I was doing press with somebody in the mid-90s, and they made an argument that stayed with me: that I have influence, and that it’s my job to call out whatever needs to be called out, because there are people who feel the same way but need someone to articulate it. And I think about that today, because it seemed like it was a lot easier to just keep your mouth shut and let it go back then. You don’t hear a lot from the Taylor Swifts of the world, and top-tier, needle-moving cultural youth, because they are concerned about their brand, their demographic and their success and career and whatnot.
We're all variations on a human theme, containing multitudes.
Some of the variations are more versatile than others. The brain's wiring is more amenable to uncertainty than chasing exactitude.
The rare breeds prefer to keep the ball in the air, playing the piano with no end in sight. Time is constant, and so is their search of novelty.
But every person is their own ‘CEO of Me, Inc,' for which the fractions of uniqueness are the great equalizer.
Difference is always celebrated. The theme, yet, remains immutable. That is until the cyborgs take their course.
We have become a plastic society, with celebrities (not leaders) running the world stage and ‘geniuses‘ creating culture.
While social media gives everyone a microphone, it also permits mediocrity to rise up to the professional level. When these influencers take public responsibility, they can further colonize large parts of our mind. To echo Hannah Arendt on the rise of totalitarianism, evil spreads like a fungus.
But we have a choice: we can stem the tide or turn a blind eye and do nothing.
The history books always prompt its students to ask why no one ever did anything to stop such cruelty.
And now we know why.
I don’t understand how a country obsessed with superhero movies doesn’t recognize supervillainy.
— Baron Vaughn (@barvonblaq) June 19, 2018
According to German critical theorist Hartmut Rosa, accelerated technological developments have driven the acceleration in the pace of change in social institutions.
Noticeable acceleration began more than two centuries ago, during the Industrial Revolution. But this acceleration has itself accelerated. Guided by neither logical objectives nor agreed-upon rationale, propelled by its own momentum, and encountering little resistance, acceleration seems to have begotten more acceleration, for the sake of acceleration.
To Rosa, this acceleration eerily mimics the criteria of a totalitarian power: 1) it exerts pressure on the wills and actions of subjects; 2) it is inescapable; 3) it is all-pervasive; and 4) it is hard or almost impossible to criticize and fight.
At the heart of the web’s self-destruction is contagious media: crazy cat pics and the entire Buzzfeedification of the internet.
Every site, even reputable ones, raced to the bottom because celebrity sideboob and stupid human and pet tricks drove clicks.
Writes Tim Wu in The Attention Merchants:
“Contagious media is the kind of media you immediately want to share with all your friends. This requires that you take pleasure in consuming the media but also pleasure in the social process of passing it on.”
“Contagious media is a form of pop conceptual art” in which “the idea is the machine that makes the art (LeWitt, 1967) and the idea is interesting to ordinary people.”
The clickbait craziness spawned an albatross of more ridiculous news, some of it fake news. As Zeynep Tufekci says in her TED Talk, “We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads.”
And now we’re living with the repercussions of confused algorithms and companies like Facebook and Twitter avoiding responsibility.
We are psychologically vulnerable to social media games. If we want stupid, we’ll get stupid. And anything that requires some thought and effort will fade away.
I'm sure you've seen Angela Merkel's brilliant staredown at Donald Trump across the interweb. The photo was taken by German government photographer Jesco Denzel, who also won World Press Photo of the year in 2017 for the image in Lagos.
Extraordinary eye for timing and composition.
Inattentive, we let the details slip right through our heads.
We are in a state of continuous partial attention, whipped around by facts, fake news, hyperbole, and reality.
The foreign invaders monopolize our “private” profiles and manipulate the entire public sphere into tribes that all think and see alike.
We turn a blind eye to the pleasant rhythm of dissent while also marching to the beat of our own drum.
To stop admiring our own words and lookalikes, and to start interrogating our own ideas.
The tranquil flood of information died after CNN introduced the 24-hour news cycle. But the internet brushed on a new type of disorder onto the information canvass that prevents us from thinking straight.
