Forthcoming: Social Media is Sincerely Awesome (Sorry, Aldous Huxley)

Good afternoon, friends.

Easy there, Chris.

I’m hoping to record and post two new video blogs later today or tomorrow.  One is going to be about social media in the hands of people watching the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt from afar. I’ve talked about it already here, but I what I think I’ll end up saying in the new post was inspired by a question from my good friend and frequent reader/commenter here at TDC, Chad Hogg. Chad is a supremely super-intelligent and thoughtful man.  You should read his blog.  By the way, Chad, I’m listening to a track from Tragic Kingdom as I type this.  I thought you should know.

In related links below, Andrew Sullivan makes fun of Malcolm Gladwell for the later’s agnosticism on the impact social media has had on the Tunisian and Egyptian movements.  Confession:  I love Andrew Sullivan and am a frequent reader of his Daily Dish, but I haven’t read the linked piece yet.

The history of social media contained in an outmoded archival paradigm. Wait, what? Yes.

That said, you probably know that I’ve been very interested in this whole topic and have been following it across various forms of media. Something immediately apparent to me is my almost shocking desire to refer to news sites as “Old Media” in this discussion.  I really was just about to say that I’ve been following the story across New and Old Media online, but New Media is, by definition, online.  We’re realizing more and more, though, that online media is not necessarily New Media.  In many cases, New Media has become old media, and the unquestionably new New Media is social.  Twitter and Facebook are to what is to newspapers.  I think that’s becoming clear.   But the new New Media isn’t just new.  It is, in very real senses, a media outside of time.  It almost doesn’t make sense to call it New or to even call it real time.  It is the media of witness, and that’s what I’m going to talk about.

If you’re following at home, I’m now listening to the Ronettes.

Last night, I came across this very well-done cartoon that outlines a popular essay about which plausible dystopian anxiety (George Orwell’s or Aldous Huxley’s) is more likely in our present and emerging future.  It’s long, so let me say up front that I think both propositions need to be guarded against (that might be the most obvious thing I’ve said, ever), but that I obviously can’t go all the way with the “Huxley is right” argument when it comes to things like social media.  (And neither should you.  Pesky normative statement alert.)

Needless to say, I believe in curating beauty and that loving things worth loving (and sharing that love) will actually make us better. Loving crap is something different.  Loving pop culture?  Like anything, that’s a mixed bag.  I love Pet Sounds because its beautiful.  I love Elvis because he’s singular.  I love “Sweet Child O’Mine” because it’s awesome and life-affirming.  I think the balance lies precisely there…do the things we love encourage us to live bigger, more fulfilling, more creative lives, or do they diminish the expectations we have for ourselves by their sheer size and repetition?  Friends, isn’t that finally up to us?

The other video will about about The New Sincerity. That is to say,  I think I’m going to encourage everyone to keep on being awesome.

14 thoughts on “Forthcoming: Social Media is Sincerely Awesome (Sorry, Aldous Huxley)

  1. Great cartoon! Thanks for sharing.
    “I believe in curating beauty and that loving things worth loving” …..that is all in the eye of the beholder, and sometimes the beholder is blind.

  2. Listening to Pet Sounds = Curating Beauty!
    Love it!

    Also, I just found out that the Beach Boys will be performing at Universal Orlando in April. Of course, we know it’s not really the Beach Boys without the Wilson brothers in it, but I still might go for some nostalgia.

    I feel like I was born to late to witness true rock music, live, in it’s heyday.

    I wish I could have witnessed Pink Floyd, Jimmy Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Genesis (Peter Gabriel era), Beach Boys (with the Wilson Brothers), Elvis, and yes, even Guns N Roses. We were barely old enough to get into a GNR concert during their heyday…

    But, I’ll listen to Pet Sounds and The Final Cut (Floyd’s Greatest, if I can say so aloud) and wish away…

    1. Did I ever tell you about the time I went to a “new” GnR concert? It was in 2002. Axl didn’t show. There was a riot. We had to run away. So, in a way, it was the most authentic GnR show possible.

      That is to say, I know what you mean. Do yourself a favor and catch Springsteen if ever you can. Even if you’re not a fan. You will be when it’s over.

