By Lauren Mayer, on Wed Feb 25, 2015 at 8:30 AM ET
One of a mom’s primary roles in life is to embarrass her children, and my sons would be the first to tell you I’ve done a great job in that capacity. And while I don’t think I fit the cliche of the overbearing Jewish mother, I have been known to nag them about eating, and of course like any good Jewish mother, I secretly yearn for a gay son (because he’d never leave me for another woman . . . cue rim shot), although both my boys have had to tell me, “Sorry to disappoint you mom, but I’m straight!”
When I started doing these weekly videos, my younger son was 16 and pretty plugged into social media (for example, he saw the “Gangnam Style” video before it passed 100,000 views!) He cautioned me against expecting too much, because as he put it, “Mom, anything over 100 views is viral for old people.” And of course he threatened to disown me if I ever attempted to do anything as daring as a rap.
However, last week’s MSNBC interview with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a great reminder that not only is she incredibly smart and well-spoken, she’s also become a hip cultural phenomenon. So if an 81-year-old Jewish mother can be re-invented as a meme, this middle-aged Jewish mother can become a rap star to salute her.
By John Y. Brown III, on Wed Jan 14, 2015 at 12:00 PM ET
Before we “retweet” anything it is important to ask ourselves:
1) Are we doing this because we really think it is a Tweet worthy of retweeting (for the sake of humankind)?
2) Or is it worthy of retweeting more as an inside joke to an inner circle of our friends?
3) Or are we trying to curry favor with the Tweeting person even though we don’t believe the Tweet is all that special?
4) Or are we retweeting a Tweet because that person recently retweeted one of our Tweets (and we’d like for them to do that again)?
5) Or are we just trying to encourage a friend who rarely Tweets anything to hang in there and they will eventually “get” Tweeting?
6) Or are we retweeting to just let others on Twitter know that we know about retweeting and how to do it properly?
7) Or because we just want to cast out some virtual action into the vast abyss of cyberspace in hopes it will momentarily make us feel that we really do matter and can have some impact, however marginal or meaningless, on an impersonal universe?
By John Y. Brown III, on Fri Dec 19, 2014 at 12:00 PM ET
For the first time I just had the urge to post something on Facebook –but resisted doing it. Because —and this is so weird for me to type — because it seemed “silly.” I can’t recall that ever happening to me. Ever!
I don’t know what this means …but I fear it means something. That something unusual is happening to me. Something pivotal. Like that first deep raspy cough you notice before pnuemonia sets it. Or like the feeling when a fever breaks and you know you are going to be okay.
I feel like this disinclination to post something absurd and pointless on Facebook may well be the first “deep cough” or “fever break,” so to speak, indicating the beginning of the end of my mid-life crisis.
I mean, of course it is true that the trajectory of a mid-life crisis can’t go up and up forever. At some.point it has to decline and resolve itself. After all, the “crisis” part of the term “mid-life crisis” suggests a downward spiral. So, you kmow, one more reason the upward trajectory thing can’t go on forever.
If this is true I am going to start acting more maturely in all kinds of ordinary situations. People won’t recognize me and others will wonder if I died or moved out of the country or was buried alive by someone who had to spend a lot of time around me.
Others may wonder if I am finally starting to grow up and act my own age. And if this “grown-up acting thing” really takes hold of me, still others may simply conclude that I have come down with pnuemonia. Or that my fever has finally broken.
I don’t know what I will do with myself.
Or maybe this means I am going to start really getting into Instagram?
By John Y. Brown III, on Wed Dec 10, 2014 at 1:30 PM ET
I don’t like to ever be negative, especially on Facebook.
But if there was ever a time for a Facebook “Dislike” button to exist, it is now, for Facebook co-founder, Chris Hughes, for dabbling with and then destroying one of our nation’s most respected and thoughtful political publications, The New Republic magazine.
How does one person so single-handedly undo in two years what hundreds of literary giants toiled so diligently and relentlessly for over a century to create and build? The answer to that question –about an astonishing failure– is unfortunately not nearly as interesting or as unlikely as Facebook’s astonishing success.
