Tag Archives: internet usage

Practical verbs: 11/12

We know people speak a language as standard, but there’s many aspects in how they use it that relate to general things like context, in every day life and different settings: are you at work, talking to family, approaching a stranger on the street, talking to a neighbor, socializing at a party, catching up with your closest friends, starting a conversation online, presenting results and directions at a company meeting, speaking in public or asking a question with a big audience, maybe recording a video? Some stuff we say tends to be more informal, but people appreciate informality in a given situation while other people in a formal enviroment expect a level of preparedness, coherence and clearness, avoiding certain characteristics of unplanned speech to make it worth taking the time to listen. In today’s world, despite some unfortunate conversation starters and interactions, we want people to be clear, but also kind and respectful. What happens often is the conversation you hear on the street is closer to reality than the conversation you read on social media, so people change the way they talk because experiences in the real world tend to have an effect on how we talk, more or less formally, with more or less conviction; but that goes the other way around, and we’re still beginning to understand how that plays out. Here’s two examples:

“I respect your opinion”

Families have suffered with political disagreements, opinions about behavior and relationships, things that should be done, looked at, talked about in one way or another. But as language develops, some people may reject what came next and stick with what they know. That’s a question of identity, the same way a person will listen to one kind of music and not another, or several, but have a list of favorites — and music is a great example of how language can be playful, raw, intense or just clever in ways normal speech can’t translate or express. What people call slang or urban language might just be your preferred way of communicating, not because of personal taste, but because you think it’s more accurate. I can say something’s nuts or insane, some people might prefer to say distressing, problematic, and others will use a good wtf. Needless to say, the list goes on. But when it comes to picking the language we use for a greater audience, we should be careful and look back to see where we might be caught in contradictions of ideas or interrupted argumentation, along with a lack of consistency in vocabulary choices and empathy for the wording we elaborate. Of course, one of the main concerns today is how conversations start with people we haven’t met, and these have the benefit of being distant, at least at first, before we consider meeting someone who would say things we’re hearing for the first time. Optimism is great, so special cases aside, it’s great when you find someone who not only respects your way of expressing thoughts (doesn’t judge you for how you talk) but also welcomes a new way of thinking, and some of the discussions people have online tend to be more focused on trolling than the good let’s agree to disagree.

“You’re not following the rules”

If the school body decides they will have a cultural project, students are supposed to come up with a presentation of topics they’ll research by themselves. Including some information might be a debate among classmates (at least it used to be like that when I was in high school and also college), while some of it will be left out, if not revised. But some of the things we say can’t be reproduced in certain enviroments. You’re not going to write an academic essay saying the author is fucking brilliant or a complete wacko; you’re going to say while the contributions of said author have broadened the field of study, the aspects explored in this or that chapter are not sufficiently developed or rather they point toward a discussion that this or that author chose to focus on, but you won’t address it on the essay. Some talk is necessary, some is inconvenient. In practical life, you might wanna ask for a towel when you got into the bathroom and forgot about it, but of course you won’t walk out naked and maybe you don’t wanna scream, though you might be upset about having to ask for a favor. On social media, there are a set of rules. There’s many things happening every year at rapid pace, and we might see a future where certain kinds of content will start to be more heavily monitored and even taken down, but some will have their own place, with an understanding that they’re not harmful. Nobody said memes weren’t great, but some of them are offensive on purpose, not to mention that images can be copyrighted. As we all moved towards video, creators face the problem of not knowing their audience, how to respond and what to do when someone attacks them. That happens on television, so it isn’t new. What we need to understand is that rules can be broken, but consistent and massive deviations from decent and civilized exchange are going to be dealt with measures the platform itself has generated, as any other problem in society.

***

Everyone thinks respect is key in any relationship we want to maintain. But it extends to society in general. A red light asks you to stop driving or walking. A block on social media asks you to stop seeking interaction. But drivers can get tickets and certain users can find better ways to solve disputes instead of the tool for blocking. Some people get banned, others get fined. But not everything works perfectly when it comes to identifying who’s doing right or wrong, and that’s a subject we need to keep debating not only in classrooms but in the media and society. When it comes to language, you want to feel represented, but not necessarily in opposition with a group you never interacted with — but that’s a choice you can make, considering that some of those may not be worthy of your time.