  3. Curating beauty is the way forward. But forward it has to be – even frogs leap off lilly pads. Sitting still staring into space thinking “That’s great” is falling under the Huxley spell. If you link this to your Jim Jarmusch post there is enough there to move us on in search of more creativity and beauty. So, Chris, nice one. ………..Re: social media and networking……….where do you stand on the Govt wanting access to Twitter files the same day as Hilary Clinton champions their positive use in revolution? I guess the Govt can’t have it both ways? Orwell and Huxley ?

    1. Great point…we can be passive consumers of cool or beautiful things. We have to be active curators and sharers and, dare I say, instigators. I haven’t been able to get “Tangled Up In Blue” out of my head for days…there’s revolution in the air all over the world, and we, the relatively free, are all witnesses.

      I like your idea of combining this with what Jarmusch said. Curation and creation (and creative re-interpretation) all go together, and they’re all part of a move toward sustainable, life-giving practices and communities. Great comment, Single Malt. Thank you!

  4. Thanks for the profuse and undeserved praise. I think the point that is being made comparing “Nineteen Eighty-Four” to “Brave New World” is interesting, but in my recollection Huxley saw plenty of authoritarianism in our future as well. The rigid, chemically induced caste system and powerful peer pressure and fear of the Other was just as devastating to the brave new world as copious soma and entertainment.

    Can the distractions we love destroy our ability to separate trivial, illusory meaning from things that really matter? Absolutely. See ledes like “A South Korean couple who were addicted to the Internet let their three-month-old baby starve to death while raising a virtual daughter online, police said.” But that is not the source of my skepticism that social media use by the rich and comfortable will change the world.

    1. Well said. I think in the case of Huxley, your last graph nails it. If I were to distill the Huxley vision to rudiments, I’d say distractions are sought after so precisely so that authoritarians can rise to power. Not that the pleasure seekers are consciously saying “we want to be lorded over,” but they are, indeed, saying, “we’d rather not think about it.” At a certain point, that’s semantics. I haven’t read Huxley in years. Jay Trucker would be a great contributor to this conversation.

      I’d also agree with you that social media use by the rich and comfortable will not change the world. If I were to say that what we do here in the comparatively rich, comfortable West via social media will be the engine that drives what’s going to keep happening in terms of grass-level regime change in other parts of the world, I’d be making a supremely paternalistic, imperialistic (and racist) statement. However, what the social media leaking out from these countries does is make us witnesses. And we can make more witnesses. And if the whole world is witness, then certain things will happen and other things cannot. More to come on that in the vlog. Hopefully I can do it tomorrow. Thanks for these comments!

      1. Huxley got a lot of things right, but this comparison ignores a lot of the things that Orwell nailed. Certainly the post 9/11 political atmosphere played directly into the Big Brother fear principle. When I first read 1984, I never imagined that America would be the country intentionally conflating and interchanging nations in order to invade one we had a longstanding problem with. But we did. I suppose this happened because despite the supposed protections that democracy affords (which Orwell believed in firmly) we were mostly lulled to sleep by shiny objects and other distractions.

        Oh, and dude, you know I was at the MSG show in 02 the night before the Philly riot, right? Good times.

        1. Thanks for jumping in, Jay. I knew you’d have a compelling take on this, and I’m glad you pointed out what the cartoon misses. I love being friends with someone who can deconstruct the dystopian visions of Huxley, Orwell AND Sheryl Crow.

          I had forgotten that you were at the MSG show. Jealous. The best thing about the Philly “show” was, well, actually, there many. Favorites included:
          – Mix Master Mike mixing for 2+ hours to stall for Axl. When he started throwing in samples from Physical Graffiti, I knew Axl wasn’t coming.
          – Prophetic (as opposed to ironic) t-shirts for sale before the debacle reading: I survived GNR at the Spectrum! Still kicking myself for not buying that on the way in. On the way out, we were running.
          – Dude carrying arena seat “I paid for this!” to his car.
          – Finding out Axl was in his hotel in New York watching the Knicks.
          – Getting a framed collage of the tickets and the newspaper story about the riot as a gift.

  5. Great post. I couldn’t agree more. The cartoon was also interesting (I’m an avid reader) to observe those two authors juxtaposed next to each other.

    The time is now for us to be in control of our creative lives. And, finding that happy medium between loving crap and loving things worthwhile makes it all worthwhile.

Join the discussion!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.