It is instead the same timeworn story of someone who confuses great ability and success in one area to translate into great ability and success in other and unrelated areas.
For Chris Hughes of Facebook fame it was assuming being a star in anticipating a new niche in the new online medium of social media would mean brilliant success in creating a new niche in the old print medium of political analysis and commentary. Mr Hughes, of course, was wrong.
As stunningly wrong as he was stunningly right about his earlier success with Facebook.
In Mr Hughes’ case, it was hubris caused not from too much intelligence but from too little self-awareness of his own capabilities (and perhaps too much money and idle time) that led instead to his brilliant debacle with the New Republic. And that is worthy of an over-sized and emphatic Facebook “Dislike.” If it existed.
By John Y. Brown III, on Mon Dec 1, 2014 at 12:00 PM ET
What is the next big thing in social media? I think I know.
Instagram. Snapchat. Twitter. Is there any thought or feeling we can’t communicate these days?
What we need next is a social media tool that allows us to post an image of those fleeting moments each day when we are not thinking or feeling anything at all. Call it BlankInstaTweetSnap.
It will allow us to post a blank image of the nothingness we are thinking and feeling so others can view it —and, hopefully, “like” it.
Perhaps our non-thinking and non-feeling moments will mean something to others who view it and bring meaning to our blank moments. With this new social media tool we will be able to eliminate ever having a waking moment that isn’t worth sharing with the rest of the world.
Of course, our blank, empty and meaningless posts will have to be limited to 140 characters and the image of our blankness that we post will only be viewable by others for 10 seconds before it is deleted and destroyed. To make room for future BlankInstaTweetSnap posts.
Sometimes in life, “Less is more.” But when it comes to social media, “Nothing is the new less.”
By John Y. Brown III, on Tue Sep 23, 2014 at 12:00 PM ET
I have received multiple “messages” today from Facebook’s new “Messenger” app. It essentially forces you to download it by making it too complicated to figure out how to avoid the irritation of the constant requests by Facebook to download it—and so you just downloading it to stop the requests to, well, download it.
And then I seem constantly to have a tiny person pictured in a circle in the bottom right-hand corner of my phone who just messaged you. The messaging itself i…s fine, of course, but the giant bubble of a person appearing on your phone –and, again, being too complicated (for me anyway) to figure out how to get rid of– is making this exciting new Messaging app on Facebook too burdensome for simple low-tech people like me to want to mess with.
Besides, bubbles just aren’t a good contour for me personally. I look better inside a rectangle or square.
I would message this message complaining about the new Messenger app to the right person at Facebook if I knew how to –and who at Facebook to contact. But there doesn’t appear to be a little bubble of a Facebook person to “message” about such things. Maybe the folks at Facebook don’t care for that little irritating bubble person on their phones either. I can’t say I blame them.
Sometimes, perhaps, the best “app” is the one you don’t create.
By John Y. Brown III, on Wed Sep 3, 2014 at 12:00 PM ET
Nothing has revolutionized and expanded human intelligence more than the Internet.
The Internet is solely responsible for raising the IQ of the average user by nearly 20 points simply by offering free online IQ tests that puts nearly everyone, by the third time they take the test, in the “very superior” or “genius” category. Including me.
Thank you Internet for making me so much smarter than I was before.
And giving me a online certificate to prove it.
I often look up words in the Urban Dictionary.
And sometimes rely on its accuracy more than even Wikipedia.
By John Y. Brown III, on Wed Aug 27, 2014 at 12:00 PM ET
A call to action. A call to non-lameness.
Is it really possible that there are a few people still out there who find it downright giggle-worthy to send other people on Facebook a private message pretending to be someone else –someone who is younger and of the opposite sex— in order to fake a romantic interest to see what the person on Facebook will say?
It was funny the first 3 or 4 times. The next dozen or so times seemed to be when this prank seemed to crest in raw hilarity and start to slowly decline so that by the 70th or 80th time it has been tried on you, you don’t even get annoyed any more at these pranking individuals but have instead started to worry for their mental health and comedic IQ.
