Why social media is like a bucket of vomit

You love your Triumph Spitfire. You love going down the freeway in top-down weather. You love the sound of the stinging breeze wrapping itself round your German Luftwaffe Helmet. Oh, the looks you get. They, courageous car buffs, stand in awe; then they forcibly wipe the mud from their shoes and their bandy legs, wishing now they had stood a little further back from that pretty café au lait puddle. Still a madman cutting athwart a thin sheet of muddy water is something to behold. You look back, feeling great. And aside from the motion sickness, you’re on top of the world.

But then the proverbial merry-go-round sputters and stops. Your coveted sports car, in truth a sardine can with wheels and a nice paint job, breaks down. Then you learn the ugly truth. The only parts available for the car are stored in a locker somewhere in Asia minor, in the bowels of a godforsaken train station, and the only way to access the stash of now obsolete auto parts is to participate in a religious ceremony involving a small herd of yaks and bitcoin.

All this to say that there are some good things about owing a Spitfire and some not so good. It’s like that with social media too: some good, some bad.

Twitter, for instance, should be for journalists only. What’s the point of laypeople trumpeting (should this now be capitalized?) the first thing that pops into their swollen heads. And so, with the character limitation imposed by Twitter you get–well, you get concise garbage (or pick your own oxy, moron). Tweeting is to blurt out something you’ll regret later. Don’t do it. Attempting to raise the bar, Roseanne did it. Now she’s selling pencils.

There’s another problem with social media. Lone voices get drowned out. There’s bullying; you’ve seen it. Group think shows up to the party, wearing a flashy suit, and so we are left with one opinion, one revolution (now choose a color). Foot-soldier, like me, like some of you, get drowned out. Probably a good thing.

Nevertheless, the game is stacked against you–face it, you’re going to hear disproportionally from celebs. If celebrity X gets several million views for some vapid offering and lone-she-wolf gets single digit views (and the one from her mother hardly counts), is it reasonable to conclude that the celebrity’s contribution is a million times more thoughtful? Could be. If not, there’s room for improvement with this whole social media experiment. Sadly, the bullhorn of celebrity is loudest heard in a celebrity culture.

We seem to have the need to hand the podium to golf pros, to those famous at being famous, to porn stars known for hornswoggling real estate moguls, and don’t seem to notice that we get vomitus in return.

I hear the gentleman from the third row saying it’s sour grapes. The Kardashians are gifted at using social media and need props for that. Okay, I stand rebuked, though their good fortune at having such talents is indubitably my loss.

And here we have a couple sitting at the dinner table. There’s Frank, a vintner, fat-witted, occasionally violent, and then there’s Lucida, as readable as a good font. Cutting to the chase: Frank and Lucida had the common sense to instigate what they called the dinner rule: no mobile devices at the dinner table and no more takeout from Game King–there’s a fetid odor to llama meat that just doesn’t seem to want to let go.

Consequently, they dine in complete silence. And as soon as they leave the table, clean the dishes, wipe the counters, scrape spaghetti from the walls, they go off in separate directions. Only then, when no longer in each other’s company, do they rediscover the lost art of conversation, and text each other frantically till midnight: so long as they do not see each other, and so long as they can communicate electronically, all is well. Then, buoyed by hours of texting, they facebook (is this a verb yet?). Yikes, 143 likes. Goodnight all.

And there’s the typical comment section on UTube:

Your a retard. Eat my vomit. And if you have a moment, go f*ck yourself.

What’s happened to civility, to grammar, to the letter u?

Some are concerned about time management. If you’d spent all your waking hours on that Clementi piano sonata instead of on social media, you’d soon be performing at Carnegie Hall.

We have been entertained (by design) into a coma, and meanwhile we lose track of true friendship, fall into the hands of charlatans, stumble into the wading pool of disinformation, and mayhaps fatally slide into the penumbra of totalitarianism–all without notice or care.

A few weeks ago, I leaned that the developers of Facebook were B.F. Skinner fans and that their chef-d’oeuvre (evil mousetrap) was built upon variable schedules of reinforcement, which result in behavior resistant to extinction. All this to say that posting and waiting for ‘likes’ is addictive (that is, highly resistant to extinction).

