Sunday, May 29, 2011

Why I Unlike facebook

The f -bomb
Have you ever noticed that it's not possible to be negative about anything on Facebook? The only structural choice you have is to "like" something. You can "unlike" it (an unword if there ever was one), i.e. change your mind and take the little thumbs-up icon off. But you don't have the option of sticking a thumbs-down icon on anything. I think this is insidious. It reminds me of the part of Orwell's 1984 where the Ministry of Information is in the process of devolving English so that it is impossible to have certain ideas, like freedom or justice, for instance, because there are no longer words for them.

Ironically, this sunny lack of negative editorial options on Facebook doesn't prevent vicious little adolescent snots from tormenting one of their peers to suicide. They figured out how to do that without an icon. This is the second reason I'm not so ready to stick my thumb up for Facebook. It can be lethal. Instead of promoting human interaction, as was Mark Zuckerberg's noble, original goal, it has been perverted by some as a convenient power tool of sadism. There may not be a convenient "hate" button to click, but bullies find a way to slip the shiv into their victims anyway. I guess it's the social network equivalent of nuclear power, it can be used for good or evil. But mostly evil.

An Online Insane Asylum
The third thing that fails to plus me about the Big Little f (aside from the fact that you're supposed to render it in self-consciously pretentious lower case) is that it seems to encourage banality. People, especially people born after 1985, tend to share every eruption of a bodily function with everybody. The net result, even if you don't have that many people on your "wall," is a large, digital dumpster full of inane comments, pictures, and "likes."  Like who cares? I know it feels good to announce to the world that you like Lady Gaga, and that it feels like you're famous for a microsecond because your post goes up there on that ever scrolling ticker-tape of important announcements, but it's just an illusion. Nobody cares. Everybody's talking at once and nobody's listening. That's not human connection. It's the Social Room at the Sunny Valley Mental Hospital.

That's not exactly true that nobody cares. Prospective employers care, of course, looking for embarrassing pictures of you with your top off at a party, so they can send you a "thank you for your interest in our company" letter. And you don't even have to post those pictures onto your FB page; your friends (so-called) will do that on their pages and tag your name, so it shows up on your page anyway.

Meanwhile, for those people who would actually use their wall to inform family members and friends about important events in their life--say a wedding or death or a sex change--those messages get buried in with all the other junk about who's now friends with whom.

Where's the Love Button?
A more famous curmudgeon than me, Jonathan Franzen, in a piece in the NYT, says that Facebook is insidious for another reason; that it commoditizes human love, reducing it to a commercial relationship on the same order as your "like" of a brand soft drink. To love someone, he says, is a dangerous, lifelong undertaking. To merely "like" something lets you off the hook. You can "like" something or "unlike" something with the click of a mouse. There's no commitment. At least not like there is when love is involved. You can love someone, he reminds us, without necessarily having to like them all the time. That's real life; sticky, risky, painful, but also euphoric, transcendent, fulfilling, and fun. Of course, Facebook doesn't pretend to be a substitute for the sticky, risky, painful, euphoric, transcendent, fulfilling, and fun. But it does tend to keep you on the couch instead of going outside to play. Sort of like writing blogs.

The daughter of a friend of mine was--momentarily--my hero because she went off grid. She called her mother and said she was getting off Facebook because it was a waste of time. I was inspired to follow her lead. But another trusted friend talked me off that ledge by saying, "Yeah, do it if you want to commit professional suicide." (Of course, I think it's far too late for that; I committed professional suicide when I started a career in advertising.) And then my friend's daughter got back on Facebook after all. You really can't live without Facebook, anymore than you could live without GPS. Or clip-on mosquito repellent.

So I stay on Facebook. I check it every once in a while (as well as my Linked-In account, Twitter, my four e-mail accounts, my voice messages, a dozen blogs, my post office box, and my jeans pockets). Besides, if I didn't, I wouldn't get all this material to make trite observations about the banality of humanity, so I can feel superior--for a microsecond.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Talk Is Cheap

Smart as a Cloud
Rule: Just because you use the word "just" in front of a request, doesn't make the request any easier. Or cheaper.

Example 1: I just want a new website.

Example 2: Just eat this car.