Look, when I was younger my generation had some super lame pranks we repeated long after we should have been embarrassed for ourselves. There was the prank call asking “Is your refrigerator running” and after an affirmative answer we would suggest our victim be careful not to let it “run” out the door. Get it? Run as in operating and run as in motion. And there was the prank call to a bowling alley asking the weight of the bowling balls as a set up for a painfully lame and sophomoric genital joke.
And these jokes got repeated so often and for so many years that I worried that if a superior life form existed in our solar system and got wind of this repeated prank, they would write off our entire planet forever as a worthless species.
These jokes were terrible. Just really awful and But, hey, all we had for entertainment was Pong so it isn’t surprising that our wit was running at about the same speed.
But the younger generation, who I am assuming is responsible for these faux Facebook flirt messages, my God. I mean, c’mon! I know you are supposed to be the first generation in American history who had a lesser standard of living than your parents. But that doesn’t mean you have to be the first with a lesser sense of humor. There is no excuse for that and you are going to have to dig down and ask more of yourselves when trying to make a funny.
Geez. Look at me. I’m an old man writing long ridiculous Facebook posts for laughs and I have been doing it for 3 years now. I admit it is a lame use of time but can you imagine how much lamer it would have been if I had spent all that time sending fake private messages to some stranger on Facebook who may not realize i I’m really not a 21 year old ingenue?
You have to do better young wisecrackers and comedic miscreants! And I know you can do it. Stretch yourselves! Get out of your comfort zone. Look at the two old jokes from my generation and study them as building blocks for new lame jokes that won’t be so humiliating to your generation as these fake Facebook flirts. You can do it. You have what it takes. The time is now. And I am real —not a fake teenage girl. And even if I were pretending to be a young breathless girl right now flirting with a stranger on Facebook, that not even you—if you were honest with yourself–would think it was funny.
Let’s commit to coming up with a new Facebook prank–that isn’t inexplicably lame. Together we will make sure that your generation, material measurements notwithstanding, will never be lamer than your parent’s generation. I am that generation. And trust me, we are pretty darned lame.
By John Y. Brown III, on Thu Aug 21, 2014 at 12:00 PM ET
Facebook does a lot of things like allowing us to network, connect, communicate, share and stay abreast of our world and circle of friends and do all of these things in real time 24/7.
But behind all these useful activities there is something more basic that is happening while we post,follow, peruse and comment. We are, in a very real sense, marketing ourseleves on a poweful new medium. We create the image of ourselves we hope others will adopt of us. It is like a virtual version of high school except the audience is more discerning and sophisticated and harder to penetrate.
So we try different methods until we find one that seems to work best. It is usually the method that is most authentic and revealing in ways that resonate with others. And yes, it is usually the method that accrues the most “likes” from others.
The liking mechanism of Facebook reminds me of training a dog to do tricks by providing treats when the dog successfully performs. On the surface of Facebook it appears the Facebook audience is training individuals by how their posts and pictures are receieved. But really, at a closer look, it is each of us training ourseleves. We try out a new trick and if we are rewarded with likes we perform similar tricks and build our repertoire around related posts and images. And for those posts and images that don’t work, we modify or scrap until we have our image honed.
Our final product, so to speak (whch continues in process), is a reflection of what in ourseleves resonates most favorably with others. Again, not all that different from high school.
But is that who we really are? No, of course not. But as we are marketing ourselves and honing our public image are there any other reasons we continue playing on Facebook? I think so. And I think it is because of something much deeper at play in the human psyche.
At our most basic level we need to know that we are affirmed. Or liked. The pre-Facebook internet allowed for communication and engagement but was more, at the human level, like shouting into a giant cave and, after a pause, hearing our own echo. A response of some sort that validated that we exist in this vast digital world.
Facebook took it to the next level on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Now when we shout into the vast internet black space –but do so through the virtual megaphone of Facebook and shout it in a certain manner and in a certain tone and with a certain purpose in mind — and pause, we not only hear our own echo but are affirmed. “Liked,” quite literally.
And that is a profound advantage that Facebook can boast over other all other internet mediums. And an advance that has far more to do with filling a basic human need than providing a new and cool technological advance.