Obviously, I am ambivalent about the Web 2.0. The web is so many great things, but I often get soured by loud trolls and preening Twits. I’m not alone. Look at Trent Reznor’s take on Social Media and read the comments that follow. I liked that one chick’s comment so much that I modified it and tweeted it without crediting her- she being the victim of a 140 character limit and a ethically lax retweeter.
Maybe my opinion is jaundiced by the fact that I have a public job and am exposed to an unhealthy level of vitriol, but is the world really a better place now that every ego has a storefront, and every negative part of you can have a screen name ? Weren’t we more civil when our critiques of each other involved eye contact? Maybe my rationality can’t escape the gravity of my experience on this one.
Much has been written about the effect anonymity has on the level of discourse, but one of the funniest examples of the devolution of discourse cause by the anonymous, reflexive, no-barrier-to-publish internet is this brilliant bit of genius. Thanks to the P1 who posted it in the comments section.
Speaking of comments sections.. So far D magazine has not reestablished theirs. I know the editors miss feeling the stage under their feet, but I think they made the right call for now. Look at the DMN comments. Still amazes me what snarling dogs we are under our thin veneers. Sure, you can simply tune them out. But snark (and meanness) is mental porn. It’s fun to make it, and damn hard to look away once you glance at it.
About Facebook and Twitter
Truly, everyone is now able to star in their own reality show. Social Media rests firmly on the twin pillars of narcissism and voyeurism. We conduct our own show and follow the shows of others. That can be initially satisfying, because everyone has some small desire of being famous, admired, listened to, or important. The problem with the current ease of having your own reality show is that everyone else has their own show too, and Other People are just damn annoying. Didn’t Jesus say that? To browse Twitter and Facebook can feel like watching an interminable parade of the self-consciously cute.
BUT… all this Twitter Tweeting and Facebooking has one powerful and dominating ingredient that, in the end, is its redemption. Connection. This is what fills the gaps between narcissism and voyeurism. In a world in which we pray that we always get voicemail, and dread visiting each other without alcohol, connecting in the once-removed world of broadband is perfect. I’ve never been more semi-connected with old friends and falsely intimate with new ones. And I can do it all while poorly dressed. Brilliant.
I have been goofing around with Twitter lately. Follow me if you would like, but I am no good at it. So far, I’m kinda stumbling around in the dark, making peace with annoying jargon, and marveling at the irony that a 140 character limit should force conciseness, not inanity. As I said on the air the other day, Twitter initially seems to be a well-lubricated chute for torrents of brain vomit. To some people, anything and everything is worth publishing. And now here I am, adding to the mess.
This essay was originally unpublished on Slate.com.