Your not really here

Recently my Facebook feed erupted in pedantry when someone shared an inspirational post about how Harrison Ford at 30 was still making cupboards and Kurt Cobain at 30 was still washing dishes and Rimbaud at 30 was still working in SpecSavers, or whatever. It was one of those posts that puts a load of text into an image for no reason because hey, blind people don’t need inspiration.

trust me your good

Anyway, the issue was that the poster muddled up “your” and “you’re”, prompting multiple comments on the error.

The poster was Scott Alan, who apparently is a well-known musician.He defended himself by saying:

Update:

Yes, we all know it’s suppose to say “You’re.” This was a simple repost while waiting in line at Disneyworld. I never expected a million people to see it & call me dumb.

Grammar aside, as an artist I find the sentiment to be what’s important. Especially being 37 now and often wondering when all my hard work and tireless dedication to my craft will pay off. I know I’m not alone in this thought.

Take what you will from it. Either a grammatical lesson or a life lesson to not give up hope. Or just keep calling me dumb. I’m at Disneyworld in 82 degree weather. I can handle it.
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Ps. Don’t comment on the haters below. Don’t involve yourself in hate and anger. Trust me.

I see this kind of thing all the time online: “Hey, don’t judge me for the stupid thing I said! I’m actually busy doing something else!” So many forum flounces take this form. Sometimes it’s a self-righteous thing like: “I’m too busy looking after my children for this nonsense!” Sometimes it’s more along the lines of “You’re the fool for getting upset by this flamewar, because I’ve been watching telly the whole time! I invested nothing in this discussion, which I have nevertheless been prolonging, while you have been paying attention to what I say and responding accordingly, and therefore somehow I WIN!”

The thing is: if a discussion isn’t happening face to face, participants initially have no way of assessing what the other person is bringing to it. Yes, you pick up on cues during the conversation but initially you just have to make assumptions about the level of attention and engagement the other person has. Why is it unreasonable to assume that there’s a certain baseline level of engagement below which they wouldn’t be joining or starting a conversation at all? Why is it unreasonable to assume that a famous-ish person would check the grammar of a post before sharing it with the 16,000+ people who follow his Facebook page?

So many justifications for making mistakes online boil down to: “Yes, I’m being rubbish at this, but it’s because I don’t think this thing is important enough for my full attention.”

This bothers me partly because it seems to be part of a broader trend to be online even if you can’t pay attention properly, even if you have a solid reason for not being online at all (you’re travelling, you’re in hospital, you’ve got a day off to go to Disney World). And that in turn bothers me because it seems to be part of a smartphone-enabled blurring between public and private, between work and play, between “on” and “off”.

I’ve had a couple of bad experiences with people who simply didn’t believe that my out-of-office meant that I was really offline for the stated period. Even if the out-of-office message specifically says that you’re not checking email and gives alternatives (speak to my colleague, ring this number to speak to me in an emergency), people will still make decisions based on the assumption that you will see their email in the next day or two.

I’ve had even more bad experiences with bosses and colleagues who go on holiday, or off sick, and then proceed to be digitally present for their entire “absence”. But of course, this digital presence doesn’t mean they’re going to sit down in their Puerto Vallarta hotel room and put in a solid few hours of solitary work on their laptop. It takes the form of “checking in”, meddling, fiddling. They’re squinting at a smartphone in the hot Mexican sun because they can’t keep away. The first thing they wanted when they got to their hotel, or their host’s house, or their bed in the hospital, was the wi-fi password. But they can’t/won’t do anything useful with their device + internet because they’re not really there, not really working. The people who are really there are having their energy and focus drained from thousands of miles away by someone who maybe should just be having a cocktail or a nap instead.

It’s getting to the point where the only people who assert proper boundaries about their online-y-ness are the arsehole cousins of the minimalist arseholes I’ve blogged so much about. They go on “data detoxes” and “declare email bankruptcy” and write Medium posts about how they survived six months without Twitter. And again, it’s privilege. How many wage-slaves get to write an out-of-office saying “When I come back, I’ll be deleting every email that arrived while I was away”? You need power and privilege for that, just as you need power and privilege to own just one plate or whatever the fuck it is we’re not owning much of this week.

But I’ll be honest: the whole “hello, I’m here, no, sorry, I can’t participate properly because I’m not really here” thing bothers me mainly because it’s plain bloody rude. Is a professional musician’s official Facebook page not worth the full attention of the musician himself? OK, maybe not, but the real question is: if he doesn’t think his Facebook page is worthy of his own attention, why is he demanding ours?

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