Practical verbs: 10/12

Advertising has experimented with languages, not only written and spoken, but visual and musical, for a long time. It tries to capture the essential and translate it into engagement, with a product or service, in their case; but in an age where everybody has shifted from the consumer mindset to start creating, some of those choices are being made by us and how we want to be represented. Companies listen (more than we’d like to), track and make decisions to reach a target audience; people search, scroll and then fall into an occasional error of judgment. Here’s a few sentences to navigate that context:

“You should think before you buy”

A friend used to say I should think less and live more. While her argument was actually on point, I don’t wanna talk about whatever she really thought about my personality: I take a long time to organize all the things that run through my head when I’m actually interested in a topic, and most of the time it’s a big confusion of references, even when it’s a formal situation. But specifically, when we buy stuff, we tend to make a choice based on immediate reward — or at least we go with short term decision making rather than long term. For example, I wanted a new phone. I knew how much I could spend, and I went for the cheaper models that came with a recent operating system. I found out the most recent ones were actually more expensive than I thought, but then it occurred to me that some brands are more popular than others. In the end, I chose a brand I had decided not to buy again, but that’s because I needed a new phone as quick as possible, and the delivery for the other brand I found online was going to take too long. So I went with convenience instead of personal choice, but seriously, who lives without a phone these days? Maybe buying something reflects who we really are, but I don’t wanna go that far. It’s probably more interesting to discuss how we choose to spend our time dedicating ourselves to what we want to improve, but money tends to make that easier. If people suddenly told you to think before you DM, maybe more relationships would be saved; but that’s a bad metaphor, and maybe some of them wouldn’t even start. Also, you don’t buy relationships. I’m not funny.

“You gotta learn how to sell”

Recently, I read something that said Twitter is a list of reasons for companies not to hire you. Maybe they split the people who wanna work from the people who wanna date online, but regardless of what people think about the process, you have to put an effort to look like the best version of yourself. Of course, that’s what my generation was picking up on, cause now authenticity has a lot to do with sense of humor, which means you’re more likely to nail that job interview if you know the jokes of the week on social media. But people who talk too much about social media are annoying, and we should all learn to look around at products and services for sale, instead of people. That’s what happened to some of us: we became what we share. But there’s a lot more happening around you than the media, traditional or social, can make you see — and while some of it seems irrelevant, a cashier doesn’t spend the whole day looking at Twitter. It’s one product after another. Replace that with a different job and you’ll realize it’s important to look around so you understand the world. But we don’t have to, right now. Like the stuff we buy, it’s good to think about wants and needs, but if you’re on the other side, you start to look at it differently.

“You should think before you hit send”

People have different expectations in relation to language. Language in use: what can be used, what should be used, but also words and even topics to avoid in certain situations. As conversation takes new forms and starts to look a different way, talk also changes to reflect some of the experiences we have with the visual, immediate, complex. People learn stuff with memes. They also share stuff about their mood with a picture of their face or a sunset, coffee or a book, bikinis, beer, screenshots, video edits and songs all in one place. When you send, it could be more private; when you share, it’s another identitary relation. People talk about soft skills: being an effective communicator and a good listener merge into being short when you have a message to share. But conversation isn’t dead: we want it more than ever — and the categories, though this isn’t a word to be used by everyone, are there for us to pick, but with a certain level of scrutiny.

