As is often the case, my daughter says to me something that just doesn’t register. A few days ago, she asked “Have you heard about Couch Guy?” It is her apparent obligation to keep me up to date on cultural trends. I had no idea what/who she was talking about.
If you go on Yahoo, you can type in Couch Guy Tiktok and find the video; it’s less than a minute. It is ostensibly about a young woman surprising her long-distance boyfriend. What it became is what NBC News suggested how internet sleuthing can be toxic.
“The video, posted Sept. 21 by Lauren Zarras, shows her boyfriend, Robbie…surrounded by friends and sitting on a couch next to three other women.
“Many of the people who have commented on the video.. suggested that Robbie was, in fact, not happy to see Zarras. Some went so far as to accuse him of being unfaithful to her. Not long after it went viral, TikTokers began meticulously combing through the video…”
My first position was to be the grumpy old man and think, “Why should anyone care about this?” But as someone who recognizes that how people communicate matters, I found myself utterly fascinated. Not by Robbie, the couch guy, for whom I feel bad that people find the need to so scrutinize ten seconds of his life.
Now some folks – I found several examples that won’t bother linking to – who ‘analyzed” the video out the sense that it was hot copy, even though they thought it was a lame narrative.
However, this phenomenon – I have to say obsession – provides some odd validation for these online sleuths. Indeed, for those who have rooted out racism and violence, e.g., that is an accomplishment.
The NBC piece discussed Morgan Forte, 23, who has “experienced what happens when it feels as though the internet has collectively decided to pick apart your life based on a seconds-long clip.
“Forte, of Jacksonville, Florida, said she posted a short video of her parents dancing a few years ago. Some claimed that Forte’s mother was acting grumpy in the clip.
“When the video blew up, getting about 15 million views across accounts that had shared it, some commenters began saying Forte’s father should leave her mother because of her demeanor in the video.” As they say, OMG.
Producer and activist Monica Lewinsky – yes, that Monica Lewinsky – is an anti-bullying advocate. She has produced a movie called 15 Minutes of Shame which she discussed recently on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.
As Rolling Stone quoted her, “’One of the factors in the film is around the idea of how shame has been used since the beginning of time as a social tool.’ With the onset of the internet and tabloid culture — the problem worsened.”
Early in my retirement, my wife and I were sound asleep in our bed at 11:30 p.m., because that’s what we do. Our dear daughter came into the room needing to talk, preferably to the male parent. Oh yeah… zzz.. that’s me.
The issue is that some young woman, who I’ll call Happy, had taken a graphic from someone else’s Instagram page. The artist, who I’ll call Art, is a friend of my daughter.
Art politely asked Happy to take the piece off her page. Happy refused. As some of Art’s friends got involved in the conversation, Happy became more adamant. She suggested that Art and all of his friends should get together and cut themselves.
My daughter wanted my advice, which I suppose I should appreciate. I recommended, regarding both the artwork and the response by Happy, was to contact Instagram.
This is not the first time I’ve learned about the Sturm und Drang involving teenagers on social media. Back in the old days, if there were bullies, you and your geographically close friends knew who they were and how to avoid or confront them.
Now, there’s a network of friends and “friends” who get intricately involved in these dramas. I am utterly fascinated, baffled and more than a bit concerned how these issues can escalate.
I know this is probably unAmerican, but I have never warmed to Instagram. It seems difficult to ascertain what pictures actually belong to whom, with photos and graphics swapped about.
Huh. I went to my Instagram account, which I hadn’t used in so long that I had forgotten the password, which is not that rare. I was puzzled to note that while I had 14 followers, I have apparently never posted anything.
It’s weird because I swore that I had submitted photos of some of my ancestors. I probably will use Instagram at some point in my purported free time. But I will have expectations that the pictures will be shared.
Oh, here’s the kicker. Because I went to visit Happy’s Instagram page, she sent me an invitation to friend her on Facebook! I declined.
What is the #1 thing that annoys you on social media?
Mostly that so much of it is so banal. I post these blog posts to my Facebook and Twitter and get a few comments. I write, in response to an Esquire clickbait article, “If you think I’m going to click on this 80 times, you’re crazy;” it’s gotten over 120 likes, many of them in recent days.
Sometimes, though, it does some good. Which nicely segues to… *** Jaquandor muses:
I often hear calls for “a national conversation” to deal with Big Issues. What would a “national conversation” look like?
Since we can’t seem to agree on simple concepts, such as facts about science, I think the “national conversations” bubble up in ways that I don’t think can possibly be entirely controlled.
The sudden rush to remove Confederate battle flags from Wal-Mart, Amazon, and other retailers in recent days clearly was a conversation WE had. That emblem was obviously not a significant issue to most folk the day before the Charleston shootings. But when those people died, and their loved ones showed such grace in mourning, WE decided, or most of us, that the “stars and bars” that the presumed killer embraced were suddenly toxic.
