tl;dr - Old man rails against social media OR I don't care what your sandwich looks like.
Ever heard of Douglas Adams?
If not, then listen up.
Adams was the author (and radio host) of the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - The Restaurant at the End of the Universe - Life, the Universe and Everything - So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish). He was a wonderful writer whose level of sarcasm and wit I could only hope to reach after maybe a 100 lifetimes (and if I reach it in this one by magic, well, screw you guys, I'm buying an island to which none of you are invited, 'ceptin' the women).
Most writers focus on their main characters, but Adams could introduce characters in his stories that lasted only seconds yet had a major impact on the story (whale? potted plant? Bowerick Wowbagger?).
One such race he invented were called the Belcebrons, who lived on Kakrafoon Kappa. They appeared in Restaurant At the End of the Universe:
The Belcebron people used to cause great resentment and insecurity amongst neighboring races by being one of the most enlightened, accomplished, and above all quiet civilizations in the Galaxy.
As a punishment for this behaviour, which was held to be offensively self righteous and provocative, a Galactic Tribunal inflicted on them that most cruel of all social diseases, telepathy. Consequently, in order to prevent themselves broadcasting every slightest thought that crossed their minds to anyone within a five mile radius, they now have to talk very loudly and continuously about the weather, their little aches and pains, the match this afternoon and what a noisy place Kakrafoon had suddenly become.
Adams wrote his trilogy between 1979-1982. Perhaps he had travelled forward to now, and in seeing the Internet, and more specifically, twitter, understood that the human race would be so cursed one day, because that's what it seems like. Here's my sandwich. Here's my lunch. Here's my side dish. Thanks a bunch.
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I have many goat-loving friends. My long-haired goat-loving friends on Facebook tend to read long-haired goat-loving web sites, then post anecdotes from those sites about the wonders of long-haired goats.* My short-haired goat-loving friends do the same. The long-haired goat lovers hate the short-haired goat lovers and vice versa, but nowadays rarely do their paths cross because they cannot be bothered with each other's reasoning.
We have emojis. These require emoji translation, which has the obvious problem of getting the translation wrong which therefore leads to misunderstanding. (Show me a 20-something who knows everything about emojis and I'll show you a political science major who went into marketing.)
Instagram, Snapchat, Vines.... I don't use these, but I see them as much the same, bluntly, a giant waste of time. (I've been told it's generational, that I don't have friends who use it, so why would I? I suspect the people who tell me this are political science majors.)
My real problem with social media as of late; there seem to be a lot of people who roam around looking for any possible offense, then exploderate (thanks GW) that offense into manufactured outrage, which then of course gets recycled into manufactured outrage against the manufacturing of the original outrage. All of this only to find later on that it was all a giant misunderstanding (like every episode of Three's Company ever - good lord I am old).
The acidic nature of social media has poured onto other web sites. Reddit has its own share of problems (and could be considered its own universe were some philosophy majors to get together over a joint). Our Vox Media sister site, TheVerge, shut down comments on their site a couple weeks ago, and for good reason. I used to read the site, and commented sometimes, but then realized that I didn't pass the test of bitterness it required to post there anymore. Now that comments are off, I venture over there again.
During the past few years, I've spent Nebraska football season filling twitter (as if that were possible) with massive amounts of f-bombs, hating on Iowa fans, gin-filled rants and such and I'm not sure if I'm going to do that this season.
It's too easy to become THAT GUY.**
THAT GUY is the guy upon whom everyone pounces. They're the focus of the outrage, whether that outrage is momentary (twitter, where everyone forgets what happened yesterday because by God there is a new outrage today) or long term (Hitler or Barbra Streisand).
Whether deserved or not, THAT GUY's life is forever changed.
I don't want that to be me, well, at least not if there's not a shit ton of money in it. (If there was, see island reference above.)
You might think that with all the information we have available that we'd be smarter than ever, but we're not. We are living in the most beautiful, wonderful time in the history of the human race, and here we are getting dumber all the time and being angry about it at the same time. Shortened attention spans (140 characters to explain complex topics... oh, wait, there's emojis), the distraction from what we're really supposed to be doing at the time (I see you fuckers looking at your phone when I'm driving), and then there's confirmation bias, which guarantees you're dumber with more information than less (Nate Silver's book Signal & Noise - you still read, don't you?).
In the end all the goats will be damned as the long-haired goat lovers and the short-haired goat lovers will continue to hate each other while roaming the perimeters of their psyche looking for any possible offense.
Welcome to Monday, you sunsabitches.
*long-haired goats vs short-haired goats, liberals vs conservatives, believers vs atheists, mathematicians vs physicists, chemists vs physicists. It's madness.
**Or THAT GIRL. I grew up where GUY meant everyone; men, women, whomever, as in "Hey you guys, look at this!" Today's world includes pronoun nazis who would kill you over getting a pronoun incorrect when really this was just one more misunderstanding because of regional language differences.
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