Tag Archives: social media

Aim high, but drop your weapons: the counter-billionaire mindset

Murky grounds on social media: that’s what happens when you let people talk shit for as long as they want. Not a lot of people agree. But at the same time, a lot of people agree — read the news. “Television has no credibility anymore, bro”, says a right-winger from Brazil. “You’re fake news!”, says the biggest IQ American president to Jim Acosta, a refugee from Cuba working for CNN. And let’s not even debate over doctors. PhD Twitter is the real House of Cards; we just didn’t realize it. And now, it seems, things are becoming clearer — but more pressing than ever. Suppose your problem is with education today: how are you supposed to preserve family values with all this crazy flow of naked disrespect contrasting with a man in a suit telling you there’s a lot of volatility predicted for the S&P? Reality check, ladies and gentlemen: nobody even knows what the fuck that is, and your actual complaint is that the author is saying a dirty word. How did you pay for your Starbucks this morning, with Apple Watch? Excuse me, I’m a bit skeptical. Sometimes a tiny bit, sometimes a whole lot. You could ship my skepticism across countries, but the Navy would have to track it down. And hey, listen, I’m serious about this shit. Don’t believe me? Just watch.

To clarify: I live in the city that hosts the biggest port in South America. Sorry for the videogame references, I genuinely don’t wanna confuse people. It’s just that copywriting is demanding these days. We rant, and suddenly someone takes a close up picture of an actual ant — and it’s terrifying. Which is why PhD Twitter is winning: anti-imperialism, critical race theory, worker’s rights, digital policy, women’s protection, no-code tools, productivity coaches… and then, suddenly: “why did Bill Gates buy a buttplug?” That’s pretty much what Jeff Bezos has in mind: give me your address, your email, and your bank information. Let the great world spin (except the guy doesn’t write fiction, although there’s a scene in the book by Colum McCann where a sex worker is desperate to use the bathroom). I bet that’s not good enough for you. Let’s go with revisionist history? How about a leak that “My IQ guy” knows everything about missiles already, but wants to learn more? You start to be thankful for Business Insider: they show you the process of making a drumkit in the oldest drum manufacturing company of the United States. And then your thumb, that lazy slut thumb, makes you scroll down. Cats, rabbits and goats get along. The more you know. But how dare you? Immigration laws expressly prohibit illegal aliens from demonstrating, by speech, text or odd noises over electronic communication, an expression of love or even a slight resemblance to parenting without proper documentation! Oops.

The internet is worried about relevant stuff. But who told you that? Didn’t you spend 2 hours catching up on memes, smartass? “What, are you saying that memes aren’t relevant?”, argues Kyle, 13, a steakhouse manager, raising his tone. The parents didn’t have the time. The internet didn’t either: nobody responded. So he decided to make a meme out of himself: dressed as a gladiator, he picked up a musical instrument taller than himself and played a beautiful piece by Sebastian Bach. The crowd cheered. The vest weighed upon him. He carries wounds. But it was all worth it, because the people who listened to his musical performance were pleased enough to be brought to tears. Meanwhile, Beto O’Rourke goes from Texas to Florida to meet with David Hogg, one of the most prominent figures in the movement March for Our Lives. It might have been the other way around — but mind you, that’s not so relevant. The young politician stands with the young people’s movement. But there are older people occupying power positions that vote on issues like gun safety. In their minds, confrontations between international powers need to be carefully looked at. But refugee crises do not.

I’m joking about Bill Gates. He’s responsible for the biggest technological revolutions we’ve witnessed in the past decades, and has devoted his life to philanthropy (a complicated word for kids and teens). I’m not joking about Jeff Bezos, I just don’t get it. But when it comes to the man everyone’s talking about, his educational background is physics and economics. The people who learn this about him should be able to conclude: “oh, so he decided to fight for the environment”. They just might be wrong. Who’s heard of the philosophy of materials? My references are Marilene Chauí, Brazilian scholar, who has published two volumes on an “Introduction to Philosophy”, a thorough review which is off the shelves. My contact was through public libraries, and prominent blogger, author and mastermind of foreign language public speaking agrees, as you can see from her posts under Brain Pickings. But what Musk is trying to say, at first (and we’re all getting impatient), is that payments are the best way to verify identity.

