Skip to the end of the two blog posts I’m posting here if you want, that’s where the good stuff is:
At first glance, they must seem unconnected. The Ed Gets Read post is about personally disconnecting from social media. The Frailest Thing is a comment on 2081, a short movie based on Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron.
If you make it to the ends, though, you’ll see they are both comments on our usage of social media. I like this statement on Ed’s post: “Facebook is a flatland where nothing has no more relevance than anything else — whether you fed the cat or won the Oscar, broke a toenail or a world record. Whether it’s mindless minutiae or life-changing news, on Facebook it’s all the same.” I’m not sure Facebook was ever set up to be anything more than a backyard fence over which to gossip, but he is right about much of the Facebook fare. I’m also not sure if that’s really a problem. Is it really not socializing if you do it online versus down at the local tavern? Dunno. I do know your body will atrophy if you don’t use it and that’s a good enough reason to go get drunk. (Of course your liver will explode if you drink too much, and I’m not sure which is worse.)
More troubling for me is how Michael Sacasas compares our incessant use of social media to the purposeful handicapping of the talented in Vonnegut’s story. I like this post for two reason. First, because Harrison Bergeron never rang true for me. I think the story is popular with those that believe in their own “specialness” even though no one else does. I’m talking about people that like to blame such things as equal opportunity legislation for holding them back from their personal world renown. I happen to believe truly special people will shine regardless of handicapping. A ballerina is great not so much because she was born with something that makes her rise above the crowded dance floor, but because she works her ass off.
Besides how special are “special” people. They excel in one area, sure, but are dull in others. I think Vonnegut was writing to the masses of disappointed wannabes with that one.
But I love Vonnegut in general and want to like this story. Sacasas interprets it in a way I hadn’t thought of before: we’re all handicapping ourselves with our social distractions. And in the end we’re dumbing down the species. We’re losing focus and we do not yet know what the effect of that is going to be. It can’t be good.
I suspect he’s right. In fact, just last…wait a sec…Hold that thought, I’ve got a tweet coming in. Be back in a sec…
I’m back but I totally lost my train of thought. Forget it. See ya next week.