lifeforcemummyondoc.jpg
Must…Have…Tweets!

In the highly entertaining Tobe Hooper film, Life Force the human population are turned into ravenous creatures that must suck the essence of life out of other human beings every few minutes or die. Without going into plot (in this case alien invasion), the streets of London are quickly turned into a maelstrom of carnage. Half dead zombies grab onto the living, draining them. The drained then come back to “life” looking for new victims to drain. And so on.

Typically, zombies do not dwell on one meal for long. Unthinking creatures, they rip into one victim after another, leaving the dead and dying in their relentless search for fresher meat. Of course, the bitten quickly “turn” and well you know the rest.

It’s pretty scary…the stuff of nightmares. Many observers have likened the popularity of zombies in our culture to not-so-latent fears about the economy or terrorism; that these ghouls symbolize a loss of control. It also has been suggested that we see ourselves in these mindless creatures, an even scarier thought -for how quickly our appetites run amok. Neither view is wrong. As one of the remaining mortals exclaims during George Romero’s remake of his own classic film, Night of the Living Dead: “We are them.”

Perhaps sadly, it’s also a metaphor for the effect social media is having on more and more of us every day. We have become “content zombies.” No longer able to process information, we rip through new media biting and chewing and spitting out content, barely digesting any of it. Ravenously, we move on to the next. Indeed, barely chewed facts, items and stories pass through us onto the web like offal. Our constant tweets, grams and snaps are mere bits and pieces, carrying links like so many worms, each containing the shred of something devoured earlier. Or something like that.

I myself am turning. Last night I tried reading an article in a magazine. I found myself jumping over paragraphs, skipping entire chunks, gluttonous. Unsatisfied, I started another article. Then another. Within minutes I was in front of my laptop lapping up more, more and more!

Already an addictive personality, once I taste blood I cannot stop gorging. The more I feast the less I retain. A vicious cycle if ever there was one. God help me for I am a content zombie. I am legend.

Advertisements

is

In my last job, I was asked by a colleague to take down a Facebook post because it apparently offended someone in the office. I had offered a less than politically correct view on the hot button issue regarding race relations (or lack of) in America.

Reluctantly, I removed the post. Not because I rethought my position and came to the conclusion I was wrong. Nor was I upset that my post offended someone. For what it’s worth, many people were supportive of my opinion. It’s not about that. Rather, I took it down because I concluded my role as an officer of the company took precedent over my personal opinions. Said another way, I put my professional reputation and currency ahead of my social reputation and currency. It would not be the first time. Rightly or wrongly, I usually put work ahead of personal matters.

Yet, the event has continued to bother me. Partly because of the post’s emotional weight (which I won’t go into here) but also because I feel like a coward for removing it. After all, it was on my personal Facebook page. While hardy benign, the post was not racist or classist or sexist or, in my view, “ist” in any way. It was merely a provocative take on current events, which I feel is totally valid on social media. I did not (and would not) post the piece on LinkedIn or on any professional forum.

Still, I realize work and personal life have converged like never before. People as well as companies have become like one thing. If a CEO Tweets something inappropriate her company takes it on the chin. People will judge the firm as they judge the person.

Back in the day, the artist and his art existed separately. For example, T.S. Eliot was an “on again, off again” anti-Semite but people (even Jews) appreciated and studied his poetry. There are countless such examples, historical and modern. Recall director, Lars Von Trier’s recent controversial comments at Cannes and the subsequent toll it took to his career. He did not stand down and he paid dearly for it.

eliot.jpg

TS Eliot: Poet. Hater.

I know my controversial Facebook post was not hateful. However, I do not doubt someone who disagreed with it might interpret it (and me) as hateful. Therefore, I took it down. I did not want to bring negative attention to my company.

We are all learning (and struggling) with this. Some play it safer than others. And while I think playing it safe is often the equivalent of being dull as a bag of dirt I did not want to risk my company’s reputation and my place in it. Would you?

I have always worn many hats: husband, father, brother, son, citizen, officer, employee, Christian, Jew, drinker, non-drinker, author and so on. In the age of social media, knowing which hat to wear and when is increasingly difficult.


Weird yes but “we are not alone.”

I don’t know which ad agency, if any, created this ad for Facebook but I “like” it. A lot. In the news –somewhat controversially- for spending enough money to bail out Greece on a texting application, it’s nice to see Facebook doing a bit of image advertising that’s just plain fun.

Not that Facebook needs to build awareness but they could use a bit of freshening and, for me, spots like this do it. Instead of marketing some new feature, Facebook goes old school (how ironic is that?) and comes through with advertising about the very thing that made Facebook cool in the first place: community.

In this case it’s people who dig Sci-Fi. We see a bunch of geeks sporting costumes of their favorite Martians just being real and that’s about it. We hear the iconic theme music from 2001 A Space Odyssey. And then the wonderful tagline: “We Are Not Alone.”