When a rat (Burrhus Frederic loved rats) hits a lever and is only rewarded occasionally by a delicious pellet (delicious for rodents), said rat will compulsively keep hitting the lever. Most rats, being unlettered, haven’t heard of slot machines, but you have–you’ve seen the overturned pupils of a gambler stuffing coins into the maw of a heartless box. But, funny thing, when a rat has had too many food pellets, it vomits.

With other colorful splashes of vitriol

Lovecraft goes to the pharmacy, trudges up and down the aisles, finds what he is looking for (a case of vaseline) and repairs to the counter, where he flashes a smile at the cashier, a dour specimen of a girl with a freckled face and friendly though bovine eyes. A flimsy carousel, displaying in candylike packages the sort of appurtenance often sold in public bathrooms, suddenly rotates, momentarily blocking his view of the exit. By dint of habit, he is always keenly aware of all points of egress.

Next moment Lovecraft’s credit card is refused with a small but foreboding fanfare. This embarrasses not only himself but the orange-haired youngster behind him clutching several cartons of ribbed condoms. In narratology, this event is called the ‘inciting incident’ or, to use Gérard Genette’s terminology, the ‘impregnable incident.’ (Scholars may wish to challenge the veracity of this term as it smacks of pure chimera.)

Outside, clouds scud bankward, and this is where we find Lovecraft following the cottony puffs, at a stiff pace, to the edifice whose name, Benito Bank, was emblazoned upon the tidy rectangle of laminated plastic having caused the ruckus in the first instance, and which sported a hologram of a festive scene, where Bacchus and three airily-clad females drink cooking sherry from the bottom of an iridescent, indigo-black high heel pump.

Some five minutes later, Lovecraft arrives at the bank having exhausted his capacity to whistle gaily, and is confronted with a series of gold-plated revolving doors–surely a metaphor for the va-et-vient, the hither and thither of transactional banking: life reduced to a devaluing series of transactions.

Sunlight breaks into the building, which strikes Lovecraft as ironic: most people are seeking to break out of the money palace.

Catching a glimpse of an unoccupied bank representative, Lovecraft undertakes to arrive there with the legendary speed of lightning–mind now, not the accuracy, as angry bolts from the firmament often decimate perfectly salvageable structures, such as those pearl-white gazebos parked haphazardly in the verdant countryside, while giving a pass to heaps of rubbish which, when looked upon rationally, provide little enjoyment to anyone. Lovecraft, presently making himself as large as possible, looms over the bank employee and asks, “Are you the swine that tried to neutralize me?”

The clerk, a small man with a square jaw and watery eyes, clears his throat. “Passcode.”

“EBFS,” was the perfectly timed riposte, Lovecraft’s mnemonic for “execution by firing squad.” The diminutive man launched into an indiscreet ballet of mad, migraine-inducing rat-tat-tat on the keyboard, coupled with interminably long bouts of the dwarfish man staring blankly at a screen, as if to divine some meaning hitherto beyond the reach of humankind.

“Listen, Willy,” says Lovecraft. “You don’t mind if I call you Willy, do you?” An awkward, slightly pregnant pause. “I’m in front of your mug because your bank has seen fit to throw shade on my credit. For shame.”

The clerk remains stoic, conjuring up another screen. A list of names populates the dark void. His finger–a long member with a vaguely phosphorescent sheen–slithers down the list, then stops abruptly. “Credit card refutations: Mrs. Seaman,” he says perfunctorily, and then proffers a dismissive wave.

In another corner of the building a man is heard yelling “fascists,” which quickly gives way to other colorful splashes of vitriol.

Scoffing at the clerk’s insolence, Lovecraft turns volte-face. Meanwhile, drooping velvet ropes keep throngs of customers corralled. Like animals.

Soon he is accosted by a couple of sallow-faced bank guards, the tallest of the two muttering ‘like a dog’ under his foul breath. They are unpleasant, but polite. Impeccably dressed too.

Next Lovecraft is ushered into a small cubicle, whereupon he is seated forcibly across from a woman in a bathrobe. Was this Mrs. Seaman? Her head is covered by a phalanx of plastic curlers and her face smothered by a mud mask covering the entire real estate of her face.

“Sorry to discommode you,” starts Lovecraft, “but are you the one responsible for the bank’s shameful conduct?” At this point Lovecraft deftly pulls the wallet from his back pocket and removed the credit card, indignantly waving it about. “My credit card was declined at a very respectable shop in town. Are you sufficiently shamed?”

