Tag: social media

500 Words on Blamethrowers

“A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” – Winston Churchill

I don’t know for sure if I’ve coined this term myself, or if it’s existed for a while, but I’ve been using “blamethrower” quite a bit lately. As in: “so-and-so made a mistake or became aware of a mistake someone else made, and they broke out the blamethrower.” It’s far too common a practice to pawn off responsibility for a mistake, no matter how large or small, onto another person.

Let’s be clear right from the off: we are responsible for our own actions.

Courtesy Netflix

When we make a mistake, we want to find some explanation. Ideally, an external source — a diagnosed (or undiagnosed) mental condition of ours, a flaw in another person, extenuating circumstances. If we can seize upon one, out comes the blamethrower. We set alight the explanation quickly, setting it alight so that it draws attention, ours and that of others, away from the bad decision we made and towards whatever we’ve chosen to bear the brunt of the blame.

The insidious part is, it’s very easy for others to break out their blamethrowers as well. Fire is fascinating, and it attracts onlookers. All too often, they jump on the bandwagon, contributing fuel to the fire. In these days of social media and infectious groupthink, this can happen at an alarming rate.

Even worse, this can happen when the party getting set on fire has done nothing wrong.

Victims of assault and abuse are set alight with blamethrowers all the time. In those cases, it is often referred to as ‘gaslighting’. The more fuel is added to the fire, the more the person in question is dehumanized and perceived to be something or someone they’re not. As the rumor mill spins up to dizzying speed, throwing off flames like a Catherine wheel, it gets harder and harder for the person in question to cope with the situation, determine their true role in things, and assert their inherent personhood.

Worst of all, blamethrowing is a tool that can be used to further political agendas.

Those in positions of power, be it the potentate of a nation or the vanguard of a social group, can mobilize their key supporters to bring someone forward as a strawman to set alight. The nature of the person or the particulars of the circumstances matter little; what matters is burning down someone so that the “ruler” looks better by the light of the flames. When you exist in a social group, if you make a mistake that offends, or suffer abuse at the hands of, a person or people in power, it’s all too easy for you to come under fire; the bandwagon rolls on, and you are crushed underneath.

The only thing we can do in the face of blamethrowing is assert our sovereignty, own our portion of responsibility (if any, in the case of victims of abuse), and strive to be the best versions of ourselves we can be in light of everything. It’s never easy. But it’s all we can do.

On Fridays I write 500 words.

The Internet’s Not Just For Porn

Courtesy andrebarcinski.blogfolha.uol.com.br

I’ve spun up a new project, since I’m still stymied in my attempt to write a YA fantasy novel with a female protagonist that doesn’t entirely suck. I’m something of a perfectionist, to the point that I am extremely hard on myself when I do not live up to my own standards. I need more test readers but am hesitant to have my worst fears confirmed: that I am too male and out-of-touch to get this important job done.

So I’m keeping that on the shelf while I try my hand at something new, different, and downright scary, but in a different way.

To do the research I need to complete this new work, I turn to the Internet. And getting lost down rabbit holes of character analyses and Star Trek essays, I was struck with a realization.

Considering what it is and can become, it’s easy to forget what the Internet was intended to be in the first place, and still is if you use it a certain way.

From it’s inception, the Internet’s purpose is a repository of data and knowledge. Try as you might, you can’t burn down the Internet. At this point, the data is so wide-spread, so diverse, and so cataloged that to destroy it and the knowledge it contains is a fool’s errand. You can’t accidentally touch of a conflagration in the Rare Webpages Section; there will be no Library of Alexandria repeat here. And thank the stars for that — so much knowledge was lost in that time, and in some circles, we’re still reeling from the losses. (Personal aside: so much of the Work I am doing away from screens and data streams may remain unfinished because there is simply a lack of resources upon which I can rely.)

Moreso than it was when I first encountered it, the Internet is extensively cataloged and searchable. There are multiple engines to do so — perhaps foolishly, I still rely upon Google to do my fetching, among other things. A few cursory searches brought me a plethora of resources for my projects, old and new, and also linked me to undiscovered essays, new treatises, and authors whose voices resonate with my own, individuals with whom I’d love to sit down, away from the constant barrage of distractions, and just have an eye-to-eye chat about our art, the world, and what’s to come.

In the meantime, I follow them on social media, and hope they’ll follow me back.

This turns my thoughts to social media, and how the Internet becomes sorely abused.

