Here are some suggested things to say if you want to sound like an idiot when you talk about social media:
January 7, 2010 7:13 AM   Subscribe

How to say stupid things about social media Arguing for the banality of user-created content vis-a-vis social networks.
posted by namewithoutwords (144 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
There's a reason we say "Did you sleep well?" at breakfast and "How was your weekend?" when we turn up to the office on Monday (and it's not that we care about the weekend or the rest).

Actually, I don't say those things (at least not at the office) because I don't care. However, I am aware that I'm an anti-social loon and his larger point is accurate and well-put.

Also: Last positive comment about Cory or Twitter
posted by DU at 7:18 AM on January 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


This will wendell.
posted by ericb at 7:22 AM on January 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


He's right, you know! Stopped clock something something...
posted by Mister_A at 7:23 AM on January 7, 2010


Their ugliness is a defence mechanism that protects them from being knocked off by marketing/communications firms, because most designers would rather break their own fingers than commit such an atrocity.

I highly doubt that 15 year old girls put this much thought into their blinged-out MySpace profiles.
posted by chara at 7:23 AM on January 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


Re: Myspace: The word you're looking for isn't "ugly", it's "vernacular".

Nope. Still ugly.
posted by futureisunwritten at 7:24 AM on January 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


ericb: Please can I join your club ?
posted by Crustybob at 7:24 AM on January 7, 2010


Note to self: "There are plenty of things to worry about when it comes to social media." Okay.
posted by ericb at 7:24 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


So if it does not matter what I say, only that I say something, I'll just say this:

Turdburgler
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:24 AM on January 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


Very good piece.
posted by jayder at 7:24 AM on January 7, 2010


There are plenty of things to worry about when it comes to social media. They are Skinner boxes designed to condition us to undervalue our privacy and to disclose personal information. They have opaque governance structures. They are walled gardens that violate the innovative spirit of the internet.
Excellent. IOW, AOL.
posted by stbalbach at 7:25 AM on January 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Holy fuck, just say "no" to Cory Doctorow.
posted by autoclavicle at 7:25 AM on January 7, 2010


Now that you've vented, do you feel better? If you play Sims, you'll know that the point of Facebook is to keep your 25 point friends at 25 points.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:26 AM on January 7, 2010


ericb: Please can I join your club?

Ask wendell, not me.
posted by ericb at 7:27 AM on January 7, 2010


I thought saying stupid things about social media was the backbone of Cory Doctorow's career. [rimshot.wav]

Re: MySpace's uglinesss: These pages are made by people who know – to the femtometre – exactly how ugly they are. They are supposed to offend your sensibilities. They are intended to make designers weep.

Really? Really? Have you met any of these kids you're talking about, or have you succumbed the Too Much Credit disease William Gibson caught around the time he started blogging? Next you'll be arguing that a toddler crayon-ing up a wall is rebelling against the representational art the Man is forcing him to adapt to. MySpace is ugly because it is very, very easy to make it ugly. They gave their users far too much credit to compose something that wouldnt, say, crash a browser due to fifteen auto-playing YouTube videos and a baker's dozen of PhotoCubes and flash slideshows.

Prediction: In five years, Blingee will be superseded by an internet service which will enable you to tattoo glitter on yourself via a laser printer.
posted by griphus at 7:29 AM on January 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


Really? Really? Have you met any of these kids you're talking about, or have you succumbed the Too Much Credit disease

If you read the sentences preceding the one you cherrypicked, I think you'll get his point. When you are a MySpace user and come across a site on MySpace page that looks good, your first thought is not "I wonder if they'll be my friend" but "I wonder what they are trying to sell".
posted by DU at 7:31 AM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Myspace not ugly? Web 2.0 is weird. What next? Not wet water?
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:33 AM on January 7, 2010


There's a reason we say "Did you sleep well?" at breakfast and "How was your weekend?" when we turn up to the office on Monday (and it's not that we care about the weekend or the rest).

I tried asking "Dd y slp wll?" and "Hw ws yr wknd?" but they looked at me as if I was Welsh, or a castaway from Boing Boing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:33 AM on January 7, 2010 [11 favorites]


Hi!! How was your weekend?!?! Love you!! OK, bye for now!!

me <- social media expert
posted by briank at 7:34 AM on January 7, 2010


"These pages are as deliberately ugly as the photocopied punk band-posters that graced every telephone pole and building-site hoarding a generation ago.

The kids who make "ugly" MySpace pages are hardly ignorant of the visual vocabulary of professional design.
"

This might be true for some pages on MySpace, perhaps the ones designed by a similarly tiny minority of people who were into Punk 20 years ago. But, there is no way that this is a broadly applicable characteristic.
posted by oddman at 7:34 AM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


See also Kottke's In Defense Of Twitter from last April (which came up in this thread from May).
posted by cortex at 7:34 AM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


This would be a good page for the image tag. Especially with gifs. Please, Matt! I just want to implement a defense mechanism!
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:34 AM on January 7, 2010


Prediction: in five years, some of these kids will have grown up, graduated from design college, and will be industriously turning out clones that authentically reproduce the exuberant no-design every bit as well as today's high-street shops do Sex Pistols chic.

Well that was a very stupid thing to say about social media.
posted by clarknova at 7:35 AM on January 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


MetaFilter: your first thought is not "I wonder if they'll be my friend" but "I wonder what they are trying to sell".
posted by DU at 7:35 AM on January 7, 2010


His point is misguided, IMHO.

The correct analogy is not between Twitter and someone asking "how's the weather?" but between Twitter and someone shouting in public "how's the weather?" and then a bunch of other people proclaiming that this new form of dialogue breaks new ground.

Also, he must know he's talking pump when he says "the real value of Twitter et al is to keep the invisible lines of connection between us alive?" How does it do that when the stats clearly show that Twitter traffic is heavily weighted from the many to the few? At a macro level, Twitter can feel an awful lot like "old" media.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:36 AM on January 7, 2010 [12 favorites]


DU- I am (was) a MySpace user and I'll agree with that. But I can't make the Olympic-level logical leap that would imply the idea that users are intentionally making their profiles ugly so that their peers don't think they're selling something. He's assuming the intentional presence some of a visual shibboleth, whereas it's actually just emergent.
posted by griphus at 7:37 AM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Blah. Rarely have I been so unmoved by a thing that I feel the need to proclaim that I don't care about it. This is one of those times. Or not. Whatever. Bleh.
posted by Babblesort at 7:39 AM on January 7, 2010


This is a typical piece of technozealot writing insofar as it takes a legitimate disagreement about values and reduces it to a question of who does or doesn't "get it", ie, a question about understanding facts. I don't criticize Twitter's banality because I don't understand Twitter; I criticize Twitter's banality because it's my opinion that flooding our shared spaces with more and more banality (and ugly design, for that matter) is a bad thing. Cory Doctorow is welcome to disagree, but Cory Doctorow should not imply that I am a "total fool" for having a different opinion on this matter.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 7:39 AM on January 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


But I can't make the Olympic-level logical leap that would imply the idea that users are intentionally making their profiles ugly so that their peers don't think they're selling something.

I don't think (and I don't think he thinks) they are explicitly thinking "Uh oh, this looks a little too good--better add some blink tags". But deliberately eschewing good design (even if you don't realize you are doing it) is still an intentionality.

