Just gonna riff:
A nice thing about not having to be up at 8:00 in the morning anymore is I wake up around 9:30 without an alarm clock, my mind a blank space for creative potential, and then I immediately open up my phone and look at Twitter and see that while I was getting in some extra Zs something deliriously stupid and pointless has happened online and for some reason a bunch of people I follow start talking about it (many of the people I follow are media people who got hit on the head with a claw hammer enough times to become annoying but not enough to be mercifully incapacitated; I count myself among this group).
Anyway, today’s dumb thing was some letter published in a magazine called Harper’s, which I think is mostly read by people who went to a private college between 1942 and 1976 (truly just spitballing) and also read by people my age who think that their digital literary magazine is going to be the one that really changes things. The open letter concerns, I dunno, the tenor of debate or whatever, which is almost always code for “People on Twitter said I was wrong in an impolite way.” It is a piece arguing that the masses don’t recognize nuance anymore while itself lacking any nuance.
But I really don’t mean to “harp” (get it?) on this tired forever-debate as much as I am curious about the list of people who signed it. It’s a weird list of nobodies (college professors) and somebodies (transphobe J.K. Rowling). Edmund Lee of the New York Times noted that the list of people is “conspicuously comprehensive,” except that… it’s not? This list is just a daisy chain of people who were nice to each other at a book party.
How the motley crew of signatories was assembled is a little mysterious, but it’s pretty clear that one person just sent the letter to a bunch of “important” “thinkers” in their contacts list and said “You in?” I assume that these people all ended up on the letter through the same method that I might invite people to a party, scrolling through my phone contacts and deciding whether or not a) I like this person and b) if they’d even show up.
I don’t really have a name for this feeling, this intangible spidey-sense, but you see it all over the place online. Two, three, four people that you know know each other suddenly saying the same thing in such rapid succession that you have to assume they were talking about it in private before they voiced anything in public. Beneath the large, loud public conversation are thousands of smaller, often healthier ones.
But it’s getting a bit boring, no? So, as I often do, I began thinking about the television show Revolution (2012-2014), which imagined what would happen if the world was suddenly without electricity. This was a good idea for a show and is a good idea for real.
Here is what I propose:
everyone should wipe their contacts.
Just delete all of them. Then, using the handful of email addresses and phone numbers that you have memorized, start building that rolodex back up. I don’t mean to be a “technology has made us lazy and stupid” guy but what if it were less easy to get ahold of a bunch of people who agreed with you or who could be tricked into signing an open letter? What would happen? Some cool stuff, I bet. Anyone important enough you’d figure out how to get in touch with.
(Here is how I imagine this would work: five minutes before the Great Contact Wipeout, everyone gets a push alert that it’s gonna happen. In that time, everyone gets to memorize as many numbers and addresses as they can. Then, the wipe.)
My hope is that the big wipe will free everyone from their social obligations, including the ones that might make someone sign a letter about something as dumb as cancel culture. All of those weak ties go right out the window. Social inertia becomes intention. I don’t even know what I’m saying anymore. I’m just thinking about all of the unbearable text threads that eventually resulted in a truly epic list of insipid people, and I’m wondering if there’s a humane, technological solution to prevent this from happening again and again.
I feel bad that I’ve written about some truly dumbass media thing but if there is ever a population group that puts too much stock in “stuff they see on social media” and makes me want to come up with novel ways to stop them from ruining the whole of the internet for everyone else, it’s media people. Adversity spurs innovation.
The Army said “uwu”
I don’t really have anything to say about the U.S. Army deploying “uwu” other than that the history of propaganda is fully of the people in charge coopting the language of outside groups in order to embellish their humanity, so if the idea of the army using video game/Japanese culture to target disaffected youth who might have some pent-up issues with aggression bugs you, uuuuhhh welcome to the military.
Also, if you capitalize the “U”s in “uwu” you’re a fed, which in this case is actually right. Also also, I do say “oowoo” in my head whenever I see it even though it’s actually supposed to be an emoticon (technically a kaomoji) of a face.
Anyway, here’s a bunch of people getting banned from the Army’s Twitch chat.