“I can’t read all the comments”

Scrolling has become part of people’s lives, but it’s not just because the older generation spends less time online that we’re going to assume they don’t understand something we set out to do, what’s important for us or in general. If you don’t have time to go to the market, someone else can do it for you. If I need to focus on a project and I can’t have a lot of conversations while I’m working on it, I’ll need some organization and maybe I’ll count on my surrounding context to cooperate. Living by yourself means you have to clean, cook, buy stuff, do laundry, organize, pick up clothes and also work, if that’s the case. Depending on the job, you’ll find that we never do anything on our own. But that brings about many other discussions — how much you get paid, for example. A person with lots of followers can’t read everything people post because there’s too many interactions; a person with few followers may be looking for the right people to connect with, but maybe commenting might be good and even more effective than simply posting, except when you talk to yourself all the time.

***

People make reference to things we might not understand, and it’s on us to look stuff up. We learn something new every day, but sometimes, we choose to skip on one thing and the next day it’s harder to catch up. That’s completely fine. The context for each of us changes, though some of that stays the same cause we’re the same. But when we see language and start using it, we change as well. How we choose to expose our thoughts is what matters most: people don’t have the context, and if we want them to, we have to be clear, and sometimes, short — otherwise, they’re likely to go on to the next thing. But everybody should have their voice heard, regardless of how they talk, what language they speak or what they believe in: conversation starts, depending on each case, when we try to express what we really think and how we see the world. We just need to be careful of how the words match the actions, and of course, avoid confrontation if we don’t want the same treatment.

Image: Pexels

Tech evolved, but what are the issues now?

Before Facebook, around the time where MySpace was popular and not a lot of people knew what Google had in mind, I was getting my first e-mail account. I’d never been online, but I was 14, getting ready to start high school, and the year was 2003. Sharing your life in pictures and thoughts about the world was assigned to Fotolog and Orkut, the social networking site that pivoted in Brazil before everyone used the word. MSN became as fundamental for the teenager as the chocolate cookie, and friendships were supposed to be made stronger by sending emojis that would pop on full screen, sharing your playlist on the platform from a Windows plug in and the testimonials, as they called it, which told people what you thought about someone you loved. Instagram wasn’t the biggest app in the world yet, because we didn’t have smartphones. Public phones still existed, newsstands still sold a good amount of stuff besides cigarettes and carrier credit, malls were an important place to be and taking a cab didn’t come with location history tracking and analysis. Universities were a dream. YouTube was beginning to surge. Cats didn’t have to worry about privacy.

When I turned 17, my musical projects were online, as well as my exchanges with friends and acquaintances, and they had performed changes on the social platform we used. An example would be displaying the profiles who had visited your page. They were testing with game interaction. This could be all about one platform, but we know the topic organization and roles of moderators were key in what came next. Google bought it, and so I had my first Gmail, associated with the band I was playing with, which at that point was “just doing covers”. Then I started college. As I often say, my admission was part of a social program. If you take a test with 100 questions and you get 42 right, you don’t pass. That’s a red grade, as we say it. But I did. The debate could be on standardized testing, but that’s not where I’m going. I didn’t even know I was going to study Phonology, Morphology, Discourse, Semantics, Sociolinguistics and learn about using Audacity and print screening for documental purposes, but that happened in the first few years. I also got a job teaching English around the campus. But then I met someone on the internet.

She was Dutch. Beautiful blue eyes, blonde hair perfectly cut two inches below the jawline, short and impeccably dressed, soft voice, an otherworldly kindness, some sass and cool taste for bands, who happened to be looking for people to talk to. But she had something in her favor compared to the majority: she spoke a second language. Maybe I didn’t realize it by the time we met, 2010. Maybe I don’t realize I’m going 10 years back in time. But most importantly, I didn’t know I’d so interested in her that I’d make choices in life thinking about an alternative reality, contrasted, if not opposed, to the life I had been living and whose path still needed to be walked with perseverance and passion. Maybe passion is a tough word. I remember health and family problems. Relationship shake ups. A new normal. We split, but I learned she had two other guys who regularly video called her, and one of them had saved over a thousand snapshots of their Skype calls. Another, on a trip, had made some serious sexual advancements, which she “actually enjoyed”. And yet another one, as she told me, was a good looking British young man. Meanwhile, we needed cat food, detergent and pasta. As work and life went on, somehow at the same pace, I found myself in the Medical School building when I got a call from a colleague in my group, an English undergraduate who had been abroad to study, the coordinator of a new business in ascension, before they had national reach and ventured overseas to expand their market. I got in. And that’s how the lines started to blur.

