Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

97% of you have not danced

Sometimes I feel like that generation.

And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like?
They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept (Luke 7:31-32).

I sometimes feel like that, especially when I look at Facebook and similar web sites, and the kind of communication they promote.

LoveMom2When people repost (“share” in Facebook-speak) something second-hand, trite and derivative, it gets lots of shares. Turn a worn-out cliche into a graphic, and say “97% of you won’t share this” and a lot more than 3% will.

I love my mother, and I love my daughter and I love my sons, and I love my cousins (even if they don’t all love me), and I don’t need to click on some mawkish graphic to prove it. Yet a huge proportion of Facebook “communication” is made up of just such trite trivialities.

Of course quite a lot of these are scams — people set up such a thing to get lots of “likes” for a page or site, and then sell it to the highest bidder. That’s why they say that on web sites like Facebook you are the product that they are selling.

But I have noticed in the last couple of weeks that when I share things that other people have posted, they get a lot more “likes” than actual personal stuff. And even if those things are not just tarted up cliches, I find that rather sad. It might be a news item, or comment that I think is worth thinking about, even if I don’t entirely agree with it. And sometimes people comment on such things too.

97percentBut when I posted something of my own, as opposed to something derivative and second hand, like this, for example, Tuesday 4 August 1914 | Khanya, it got precisely one “like” and one “share”, and no comments, either on the blog itself, or even on Facebook. It’s not that I go soliciting “likes” and “shares”, and I’m not posting this to urge my friends to “like” stuff that they dislike, or that they don’t give a damn about. I am rather noting that Facebook as a medium seems to favour and promote communication in the second-hand and derivative. Much of it seems calculated to appeal to those who are more amenable to our blackmail than our message — like the appeal to mother love above, or the ones that begin “97% of you won’t repost this”.

So I’m not asking people to “like” things that they don’t like, or “share” things that they don’t agree with, though I really do wonder what people are thinking when they imply that I am among the 97% of their friends who love cancer, and just hate their spouses, parents, children and other relatives.

LikeFacebookWhat I would like to solicit, however, is comments — preferably on the blog post itself, but on Facebook if you must. You can comment on something even if you don’t “like” it, and even if you don’t actually like it. You can disagree and say why you disagree. In that way sites like Facebook can facilitate communication between people, rather than just endlessly recycling sentimental cliches. Having said that, if by any chance you do actually like this (or any other post on my blog) there’s a button down at the bottom where you can click to “like” it on Facebook.

97percent2After observing these things, I think I’ll be trying to cut down on the number of second-hand things I recycle on Facebook. I’ll still “like” things that my friends post that are theirs — their photos, their articles, their blog posts. But I’ll try to resist the temptation to repost fancy illustrated slogans, no matter how witty they may be. It’s not that I think they should not be there at all. It’s just the proportions are all wrong. It seems to be 10% personal and 90% derivative. It should be the other way round.

Of course this post is 99% whinge, complaining that “We have piped for you and 97% of you have not danced.”

That’s enough whinging for now, so let there be an end to it.

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5 thoughts on “97% of you have not danced

  1. Mike Lyle on said:

    I like that. But there’s a sort of ornithological thing going one, too: “Like” can also be quite a valuable “contact call” – admittedly sparrows utter a lot more of those than eagles do, but we can’t all be eagles. A lot of real-life conversation is like that, too: mutual grooming, stroking, and such.

    • In my rational mind I am aware that on Facebook “like” means “show me more stuff like this”, and does not necessarily mean that you like the content. But, perhaps as part of my English usage pedantry, I can’t bring myself to “like” the latest instance of political corruption, or the latest terrorist outrage. If a friend posts a photo, I might like it for different reasons — either as an aesthetically pleasing picture, or because I like the people in the picture, even if it’s not a particularly good photo.

      I find that some friend, whom I want to keep in rouch with, hasn’t been on my Facebook feed for a long time. I go to their profile and find they’ve posted a lot of stuff, but Facebook hasn’t been showing it to me. I have to find something of theirs to “like” to keep in touch — as you say, like bird calls. But then Facebook shows me a lot of stuff from an online acquaintance I’ve never met, with whom I discussed something on Fidonet 20 years ago, but neither of us are working in that field any longer. But lots of other people in his field (which doesn’t interest me) do “like” his stuff, so Facebook shows it to me too. I’m happy for Facebook to show me your stuff, though we haven’t met face to face, because we are still interacting on aue.

      And it seems that Facebook shows my friends more of my second-hand stuff, passed on from somewhere else, than it does of the personal stuff, the stuff that I would like to discuss with them. So the only solution I can see to this is to cut back on my “sharing” of things that other people have posted.

  2. I find the Facebook ‘Like’ option a curious thing…

    For example someone posts something about an appalling atrocity and gets lots of likes. It seems like they are agreeing to and sanctioning the appallingness. I think what they really mean is they like the post highlighting the atrocity and not the atrocity itself.

    But to me clicking ‘like’ gives the immediate impression of supporting supporting the attrocities, rather than highlighting a good post.

    • Exactly. I can’t bring myself to “like” horrible things, even if I do think it is important to know about them. As I said to Mike above, it may be just English usage pedantry, but I do think it is an abuse of the English language.

  3. Irulan on said:

    I think I commented on the corresponding post in GoodReads.

    But tell me, how often do you ‘like’ the posts of other bloggers?

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