Let’s debate that for a moment. A lot of people will miss this post. If you clicked, thank you. But profits are under the radar. It’s kind of debatable that a user of Twitter should have to pay $8 a month to have “improved experiences”, because what I’m trying to suggest here is that this isn’t the time to think about profits, but instead, helping people. Of course, and very sadly, that’s not the case for, uh, the richest man in the world. And it takes a man who eats cream crackers late at night because there’s no bread to make people see this? No, impossible. You know that sometimes there’s no cream crackers, right? You just fill your stomach with water. But whatever he has planned is an already existing business model, which he collected from here, there and elsewhere throughout his life and is trying to push towards one of the most relevant communications platform on the planet.

The themes I mentioned, as well as others, and a whole list of PhDs who decided to share knowledge out of social awareness, kindness and compassion (which is often seen as a big reason to show off), are all over social media. But people don’t even know that media is the plural of medium! His plan, instead of explaining (or even understanding) what the medium he bought is, is to make it profitable media, which includes the infamous “everything app”. If our collective role turns into calling on bullshit from people who wanna buy golden pendants and trucks of peanut butter just to say they’re verifiably hungry for trends, then what is the role of the journalist? Twitter and journalism have a very close relationship, and if that wasn’t the case, this blog would be censored. But what you’re actually witnessing is a plan to do exactly that. Or do you see participation on Twitter as an optional, non-essential and potentially bad choice? Everyone reasonable would agree that policy debates are urgent, because the debates are started on platforms like Twitter, but the actual changes happen in legislation and in the democratic process. And the guy crisscrosses elections promising free speech in exchange for your money and the silencing of dissenting voices?

If Twitter is a “town square”, it matters to say which town. We live in a world where megalopoles exist. The attempt to simplify an undoubtedly complex communications phenomenon is not just incompetence: it’s downright authoritarian. I think my answer to Elon Musk would be that my currency isn’t the dollar: it’s real. And watch him get pissed. On, off, who cares? But no, let’s wait and see. Sure, it’s a town square, because the teens are hanging out drinking and smoking weed. Excuse me, I meant to say that the town square is where people go to listen to jazz music. Musk might have learned some music theory during his Physics studies. But what about his Economy studies? What did he learn, specifically, about music? I think he just wanted to fuck a musician, probably. Oh wait, that’s exactly what he did, wasn’t it?

One thing is clear, despite what rumors have been spreading: finance matters. And that’s what people are missing on this story. Elon Musk may not be the smartest guy in the world, who knows everything about anything; but he does have wit and brilliant ideas. In the end, we care more about how ideas contribute to society than who even brought them up. This is not an attack: creativity can’t be cultivated in a black hole, as far as I know. And whatever concept we’re scared of; whatever personality we’re trying to roast; whatever story we’re trying to break; whatever project we’re trying to realize; whatever means we have to make lunch to our families, we need someone who grants us help. Money doesn’t grow on trees, but Elon Musk is the guy who proposed we shift to electric vehicles so we could stop further extraction from our planet’s resources, and we talk a lot about renewable energy, but maybe not enough. Brazilian society couldn’t adapt to big recycled bags that supermarket chains offered to their clients because they were used to plastic: they didn’t wanna change. Twitter is not a plastic bag. But we should be aware that we’re bringing home stuff that we don’t even need, and if common sense still matters, nobody wants to raise a spoiled child.