Now if you WANT to have a “national discussion,” such as the ones President Obama has periodically attempted to instigate about race, it’s usually a flop. “He’s a race baiter.” “Ooo, he used the N-word,” without any understanding of the context of what he was trying to express. “There’s just one race, the human race,” which is both true and irrelevant.
In this age of increasing partisan division, I am finding it harder and harder to even empathize with the “other side” (in my case, the political right in this country). I used to at least understand how they arrived at their worldview, if not share it, but now I increasingly can’t fathom how or why they would look at the world that way at all. Does this make sense to you, and if so, what can be done about it?
For me, this is less of a problem of left/right, and more an issue of “Do they really mean what they say, are they just trying to be provocateurs, or are they just intellectually lazy?”
My own defense mechanism is to declare that certain parties – Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Congressman Louis Gohmert (R-TX), and certain others – as unreliable reporters. I don’t mean “reporters” in a news sense, but that what they say, what they report, is, based on a great deal of observation, not worthy of my consideration.
This is actually useful because it minimizes my outrage. I don’t spew in anger ranting, “How can Hannity say such a stupid thing?” Instead, I can calmly note, “Oh, there’s Hannity saying something inane again. Ho-hum.” It’s SO much better for my blood pressure.
George Carlin said, over ten years ago on an album (closer to fifteen): “Wanna know what’s comin’ next? Guns in church! That’ll happen, you’ll see.” Nervous tittering laughter from the audience, and yet… here we are. How inevitable was this, and how do you see future historians looking back on our incredible resistance to the mere idea of giving up our guns?
At least the gun thing comes from an interpretation – a faulty one, I’d contend – of the US Constitution, backed, I’m afraid, by our Supreme Court.
After Charleston, I was watching a LOT of news. One security expert said churches, and other “soft targets,” need to have “situational awareness” when someone comes in who is a DLR, “doesn’t look right.” As someone who sits in the choir loft, I have seen a number of people walk through the church doors, who, some would suggest, “don’t look right,” but who have subsequently become members of the congregation.
Padlocking to keep “them” out is a formula to kill a religious body as sure as bombs or bullets would, just more slowly.
Moreover, I listened to two sisters of one of the murdered congregants of Mother Emanuel, and they talked about a fearlessness that comes from loving God. This is why, a week to the day after the shootings, they and over 250 others were present for the Wednesday Bible study. *** SamuraiFrog interjected:
Thanks for pointing this out, because I was unaware of it. Not surprisingly, I’m generally opposed to it on both theological and strategic grounds. Nonviolent direct action as done by Gandhi and Martin Luther King was very effective, and shows the higher moral position; of course, both of them were eventually assassinated.
Still, forgiving white supremacy can be a real burden. Mother Emanuel’s Bible study the week after the shootings was reportedly from the New Testament book of 1 Peter. I don’t know the verses they studied, but here are some representative verses from chapter 2, verses 19-21: “For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God… if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this, you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”
I can imagine some black folks thinking, “To hell with THAT!” So I UNDERSTAND #WeWillShootBack. I don’t endorse it, but I know where it comes from. *** Thomas McKinnon says:
With all that is going on in the news, have you talked to your daughter about racism?
Tom, it’s post-racial America. What’s to talk about?
Actually, The Daughter and I often watch the news together and discuss what it means. When she’s seen stories from Ferguson to Charleston, from Freddie Gray, who died in Baltimore in police custody, to Tamir Rice, who died about two seconds after the Cleveland police arrived. There’s fodder for a lot of conversation.
Current events have been a great point of entry, actually. I was loath to just dump on her some of the crap I had endured over the years. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” I was thinking, maybe hoping, that we were getting there sooner than it’s turned out. *** Arthur@AmeriNZ picks up on a theme from others:
Thinking of race relations in the USA, and maybe racial politics, who has surprised you the most?
Jon Stewart. I didn’t think, in his political analysis on The Daily Show, that race was particularly his thing. By his own admission, he was slow to hire correspondents of color. Larry Wilmore, who now has his own show, might get to pontificate occasionally from 2006-2014.
But Stewart started taking on the issue of race from his own voice. It may have started before this, but the pivotal program for me was the August 26, 2014 episode, where he first experiences the Ferguson Protest Challenge, then ends the Race/Off segment with, and I’m slightly paraphrasing here: “If you’re tired of hearing about racism, imagine how exhausting it is to be living with it.”
More recently, Stewart parodied the “Helper Whitey” effect… in a segment with Jessica Williams and Jordan Klepper. “First Williams [a black woman] would make a point, but Klepper [a white man] wouldn’t listen to her. When Stewart made the exact same point a few seconds later, Klepper jumped to agree.”
Who has disappointed you the most?
Bill Clinton, who got dubbed by someone as the “first black President,” for some reason, but who gutted the economic safety net, and continued the process of mass incarceration. Yeah, he did have a decent record overall on civil rights, but I guess I expected more.
Though the first person to really disappoint me was Jesse Jackson. He was running for President in 1984 when he used a slur against Jews in describing New York City, and that ended my support for him.