social media makes me feel inadequate as a human. that i can only "like" something, and i'd rather just "like" something than say something. that i'd rather let a mechanization, a normalization, a boiling-down of my feelings codify and signify who i am as a person. or that i have only 140 characters to make a point. some of the best jokes can't be told in 140 characters. some of the best advice can't. some of the best memories certainly can't. what exactly are we gaining with all this shit? we're gaining laziness. we're making things easy. many would contend, and rightly so, that the internet is levelling and "democratizing" society, making us all equal contributors in a world which was once one-to-many. I wish it were so; it certainly has the capacity to. but too often, as the internet has proven, the cost of that democracy is a favoring of the lowest common denominator. we lower all standards to make everything accessible. me writing this out doesn't fit into 140 characters, it doesn't fit into a "like" or "dislike" button, but it now cannot be read by someone who doesn't speak english. it won't be read by a lot of people because it doesn't exist on a popular platform. it can't be parsed and optimized and normalized and mechanized as easily, to find out what ads should be displayed alongside it. (if it had ads.)
and if you think this isn't a serious fucking point that holds some ground, you need to wake the fuck up. you're being drugged. you're being subverted, one click at a time. the internet used to be our place, run by our rules, spun to tell our own stories. now it's corporate-controlled, brought to you by our feverent participation. we got ourselves into this mess, we can get ourselves out before it's too late, can't we? imagine if there were actual monetary figures associated with internet use! imagine this bullshit! $9.95 a month gets you facebook, youtube, and twitter. now we're not talking about limits brought on merely by social convention anymore, but limits brought on by economic forces (see: what adults like to call the market), enabled by our collective inaction! it costs an additional $5.00 a month to get you some livejournal, some wordpress, some nytimes. it costs an additional $10.00 to get international sites like al jazeera and the bbc. right now the favoring of one over the other is largely social, i.e. our friends don't read Slate, never link to it on facebook, it never pops up on gawker, so why would we read it? why would we even know what Slate is? but when it becomes economic, the lines are drawn even sharper. not only do we not know what it is, we are told we can't view it without paying a fee. (which is why all paywalls are the stupidest fucking ideas on the internet if you want to maintain any kind of relevance over the next ten years.)
but to go back to my original point: i feel so empty sometimes when i "like" something. i'm not the type of person who just "like"s things because my friend posted it and to show kinship with my friend, i'll like their post. no, that's a whole different beast i don't want to talk about yet. that's a whole different fucked up mess. i only hit the "like" button when it's something i've considered and legitimately enjoyed. i like this and i want people to know it. i want it to not only be an acknowledgement of you as a person, but of myself as a participant. that's what social media is supposed to be, right? (then why no "dislike" button on facebook?) it reminds me of "lol"... people used to assume that you actually laughed out loud when you wrote "lol", until everybody realized that nobody actually did. our parents, when they write "LOL", frequently do so because they actually laughed. this is the generation shift. this is the gap. what is the difference between someone who actually lols and someone who just writes it? they have externalized, mechanized, made themselves devoid of real acknowledged feeling. they've codified their own laughter. when i write "lol" in response to something funny, but i don't actually laugh, it's because the mental processes involved in engaging with the humorous material have gone around that process and acknowledged that what i am loling at is funny, but i don't need to physically laugh about it or express it in any real fashion. my mind determines that i can skip the human response to comedy. when i "like" something by clicking a button, i am actively divorcing myself from the emotion of liking something. i am making all feeling superficial, i am stripping the object from meaning and leaving myself only with a meaning without context. i am abstracting further that which is already abstract in my own mind. i am allowing that like, that desire, that connection, to be dissolved and subverted into data. i am losing myself.