She takes the avatar of Lovecraft’s discontent from his hand, and exits to an antechamber. She returns, bathrobe intact, with a folder, which she lays out on the desk like a winning poker hand. “Johnny Lovecraft,” she sighs. “Your account has been in arrears since 1956.”

Lovecraft clasps his hands behind his head, supremely confident. “Impossible.” He pauses to reflect. “Though there is admittedly a gap between the impossible and the improbable.” His eyes narrow. “Yes, I acknowledge the error of my ways.” His voice deepens. “Still, nothing can alter my harsh opinion of Benito Bank.”

“Your healthy revulsion does you credit. But I can tell you that the chairman of Benito Bank, Mr. Rump, is a great man. A very great man.” She closes the folder, smiling through the mud. “Life is permanent warfare.” She stares dreamily at an imaginary ceiling fan. “A very great man.” She jerks her shoulder suddenly, ending her elegant soliloquy with some foggy thing she remembered: “All that corporate profits need to gain a foothold–is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”

Later, in the jaunty spring of 2020, after a little scrape with Hyperbolea, which left one hundred thousand dead—still and all, not bad business for Benito Bank, whose tentacles reached Hyperbolea—Lovecraft and the recently widowed Mrs. Seaman would be wed at a cacophonous ceremony, forever curing Lovecraft’s disdain of high finance.

Spitfire

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This is a fine example of late Jurassic fiction. The telltale signs are the uninhibited use of highbrow language, the tragicomic allusions to opera, the almost offhand use of color, and the recurrence of men dressed in flowing bone-white chasubles and haughty femmes fatales.

The theme of the impossibility of one understanding anyone apart from oneself recurs in works from the Jurassic period and, to give a historical perspective on its critical reception, we will note the thematic was greeted with brickbats.

Cacoethes gluependi. The very bad habit of respiring model airplane glue is a setpiece metaphor for all that ails you–cosseting your cellphone as though it were some precious pet, taking a bite of your cheeseburger and keeping it in a polystyrene tin for further experimentation, you know–all that stuff.

http://www.theflashfictionpress.org/2016/03/15/spitfire/

Do you love me?

The sunset was a long, glowering strip of torrid horizon. I reached for her hand and we began to walk. “Do you love me?” I asked, squinting from the ruddy sun. The waves lashed the shore. Ash-gray gulls soared to harried heights. “Absolutely,” said the raven haired nymph, and we continued to stroll on an endless, iridescent beach. And, with self-shining eyes, she would stop and look back to count my footsteps–hers were invisible (untabulatable steps in the Book of Wickedness mean you are in love). Then I would again stretch out my now steady hand and beckon her to follow me, and in a low susurrus she would gently mouth, “absolutely.”

I will interrupt this dreadful half-start in order to do a little stocktaking. In fiction it is perfectly admissible to create a small world, and thenceforth, out of politeness, follow its small, and petty, dictates. Case in point: the woman only speaks one word: “absolutely.” Are we to take this literally? Is it possible that the man is vacationing and that the woman is a native of some tropical island knowing only one English word? And it goes without saying that the narrator, sometimes little more than a hairsbreadth from the author, has, by the use of the word raven, alluded to Poe’s most famous poem. This is clearly a tipsy, idiosyncratic instance where the author hectors the narrator into applying a telltale adjective—suffusing the voluptuous and featherlight beach beauty’s Aphrodisian hair with stark blackness, and seeking to draw a parallel between the usage of “nervermore” and “absolutely,” both stellar examples of one-word languages. The reader of Poe’s narrative comes to understand, after several candlelight dinners with Cole’s Notes, that “nevermore” is a pliable word that can, like a tailored suit, be made to fit any shape, from the thinness of a lath nail to the pudgy puffiness of a pouter pigeon.

And it should be noted that the unnamed “I”, John as it turns out (funny how that puts rather a different twist on things) is also somewhat inarticulate. He seems to only know four words. A modern love story, to be sure. This cautionary tale subtly exposes, by a very thin, almost imaginary margin, the dangers of how frail modern technologies such as texting stifle the natural floridness of a language (Poe was a visionary with his one word encapsulation of a self-serving plunge into the bathos of remorse). I am certain that some of you may feel that I have crossed the rubicon and landed in the daisy field of didacticism. Not so. Having a severely truncated language may after all be a good thing, as certain writers use by far too many adjectives. But don’t you love them? Don’t you love me.