On many topics outside our expertise area, we lack the extra information to extract informed opinions — we lack the capacity and context to judge. Anyone can read the topic sentences of paragraphs to extract a summary (a “tl;dr”) from any piece of writing of any length. The action in this space is to get at the hidden message that lies behind the words.
Found an article that discusses a concept I tried to get at in a previous post here: “Broad and Shallow to Deep and Narrow“.
The idea is that with better communication tools (that are more and more participatory instead of passive) – we tend to focus on things we personally like instead of taking part in larger, broader cultural activities. So, we seek out websites catering to the type of music we like instead of everyone watching MTV’s popular video countdown shows.
The article can be found here: In A Fragmented Cultureverse, Can Pop References Still Pop?
Are you finding it harder to communicated about large events? This is why I think advertisers focus on things like the Super Bowl so much. It is one of the few events we “all” still tune into. Otherwise, you are getting smaller and smaller segments. The upside of these small demos is that you get really focused groups. If I want to focus on teens, I target MTV on weeknights. High income college grads? Probably HBO or AMC dramas.
But what we will all look back on fondly when we are 50? I bet we won’t be smiling warming as we all hum along to “Friday” by Rebecca Black. Are we losing shared culture? Does that affect our community and connection to each other?
Everyone is kind of aware of the battle of social networks between Google+ and Facebook. While everyone can kind of see the side of fanboy’s for each side, what fewer people are aware of is the genuine philosophic difference of how each network treats anonymous profiles.
Facebook goes out of its way to promote that profiles on its site are supposed to be real people. They will remove accounts of fake names and have even gone to court to enforce this policy choice.
Google on the other hand have embraced anonymity. This kind of surprises me because I would think advertising is better targeted if they can tie your username to a person.
I posed a question on twitter that I found many people tend to fall on one side or the other of. We have all dealt with internet trolls. Those people who comment on articles or after your comment with the sole intent of saying something ugly to try to get a rise out of people. Doesn’t ridding a system of anonymous profiles lead to less trolling and more productive comments – a “better” internet?
My argument is that if you could somehow get rid of (I don’t believe you could ever completely remove it, but for sake of argument) anonymity and make people tie an identity to their comments online, people would be less rude. If you had to tie your face and name to everything you did online, you probably wouldn’t spout the hatred and ignorant comments people do. There are numerous studies that anonymity tied with an audience leads people to act terribly.
The internet is a great tool. We can collaborate, discuss and debate ideas. However, these conversations and creative endeavors can easily be torn down by a few bad parties who really want to just destroy for a laugh. My hypothesis is that whatever you lose to anonymity is made up for by genuine strides in the protection of a safe place for discussions, and the benefits that come from those.
The downside is that you lose all the benefits of anonymity. A mentor of mine pointed to a problem he had with anonymous comments. They came to the conclusion that:
There’s a lot of crap on the Internet, and I recognize that anonymity can contribute to its growth. But the alternative – forcing everything to be identifiable, forcing everyone to act in public, with their own name – ignores the significant risk to people who are seeking to communicate the most important of information, and stifles some of the most valuable speech out there.
Basically, free speech – ensured through anonymity – protects certain classes of people, whistleblowers, oppresses minorities, etc, and this is a greater good that is worth putting up with trolls for. Their solution was to gamify comment monitoring.
In my mind it is an argument of privacy v politeness and the productive polite world trumps. If you allow for polite discussion, people can say things they would need “anonymity” to do and still be respected.
Am I being too idealistic? A friend of mine pointed to reddit as an example. There is “anonymity” tied to each profile, but you earn a “reputation” over time. Comments are voted up or down, and are tied to each profile. If someone with a bad rating makes a comment, it can be voted out of existence, or at least heavily discounted. This allows good conversation to still happen. It was a good example, if you believe that one spoiled comment does not ruin the lot.
Maybe that is what I am looking for, some kind of consequence for bad actions – like the real world. You can’t just walk around in the world spouting hatred and not expect to not be punched in the face once in a while, or at least lose the respect of some of your peers. But people do that online all the time, hiding behind anonymous profiles.
Where do you fall on privacy v politeness?
There is a stigma about Los Angeles that suggests a detachment from reality. People are (artificially) beautiful, everything is image based, and of course the weather is always fantastic.
However, does that fantastic year round weather insulate one from the realities of climate change? Friend sent me a great article discussing how its hard to sympathize with friends back east who are sweltering in terrible humidity and 100+ temps.
