I do know some things. I’m fairly hip to what’s going on in politics (although my use of the word “hip” dates me severely), I’m generally savvy about what constitutes good music and what does not (more dating with the “savvy”) and I can kick your ass when it comes to movie trivia. (Unless you’re talking about movies released in the last five years or so, because a lot of them are crammed with noise-filled crap that doesn’t amount to anything. But I’m not bitter.) What I don’t seem to be able to grasp? The nuances of this thing called social media, which has overtaken the planet faster than the Bubonic Plague wiped out half of Europe, back in the day when the wearing of codpieces and the subjugation of women were considered respectful leisure activities.
Granted, I was born long before technology allowed one to spontaneously share with the world pictures of oneself eating an over-priced hamburger at a trendy restaurant that will be shuttered within a month because people in the digital age have the attention span of a gnat. (Why you would want to broadcast a somewhat-pornographic image of you tonguing a slab of meat is beyond me. Maybe I went to the wrong schools.) Still, I try to remain current with cultural developments, I really do, but there are a couple of things that mystify me in regards to proper digital etiquette. So let’s relax for a few moments (Pokemon DON’T Go) and open-mindedly consider a few factors.
ONE: Who the hell has time for all this mess?
Okay, perhaps that didn’t come out quite as diplomatically as it should have. Still, it all seems a bit overwhelming. For example, just here on WordPress, it takes me several hours every day to muddle through all the “networking” bit. (I don’t even want to have sex for several hours, so everything else pales in comparison.) Granted, I have it set up so that any time someone likes or comments on a post, I get an email. This is just to make sure that I don’t miss anything that anyone has done. I know what it’s like when I carefully craft a comment on someone else’s post, and then they completely ignore it, not even bothering to click like, let alone respond. I don’t want to be that person. Additionally, if someone takes the time to visit your page and show a little love tap, then you should make damn sure you go see what they’re up to on their own page. This doesn’t mean you have to click like on their stuff (there have been plenty of times when I’ve not cared for what I found, and then I’m out the door, click-less) but a courtesy visit is in order.
If affects your soul when you devotedly work into the wee hours in order to clean out your inbox, tumble into bed, grudgingly tumble back out, slap at the switch on the coffee maker, and then sign in to find that you have 200 new emails. And that’s just WordPress. How do some folks ride roughshod over four or five media and not end up in an asylum, drooling on themselves and clicking a mouse repeatedly while bitter Tori Amos songs play in the background?
Speaking of the other media…
TWO: Why would one follow 50,000 people on Twitter?
I can understand if you have 50,000 followers. This means that you apparently have done something at least moderately noteworthy (or were at least born a Kardashian) at some point, and people have decided to join your digital posse to see if you’ve got a repeat performance in you. But to willingly subscribe to the stream-of-consciousness output of more people than the population of my home state? There’s no way you’re reading all that mess.
Unless you’re just in it for the numbers. That explains the Twitter accounts I’m constantly running across where “Followback Gyrl” has shown anonymous affection for 37.2k people, 35.4k of whom apparently heart the gyrl back, and yet there are only 7 tweets on the account since 2012, with 3 of them being repeats. What does this get you at the end of the day? Other than carpal tunnel.
THREE: Why is Instagram all the rage?
[Legal clarification: By the time I finish this blog post and get it uploaded, Instagram will most likely have been replaced by yet another form of social media, since we get a new one every day, but for now the focus is on Instagram.] You use this app, according to the official site, “to share pictures and videos with your friends.” Isn’t that what we did with Facebook? What’s the difference? Other than possibly a lower percentage of racist trolls spamming your comment section, but I’m sure there’s still some of that jackery taking place on Instagram as well. Racist trolls have no actual personal lives, so they take to social media like a duck to water, paddling as fast as they can to keep up with their own lies.
Confused, I decided to take a survey at our local convenience store whilst making a Friday-night beer run. [Further legal clarification: This survey did not actually take place, but if it had, it would have gone just like this, swear.]
Me, reading from teleprompter: “So what’s the difference between Facebook and Instagram?”
Girl, chewing contentedly on a stick of beef jerky that she clearly hadn’t yet paid for: “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers. Do you have five bucks?”
Me: “No. Next?”
Lady, perusing the fine selection of 7-day-old wine on the bottom shelf: “Instagram is so much easier than Facebook. You can use it on your phone!”
Me: “Facebook has a phone app. I know because it pings me all the time to let me know whose birthday it is and that no one is visiting my author page.”
