EthicsMusings

Be Careful with Your Bullshit in the New Year

By December 27, 2016 One Comment

I confess that, despite it being a significant part of my job, I strongly dislike social media.

I don’t think it’s all bad, of course, but I do believe social media companies profit handsomely by exploiting the fallout of humanity’s less desirable tendencies. High on that list is the tendency of people to create and engage with hyperbolic, irresponsible, and unimaginative bullshit.

Don’t get me wrong. Bullshit can be awesome. Many of my strongest friendships were forged in the flames of rapid-fire bullshit that happened to be clever. Most movie plots are utter bullshit, and great fun as well. Bullshit pairs well with bourbon. And it is still the preferred method of dealing with awkward interactions at forced gatherings such as weddings and holiday parties. 

I’m protesting the type of hyperbolic, irresponsible bullshit that leads otherwise caring people to throw up their hands during election seasons. This is weaponized bullshit, bullshit with an agenda, bullshit dragged kicking and screaming into the public discourse, bullshit dragged from the bar, dressed as substance, and shoved on stage in a serious role. The type of bullshit that springs from a dull imagination and robs us of words like “literally,” because a large number of unimaginative assholes couldn’t figure out any sexy ways to exaggerate their stories.

Or “epic.” If you had to fix a flat tire on the way back from Bishop last weekend, you did not “have an epic.” The Donner Party epic’d. You dealt with a minor inconvenience.

Similarly, can we please not call a 5% discount “epic”? I would actually, seriously, truthfully, and literally, be more enticed by “We’ll give you a free cup of coffee with $50 purchase,” because that’s the kind of reward we’re talking about here.

A small part of me feels old and grumpy. 15 years ago, I’d have told me to epically shove it up my literal ass. But I’ve spent some time on this soggy dustball, I’ve seen some things change, and I’ve read 1984, and I can tell you that the logical conclusion of this trend of hyperbolic bullshit is a monochrome world, one devoid of subtlety and flavor and magic. When your grandkids can only describe their meal of deep-fried shale oil as either “epic” or “literal death poison,” don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

So, for 2017, I’m asking us to normalize our messages, just a little bit. Remember that everything you say creates a wave that will echo throughout the universe for all eternity, or else be kept on some server somewhere for a similar length of time, and therefore you ought to take care that you’re saying what you mean. I’m calling for all of us to temper that instinct that we all have, which is to feel like our problems (or the ones we’ve identified) are literally (pre-2013 definition) the most pressing in all the world. Or, rather, maybe we don’t feel that way, but the way social media has it, the only voices getting amplified are already the loudest and most reductive. Maybe we can spend a little less time in Comment Purgatory and a little more time crafting some worthwhile bullshit for each other to enjoy.

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