Birthday Media

Birthday CakeAt one point, I thought that social media was worthwhile in that I could tell people, “Happy Birthday” at the appropriate time, which I had been unable to do before because I simply don’t remember people’s birthdays – something that some see as a personality flaw. They made me think it was a personality flaw by badgering me about it – particularly the women in my life who, oddly enough, always hated getting older.

You’d think that women would therefore not want to celebrate birthdays, but that is largely not true in my personal dalliances with the female of the species. We’ll get back to that.

So here I was, thinking all these social media services actually were doing me a favor, covering a personality flaw – largely so people wouldn’t think I don’t have this personality flaw, that I cared enough to stick calendar dates in a rolodex in my head for people I care about. And it became easier and easier – to the point where Facebook offers me to post on someone’s page something witty like, “Happy Birthday”, or something wittier that I might come up with in the time it takes me to read and react. I think I’ve written some atrocious things that way, but everyone seems happy enough.

This all came to a head today because LinkedIn offers me to ‘like’ someone’s birthday. How cheap is that? All I have to do is click ‘Like’, and presto magico, I have conveyed that I care that you were born a certain amount of years ago.

Yay.

So here’s the truth. While I am no longer someone who subscribes to religion, I had the misfortune of being born into a Jehovah’s Witness sort of background – I had no choice. And while not having that choice, we didn’t celebrate birthdays. Why? Well, as I recall the rhetoric, “Jesus Christ didn’t celebrate his birthdays!”. Thus the same rhetoric for Christmas.

I’m not sure that celebrating them should be a sin in any religion, really, but hey, whatever makes you happy… I’m also not into a few other things being a sin, either. But let’s pretend for a moment that Jesus didn’t celebrate birthdays, even if it’s not true and there were omissions in the Bible (there weren’t potty breaks either, as I recall, so pooping could be a sin.) This leads us down a path where a calendar was set up BECAUSE the big J.C. was born, and a count was begun known as A.D. – anything beforehand, B.C. But that’s not accurate either if J.C. were born on Dec 25th, because then that would be the end and beginning of the year… and… that’s open to dispute too.

In other words, the reasoning behind not celebrating birthdays that I was presented with simply doesn’t make sense. Of course, they celebrate the death of Christ as well, as well as his resurrection. Absolutely nothing about his visit from the Tooth Fairy, or about a bunny hanging out, or elves… so let’s not go there because we may end up in a Mordor trying to get a ring into a volcano.

I eventually did have birthday parties, when people got together and acted like I was special one day out of the year. Just one. And I thought they sucked – not because people showed that they cared on that day, but because of the surrounding 364.25 days where I wasn’t.

So after all of that, here’s the thing. The only birthday I really cared about was when I was 21. I think the 23rd my auto insurance went down slightly in the U.S. – or was it 28? – and then the only way the auto insurance went down is by getting married. Clearly that wasn’t enough of an inducement for me…

And now, here I am, in my 40s, and I don’t care about my birthday. Sometimes I’m not even sure how old I am and have to do math – fortunately, we count 13th birthdays unlike how we count 13th floors in buildings, so the math isn’t tricky at all – and at a moment’s notice, I can figure out how old I am.

And I don’t care about how old anyone around me really is either. It’s not like it tells you how long you have to live – it doesn’t – but like Bayesian probability, it lets you know that the more years you live the more likely you are to die within the coming year. Think on that a moment.

So what are birthdays really about? About making people feel special, like you care. Like they matter to you on a deep level. How wonky is that? And this is why I think women seem so agreeable to birthdays despite the landmark of growing older.

Here’s my thing. If I’m not there for you for the rest of the year – if I don’t treat you like you’re special for the rest of the year – is this sort of like accepting your deity of choice, and begging forgiveness for all those times you masturbated, before you die? Try that last one without the Oxford comma. New dimensions to death. 

So, no. I’ve stopped clicking ‘Like’, and I’ve stopped posting atrocious things when forced to treat people like real human beings on what are allegedly joyous occasions.

The truth about me – as ugly as it may seem – is that I don’t care about your birthday. I don’t care about Valentine’s Day, for that matter, or Anniversary dates, and so on. I just don’t. Relationships are fluid.

If I like you, I at least try to be nice to you throughout the year.

If I don’t, I don’t.

And that’s that. So, I won’t apologize for not liking your birthday, or posting something on your Facebook wall, or tweeting something, or sending you nude pictures of me, or dressing in a clown costume, or whatever else, on your birthday.

Truth be told, you won’t even see me at your funeral.

Even if I show up.

 

The Audience: Know It.

Blue Foundation liveAnyone who truly wishes to communicate is usually taught, somewhere along the line, about knowing their audience.

Knowing your audience is important for business, sure, but it goes beyond that. It gets back to personal communication, and as I noted elsewhere and helps diminish the signal to noise ratio: In essence, you should know what you’re communicating, to whom, and to what end.

Since we’re all sharing content on the vast canvas of the Internet, we should all understand this, particularly since people who we didn’t expect to see our content may well do so… and also because it creates our digital shadow: Who people think we are.

If you’re going to be late for work, as an example, what you would call/text to your boss should be different than missing a meeting with friends. There are people who don’t understand that difference, and they will find no help in this post. 

