Likes or GTFO

I don’t know how to make appropriate use of social media.

It is obviously useful for sharing quick updates about yourself to people with whom you do not have regular contact. As someone who loathes speaking on the phone, I do appreciate this feature. I have seen people use it to make idle conversation, seek advice and rally support in times of need. There is something comforting about the idea that you can scan through the people you know and see who is doing well and who might need help of some kind. Perhaps that is just the system admin in me though – I recognize that this type of interaction does not really foster deeper relationships.

It is also a marketing tool that eavesdrops on your every conversation in an effort to neatly categorize you into groups which are likely to buy certain products – effectively reducing you to a product as well. I appreciate this feature less.

Potentially, it could function as an open forum. A virtual Agora – a great churning pool of perspectives into which ideas are cast, to be tested against the logic and insights of others.

In practical application, it largely functions as a place to have every opinion validated. There appears to be some sort of injunction against challenging an idea once it has been presented, lest you be regarded as a bully. Why?

Are we really so insecure that we can’t hear dissenting voices without interpreting it as an attack? Are we such children that any correction must be viewed as abuse or censorship? It is distressing that even a question about the origin of someone’s opinion or the suggestion of alternative explanations must be met with the petulant whine of “You’re just trying to look smarter than me”, or dismissively waved away with the assertion “You just like to argue.”

In fairness, it is difficult to hear something that contradicts a foundational belief. Especially if it is a foundational belief that I just publicly declared in a semi-belligerent sassy tone. When I feel that foundation being undermined, re-evaluating my beliefs is not my first priority, keeping my identity from crumbling is. To this end, my defense mechanisms leap to action, shielding my wounded ego from further injury.

This is a problem that comes about whenever you communicate at all, and is exacerbated by the removal of different aspects of communication that we perhaps take for granted. Face to face, you have so much more than words to convey meaning and intent. You have tone of voice, posture, fidgeting, eye contact. Probably even subtler cues that we do not consciously process, such as scent or complexion. On the phone, you still have tone of voice, but you miss visual cues. Bare text gives nothing away that isn’t stated explicitly. It is a blank slate practically begging someone to imprint emphasis and inflection. If you are far enough removed from person speaking, you can construct an entire personality around a comment. You get to construct the “voice” speaking to you.

And that voice matters. I submit an example:

will_smith_00_web redneck_ws_quote

First picture – that is solid, inspirational advice. I hear it in a smooth baritone that exudes calm self-assurance. He is famous for his work. Successful. The way the image is put together lends a sense of focus as well. Black and white picture with clean text. No unnecessary colors or serifs distracting you from your goals. This is clearly someone with his shit together, and is probably a reliable source of advice.

Second picture – I hear it in a more nasal voice. I think I started truncating the endings of the words as I read it. The text looks like it might have actually been carved into the image with a knife. I just feel like his shit is somewhat less together. I anticipate less success in his future. I’m looking at his setup, the way he presents himself and all the Alabama in that photo, and I’m thinking I shouldn’t listen to his advice1.

The point is that the perceived voice changes assumptions made about the speaker, such as intent, motivation and authority. I can change the understood meaning behind the words based on the sort of person that I imagine the speaker to be. If I can hear an opposing view in the voice of someone who I perceive as ignorant, bitter or just trying to be arbitrarily “mean”, they can be dismissed. If I tell myself that an argument has not been presented in good faith, I may feel less obligation to consider its validity.

I have been mulling this over because I often run afoul of people’s sensibilities with respect to the rules of polemic engagement. I ask questions which seem to get interpreted as judgmental, disrespectful or mean. This is not to imply that I have never been guilty of acts of intentional twattery, I just try not to make it my opening gambit. Most of the time, I intend nothing like that. Most of the time, I am genuinely bewildered or curious. Occasionally I believe I have spotted a discrepancy in logic and would like to understand either my mistake or yours. Sometimes I will call immediate bullshit, but typically I go out of my way to challenge a statement respectfully.

Given that we are susceptible to such influence, you can tweak the presentation of ideas to elicit a more favorable reaction by using a “pre-configured” voice. You consider the tone you wish to convey. Find a person most people would associate with that tone. Overlay their image with text to force your audience to queue up the voice that you feel most appropriately communicates your attitude. Or (to draw inspiration from others) generate a typographical device that performs a similar function.