In this economy? A look at verification and motive

Think about the web as a tool available for the power elites. You won’t be wrong: financial apps are booming; relationships have taken on new dimensions associated with what everyone calls user experience and community standards; job hunting is mentioned by many as a keyword game for machines to triage your need for compensation, which you might not get because you forgot to include arbitrarily determined essential skills. But you either go micro or macro. It’s not that some people don’t bother to look at the stats: they probably wouldn’t like to read that word, rejecting it strongly as it means something not just unknown, but absolutely useless. Analytics doesn’t integrate their vocabulary, content strategy isn’t paramount. But any business has been approached, if not online with ads for expanding their reach with specialized agencies, then at least in a conversation with a possible facilitator, like the guy who wants the stores in the neighborhood to start using a new payments processing machine. That’s the case for Stone, an Information Technology and Services company, committed to being the Brazilian entrepreneur’s partner. Started in 2012 and headquartered in Sao Paulo, it started trading in the NYSE in 2018, election year; with over 15 thousand employees (how many are on LinkedIn is another story), it attracts applicants from all over the country, perhaps because of its culture of “no bullshit”, or maybe the education partnerships, listed on their website. Considering the almost 2 million clients as of April 2022 and over 120 billion dollars in transactions over the past year, it’s definitely a big player; and recruitment manager Lívia Kuga prides herself of these achievements in almost classic corporate discourse: with the development of emotional intelligence and what she calls culture rituals, she seeks for “the most humanized approach possible with use of technology and machine learning”, reports Brazilian finance magazine Exame. But stock price last year was at almost 70 dollars, and it’s dropped to as low as 9. Why is any of this important, though, if investing is clearly for the elites, and not the common citizen?

Think about it this way: you wrote a tweet, but on the way, your Wi-Fi dropped. You weren’t connected anymore, and your reaction was to tap twice on your Android phone icon, so it recognized the network again and you could finally share your small message with your circle, and then each user could expand it, within their own circle, by reposting it. If they’re following, it takes a click on the app to see it. That’s what impressions are: the potential reach of your post. You see something exceptional, you make sure to share (using the button, not your wallet); but when you have groceries at hand (I’m one of those people who only grabs them when the payment has been approved), you don’t want to wait more than 5 seconds. That’s just the world we live in now. Why? Because financial services have always had priority in systems management, except there are many kinds of systems; in fact, considering what machine learning can do, one could argue we’re walking towards a myriad of undisclosed information, fed to the masses in homeopathic doses. Let’s be real about this: why did the network drop? Reports show that, in Britain, 44% of ISP clients have experienced connection issues, while Windows 11 is apparently working alongside Fing, a network security company that displays in real time service outages and shortcomings on your phone. Can you imagine the distress in a gaming competition, in case there was a glitch? For those who aren’t always up-to-date with every discussion, some gaming competitions have been reportedly tense, and the culture doesn’t seem to be very gender balanced. But regardless of the examples we might draw from this in a service quality kind of perspective, there’s an important concept that needs to be addressed: verification.

The world’s richest man reportedly bought the world’s biggest media company. That’s how I put it, before it was announced, when Twitter sold for 44 billion dollars to Elon Musk, both epic industry visionary and slow ranting entrepreneur. There’s been rising concern over what that might mean in relation to controversial figures banned from platforms, notably the case of ex-president of the United States, Donald Trump. Whatever the case, when it comes to inflammatory speech, a first test of concept is necessary: is trust verifiable? Some people would trust a person more when they hear their voice, instead of text; others prefer video; for a long time, presence was the most important aspect, in face-to-face interactions, but apparently the younger generation never thought about how they could afford a home (first theme on my pedagogical material, by the way). There are theories saying we assimilate stuff from visual, auditory and other sense-related stimuli; data on the new ways of communication will take this concept to the test, as well as educators in search for solutions for digital demands. It’s one thing to map out a student’s understanding of a broad theme over a videocall; another, completely different set of procedures, to ask them to answer a poll–and even traditional media has already started using this massively, to make sure people actually read and get informed. In a way, the media is verifying if we’re actually using it, not just scrolling; and that’s good, right? Now think about the economy.

