Monday, November 25, 2013

UNBELIEVABLE! You'll Never Eat Raw Cucumber Again After Reading These 7 Incredible Recipes from Korean War Veteran and Former Army Line Cook Ziggy Sims and (Wow! Get the Tissues Ready) You'll Cry Uncontrollably When You See the 16 Heartwarming Pictures Taken by Ziggy's Blind 3rd Grade Daughter in her Tri-County Art Fair Submission Entitled "Hero Chef Dad In Action!"

photo credit: mumsmonkey.blogspot.com
Hey, it's your fault; you clicked this. I love "good" news just as much as anyone else. Given that it's real news. I love to be uplifted. I attempt to click "like" more than casually, and I hope you appreciate my occasional affirmative judgments of your re-repost's worthiness. <animated smiley>

Also, I, like you, get tired of "bad" news pretty quickly. Especially gory, graphic bad news. And I hide people who repeatedly post stories about robberies and beatings and sex crimes and then add their equally uncivilized commentary about the various ways they could themselves serve "justice" to the perpetrators. <animated angry smiley>

What I'm not so sure about lately is the "no" news. And I'm not talking human-interest stories here, because, emotionally-charged as they may be, these have a rich, journalistic history of being well-written and help us at least consider other people's heights and plights. No, what I mean by "no" news is this stuff masquerading as news... unverified... undocumented... maybe even accidentally-public... posted on an aggregation site that doesn't care about the credibility of its source... and rebranded with clever headlines that, well... make me and you want to click!

I didn't realize just how bad this was getting. But then, I turned off my drive-time NPR a few weeks ago because I just needed a break from all news, period. What happens? Go figure, super-typhoon Haiyan hits, and I don't event realize it until days after the fact. Let alone did I realize that it was probably one of the strongest storms ever recorded to make landfall. Shame on me, truly. (aside: if you haven't given towards relief, here's a place to donate where all your money goes to actual disaster aid on the ground, per your designation - www.umcor.org)

What's bothering me is that maybe not even two years ago, I am pretty sure I would have seen a flood of commentary about Haiyan on my Facebook homepage. I don't rely on Facebook for news, per se, but, I can safely say that my withdrawal from news has been covered in the past by the trending compassion of something that we're beginning to rely on: the social consciousness. Maybe I speak too generally, but it seems, to some degree or another, we have begun to trust this flighty entity to inform us of what we need to be paying attention to, praying for, and giving towards... at least I have!

But in this instance, it didn't work, for me. Instead, for the past several months my Facebook "news feed" has been littered with this kind of pseudo-viral, "click me!" no news crap. And it's just getting worse and worse. What. The. Heck?

Listen, I'm not out to judge or accuse. What I know or don't know is certainly not your fault. If you have enough time to spend hours a day on BuzzFeed or Upworthy or Mashable or Gawker or Huffington Post looking for the latest heartwarming editorial or YouTube discovery, go for it. If it makes you feel better about the world around us, that's really great. I am glad that you feel better, and I completely understand why you want to (and how easy it is) share the feely-goods with everyone.

But, please. Monitor your time. And check out your sources. This latest obsession seems to even be - and I didn't think this could happen - overtaking the memes, escalating our non-status updating to new heights of incredibility.

I have been closely, purposefully observing this phenomenon for the past week or so now, ever since my Haiyan ignorance sort of snapped me to reality, and, I'm just gonna say it once: it's getting really, really - to borrow a word from a good friend - bizarre, folks. One day, it quite literally took me a minute of scrolling to find an actual status update. That's an eternity in internet time! Everything on top was, quite literally, memes and shock-shares. That's nuts. I'd rather see Twitter ads!

To be fair and honest, I'm the chief clicker. Seriously, I've clicked more than my fair share of these (great pun, right?) <laughing smiley>. I've read a lot of them and I must say that most of them are just plain not worth posting, in my book, even if they are true. Some of the stories are borderline sweet, but I think you'd find something sweeter in the world around you, today, in this moment.

I've had to start narrowing my baseline. Flash mobs: great fun. Over-the-top wedding proposals: inspirational. But... little girl writes hidden I love you message to dad on the bathroom mirror? Homeless people are only scruffy-lookin' because they haven't had a makeover? Come on. Is this the kind of social consciousness that brings us a greater awareness? I don't know. I fear it just dulls my senses.

The most pesky of the unworthy lot are the endless lists of overstated generalities about people who grew up in the 90's/people you were friends with in high school/things you should do before you turn 40/stuff every driver should have in their car (and every passenger should ask about)... complete with animated GIFs and links to three other similar must-read lists...

In moments of clarity, I have found myself thinking: what is the point? Who are we validating? Ourselves? The authors? The social consciousness? And who has time for it? I do, I guess. But I digress, how long did it take the un-credited "them" to come up with it, anyways? It's often creative, and I've no problem with reminiscing, on occasion. But these are hardly academic. Not even insightful, really. And there's no selfie-help here - we don't click links like this to learn about who we have the unfettered potential to become, we click to read about the people who click to read about the people who click to read about... we are the superficial content consumer we want to be: we already know who we are, so we click! How boring! How like us!

Then again, maybe I am generalizing all the more... maybe you don't click... and your self restraint is truly admirable. But I click! Over and over, in my utter weakness... "Yea, verily" I think, "this oddly odd-numbered list will totes be better!" Ugh. God help me, please. <forehead-slap smiley>

All in all, I embrace Facebook's link-sharing capabilities. I utilize my news feed for, well, a whole new category of news, I guess. I get a lot of current pop-content and discover a lot of new ideas, blogs, campaigns, and sites via Facebook. I am, in fact, really intrigued by this concept of the social consciousness. Bring it on, world; we're in this together! And I know I can't be in the minority of people who still appreciate real links, to real thoughts, by real people, about real topics. Links to the kinds of posts where even the comment threads restore your faith in civil discourse. I'm not in the minority, am I?

So all I'm asking is this: for my own personal sanity, if you care about me at all, if you call me your friend, and if you want me to read your posts... if you're going to "contribute" to the social consciousness, please, for the love of Pete (whoever he is), contribute something legitimate... something of substance... something challenging. Or, at least something truly extraordinary. I would even go so far as to suggest a return to being dramatically self-focused; it is your status, after all. And I assure you that the 19 funniest things that these total strangers/completely made-up people said/did/wrote/tweeted/texted is not funnier than your last several guffaws... and I would know... I've got a list going... I'm going to post it soon, and it will go viral.

Oh, "life hacks" are also OK to post, but only if they really work. You should try them first and let us know. And if all else fails, please just post articles from The Onion. Especially if you think it's real news. You're the very, very best.

K? Thx. <double smiley, maybe two smileys hugging>

--kory // www.korywilcox.com

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