Instead of using it for data and enlightenment, so many individuals choose to use the Internet as sounding boards, echo chambers, and podiums to espouse their personal points of view as if they’re gospel. I’ve been guilty of this, myself — on more than one occasion, I’ve pontificated on our political climate from my perspective and bemoaned the nature of my illness. I’ve shown how hard I am on myself, and how I’ve abused myself; this in turn has given others implicit permission to use and abuse me.

Beyond my personal traumatic experiences, so many people use the Internet as forums to spew bile and hatred upon those just struggling to survive. They twist and mold the world as they see it to shove their supposed superiority and righteous indignation into the faces of the populace, like thunderbolts raining down from Olympus. It sickens me to see so much arrogant presumption, so much faux righteousness, so many smug miscarriages of justice. I just want to grab people by their collective collars, shake them until their eyes wobble (not to be violent but to get their damn attention), and say “NO, YOU ARE BEING MYOPIC, YOU DO NOT GET TO PICK AND CHOOSE WHAT THE FACTS ARE.

It’s people who shit on fundamentalists who pick and choose parts of holy writ that support their viewpoints, then turn around and pick and choose the narratives that support their viewpoints, that truly piss me off.

The truth is a complex, multi-faceted thing. Like perfection, it is something deeply desired, but we can only chase after the truth; catching it is a monumental task. We have to be honest with ourselves and the role we play in constructing our narratives, and imagine the other perspectives that confirm that narrative, or run counter to it. Sticking to the facts is difficult when the facts may reveal parts of ourselves that we don’t like — our human frailties, our capacity for making bad decisions, our actions that hurt one another.

When we see one another as people with hearts and minds, rather than things made of straw and bad wiring, it becomes much harder to push one another out of the light and into the shadows, to shove those who deserve love, support, and trust into an oubliette to the cheers of enablers and potential lovers.

The Internet can be the biggest enabler of all.

For months I stayed away from the Internet, both loathing what people used it to do to me and fearing what I might say or do in response. But allowing fear and self-loathing to keep me in the dark was not only unhealthy for my own sake but succumbing to the will of the zeitgeist, kowtowing to people who pretend to be rebels but represent a new establishment. We only tolerate what we feel we deserve; we serve as screens for others to project upon us only as long as we allow it. And I finally got to a place where I dropped the curtain on the screen I was (and perhaps still am) and decided it was past time to re-define my Persona and unearth my true Self. And the Internet helped me do that.

The Internet is, at once, a potent tool and a potentially deadly weapon. It’s all in how one chooses to use it. How will you use the Internet today? How will you leverage its articles, the discussions that take place, your presence and impact in social media? Will you build one another up, to stand against those who refuse to do the same? Or will you tear one another down so you can push your Persona to new heights? The power to both help and harm is at your very fingertips. I hope you choose wisely.

Thursdays are for talking tech.

(N.B. I was in flight on Tuesday so I’m telling a bit of my story, here, in case you couldn’t tell.)

Is Social Media A Necessary Evil?

Courtesy andrebarcinski.blogfolha.uol.com.br

Social media, and our means of interfacing with it, continues to grow. From evolving platforms like Fourspring becoming Swarm, to applications proliferating all over phones and tablets, it feels almost like an infiltration. Lives have been changed because of social media, even damaged. It could be argued that social media does more harm than good. But is that really the case?

Digial delivery systems for media, be they stories or critiques or commentary or something entirely new, require unique methods of finding audiences by their very nature. Most up-and-coming content creators do not have the capital to line up advertising budgets. Success and failure depends almost entirely on word of mouth. The nature of the Internet, and by extension, social media, means that those words can be transmitted to a multitude of ears far more efficiently and quickly than normal modes of conversation. 140 characters may not sound like much, but with persistence and the right timing, they can be just as effective as the biggest billboards lining a superhighway.

There’s also the fact that social media allows people to remain in touch over very long distances and through shifting circumstances. Moreso than phone or emails, social media allows for immediate connections, and immediate feedback. That’s part of its power, and a big portion of its curse. You can’t take back what you say, especially on social media. The more you try to cover up or remove, the worse things look for you. Just ask any number of the independent game developers that try to make negative reviews of their games go away.

In the end, social media is a tool. For connectivity, for promotion, for information – it is a means to an end. Those ends can and do vary from person to person, from goal to goal. It is difficult for me to believe that any permutation of social media was created with any sort of malicious or damaging intent. Like so many things on the Internet, we’re talking about about information. Information, if you’ll pardon the old cliche, is power. The uses and abuses of that power are their own animals. Social media itself is not to blame. I cannot subscribe to that interpretation.

