Feelings Of An Almost Human Nature

10 06 2017

I think studiously avoiding social media may be the smartest thing I ever did. I cringe at the pernicious deployment of Facebook and Twitter “quotes” in the mainstream media, with those awful screenshots full of illegible #hashes, @handles, and sophomoric OMG’s, LOL’s, and IMO’s. It’s an affront to the true power, potency, and depth of human language. Centuries of rhetorical skill and linguistic mastery have enriched humanity beyond measure, only to be deposed by the lazily-thumbed elucidations of minds so sluggish and paralytic they can’t even manage the pedestrian exercise of looking both ways before stepping off the curb.

As much as I try to avoid the shallow waters of social media, I hear about it from those close to me who’ve been lured by its siren song. Almost everyone I know regrets the decision to take that initial plunge now that the medium’s fishy mermaid flesh lies rotting in the sun, surrounded by greedy gulls and swarms of hungry, trolling flies, but they can’t look away from the carnage. Social media is the mother of all train wrecks, with all the world slowly drifting by to catch a glimpse, after which you can check into the nearest trauma center and answer that most fundamental of modern questions: how do you feel?

How do you feel? Tell us. We want to know. Speak directly into the microphone. Go on, the whole world is listening! They want to hear you say, in all your idiotic hashtag vanity, how important your feelings are. Your feelings are so important, I dare say, that they will be weaponized to form public policy. The concept of hate speech, initially provisioned to deal criminally with racist propagandizing, has been retro-fitted to provide legal recourse for almost anyone’s hurt feelings, provided the victim fits into an ever-expanding definition of the term.

The concept of repressing one person’s point of view in reaction to the limbic liabilities of another is so overtly Orwellian, it’s almost embarrassing to draw the comparison. Yet the power of modern phraseology propagated throughout social media is terrifying. In Orwell’s 1984, citizens of Oceania were accused of crimethink, sexthink, oldthink, etc. Today people are publicly accused of hate crimes, hate speech, transphobia, islamophobia, and so many sins of privilege that you’d think Trotsky had returned from the grave to lead a new revolution.

The mainstream media is chalk-full of stories of this campus administration buckling under pressure from a tiny aggrieved faction, or that public figure groveling at the altar of shameful contrition, or yet another charge of “insert-prefix-here-phobia” aimed at some thoughtless drip for a back-handed comment made on Twitter. Well, guess what? It all goes away in one fell swoop if everyone would finally wise up and get off their damned phones for a second! Stop tweeting altogether, and you’ll never face the firing squad for running afoul the bien pensants. Stop posting every goddamn thing you ever did or said or thought on Facebook and you won’t have to stand in front of a committee naming names to the neo-McCarthyites. And most importantly, your boilerplate, vain, insipid outrage will no longer be given universal agency by a mob so eager to light the fire they don’t care what’s at stake.

It seems obvious, doesn’t it? Without the soap box, there’s no sermon. If you don’t have a megaphone strapped to the front of your face amplifying every word you say, you won’t have to choose your words so carefully. Maybe social media will finally peter out and become just another ugly phase of human history, like the Salem witch burnings. On the other hand, hey, free witch burnings.

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