Example 3: Just bring the troops home.

People seem to have a lot of unfounded faith in the magic of words, as if they are incantations to insure success (more on this later). Saying that you just want to be rich doesn't make you rich, any more than saying you just want to go to the moon will get you to the moon, much as the word "just" seems to shrink the scale of the task.

There are a lot of useless, magic words like this. Putting the adjective "creative" in front of something, doesn't make it creative. It just comes across as wishful thinking. In fact to use the word "creative" at all betrays the opposite, especially if you're using it to describe your own creation. If it's creative, it will be obvious--at least to people who know what creativity is. Garnishing it with the adjective doesn't do it.

Nor does the word "strategic" in front of a noun make it strategic. People in marketing love this word "strategic." It sounds so grown up and important and has that militarized, metaphorical feel to it (like "target" or "campaign"). But I've found that hardly anybody in marketing would know a strategy if it were chewing on their finger. If you define your role in a company as having responsibility for "strategy" it might mean you have no idea why they hired you and are wondering when they're going to catch on.

Another Talk-Is-Cheap example is the overuse of the word "success." Merely using the word "success" in speeches and on your website won't make you successful. In fact, without saying what you mean by the word "success" you only look like a fool to say it. How often, when poring over the brochures or sites of schools, do you come across the promise, "Our mission: to help your child achieve success." Notice how they never guarantee it--they only "help"--a defensible hedge. And notice they don't specify what they mean by "success." It's an old marketing gimmick to keep the promises vague. Success is when your tuition checks don't bounce.

Then there's that other overused word in marketing: "Smart."  Smart seems to apply as the amorphous quality of anything that essentially has no qualities. It's the Styrofoam of virtues. There's a very expensive, effects-heavy spot for IBM running now with good looking people saying that your computers are now "smart" because they can use Cloud Computing. They don't say why this is smart. They just use the word over and over and you're supposed to buy it. To tell you the truth, the whole idea of Cloud Computing in this environment of crummy WiFi, bad cellular networks, crashing servers, and cyber-hacking doesn't sound particularly smart at all. It sounds pretty reckless. And dumb.

That's all I wanted to say. I'll probably say it again, mostly because I like to rant, it's my blog, and talk is cheap.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

We're All in Heaven Now

Is it just me, or is it kind of boring here?
Just wanted to inform you all that I was taken up directly into Heaven yesterday at precisely 6:00 PDT. If you are reading this, that means that you, too, were taken into Heaven. Congratulations! Big hugs all around! We made it! I always knew we would.

Heaven seems a lot like earth, though, doesn't it? And the WiFi's sucky.We'll see.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Defense of Job Killing

Job Killing cluster bombs
over the Capitol
Here's some political advice from a professional ad guy: If you want fanatical support for any repeal legislation you want to ram through Congress, just stick the phrase "Job Killing" on the front of the name of your bill and you'll have your frothy lipped constituents plastering their bumpers with stickers and heckling their representatives mercilessly with e-petitions. For example, "Repealing  the Job Killing Health Care Act."  This phrase is gold and works on anything: "Repeal of the Job Killing Medicare Act," "Repeal of the Job Killing Geneva Convention," "Repeal of the Job Killing 19th Amendment," "Repeal of Job Killing Graduated Tax Laws for Rich People Act," "Repeal of the Job Killing Sherman Anti-Trust Act," "Repeal of the Job Killing Emancipation Proclamation." This would be good because people like jobs. And they don't like so-called Acts that kill them. And are probably unconstitutional, to boot.

Likewise, if you have some radical, oppressive legislation you want to pass, stick the phrase "Defense of" in front of it and it's bound to get a tidal wave of support from The American People (I mean the Real American People, not the people you know). "Defense of Our Nation's Borders Act," "Defense of Head of the Family Rights Act," "Defense of Rich People's Rights to a Tax Free Gated Community Act," "Defense against Job Killing Cute Furry Puppies Act," This would also be good because people feel bad when defenseless things need defending. So we should have lots of Defense Acts. Defense Acts are never bad. There are never any unintended consequences from a Defense of Anything Act. And anybody who wants to think them through before they are voted on is just a Job Killer.

Just some political advice.  I'm accepting calls from Congressional offices.