Last summer broke heat records across America, and this summer is on track to do the same. But not here on the coast of Southern California. At my home on the east side of Los Angeles, I’ve only flipped on my air conditioner once this year, and it was just for a few hours.
Meanwhile, my friends who live in every other city are melting. The good people of Chicago and Boston and New York and Austin and Atlanta and Denver have suffered days and weeks of temperatures in the upper 90s and low 100s. But while the rest of the country flushes an angry red on meteorological maps of the lower 48, coastal California is a calm strip of yellow.
…it turns out summer is my time to brag. When I tell my friends who live on the East Coast—or in the Midwest, or in Texas, or pretty much anywhere but here—that I only ran my air conditioner once last year, they don’t believe me. Los Angeles has a reputation for having areal summer. Outsiders have seen stock footage of cars overheating on jam-packed freeways and wavy lines of heat emanating from sidewalks in direct sunlight. And it’s true. During many days, the temperature does creep up into the 80s. But the nights are a deliciously cool 60 degrees. (As my friend Zak likes to say, “There are seasons in Southern California: Day and night.”)
I found one paragraph particularly agreeable:
Over the course of any given week, there are many times I feel smug about my new life in L.A. Like when I take a slow drive through the hills at sunset with my windows rolled down, everything warm and golden. Or when I decide on a whim that I’d like to spend the day lolling about on one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in America. Or every time I slice an avocado that’s just been plucked from a backyard tree.
But July and August are when I feel sorriest for people who have chosen to live anywhere else.
It kind of makes me smirk that one of the more liberal places in the country is also the place that could most easily ignore the claims of global warming.
In fact, I want to tell the modern man that he doesn’t have to look like a gold rush-era carnival worker or brew his own micro whatever to be considered a man in my eyes. No, it’s way easier than that. How about being a good guy, a good person. Just be honest, kind, tolerant, open, intrepid, self-aware, inquisitive, etc. — you know, all the things that have made our greatest men (and greatest anyone) great when we boil it down. Do these things and help others do them too, and you’re a real man as far as I’m concerned.
It is common knowledge that younger generations are talking on their phones less. They text tremendously. The question is whether this is good or bad. Does it handicap real, meaningful conversation? Is it allowing multiple conversations at once, thus just an example of technology allowing more efficiency?
My latest theory is that it allows a weird sense of a never ending conversation. Think about those Facebook messages, which don’t have distinct separations, and look more like an IM chat. Same with threaded email in gmail and other clients. You don’t feel like you need to respond immediately, and you may not get a response immediately, but you feel like you are always available and connected. This from Huffington Post:
“But I don’t communicate much with older people. So much of my life is set up over text,” says Auster-Gussman, who sends and receives an average of about 6,000 text messages a month.
Many are done as “group texts,” sharing messages among eight college friends who live in the same building. The interactions are nothing more than you’d say in a casual conversation, Auster-Gussman says – but they are constant when they’re not together.
Recently, for instance, she went to a movie and came out to find 50 text messages waiting for her on her phone.
Meanwhile, last summer, when she was away from her boyfriend, she went days without talking to him on the phone, but texted with him several times a day.
“You’re not even really talking to him,” she remembers her perplexed father saying.
“But I felt like I was talking to him all day, every day,” Auster-Gussman says.
There is a scene in the movie Fight Club, where Brad Pitt’s characters says to Edward Norton’s, “[we are] A generation of men raised by women. I’m wondering if another woman is the answer we really need.”
I believe his point was that Men are being raised by Women, and thus not learning what it is to be masculine from a male authority and mentor figure. And the turnout is piss poor (in his opinion, and the point of the character in the movie) consumer driven zombies chasing satisfaction in shopping for things.
I’m not going to examine that. However, I do agree to an extent the Father figure in society has not been holding up his end of the bargain. What stirred this up is Julia Allison pointing to a new book from the TED organization, discussing the “Demise of Guys”. She summed it up, as one can only do on Twitter:
Julia Allison (@JuliaAllison) May 25, 2012
The TED article puts it this way:
In their provocative ebook The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It, celebrated psychologist Philip G. Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan say that an addiction to video games and online porn have created a generation of shy, socially awkward, emotionally removed, and risk-adverse young men who are unable (and unwilling) to navigate the complexities and risks inherent to real-life relationships, school, and employment. Taking a critical look at a problem which is tearing at families and societies everywhere, The Demise of Guys suggests that our young men are suffering from a new form of “arousal addiction,” and introduce a bold new plan for getting them back on track. The book is based on a popular TED Talk which Zimbardo did in 2011, and includes extensive research as well as a TED-exclusive survey that drew responses from more than 20,000 men. We recently spoke with Zimbardo and Duncan about their ideas.