"jesus fuck, come on, you are thinking way too hard about this," i hear you say. and you're completely right. i am overthinking this a lot. and that's a great thing, because i don't see anybody overthinking this. i don't see anybody taking these small, tiny, seemingly insignificant things and adding up their sum total effect as they register across the entire demographic of youth and adolescent development. i see some attempts. i see some academics - old people - trying to write papers about it. but very very few of them are really in the shit, in the dirt, down in it like we are. i use this shit every fucking day like it's an insulin shot. and it's not forced; it's natural. i am not someone who has to remember to check facebook; i'm someone who just fucking does it like i'm taking a piss after i wake up in the morning. and that is what scares me so much. all around me, everyone i know my age and younger is this way. (do i need some new friends? lol.) nobody thinks about facebook; it simply is, as if it had been there all along. does anybody under 30 remember how anyone used to buy plane tickets? do we remember why we used to call people?
that's why i hate the bullshit faux-vintage photo-shit i see all the time. instagram. hipstamatic. fuck you. we're creating a history we'll never have because we're too busy making a history we'll never have. what the fuck kind of morons are we, throwing away our memories on sepia-toned burnt-edged non-thoughts. how many hookups do we have to go through before we grow up and appreciate each other. how many times do we have to get shitfaced before we feel nothing at all and realize it's a goddamn problem with us and not with society. why does it have to be okay that these are our rites of passage. i'm not saying we need policing or parenting or anything - we need self-reliance. we need a tragic dose of realism. we need to fail hard, all of us together. we need world hunger to NOT be solved. we need the earth to be eaten by our carbon dioxide. it's not like we're some middle-children of history, we're just the apathetic fourth child in a family of sextuplets. we're skipping all history in favor of pure distilled self-importance, cleaner and fresher-tasting than the bottled water we can't live without. and this is a uniquely first world problem, as if in america us kids have run out of shit to do but be mindlessly concerned with ourselves and literally nothing else. this picture of my friend really needs this vintage burned-out filter. however, i will not remember why this picture is important, or what i was doing, i will simply remember that i took it and it was fun and it looks cool. my friends on facebook will see this and "like" it.
what's the fucking remedy? write some shit. use twitter and facebook to post some links to it. get a camera and make some fucking videos of something you care about. make some music. find stories worth telling. talk to people about things you are usually uncomfortable talking about. talk about everything that people say never to talk about - money, religion, politics, etc. the people who tell you it's a bad idea to talk about that shit are either people who are idiots, are insecure about their own thoughts (or that they don't have any), or have a personal stake in those issues. i call bullshit on all of that. nobody has ever learned anything by sitting around agreeing with everyone. troll somebody. push yourself; find some limits. have a fucking opinion of your own. don't just "like" something - explain why. explain why you DON'T like something. abuse those 140 characters. i'm not saying that facebook is the end of everything; i'm saying that the sacrifices we're unknowingly making to use it collectively and ubiquitously (do you remember before facebook?) are too high a cost. i'm saying the scales are tipped against us, and it's going to bite us in the ass.
when i "like" something, usually i want to say so much more. i want to say why i like it. i want to say that i like it a lot. i want to say what's so good about it. i mean, i can if i leave a comment, but not all platforms really want you to do that. and we really aren't encouraged to do so - we're encouraged to leave just a "like" and move on to the next item in our news feed. we're only allowed 140 characters for a reply. we are overwhelmed with information and we wonder why everybody feels like they have ADHD. (hint: you don't have ADHD, you're just un-self-regulated.) we're forced to whittle down our feelings to abbreviations. i feel damned for doing so, for giving up my freedom of expression for this, and not thinking twice about it. i feel ashamed that we all haven't thought twice about it - and more so, that if we have, we've done nothing about it.
hopefully i'm wrong. hopefully we're all not fucked and we don't even know it. but we look at our leaders today and we scoff at their inadequacies and their contractions. we see our senators oppose gay marriage while they're getting blown by male prostitutes on the side. we see our financial system collapse under its own greed and non-regulation. we see systems that our parents built, falling apart. we see that the revolutions of the 60s only paved the way for more rapid complacency and affluence. in the 60s and the in the late 2000s, we demanded change but we didn't say what that change would entail. we never really cared. we just wanted something different. and now that we have something different, it's still not really working. we are children lost in a desert; and those are just the people with some sense about them. everybody else doesn't even know what a desert looks like; they just see the same malls, the same status updates, and assume everything's okay. we are doomed to the same fate as our parents; the maintenance of the status quo, without understanding of what it is or how it's changing with or without us. we are desperately wanting of change without knowing what we are changing from or into.
i'm happy to be an alarmist. there aren't enough young alarmists. do yourself a favor: have a crazy opinion and rant about it. question everything until you have an answer that satisfies you.