One argument against the up-vote / down-vote system is that promotes groupthink, but I argue that a bigger issue is the constant promotion and strive towards positive reinforcement.
Consider four of the major social network systems.
-Facebook: The “Like” system
-Reddit: Karma and points
-Youtube: Top comments, thumbs up
-Twitter: Retweets, favorites
This is not a crusade against memes or beloved pictures of cats in zany situations.
I argue it’s fundamentally affecting the way we communicate and act.
Quick caveat, I’m not saying that it’s better to be boring. Simply that the stakes to be ‘entertaining’ have been raised. When everyone has their sources of comedic relief to draw from, everyone becomes an aspiring comedic writer.
The very act of sharing / reposting that photo from “Funny Fails” creates this self-perpetuating cycle. You become an ad for your sources – be it 4chan, 9gag, etc.
This has made it more an effort to be witty, or I should say, entertaining – socializing and ‘humor’ have long been held as respectable things. Conversations stop, it is socially acceptable to check your phone a source of one-liners when your friends sources repeated verbatim aren’t entertaining enough.
-NB – as more of our communication becomes removed from face-to-face (texting, online dating, chatting) – it’s easier to become complacent, to take the time to think of a thoughtful / witty response online. The kicker is that in an actual social setting, you don’t get the removed aspect of time.
Those moments of silence in actual conversation where you brain shorts out – no clever remark comes to mind, what do you say? Better to say nothing at all and check your texts.
We don’t like being reminded that we are all running out of time. So, we’ve devised ways to make time appear longer by making the divisions more precise – milliseconds in gaming, instant response times, real-time updates. Access from information anywhere in the world can make you feel like you’re vicariously experiencing entire days in minutes.
Updates now occur instantaneously, anyone can report the ‘news’ if they have a phone and 140 characters.
The problem is a mis-match of the technology that enables real-time updates, instant responses and boring old real-life.
Consider goal-setting and the rise of ‘time -optimization’ I argue that this has become less intuitive due to this increased precision of time measurements:
A school “quarter” seems a lot longer, abstract, compared to a millisecond of lag or 95+ realtime updates in 5 minutes.
The Pomodoro technique, all these little tricks to put your brain ‘on-task’ – are attempts at an anti-dote to the time wasters.
We’ve gotten to a point where we demand our entertainment to be this way too. Want to contribute to Reddit? Hope your tl-dr makes the cut.
It has spread to other areas as well: Networking? Hope you’ve got a 10 second elevator pitch. Interviewing? Spin your best story fast. Dating? Hope your wit is enough to sustain a profile glance.
It demands speed.
As the world becomes more connected online, a paradox becomes more apparent. We’re all next to each other physically but mentally we’re all a thousand miles away in our own personal spheres of the information bubble – staring our screens.
It’s easier to become bored when your perception of time have become skewed contrast between availability of information (real-time updates, streaming TV shows) and ‘real’ life that lags behind (a casual conversation, waiting in line, traveling from one place to another)
We constantly thirst because we’ve been exposed to the seductive, individual moments of other people’s lives framed through a sepia filter. We sit at our table wondering why we aren’t having as good of a time our friends who are posting pictures from the bar and in a vicious cycle, the conversations we desire to continue to cease as everyone looks back down to swipe up and down.
We want to be unique, yet we repost others images from one of hundreds of templates. What better way to demonstrate that you can wittily express your boredom waiting in-line than through an e-card with the characters and pre-made dialogue?
Conversation itself becomes a sit-com dialogue and it’s being constructed one line at a time. If you aren’t talking about what happened on last night’s show, you’ll still talk in a manner that is like last night’s show.
The problem is when your writers all hit that block. When your material runs out. Those moments are what will define you.
When you are made of trailers, what is left of the featured presentation?