Tag Archives: social media

The Victims of Memes

There are many things to love about social media, among them the ability to easily stay connected with friends and family, and there are many things to loath about social media, among them the ability to be repeatedly annoyed and angered by your friends and family and their friends a family. This is especially true when it comes to “big” events, like elections or mass shootings, that stoke emotions and raise the heat in the proverbial kitchen. Those events also tend to motivate “meme” makers to come up with a combination of images and text that, purportedly, reflect the beliefs of a segment of society and are easily shareable by members of the “tribe.” Here’s an example that was recently shared on Facebook:

Memes

If you hate Hillary Clinton, or consider yourself a conservative, you might look at this and nod your head in agreement and then with less thought than you’d give to picking the color of socks you’re going to wear you click “share” and let the world know you think this sentiment is right on. Fair enough; you’re entitled to your opinion. However, if you unpack this meme do you really think it’s fair?

Is she filthy rich? The average American would say so. Is she white? Our eyes tell us she is. Is she nominally Christian? Depends on who gets to determine where the line is between nominal and fully invested. If you think you’re a true Christian and are qualified to make that judgment then please remind yourself of the whole “throwing the first stone” thing. Does she get donations from big corporations? Undoubtedly, but who doesn’t in her position? Voted for the Iraq War? I assume there’s a record of it, and I seem to remember she did.

Now here comes the trouble, “I am everything liberals hate, and yet I am the one they want. If that’s not mental illness, what is it?” These two sentences epitomize what’s wrong with our state of discourse in this country, and why memes like this truly suck. Some points:

  1. Painting everyone in a group with a broad brush with a definitive statement like this is just wrong. I guarantee you there are plenty of liberals who don’t hate rich people, or white people (hell, there are a LOT of liberal white people) or someone voting for a misbegotten war. Just as there are plenty of conservatives who DO hate rich people, white people and people who voted for a misbegotten war.
  2. Ridiculing people on the other side of your debate will almost certainly create acrimony. Simply put, we can debate gun control reasonably up until the point we start calling each other names or questioning the others intellect or morals. Then we just have a fight and nothing constructive gets done.
  3. Reflexively sharing these things just makes the sharer look lazy. Have a point? Make it yourself. And this isn’t as much about the funny “shares” that you’ll see around an issue, unless of course it’s funny because it belittles those on the other side of the table. Here’s a simple test: if the meme is funny because you’re laughing AT your opposite, then it’s only funny to you. If you’re laughing WITH them, then it’s probably okay, but ridiculing your opposite only means you’re making yourself a part of the problem rather than the solution.

Think this is an over reaction? You’re free to disagree, but I would argue that every one of these memes adds one more pixel to the mural of distrust we are painting on the giant wall that our country is quickly becoming.

 

Making the Media His Biotches

This article about how Donald Trump is controlling the media came to my attention via a friend on Facebook as you can see below:

TrumpMedia

I particularly like David Boyd’s comment that it  “Helps that they’re such willing bitches.” It’s understandable that the media want to cover Trump – after all he is the phenomenon of this political season – and I understand that they are competing for ‘share of mind’ of an increasingly diminished audience of news watchers, but when do they finally say, “You know what, this a-hole’s been able to run an incredibly inexpensive campaign because we give him so much free air time” and then cut HIM off. He truly needs them far more than they need him, so why keep feeding the troll?

Could it be that they’re desperate to prove they’re still needed, still the Fourth Estate, still an essential part of the democratic process? Maybe they’re finally realizing that what they thought was simply a nightmare they would wake up is reality – that most people don’t read, watch or listen to them anymore. They’ve got Facebook and so does Trump, so no one thinks they need the media anymore. Sadly, they’re probably right and wrong at the same time.

Civility and Intelligence

Here’s a quote from a post at the AVC blog on the importance of civil and intelligent debate that hit home when I read it this morning:

I was reminded of that when I read Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s comments on Antonin Scalia, in particular this part:

We disagreed now and then, but when I wrote for the Court and received a Scalia dissent, the opinion ultimately released was notably better than my initial circulation. Justice Scalia nailed all the weak spots—the “applesauce” and “argle bargle”—and gave me just what I needed to strengthen the majority opinion.

and this:

Maybe the most important part of the title to this post is the word civil. Without civility (and respect), it is hard to have intelligent debate. Respecting those with opposing views, working to understand them, and listening closely to them is the key. Even if they don’t change your mind, they can reshape how you discuss and present your views. And that can make all the difference in the world.

