Commentary Comment Criticism
A common refrain is “Don’t read the comments on news sites.” But not for the reasons you’d expect – but because so many obvious non-readers leave comments there.
Commentary Comment Criticism
A common refrain is “Don’t read the comments on news sites.” But not for the reasons you’d expect – but because so many obvious non-readers leave comments there.
A couple of years ago, I made a picture for another website. Since it was my picture, I posted it on my own social media. A few people got irritated about it. They didn’t directly share their aggression, though. They snarked and bit at the fringes of their frustration. It’s what people do instead of finding a way to honestly share their uncomfortable opinions.
Because so much time has passed, I’ve learned that the irritation resulted from their displeasure with the word “privilege.” It’s one of those words which people have sometimes weaponized to imply that well-to-do people have become blind to the real world or minority considerations. On the other website, the one which didn’t attribute the photo to a person, the commentary turned dark and sour very quickly. The word has only become more amplified and vilified since then. Memes refuting the absurdity of the implied observation of privilege are immensely popular.
Coincidentally enough, a couple of social media friends recently shared anecdotes about their daily lives. They neatly tied conclusions to their stories. The problem is that they were oblivious to the privilege embedded in every aspect of their stories. I only noticed it because their stories generalized stereotypes about the circumstances of the other players involved in their anecdotes, the bit players serving as the backdrop for their conclusions. Having money, time, and means to travel to a place and have someone else prepare their food, serve them, and attend their needs is a part of the privilege of having resources. I, of course, didn’t mention my observations to them. That sort of honesty draws a bit of anger and retaliation. Most people enjoy the satisfaction of thinking that their success is due almost entirely to merit.
Make no mistake, many people have worked hard and made the right choices. I know several people who deserve respect for the way they’ve played their cards.
As we all know, however, it is possible to do everything right and still lose, though.
For some of us, we know that a single moment, one unearned, can ruin our lives, plans, finances, or health. A body on the floor. A negligent motorist at an intersection. An undiagnosed valve in someone’s heart. Cancer cells in one’s lungs, even after never smoking and living a clean life. A plane falling from the sky on a Saturday morning in September. A call to defend one’s country halfway around the world.
Some feel that their faith or belief in God has favored them. Whether this is true or not, I know several devout people whose lives are infused with compassion and lovingkindness who’ve experienced some of life’s most grievous challenges. Whether it makes people uneasy or not, faith does not equate to favorable circumstance upon us, nor is a lack of it a reason for failure. Grief and good are sprinkled in equal measure upon everyone.
It is possible to feel satisfied with one’s full life. Pride, honor, and fulfillment are natural consequences of threading the complex needle of circumstance in life.
Good people don’t weaponize the word “privilege.”
Good people also don’t fight the necessity of recognizing their luck against the prism of reality.
For some, their mantra is “If you don’t have to think about it, it’s privilege.” For others, “If it’s not a problem to you personally, it’s not a problem.” Also, “The fact that privilege helps you doesn’t mean you didn’t have to work hard, but it does mean that others have to work harder to overcome societal disadvantage.”
These quips are popular because they antagonize the simple fact of privilege and turn it into an accusation as if those with privilege all abuse their opportunities selfishly. These simplistic bumper sticker quips exist precisely because some people snarl and bark when asked to recognize their head start in life.
Fair or not, I feel rich. And privileged. It’s foolish for me to look around and forget how lucky I am. Most of my luck is a result of geography, not effort. I’ve been lucky enough to have decent health and at least access to a massive medical infrastructure to rescue me if not. My youth was violent and poor. I had the privilege of miraculously avoiding making one too many mistakes that would’ve derailed me further. I’m proud of my aversion to the politics and prejudices of those around me when I was young.
Simply put, the majority of my life’s privilege results from where I was born on this planet. The rest falls to demographics, education, and opportunity. I can’t take credit for those things.
I don’t have to curse myself for being lucky, either. Nor should any of us feel guilty. But we should all feel thankful.
Absent some of these factors, no amount of pluck and effort would have propelled me above the station I would have otherwise been assigned.
Privilege. The privilege of being.
If you zoom out above the Earth, you’ll find that your life is one of wealth and privilege. Comparison proves that you are lucky to have been born where you are, with the body and mind you have, accompanied by the geography and economics of opportunity.
