HOW I SAID “FUCK PRIDE,” LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE MODERN AGE, AND FINALLY GOT FACEBOOK AND TWITTER ACCOUNTS, THUS BECOMING A BETTER PERSON*
by Jeff Somers
FRIENDS, I am usually the last person in the universe to adopt any given technology, catchphrase, or trend. This is because I am stupid and cowardly, and while everyone is running around shouting about how great something is, I’m sitting in my room drinking liquor and grumbling. Then, five or six decades later I stumble on it and say wow, this is cool, hey everybody, lookit this! And everyone sneers and calls me a Luddite.
Add to this a healthy dose of misanthropic hatred for people in general, and you can only imagine my general attitude to things like Facebook and Twitter. Not only are these new-fangled technologies, but they both fall into the general category of social-network applications, and that means they connect me to people. Horrible, dirty, stupid people. Not people like you, of course. Everyone else. All those other people, whom I hate. Not you.
Enthusiasm for these applications, therefore, was lacking.
Still, being a desperate mid-list writer with some books on the shelf, a need for more, more more! whiskey, and a perpetual fear of never publishing anything ever again ever, I’m always pondering how I can take over your brains and force you to buy more of my books, and I’ve been told over and over again that Facebook and Twitter can be great tools to connect with fans and potential fans, so I opened accounts on both. And since everything I do ends up in this zine, filtered through the Bullshit Wacky Japanese Island of Wacky, here’s an article about my experience so far.
How sad: 1996, articles about me being drunk and being a wedding gigolo. 2009, articles about fucking Facebook. Is this what a midlife crisis tastes like? ‘Cause it burns, motherfucker.
FACEBOOK: I HEREBY CALL TONIGHT’S MEETING OF THE WORST CLUB IN THE WORLD TO ORDER
I’ve resisted Facebook for a long time. The very things Facebook offers horrify me. I mean, my big worry was that the moment I set up my Facebook page, the following folks would descend on it like a group of nerds at your very first parents-are-away-for-the-weekend party in high school:
RELATIVES: My extended family is filled with warm, wonderful folks, most of whom I haven’t spoken to in a million years. This is not because they are bad people—if anything, I’m the asshole in this equation—but simply because I have never understood why genetic relation is supposed to make me instantly love and adore someone. I haven’t attended a wedding, holiday gathering, or other familial event in decades, so the idea of having my entire family nattering at me online was fear-inducing.
HIGH SCHOOL FRIENDS: There are exactly four people from my high school years that I’ve stayed in touch with. There is a reason for this. Again, 90% of the kids I went to school with were nice people, deserving of love. This does not mean I want to love them. Or even know anything about them.
EAGLE SCOUTS: Sweet lord. Every time I mention being an Eagle Scout (I really was!) I get an avalanche of email from other Eagles accusing me of lying, because a foul-mouthed jackass like myself couldn’t possibly be an Eagle Scout. Plus also too, I get some of the details wrong, due to my brain-damaged-levels of memory holes, which proves I am a liar. Because claiming falsely to be an Eagle Scout is a common fucking scam, due to the great benefits you get from it. Wait, what? Ah, Crazy Folks—what’re gonna do?
COWORKERS: I don’t think I need to explain this any further. Many of my coworkers are doubtless good people. Why this means I must take an interest in them escapes me.
And you know who showed up, within seconds of my setting up the page? Relatives and High School Friends. So far I appear to be safe from the Eagles and the coworkers, but you never know.
Now, it isn’t all bad. Within a few days I’d connected with some friends I’d lost touch with, and was suddenly having the sort of bizarre conversations I’d enjoyed back in 1995, when the world was young and e-mail was still a novelty. For example, this exchange from Facebook, perhaps one of the great conversational set-pieces ever conducted:
Misty is amazed that anyone can wake up at 6:30AM and be ready to play dress up.
Jeof Vita at 8:58am January 23
Somers does it all the time.
Jeffrey Somers at 9:33am January 23
Actually, I go to bed fully dressed to save time. I’ve been wearing the same clothes–including underwear–since 1998. Which I think surprises nobody.
On another note: There *is* such a thing as 6:30AM? I’d heard rumors, but to know it actually exists. . .I just got chills.
Ken West at 9:47am January 23
I’m being forced to re-acquaint myself with 6:30AM more and more often these days.
Jeof Vita at 9:48am January 23
Ken, is that when the brothel closes?
Ken West at 9:50am January 23
Even after Tuesday, I’m still not allowed into the Cranford area brothels.
Jeffrey Somers at 9:54am January 23
Obviously time to start your own.
Jeffrey Somers at 10:03am January 23
All you need are some Russian ladies.
Jeof Vita at 10:04am January 23
They don’t even need o be ladies. They just have to be willing to play dress-up.
Ken West at 10:12am January 23
I clearly need to bring you 2 on as partners in this venture. I’m thinking Creamworks for the name.
Jeof Vita at 10:14am January 23
Aaaaannnndd … there goes breakfast.