It's like a messy kid's room. They aren't down there throwing stuff around deliberately to make it messy (usually). But teenagers at least probably do deliberately let the mess pile up a bit to differentiate themselves from the rest of the house.

(And that's a good analogy in another way to: Messy teen rooms doesn't mean teens shouldn't have rooms anymore than badly designed MySpace pages means MySpace shouldn't exist.)
posted by DU at 7:42 AM on January 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


The correct analogy is not between Twitter and someone asking "how's the weather?" but between Twitter and someone shouting in public "how's the weather?" and then a bunch of other people proclaiming that this new form of dialogue breaks new ground.

I don't really see how tweeting is akin to shouting. What you tweet is only delivered to people who wish to hear it. Shouting delivers your message to people who don't want to hear it.

I think the analogy you're looking for is maybe "someone talking about the weather at a cocktail party with all their friends". But yes, it gets tiresome to hear how groundbreaking Twitter is by dinosaurs who can't seem to see that it's just the same thing that people always do but on the internet.
posted by breath at 7:44 AM on January 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


He's assuming the intentional presence some of a visual shibboleth

Derail: Maybe it's too little exposure to religion, or too much exposure to geeks, but the word "shibboleth" reminds me of various Lovecraft Mythos words, and not of something positive at all. Which itself I guess kind of forms a shibboleth of sorts.
posted by explosion at 7:48 AM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


• It is ephemeral – Facebook will blow over in a year and something else will be along

Totally correct, but this is a feature, not a bug. The technology that underpins social media is changing fast, and social media companies' bone-deep intuitions about what it should and shouldn't do are made obsolete every 18 months or so.


This is a good and important point. The field I work in is characterized by an excessive amount of fretting and hangwringing over whether we should or shouldn't develop a presence on various social media. The typical strategy is to "wait," and "study the phenomenon" a while, until we can "identify the best practices" that "support our brand image" before we get onto these platforms at all. However, this tiptoe strategy means we simply remain invisible - as institutions and as fields - and avoid building relationships comprehensively across platforms. I feel we should lower the barriers to entry and embrace the emphemeral and often experimental nature of these media. If we know who we are, we shouldn't have a problem expressing it in any medium that might help us reach our hoped-for audience.
posted by Miko at 7:51 AM on January 7, 2010 [24 favorites]


But teenagers at least probably do deliberately let the mess pile up a bit to differentiate themselves from the rest of the house.

Maybe it is personal bias, but I still have a messy room (at 25) and the only reason it is messy is because it has always been easier to know where something is in a mess than it is to clean it up and not know where anything is anymore. Which is the way that I extend that metaphor to MySpace: it easier to be happy with slapping random crap everywhere than it is to really hunker down and learn how to make it as good as capital-d Designer. Especially when you have no yen to be a Designer and just want to personalize your profile the way you plaster Lisa Frank stickers on a 3-ring canvas binder instead of drawing the Vitruvian Man on it. The mess does differentiate them because it is a personal mess. However, I still deny the idea that it would still look like that if the user were magically granted the ability to capital-d Design without having to learn it.
posted by griphus at 7:52 AM on January 7, 2010 [11 favorites]


...it has always been easier to know where something is in a mess than it is to clean it up and not know where anything is anymore.

If you're in the habit of cleaning up you put your things in the same place every time. So it's easier to find your things. I can see how it might be a problem if your cleaning up is a one-off.
posted by clarknova at 7:56 AM on January 7, 2010


clark - I believe (and may be wrong) it is a rare child who learns to tidy of their own accord, even if they see other clean rooms on a daily basis. No one goes ahead and actively teaches MySpace users good design habits and ways to make their pages easier to navigate and not crash browsers, so they look the way they do. Just because you live in a world of Design, doesn't mean you're inherently able to do it. MySpace users aren't the Sex Pistols -- they're the Shaggs.
posted by griphus at 8:03 AM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


we should lower the barriers to entry and embrace the emphemeral and often experimental nature of these media. If we know who we are, we shouldn't have a problem expressing it in any medium that might help us reach our hoped-for audience.

speaking of which Miko, if you wrote a book in tweets i'd buy it.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:03 AM on January 7, 2010


Cory Doctorow - part of the digital Intelligentsia, right? He seems obsessed defending the indefensible and to attach a "higher purpose" to crap.
posted by homodigitalis at 8:04 AM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you read the sentences preceding the one you cherrypicked, I think you'll get his point. When you are a MySpace user and come across a site on MySpace page that looks good, your first thought is not "I wonder if they'll be my friend" but "I wonder what they are trying to sell".

Seeing as 90 percent of the people on MySpace are prostitutes and porn services, I wonder that no matter what. The remaining 10 percent are bands, so I know what they want:

Prostitutes and porn services.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:08 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


"How to say stupid things about social media," indeed.
posted by availablelight at 8:09 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Im the ass man. Here Comes my ass
posted by Damn That Television at 8:10 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Only ancient, clueless dinosaurs like Rupert Murdoch are dumb enough to pay hundreds of millions for social media companies with the belief that they will grow to be immortal giants.

Instead you should listen to Cory Doctorow, nimble netzien who surfs the cutting edge and returns with wisdom for the play-it-safe crowd who read such old standards of print journalism like the Guardian (who decided this fit Doctorow's series on DRM - wait, DRM? This has nothing to do with Digital Rights Management!)
posted by filthy light thief at 8:12 AM on January 7, 2010


I like the image of Cory Doctorow calling his parents and saying, "all is well with your son and his family," then hanging up and staring into space.
posted by brundlefly at 8:18 AM on January 7, 2010 [30 favorites]


I was half-convinced by the Twitter/Facebook argument. Yes, of course it's often just a way of checking in with friends or relatives. But then there's a whole other side of it - people who use those tools to market themselves or their work or ideas or businesses or their crappy band, and a lot of that content can arguably be dismissed as banal and awful.

As for the MySpace bit - he's giving people credit for completely the wrong thing. There's nothing knowing or subversive about 99% of shitty MySpace pages, any more than there was anything knowing about animated GIFs of flaming skulls fifteen years ago. It's just people expressing themselves with whatever tools are at hand, and without any input from an education in design. He derailed himself completely with the 'punk' analogy; a far more convincing comparison would be made with other kinds of folk art.

And the eventual decline of Facebook being a 'feature'? Really? I can just picture the board sitting round the table planning how to phase themselves out of business over the next couple of years. It's not a feature. That's just a lazy misuse of a stock phrase.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:18 AM on January 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


I just find it hard to believe that he gets PAID to pontificate about crap like this.

Metafilter: We pontificate for free.
posted by willmize at 8:24 AM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Cory is usually right, it's just how he says it that's wrong. In this case, he's dead on.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:24 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's just people expressing themselves with whatever tools are at hand, and without any input from an education in design ... a far more convincing comparison would be made with other kinds of folk art.

Yes. This. Exactly.
posted by griphus at 8:25 AM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Facebook? Twitter? MySpace? Some one should tell him that all the kewl dudes use Bebo now. Damn he's so much of a Granddad.
posted by lilburne at 8:26 AM on January 7, 2010


They are Skinner boxes designed to condition us to undervalue our privacy and to disclose personal information.