When I was young, I didn’t have an allowance. My dad knew, before social networks existed, who my friends were. They came home, I introduced them (or they introduced themselves; it was 2003), and we hung out to play basketball. Surprisingly, for some, I did that; but it was mostly my brother, and I sat there doing nothing, hearing that particular sound of Nike and Adidas shoes against the court. Eventually, my dad even bought me one of those: Adidas Mad Handle, an interesting pair in grey and black synthetic leather. There’s so much I wouldn’t be able to handle in the future, and I definitely got mad; but that has nothing to do with basketball. My girlfriend at the time (after I left the boys’ club to have a relationship with a teenager, and meet her family, then stay for 10 years) was a great communicator in more than one language; but we found our ways, though I barely opened my mouth–except with her. I would later get mad, indeed. Not in the sense of angry: just overwhelmed and absolutely incapable of “handling” my responsibilities as a young adult, which I thought I could do when I was taking the stage to play the drums. If someone was ever in a position to confirm this story, it doesn’t really matter: the humanized machine processing isn’t there for deleted accounts, is it? As for sports, we now have camera footage which can be requested for verification of a foul, penalty or any kind of conflict during the game, at least in soccer matches. Why FIFA is headquartered in Switzerland, famous world tax haven? That is barely questioned. So what exactly do we want to verify?

Let’s suppose you go into a convenience store in the middle of the night. The lady at the cash register sees you struggling with your change, grabbing a beer from the freezer but putting it back, then going to the end of the line as party girls and boys come inside with their cars parked at the gas station, in front of the big mall, ready to go somewhere else and have loads of fun–metaphorically or not, mind you. They pay with their phones for a bottle of Red Label, and you learned to enjoy Jack Daniels, the oak taste, precisely what made you interested in tobacco; but now you’re a serial smoker. The banner behind most cash registers in convenience stores, bakeries, restaurants, coffee shops, bars and even newsstands will show discounts on the price of cigarettes. You check to see if you have 5 real, but unfortunatelly, buddy, you don’t. There’s 5 cents missing. And well, since nobody here invests in certain kinds of assets, what the hell is 5 cents, right? The newsstand guy shouted out to you as you walked away on the previous day, saying your count was wrong and you should give the product back. On a number of occasions, though, you knew it was absolutely right, having checked it before going there and counted all coins at the breakfast table; it was still breakfast for you, though it was 7PM. They’d be closing soon. You had to go buy or not have the money for a cheap pack, spending the night awake without access to your phone (and because this involves some level of paraphrasing, let’s address how verification plays a role in this story later). Unlike the newsstand guy (who refused to give you a pack you weren’t even supposed to be able to buy anywhere, since it never got a sanitary authority inspection or passed a national health risk and standard evaluation, all because of 5 cents), the lady at the convenience store says: “You know what? Since you’re always here, you can take it. You’ll bring it next time.” So you walk out past the ATM, and it’s raining. You don’t have a car, but thankfully it’s just 3 blocks. Of course, it depends if you count the blocks behind the blocks, but I’m sure nobody’s interested in that level of scrutiny. They’re not showing the components of the product anymore. Both sides now alert consumers of the harms it may cause; you still open it, light it up, sometimes with a match, eventually tilting your head down to the oven and maybe burning your own hair, because a lighter is actually more expensive than the freaking poison pack. And then you get on Twitter on your phone. Now, here’s an interesting question: when you unlocked your phone, after paying for a product in coins (literal coins, everyone), what were the party girls and boys doing? Apparently, nobody cares.

