Okay, people. I know you have the power to change the world now, but sometimes you want to change the world into something that’s just really dumb.
The current explosion of social media outlets sure has its problems. Well, more correctly, it has issues that we have not yet had time to process in such a way that those issues are truly incorporated into our culture.1
Witness, for instance, the Facebook phenomenon. We can now choose to have a lifelong inability to distance ourselves from people. No longer do you have the opportunity to, say, naturally grow apart from a high school friend whom you haven’t seen in 20 years. Now they follow you forever. The problem here is that we, as a human species, have had roughly 1.5 MILLION YEARS of saying “you know, it’s alright if we don’t see each other anymore.”
The lifelong friendship is something that’s going to take humanity more than a year or two to figure out.
Another issue that I see is that it’s just really-super-incredibly-easy to start A Cause.2 These days, it’s possible for any random shut-in with internet access to have a blog and speak their Cause to millions of people. The problem here, of course, is that (and I know I sound like I’m yelling “get off my lawn” when I say this) most of these Causes are, well, just really stupid.
I mean, some are good, or at least not horribly inane. There are good Causes, ones like “help fight leprosy in small towns in the far eastern provinces of Turkmenistan!” But there are also really dumb ones like “Join the fight to make the Linux mascot be a fox instead of a penguin!”3
I see things like this and I think “Really? You have that much damn time?”4 This is an issue that we as a species need some time to digest. There was a time when starting a Cause took things like “planning” and “forethought.” Now, it’s just a matter of hitting “send” or “tweet.”
Now, it seems that the word “Cause” may have lost just a bit of their former punch. I think that starting a Cause has gotten way too easy.
Alright, the background, in a nutshell. There’s this thing called Twitter. It’s something that roughly 98.3% of the global human population have never heard of. On this thing, people basically communicate as if they were digitally hooked up to a college keg party. There are one or two really good conversations going on, but roughly 98.3% of it amounts to “Hey, I like that movie too!”5
So, one of the cool things about Twitter is that you can repeat what other people post. Someone can post “Star Wars is the greatest movie ever!” and you can, basically, post “He said ‘Star Wars is the greatest movie ever!’ I think so too!”
I know, it sounds like I’m joking, doesn’t it?
Recently, the Twitter engineers changed how that function works. Now you have a choice of just re-sending that post, or editing it so that you can say “I think so too.” And even more recently, people have freaked out that this new re-tweeting functionality is going to ruin Twitter. From all the traffic, you’d think that it was also going to ruin the internet, make sea level rise, and help support the resurgence of Osama Bin Laden.
So, in all this hype, I send out a retweet, and forget that it’s a choice to say “I like Star Wars too!” Very soon, I get a post from a guy who started a new Cause called The RTFail Manifesto. The manifesto states:
That’s right – if we follow you, and you use the auto RT function 3 times (you will be warned) then you’re unfollowed. Love ya, but no exceptions. The new RT’s are Twitter spam, and until they are fixed, they shall be scorned in streams and in apps (looking at you Tweetie2).
Now, this is one of those things that reads like an Onion article about George W. Bush; you just can’t really decide whether he actually said that or it’s a joke. I mean, it would make such a good joke that I really really want it to be one.
Sure, like everyone, there were a few seconds when… I mean, I tend to get swept away with things. Anyone who’s read some of my ridiculous posts about ridiculous topics will know that. So I have to admit that my first initial 5 second reaction was “Yeah!”
But then I thought again, and my second thought was “Wait, seriously?”
I mean, really? A manifesto?
“You will be warned?” You’re actually writing “you will be warned?”
Yup, seriously. He’s serious. I asked.
Can we look at this in perspective? Isn’t a “manifesto” something that might very possible result in, say, 20 million people losing their lives?
And, even more than that, are we talking about something different, or are we talking about Twitter? I mean, this is a thing that nearly the entire human race knows absolutely nothing about, and even that the majority of the people in my particularly technologically savvy field don’t use.
Seriously, are either of us important enough that it would matter at all if you stop reading about how much I like Star Wars? And just because I don’t feel like saying “I like Star Wars too?”
Really? Are we really that important that it actually matters?
Well, maybe we are.
So, I’m jumping on the bandwagon. Realizing the power of the internet and my ability to instantly reach millions of followers (or at least the 35 people who read this stupid blog), I’m starting my manifesto against the RTFail Manifesto. It’s called The RTFail ManifestoFail Manifesto!
The conditions of my manifesto are as follows:
We will probably use the new re-tweet function sometimes, and may possibly use the old style retweet function sometimes. It all depends on what we feel like for the 0.6 seconds that we actually spend thinking about how we are going to retweet a given Star Wars Quote. If we use the new style retweet three times, you will be required to unfollow us. When you unfollow us, we will probably not know about it, because chances are we don’t know who you are. However, there is a greater chance that you are not following us anyway, and therefore you will not be warned when we don’t notice you unfollowing us. There are no exceptions to this manifesto. Seriously, we will not notice your unfollowing of us completely without warning!
There. The gauntlet is thrown!
Alright, alright. Look, I’m a comic, or at least I have delusions about being funny. Also, I know that some people may see this as me picking a fight, which I’m not actually trying to do. I’m not actually laughing at any one person in particular. My goals are far too lofty. I’m actually laughing at humanity, and our tendency to jump on things before we even think about them. We all do it. I do it. Hell, I wrote a post discussing US security policy in the middle of the night while I was completely trashed. Talk about stupid!
All I can say is that it seems pretty funny to me to create a manifesto over something so trivial as whether someone edits a retweet or not. But, maybe it’s not. There’s probably a lot of issues here that I haven’t thought of because, well, I do it too. I saw something and then jumped right on it and started a Cause without thinking.
I know I’ll probably get hit hard for this one, and I shouldn’t go joking about the causes of people who are important enough to set international economic policy, but that’s the thing about this internet and social media. We don’t have to take the time to think about our actions.
After all, why should I bother with “planning” and “forethought” when I can just hit “publish?”