Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Your Comments Matter! Not!!!

Short Comments, Tweets, and Likes have dumbed-down the Internet and our Society in general.  What is behind this trend - and is it in your best interests?

I have (UPDATE:  HAD) a comments section here on this blog.  I don't get many comments, but most are thoughtfully written and interesting.  But like everywhere else, I get a few short, snarky comments from time to time, from passive-aggressive, depressed people (I am being redundant here) who think their opinions matter, when they do little else to contribute to society.

As I have noted before, opinions are like assholes - everyone has one, but no one wants to see yours.  And merely having an opinion, preference, or favorite is not really a major accomplishment in life.  However, the marketing people want you to think that these are the most important things you do and in fact, define who you are.  Your selections in life are the most important thing you do - we are told - and so you life is reduced to a selection of brand name loyalties, favorites, and preferences.  In terms of who you are, it is a pretty pathetic simulacrum.

Almost every website these days have comments sections.  Some, such as Twitter or Facebook, are nothing but comments.  Do snarky little comments really mean anything?  No.

One reason I stopped using Facebook and never used Twitter is that they devolve into short little ambiguous comments over time.  Twitter was designed to this effect, limiting comments to 140 characters or whatever.  Taking this concept to its logical conclusion is the "Like" button - where people can basically vote on things - as if these votes carry any meaning.   It is a means of participating without participating - or more correctly, providing the rat in the Skinner box with a lever to press, albeit a lever that does not lead to a pellet.

Increasingly, people are communicating by electronically passing notes in class.  Young people today "text" each other with short, ambiguous, cryptic comments of only a few characters each.  We think we are communicating, but in effect, we are just saying "wassup?" and "can you believe the dress she is wearing?"

Every major news site has a "comments" section, increasingly linked to Facebook or Twitter.  We are told that our comments are important, and people respond in droves.  But most comments are less than illuminating - people running down other commentators with insults, pointing out spelling errors in the articles, whatever.

It is all part of a master plan to encourage people to be passive consumers, while making them feel that they are contributing something.  It takes no talent to "post a comment" saying the article was poorly written or that the author misspelled a word.  It takes talent to research and write an article, and few of the "comment" people would ever dream of doing that.

As I noted in my posting on Ambiguous people, the format of comments, Facebook posts, and twitter tweets feeds into this passive-aggressive behavior - of posting cryptic, ambiguous messages that are more akin to passing notes in class than to real communication.  We like to think we are being "clever" but it really is just the worst sort of juvenile behavior.

And our Corporate overlords have designed this system specifically with this in mind.  Why is this?  Well, the first part of passive-aggressive is, well, passive.

They want you to remain a passive consumer, and not an active participant in life.  So they would prefer you simply reduce your participation in life to a 140 character tweet or a "Like".  You are what you consume, you are told, and your opinions and likes and your snarky little comments are who you are.

And so long as they can keep you locked into this mode of operation - pretending you are doing things, while not actually doing or creating - they have you.  Because passive-aggressive behavior leads to depression, which leads to more TeeVee watching (or Internet Surfing) which in turn leads to watching more advertisements, which in turn leads to more consumption.

For most people in America, their definition of life and living is based on brand loyalties - which new car they will buy, what smart phone they own, what network they are on.  They are not really living life, just consuming, and like the spectators at an ancient gladiatorial contest, giving their "Thumbs Up" or "Thumbs Down" to the products, services, and media they consume.

Ray Bradbury wrote of this in Fahrenheit 451 - his dystopian novel of the future, where books - and ideas - were banned.  Guy Montag is a fireman, whose job it is to seek out and burn books (which burn at 451 degrees Fahrenheit, hence the title).  His wife sits home all day and watches the interactive TeeVee (sounds familiar?).  Her big moment in life is when she is chosen to interact with her favorite show.  Of course, her interaction is limited to one line, which she flubs.  But by providing this fake interaction, it gets her to believe that her participation is important - and not merely passive consumption.

Bradbury nailed our culture down, back in 1953.  The specific details, of course, are different.  We have the Internet, not interactive TeeVee.  And books have not so much been banned, as simply have been abandoned.  We no longer have literature topping the New York Times bestseller list, but rather celebrity and political tomes, hastily and poorly written by ghostwriters, in an effort to cash in on fleeting fame.  If you are in the news today, you have a book out (and a movie deal) next week.

So, what does this have to do with finances?  Simple.  If you spend all day long watching TeeVee, or trolling websites and making snarky comments, you are going to get depressed and fat as a house.  It may feel like you are doing something - creating, interacting, communicating - but it is a false action.  All you are doing is being passive-aggressive and not really doing anything of value.

Meanwhile, your life is slipping away...