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TV/Media Commentary and Societal Insights. With a Beard.
‘Tis the season for Lent, which means for a little while there might be a surplus of chocolate, soda, and masturbation. But here in the 21st century, more and more people might be giving up social networking–which, if that’s what you’re giving up in the name of God or The Doctor or whoever, that probably means it qualifies as a big deal. No doubt you’ve heard the constant debates over how social media is changing our culture for better or worse, though usually people say it’s for the worse. I’ll take a wild guess and say you, the reader, have a Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, or some other knock-off like that “FriendZone” site the college kids are always talking about.
I can’t really argue for the negative effects it has on society–just a quick glance at Twitter will prove that people are really, really stupid. But there are ways to have these pages to share and connect with people, and even use them quite a lot, without plunging your social life down the toilet and giving in to Skynet. I’m certainly not saying I’m the absolute perfect social media user myself. But I don’t feel an overwhelming sense of disillusionment or stress because of it. I’d like to think I’ve learned enough from my good and bad internet experiences–as well as creepily observing everyone else–to say that I at the very least don’t use it badly (anymore.)
What I’m writing about is based on what a comedian I follow on Tumblr (oh hay social networking) said: “If you think Facebook is annoying, you have annoying friends. If you think Facebook is shallow, you have shallow friends. Whatever you think about Facebook, that is a direct reflection of your friends. OR…you are using Facebook wrong.” I’d argue this could work as the basis for the internet as a whole–that how you view it is a direct correlation to the environment you’re in and how you use it. If you think the social networking realm is a shallow, narcissistic, drama-producing life-ruiner machine, read on and see why it probably means you’re doing it wrong.
New profile pic!
I don’t watch much reality TV, but boy do I understand the appeal of watching stupid people do stupid things now, thanks many people I’ve encountered on Facebook and Twitter. These are the people that can’t hold back one goddamn thing, and then freak out when they realize that everyone everywhere can read the insane shit they wrote, but they refuse to continue the conversation privately. You know full well what I’m talking about. Shit like this.
People go through emotional turmoil because of relationships and break-ups and such, I’m not chastising that. But I have no qualms about making fun of crap friendships and doomed relationships from crazy people. Or the kind of person who openly and rudely discusses with her friends, on a completely public status, whether or not her boyfriend is cheating on her, then hours later posts “He broke up with me for no reason!” (That was an actual thing I witnessed, by the way.)
Look, we all have really dumb, dramatic arguments in our lives, but smart people will keep it bottled up until they’re somewhere private.
Or it’s bottled up for the rest of their lives.
An easy way to compare a good relationship to a bad one is seeing the kind of crap they say to one another in public online. If few of the comments are ever personal, except for those vomit-inducing-but-required “I love you baby mwah!”, then they’re probably a stronger couple simply because they don’t put their business out there for everyone to see. If you’re of this other mindset, however, it’s the equivalent of yelling in the middle of a restaurant that all your friends and family are in, and then someone videotapes it and plays it over and over again for everyone you meet.
Do not trust this man. Seriously, LOOK AT HIS FACE.
Sure, you can go back and delete it all after the fact, but the damage is already done. EVERYONE has potentially seen it, and the one Redditor on your friends’ list will have already screenshotted it and posted it for hundreds of upvotes.
This is a different kind of social interaction that has to be adapted to, and the main thing to understand is that, as a default, everything is public. You can mess with your privacy settings and whatnot, but unfortunately, that requires some thinking that many people apparently don’t know how to do. So if you’re fighting with someone in a public setting, yeah, anyone has a right to butt in and say what they want, because it isn’t private. Ironically, those who don’t try to remain private are usually the ones who complain the most about wanting everyone to “stay out of their business.”
On the upside, if you discover you’re one of these people, this is a nice way to assess how you’ve prioritized your life. Out of all the movies, cat pictures, politics, and songs all over the internet that you could post and quote, the only thing you talk about is that dreaded “drama” word people tend to throw out all over the place (a phrase forever tainted for the theatre folk.) That probably says a lot about what really matters in your life. Unfortunately, the drama isn’t always as interesting for the rest of us, which brings us to…
That was one craaaaaazy weekend, amirite?