Jeffrey Somers at 10:15am January 23
Well, OK, but I don’t know if people will believe I’m a Russian Lady.
Jeof Vita at 10:16am January 23
Jeff, just learn this phrase and practice it over and over again: ? ???????? ???-??????.
Jeffrey Somers at 10:19am January 23
That seems hard. Can’t I just drink a lot of Vodka and wake up in Mexico in someone else’s pants? You know, like usual?
Annnnd. . .scene. And that’s all fun, when it happens. The fact that people think I want to know their status? Sure, when your status is “Am doing fascinating things with fascinating people”. When your status is “Eating lunch,” not so much.
All of that pales, however, against the most annoying bullshit they’ve bolted onto Facebook: The apps. The first time someone bought me a drink or poked me, it was charming. The 50th, again: not so much. They’re all harmless little ways of wasting some time and nudging people you know, but why they’re better than sending a note that says thinking of you if I could I’d buy you a drink, I don’t know. Being on Facebook is kind of like being at a party where no one speaks to each other, but people keep standing around muttering about their activities so you can eavesdrop. Every now and then, someone throws a sheep at you. That’s Facebook, man.
TWITTER: I AM RIDING THE BUS AND NO ONE WILL TALK TO ME AND I THINK THAT MAYBE MY HANDS SMELL FUNNY
TWITTER, on the other hand, is kind of interesting. Not because of the people who are tweeting, necessarily, because knowing what you’re having for lunch is not fascinating, despite all the voices in your head insisting otherwise. But Twitter has other possibilities.
First of all, when I signed on to Twitter everyone told me to follow anyone who follows me. This way, you get your tweets out there into everyone else’s tweets and people will see you and follow you, so you can then follow them. . .and so on, down into the maw of insanity. The first lesson of Twitter, therefore, is that everyone on Twitter obsesses about the number of followers they have, and is greedy for more, more, more followers. In my brief time on Twitter I’ve seen folks plead to be told why they were losing followers—one guy even asked everyone on his list what he was doing wrong and how he could change it. This seemed somehow sad, though of course he might have just been one of the horrible marketers who have latched onto Twitter as the new tech tool which will steal the minds of all the children, thus making them rich. But the thing is, of course, when you do start to lose followers you do start to question yourself. After all, we all like to think we’re funny and interesting, but we can’t all be funny and interesting.
Twitter is like a public Coolness Quotient assigned to you. My Coolness Quotient is about 3.9 on a scale of 100. Apparently.
Some folks do in fact use twitter for a more rational purpose: Staying in touch with their friends. When your social circle are all on Twitter, tweeting your whereabouts on, say, a Friday night can be incredibly useful and fun. Others use it because they are doing interesting things, or have discovered interesting links/news stories. All of this makes sense. Tweeting i am eating the worst tuna sandwich ever does not make any damn sense at all.
Which is ominous for me, for most of my daily events are of the Bad Tuna variety.
A RANDOM SAMPLING OF THINGS JEFF COULD TWITTER
woke up craving crabcakes, wife laughed at me, called me ‘little man’
my cat who weighs 21 pounds just jumped directly onto my groin
does anyone else smell maple syrup?
So, I struggled to figure out what to do with Twitter. Assuming anyone is interested in my tweets at all, I needed to find a way to make them worthwhile. Some folks tweet interesting links all day, and that’s fun, but by the time I come across something interesting, it’s been sent all around the universe and back again. Some folks are leading exciting, dashing lives interviewing celebrities and solving crimes, and that’s great tweeting if you can manage it. Since I’m no superhero and my hip, cool days are long behind me, I decided I only had one asset, and that’s my writing, so I started tweeting short stories.
Let me be frank: I don’t think Twitter is the ideal way to read anything. It wasn’t designed for things like that, and it’s head-ache inducing to actually use it that way. On the other hand, there are possible scenarios where it works: One, the novelty period, when the idea of getting a story tweeted at you one line at a time over a period of weeks is new and interesting. Two, if you’re already so busy and distracted that Twitter has become your de facto tool of communication, then maybe five lines a day is all you can handle, and thus a little prose that reads like blank verse, disconnected and zen-like, can be very cool.
I hoped for the latter and Tweeted my story The Black Boxes. Response was positive, and people were paying attention, so when I was finished with it I decided to tweet another story, and as long as people seem interested I’ll keep doing that. Though eventually the novelty will wear off and I don’t doubt that interest will wane, because, as I said, no one really wants to read a short story that way.
Still, I must admit, tweeting a story does give it a blank verse majesty it maybe didn’t have as straight prose. You dissolve the story into short, haunting little chunks of text which are almost standalone little poems, describing a scene or piece of dialog. This was fun, and educational.
Of course, when not twittering a story, I sit there and wonder what in hell I could possibly tweet to folks. I want to be a hip, mysterious writer-type, you know, not a bad tuna-sandwich-eating kind of guy. As with all of my other ambitions to be cool, however, this one, seems likely to end up in a bucket of FAIL. So look for those sandwich-related tweets!
*Originally appeared in The Inner Swine Volume 15, Issue 1