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.

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The 5 sure-fire ways to tell if you’re an introvert

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5  ways to tell if you’re an introvert

1) Everyone loves pineapple. If you have a slice or two, you’re an introvert. If you eat the whole honking thing, you’re an extrovert.

2) Do you keep putting gas in the car, but always seem to be on empty–unless you are driving alone? Then you’re an introvert.

3) What if you are at a party and some goon with a bad hair transplant asks you for a cigarette. Trick question: introverts don’t go to parties.

4) Have you ever been to a fried chicken establishment, ordered a bucket of electrocuted bird parts dipped in spices ( stuff swept off the floor), and eaten alone? If so, you are an introvert.

5) Are your thoughts more important to you than your prescriptions? Then you are an introvert.

 

Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist, though I study human nature form time to time, especially when waiting for paint to dry or for intelligence to dominate the internet.

 

Bonus material
Charles Darwin interviews Prospero

Darwin: So you’re not a psychologist.
Prospero: [Silence] Sorry, I was miles away.
Darwin: You’re not a psychologist, then.
Prospero: No more than you are a scientist.
Darwin: But I am a scientist.
Prospero: I thought you were a reality television personality.
Darwin: That too. But I’m primarily a scientist. Do you want to see my test tubes?

34 steps to growing Darwin’s favorite plant

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I was going to tell the story of an erudite fellow, formerly a grammatician, formerly a bovine grief counselor at an abattoir, who, at some prepubescent soccer game, where the word incompetence passed involuntarily from parent to parent, was regrettably caught streaking: he stood in the middle of the field, dangling his modifier.

Instead, I have returned to my favorite subject, ecclesiastical studies. But since developments in that sphere have been slow in the last several months, I have sought green pastures.

The 34 steps to growing Darwin’s favorite plant

Early in the process of writing this article, I made the strategic decision to skip the first 33 steps, as the handling of catarrh and buffalo faeces is not everyone’s cup of tea. Incidentally, buffalo dung tea is excellent with manuka honey–make sure to have handy a fly swatter though.

The legal maneuvers to procure carnivorous plant seed and import them to this island (which is by all measures much nicer than the Galapagos) make the bureaucracy of Jarndyce v Jarndyce look feeble in comparison.

I am a great admirer of CD (not Dickens, the other CD), even though some of his conclusions strike me as absurd, as we surely did not evolve from primates. This stupefyingly dumb theory is so typical of 19th century thinking–or rather, 19th century fantasizing–fostered in part by the infamous lingerie catalogues of the day, mostly originating from Paris, where bipedal fashion is made scintillating–and at times positively chimpanzeesque, if I can coin a term. Nevertheless, Darwin’s Origin of the Stiletto Heel is incomparable. But the more cogent theory that the whole shebang we call life was willed, is far more likely to find favor in the minds of so-called Millennials, including those perplexed by the notion of gender and who have difficulty making binary choices. What goes around, comes around. Incidentally, I once knew a man who thought himself a woman, only to later think himself a man. Please note that this is a far different person that the one who thought himself to be a man without ever revisiting the subject.

Clearly, I do not wish to split porcupine quills over the issue of gender. What is self-evident to me may not wash on Main Street, O.W.G (One-World Government).

Another swift though modest proposal

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Another swift though modest proposal.

I, political commentator that I am, was re-reading King Lear, the part when Gonorrhea said to Regan, “Oh, you’re such a ho,” and it occurred to me that there is something wrong in America.

Allow me then to propose a tiny amendment to the constitution:

From this day forth, all presidential candidates shall poll no higher than one percent on name recognition.

The implication is clear: any candidate who is known to the public is immediately disqualified from sitting in a curule chair on the White House lawn.

This is, I think, a small price to pay for living in a vibrant democracy (well, pseudodemocracy–it’s as good as it gets).

I’d also like to propose another tweak (distant pun intended): elections shall take no longer than six weeks after the pistol at the starting gate has been discharged and no campaign donations shall be solicited; rather there shall be five televised debates (instantly available on social media) and one arm wrestling contest.

If you find merit in these ideas, you may circulate them and later congratulate yourself for being a fine, empowered citizen.

Don’t stand in my way of the sky

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Most bloggers would probably choose a photograph that in some way encapsulates the meaning and spirit of the post it is perched upon. This is a mistake. Wet-behind-the-ears bloggers–henceforward referred to as greenhorns–may attempt this strategy thinking it is for them a road to riches. I laugh scornfully. Such incompetence in the blogosphere, such bravado on the part of the greenhorn!

 

No, really–here’s the way to do it. Think of your subject. That’s the first thing. Then, let your mind wander to the far reaches of our planetary system. Now stop that. It’s worth doodly-squat and you are wasting your valuable time. Instead, think of your first job. Then think of the first person you encountered while discharging said duty. Was that person sloppily dressed? If yes, think of the object next to them at the time–maybe it was a cantankerous poster of Karl Marx waving a disapproving finger, a floor lamp vaguely in the shape of a giraffe, a full grain leather car seat (if you happened to be in a limousine at the time), or a large storefront window with vistas of dim-witted shoppers in mortal combat. Now you have your photograph.

 

If, per contra, the person was impeccably dressed, then trouble your memory for this: what was the dominant color of their handsome attire? Maybe a red scarf screamed out at you as through you were a bull in a matador’s laird. Maybe it was a yellow polka-dotted necktie as thin as Twiggy, the British model from a bygone era. Now photograph something of that color. Anything.

 

I hope some of this information is helpful to bloggers. It isn’t readily available as most successful bloggers will not disseminate this sort of information to the greenhorn. Consider yourself lucky that someone as magnanimous as myself would willingly, noisily part with a powder keg of trade secrets. But I do it for one reason alone. I do it for the money.