That said, it can impede things. It can distract, detract, and even disrupt. Sometimes, stepping away from the whole mess is the correct course of action. I don’t think anybody can or should be blamed for making that decision. However, for all of its flaws, all of the dust-ups and all of the feet finding their way into mouths, social media is not the enemy. I find it hard to believe that a tool that keeps people connected, spreads unfiltered information, and allows for new breeds of entertainment to find voices they wouldn’t otherwise, has something inherently wrong with it. I know some would call social media a ‘necessary evil’. But I am not sold on the ‘evil’ part.

Be Social, Be Real

Courtesy HootSuite
I’m trying out HootSuite. These owls look like social creatures.

I’ve always been more comfortable with on-line conversations than real ones.

it might be because, for most online conversations one-on-one with people, I’m a known quantity. People know what to expect with me, and for the most part they like what they expect. There’s a reduced amount of anxiety involved. I’m less concerned about embarassing myself with somebody I know than with a stranger, especiall a stranger I’d like to impress for one reason or another. I guess we can chalk that up under the heading “massive nerd” in my personality dossier.

The meteoric rise of social media in all its myriad and ever-evolving forms has been a bit of a boon for people like me. It is easier than ever to put yourself and what you do out in front of an objective and potentially interested audience, where the true tests of your work’s quality lie. For writers, the process of rejection and resubmission was the only real way to test their work for a very long time. It’s still viable and I’m not going to discount how important it is to pitch as often as possible, but at the same time, you can start a blog, tweet your posts and get feedback for no investment other than time. And if your writing improves, it’s time well spent.

So it is with other creative professions, especially if they have anything to do with the Internet. Online designers and interactive developers need to discover and leverage the power of social media, if they haven’t already. Freelancers can drum up work and established employees can cultivate business contacts and fellow online pioneers with the power of these tools. You might be surprised, but the feeds and tweets from those who might seem to be impersonal or even automated can lead to new, exciting places if you pay close attention to what’s being said in which directions.

Don’t misunderstand, spam on Twitter or any other social media feed can be just as irritating as it is in your inbox. However, a Twitter bot or news feed from a company can be just as promising as a lead from a friend. Be it from a living, breathing person or a generated bit of data, turning an interesting bit of data into the next big thing takes the right timing, the right skill set, the right environment and the right need. Most of all, though, it takes you being there to take advantage of it.

So it is with the real world. You never know when the next big thing is waiting for you in your immediate future unless you put yourself out there with an open mind to process what your eyes are seeing and your ears are seeing. I would not have a manuscript under review by two fantastic ladies in the publishing industry if I hadn’t put myself out there. Getting that great job means showing up in person – not just for the interview but every day after. Don’t just heat up the seat your in, heat up the whole environment. That’s when you make your mark. That’s when you become invaluable, and invaluable is what you want to be if you want more than just a job to fill the hours and occasionally pay you some money.

It plays back into itself, as well. When you begin to inhabit a position, it pays to branch out from there. Both in social media and in person, if you know it or not, you’re putting a face on the people for whom you work. In some circumstances, you might be working for yourself, which is cool. People like to know who’s sending them hot new items in person instead of just reading text off of a screen. And if you’re employed by another, your personality, geniality and willingness to step out and be seen & heard speaks to the trust, passion and drive of the people behind you. This isn’t to say that every interaction with someone else in the industry you work in will reflect one way or another on your employers, but it is something to keep in mind when you approach the reception table, pin a name tag to your shirt and start shaking hands. Those people you exchange pleasantries with tonight may be people you tweet with in the days and weeks to come. And from those interactions, you may yeild more business. Conversion is conversion, no matter how it happens.

Creative folks sometimes fancy themselves mavericks, loners, those wild people on the fringes of society with a glimmer in their eye and gin on their breath. But when you get right down to it, if you want to make a living doing what you love you have to take what you love to the people who’ll love it and pay you to make more. That means bathing, brushing your teeth, shaking hands and becoming engaged in social activity. Social media has made it easier to do this, and expanded the possibilities far beyond what could have been considered just a few years ago. But it’s still essential for there to be a person behind the feeds. When one of them grows from a simple tweet or comment to the next step on the road between where you are and where you want to be, it’s going to require facetime. As much as social media has given us so many more ways to get to that next step, it’s not enough to just be social. You need to be social and be real.

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