If you’re accused of ignoring your privilege, lean into and be thankful for your life.
Starting with the most important point: Dexter will return for another season. I’m as certain of it as Michael C. Hall’s agent was when he recommended to his client that he make “Safe” for Netflix.
Dexter will haunt us again if no other reason than it’s going to be profitable for everyone involved.
Some of us have been fooled by fake promotional posters for the mythical Season 9 of Dexter. It’s easy to fool those who already long for such a scenario to be a reality. As for the studios involved, I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t be profitable for them to have a go at Dexter+ in the near future. I’m betting that it will be sooner rather than later. (Dexter+ is the name I’m recommending that the studios adopt.)
For the neanderthals walking among us, Dexter was a Showtime series featuring a likable vigilante serial killer in Miami.
In a testament to forgetfulness, I watched the entire run of Dexter again. First, I thought there were fewer seasons. Second, it’s undeniable that some seasons had some strange plot twists and contrived storylines. Good tv is forgiven the infrequent gaffe. Rewatching the show provided me with several instances in which I noted that the writers had dropped hints of possible futures for Dexter. None of them seemed relevant the first time I watched. Now that I’ve revisited Dexter, the infinite storylines available to great writers seems endless.
Now that I’m finished rewatching, my mind seems focused on the monumental things I’d forgotten – or had completely wrong. Many fans were incensed at the way the show ended. Lt. Batista never knew Dexter’s secret. Quinn survived, no matter how badly I rooted for him to get shot from a balcony. Debra, of course, is fish food.
I like to imagine Lt. Batista still at his desk, being the kind-hearted stereotype he always was. Debra, being eaten by the sharks in the bay as the currents move her back and forth. Dexter, sitting in his place in the Northwest, fantasizing about his next appearance in a Gillette commercial.
Of this I’m certain: there will be another season of Dexter. Showtime insisted that Dexter would survive the series finale, even as writers argued about whether it was realistic. His son Harrison would now be about to reveal whether he inherited Dexter’s affinity for mayhem. The story can pick up at any point in time, past or present and in any geographical location they choose. The real world still spins and no one substantive apparently suspected that Dexter was indeed a serial killer. His cover story could be amnesia or a mental break which rendered him incapable of returning to the life he was already leaving before Debra’s death. Lumen still lurks in the midwest. Hannah walks the earth, probably still free.
As with all good stories, the biggest obstacle is one of creativity on the part of those tasked with creating a new timeline for Dexter.
Showtime, it’s your turn.
If you think you can shirk your duty to bring us another season of Dexter, you’re as foolish as Dexter was, each time he attempted to live a normal life.
The only trailer for the new season we need is this: Doakes at the boatyard, telling Dexter, “Suprise, m*********a!” No explanation, no cutaway, followed by a fade to black as the word “Dexter” enters and fades from view.
People want creativity and individual content.
That’s what they say, anyway.
What we find is a mountain of shared content, created by other people, and all too often weaponized to evoke a response.
In recognition of that, here’s an eerie picture I made.
It’s either interesting, stupid, or somewhere between, innocuous or ominous, derivative, or creative.
But it’s mine.
Several days ago I wrote about vagueposting.
This isn’t a polished post. It’s just what is running through my mind. Do not take the time to read it if you might get triggered by my stupidity or errant abuse of words and ideas. This post is going to make a few people uncomfortable. Because I suffered the effects of it directly when I was younger, I feel competent to blather about it.
A couple of days later after my vaguepost commentary, a relevant enigma emerged, one involving a tertiary acquaintance and an unexpected death. Instead of just stating what happened, people involved circumspectly concealed the details, which of course is their right. That’s a tough sell in the era of social media. They tried, though. They stepped on toes, left ominous overtones by what was omitted, and generally made many who initially heard of the untimely passing say the worst about ‘how.’ I cringed to read what was missing by implication. As a bona fide lout and perennial foot-in-mouth sufferer, I learned more by what was NOT said.