The scary thing about the current state of political discourse in America is the very real lack of civility. As much as we’d like to think this is a modern phenomenon, we actually have a long history of pretty nasty behavior during the political silly season. Check out this political cartoon about Lincoln:

civilityLincoln

Source: HarpWeek

That’s some pretty nasty stuff by any measure. What’s new to our elections these days is the ability of any one person to create or spread nastygrams like this via their social media channels, with nary a thought to whether or not it’s true. With the click of a button they can share personal attacks on candidates, falsehoods about a candidate’s past and beliefs, or launch character assassinations on political candidates or members of a political party faster than you can say “fact check.” It’s truly becoming an overwhelming cacophony of negative, schoolyard name-calling that is drowning out increasingly fruitless attempts at civil discourse.

Lest you think I’m exaggerating, check out these images I found in just five minutes of scrolling through my Facebook feed:

So what commonalities do you find in these images? What I see are personal attacks and name calling with no attention paid to the stated policies of the candidates. How, pray tell, does this advance the cause of the Union in any way?

Now I do understand that much of what people share are things they consider funny. Many of the memes poke fun at the generalizations the sharer has about the folks on the other side of the fence, and normally I wouldn’t be such a stick in the mud about it since I enjoy a good joke as much as the next person. However, when you see people share literally dozens or hundreds of these memes that do nothing but insult people with a different set of beliefs then you have to come to the conclusion that they truly feel that their opposites are stupid, lazy, cruel, etc. When you begin to believe that then you inevitably come to the conclusion that there’s no room for honest debate, and quite frankly you begin to not care what they think because all you see are personal attacks completely divorced from the issues.

So maybe you think I’m overreacting and that I should just ignore what I’m seeing on my social media channels. I might agree except that I think our current crop of political leaders, both liberal and conservative, from the local level to the national level, are exploiting these sentiments and profiting from our separateness. Until we can find a place to have civil and intelligent debate they’re going to play us for the suckers we are.

In other words, folks, we have met the enemy and it is us.

Dealing With the Loss Of a Child In Today’s World

Ask any parent, at least any non-psychopathic parent, what their worst nightmare is and you can rest assured that it’s losing one of their children. It’s literally impossible to fathom what that feels like or to comprehend how someone deals with it. Recently, the oldest son of a local sports icon was killed in a car accident. That’s tragic in and of itself, but it truly hits close to home for me and my wife because that family just moved into a house a quarter mile from ours and we pass it every day. When we’re together one of us will always say something to the effect of “I feel so bad for them. I truly don’t know that I could deal with what they’re dealing with.”

The father of the boy who was killed truly is a local sports hero by the name of Rusty Larue. He played multiple sports for Wake Forest, went on to play pro basketball and has been coaching here locally for the last couple of years. Just this year he was hired to coach the boys basketball team at the high school my kids attended and the alma mater for current NBA great Chris Paul. In other words he’s exactly the kind of guy I would follow on Twitter and so I did. That’s why I saw this when he Tweeted it this afternoon:

Larue_RT

You’ll notice that it’s a retweet of a Tweet of his son’s from last year. When I saw this it truly had an impact – a mix of once again feeling sadness for the Larue family and a sense of amazement that they have this trove of memories for their son. Yes, most Twitter and other social media accounts are full of silly, fluffy, spontaneous and utterly mundane comments, pictures, links, etc., but they also contain little pieces of personality from the account owner so when someone is no longer with us we have these reminders about them that are quite different from the letters, pictures and other missives that people left in the past.

After thinking about it some more I began to wonder how the experience of seeing these reminders feels to the parents. Does it provide some solace, or is it a painful reminder of their loss? Maybe both? This is something I never want to find out about first hand as a parent.

Of course we will all lose loved ones in our lives, so while it may be a somewhat different experience than losing a child, we will have these types of reminders from the parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and dear friends.