On the next day, you’d have to see about your bank’s digital signature. You forgot your letters password, which allows you to make ATM transactions, so you need to go there in person to sort things out; but if you’re thinking about digital payments, you don’t get to do that if you haven’t made a specific registration for any possible online transaction associated with your account. Today, whenever you say account, people will inevitably think of Instagram; but is that fair? As it turns out, the social network has more verification than the bank; but that’s very debatable, considering that biometric technology has been used in a range of institutions. But social media verification is a process few people understand. First, because Twitter championed it; second, because it speaks authority. But what authority? Katy Perry’s version of it? Nothing against sexual freedoms and discourse to be made available, but when it becomes mainstream to the point of elevating “I wanna see your peacock” to the most widely marketed message on the internet, we have to at least question something in there. And for many, it’s questioning the peacock–meaning, of course, the validity of that message, something you can do by actually asking people what they want to see. Unfortunately, some people don’t remember the former world’s richest man’s Op-ed on the newspaper he bought at the time of a scandal involving his sending of intimate images, and now The Washington Post, which arguably (or not) takes on difficult topics on internet culture, describes a pre-pandemic world where 25% of teens sent the freaking peacock, while the rate increased with lockdown. It doesn’t consider a particularly important factor that expands the margin of error: trust, sentiment and false reporting, not to mention the not-so-twenty-first century idea that, if we live online, we have sex online. Excuse me, but only 15% of teens have sex? I could believe that if I studied in a Catholic school, but not being promoted on an adult site. Hypothetically, of course (isn’t Twitter an adult site, since we’re touching upon this subject?)

But what if nobody asks? For example, another Brazilian NYSE listed company, Nubank, made possible that payments could be processed with card approximation. Technicalities don’t matter, for now. But I remember the time I had just left my family home to buy myself something different to drink, and I was paying with the new card; I had disabled the approximation feature because I didn’t think that was secure in any way: I’d been through a two-step verification nightmare, losing access to my social accounts in a mix of bad luck, bad anger management and frankly, bad management overall, when my phone number was cancelled and the 2FA feature was on. There was no way to get in again. And I should’ve thought reasonably: if the number had been cancelled and that was the problem, then, instead of looking for social media support solutions, I would have to see about the issue with the ISP, in this case the communications company, responsible for the data. The policy is inactivity can disable the account; but not that non-solicited, non-authorized SMS ads and messages searching for indebted citizens with a different name than my own were ever problematic; in fact, I used to get them every day and just ignore, but the important thing is that you enter your tax payer identification (a poor translation of Physical Person Registration, or CPF, meaning you’re not the owner of a business acting on a legal contract, just a regular citizen). Isn’t that what they should verify? We do have an option, on today’s new Android features, to report unknown callers and SMS as spam; but social media is a completely different game, and it’s going to take at least one more decade for finance to be completely understood in its contradictions and ideology, which some will catch up on, while others simply won’t–and may spread false information based on campaigns that are actually financed, and make scammer platforms for scammer users profit like no public servant or hard working independent ever would.

A system in Brazil tries to revert the consumer perception and what makes someone a “good payer”, which is otherwise assessed by online activity and purchasing power, with categorizations that third-party companies have used in mass scale through algorithms (Accenture and Cognizant are just two examples, when it comes to recently renamed Facebook, or Meta; reports have been linked previously on the blog). Some users are lucky to be found by certain agencies, organizations and influencers, with blue badges and all; some are not, and their pages on Patreon or even their campaigns on Avaaz get absolutely ignored. But in terms of verification, you might want to know if you’re breaking the law when you start a business or propose new directions for the company. That’s something I learned both with them and media coverage about monetization, hate speech and censorship online, but also with some good old Netflix (no, Netflix is not old, but there’s no book published with cringe on its title, as far as I’m aware). On an episode of the series “Billions” (spoilers), hedge fund manager Bobby Axelrod ventures into an investment on the cannabis sector, with an assurance that everything was perfectly legal; that’s how he gets busted, after finding out his newly founded personal bank couldn’t have the company of such a product on its portfolio, given countless lawsuits by its owner and the risk factors that, in the end, made him lose a lot of money, but also the newly founded bank. To escape law scrutiny, he avoids facing the authorities and leaves to Europe. Back to the verification debate, many fictional narratives have explored that concept, either in the investigative kind, like the Law and Order franchise, or documentaries and even romance movies that deal with fidelity in relationships, none of which seeming to address properly and realistically the issue of online identity and freedom, except tentatively in Alyssa Milano’s Brazen, hated by the critics. Notably, nobody’s too excited to talk about how people in certain industries get paid, or even whether they should, considering what they’re doing; but the movie shows a different side of things, which can be very brutal and hard to swallow; the criticism is lack of rawness, not merit in the unprecedented approach of the theme of sex work and stalking, along with the softest of portrayals in a few seconds of sexually suggestive scenes—in comparison, you can do your own research, I’m sure.

