Friday, November 29, 2013

On whining about other people's content

I've been thinking about this post by SamuraiFrog the other day:

Yesterday was Illinois' first big snowfall of the season. The one that always seems to come out of nowhere and take everyone by surprise, because at first it's just tiny flakes that don't accumulate, and then suddenly it's several inches of thick, wet snow blowing so hard that you can barely see.

I hate the snow. I have for a long time. And one of the things that's come out of that is that when I try to complain about it online, over here, in my teeny space on a vast internet, someone always has to go out of their way to come over here and look at a post I've written about hating the snow and dismissively write "I love the snow!"

I. Don't. Care.

It only pisses me off more to see that. I'm not trying to start an open discussion. I'm exorcising my frustration. The whole point of writing about it is to get out my anxiety and all of the bad feelings I have about this particular weather phenomenon, and you've just come along and invalidated all of it with your self-serving, dismissive comment. I don't care if you love the snow. It has no bearing on my life at all. And guess what? My hating is has no bearing on yours, either. If you love the snow, write about it on your own blog and don't bother me with it.

Almost as if guided by the hand of Fate, within a day or two some guy's rant about people posting photos of snow popped up and went a bit viral.

Now, SamuraiFrog isn't saying the same thing as this guy. In fact, he's saying quite the opposite: you should be able to feel free to post whatever the heck you want to post about, and I've noticed the exact same phenomenon many times in my own blogging and posting to various places. Disagreement is all well and good, but there are times when it's clear that someone is basically along for the ride just because they like disagreeing with stuff. That gets irritating.

What the anti-snow pic guy is doing, however, is something else: he's making a blanket statement about what people should or should not post, so as to not "clog up his timeline". Thing is, he's not alone in doing this. I see it all the damn time on Facebook and Twitter, and it's incredibly obnoxious. Frankly, I find that sort of thing orders of magnitude more obnoxious than the sudden onslaught of snowpics or whatever in the first place, to the extent that when someone says "We get it, Buffalo, you can stop posting pictures of snow now, we all know what snow looks like," my impulse is to immediately take, and post, six new photos of snow.

Before I even saw that guy's rant, people I know on various social networks were bitching about the inevitable flood of snow photos (right about the same time we got our first real snowfall of the year). But that wasn't the first instance. Right now, there are these things called "Bitstrips" that are popular on Facebook. You can create a little comic-strip-looking avatar that resembles you, and then put your avatar into little situations and post them. Harmless...but after a few days of this, out came the "You people need to stop posting the Bitstrips" snark. And someone is always posting to complain about people posting pictures of their meals. (I am guilty as charged.) Or for taking "too many selfies". (I am likely guilty as charged.) Or for too many cut pet photos. (I am guilty as charged.)

Snow photos? Yes, I'm guilty as charged. Bitstrips? A-ha! No Bitstrips from me. I started using the app one day and decided that I had better things to do with my time. But do I bitch about other people using them? Nope.

After a mini-flood of such complaints on Twitter, I got irritated, because it seems to me that there are classes of photos on Twitter and Facebook that it's OK to bitch about, and others that are just as common that the bitchers-that-be seem to have collectively decided are A-OK. I created the hashtag #UbiquitousPhotosNobodyBitchesAbout and Tweeted the following:

Now, I can't say that I'm as pure as the snow when it comes to this sort of bitching. I've done it myself, although I do try to resist the impulse when it arises. It used to be, for example, that Twitter was nearly unusable to me every single time the Sabres had a game, because a pretty solid chunk of people I follow are locals who are also big Sabres fans who like to tweet their stream-of-consciousness color commentary about each hockey game. However, when I'm on the Web, the Twitter client I use (Tweetdeck) has pretty good filters that allow me to pretty much keep anything with the word "Sabres" in it from appearing in my feed. This cuts out a lot of the noise. Sometimes I still slip up and throw in a "Quit talking about the Sabres!" jab, though. Hey, nobody's perfect.

When you come down to it, bitching about what people post on social networks is rather like going to each individual table in your high school cafeteria and demanding that everyone at each table only discuss the topics you want to hear discussed. It's not reasonable, it's not realistic, it's a waste of time, and when people do it a lot, I end up wondering just how narcissistic they really are, going through life with the real expectation that people will tailor their utterances and social media postings to their liking. Because when you get down to it, people are pretty much all the same. Back in the days before the Internet you would get to work in the morning and talk about...your kids and your pets. That awesome new recipe you had for dinner the night before. Your recent trip to Disneyland. We're still the same people we always were; we just have new ways of being the same people we always were.


Anonymous said...

THat cafeteria is the proving ground. Many a men and women have been defeated in that arena. Evil prevails, usually.

Fast forward to the world of facebook. Narcissism allows us to disconnect. Is that a good thing?

Kal said...

I am kinda militant about people telling me about what I can or can not post on my blog. Like I always say, there are enough other people blogging so if you don't like my brand of balloon juice just go away. I am lucky that most people don't annoy me. Just the Mormons who bait me because they know I find their horseship unbelievable.

Kaye Waller said...

I finally came to the point that I post whatever I want. If someone doesn't like it they don't have to read it. They're free to unfriend or stop following me any time. And if they come down on me for something I post, I do them the favor of booting them first. If I'm such a pain in their backside, why do they keep me on their list, anyway? Nope. I haven't the time or inclination to constantly be second-guessing what someone is going to think of something I want to post.

Anonymous said...

Seems as though facebook has replaced intelligent discourse and good natured debate with hollow bleating.

Kelly Sedinger said...

Oh, I'm not so sure about's not like human conversation was in some Golden Age of Reasoned Discourse before the Internet came along. Seems to me the signal-to-noise ratio is about the same as always, and I have quite a few good conversations on Facebook. The last sentence of my post sums up my point, I think.

Anonymous said...

It is possible to disagree and form new understanding in the information age just not probable. People take ownership of their space and if you don't honor that then you are gone.

Its like everyone has evolved into a crass AM radio talk show host. "Caller, with all due respect your an imbecile" CLICK. "Next caller, is Terry from Albany, your on with the hog Terry, GO!"

Before the internet we, the unwashed masses, had as our primary tool of discourse the "letters to the editor". Debate was slow and it was moderated but intelligent disagreement did exist. Of course it necessitated taking the time to sit down and write a letter.

Now we have babble. People reposting opinions that they may not even understand much less be able to defend.

Kelly Sedinger said...

Nah. We've always had babble. Letters to the editor were never all that great, and in any event, they were a selected bunch. What we have now is a bit more visible version of the conversations that have always taken place in bars and barber shops and over backyard fences and that sort of thing.

Besides, echo chambers have also always existed. People chose their churches and civic organizations to be around like-minded folks. Large cities all used to have multiple newspapers, so you could pick the one you wanted to read based on editorial slant. There is nothing new about what's going on now, except for the format and location.

Roger Owen Green said...

I dunno. The letters to the editors, at least at some point (when print newspapers mattered) were more rationale if only because (I surmise) people actually signed their real names. The geography was smaller, so those people were your geographic neighbors. No one from Des Moines commented on an article in the Sacramento Bee.

in any case, Frog's talking about phobia, not mere preference, of course.