A trip down memory lane: choices and treasure

Having a blog in the times of social media has to be one of two things: you have something else to say rather than illustrating a moment of your day with an effort to look cool, foot on the sink, beer at hand, ocean as landscape, group pose, doggos, music; or you have found in yourself a tendency not to share what’s going on at all, and the day you finally do it, the pressure from these networks suddenly reveals itself as the motivation dragon of entire generations, except you don’t know which one you’re representing and the metaphor is not for GoT because you never cared to watch. But I’m a writer who criticizes himself from scratch, so let me start with the wrong assumptions in this first paragraph alone, and then maybe tell a story and try to outline the chain of events that led me here.

First off: no man has ever taken their shot with a foot on the sink. That’s obviously for girls, and it’s more than completely fine, it’s a tease you’re likely to come back to, and they know it well. But still, while you tell yourself that’s not caring about paternalistic society or matriarch cultural standards, you should save yourself for marriage and that kind of crap that somehow survived the war and sounds like they’re taken from a Jane Austen book you and I haven’t even read, there’s a bit of “what the fuck am I doing” in the initiative, and that’s the central question I’d like to explore. The other instances, of course, have a clear motivation: drinking, visiting places and breathing different air, cuddling and playing with pets, enjoying noisy stuff. Perfectionist that I am, I’d have to ask, introducing my argumentation, about the making of your beer, tell you the story of how I went to a city which hosted a beer factory but didn’t visit it cause my girlfriend never drank anything that wasn’t destillated, all the names of the many cats I’ve seen coming into the old house I used to live in, and rant on the world of music without a lot of backstage knowledge. So here we have wrong assumption number one: instagram is irrelevant, and not complex enough to be a form of culture.

We know, it’s big. They developed an app for anyone to share anything about their lives whenever they wanted. Our bodies responded by filtering the insane amount of information we’re exposed to with a thumb filter, so we can just skip, and unfortunately for some, we do it all the time. We do it with everyone. It’s become natural. But seriously, how did we get here? Suddenly, the amount of people saying “spying is real” doesn’t have any relevant power of decision, but the user does, when he/she chooses to share what’s happening. Notice a strange intersection of traditions? That’s because adults have learned what monopolies are the hard way, but yep, even they had a quick course on it when they were just 6, playing a cardboard game that would make people hate an entire continent. Back to the point, one company has it all, and by accepting the terms I can look at myself through their lens and see just anything I’ve ever shared with the world. So hey, Alexa? Play that song I wanted to sing sarcastically when I heard that my dad saw the president as a responsible man and these people knew nothing. It’s all in your head, and luckily for us and everyone, since it’s free, anyone can access… your head. Congratulations, you little piece of shit. Everyone knows you’re just as bad as you look.

Despite the word taboos, the controversy around content moderation, the shallow descriptions of people taken from a single post, and the business models made around them, with special mention to the formulas invented with access to whatever metadata really means, the giants of social do have relevant preoccupations. One of them has to be: what happens if nothing’s happening? And there you have it: a fine cut through the system’s root functioning, an unbalancing on the scale of social flow, bad numbers, traffic stops, oh my lord, people are gonna die. No, buddy. They’re not. They will if you support gun owners, corner criminals, persecutors, real life abusers, hateful speakers and surround yourself with that sort of content.

Here’s the main issue I feel like sharing with the world: when you don’t look satisfied, commerce wins. But do you have kids or is this roleplay philosophy? I know a lot of people would skip the first paragraph just thinking “okay, another analytical essay on the effects of the network economy, where are my problem-solving stakes?” but we have to look beyond. The movement to skip the whole dilema is adults versus teens, and we haven’t even addressed what kids (-12) are doing in the first place, without forgetting their first contact with the web is through our own phones, filming their first time trying a baked carrot. The profiles of people having fun and sharing it are one small attempt to look at ourselves with more critical capacity, enough to say we are more than what we post, but completely ignoring the personal narrative, which is all that drives creation, unless you tell someone else’s story.