That’s what people always do. If you think they don’t, you’re fooling yourself. Humans fill in the gaps with whatever information they have and preconceptions they possess. You have the absolute right to live your life in the manner you see fit and to not share things with those you choose not to. You also have the right to remain silent, but as Ron White paraphrased, “That ain’t happening.” Part of the damnable compact with social media is that people are going to ask “What happened?” Some will be tactful and some will not.
I had another one of ‘those’ conversations with my wife: if I get a DWI, shot and killed while impersonating a bank robber, or die in a horrible misunderstanding involving a case of stolen pepperoni, I want her to tell everyone. Publicly. On Facebook. Text blast, too – and even email, if the five people who still use it for personal communication are interested. She can just tell a couple of friends who are worse than a 1950s telephone switchboard operator. She can simply add the don’t-tell-anyone clause, thereby guaranteeing immediate repeat and publication on the hidden channels we all use when we find out anything interesting or salacious. I have one family who is so gossipy that people allege she knew about a family member’s death before the family member even kicked the bucket.
Everyone is going to find out, anyway. Worse, they’ll write, DM, private message, text, call, Skype, or ask 3,587 people what happened until they find out. We all have that one acquaintance who will resort to kidnapping and extortion to find out what we know. It’s easier to spill the beans before the water-boarding commences. Death is a resounding knock on everyone’s door. It is one of the two unifying life experiences we are all guaranteed to share. It is hard-wired into our genetic makeup to ask and inquire.
I’m already going to be hurt, dead, or otherwise encumbered by whatever it is that people want to know about. That people know immediately in no way worsens the situation. In many circumstances, it will improve the sanity of those around me. If whatever happens to me isn’t my fault, there shouldn’t be any embarrassment about it. If whatever happens to me is my fault, it still happened – and everyone is going to find out about it. I just hope I’m wearing clean underwear.
If no one is sure why someone passed, then simply say that. I experienced this same horrific uncertainty myself years ago. Even after getting some answers, all my questions weren’t addressed. It’s okay to say, “We don’t know” if the reasons and details aren’t clear. You can of course also say, “It’s none of your business,” which is the equivalent of throwing gasoline on a fire and ensuring that the person will not rest under the ‘why’ of it is uncovered.
Watching this particular incident unfold once again proves to me a LOT of people were seeking answers behind the scenes. One group was working to find out what happened. The other, of course, was working to keep the details secret, which means that about 1/2 of those whispering were finding out through informal sources. In short, everyone is going to know.
I knew that if I used my particular skills and punched away at it, that I would find someone who knew and had posted on social media. I did so, because I was asked to. Using the most arcane and plodding system you can imagine, I found a post from two days after the incident involving the acquaintance. The route I used to find it resembled a map hand-drawn by a cocaine addict after nine days without sleep. The person posting knew the family by acquaintance. She had been given a minimal explanation, probably in hopes of dissuading further questions. It didn’t, of course. She passed along what she knew. The family of the deceased didn’t overlap much with the person sharing the information so the Control Headquarters For Family Information couldn’t stifle the sharing.
Before you launch into a weird ‘privacy’ argument, it’s important that you remember that the word you’re using doesn’t mean what you think it does. The same holds true for etiquette, manners, or decorum. In the same way that the first question following death is, “What did he or she die from?” attempting to conceal details is only going to make it look like you’ve got something to hide or that an element of shame is involved. Again, yes, of course, it is your right to say nothing. Saying nothing, though, brings consequences too.
It’s true that it is considered bad manners to ask about someone’s death if you are not directly connected. Our brains, though, continue to seek an answer even when etiquette tells us to shut up.
Equally important for you to understand is that I earned this viewpoint in the most horrific manner possible. It’s one of the reasons I’m so hardcore about it. It’s not that people have a right to know your business. I’m not making that argument. People will know your business, though, even if you miss the whispers and back channel communications. I am, however, shouting at you that trying to keep anything quiet is the equivalent of having a picnic and bbq in the trunk of your car during rush hour.
I didn’t come by my opinion lightly.
Got a DWI? Yes, everyone’s talking about it.
Sick? People will feel immense sympathy and many will reach out to help. But they still want to know.
Talk? Yes, of course. Every single time. About everything and anything.
When our social groups were smaller, concealment of the particulars was impossible. In our larger world, one fueled by communication, people still feel that need to know.