Just having an account on a social networking site apparently leads to some people posting incessantly forever. If you’re a dumbass, that leads to the trashy dramatic shit I was talking about. But there are non-crazy people who, despite having nothing important to say, no witty remarks, and nothing interesting from the internet to share…they post anyway. Like, they have to. No matter what. “Working until 5 today.” Oh. Okay. Just like every other fucking day.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tweeted plenty of narcissistic, unsubstantial comments about my boring life. Again, I’m not remotely guilt-free of doing any of the stuff on this list. But I’d argue there’s a difference between a boring post or two among a page of shared links and photos to provide entertainment, and a page full of nothing but those boring posts. At the very least, try to say something funny, witty or insightful. Make a punny analogy about your car trouble instead of simply saying “I had car trouble this morning.”
“My car wasn’t just ‘playing possum’ this morning, guys! Amirite?!”
I know what you might be thinking, though. “This is my page, I can say whatever I want!” It’s the first thing a really terrible debater says when someone comments that they disagree. Yes, this is your page. But the whole point of networking is to share things about yourself with other people that other people would want to hear about. If your only friends that follow you are people that would like constant updates about the weather, then that’s just dandy. But if you honestly want to get noticed, or get people to care what you have to say, well, post shit you like that you think other people might also like. If you truly, seriously didn’t care about what other people thought, you wouldn’t be posting a goddamn thing. People I’ve met who truly don’t give a shit are the kind of people that actually do their own thing and don’t seek approval by telling everyone about it.
Honey Badger should have been annoyed that his joke has been overused and run into the ground. But Honey Badger doesn’t give a shit.
Because what’s the point of sharing anything with other people if you have no other people in mind? There isn’t anything wrong with wanting other people to hear what you have to say if you think it’s worth saying. But if nothing you have to say is worth saying, then what’s the point of saying it? It only makes it worse for you if no one ever pays attention, because you get that really shitty feeling that you’re shouting to 400 friends and no one is actually listening. And then…
Sort of like #5, the big result of publicly publishing something “behind someone’s back” instead of, you know, actually talking behind someone’s back in secret, is usually “ARGH FUCK FACEBOOK!” Or, the lonely feeling that you have no followers makes you feel really terrible about yourself because it seems like no one likes you, whether you’re likeable in person or not.
Here’s the deal. Facebook is a thing. Twitter and Tumblr are things. The internet is a thing. They are things that you can use to do other things. You could use your computer to do lots of random crap. You can write a blog about how much you love Miranda Cosgrove. Or a type a book about your restraining order experiences after you blogged about loving Miranda Cosgrove. Or make a computer virus that embeds Miranda Cosgrove’s image on the computer.
But instead, you use it to Facebook and such. You do what you choose to do with it. The fact is, as much as you’d like to blame Facebook for destroying your friendships or social life or nightly S&M network, it isn’t purposely forcing you to do that. And if your friendships were damaged because someone saw the mean comments you made on someone else’s page, it’s not the internet’s fault you were being a backstabby dick. It’s your fault for being a backstabby dick.
On the other hand, if you don’t get anything meaningful out of your internet interactions and just feel alone all the time…yeah, that might be because you decided to use the damn thing for every form of communication instead of, say, walking to someone’s place, picking up a phone, sending an e-mail, etc. The common excuse people use is that they can keep in touch with old and far away friends. That’s totally true; I’ve remained close, and in some cases grown closer to, plenty of people across the country and the world thanks to adding them as a friend. But use it for them, not for the people that live 10 minutes down the road, or especially on the same freaking college campus as you.
But say it’s inevitable, and you’re having a hard time reconnecting with people. Suddenly…
You’ve seen it. You may have even done it. These very solemn, serious posts about how “I’m contemplating deleting my Facebook/Tumblr/Twitter” thanks to some dramatic fight with a friend, or just a simple epiphany about your productivity or relationships, or how you’re not using it like you wanted to. So you make these announcements to the public, asking for further opinions, or perhaps debating it back and forth over multiple updates. It’s a very serious change to your life, very public and very intense.
Like, “Tom Cruise running” intense.
