Monday, 19 January 2015

Vanity Publishing from the Tower of Babel - or The Social Media Life

The Tower Of Babel

This blog entry is probably the one I should have inaugurated this online repository of my thoughts with. It’s the explanation to the question why – why do a blog? And therefore an introduction to the same. However when I started this endeavour, it was in a fit of enthusiasm – as these things often are and gripped by a sense of urgency, I sat down to my keyboard and relatively effortlessly pontificate upon the subject of gentrification and the closing a musical establishments.
It seemed pretty well received – what I would call a respectable number of my social network had a look and I was happy. But then two things happened in rapid succession that swayed my resolve and led to me questioning my true motivation to write.
Firstly the issue in the news (in the USA) I wanted to write on was shoved far down the totem pole of current events (in Paris) and secondly my return to broadcasting in Resonance FM (in my own eyes at least) was not met with the expected welcome, despite the fact a actually had a lot of immediate very positive feedback. The problem was that the listens on Mixcloud were in no way comparable to the views for my first blog entry for example.
All of a sudden I was literally paralysed with my mind was continually flashing the question – why bother? If no one’s listening why bother? But I was also plagued by a more disturbing question – why are you concerned with whether the topic you want to write about is ‘hot’ or not? When I conceived this blog it was (as I mentioned in a Facebook post) because I felt that rather than really helping encourage better conversation, the sound bite nature of posting and commenting on social networks is dumbing down our ability to debate. It narrows our daily thought processes. However my new apparent feelings of trepidation also made me consider how much our collective vanity has been manipulated to a perhaps unprecedented level.

I am not mentioning anything new but at least  I am mentioning it. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube are like fast food chains in the way they have us expecting a near instant pay off. Hits, like, favourites, shares and reposts – we want our burger and we want it now. A society that is riddled with racially informed police brutality is something that may very well be worth discussing at length  – but if it’s yesterday’s news and now everyone’s talking about ‘Charlie’ do is it still worth mentioning? That consideration made me realise that being a broadcaster I had in fact been sucked into the media vortex of newsworthiness, no matter how consciously I might rail against it’s pull and I had to wonder whether it’s acknowledgement nay adulation that was really driving me.
On Facebook (and the rest)there is an eternal competition to post the funniest and/or coolest – whatever you post it broadly falls into those two categories. Some people are political, some musical, some into film – but whatever the ostensible subject matter though it really does come down to be seen as cool or funny. It’s a popularity contest pure and simple. It’s fine to come up with a witticism oneself but ultimately someone else’s rejoinder or platitude will do just as well. Some things haven’t changed and ultimately the biggest voices still obviously get the greatest kudos – a repost by someone celebrated will earn you more points than if you said it yourself if you are a ‘nobody’. Others may well deny hourly counting the likes and comments on their posts but I had to face up to the fact that not all my intentions in blogging may have been honourable. And it made me pause – for several days. I really didn’t want to write a blog just to feed my own vanity. If it was going to be all about the likes I’d rather not do it.

That revelation led me to confront the next obvious challenge to myself as follows - what was I then doing it for and what in fact is the value of such outpourings over the internet? If you are not a celebrity (remember there are several levels of this) then you may not actually be able to quantify  much that’s tangible that has happened as a result of what you post. If you are a celebrity that will not put you above mockery even when you are airing the sincerest of beliefs. In two very well known cases the power of Twitter for example has been shown to be somewhat exaggerated – the Arab Spring and the protests over Ferguson. In the former case, although former President Mubarak was ‘ousted’, the BBC reported (29 November 2014) that ‘A court in Egypt has dropped charges against former President Hosni Mubarak over the killing of 239 protesters during the 2011 uprising against him.’ The Middle East itself does not seem to be rid of turmoil due to Arab Spring although the Western media promoted it as being not only galvanised but relying on Twitter. In Ferguson no charges were brought against the police officer who killed Michael Brown protests continued and in fact at least two other individuals were shot dead in that and a neighbouring area. A number of high profile names been well documented in leaving the same network after rolling with some rejoining unable to deny it’s lure.I believe it is said that love makes fools of us all – but Social Media makes dresses head to toe in the robes of the court jester.

Were deaths of unarmed young black men knocked off the #1 spot in the
Twitter Outrage Charts by the  Charlie Hebdo killings?

It was at this point that I was able to reconnect with real reasons I wanted to do this. They are purely selfish but I believe they have a virtue notwithstanding that. Firstly I wanted to begin again to flex my intellectual muscles. I like, I love debate and I love the written word also – so this was an easy way to get back into writing and maybe start on the journey to becoming an essayist. I ponder, muse, consider and sometimes I don’t have a forum into which to unleash the products of those actions – but I realised I do. Secondly if by doing this I can actually engage in a interesting debate with someone of some people who share the need to discuss, then that would be great. Third and the most vainglorious – if any of my writings were to inspire any to action then my purpose would be fully served – of course those actions would have to sit with what my own ego demands – which thankfully makes this third wish the least likely and makes it as good as theoretical. The fact is even if ‘my’ ideas were taken on board by a large amount of people the likelihood that the ideas they regurgitated would actually be mine is pretty much impossible. Take for instance one of the arguably most influential men in history – Jesus – even the words attributed to him in the various versions of his Gospel that exist are not pretty much turned on their head by the opulence and wealth seen in many of it’s denominations and churches. Even surely these denominational differences (on the surface to do with interpretation of ‘his’ word, but arguably as much to do with power and dominion) seem quite contrary to the unity he preached. I am in no way making or seeking a comparison, I am simply stating that the most celebrated of individuals can have very little control over their message - not unless they are a despot.
To my eyes our use of the internet has turned us into to super vain, affirmation seeking, vanity publishers in a new Tower Of Babel. The majority of chatter we see online is just that – babble. It is my vowed intention to spend very little time commenting on it but I really had to get this out of the way now before proceeding. I grant that there is a certain amount of vanity in deeming one’s own ideas in any way suitable for making available on a public level but I sincerely hope and attest that is not the same thing as figuratively screaming from the rooftops ‘I’m here look at me!’. Debate and discussion can lead to new, rediscovered and most importantly improved ways thinking and therefore living and to be part of such a discussion is for me would be enough.

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