It’s a great line. Clever in the obvious way it pays off the concept. Smart because it deftly highlights the original magic of social media (and Facebook in particular): the fact that there are a few billion people on earth and each one of us possesses interests and passions that both unifies and differentiates us.

Even if you like the spot, you could argue Facebook has no call to advertise. By definition, its users do that with every post.

Yet, I do think it’s time for some advertising. Not to get more users per se but to build its brand with all of us who do use it. Most of us aren’t going anywhere. But some of us are. Moreover, living on Facebook has become somewhat of a chore. We dutifully post images of our families and link content to our friends but the magic has subsided. Some of us have grown weary of the ritual.

And that’s what I like about this commercial the most. It reminds me of when going on Facebook was fun.

lIjr9
“I hate my parents almost as much as Facebook.”

I keep hearing about Facebook’s plummeting popularity among teenagers. That it has become uncool for them, partly because so many of us parents are using it. Gross! Or that it has become so commercial that it’s lost all of its cred. Ew!

I don’t dispute that Facebook is losing its young audience. Maybe even drastically. (It certainly is with the children in my house.) However, I absolutely do dispute the direness. I’ll even argue it’s a blessing for Facebook.

Unless they’re ripping off bling from Paris Hilton, the vast majority of teenagers don’t have any money, prestige or clout. Their reputational currency is and always will be so freaking overrated.

If I’m Facebook I’m happy my platform is being taken over by Boomers and Millennials, to say nothing of brands and advertisers. Let the teenagers go hang out in front of 7-11 or where ever the online equivalent of that is. It’s called loitering. No transactions are being made, accept for maybe a few blunts and/or the occasional Diet Dew.

Old-People
“Did you “like” Thelma’s post? She learned how to Twerk!”

So, why do all these stories paint Facebook an uncool loser? Is it because we are so youth-obsessed we literally cannot think straight? I’m afraid that’s part of it. Ironic, given how little respect most people have for teen-agers in general. (Christ, when I was 17 all I could get was arrested.) Why is it we think everything about teens is dubious (their opinions, music, fashion, decisions, choice of friends, etc) except for the one thing that really is dubious: their demographic importance?

Maybe this explains why Facebook hasn’t bothered defending their position among teens. (Nothing like their ire over accusations of not having a viable business model) They are a public company now. They know what herds the cash cows roam in. And it ain’t the adolescent ones.

Status update: “Posing with the Beaver!”

One of the wonders of social media is that it allows us to present only what we want of ourselves to the world. Wrinkles, warts and divorces remain hidden. We put our best face forward and keep ugliness and negativity far from curious eyes. We show only virtues and rarely defects of body and character. Frankly, we are being more than pleasant. We are presenting idealized versions of ourselves: who we aspire to be versus (perhaps) who we really are. Facebook is the textbook example but the myriad other microblogging platforms provide ample camouflage as well. Duh, you say. Why would anyone want to share anything less than bliss in his or her personal life let alone Tweet about it?

The dilemma (if dilemma is even the right word) is that everyone is living a kind of virtual lie and one that grows bigger and deeper with every status update and adorable photograph we upload. Say a gal posts only sugar and spice and everything nice; her idealized self, the woman she hopes to be and wants others to think she is. But what if that same person is, in fact, seriously depressed or even suicidal? Is it a kind of betrayal to her friends and family to be falsely presenting all that positivity? Is it dangerous? On the other hand, is bad news better left unsaid? Does it fall under the category of “too much information?”

Status update: “I ripped Bob’s face off for betraying me!”

I don’t know the answer. After all, I’m just as shiny and happy on Facebook as you are. I post photographs of my adorable children just like you do. I am happy. We are “totally enjoying dinner at Café Louise!” Or I am “so looking forward to Lily’s dance recital tomorrow.” And so on. The bitter argument I had with my spouse last night is never communicated. My disdain for dance recitals is avoided like the plague. God forbid my numerous Facebook “friends” think I have challenges at home or am anything less than a perfect husband or father.

Et tu?

When I scroll through your Facebook pages I rarely see anything but delighted and happy people. Sure, you post snarky comments about this politician or that pop star but when it comes to you and yours you are as positive as a Disney Princess.

Status update: “Gary may be gay but our love will last forever!”

Some people are braver than others: like the man who shares his battle with cancer or the woman who opens up about her struggle to land a job. So, yes, there are plenty of examples of self-disclosure taking place online. Yet, the vast majority of us don’t “go there.” Our Facebook pages are like a fifties-era sitcom. Sis and Johnny love school and sports and going on vacation. Father’s knows best. And mom is always “That Girl!”

I don’t expect any of us will change this “Life is Beautiful!” approach to social networking but I am calling bullshit. Life is messy and complicated. Relationships implode. People get sick and die. Children are maladjusted. In the end shit happens all the time. Just not on Facebook.