A blank screen, an external reality

A blank screen, an external reality. To project oneself as an influencer of good.

The unemployment rate is at its lowest since 1969 — but is it masked by the gig economy?

The side gig wants to survive in a world rather than know it. Instant gratification is the latest raison d’être. But it also comes with financial gain — selfies put food on the table.

Writes Rosie Spinks for Quartz:

“The internet influencer is the apotheosis of all this striving, this modern set of values taken to its grotesque extreme: Nothing is sacred, art has been replaced by “content,” and everything is for sale”

There's no surprise that in this culture of meness is a whole lot of sameness. Such simple thinking gets amassed and deduced to pictures on a retina wall.

So we keep slouching, in the hopes that a little text neck prods us beyond permanent mediocrity.

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All the internet’s a stage

via giphy

We can all assume that a social media persona is different than that in real life. Writes Jonathan Crossfield in Chief Content Officer Magazine: “Strategy or no strategy, all social media is artifice and spin.”

No one is going to post in public what they Google in private. We'd rather tweet about playing 18 holes than revealing a Saturday afternoon doing the dishes.

We curate our avatars, acting like celebrities and influencers to build up our personal brands.

If Instagram and Twitter present an edited version of life, reality is a theater full of false mirrors and digital half-truths.

We create the appearance of authenticity online

We invent polished experiences so we can share them. We manipulate the public microphone to project the best self, even if that ephemeral five-second clip disappears the next day.

All the internet's a stage. As online entertainers, it is no surprise that we often fail to live up to the shinier version of ourselves offline. Screens provide neither knowledge nor truth so the personal image never gets accurately reflected.

We set the bar too high like the movies, performing a Hollywood script that injects a personal image into a mirror that we cannot touch.

Shouldn't we be the one that we are?

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Watch a Chimpanzee using Instagram

Watch a Chimpanzee using Instagram

This video of a chimpanzee scrolling through Instagram is eye-opening.

Touch is intuitive, the candy-colored screen all too addicting. Generation thumbs transcend humans.

But can the chimpanzee access the Stories feature? This video reminds me of this snippet from the Yuval Noah Harari book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind:

We control the world basically because we are the only animals that can cooperate flexibly in very large numbers. And if you examine any large-scale human cooperation, you will always find that it is based on some fiction like the nation, like money, like human rights. These are all things that do not exist objectively, but they exist only in the stories that we tell and that we spread around. This is something very unique to us, perhaps the most unique feature of our species.

You can never, for example, convince a chimpanzee to do something for you by promising that, “Look, after you die, you will go to chimpanzee heaven and there you will receive lots and lots of bananas for your good deeds here on earth, so now do what I tell you to do.”

But humans do believe such stories and this is the basic reason why we control the world whereas chimpanzees are locked up in zoos and research laboratories.

Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

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Werner Herzog talks filmmaking, Pokemon Go, and how to manage our online life

The Verge interviewed legendary director Werner Herzog about his online class where both aspiring filmmakers and professionals can learn his tips and secrets on moviemaking.

Not surprisingly, Herzog practices an unusual style of teaching too. He encourages his students to break the rules of storytelling and make up their assignments.

“don't wait for the system to accept you. You create your own system, create your own [budget] and make your own first feature film or your first own documentary.”

For all the affordable technology today though comes our self-inflicted barriers of Internet addictiveness. To avoid the pitfalls of a “parallel surrogate life,” filmmakers need to get offline and touch things. Herzog only owns a cell phone for emergencies.

On the contrary, he reveals a fascination with technology, particularly Bitcoin, as it relates to news ways of storytelling.

“I'm interested how can I commit a bank robbery holding up the bank and getting away with loot of something that you cannot even touch”

The funniest part of the interview is when Herzog needs an explainer on Pokemon Go. He does not think the game is moronic, only that it is not for him, at least not as real as the human connection. Talking about virtual reality, he still prefers it when you get on your two feet and encounter the world and others face to face.

The conversation over Pokemon leads to some of his deeper thoughts on the role of technology in our lives. At the end of the day, humans are morally responsible for their tools.