As the word fluency gets overused again and the word participation seems to mean nothing, considering how easy it is to argue that nobody really participates in anything when it’s just something on the screen, verification takes on new interpretations; the fluent speaker can understand, but also read between the lines–and if a teacher is well-versed in media literacy, they know how to explore the topic well enough, which doesn’t mean the challenge is well-compensated or the troubles will ever be, no matter who’s associated with them. The algorithm recommends people you should follow, and even selects special profiles made just for you (Happn does, for example). The ethics of these already established practices (including data plans that include dating apps for free) aren’t going to be questioned by a generation that grew up normalizing this, but also reporting anyone that doesn’t like the newest pop artist that they relate to so much, and an ugly face instead of a beautiful ceiling. Of course, one day they’ll wonder if one million streams being multiplied by $0.04 is a good deal; but as long as we can gather in a stadium to celebrate sound and community, love and a thinking society, chaos and aesthetic value, experience and memory, then we’ll be just fine.

The reality, though, is stark here in Brazil and many other countries: the recent most downloaded app nationwide was the government emergency rescue, during a public health crisis; not Peloton, which curiously labels itself as a well-being initiative; The Wall Street Journal points out it went from 50 billion to just 10—emphasis on “just”—recently. I’m contemplative. What my dad tracks, to verify that he’s not going to have a difficult conversation with the doctor, is his blood sugar. Every single day, on a piece of paper that looks like a freaking parchment, brownish and filled with a table for annotating the number processed by a machine nobody paid for in the health sector or public service, but he bought by himself, he carefully injects insulin into his belly, his thigh, one side or another, changing spots eventually because it’s starting to hurt, and then takes the pen to write down the number displayed, first thing in the morning. In return (and I’m forced to indicate sarcasm), several telemarketing companies call the landline, but no voice is heard on the other side; more recently, we have atmosphere songs, interesting bass lines, and would you look at that, even jazz. Needless to say, nobody at home pays for Spotify Premium or has access to 5G.

Back to finance, we’d like to see the way forward. But that means something for the “common American“, who reportedly earns by year an average of $51.480,00; it means something else for the “common Brazilian”, with the average of $2.693,87 a year. Yes, ladies and gentlemen: a year. Important to mention: that is considering the minimum wage, but “informality” in Brazil reached over 47% in 2020–which, I need to point out, is often just another word to describe unemployment. Do you see now how it’s important to follow finance and who are these incredible problem-solving people who thrive in innovation so much they’re listed in the NYSE and have hundreds of millions in revenue?

But we like to keep things simple. Facebook, not led by Bobby Axelrod, wanted to become a bank; it had to answer a few tough questions from the FTC and Congress, which eventually resulted in a 5 billion dollar fine, but nothing compared to the 83 billion they made during the first year of public health crisis (the word is pandemic, and many suggest other terms, but let’s keep it classy–or we might see the words “special operation” pop up here and there; and I’ll avoid linking any more articles). Users are getting paid (abysmally less often than not) to work for the platform, and since the younger generations grew up thinking it was as normal as fire coming out of an oven for the meals they never cooked, while mom and dad did everything for them but their issues were so intense some of them decided to stick a pair of scissors in their arm, they also think it’s normal to find content so easily on their favorite apps. I’m from a generation that didn’t have internet access until I was 15, and that was because of federal and private social inclusion initiatives. I’d never spoken to a foreigner until I was 18 years old. One of them (and I won’t reveal her name or location) was surprised one day, after coming back from a Church group trip to Jerusalem, and we engaged in a bit of chit-chat: “You’re washing the dishes?? I mean, you don’t know what a dishwasher is??” I can’t help but imagine her “verifying” why the kitchen sink in my old family home had a plumbing problem, spending an hour cleaning the grease trap with her bare hands, like I did–along with several other unpleasant tasks. Verifying, it seems to me, has many meanings yet to be explored.