I think the real point is not design. We are breeding new generations of people who will be reaching out to the marketers. In the past they had to come and find us, and then get us to listen or look. Now everyone is rushing to them under the guise of "look at me!" and "listen to me!"

As to being folk art? I think more along the lines of ignorant copy cat crap. We give the masses way more credit than they deserve. No, everyone is not an artist...
posted by njohnson23 at 8:29 AM on January 7, 2010


Njohnson - Ignorant of what? And copying off whom? Folk and outside art are defined by their very ignorance (intentional or not) of convention and the greater artworld.
posted by griphus at 8:34 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Twitter Destroys Intellectual Value
posted by cjorgensen at 8:37 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


People join social networks to be social? Not me. I joined facebook so when kid's balls rolled onto my page I could ignore their pleas to give them back. And don't even think about stepping on my lawn.
posted by digsrus at 8:38 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


[rimshot.wav]

The link you seek is here.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:41 AM on January 7, 2010


Huh. I don't know that I've ever seen a picture of Cory before. I didn't realize how vernacular he was.
posted by The Bellman at 8:42 AM on January 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


griphus - the ignorance is not of convention, all these bad "designs" are convention, just the same thing over and over. We aren't talking about the greater art world, we are talking about the internets... Where popular means "cool" and we all want to be seen as being cool don't we? If it's popular or appears to be popular, I'll just make my stuff look like that! The ignorance lies in self-reflection, or lack thereof... The look of a myspace page, the "thoughts" expressed on twitter are no different than wearing the latest fashion as dictated by the marketers on high. There is little or no real intention in the behavior of the masses...
posted by njohnson23 at 8:49 AM on January 7, 2010


Teenage kids like shiny flashy ridiculousness. Does the man not remember Lisa Frank notebooks? Metal band t-shirts? There is nothing more ridiculous about any of this stuff than there is about the collages 90% of US middle schoolers used to put up in their bedrooms.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:49 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Twitter messages and Facebook updates aren't quite akin to shouting, that's true. You can't avoid hearing what someone is shouting in your vicinity, but you *can* avoid reading someone's Twitter messages. What really interests me (and what Doctorow doesn't address) is that there seems to be a lot more public sharing of things that we probably wouldn't have shared before. (Obviously, this didn't just start with Twitter and Facebook; blogs can fulfil the same function, sort of.)

I'm less interested in the banality of Facebook updates or Twitter conversations than I am in people's increased willingness to share their banal personal thoughts with a larger audience. I don't necessarily think this is good or bad, but it is foreign to me, as I'm a private(ish) person and of an age where I did not grow up with Twitter or Facebook. Or even blogs for that matter.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:53 AM on January 7, 2010


Or less ridiculous. Grownups pontificating about what teenagers do look pathetic at best, creepy at worst. I ADMIT I AM NOW PONTIFICATING ABOUT TEENAGERS AND THUS AM PATHETIC AT BEST.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:53 AM on January 7, 2010


I'm less interested in the banality of Facebook updates or Twitter conversations than I am in people's increased willingness to share their banal personal thoughts with a larger audience. I don't necessarily think this is good or bad, but it is foreign to me, as I'm a private(ish) person and of an age where I did not grow up with Twitter or Facebook. Or even blogs for that matter.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a blog
To type your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:54 AM on January 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


He's right about point 1. le morte de bea arthur is right about the crappy marketing aspect, but at least we can ignore those people if we want to.

Point 2, I'm with everyone upthread - the ugliness isn't some reaction to corporate slickness, it's people who don't have the skills to do better.

Again I'm with le morte de bea arthur on point 3. For people who are highly involved and interested in technology, it might be 'a feature' for sites like Facebook to appear and disappear rapidly. For the companies themselves, not so much. Nor for the people who use them. I quite like Facebook. It serves my needs. I don't want it to disappear and have to port all my personal profile info onto a new site, then go through the process of trying to find all my friends and acquaintances again, then get used to the new interface, then freak out over their privacy policy and have to spend an hour or so tweaking my settings and deleting my old posts, then start up (or wait for someone else to start) the groups that I'm interested in.... I just want something that works pretty well, and keeps working.

All said, a reasonably interesting article though.
posted by Infinite Jest at 8:54 AM on January 7, 2010


no i haven't rtfa but is it any different from this one in Adweek dated yesterday What Happens When Social Media Goes Mainstream? (by someone else)
posted by infini at 9:00 AM on January 7, 2010


njohnson - I don't mean to be obtuse but I don't understand what you mean by "the same thing over and over." Everyone is restricted by the tools they have: painters work with paint and canvas, musicians by sounds which can be recorded, MySpace users by HTML. If they were saying "okay, i'm going to put the YouTube video in Column A, the animated GIF in column C &c &c" I would get it, but each MySpace page (not built from a template) is completely personalized. I can't acknowledge the lack of a convention as a convention like you seem to. As far as "popular" and "cool," there's no ur-MySpace page that these kids are referring to. This stuff bubbled up on its own, from the ashes of godawful GeoCities and Tripod pages which we now look at like cave paintings. Marketers aren't saying "make a MySpace page that looks like a unicorn threw up!" they're saying "stick this thing (e.g.: PhotoCube, Flash slideshow) on your page as part of it." And the whole that results is greater than the sum of its (commercial, marketed/marketing) parts. I hate, hate, hate to bring Lichtenstein or Warhol into this (because they were intentional Artist with wholly different motivation than these kids,) but there's nothing saying you can't cobble together art out of marketing.
posted by griphus at 9:00 AM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


in the meantime

MetaFilter: "I am thinking of you, I care about you, I hope you are well."
posted by infini at 9:03 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: "I am NOT thinking of you, I DON'T care about you, but I also don't wish you any specific harm."

FTFY
posted by blue_beetle at 9:08 AM on January 7, 2010


The bashing of social media is a lazy man's game. And sentimental defenses of its mealy middle do nothing for any of us.

Social media is a means, a platform, an opportunity. There are people who will maximize its potential, and those who will be content leaving only their greasy stain. The discussion need only focus on the best and how to search them out. How to leverage their insight. I would be surprised if the most forward thinkers, or the most insightful, spend much time debating how the rest of us clumsily use the tools at our disposal in service of loud, flashy mediocrity.




But there is a good chance my opinion may be crap. At last tally, my Twitter followers number exactly...zero.
posted by nickjadlowe at 9:12 AM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


griphus - I'm not saying that they are making "art" out of marketing, I'm just saying that they are copying what they see on other sites - other people's myspace... In the past, "Oh wow, a flaming skull, I want a flaming skull too!" A little "cut and paste" and there it is. By convention, I guess I mean "what is conventional" or common, frequent, the norm... Marketing copies itself - see all the spinning cars in ads - "Oh that's neat - popular - speaks to our demographics so let's do it too!" All the idiotic rotating graphics and scrolling text on tv is just a professional example of the same "unicorn barf" us common folks do...
posted by njohnson23 at 9:14 AM on January 7, 2010


Everyone is restricted by the tools they have: painters work with paint and canvas, musicians by sounds which can be recorded, MySpace users by HTML.