And of course, my first recollection of this crisis of Men idea originated from a great article in The Atlantic, “The End of Men“:
Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way— and its vast cultural consequences.
So, women are doing better. Men are doing worse. Is it because society has evolved, and modern culture favors the gentle, team based, communicative methods of the feminine? Does this in fact end up hurting women because Men aren’t able to function properly in this world and end up escaping to a world of fantasy video games and needing extreme arousal in order to interact?
Unlike the characters of Fight Club, I don’t blame the other gender. The problem is that we are raising ourselves. Father figures are either absent or failing. New methods of communication and community has enabled us to seek out substitutes. The only problem is that for various reasons, our mentors end up being other people in similar situations. So you get a cultural echo chamber where we trade advice like characters in American Pie trading sex moves. And the results are just as terrible, and less comical.
Divorce rates are increasing. Single parent households are on the rise. And while it is great that women don’t feel shunned from a community for raising a family alone, it certainly doesn’t lead to a situation where boys have great role models. Often, even if there is a father figure in the home, he isn’t the shining 50s nuclear family pillar of the community Don Draper (in his public life) type. He probably got laid off because his manufacturing job got exported. He sits around the house depressed. He takes more style tips from reruns of “Everybody Loves Raymond” than the pages of GQ. There is a reason every television ad you see portrays Dad as the dumb oaf in the family who learns a valuable life lesson from whatever product is being hawked.
Understandably, Men of my generation aren’t seeing great role models. But we live in the information age! We have a valuable tool available to us all the time. We can use the internet to learn all those lessons we didn’t get, right? Well, yeah, if someone would post them. But, your Dad isn’t posting life lessons. He can barely upload a photo to Facebook. Instead, we talk to our peers and try to trade things we pick up along the way. I believe this is part of the proliferation of things like Lifehacker, Reddit, fashion blogs, and one of my favorites The Art of Manliness. These are digital textbooks, trying to pass on the lessons our Fathers didn’t pass on to us.
[On a side note, I'm not attacking any of these sites. In fact, I subscribe to Art of Manliness on RSS. I think the author Brett kind of taps into the same sentiment I am going all Andy Rooney on. See his "about" page:
And as I looked around at the men my age, it seemed to me that many were shirking responsibility and refusing to grow up. They had lost the confidence, focus, skills, and virtues that men of the past had embodied and were a little lost. The feminism movement did some great things, but it also made men confused about their role and no longer proud of the virtues of manliness. This, coupled with the fact that many men were raised without the influence of a good father, has left a generation adrift as to what it means to be an honorable, well-rounded man.
Talking about honorable manliness was to me a niche seemingly not covered on the web or elsewhere, and I decided to start The Art of Manliness to talk about all things manly- both the serious and the fun, but with the ultimate eye toward encouraging readers to be better husbands, fathers, brothers, men.
I don’t claim to have all the answers, nor do I claim that I’m an expert on all things manly. I started this blog not because I had all the answers to being a man, but because I wanted to explore the questions with other men. Thankfully, I’ve found a whole community of men who wish to discover the lost art of manliness too.
This is great! Ingenuity of boys to solve a problem! However, the problem is that its a cheat-sheet. The quick and dirty method instead of the underlying lessons. We're learning to get by with duct tape and string instead of building strong foundations. We get "10 tips on how to have a great interview to land that job" instead of learning lessons about building relationships, integrity, and the pride in your work that really lead to great careers. There is a world of difference between following a bullet point list of things to do on a date, and knowing how to be a gentleman. Are we really creating great men, or actors who can play the part?