So what I need to do is frame contentious observations with the image of someone who does not elicit defensiveness. Someone sort of egoless and eminently well-meaning.

datamark

Perfect.

You claim membership in a religion which instructs you to model your own behavior after that of a man who preached love, charity, humility and compassionate understanding of human frailties. However, you have expressed views both political and personal that seem to run contrary to your stated guiding principles. Would you explain this contradiction?

You have pinned your identity on membership in a particular subculture as a protest of the rules and restrictions present in mainstream society. However, in doing so you reject anything that does not conform to that subculture. Does this not make you just as insular and judgmental as the society from which you sought to distance yourself?

You claim that a public contradiction of your publicly expressed views constitutes censorship – an infringement upon your freedom of speech. However, challenging an opinion is not synonymous with suppressing that opinion, and so cannot rightly be called censorship. In fact, the concept of ‘freedom of speech’ was established largely to ensure that dissenting opinions and criticism could be freely expressed. In light of this, does it not seem that an attempt to exempt yourself from criticism is simply an attempt to censor your critics?

1I do not intend to disparage the intellectual capabilities of your average redneck engineer. It’s more the foresight and planning that is lacking. I have seen a number of ad hoc wonders come out of rural workshops. I have also seen electrocutions, explosions, burns and finger loss come out of same.
http://www.collegehumor.com/post/6872071/8-new-and-necessary-punctuation-marks”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Areopagitica
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politeness_theory
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agora
http://www.softpanorama.org/Social/Toxic_managers/Communication/negative_politeness.shtml

Reductio ad militum

I made a little something for the people that like to play the “troops” card. You know, the ones who pop up in conversations unrelated to the military to basically bitch about the fact that the conversation is not about the military.

These discussions typically involve praising someone for courage or expressing sympathy for a hardship. Or maybe even suggesting that we ought to readjust the system so people can afford to buy food and heat and other luxuries. Just trivial non-military bullshit, you know?

Until some patriot, some . . . true American, stepped in, people didn’t even know they were supposed to be talking about the troops. Thankfully, there always seems to be someone on hand to remind us that it is impossible to have experienced hardship, let alone faced that hardship with anything like bravery, unless you have watched your friends die around you in battle. Thank you, thank you for reminding us all that the best way to deal with problems is by refusing to acknowledge them because they are not literally the worst problem that anyone has faced, ever. I understand now that nothing has meaning until it can be framed in the context of the unrelenting horror of war. To have even one conversation that does not acknowledge that is the exact same thing as attacking the troops directly. It is utterly disrespectful of their sacrifice.

I apologize for using the word sacrifice. I . . . I have no idea what it means. Did I use it right?

Only those that died in battle deserve a living wage.

Only those that died in battle deserve a living wage.

What rankles me the most about the people that pull this shit is that they really think they are supporting the troops. They’re not doing anything to support the troops. They’re not advocating for the troops to have better conditions, they just want you to shut up about yours.

They are doing the exact same thing to the troops as the people who send them to war in the first place – using them to support their agenda. They only ever bring it up to counter a discussion about something they already find distasteful.

Like, they don’t want to hear about someone coming out as gay or having gender reassignment being brave, but they certainly don’t bust out the pictures of bloody soldiers when every goddamn parent starts talking about how brave their kid was at the dentist.

Stop taking our jobs, poor people.

My kid’s boredom trumps your kid’s hunger: Haunting Teen Unemployment Rate

So, this douchebag wants the minimum wage to stay low, so people will hire kids, so he doesn’t have to deal with his kids over the summer.

You know who actually needs these jobs more than your twat kids? People trying to support their twat kids. People with fucking degrees and student loans. People who bought into the whole “go to college so you don’t end up flipping burgers your whole life” are taking all the burger flipping jobs. Because every job is in demand – including the shitty ones.

And if you keep the minimum wage low, your kid is still unlikely to get the job. You know why? Because the adult who needs it is still there. Because at any wage, the adult that needs to take this job because there isn’t anything else is still a more attractive prospect than a kid who is literally just there for lack of something better to do. But now the adult has to take two minimum wage jobs because they go for $7.50/hr instead of $15.

I have an opinion on the royal child.