Heh, using HTML. Why do that when you can use Thomas' MySpace Editor, with the tag emblazoned on your page to tell the world as much. That's not folk art, it's graffiti. Some people craft amazing things with HTML, but most splash their tag on the closest unwatched surface, not taking time to design their message. All it says is "I was here," and you can't tell who it was because the scrawl looks so much like every other hasty tag.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:18 AM on January 7, 2010


Miko, my business suffers from the same paralysis by analysis. I have been advising clients not to bother with social media if their entire motivation is OMG we have to get on Facebook! They all want to do these billboard-style affairs, and I tell 'em, "hey, what you want is traditional advertising, my friend." There are some fairly smart people who still want to treat Social Media like another advertising channel, when it's really more akin to PR. But not exactly PR either, of course.

Companies seem to be terrified that if they actually do open the gates, someone will say something mean. Of course they will! They already are saying mean things about your product! Just don't be an idiot and let people write hilarious supers over your testosterone-soaked big-ass truck video RIGHT AFTER A HURRICANE THAT SPIKED GAS PRICES TO RECORD LEVELS, and you can manage things. Hard not to be an idiot though.

An interesting development is the Domino's experiment. I suspect they are losing share and feel like they have nothing to lose, but their broadcast ads and facebook page acknowledge that, "Hey, people think our pizza tastes like ass, and not in a good way." Actually, reading the FB comments, it seems that there are a few ass-lovers out there, but the point is, they are not preventing people from posting critically. This is really groundbreaking stuff, and I'm watching it closely to see how it affect their sales, if at all.
posted by Mister_A at 9:21 AM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


What really interests me (and what Doctorow doesn't address) is that there seems to be a lot more public sharing of things that we probably wouldn't have shared before.

I'm a twitter shitter! Not quite the same as telling your parents that all is well in your world, it's more "Hey, look where I am!" And with Twitter, these posts are as fleeting as the number of people someone follows or how many posts you make. The more prolific, the sooner it's buried underneath something newer.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:22 AM on January 7, 2010


MetaFilter: "I AM thinking of you, I DO care about you, but I also DO wish you specific harm."

FTFY
posted by aramaic at 9:24 AM on January 7, 2010


The myspace defense is hilarious.

"The food doesn't taste like shit merely because it was boiled in a gas station toilet - these emergent chefs-nouveau are subverting the concept of 'taste' as a counter-reaction to manufactured 'flavor' that has been peddled by their priors for so long."
posted by FatherDagon at 9:25 AM on January 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


Prediction: in five years, some of these kids will have grown up, graduated from design college, and will be industriously turning out clones that authentically reproduce the exuberant no-design every bit as well as today's high-street shops do Sex Pistols chic.

Someone send Cory a link to an Eric Wareheim video.
posted by codacorolla at 9:26 AM on January 7, 2010


Metafilter: Paralysis by analysis
posted by Concolora at 9:29 AM on January 7, 2010


At last tally, my Twitter followers number exactly...zero.

well now you have a favorite which is worth 1/25th of a tweetfollow
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:36 AM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: We pontificate for free.

Apparently, a lot of us even paid to pontificate.

Holy fuck, just say "no" to Cory Doctorow.

Ad hominem much? I could quibble with some points in the article, but he's pretty much on. Sorry if that annoys you, but I think the knee-jerk Cory hate that comes up every time he's referenced here is a hell of a lot more annoying, and so far, I haven't seen any indication that it's driven by thoughtful objections.
posted by namespan at 9:36 AM on January 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


On a related topic: I have encountered more than one person describing themselves as "Facebook refusers" (and one who, in English, apparently without irony, described himself as a "Facebook refusenik.") Really? I mean, I could describe myself as a "pudding refuser" because I hate pudding, but it seems a bit self-aggrandizing to suggest that one's choice not to use some Internet site amounts to some kind of heroic political resistance.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:37 AM on January 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


I am Metafilterior to FB users.
posted by Mister_A at 9:40 AM on January 7, 2010


I need to start suffixing more words with -nik.
posted by sciurus at 9:43 AM on January 7, 2010


Only if you say them in a Pottsylvanian accent.
posted by brundlefly at 9:48 AM on January 7, 2010


FTA: Criticizing the "banality" of Facebook conversation is as trite and ignorant as criticising[sic] people who talk about the weather.

But I do criticize people who engage in such meaningless "keeping the channel open" dialog in the real world.

Fun game you can play... When the same people ask you the same questions every morning at work, try giving a random answer in the "normal" tone of voice. This works best if you normally follow with asking the same question in return, because they'll already have moved on to preparing their own answer before you even start speaking.

"Hi Bob, how ya doin' this morning?"
"Oh, you know, machine tools in the bathtub, Jim, salad dressing. And yourself?"
"Oh, just great, thanks for asking!".

You will very quickly get an entirely new appreciation for the pointlessness of 99% of our spoken conversation - Not only does it not convey real information, but even when it does, the other side doesn't receive it.
posted by pla at 9:48 AM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't know what that is. I'm an ignorancenik.
posted by sciurus at 9:49 AM on January 7, 2010


Twitter Destroys Intellectual Value
posted by cjorgensen at 8:37 AM on January 7 [+] [!]


Someone needs to read up on the law of diminishing marginal utility. That is, unless their last sentence is taken to mean that there was no intellectual value there to begin with. I honestly can't tell.
posted by 7segment at 9:54 AM on January 7, 2010


Well, if anyone would know...
posted by delmoi at 9:56 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


njohnson23: "I'm just saying that they are copying what they see on other sites - other people's myspace... In the past, "Oh wow, a flaming skull, I want a flaming skull too!" A little "cut and paste" and there it is. By convention, I guess I mean "what is conventional" or common, frequent, the norm..."

Name a single kind of art that does not work in a similar way. Just one. If you talk like that there must be some exception, right? So what is it?
posted by idiopath at 9:56 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


When the same people ask you the same questions every morning at work, try giving a random answer in the "normal" tone of voice. This works best if you normally follow with asking the same question in return, because they'll already have moved on to preparing their own answer before you even start speaking.

I do this, sort of... I work in a 9 story building and I am frequently in the elevator. People I meet say, almost always, "How's it going?" I respond depending on conditions, either "Up", or "Down." They give me really puzzled looks. About half then get it, "Oh... yeah... hee hee hee..."
posted by njohnson23 at 9:57 AM on January 7, 2010


What's with all the overthinking on ugly myspaces and what kids do with their social media?

It's ugly, loud, obnoxious and thoughtless because being a teenager means towing that line between finding one's own identity with none of the social graces or frame of reference to do so except what was vomited on you by TV commercials, and having your identity provided for you since birth. All the animated gifs and loud glittery graphics and all 200 youtubes all playing at once and aLTeRNaTiNG CaPs is doesn't say "knowing subversion of a slickly marketed media machine", it's saying "FOR GODSAKE ACKNOWLEDGE ME" by someone who hasn't found their sociological inside voice yet.

This attitude is further exacerbated by older know-it-all squares who look at this hormonal nightmare of internal psychic war and attempt to write the whole thing off as "typical" and "childish" (even if it is)

Christ, does NO ONE remember being a teenager?
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:59 AM on January 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


Not only does it not convey real information...

The whole point is that it is conveying real information. Not so much in the syllables but in the observance of customs. You're saying, "hey, you're in my tribe, I have not declared a blood feud on you, etc."