You don’t have to like it or embrace it.
Ignore it, though? At your peril.
If I die unexpectedly and the people around me are being coy about it, you can be sure that I died horrifically, as if I suddenly started liking Donald Trump or became a fan of milk as a beverage, watching sports, or testing high voltage wires with my tongue.
You are welcome to make up any story you want to.
Because you’re going to anyway.
And you should – if the people left behind when I sprint off into the unknown won’t tell you what stupid thing I did to hasten my demise.
The Secrecy Ricochet Certainty
Divulging private information immediately invariably lessens the quantity and intensity of the inquiries which otherwise result in an avalanche.
If you vaguepost on social media, it’s important that you understand that doing so gives me the right to creatively fill-in-the-blank to anyone, anywhere, about what you’re actually talking about. I’ll be the Rudy Giuliani for your personal news.
Most of us squint our eyes when we see a vaguepost. “What in the heck is he or she talking about?” Of course, our guesses immediately turn darkly comedic, ranging from ‘arrested in Thailand‘ to ‘hid the body in the swamp in Monroe County.’ It’s your fault. Despite all the food and vacation photos, we often assume that you’re just one mojito away from becoming a prison pen pal.
I’ll preface my news by saying, “I heard,” as in “I heard from the voices in my head.” You should never willingly provide an opportunity for someone like me to provide an explanation that you won’t share yourself. I will gladly be the Gossip Girl. With Tourettes.
Social media works best when you use it to communicate to eliminate doubt. On the other hand, it works really well when your intent is to say something highly crazy, such as “Sports are really important,” or “Here’s my opinion on politics, religion, and the best type of beer to drink.”
If you choose to do otherwise, don’t be surprised when everyone who knows you say they heard that you burned down your house while trying a new meth recipe.
If you’re not going to use social media to concisely inform us about important and actual goings-on in your life, I request that you vaguepost about every other topic in life, too. Let’s keep it consistent, unlike the mashed potatoes you make for Thanksgiving.
I’ll your ignore this admonition, I’ll use a random list of buzzwords to fill in the blanks you’ve left: pregnant (regardless of sex), arrested, hoof-and-mouth disease, and LSD-induced, all to keep your friends, family, and school classmates from 30 years ago entertained. And that guy Steve, the one who lurks and accidentally hits like on your 2008 beach photos.
While it is your account and you can post literally any nonsense that you want to, as I obviously do myself, you’re only making your situation worse.
You’re welcome. X
P.S. I’m sorry I told your mom that you hit the preacher over the head with a guitar.
The Grumble, Grouse & Grievance Guideline
“Why don’t you offer some solutions instead of complaining?”
The pollyannas and positivity-infected among us are now evidently self-appointed gatekeepers for things which bother us. All complaints and problems are first-world from sufficient distance and a timeline lengthy enough.
It’s now another person’s job to curate their own words and behavior to accommodate you? Walk away or scroll. It’s the solution to the problem that you should’ve already have known.
In s-o-m-e situations, this type of question is passive-aggressive, as much as it pains some people to hear it. It’s also sometimes a backhanded silencing tool.
Some of the people who say it without malice are going to read this and get REALLY annoyed. But that’s just proof that they too will complain about seeing this, instead of following their own advice by offering solutions instead of complaining.
It’s true, most of us reach a point at which we simply tire of hearing unimaginative and repetitive whining. But if you’re tired of complaints, isn’t adding another one worsening the situation, thereby violating the rule of “Leave things better than you found them”?
A better use of your time is to focus your energy elsewhere and allow the complaining to flow past. Be Zen. Be silent. Be absent.
Otherwise, you’re just complaining. Pot, meet kettle.
25% of human conversation centers on things which we find to be unsatisfying.
P.S. If someone says this to you at work, it’s because it is almost certainly their job to fix things – and they are being well paid to both listen and address it.
Many of these words could be wrong. I wrote them after seeing a couple of friends make impassioned and yet illogical claims regarding social media. I’m not writing these words to sway opinion. I’m writing them to exorcize them out of my head. I should take more time to get the ideas ‘just right.’ But I’m not going to. In part, this is because it’s exactly the way social media works best when done correctly. Perfection and the pursuit of it is one aspect of social media that we all find a bit suspicious. It’s okay to make errors. We do it all day every day whether we have social media to amplify it.