We consumed mindlessly, eating more than we could chew. Our brains got overloaded, dulled out, memories stymied by Google and images that told us everything we needed to know.
The good news is that while no one reads anymore, those who do are choosing quality over crap. Premium content is back because it's trustworthy, well-written, detailed, and shareable.
Of course, the non-traditional sources are there like me. I blog to step back from the chaos and to absorb its connections. I refuse to let the Kardashians and other buffoonery colonize my brain. Blogging is like self-medication, but you can easily do it with a private journal or spending five still minutes reflecting on the day behind or ahead.
The Pilgrims didn't have to deal with attention seeking missiles, misinformation, and click-baiting darts. Otherwise, they might have stayed home assuming the worst. Now offers the chance to dance with the intrusions by putting novelty aside and embracing the imagination for periods at a time.
“We think we understand the rules when we become adults but what we really experience is a narrowing of the imagination.” — David Lynch
Less news equals more news, squashing stimuli along the way.
The current situation of the United States is obscene, insane, and incredible. If someone had pitched it for a thriller novel or film a few years ago, they would’ve been laughed out of whatever office their proposal made it to because fiction ought to be plausible. It isn’t plausible that a solipsistic buffoon and his retinue of petty crooks made it to the White House, but they did and there they are, wreaking more havoc than anyone would have imagined possible, from environmental laws to Iran nuclear deals. It is not plausible that the party in control of the federal government is for the most part a kleptomaniac criminal syndicate.
We worship celebrities like they’re the new Gods but they’re as fallible as we are.
We obsess with the famous for being famous. First, we had reality tv and then social media gave us the Kardashians and Trump.
Is this how the media wants to harvest our attention and chip away at human decency?
Reporters will continue to dupe a distracted public with attention-seeking missiles. The buzzfeedication of the web has taken over.
We are stuck in click-bait culture
If a good journalist is supposed to write what they see and leave it to the world to interpret, then they better start choosing better subjects. At least more interesting ones.
Let’s start with this rule: No more graduation speeches to those who were famous for 15 minutes.
- Five-star ratings
- Gallup polls
- Followers and social media ‘clout'
We obsess with gauging the temperature of our present reputation. The numbers are public, ticking up or down like stock prices.
The internet is the grandest stage of them all where we endeavor to present our best self. We strive to prove our self-worth, using likes and follows to pepper our egos.
A reputation is never finished. There's always one more person to attract and appease.
Yet, the perpetual chase of approval remains illusory. There is no need to install an elaborate series of checks and balances on fame's usefulness.
Our mood, needless the temperament of others, is as fickle as the weather.
Vigorous grading is not good for the person, nor the whole.
The race to the bottom begins when what you think you know, you know. I am once again reminded of this Seth Godin quotes from [easyazon_link identifier=”1591845335″ locale=”US” tag=”wells01-20″]All Marketers Are Liars[/easyazon_link]:
The best stories don’t teach people anything new. Instead, the best stories agree with what the audience already believes and makes the members of the audience feel smart and secure when reminded how right they were in the first place.
The stuff we want to hear sticks.
Confirmation bias and stereotyping are just the appetizers. Beware a blind spot, or better yet, the ostrich effect.
Biases are shortcuts. The truth never expires.
ORIGIN: The notion of cognitive biases was first introducted by psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in the early 1970s. Their research paper, ‘Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases‘ in the Science journal has provided the basis of almost all current theories of decision-making and heuristics. Professor Kahneman was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2002 after further developing the ideas and applying them to economics.
Venezuelan photographer Ronaldo Schemidt won World Press Photo of the Year for his image of the “Burning Man.”
The picture shows a fleeing José Víctor Salazar Balza engulfed in flames at an anti-government protest in Venezuela on May 3, 2017.
“It all took just a few seconds, so I didn't know what I was shooting,” Schemidt told the British Journal of Photography. “I was moved by instinct, it was very quick. I didn't stop shooting until I realized what was going on. There was somebody on fire running towards me.”
The photographer currently resides in Mexico where he shoots football matches and more recently covered the Mexico City earthquake aftermath. Check out more images on the Getty website.