but not quite. A heavy door opened behind us, there was a sort of “Whoosh!” and then came that awful screaming, some two hundred young women screeching their absolute delight and happiness at seeing the MTV and movie celebrity. It felt like a shock wave hit us into the backs and propelled us into the street. I suspect that the actor is not greeted that enthusiastically anywhere at home.

Yes, lots of people managed to snap a photo and get an autograph. And to this day, one may hear the nostalgic mention of the event: “Our friend Ashton Kutcher”.



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