Yes, my work life only started when I’d been in touch with an alternative reality, through the virtual. Then I taught them about phonological awareness, possessive adjectives and articles, formality and slangs, rephrasing and correcting, collaboration and giving opinion in a second language. My interest in research was conflicting with my interest in music, and I chose neither to be in touch with more people from other countries. I made up this account nobody knew about, with a pretentious name taken from a song, another for a game character, and others that were deleted anyway. It started getting more interesting, but not less confusing. If you ask me about my opinion on a soccer team — the weak and strong players, that sort of thing — I’ll just remember people I met along the way, not performances I saw on TV. That’s just how my mind works. And I know too little about Oklahoma, Pennsylvania or Florida; I don’t think North Carolina or Washington are places to live, but I learned that they weren’t teaching symbolic systems where I studied. It didn’t matter anyway, because my need for experimentation won over people’s needs for comfort and stability, which include my own, if you notice the stretch of language. At some point, everything became uncomfortable. Yes, there were great times, but I couldn’t keep up. I was the quiet one. Beyond the implicit, there’s just too many things I never understood, until I didn’t have a college dorm anymore and had to move back with my friends, then my dad, then my mom, then my new girlfriend, then some random people, then my dad again, who now doesn’t approve of a single thing.

I guess I didn’t learn the lesson. Work life was calling. But not just doing the job right: having responsibilities, like any reasonable adult. Not being unpredictable, making plans, establishing goals and making efforts to improve stuff around you. But after a dozen video calls, it just starts to look different. And it evolves to a hundred, which by now is far less than people get if they have a successful management of online presence, conversation skills and topics aside. The world was completely different. Tumblr and Kik had lost audiences. Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, disputing for attention. YouTube monetization, ads on your news feed, trends and recommended content, people you may know, who to follow, what you missed, on this day, not to mention block lists and hashtags. Apps for other apps that give permission, account settings, updates, screen patterns, the apparent fall of e-mail, authenticity and verification. Today, there’s no space for relationships anymore because that’s not something you talk about, except that everyone talks about everything. But what you talk about and what you do aren’t even distinguished. For many, you’re on camera. All the time. So next time you wanna talk about the soccer match, talk about the soccer match, but don’t tell the story of how you met someone from the country who’s playing. People wanna know if he can score and will add speed to the team. You wanna talk about your friend’s disease? Her pets? You still think about how she sounds and what she told you that day? Read about law. They made voice recognition. And now you can edit it with the hottest new video app.

The details don’t matter as much. What we’re facing today is an unhealthy amount of information that we can’t classify as such anymore, given ethical borderlines. People need space, but also care. Businesses need new models, but few care and suggest a new approach. Of course we’re not talking about the supermarket sharing an ad on how eating spinach heals your heart (if it does, I might need it), but how to navigate topics of interest for the future and where to find credible sources. Products now include language appropriateness, which is not just words. And maybe that’s not new, but it does tell people they’re going to need adaptation and a little bit of confidence to stand up for what they believe in. How do we reclaim communication is not quite a compelling call to action: how we move on from failed communications is the actual concern, and euphemism aside, there’s a brighter light for those who think we can help each other make sense of a reality where everything matters to be looked at, but we just don’t have the time. Ideally, there’s a place for everyone in the market, emotional struggles and needs can be addressed, and freedom of speech and thought thrive in collective movements for good. On the downside, exclusion has many faces — and the work ahead is understanding how that plays out. Some of these aren’t our own responsibilities. As long as everyone has a right to say they matter too, we’re on a path for better relationships and ease for social problems — if they can be understood and eventually solved.