“Sure, and the question — is this technology good or bad? — is an incompetent question. It's humans who are good or bad.”

Read the entire interview here.

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How status and likability affect your health 


Popular people live longer.

As social animals, the number of friends predetermines our well-being and lifespan. The gregarious live long than loners.

But life hinges on authenticity — it is not a popularity contest.

The number of people we know means nothing if there's zero reciprocation. The other person(s) have to like us back. There's a real benefit to solid relationships.

Think back to high school: were you amiable to a few trusted friends or sworn to attention?

The same question applies to our behavior online. It's rare to have both status — millions of followers — and likability. The difference between the two is subtle.

Explains Mitch Prinstein, UNC psychology professor and author of the book Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obsessed World:

“Likability is markedly different from status — an ultimately less satisfying form of popularity that reflects visibility, influence, power, and prestige. Status can be quantified by social media followers; likability cannot.”

Mitch Prinstein

If we're looking for happiness in the credibility of numbers, social media is the wrong game to play. Happiness links to likeability, not our number of followers.

It pays to be both well-known and well-liked if we want to extend our lives. So how do we start? For one, we can be kind to others, remembering their name, and seek a thread of commonality.

gif via Tony Babel

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Adding to the pile

Another tweet, yet another Instagram — we keep on adding to the digital morass. Can we archive it all?

Of course, we can.

Google and Facebook are hoarding every little iota of data we create. They own our words, even the ones we put in drafts.

The ephemeral qualities of a pixel are a treasure trove for the attention merchants looking to retarget us with their product offerings.

Data churns into advertising like oil does through a pump. Nobody understands the details but can comprehend the general idea of the scene.

Store and retrieve, so much production, from numb thumbs to naive. We persist in feeding the algorithms with more input it can easily handle.

The pile is infinite.

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What matters isn’t always popular

What Matters Isn't Always Popular

If you've ever published anything on the web you know what it's like when all you hear are crickets. No likes, no comments, no reshares.

You think your content sucks because no one's acknowledging you. But it's a misconception to sell your work short, especially if it's your labor of love.

There are 2.1 billion+ people on the Internet. If you're writing, acting, or sharing your music someone's going to connect with you. They may be a fan, a teacher, or someone you admire within your scenius. But you're never going to appeal to everyone.

“The less reassurance we can give you the more important the work is.”

All social media is based on reassurance. That's why most Instagram content looks the same. If you want to guarantee success, you'll share photos of beaches, dogs, selfies, and food.

“We were raised to do things that work.”

But why not challenge sameness by trying something new? Go for some tension. Err on the side of being vulnerable if it means you get to make the stuff that makes you happy.

Unlike politics, creativity asks that you own up to being edgy, different. People that make change stand up and take responsibility for causing a ruckus.

“The internet could save your life because it'll keep you from a lifetime of being told what to do.”

Choose yourself. The rest follows.

All quotes above are from Seth Godin's most recent presentation. Watch it below.

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‘Everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance’

An illustration of data passing through the web

“Another flaw in human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance,” said Kurt Vonnegut.

Everybody's wants to start something, but rarely do they want to maintain it.

The problem in growing at no costs is that it obviates purpose and integrity. Instead of leading by example, the race to the bottom unearths the highest greed. Few win, more lose.

That's the lesson of Facebook, the so-called ‘behavior modification empire.

The social network cut corners on data collection to make another buck. No Facebook: We will not answer any more questions “to help people get to know us.” Just replace the word “people” with the attention merchants.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal was the nudge Facebook needed to become more accountable. Seizing the data of others and building on top of it contorts the machinery of morality. 

The selfish reason to be ethical is that it attracts the other ethical people in the network.

Naval Ravikant

So now Facebook is all about the privacy game because it's good for business. But just wait until Instagram becomes the victim of data exploitation.

Sometimes the genie of innovation requires that the master purveyor gets slapped again and again until it gets it right.

The seesaw tilts back to the morals of vision over avarice, eventually.

gif by Matthew Butler

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