 

‘Don’t stand in my way of the sky’ is the name of a soon-to-be-released single by a nonexistent band.  Don’t look for it in stores.

Actually, it’s my advice to birds, but you already knew that.

And all this makes a perfect segue to “Lemonade Stand,” which you may marvel at now.

Rewriting it fourteen times allowed me to include every possible way the word ‘stand’ might be used in a fictional work. Naturally the editor I was assigned to had to be hospitalized by the tenth draft. I sent flowers, of course, but that’s only because I’m sentimental about things. I’m magnanimous too. Maybe I mentioned that.

Lemonade Stand

Poe

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Some of you may be wondering what a magician does all day (apart from directing others to perform eleemosynary deeds). Good question. Right now I’m editing The Stories of Vladimir Putin. It’s a slow job since I don’t understand Russian, but I always feel a need to challenge myself. The story called Martha’s Mountain is wonderful, but the rest of the material is a little trashy, so I’m rather enjoying it (linguistic barriers notwithstanding).

But this isn’t the subject of today’s post. Instead I will write about truncation and the art of editing.

I’d like to make clear from the outset that I love Twitter. The idea of reducing complex (and at times beautiful) thought to 144 characters is as much a sign of the times as it is a brilliant metaphor for this generation’s shrinking attention span, which has, by the way, important evolutionary implications–a vitally important subject, and for that reason I will not be covering it. But even more brilliant that imposing a 144 character limit (an arbitrary limit, the type of thing some outmoded feudal lord might try to enforce) would have been to reduce elegant—or in today’s intellectual vacuum–dodgy thought to say 44 characters. Why not? A genius such as Dante—had he been interested in such things, rather than touring incessantly the darksome and dank bits of hell–would have settled upon no more than 9 characters, but this would have been too revolutionary.

But today’s project is to translate Edgar Allan Poe into English. Now I can already hear some you you saying that the stories from the undisputed master of horror are already in English. Yes, I am aware of that. Don’t ruffle my feathers.

IT was a chilly November afternoon. I had just finished a hearty dinner (with truffles) and was sitting alone in the dining-room, with my feet on a stool. There was a small table, which I had rolled up to the fire, and upon which were some desserts and liquors. In the morning I had been reading some literature; I am willing to confess, therefore, that I now felt a little stupid.

And now, after a little editing:

IT was a chilly November afternoon. I had just finished a hearty dinner and was sitting alone in the dining-room. There was a small table with desserts and some alcoholic beverages. In the morning I had been reading some literature; I am willing to confess, therefore, that I now felt a little stupid.

Now that’s more like it. More twitter-like. But even that doesn’t hack it as it is 301 characters long.

The twitter version:

I had just finished a hearty dinner and was sitting alone in the dining-room. I am willing to confess, therefore, that I felt a little stupid.

That’s perfect. And it’s 143 characters long. That means I have one whole character to spare. I could add extra punctuation, a misplaced comma, for example, is always nice, or could substitute a three letter word for a four letter word. Semantics aside, what freedom! Of course brevity and sanity do not make great dance partners. We don’t understand, for instance, why this man felt stupid. But that’s a small price to pay for the privilege or the wow factor of tweeting.

Let’s have a look at the original (in Poe-glish):

IT was a chilly November afternoon. I had just consummated an unusually hearty dinner, of which the dyspeptic truffe formed not the least important item, and was sitting alone in the dining-room, with my feet upon the fender, and at my elbow a small table which I had rolled up to the fire, and upon which were some apologies for dessert, with some miscellaneous bottles of wine, spirit and liqueur. In the morning I had been reading Glover’s “Leonidas, ” Wilkie’s “Epigoniad,” Lamartine’s “Pilgrimage, ” Barlow’s “Columbiad,” Tuckermann’s “Sicily,” and Griswold’s “Curiosities”; I am willing to confess, therefore, that I now felt a little stupid.

Isn’t that better? Where did we go wrong?

 

Moribund ways

Social media, facebook

My latest hobby, shunning social media, is, as Dorcus Lane is wont to say, my one obsession, and here you may notice a hint of malevolence, albeit enunciated as delicately as a dragonfly flutters its violet-tipped wings over the blistering green of a lilypad.

And all this ecstatic and ebullient talk of insects serves as the frontispiece for this bit of gristle: the facebookian logic of publicly posting fescennine photos of myself, in close communion with my boss, rather escapes the cuniculi and dark alleys of my better judgment. Still, live and let live. Who am I to defend moribund ways, to hark back to the days when privacy was still scintillatingly sacrosanct? And I should point out that I speak of my former boss, at my former place of employment, and so on. But the fragile entity known as the ‘self’ persists though our long litany of places of employment, the eventual destruction of our credit card rating, and our undiminishable horror at having been placed on some sort of kafkaesque stop list, and that’s the rub, isn’t it? The more they know about us, the more material they have to play with—so why give up our personal life voluntarily?

And as a consequence of my visceral rejection of newfangled ways, this humble conjurer is no longer accepting comments–a highly ineffective (feeble really) boycott of the most cherished tenets of social media (to say nothing of the malady of ‘liking’ as a surrogate for ‘won’t you please visit my pages, big boy’). And if you insist on taking this chastisement personally, you may (but take my advice and don’t) because I have more than a soupçon that this has far more to do with the delusions of a recalcitrant author than it has to do with you, dear reader (in the Baudelairean sense?).

Of course I may some day be lauded for having coined the word ‘facebookian,’ and once I expiate the shame of having unwittingly promoted that what shall remain nameless–faceless more aptly–brand, I may, at or around the hour of my death, rejoice unreservedly at the tenuity of my contribution to humanity. But death bed scenes are so tedious and I will spare you the horrors of such tripe.