It's a lot like the way you can talk to your dog and the tone of your voice will let her know how you're feeling. That communication is deeper, and more honest, than mere words.
posted by Mister_A at 9:59 AM on January 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Mister_A : An interesting development is the Domino's experiment.

Y'know, I don't really understand the hatred against Domino's. I very much appreciate a good pizza, and Domino's doesn't make them. But I also appreciate the ability to obtain a halfway decent pizza when in an unfamiliar area (or when I don't feel like leaving home), and Domino's does have that.

They offer a relatively homogenous product for a decent price and provide an often deal-cinching service (free delivery) along with it. They won't win an award for either taste or service, but I can count on getting something I won't toss in the garbage after one bite.

You could say the same for McDonald's or Subway or Taco Bell or any other major chain... They don't sell excellence. They sell "good enough".
posted by pla at 10:00 AM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Finally; the one person who will defend my use of a 800 x 600 gif of Jesus hovering over a waterfall in front of a rainbow and a unicorn while proclaiming "Just Showin' Some Love." Thanks Cory.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:00 AM on January 7, 2010


Interesting, Mister A. And this spinoff is sorta interesting, too - the message from Corporate, especially.
posted by Miko at 10:01 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Name a single kind of art that does not work in a similar way.

All art builds on the past and present. I am talking about making choices and why. Intentionality. Artists are probably < 1% of the population. They consciously choose that they do and why. The other 99+% do what they are told. That's the difference. Oh, post modern artists? They're in the 99% bunch too...
posted by njohnson23 at 10:01 AM on January 7, 2010



Fun game you can play... When the same people ask you the same questions every morning at work, try giving a random answer in the "normal" tone of voice. This works best if you normally follow with asking the same question in return, because they'll already have moved on to preparing their own answer before you even start speaking.


God, I'm glad I don't know you in real life. You must be a really annoying person to be around.
posted by nasreddin at 10:04 AM on January 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


Absolutely right about Domino's etc., pla. The hook is that it's fast and cheap. Making a play for quality may blow up in their face, to be honest! Or not.

Also, looks like their stock's been sliding since late '06, likely in response to lost share, so they're probably willing to go out and try something unusual.
posted by Mister_A at 10:04 AM on January 7, 2010


pla: "You will very quickly get an entirely new appreciation for the pointlessness of 99% of our spoken conversation - Not only does it not convey real information, but even when it does, the other side doesn't receive it."

The purpose of conversation isn't always to convey information, though. As Cory said at the start of the article, the purpose can be to carry out 'social grooming'. It's about building and maintaining relationships, not the conveyance of information. (The tone of voice is probably more important than the actual words, actually).

Miko: from your post I guessed you worked in the same field as me (I'm a librarian). I see from your profile I was pretty close. Sad, huh?
posted by Infinite Jest at 10:05 AM on January 7, 2010


You will very quickly get an entirely new appreciation for the pointlessness of 99% of our spoken conversation - Not only does it not convey real information, but even when it does, the other side doesn't receive it.

IRIS SEISMIC MONITOR REPORT

LOCALIZED SUBTERRANEAN DISTURBANCES NEAR GRAVESITES OF JAKOBSON, MALINOWSKI

MONITORING SITUATION
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:06 AM on January 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hey, that is really interesting Miko. I would not post there but I am sure some brave souls (who are sleeping with the CEO and thus fairly secure) will!
posted by Mister_A at 10:06 AM on January 7, 2010


Me punching people who say "It's a feature, not a bug" is a feature, not a bug.b
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:08 AM on January 7, 2010


Wow, Jason Asselin is rather aptly named.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:08 AM on January 7, 2010


njohnson- Except outsider and folk art exists in the past/present context of a different past and present than, say, Good Design or Fine Art or whatnot. MySpace profiles have to be examined in the context within which they exist: the Internet. They're based in the experiments of the nascent Internet, long before an actual technique of design emerged within it. "Slap a bunch of shit together because it looks 'cool'" is that context. You can't judge them (as art) by the same standards as print-based graphic design which evolved into web design. Unfortunately, I think our standards as to what constitutes 'art' are incredibly different.
posted by griphus at 10:12 AM on January 7, 2010


It is what it is, Astro Zombie.
posted by Mister_A at 10:13 AM on January 7, 2010


The word you're looking for isn't "ugly", it's "vernacular".
On certain levels of the American race, indeed, there seems to be a positive libido for the ugly, as on other and less Christian levels there is a libido for the beautiful. It is impossible to put down the wallpaper that defaces the average American home of the lower middle class to mere inadvertence, or to the obscene humor of the manufacturers. Such ghastly designs, it must be obvious, give a genuine delight to a certain type of mind. They meet, in some unfathomable way, its obscure and unintelligible demands.
H.L. Mencken, The Libido for the Ugly
posted by a young man in spats at 10:13 AM on January 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


Also, I think Doctorow would have had better parallels comparing MySpace-pages-as-art to kuttes than punk posters. A kutte is, for all intents and purposes, a marketing wonderland. However, they're also completely personal.
posted by griphus at 10:15 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ya it is kind of like that griphus. It's an accretion of badges more or less...

But with really bad auto-play music as an added feature/bug.
posted by Mister_A at 10:16 AM on January 7, 2010


Fun game you can play... When the same people ask you the same questions every morning at work, try giving a random answer in the "normal" tone of voice. This works best if you normally follow with asking the same question in return, because they'll already have moved on to preparing their own answer before you even start speaking.

"Hi Bob, how ya doin' this morning?"
"Oh, you know, machine tools in the bathtub, Jim, salad dressing. And yourself?"
"Oh, just great, thanks for asking!".

You will very quickly get an entirely new appreciation for the pointlessness of 99% of our spoken conversation - Not only does it not convey real information, but even when it does, the other side doesn't receive it.


Dude. Dude. You have just blown my fucking mind. Why, everything from the newspaper I read to the coffee I order to - HOLY FUCK! - to the little niceties I exchange with random strangers and acquaintances to add some nominal personal dimension to my daily social interactions has NO intrinsic meaning! It often conveys no information. It's - it's not even thought out most of the time! It's just . . . automatic.

That's . . . Dude. Dude. I had NO. FUCKING. IDEA. The house of cards that is my fragile pathetic worldview lies in a tumbledown pile at your wise feet. You are, like, the font of individual sovereignty. Dude. DUDE! I am totally gonna let my hair grow out and stop showering and piss on the sidewalk! Fuck the man and fight the power! You RULE, dude! YOU ROCK MY WORLD!!!!!1!

Seriously, I could eat like eight schwarmas right now . . .
posted by gompa at 10:19 AM on January 7, 2010 [11 favorites]


1) An example of why I have some animosity towards Twitter: Yesterday, a friend of mine tweeted that he had spent a week in Seattle over the holidays and had a great time. This guy used to keep a blog I loved, where he'd write about his travels, add some pictures, and say interesting things. Now that he's switched to Twitter, every communication he offers is trivial -- basically a Facebook update without the follow-up banter. Yawn.

This has been a pattern among a lot of formerly interesting tech bloggers as well. They've abandoned blogging in favor of Twitter, so what used to be interesting commentary is reduced to single sentence observations that will never be expanded upon. There's no longer information; it's just communicating for the sake of communicating.