The Larue’s are well known for their faith, strong family and very supported faith community which I’m sure has been tremendously helpful. My sincere hope is that over time these pieces of their son’s online world, which to this generation is a critical component of their lives, can be  stitched together with the unique memories that the parents carry with them, can provide them with a some amount of solace and sustenance.

I have the same hope for all of us who lose a loved one.

<Note> I should be clear that we do not personally know the Larues. They literally just moved into their house a few months ago and we’ve not had the opportunity to meet them, but of course we would love to if and when the time comes. This was written merely as one father, with children the same age, trying to grasp what it must be like to deal with the loss of a child in today’s world.

Why You Should Join Me at ConvergeSouth

Let’s just make this short and sweet: you really should make time to attend ConvergeSouth next Friday at Wake Forest University. Why? It’s the best event in the Triad for learning about:

  • The ever evolving online social world and how it can impact your business
  • Content strategy
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Podcasting

That’s just for starters. The afternoon features hands-on DIY labs dedicated to:

  • Podcasting
  • YouTube
  • Tumblr websites
  • SquareSpace websites

This is a fantastic venue for anyone interested in learning how to build their businesses/non-profit organizations or their careers using the tools of the trade in today’s world. If you’d like to attend I can set you up with a special 25% discount so just reach out to me via email or in the comments. Hope to see you there!

The Problem With “Friends”

I have lots of “friends” online. These are folks who I may or may not know in the real world, but I tend to see a lot of them online in places like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. What I’m finding is that my “friends” who have pretty hard set political views tend to share the same kind of stuff, whether they’re liberal or conservative. If I were to put them in the same room together they would all probably be civil, get their views across in a relatively sane and measured way and then afterwards in the safety of their own environs they’d point out the idiocy of the other in a prototypical, Southern, bless-his-heart kind of way.

However, those same people have no problem sharing the most banal and inflammatory crap put out by “infurianators” on an almost hourly basis. Below is a picture of two “shares” that literally showed up on my Facebook timeline in order, one from a liberal and the other from a conservative. I deleted the friend info to keep the names off a public post, but believe me the items are legit. I get tired just thinking about the crap that’s gonna show up online until the 16 election, which thankfully is just a short 14 months away.

FBJuxta

And you should see the comments under these things. Believe me when I say that both conservatives and liberals are prolific in their hyperbolic outrage.

“Professional” Education

For my day job I work for a local trade association and one of our core services is to provide professional education for our members’ employees. We spend a great deal of time trying to make sure we provide the best training and continuing education possible. We have a staff member who, along with a committee of volunteers from the industry, spends a tremendous amount of time recruiting instructors for the various classes and seminars we provide, staying on top of emerging trends in the industry, organizing instructor training and anything else necessary to make sure we have a top-shelf education program. In other words, it’s something we pay a lot of attention to.

Perhaps that explains why I was irked when a friend shared a link to a calendar item on a chamber of commerce’s website. It’s a free seminar on social media that the chamber and a small business center are hosting, which on the face of it sounds pretty straight forward. The problem comes when you do a search on the instructor, which my friend did, and find out that the instructor’s Facebook page only has a few dozen “likes”, the instructor has fewer than a handful of Twitter followers and has a website that can best be described as looking like the campaign page of a kid running for junior class president in 1998.

As I said to my friend I have nothing against the person trying to build a social media business (I think that’s what’s happening), but I have a huge problem with a chamber or other business association not doing its job well by providing quality professional education opportunities. Normally I’d dismiss it as a one-off mistake, but I’ve suffered through some of this particular chamber’s educational offerings in the past and I can tell you this is not the first time it’s happened.

You might argue that it’s unfair to judge the course, or the instructor, without sitting through the seminar. My reply would be that in the world of social media you can’t simply teach theory out of a book – experience matters – and there are SO many people in this area who do have that experience and could teach this course that there’s no reason to recruit someone who clearly hasn’t walked the walk.

Doing a seminar just to say you did it, or because someone raised their hand and said, “I can do this for free” is a terrible idea. You end up diminishing your value to your members, and before long they start running away. Obviously a chamber is more than just education, and this chamber in particular has long seemed to see their small business members as a necessary evil, but if you’re going to do something you might as well do it right or not do it at all.