If you’re asking if social media is a good thing or bad thing, the answer is “Yes.” Regardless of merit, we tend to self-destruct using every other thing in our lives. We carry the dichotomy inside us. Because social media is primarily on newer devices, it seems as if the concerns inherent in it are new. They’re not. They’re simply disguised under shiny new packages under the same old calloused fingers and jaundiced minds.
It’s weird to me that people talk about deleting their social media. Per Nike, “Just Do It.” Talking about it is a symptom that you’re exactly the person who is using the platform in a way that isn’t healthy. If you’re not sure, delete it for a bit. It’ll be there when you want it to be, no matter how long your absence. Much in the same way that it’s impossible to go to the gym without talking about it, many people can’t seem to simply exercise a choice without confusing their reasons for doing so. If you find yourself looking up from your interactions and finding unhappiness, do something to change it. Just as some have an aversion to alcohol, some people might not be hard-wired to engage the complexity of unlimited interaction.
Being evangelical about your decision sounds a little weird to the rest of us, much in the same way as someone shouting about the dangers of drinking. It’s possible to drink responsibly and enjoy life a little more. The same is true of social media. Your truth might be that you can’t even sip from the bottle without your life spiraling. It’s not our truth and certainly not universal.
I’m surprised that everyone doesn’t use social media to connect to people they might not ever meet, confederates in ideas or causes you probably won’t find in your real life. Many people, like me, find it to be a gateway to people that we’d love to surround us if such a thing were within our grasp.
I’ve yet to personally know anyone who has deleted Facebook who hasn’t used another platform to quench their voyeurism. I know people who c-l-a-i-m it’s not true but a little forensic sleuthing proves otherwise. For those who know me well, you also know that this isn’t an exaggeration. I’ve done my homework. Of all those who claim they’ve shut it all down, none have really done so. They’ve simply substituted one brand for another. It’s not the app or platform specifically that is your problem. In a roundabout way, it’s your addiction to your device and the method you choose to interact with what you see and hear when using it.
You might look at social media and see danger. It’s true, it can be. So can answering the phone, talking to strangers, or walking unknown streets after dark. I see the breadth of possibility, of creation, of ideas. It’s a portable way to interact with every single person on the planet, if you choose to do so.
So many of our digital systems have social media embedded inside them, whether it is a forum, comment section, or another method of interaction. The idea of social media as a separate entity is misguided. It cannot be measured separately from the rest of our human interactions, even if you remove all the devices.
Social media is one of our biggest creations precisely because of its ubiquity and reach. It both delights and angers us – just like every human interaction out in the real world. Some of us can’t take a drink without downing the entire bottle. Some can’t make a wager without losing their houses. Other people can’t see information they disagree with without being personally accused. All of our methods of communication contain a method of destruction if we are not in control of ourselves.
Looking back into history, it’s safe to say that all major paradigm shifts in society caused the same learning curve for all of us. These include mass-produced newspapers, radio, TV, and movies. Technology is the same challenge packaged in a different container. Because I grew up in a very rural county, I lived in houses without telephones and in houses with party lines. Among my ancestors were many who preached that the telephone was going to destroy civilization and that it would allow people to stop visiting their family and friends. They were certain that front porches and living room parlors would be empty. Instead, the telephone opened up an entirely new way to stay closer than ever to those who matter. Some of those same ancestors also remembered the same fears with cars. They’d believed that no would slow down long enough to appreciate life if they ride in a car.
Some of incorrectly think it’s a new challenge. It’s not. We are the challenge, precisely because we as humans are using the biggest communication system in the world in a way that doesn’t empower us.
“I don’t watch TV,” people used to say.
“I don’t use social media,” people now say.
Yes, you do. And even if you don’t, you’re on it.
Welcome to the world you can’t reject.
Use it as you see fit or choose not to use it. As for whether social media is a good or bad thing, the answer is definitely “yes.”
Just like us. Just like our choices.
The Whippersnapper Observation
As we age, the probability of forgetting how stupidly we behaved as young people increases in direct proportion to how angrily we judge the same mistakes made by the following generation.