Twitter COULD be a tool that could enhance other communication media, but way, way too many use it as a medium unto itself, vastly reducing the value of their communications.

Another way to say all this is, "Most of the verbiage on Twitter is banal blather."

2) I LOVE that MySpace allows users to bling out their pages -- that's a cool thing for young people to be able to do. But it is physically impossible (as of the last time I looked, 6 or so months ago) to create a MySpace page that is anything but a fucking mess. Why not start with something graphically attractive and use that as a springboard for young creativity, rather than starting with a typical '90s-era Geocities page and offer tools to fuck it up even more? So yes, MySpace is inherently, unredeemingly ugly.

3) I agree that the whole "ephemeral" thing is a stupid thing to say about social media.
posted by coolguymichael at 10:25 AM on January 7, 2010


nasreddin : God, I'm glad I don't know you in real life. You must be a really
annoying person to be around.


I don't work to make friends (though I don't exclude coworkers from the possibility of friendship), I work to make a living.

If you can speak for the purpose of actual communication, we would get along just splendidly as coworkers. Not friends - professional acquaintances. If you need information from me regarding project-X, I will have it or get it.

If, howevr, you just want to delay me on the way to my first cup of life-sustaining coffee, save it for the next superficial slacker that walks by. And in that case, no, you certainly would not like me in person.


gompa : You RULE, dude! YOU ROCK MY WORLD!!!!!1!

Wow, 24 lines of the page wasted in a rather weak sarcastic diatribe. At the very least, you could have snipped my quote down to a line or two. Or better yet, just ignored me.

And no, of course I don't do that every time I speak to someone. But enough that it cuts the waste-of-time banter to a minimum (once people do notice, they tend to just give a polite "Hey there", to which I cheerily and sincerely respond in kind).
posted by pla at 10:32 AM on January 7, 2010



"Hi Bob, how ya doin' this morning?"
"Oh, you know, machine tools in the bathtub, Jim, salad dressing. And yourself?"
"Oh, just great, thanks for asking!".


I think that's great fun — I can always do with a bit of surreal iconoclasm as zest for life while going through the routine. But methinks you might be in the target audience of Mr. Doctorow's essay. You're absolutely right, people aren't conveying information with the words they choose, that's the first level of understanding what's really going on. The next level is to figure out what's actually being conveyed and how.
posted by namespan at 10:40 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Christ, does NO ONE remember being a teenager?

Too true, and a point Doctorow seems entirely oblivious to. He's attributing adult motivations to kids, and *NEWS FLASH* kids are actually different than adults. Regarding the flashy MySpace pages, as any teacher of teenagers will tell you, a young person's perceptions through adolescence are actually different--their brain is in flux (it's a big reason for their consistent bad decisions, too), and their perception of things like bright colors and gaudy, baroque sorts of oRnAMeNtaTiOn are quite a bit different than an adult's. So their reasons for using them on their social media pages are probably different too.

(Anyone with expertise in this area more than anecdotal, please feel free to correct/clarify this assertion--this is from my experiences as a teacher plus half-remembered adolescent psych classes from 15 years ago.)
posted by LooseFilter at 10:45 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


He's attributing adult motivations to kids...

Not that you're incorrect, and not that I haven't been using 'kids' in all my arguments, but for the most part the average MySpace pages of young adults and adults have the exact same aesthetic.
posted by griphus at 10:49 AM on January 7, 2010


but for the most part the average MySpace pages of young adults and adults have the exact same aesthetic.

A fair point, but that seems to me a different issue--like, that many Americans are in fact aesthetically arrested in their late adolescence somewhere for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the tremendous solipsism our culture cultivates in us (if one is not careful) and the sorts of childish emotional perspectives that result from that; etc.
posted by LooseFilter at 11:00 AM on January 7, 2010


Speaking of domino's pizza this bit from last night's Colbert report was hilarious
2) I LOVE that MySpace allows users to bling out their pages -- that's a cool thing for young people to be able to do. But it is physically impossible (as of the last time I looked, 6 or so months ago) to create a MySpace page that is anything but a fucking mess. Why not start with something graphically attractive and use that as a springboard for young creativity, rather than starting with a typical '90s-era Geocities page and offer tools to fuck it up even more? So yes, MySpace is inherently, unredeemingly ugly.
Pretty much. Myspace is fucking ridiculous. The pages are ugly because they're CSS applied to gawd-awful table based nonsense. Back when myspace was popular they didn't even offer 'tools' you had to inject HTML and CSS into the forms where you fill out your name, and other information. There were 3rd party sites that would give you the 'codes' for the various layout changes you could do.

The fact that the pages are ridiculously ugly is really due to the poor initial design. It would have been possible (if a lot of work) to come up with a system that let people customize their pages in a way that didn't make everything ugly.
posted by delmoi at 11:02 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Loosefilter and griphus:

Also possible that even many adults are really having their first experience with graphic design on MySpace. I had a Mac through my entire youth, so I could get that experimentation out of the way while young and have a decent design sensibility and sense of what I liked and didn't like by 18 or 19. But not everyone does that. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with playing around, making a mess, and having fun with design. In fact, I wish *more people* would play around, make a mess, and have fun with media. Screw what stuffy commentators and critics have to say about the value of it. It's the "playing around" which teaches people what works and what doesn't.
posted by chasing at 11:03 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


They've abandoned blogging in favor of Twitter

I hear this a lot, but honestly, I think extended blogging was headed South anyway. At some point, if you're a good writer with something to say and you have followers, you realize that you might want to do that work for paid publication. There are bloggers who are happy to devote their free time to their blogs as a hobby, and then bloggers whose blogs have become a cottage industry, so in a way they're getting paid, and finally bloggers whose blogs are an essential component of their livelihood - for instance, they're a consultant, and the blog serves to demonstrate their thinking and strategies. For everyone else, it's harder and harder, after a few years, to justify giving the content away. Interests change.

Then, too, there was something about the blogging world that was so hidebound. The blogroll etiquette - ugh. The "blogging community" - ugh. I like the model of being able to interact with content freely, not in a medieval system of loyalty extraction.

people aren't conveying information with the words they choose, that's the first level of understanding what's really going on. The next level is to figure out what's actually being conveyed and how.

Oh, exactly. If we were just conveying information, we'd speak telegraphically, almost like ASL. But even ASL users use supplementary communication - facial expression, gestural range, body position, miming. When we communicate with one another, we're not just exchanging facts. That's a pretty reductive way to see communication. A lot of information is non-factual -- and nonverbal. Especially the kind of information that helps a team work together well.
posted by Miko at 11:06 AM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also: Cory talks about MySpace being a refutation of marketing for something personal, while ignoring the fact that these kids don't know how to code, don't make their own layouts, and don't make their own content (for the most part). They take it from sites that are advertising driven. That punk poster on the light pole never had "Get a flat belly by following this one weird old tip from a mom" in the lower right corner.
posted by codacorolla at 11:07 AM on January 7, 2010


I can say stupid things about social media without reading some stupid article, thankyouverymuch
posted by brand-gnu at 11:11 AM on January 7, 2010


Surprised I haven't seen it mentioned, but much of the "pointless" conversation noted in comments above is something called "phatic expression" -- more about verbalizing the existence of some kind of social connection that conveying explicit information. Which is why tone of voice can sometimes matter more than the actual content of the response (as in @pla's "machine tools in the bathtub" example).
posted by chasing at 11:12 AM on January 7, 2010


...more about verbalizing the existence of some kind of social connection than conveying explicit information... (oops).
posted by chasing at 11:13 AM on January 7, 2010


I need to start suffixing more words with -nik.
posted by sciurus at 9:43 AM


i prefer -chik

i just used it in a sentence to refer to the tech writers as apparatchiks
posted by infini at 11:16 AM on January 7, 2010


That punk poster on the light pole never had "Get a flat belly by following this one weird old tip from a mom" in the lower right corner.

