Sunday, December 5, 2010
Going Along with the Zeitgiest
Question: Is going along with the zeitgeist always the right thing to do?
I'm conflicted. Today I got a twitter account and I feel sick inside. Ready to vomit up every bit of social networking I have done in the last year. First, I swore I would never text message (see my book, Sixty, Sex, & Tango, Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer and my new website which will be up in a few days). I've been text messaging like an addict for a month. And then I vowed you would never catch me twittering. And I'm twittering. I can't believe my wonderful, delightful friend and website designer opened an account for me today faster than I could say, "No, never, not me, don't do it! I don't want to go along with the crowd! Leave me alone!"
I wrote my first twitter to Chesley and I learned some of those signs. Hash. What's that word all about? Now I have to go to T-Mobile and open something called a twitter account so I can twitter on my phone. "Twitter once a day," Chesley said to me as he was putting the finishing touches on my website. "Remember, this is the way you are going to market your book." Twitter one a day. Right. Meanwhilem I'm trying to find time to blog twice a week. Who has all this time? I have a day job.
"If you want to sell a book, you've got to twitter. That's the social networking zeitgeist," I said to my friend John at our Saturday sushi dinner before our milonga.
He looked at me blankly. "Zeitgeist?" he sheepishly asked. "You know darling, I didn't go to Berkeley in the 60s so I never learned that word."
"Didn't you ever watch Woody Allen's old movies, back in the 70s and part of the 80s when he was really a relevant film maker? "
"No, darling, do tell," he prodded me with a smirk. "You must know all this stuff because you went to...."
I cut him off. "Don't be smarmy, darling. It's really simple. When Woody made "Manhattan" or "Hannah and her Sisters" or "Annie Hall," he was humorously reflecting back to his audience a moment in our culture when our emotional and psychological relationship were paralyzed by anxiety. We were a country full of angst ridden people who were never truly honest about relationships. His characters tried to hide from each while they were trying to have relationships and everything got irrational, and, of course, it was funny. But we were really laughing at ourselves. And we all ran to therapy to solve our problems. Woody's characters and their situations held up a mirror to that particuar time in which we lived."
"Isn't that what we do all the time?" he smartly asked.
"Yeah. But today we lie more than we used to. At least Allen's characters were trying to be honest."
"But you know Woody Allen is really not a very good film maker today. He's not what he used to be. That "Vickie, Christina, Barcelona" story was really, really insipid and self-indulgment."
"Well, I guess if you keep pounding the zeitgeist to death, you get smello-drama," I said. "Like social networking is getting to today. Too much of anything flattens out the living experience."
And then I saw "60 minutes" tonight. Zuckerman, the founder of Facebook was talking about combining email and messaging and some other relating concept into a giant pimple that was to be inserted into people's brains and we would all become social networking godzillas. Believe me, this 26 year old dude will find a way to consume Google and Yahoo and every other information portal until finally our world will truly be flat.
This whole social networking concept turns human brain matter to mush. Everyone begins to mutter the same banalities. Thinking is reduced to one liners and log lines and trivial pursuits. Chesley told me that when I twittered, I was to be brief. No more than three lines. Even Arianna Huffington from the Huffington Post twitters. I saw her one line today. OMG! She is someone I thought had some form of higher intelligence. Even Arianna has succumbed to a social marketing pressure.
And sadly, so have I. I hope I won't go to hell for this.