Now, I tell you this story about summer camp. I could have told you 50 others just like it –all the times that I got the message that somehow my quiet and introverted style of beingwas not necessarily the right way to go, that I should be trying to pass as more of an extrovert. And I always sensed deep down that this was wrong and that introverts were pretty excellent just as they were. But for years I denied this intuition, and so I became a Wall Street lawyer, of all things, instead of the writer that I had always longed to be – partly because I needed to prove to myself that I could be bold and assertive too. And I was always going off to crowded bars when I really would have preferred to just have a nice dinner with friends. And I made these self-negating choices so reflexively, that I wasn’t even aware that I was making them…
…Now to see the bias clearly you need to understand what introversion is. It’s different from being shy. Shyness is about fear of social judgment. Introversion is more about, how do you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation. So extroverts really crave large amounts of stimulation, whereas introverts feel at their most alive and their most switched-on and their most capable when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments.Not all the time — these things aren’t absolute – but a lot of the time. So the key then to maximizing our talents is for us all to put ourselves in the zone of stimulation that is right for us.
For most of the last century, America’s cultural landscape—its fashion, art, music, design, entertainment—changed dramatically every 20 years or so. But these days, even as technological and scientific leaps have continued to revolutionize life, popular style has been stuck on repeat, consuming the past instead of creating the new.
As an aside – if you want to hear a great discussion of this article there is a podcast episode of the Slate Cultural Gabfest that inspired my article. In fact, they publish weekly, and I greatly endorse adding it to your podcast queue.
He points to styles, and how if you think of the 50s to 60s to 70s to the 80s you could easily pick out what decade they were in. But between the 90s and today it would be harder. He makes the obvious musical reference of the year – pointing out how Lady Gaga is simply warmed over Madonna. He even points out that after the rise of hip hop, no big musical swing has taken its place.
Make a couple arguments for why this is. Perhaps we have simply reached the pinnacle of design in many cases. Cars haven’t changed that much in design, but under the hood the technology is moving quickly. So while the appearance is stagnant, the workings change, but I suppose that isn’t culture.
Or, we have the ability now to portray our past and explore decades and the style of history like never before with costuming and technology. This might cause us to not look forward and instead gaze longingly backwards.
Why is this happening? In some large measure, I think, it’s an unconscious collective reaction to all the profound nonstop newness we’re experiencing on the tech and geopolitical and economic fronts. People have a limited capacity to embrace flux and strangeness and dissatisfaction, and right now we’re maxed out. So as the Web and artificially intelligent smartphones and the rise of China and 9/11 and the winners-take-all American economy and the Great Recession disrupt and transform our lives and hopes and dreams, we are clinging as never before to the familiar in matters of style and culture.
However, I tend to focus on an idea that he only gives short service to – one small line in the second to last paragraph.
And yet, on the other hand, for the first time, anyone anywhere with any arcane cultural taste can now indulge it easily and fully online, clicking themselves deep into whatever curious little niche (punk bossa nova, Nigerian noir cinema, pre-war Hummel figurines) they wish. Americans: quirky, independent individualists!
He dismisses technology almost wholesale. However, with the internet and shifting to new forms of media, we can connect with new people that we weren’t able to before. You might be the only fan of some certain band in your group of friend (and good for you!). Or, you might be the only emo kid in your town. However, through social networks you can find a whole community of people out there who share your passion.
This allows us to appreciate our own preferences, and not adapt to a greater “mass zeitgeist” of what is cool. My theory is this: You can’t imagine a national cultural concept because we are too fractured now. There isn’t one cool thing to listen to, or one cool way to dress. There are niches that are appreciated by small pockets. It isn’t that we stagnated, its that we branched out and became unique.
I think our society has taken being “fair” to an extreme. We have confused the freedoms we have to be an excuse to be able to have a stupid opinion and for that wrong opinion to be worth as much as a correct valid opinion supported by facts.
The is most evident in being “fair” in media reports. The media is so concerned with being labeled biased, that they give equal time and weight to stupid opposing arguments. This is best summed up by the popular quote from Paul Krugman:
The media are desperately afraid of being accused of bias. And that’s partly because there’s a whole machine out there, an organized attempt to accuse them of bias whenever they say anything that the Right doesn’t like. So rather than really try to report things objectively, they settle for being even-handed, which is not the same thing. One of my lines in a column—in which a number of people thought I was insulting them personally—was that if Bush said the Earth was flat, the mainstream media would have stories with the headline: ‘Shape of Earth—Views Differ.’ Then they’d quote some Democrats saying that it was round.
This is the key difference in being objective. Being objective means not letting personal biases change your reporting or opinion of something. If something is obviously true, you shouldn’t say it could be false just because that fits your world view or would benefit you in some way.
Stop being fair. Be objective.