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.

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.

Troll approaches: the unusual, the unexpected and the unsaid

Innovation drives charnge, but you know what they’re saying on social: TikTok is racist. Outside of dimensions like the visual, auditory and synesthesic, we’re all asking where the hell we’re really going; but maybe the problem is talk is cheap (in many languages) and you’re not helping. See, nobody walks outside with no pants on, but Happn is just the tip of the iceberg and we should be very afraid. But we’re not, cause it’s 2020. So how can we make the world a better place? Exactly, helping farmers. End of digression. I willingly chose to use this technique as an introduction, but authors have been way more creative. The issue connecting all these factors of conflict in society is injustice, though I was hoping I didn’t have to explain. People ask how AI can help businesses, but everyone thought the kids in Africa eating rice with their bare hands was just TV. And let’s not go that far in the lustful craving for knowledge of all things: in media, there’s pundits and trolls. But urban areas have their own dynamics, and the thing we could do after we built some roads, homes, industries and stuff was to come up with simplified ways of communication. You know that, in the end, Julia and Winston have a nice conversation, right? I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but we’re probably more interested in the shagging. So here’s a few points related to what else we can do online, because offline is arguably what we have to do, unless you’re one of those people who think the government needs to help people giving them opportunities to grow, bank accounts and stuff:

1. Actually helping

Education is always on demand, but we all know someone who had access to it and many who didn’t. Your definition of pragmatism can be updated when you stop thinking you’re better than everyone else, and it really helps if there isn’t a systemic rating of how smart you are (for example, likes). Money doesn’t buy happiness, but until recently, people bought people. Irony aside, governments have constitutions to follow, and development has other definitions rather than just profit. And that’s actually a defense of social media, whether or not we feel like agreeing with the terms of use forever: we learn about issues and we use what we learned to help solving these issues. But actions speak louder than words, and though we shouldn’t forget about feelings, it’s day by day, not day after day.

2. Voicing, amplifying and minimizing

It’s easy to say: bitch, you’re no scholar. It’s also completely okay. Anyone who investigates a subject to offer plans of action or predictions is going to skip one or two items. That’s why we have headlines. But they’re not the point anymore: we understand some things we’re reading are fabricated to serve as distractions, while something either more serious or more fun is happening somewhere else. Do we mix up the bag? Facebook surely doesn’t. But honestly, we could do better than picking targets for the sake of convenience: can you imagine if you didn’t find a job cause you sent a sexy picture but now you want to be leading instead of begging? Bad analogy. Truth is we’re picking one message for each audience. And sometimes that audience is feasting on the bliss of ignorance. Tone it down? Maybe. There’s what you think you know and what you know. Second music reference, by the way.

3. Opposing in a healthy way

It’s a terrible time to say this, but history makes you really aware. There’s things we need to fight for, but depending on how that goes, people are not gonna like you. I wouldn’t want to hug my wife and see her fighting to get out of my arms; I wouldn’t want to make spinach cream to my son and have him look at me and shout, just 3 years old: who do you think I am, some freaking horse? Spinach is good for you, baby. And horses are beautiful. Jesus. But if all conflicts were domestic, we wouldn’t pay athletes so much. I’m obviously not an athlete. Not a role model. I have difficult feelings about who I actually represent and who I fail to represent. But it really goes back to rights and duties: if not now, one day. It’s not everyone’s duty to stop crime from happening; it’s everyone’s right to hope it doesn’t. Complement with Nietzsche, but only if you want to.