Beyond the medium: the secret life of hashtags

Let’s cut to the chase: what is philosophy? Just kidding, I know you clicked and I gotta start with a thank you note. I’ll always appreciate readers with a creative list of insults. We use energy to access the internet, someone pays the bill, and that pretty much sums everything up. Except, of course, if you just assumed I’ve never paid a single bill in my whole life, or that I don’t know what the internet really is. So let’s have a conversation here, about space and time, full scholar mode.

First off, when we think about the internet as a space, we’re being selfish little pieces of turd. Outside your view, there’s an address, a physical one, not just a domain. Room, number, street, neighborhood, city, state, country. Take a deep breath and visualize. No, not the people who run it, just the space, each of them. That takes a while, I know. Maybe close your eyes, that’s completely up to you. I promise. Normally, that’s how it goes, unless your condominium is named after a nation. Which is pretty usual: buildings are named after the most creative things, from monuments to plants. When we think about these spaces, we associate them with their names and what they represent. I could go on and say all words are named after association strategies, with an organization known as the alphabet, but not necessarily. I happen to like linguistics. Sorry, you were expecting a mind healing span experience. Where were we? Oh yeah, country: Brazil. If you didn’t get lost in the overlapping of spacial references and disputes over relevance in events that might be taking place in minor regions of condensed population versus maybe an office in some building close to the subway station in the big city, and not a forest, a farm, a beach or a road, then you’ll realize the reality check that follows is actually important to take into account, more than the fact that you have to put your underwear in the washing machine right now. Well, if I got the right audience, which is probably not going to be the case, hence why I anticipate insults, secretly hoping it never goes beyond that.

Here we go: as of 2018, over a third of the Brazilian population didn’t use the internet, according to research (source: Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics). That’s almost 30 million homes without access – 50 million people, or twice the population of Australia. You really wanna think that all these people have more immediate consumer needs, with layers of concerns in terms of their household spending and maintenance. Electricity, water, food. One level up, and you’re covering personal care, clothing, comfort. Then you got furniture, things that need fixing and organizing, devices. Cool, you have a home. Does that make you happy? It should, if only you had other things to do. I may be wrong and I know the number of subcategories I’ll skip to make the assumption more provoking in the following paragraphs is insane, but I think that’s where the hashtag comes in – unless you work with this, and you’ll either think I’m loaded on BS or you’ll be appalled by my lazy reporting.

Hashtags would never work if the sense of collectiveness wasn’t inherently associated with it. Forget about people in small businesses, franchisees and big corporations for a bit, think leisure and a little bit of social anxiety or growing desperation. Maybe ignore the fact that these are converging areas, with social media fostering conversations between divergent classes and politically antagonist groups. Ideally, people would see hashtags as an opportunity to start a conversation or state an intention to be part of it, with people connecting through search, talking points increasing in complexity, interest and repertoire also growing and a map of the public conversation being maintained for the web as a whole, powered by the intelligence of communities and various organizations, marked by cooperation, understanding and acceptance. Isn’t that, like, Twitter’s mission? Wrong. Hashtags are used today to have strangers say inappropriate things to you. But make no mistake: the stranger you know is better than the one you don’t. It’s not just a creep problem: we have mass digital propaganda successfully invading our privacy at its core (I hate to bring it up, but really, what’s on my mind?) and politics competing for interest with different sorts of games, which don’t necessarily have to follow the space awareness exercise we just did – noting that it isn’t always obvious how “thinking big” is not exactly “thinking with”, and unfortunately that makes some of the current leadership references more a case for blind empathy than a case for social responsibility. But moderate guy here says there’s good and bad in it.

