Have you ever encountered someone whose every utterance is unbearably banal, but who won’t shut up no matter how much boredom and disgust you show? “Ooh, Tabby’s such of a good kitty, and I took a great nap this afternoon, and this wood stove is oh-so-warm and comfy-cozy, and isn’t Tabby such of a good kitty! Yum, farm-fresh potatas again, and ‘mtalkinthroughamouthfulamash, but that’s all right cause I’m country.” You know, where you’re listening to that sort of idiocy for half an hour, maybe from two people at once, and even a Clint Eastwood stare won’t shut them up? And then, when you’ve finally gotten into an intelligent, mutually agreeable conversation about something that, thank God, isn’t yet another asinine discourse about what’s for dinner, you get interrupted?

I kid you not, Stoner Aunt once interrupted a conversation that I was having mostly with another dinner guest who was clearly listening to me. Granted, I was drunk, but I was coherent enough, and I wasn’t exactly being an ass, at least not that early in the evening:

Point: “One of the problems was that the federal government backstopped insurance on older, more dangerous kinds of nuclear reactors, so there wasn’t a market for safer technologies like pebble bed reactors.”

Counterpoint: “Yum. Green beans.”

I paraphrase, but that was the gist. Yes, we must return to the subject of how we’re having green beans for dinner; we haven’t explored it fully enough yet. Nor have I adequately explored the subject of how I’d kind of like to die right now. Because I will die if I don’t get some more cabernet on board, stat, and by the time I’m done I’ll be steering my own mouth as adeptly as Captain Schettino steered the Costa Concordia.

How about people who overshare, even when you never expressed any interest in their private lives and wish that they’d discuss the details in a more appropriate setting with other people? “In other news, my period is a week late, which would have me worried, except that Bob got the old snip-snip last year, and I haven’t slept with anyone else in fifteen months. Also, I had really bad diarrhea last week, and I don’t know if it was just a case of the beer shits or the stomach flu, or the fried oysters that Bob and I had down the shore, but he didn’t get diarrhea, so maybe it has something to do with my period. Our younger son, Derek, says that he thinks he knocked up one of the Haskell girls from down the street, but I don’t think her cycle has regularized yet, so it’s really too early to tell. I don’t need to be a grandma yet, but I wouldn’t mind it either, but at the same time, I told Derek that in the future he should try to keep it ‘under wraps,’ so to speak.”

True story: a few years ago, my parents and I received a round-robin letter from a family friend who wrote that her husband had had a vasectomy, or, to use the technical term, “got the old snip-snip.” So unfortunately, I didn’t concoct that whole vulgar tale. I don’t think I could have come up with a description of a vasectomy as crude and juvenile as “the old snip-snip.”

Yuck.

Another true story: people such as I described above didn’t exist prior to the advent of social media. They are children of the Internet, which means that Al Gore is grandfather to them all. (You can understand how they got that way.)

Actually, that isn’t a true story. It’s a giant pile of rubbish, aside from the part about Al Gore. It’s a popular myth, though. Mom launched into another screed today about the inherent impropriety of Facebook, a useless platform that encourages the sharing of stupid, banal, and inappropriate details from one’s life,  a platform that inevitably deadens the mind and the soul. Because my relatives have never said an annoying or inappropriate thing in a face-to-face setting. Everything that these idiots post on Facebook is stupidity and vulgarity and crudeness that we wouldn’t be subjected to if it weren’t for that awful “social network.”

Fuck my life.

Here’s a sociological hypothesis that I’ve confirmed in a number of cases over the course of several years of field work (i.e., talking to people, often at bars and usually when I’m drunk): People whose Facebook walls are plastered with idiocy are usually a bit stupid, and sometimes a lot stupid. People whose Facebook walls are coherent, intelligent and well-read are usually–hold your breath–coherent, intelligent and well-read. Etc. Occasionally there’s an outlier, usually someone who is perfectly sane and intelligent in real life but a blithering idiot online, although occasionally there’s someone who makes sense after a fashion online but in person is an object lesson from the Book of Proverbs. On the whole, though, there’s an unmistakable positive correlation between not being a blame fool idiot online and not being one in real life.

And that’s a sociological fact. David Brooks agrees. It was an honor and a privilege to be able to make such an important contribution to the nascent field of boboology, a subdiscipline that Brooks admittedly made up with the blessing of the New York Times as a way to lampoon guilty, navelgazing yuppies for profit. Still, we got a lot of work done during our 4:30 pm dinners at Applebee’s over fifty-cent margaritas, because you wouldn’t believe how cheap that place is if you’re used to dining out in Manhattan. By the way, it has a killer salad bar. Granted, we usually went there on the trolley from Fred Rogers’ living room, and there could be some strange rangers at the other end of the line, but we got some honest-to-God sociology done, and we didn’t even need a grant for note paper with all the free napkins that we got from our servers.

(Sidebar: What did the sociology major say to the psych major? I dunno, what? “Would you like fries with that?” Snork, snork.)

All right, enough of that bullshit. The medium may influence the message, but it does not dictate it. I could use WordPress to publish top-ten lists of ways to bamboozle a prospective employer or a date, but I don’t. I could use WordPress to publish meticulously documented research papers, but I don’t. In fact, I could use Facebook for either of those purposes, but again, I don’t.

90% of the blogs published on WordPress could be total garbage, and to judge from the ones featured on the homepage, they are. That doesn’t mean that the 10% that aren’t should be forsaken because the same platform is used to publish crap with no redeeming value. Nor should Facebook be forsaken just because it is used by boors and idiots to disseminate annoying bullshit. They’d be saying the same things in real life. In fact, they already are. I’ve listened to more than a few of them.

Nah, let’s go ahead and ban Facebook because it’s used by pains in the ass. And while we’re at it, let’s ban all talking and writing. They’re used by boors and assholes, too. We want to be careful about these technologies. They could fall into the wrong hands.

Advertisements