Wine Lady: “But it’s easier!”
Me: “And how do you sign into Instagram?”
Wine Lady: “With my Facebook account.”
Me: “Got it. Next?”
Teenage Boy, eyeballing the giant, cloudy jar of giant, warty pickles that lives in most locally-owned convenience stores in southern states: “Are you gay? Because Facebook is gay.”
Me: “I’m so proud you’re an American. And kudos to your parents. Next?”
Man, feverishly working on a scratch-off lottery ticket, a pile of disappointments beside him: “Instagram has really cool filters and effects. You can make some really killer pics.”
Me: “But your smart phone can do that. And you don’t even need an app.”
Fever Man: “Not everybody can afford a smart phone. We’re not rich like you.” [Suddenly, the opening strains of La Cucaracha filled the air.] “Hang on, I gotta take this.” And he pulls out the latest iPhone. “Hey, man. Did you get that pic I sent of mi muchacha beating the hell out of that piñata? No? I posted it on Instagram. Oh, okay. I’ll send it to Facebook.”
Couldn’t he just send the picture directly to Man’s phone? Why does it have to be broadcast across the airwaves, shared from sea to shining sea? Are there no other sources of validation in your life? I grabbed my beer and left the store.
[Continued legal clarification: I realize that I’m a writer, I have several blogs, and I do want my stuff to be seen. I’m a bit of a media trollop. But I don’t need to share every single thing that I do. I like having secrets. It makes me feel special and pretty.]
FOUR: The overwhelming amount of other social media apps.
I will admit that I’ve tried out various platforms over the years, mainly so I could attain some degree of traction on this elusive concept of self-promotion that indie writers must embrace if they want to have any chance of earning a penny. Some of them have been fun, for a bit, but most of them have shown no return on investment. Because there are too many of them. The supernovas can burn with intensity, but they just as quickly become Alka-Seltzer tablets dissolving in water, a bit of fizzy and then nothing.
We seem to be making a big deal out of things that don’t matter. That’s an over-generalization, sure, but why are we so invested in the latest and greatest of something that is not all that important? Yes, social media can be and has been empowering and transformational, getting stories out that weren’t shared before, changing situations for the better. At the same time, social media has allowed bigoted idiots who previously were deservedly shunned by society to gather digitally, grabbing the spotlight and shining it on their collective hatred and divisiveness. This is how Donald Trump became the Republican candidate for President.
I’m not even sure where I’m going with this section. It just seems that in this era of the most advanced forms of communication ever, so many people have nothing of value to say. But they’re going to say it anyway. And then bitch when they get called out for being vapid and useless.
FIVE: The amazing number of “beauty blogs”.
I’m sure I’m stepping into hot water with this one, but I think it quasi-summarizes what I’ve been babbling about in the last four points. [Final legal clarification: I actually follow several beauty blogs, because the writers involved are charming and witty and have interesting stories to tell. I don’t follow them for the tips, I follow them for the writing, which I enjoy. I would offer links, but I don’t want to inadvertently sully their work by linking them to this discussion.]
I don’t get the self-love festivals that are often the hallmark of some beauty blogs. I can understand a nice post about you finding a terrific blouse or eyeliner or sexy pair of boots, complimented with a few stylish photos of you sporting such, along with a cute story about how you made your discovery on your lunch break. Mystifying to me? Those folks who post 47 slightly-varying photos of themselves in the same blouse and hand-crafted choker necklace.
I think we got it with the first two pics, Narcissa. (Or Narcisso, because there are some guys out there doing the same thing.) Now, you could say that I should just ignore all of this, as these people are obviously hedonistic and self-centered, but here’s the thing: Blogs like this are legion. They are everywhere, with vanity sites inundating the blogosphere. And the central message they convey is that you are not worthy unless you change everything about yourself and become something you are not.
So it speaks to our culture has a whole. We have somehow reached the point where so many people believe that their mere existence is worthy of praise and celebration. (Have I mentioned Donald Trump?) Perhaps I’m old school (a phrase that sounds suspiciously Republican even though I’m nowhere near that), but I adhere to the notion that you shouldn’t trumpet your own horn unless the horn has proven worthy. Don’t love me because I’m beautiful. Love me for my words, chosen carefully, arranged precisely, and not accompanied by a shot of me posing in skinny jeans next to a floral arrangement that I didn’t create.
I’ll be posting this on Instagram later tonight.