First, we know the amount of people creating profiles because they have literally nothing better to do with their lives other than damaging social networks in their credibility is just astounding. But not necessarily do they have any intention to do so. I’ve talked about it before, and I don’t want to repeat myself saying porn has the worst advertising tactics, observing that this is just an obvious side to the discussion, but I’ll point out the fact that this should be investigated more thoroughly and revealed to the general public, and though I’m definitely not talking about the 14 year old who posts eggplants on Instagram, I wonder why it doesn’t seem to be clear. Porn on Twitter has a lot of low quality (stolen) videos, NSFW images with dubious procedence, people creating Snapchat users and bitlys in order to retrieve your personal information, which most of us have suspected all along, but we don’t really do anything about it, among many other instances of unabridged content, including niches like Omegle and Faceflow, but heavily populated zones, like Reddit. I hope that’s a fair assessment, but I’ll apologize if it reveals nothing more than a personal view. On Pornhub, the definitive go-to space for sexual release (come on, when are we less collective?), the same thing happens: perform an advanced search to see how many profiles, with or without profile pictures, are created every day and click through them, if you’re patient enough and have your VPN working. Or not, who cares? We’ve all heard about the depths of the internet, but we’re mostly either too tired to try and find out what’s hidden and what’s not or we’re just stubborn as hell. And let’s be honest: in life, not just the internet, superficial knowledge makes people happy, whereas comprehensive scrutiny requires sleeping pills in the aftermath of a grand conclusion. Back to the site, if moderation wasn’t there, you’d see just about how many people are trying to scam others in real time, but we have to ask the difficult questions: more than who goes on Pornhub, understanding and accepting that the qualitative analysis is associated to third parties, don’t you wonder who moderates it? We don’t know, and we’ll go as far as thinking that someone is smart enough not to tell people they freaking hate the job. My personal experience tells me that 10-15 real people sign up to post videos everyday, and if you think about a worldwide porn feed, that doesn’t really sound accurate. So, no, we won’t be seeing hashtag horny go mainstream, because of reasons – which I’d like you to think about. However, we have a lot of other hashtags going on, and one of them is hashtag me.

I wasn’t going to tell anyone that, but hashtag me on Instagram, in my judgment, ranks so high that it’s honestly gross. Why? Well, let’s go back a little. When you create a hashtag, you have a sense of collectiveness in mind. You want to be part of a broader conversation, offering insights and contributing to the important discussions we need to have as a society. Ideally. Look at how popular hashtag dank memes is. Nothing wrong with that, creators can be witty as hell. Now, what’s the most popular hashtag of all? Turns out it’s nothing in the lines of trending topics: you have love, beautiful and cute ranking at the top. Let’s stay positive, but why does the most annoying girl at school have 4K followers? Regardless of the hidden criticism in this oddly realistic little joke, I would have to agree that maybe whenever I post, I should just throw in some stuff like hashtag science, because I’ve performed an immense amount of tests in this field, the field of discourse and public perception, which you can tell from seeing my tweet numbers and my bank account. I don’t want to be one of those people who criticize exposure per se, but nobody said anything about exposure here: I’m talking about the systematic use of advertising tools to propel personal narratives which are absolutely meaningless 50% of the time. Because… I try to be reasonable, sometimes. In other words, the obvious argument is: if hashtags are collective, why did you just make it about yourself? Sorry if you don’t like the figures.

I come off as a bitter internet user. I’m aware. I’m here to say that I am, really. When you realize nobody’s out there to connect the world, especially when all the people you’ve ever met somehow agreed it was better to disconnect, then inevitably you become bitter. But since that’s apparently a very serious endeavor, you just have to assume you met all the wrong people, who might have advertised their stuff first, in one possible reading, without forgetting about the constant narrative dispute we face throughout life interactions. You search according to your needs, and we’re not having the conversation that shows what poor people search for in comparison to rich people; we’ve never got to this part of the graph, we, the ordinary people with absolutely no idea of what’s really happening unless our interests can be efficiently and safely connected. And so, what happens, when space and time, your personal space and your mismanaged time, seem to clash with the beautiful mess of an uberly connected digital landscape? We’re stuck in the condominium at best, not to mention the prison of our bedrooms, or worse, our minds. We need escape. We need clean, but we definitely need dirty, just without risking identity theft. And if you don’t want Google, you’ll search for hashtags. So here’s a list of what I’d be interested in searching for: poetry, photography, dogs, inspiration, leadership, stats, musicians, art, language, philosophy, creators, education, technology, curation, reviews, positivity. Unless I get hashtag bored.