Except, you know, it’s kind of not at all. Or at least, it’s not worth “contemplation.” It’s one thing to perhaps let people know that they won’t be able to communicate with you in this fashion anymore so they can get your phone number. It’s another thing entirely to go back and forth debating it and asking for opinions like you’re deciding which college to attend or the best neighborhood to move to. And most of the time, the “debate” just kind of fizzles out and you end up keeping it all anyway and nothing changes. Or it gets deleted for about a day, you get nostalgic, and then come back with a big announcement.
The initial reasoning is usually admirable. You aren’t happy, so you’re finding the root of the problem and changing it. I whole-heartedly respect that proactiveness. I know a couple of people who have quietly deleted their social networking sites after a rough time in their lives, just to get some solitude, and then they reactivate it when things are better. Sometimes their friends don’t even notice.
Fuck, burned the cookies? Guess I’m deleting my Facebook.
The problem, though, is that by making it a big ordeal, you’re making it a big ordeal. If being too connected to the internet is hurting you that much, making such a big thing about the internet means you’re still too obsessed with the internet. If you close your account, you might have changed that, but your attitude still hasn’t. You’re still treating it as if you quit smoking or broke that “masturbating to Miranda Cosgrove” habit. But when people decide they watch too much iCarly, they usually just…try to watch less iCarly. They don’t start asking their friends for advice about how to watch less iCarly, or publicly debate over watching less iCarly, they just…do it or don’t do it.
I know something like Facebook can be considered an addiction. But here’s the kicker: the addiction isn’t the program (the trillions of users who complain about how much Facebook and Tumblr suck proves that.) The addiction is the attention and stalkery-fulfillment you get from it. Jerry Seinfeld joked about this exact same idea long before social media, back in 1992. It’s the need to get likes and comments, whilst simultaneously getting the kind of high teenage girls and old ladies get from juicy gossip, without being surrounded by those horrible, horrible people.
And look, I’m not trying to belittle the people that are doing it (well, I am, but…I’m not trying to be mean about it) because I get it. It’s hard not to make a big deal out of it. Social networking is a very big part of our lives, now. There’s one caveat, though…
Remember the quote I opened with? The end of it was “OR…you’re using Facebook wrong.” Yeah, there’s a million negative things you can say about how technology and the internet and social networking have destroyed us as a society. That’s cool and everything, so you know, if you want to live with the Amish or on that stupid planet from Star Trek: Insurrection , more power to you.
However, social networking is not only a big part of social life, but also potentially our professional lives. It’s used heavily for student organizations and classes in school, networking to find work, marketing jobs, and communication between employees in jobs. In fact, for one of my jobs, since many of us are spread out so often, our main source of communication for basically everything we do is a private Facebook group, and it works wonders.
“Lol I’m really working.”
Not only that, but man, the internet is the best freaking networking tool. I found my day job because a friend posted about it on Facebook. Part of the reason I was able to write for KSiteTV was because whenever I commented on the website’s Facebook, I didn’t sound like a total dipshit. And now that I do, I can use Twitter to keep track of stories about what I cover as they break. And then I can publicize the living crap out of what I write on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook. Hell, if you’re reading this, it’s probably because you were linked from one of my social pages.
Other examples? On Tumblr, comic book writer Gail Simone created the idea for a Tumblr page specifically to get writers and artists together to create comics, and a Tumblr user jumped on it to create MakeYourOwnThen, which is a freaking brilliant idea. Plenty of people have made a living thanks to their Tumblr use. And where else other than Twitter can you communicate with and get to know your idols, get your questions asked and answered, and potentially share your material with them? And this isn’t even touching on the myriad ideas, protests, and organized events and movements that are rooted in social media. It’s astounding how much money charities or people in horrible situations can get thanks to tossing a link on Tumblr or Reddit–and believe me, they go around quickly and frequently. It’s heartwarming.
So, yeah, you and your friends can bitch about each other and then bitch about how everyone’s always bitching about each other and then bitch about the website you’re bitching on. That’s fine. The rest of us are out forging friendships, gaining fans, getting careers, pursuing dreams, saving people, and changing the world. Getting a like, reblog, or retweet is just an added bonus.(Don’t give a crap about my TV posts, but like these kind of life-comedy articles? All of these are in the Life and Society category!)