Just to play Devil's Advocate (I think the metphor is godawful as well) the poster probably has Come See Exploding Fetus at CLUB PUNK. A commercial venue is necessary for a band -- you can't spend the whole time playing squats -- just as those ads are necessary to keep MySpace operational.
posted by griphus at 11:28 AM on January 7, 2010


chasing : something called "phatic expression" -- more about verbalizing the existence of some kind of social connection that conveying explicit information.

Wait... You mean I can respond with the same question (albeit rephrased) without even pretending to answer?

Damn... Never even thought to try getting away with that; I figured the protocol required some throwaway comment between questions to maximize "face time" or some crap like that. Cool, thanks!
posted by pla at 11:28 AM on January 7, 2010


Also: Cory talks about MySpace being a refutation of marketing for something personal...

In which he seems to miss the entire point of what is happening on places like MySpace and Facebook. Namely, the wholesale embracing of marketing by young people. They're outright chasing marketers, willfully (seemingly) revealing as much personal information as possible in return for some shiny new toy. If anything, places like MySpace and Facebook represent the capitulation of people to whatever marketers want.

I'm still amazed he could write such a long piece without once using the words "maker" or "steampunk".
posted by Thorzdad at 11:41 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Re: the succumbing to marketing argument: Emmy Award-winning artist Gary Panter (who significantly influenced both Matt Groening and Philip K. Dick) addressed the idea of making art in a capitalist culture in his somewhat tongue-in-cheek Rozz Tox Manifesto
Item 10: In a capitalistic society, such as the one in which we live, aesthetics as an endeavor flows through a body which is built of free enterprise and various illnesses. In boom times art may be supported by wildcat speculation or by excess funds in the form of grants from the state or patronship as a tax write-off. Currently, we are suffering from a lean economy. By necessity we must be self supporting. Popular media are bigger than fine art media. Aesthetic mediums must infiltrate popular mediums. We are building a business-based art movement. This is not new. Admitting it is.
posted by griphus at 11:49 AM on January 7, 2010


But enough that it cuts the waste-of-time banter to a minimum (once people do notice, they tend to just give a polite "Hey there", to which I cheerily and sincerely respond in kind)"

You'll happily engage in this:

Person:"Hey There!"
You: "Hey There!"

But this is a bridge too far:

Person: "Hi [You], how ya doin' this morning?"
You: "Doing great. And yourself?"
Person: "Oh, just great, thanks for asking!"

That's a strange hill to die on.
posted by Kwine at 11:52 AM on January 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


MetaFilter: A Strange Hill To Die On.
posted by Mister_A at 11:58 AM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


the idea of making art in a capitalist culture

This is one of the classic observations of capitalism: that it works best by infiltrating the hearts and minds of people, not just serving an existing demand but creating new demands that only seem to originate from within our own minds, and that it reaches its fullest realization when we think of ourselves first and foremost as 'consumers' and use products bought with currency to develop and advertise our identities.
posted by Miko at 12:08 PM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Kwine : You'll happily engage in this [...] But this is a bridge too far

The former doesn't pretend to ask questions that neither party really wants answered (and in a way that differs substantially from the rhetorical sense). The latter, in my opinion, expresses a dishonest interest in the other person's life.

The easiest way to prove this exchange as dishonest - Answer them honestly. By the second sentence of your response (even if giving a positive report of your weekend, rather than bitching about the cat horking up a hairball on your pillow), they'll start uncomfortably looking around for a way to escape the conversation. And if you do give a negative response, they won't offer sincere sympathy or suggestions for relief, they'll shuffle their mental CD player to the disc of trite stock-phrases that only belong on pictures of kittens clinging desperately to a rope.
posted by pla at 12:23 PM on January 7, 2010


pla -- that's a good way to damage relationships. Someone essetially says, "hey, I like you" and you reply, "this two-second conversation is annoying!" Sometimes you just have to do the silly little thing and realize that everyone thinks these are silly little things, but sometimes we do them just to be a little bit nice to one another, as absurd as it may seem.
posted by chasing at 12:29 PM on January 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


the only reason it is messy is because it has always been easier to know where something is in a mess than it is to clean it up and not know where anything is anymore.

"I know where everything is!" only works as an excuse for mess when your mother does the tidying up and has given up.

You know where it is when you drop it at your ass? You'll also know where it is when you put it somewhere tidy.
posted by bonaldi at 1:14 PM on January 7, 2010


they'll start uncomfortably looking around for a way to escape the conversation
they try to escape not because the conversation is "dishonest", but because you're being rude.

It's no more dishonest to ask "how are you" than asking "would you like to come in for a cup of coffee?" at the end of a date is. If you were on a date and a partner asked you that, would you storm out of the house in a huff about their dishonesty when they started making moves on you?

Communication is all about nuance, subtext and context. You have to be deep to the left of the tin-ear spectrum to insist that language can only be used for its literal meanings. Sweet nothings aren't nothing; neither are daily niceties.
posted by bonaldi at 1:19 PM on January 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


*sticks wang in coffee*
posted by Mister_A at 1:27 PM on January 7, 2010


I used to not be as concerned with the little niceties of social interaction as I am now.

You know what will change your mind? Have people you love die. From outside that experience you'd never guess the triviality of somebody coming up to you and saying "I'm so sorry for your loss" or "We're thinking of you" would matter. But it does. It does a lot. All that trite greeting card shit you used to dismiss suddenly clarifies and you understand why it exists.

So when people say a casual "hello" on the street to me I always, ALWAYS, take a second to look them in the eye, smile as warmly as I can, and say some thing trivial that conveys I am glad we're both alive.
posted by tkchrist at 1:30 PM on January 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


You know what will change your mind? Have people you love die. From outside that experience you'd never guess the triviality of somebody coming up to you and saying "I'm so sorry for your loss" or "We're thinking of you" would matter.

And that throw-away "I love you" you say at the end of a phone conversation with family or friends becomes monumental the first time you lose someone unexpectedly.
posted by ericb at 1:37 PM on January 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


So, I know at least one poster on here likes Facebook; anyone else like/use Twitter?

I do, all the time, and I find it much closer to useful than banal (although his article kind of equates the two...) For me it serves these purposes:

1. Hey look at this thing I found online! It's neat!--which is like a mini-Metafilter post I send/receive from my Twitter group.

2. News feed (skewed to my political obsessions) from bloggers/sites I like but don't want to click on 20x a day.

3. Trying out jokes--if I think of something funny that my Twitter group might like, I put it up and see if anybody responds.