There are some assumptions that will help with this:

  • What you communicate on the internet will last forever, even if you delete it.
  • We may not be what people perceive, but they don’t know that. Your digital shadow is who they think you are and you should consider what you want that digital shadow to be. If you want to be seen as an idiot, by all means… 
  • You can’t control how your content is viewed, but you can control how you are.
  • Spreading bad information makes you an untrusted source, spreading good information makes you a trusted source. Which do you want to be?
  • Social networks only show your content to the audience their algorithms think will want to see it. If you want to change someone’s mind about something, they need to see it and they probably won’t see it unless you change how the algorithm perceives it… which means you might want to write to your audience. Unless you’re just intellectually/emotionally masturbating with people who think like you.

    I don’t judge. If that’s your thing… (but expect me to disappear if I’m in your network).

  • If you don’t want to be perceived as an idiot, don’t communicate like one.
  • It’s safe to assume that someone will absolutely hate what you’re communicating. They’re part of your audience. Defuse them beforehand if you can.
  • If you share content of a certain type all the time, you’ll get typecast. Do you want that typecast?
  • Using profanity might seem fucking brilliant at times, but overdone it’s cliche. Oh. And your parents/children might read it 10 years from now, so get a grip.
  • Lawyers might use what you share in a court case. Yay. We love lawyers. It isn’t mutual when it comes to litigation. “It’s not personal…”
  • Ranting and shouting isn’t very effective.

I’m certain I’ll think of a few more after I post this, so don’t think this is an exhaustive list.

Summarized: Everything you communicate can and will be used against you at some point.

Your audience on the Internet is more global than your Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Communicate like it.

The First Victim Is Truth.

Blue Sky TwitterJournalists, Please – We Have Enough Activists Already‘ is probably the best criticism of today’s journalism that I have seen in a while.

When you get done reading it, understand that the ‘need’ to report fast has replaced the actual need to report accurately, and that what you get immediately is likely not the full story.

A few examples from the link:

On Thursday, Peter Alexander, national correspondent at NBC News, reported (on Twitter, where most reporting happens now) that the U.S. Treasury Department had quietly eased sanctions to allow U.S. companies to do business with the Russian FSB; 40 minutes later, he noted that it was a “technical fix” planned under the Obama administration. The first tweet was retweeted more than 6,200 times, the second a piddling 247.

So the odds are good that you might not have read that it was planned under the Obama Administration.

Last Saturday, following Trump’s controversial executive order on refugees, CNBC’s John Harwood reported that the Department of Justice had no role in evaluating the order (3,000+ retweets); one hour later, he issued a correction (199). Similarly, Raw Story cited American Foreign Policy Council scholar Ilan Berman to suggest that there was “no readout of Trump-Putin call because White House turned off recording.” The tweet linking to that story has 9,700 retweets, and travel blogger Geraldine DeRuiter’s outraged tweet — “They. Turned. Off. The. Recording. When. He. Called. Putin. IF OBAMA HAD DONE THIS THE GOP WOULD HAVE HAD HIM TRIED FOR TREASON.” — has been retweeted nearly 30,000 times. Berman took to Twitter to explain that he didn’t know “for a fact” that the recording had been turned off; it was simply “conjecture.” Twenty-seven retweets.

Seriously, what is wrong with these journalists? Isn’t there some responsibility in reporting?

And it goes beyond the citations in this article, beyond politics, beyond all of that. Indeed, the responsibility has shifted to the reader to get the facts since it would seem that the media itself doesn’t want to be encumbered by the full story.

And people reposting them? They also don’t want to be so encumbered. It’s not as if they actually read what they share.

Hitting Pause: Social Networks

3D Social NetworkingI’m displeased with social networks in general at this time, particularly after the last year of idiocy with the U.S. Presidential Election. It extends beyond that, and I will touch on that shortly.

I wrote about what I saw in June 2016 as related to politics in “Social Networks, Democracy, and Ethics” – and after the election, people are still wrapping their heads around it because they have been given their opinions from within the echo chambers of their social media accounts. It’s the allegory of the cave in that people are fed what they want to see, and it’s the hedgehog’s dilemma with a bunch of thin skinned and long-quilled hedgehogs.

Typically, I’m in the center – connected to all walks of life, around the world, of different opinions on everything. I’m in a prime location to watch people disagree, and when I try to explain the sides to each other I find myself tired. People are just going to have to figure out how to deal with each other. And, of course, everyone who reads this will think I’m writing about everyone but them when in fact the odds are almost 100% that I’m also writing about them.

The conservative that can’t allow for the free choice of others (ain’t that free will?). The liberal who pursues their ideology with the fervor of a zealot who, fortunately, isn’t armed by their very nature. The religious person who tears at science, the anti-theist who just can’t leave people be with their religion. The anti-Islamists, intent on calling all Muslims violent, and the Christian right, who has no idea just how much they have in common with the Islamists.

It goes on and on and on and on. And on. My newsfeed is littered with articles based on supposition and no actual facts, posted by well-intentioned people to poorly belabor their own perspectives.

The Internet has allowed these people to know about each other and, rather than hash out differences, it becomes a battle of tribes that I have lost patience with.

So: Pause. When you folks figure out how not to be assholes to each other… let me know. A smoke signal or something.