Royals, I am disappointed in you for not using your wealth and influence to to craft a genetically modified heir.  Like lizard eyes or telekinesis or wings or something.

Like, if you took the child to the palace balcony, held him aloft over the masses all Lion King and shit, and fire began lance out of his eyes at anyone who dared to look directly at him, that can go on the news.  As it stands, it’s just another shitting, squalling infant. Those are everywhere.

Your family keeps appearing in channels I go to for actual news. I sought no knowledge about your baby, that knowledge was inflicted on me. If I have to know about this shit, I feel that I am owed entertainment value commensurate with the attention drop required to power your sense of self worth.

And don’t act like I have suggested something horrible. “Keeping the bloodline pure” was still genetic engineering, even if it was just code for “my cousins are hot”.

Where are the three seashells?

This might be the most ridiculous thing ever.



I know I’ll sleep better knowing that the wealthy relieve themselves in total comfort. On a balcony, apparently. And why not? Because if you’re the sort of asshole that buys a $6400 toilet, you are probably the sort of asshole that thinks you are being benevolent by allowing the plebs to witness your morning shit.

At least the money isn’t going to social programs.

Oh hey, did you know they made Atlas Shrugged into a movie?



PETA dislikes being taken seriously.

No, really – go look at this bullshit

I can only express my awe and respect at the wholehearted commitment to utter lack of credibility. Bravo guys. Way to whittle away support you might of had in preventing legitimate cruelty to animals by making this tripe your public face. Now I want so badly to distance myself from anything associated with you that I have to go stand outside and grill up some panda or otter or something. I live in Ohio and it’s the middle of January, you inconsiderate pricks.

You can create your own sea kitten on their site, to help raise awareness of the plight of fictional beasts. Here’s mine:



When I saw the option to make one of these, I thought the most offensive thing would be sticking fur and ears on a fish in an attempt to fashion it into an image that triggers a sympathetic human response. That was until I saw that you also have the option to give it a bowl of water and inflatable water wings. Oh, and there’s also a tube of lipstick to test on it.

I added the horn, because a Narwhal wouldn’t put up with such absurdity, and neither should you.

Is he as heavy as a duck?

Then he must be made of wood. Burn the witch! (Burn to ash and bone)

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — A Florida substitute teacher says his job disappeared after doing a magic trick in front of his students.

Substitute teacher Jim Piculas made a toothpick disappear, then reappear in front of a classroom at Rushe Middle School in Land O’ Lakes, Florida. The Pasco County School District says there were several other performance issues, but none compared to his “wizardry.”

“I get a call the middle of the day from head of supervisor of substitute teachers. He says, ‘Jim, we have a huge issue. You can’t take any more assignments. You need to come in right away.’ I said, ‘Well, Pat, can you explain this to me?’ ‘You’ve been accused of wizardry,'” Piculas explained.

The assistant superintendent with the district said Piculas had other issues, like not following lesson plans and allowing students to play on unapproved computers.

Piculas said he’s concerned the incident may prevent him from getting future jobs.

Original Article

Some people are asking for derision.

And some people beg for it.

Can someone please explain to me what compels forty-something women in tracksuits to descend en masse upon coffee shops at around 10 AM? It’s a phenomena I’ve noticed just recently. I don’t suppose it’s anything like an organized effort to arrive all at once. I imagine it to be more of an instinctual thing – like zombies that sense where the last living souls in a town are hiding. They are pulled by a force they are dimly aware of, yet can never fully grasp. Only instead of killing people, they just stand around impatiently waiting for lattes and perfecting the disdainful lip pursing that sour, crabby bitches are prone to display.

I feel like wearing a track suit is meant to imply that you lead such a busy, hectic life that you simply cannot be constrianed by regular clothes. I guess the other alternative is that you’re on your way to the gym in full makeup and enormous earrings – but probably not clad head to toe in velour. Somehow I find it hard to believe that any of them have anything terribly important to do in a given day. I think they mostly just take their coffees home, watch The View and talk to their friends about how much fun it would be to start an online business selling custom made clothes for toy breed dogs.

Speaking of, while at Barnes & Noble, I saw a book of clothing patterns you can knit for your dog. On the front of it was a poodle wearing goddamn hand-knit leg warmers. I think this might be why I’m a little short tempered with humanity in general today.