4. Banal stuff like "I need caffeine" or stuff my kid did today* or what have you--yeah, it's there too. But a) I try to make it funny and b) because of selectivity, the people who are following me are more likely to sympathetically tweet back "Me too" than reprimand me for my banality. And if they were bored by me consistently, they could unfollow.

5. Following personal heroes. Many people do this on Twitter I guess; but being able to get the twitter feed of one of my favorite authors, where she talks about working on her upcoming book and a bit about her life, is awesome. It doesn't intrude on her; she doesn't have to follow anyone back or respond to them. But it tells me as much about her as a great interview would, and that's kind of amazing and strange. Like being privileged to follow her around while she works.

I mean, is staying in connection with people you love/like/admire "banal"? Are we only to talk to each other digitally when we have something of immense importance to say? Because if you break down any conversation of a group of friends, you find it mostly consists of gossip, inquiries after health, old jokes, bitching about their lives, and more gossip. That's how we are, I don't know why that's suddenly Not OK when we are online.

*Two days ago he asked me "Do trees poop"? I love four year olds.
posted by emjaybee at 2:07 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


the ugliness isn't some reaction to corporate slickness, it's people who don't have the skills to do better.

I think it's people who aren't interested in "designing" their pages in the first place. If someone had asked teenaged me to do a bit of interior design I wouldn't have said "well, first you'll want to cut pictures of Tori Amos out of magazines and then tape them to the wall" - but that's what was going on in my space, you know? (ha? get it?)
posted by moxiedoll at 2:15 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, I know at least one poster on here likes Facebook; anyone else like/use Twitter?

I like 'em both, though I mostly use Twitter for my crazy review-a-book-a-day project. Facebook is fun to see snapshots of my friends' kids. Also, it means my friends no longer show me snapshots of their kids when we go over to their houses for dinner, which makes life more efficient.

I also like chatting with my neighbors on the street. And I'm a cranky old hermit lady, so I'm astonished that so many people here hate social pleasantries way more than I do.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:16 PM on January 7, 2010


The easiest way to prove this exchange as dishonest - Answer them honestly. By the second sentence of your response (even if giving a positive report of your weekend, rather than bitching about the cat horking up a hairball on your pillow), they'll start uncomfortably looking around for a way to escape the conversation.

Yeah, sometimes that happens, but my experience is that you can also sometimes actually open a nice conversation Mention something pleasant you enjoyed over the weekend whether it's the big game or a good book or even just sleeping and maybe the other person who's asking is actually interested in something like that and is willing to shoot the breeze about it for a few minutes. Naturally you have to avoid being voluble at first so it's not annoying, but some people do this as casually as you'd work in your comments about machine tools. And that's actually part of the function of this kind of talk -- it isn't just "hey there." It's a window of possibility people can take or leave. Sometimes if everybody's in the right mood, you can even start with the cat horking up a hairball.


And sometimes it's a dead-end "hey there" instead because the other person is preoccupied. Nothing wrong with that.
posted by namespan at 2:16 PM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


> The former doesn't pretend to ask questions that neither party really wants answered (and in a way that differs substantially
> from the rhetorical sense). The latter, in my opinion, expresses a dishonest interest in the other person's life.

Dishonest? Good gracious!. It's conventional, which is to say conventionally content-free and understood to be so by all parties. In the seventeenth century gentlemen signed their letters to one another "your obedient servant" without any letter writer ever worrying that the recipient of the letter would think he actually was the recipient's obedient servant. "Good morning, Dr. Johnson. How are you today?" "Very well thank you, Mrs. Thrale. And you?" is exactly the same acknowledged encounter with another as "Dude!" "Yo!" Or jerking your fluffy squirrel tail when meeting a squirrel. If you are a squirrel.
posted by jfuller at 2:31 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love twitter and think it's a lot of fun. Here's a story about how much fun it is:
On New Year's Eve, a young woman in Manchester was watching THE I.T. CROWD with her grandmother, and grandma was not digging the show. So from her seat in her living room, she snapped a picture of her unimpressed grandmother, and tweeted it to Graham Lineham, the writer of the show she was watching, along with the note I don't think Nana understands some of the references in The IT Crowd. And he retweeted it to all of his followers, and we all laughed and it made the world feel very small and connected just like they promised the internet would do. The end.
posted by moxiedoll at 2:54 PM on January 7, 2010


emjaybee: "So, I know at least one poster on here likes Facebook; anyone else like/use Twitter?"

I love Twitter, and if you swap out "kid" for "cat" I use it in exactly the same ways you do.

emjaybee: "*Two days ago he asked me "Do trees poop"? I love four year olds."

Ha! Kids!


So, do they or not?
posted by brundlefly at 3:17 PM on January 7, 2010


Or jerking your fluffy squirrel tail when meeting a squirrel. If you are a squirrel.

oh fuck that's what i've been doing wrong

::goes off to tweet this::
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:31 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


the ugliness isn't some reaction to corporate slickness, it's people who don't have the skills to do better.

I think Myspace designs are somewhat analogous to kids taping shit to the inside and outside of their lockers. It's not meant to be well-designed.
posted by jayder at 3:52 PM on January 7, 2010


The purpose of conversation isn't always to convey information, though.

re: this, and other comments along those lines.

I see a lot of value in the crap people talk (the how are yous, the how's the weather, etc.) but this is something I've come to later in life as a result of set of specific circumstances.

I've been moderately deaf most of my life, profoundly so by my early 30s until i got an implant. The big BIG shock I got once it was switched on was the realisation of the sheer volume of crap that people talk. Up until that point, every one of my conversations was intentional -- every conversation had a purpose and a desired outcome, so to hear all this crap was, at least initially, terribly disappointing.

But I think the crap acts as a social lubricant that keeps people connected with each other and facebook's just another way of communicating it.
posted by prettypretty at 4:14 PM on January 7, 2010


So, ah, yeah, I now understand the Doctorow hate just that little bit better. Seems to me to be coming from people who lack a certain social lightness of touch. If you're too big to exchange pleasantries with the Norms, social media is not for you. Talking about it isn't for you. Thinking about it is a waste of your time. Sharing your idiosyncratic notions about how the world works will only end in tears.

One time my lady asked Doctorow a question by email. He very helpfully found the time to answer in expansive detail. That's an expert in social media, right there.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 5:50 PM on January 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


I came back to this thread because I was told there were fluffy squirrel tails.
posted by sciurus at 7:02 PM on January 7, 2010


On a related topic: I have encountered more than one person describing themselves as "Facebook refusers" (and one who, in English, apparently without irony, described himself as a "Facebook refusenik.")

I'm a Facebook refusenik. I tried to join the Israel network, but I was already in the USSR network and Facebook wouldn't let me be in two regional networks at once.
posted by decagon at 8:50 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Namely, the wholesale embracing of marketing by young people. They're outright chasing marketers, willfully (seemingly) revealing as much personal information as possible in return for some shiny new toy. If anything, places like MySpace and Facebook represent the capitulation of people to whatever marketers want.

Case in point: Facebook Just Got Its Own VitaminWater Flavor: “Connect”. Seriously. Infomercial.

Aargh!
posted by ericb at 2:14 PM on January 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


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