So I’ll tie a knot on personal narrative and external storytelling to mention a few people. The first of them: my decade old friend Courtney. I had just graduated from high school and messed with Fotolog in Photoshopped posts that made my leather pants and make up look stylish for male models trying to confuse people, in a Japanese band cover of visual kei copy trend, and people’s opinions were mostly not shared because there was a level of embarrassment involved. We went on shoots and our singer transformed the whole background, put wings on me, a circle of angelic appearance in velvet red clouds, stockings and all, and that was how I said hello to the whole world, now online. After 10 thousand YouTube views on our Dir en Grey tribute, the most interesting saying it was “not bad, not great either”, I assumed that you couldn’t please everyone, but the number was just a small detail. How could anyone watch a 17 year old playing a big venue literally just learning how to hold the drumsticks, but worse, how did I expect to have some success? I didn’t think about it. When I met Courtney, on Bebo, it was all about what she listened to, and I remember us talking about silly things like sitcoms I watched on TV an having a near argument on how hot Helen Hunt sounded on Mad About You. Courtney lived in New Zealand, had just broken up with a boyfriend who had a baby with her, and would become an independent artist. I would guess she didn’t find much stability to start her own projects (she has a beautiful voice) and with someone to take care of, it was hard for her to get anything going. I heard she moved, but when you hear about these things you don’t think of stress over paperwork, eventual buyers, searching for a better place, an entire change of environment and a kid to raise in the midst of it all. As I went through college, I would meet more people in different situations, but Courtney is still on my mind. She looked different, dyed her hair, shaved her eyebrows and made her new ones with make up, had a piercing near her forehead and sounded like someone really cool to be around, but she had a small drug problem. I would develop mine, and many things happened before I found myself to be an addict, but she was losing her battles. Maybe we were never close, but she was my first internet friend. What if she had chosen to share everything that was going on in her life to the world? It would concern the British, but I didn’t have that reasoning when I was 17-18, and I really hated the fact that she was a Justin Bieber fan, but tried to understand it, since I just assumed it was sexual and that’s completely understandable. She would make a Twitter account for her idol, and we’d follow each other, but I said no when I noticed she was really into the whole thing. Regardless, when I lost my 4 year job as a teacher, I came back home and tried to reach her. My old friend. She was living in a trailer, selling more than stuff to make a living, and I forgot to be devastated. We haven’t spoken in over 2 years. I didn’t think about her that often. We spoke on MSN, only a few times, then she had my Facebook and I just saw her in selfies taken when nothing else was going on, but my life used to be busy.

One day, after falling in love online and trying to forget how much it ruined my real life relationships at the time — a story I’d write an entire book about — I met this girl on a random meetup site. Her name was Atlanta. She had a big family, and though it was weird, every time we talked, someone was around. All of them were kids, and it was insanely visible how annoyed she was by their presence in her space, and that’s what really caught my attention. She wanted everyone to move out, I assumed. But she was always on camera with me, and never said a single word, until the day she started writing the letter K as a standard reply. I lost hours and hours with her, and eventually we’d do something, which was more about how I insisted because I wanted something different for myself and had absolutely no freaking idea of how to show interest (and be honest about not wanting something anymore, which I probably should have been man enough to do while I was in college). Lanta was the girl who made me lose my whole soul to please someone with red hair. One time, I had a concert, and I just skipped an entire day of work, assuming they didn’t need me since it was an extra, to stay with her on cam. Obviously, we got busy. But I had to get myself a cab (at the time, I could still pay for these) and be stuck in traffic on my way to the venue, by myself, my friends and my band waiting for me. Lanta didn’t know about it. Two years later, she would be travelling from Wales to Spain, and Skypeing me from a bar bathroom in Barcelona. Next time we spoke, she was in her first month of college, studying animal behavior. I had stormed out with her saying nonsense about starting something more serious, she picked up on all signs I didn’t really mean anything, left me with the riddles and bullshit as she put it, but she knew I felt something for her. In the most arrogant attitude of my life, I asked her to Google my name to know “who she was talking to”. A year later, she’d have her first kid.

There’s stories and stories. But I want to come back to the main point: strangers at first, how do you make an impression these days by approaching someone who knows they’ve already shared enough, said enough and lived enough on the hands of social flow, waiting for confidence, confirmation, confrontation with someone else’s beliefs, praise for a positive posture, a significant text, even if it’s small, but trusting such impression to be representative of what you know and have been through? Moreover, how do you make people trust you and your intentions, when all these stories seem to be easy to debunk by people who you didn’t want to share them with, but provided you with a service you trusted blindly? How do you make a story relevant without moving from your couch? Is it you who should be telling it, or would you accept it if someone else applied to have control over that narrative, and what would you do next?

I don’t want kids right now, but I bet Courtney and Lanta didn’t plan much. I remember them and many other people who crossed my path, but I’ve forgotten a striking number of people and their stories, because (guess what?) commerce really has ways of winning. The personal touch I can give to let people be more confident when they shoot their shots is just a small grain of empathy on a beach filled with the love I want to give people, understanding their calls for attention. But sometimes you have to choose, and to be interesting enough for social media, you have to do enough. The bad news is nobody will do it for you, and just in case nothing’s happening, they’re gonna make it look like it’s all your fault.

Picture: Alexandra Levasseur

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