So, millennials, huh? What went wrong there? And golly, Enid, those flappers sure were a real menace, what with their reefer and jazz music and sex in motorcars.
Ant then with the beatniks! And don’t get me started on those dirty hippies! Punks! The world is going to hell in a handbasket!
Hmmm, now that I start to dig into it a little, it’s almost as though there’s always been people who insist on framing things in terms of generational conflict. Who go for the layup of old versus young (or vice versa) when they want to get their dander up about something. Goddamnit they aint gonna let something like not having anything interesting or useful to say stop them from getting their spleen on!
And then oh what a bland cul-de-sac of the zeitgeist we find ourselves in.
At this point, those of you expecting a hit piece on millennials are probably wondering what the fuck I’m doing.
The short answer is: You’ve been clickbaited.
Now, there are two camps of people who would respond to such bait: those who agree that millennials are terrible; and those who took offense at the title and came looking for some more of that sweet, sweet offensive fuel for their raging fire of righteous indignation.
For those of you in the first group who came looking for something of an echo-chamber to amuse yourselves: sorry, there’s not going to be much here for you in terms of that. But do feel free to pull up a chair and hang about if you’re so inclined. I do actually have a point here and it might not do you any harm to check it out.
Now, for those of you who came torches and pitchforks in hand, I would ask you to take a step back and ask yourself how it is that you’ve been clickbaited. Not why (that’s an easy one: it’s to drive traffic to my content), but how?
The how of it is actually pretty simple. It’s an old sales technique and one of the tricks in the How To Win Friends and Influence People bag. To combat indifference and disinterest, the manipulator instigates the target’s irritation or anger. These feelings, while negative, are an emotional response. The target now has engaged emotionally with you; a connection has been established. From there it is child’s play to defuse the anger, and what follows is a dopamine rush from the perceived conflict resolution, however minor. In that state it, the mark is much more likely to buy that used car they didn’t want.
But this is the internet. There’s no car for them to sell you. So what’s the payoff? Attention. Traffic. That is the currency. You see something that pisses you off, and what do you do? You share it, you comment on it; then your friends to the same. Attention. Traffic.
You read something that pisses you off and you click to read more. In order to do what? What need does that impulse serve for you? I have already told you what need of mine you have serviced, but what service are you doing yourself? The only logical answer is that you like being angry and offended. Fair enough then. But if you don’t like that mental state, then what the fuck are doing to yourself? For my benefit, no less.
This is the media cycle we now are meant to participate in. The celebrity offensive act or tweet, followed by the mea culpa apology circuit. These are not missteps; they are calculated manipulations.
Their name is trending on Twitter. Attention. Traffic.
This is not to say it isn’t useful to get angry at things sometimes. But take a second and think about how you are interacting with what has angered you. Is your attention hurting or helping the object of your ire? Are you signal boosting exactly what it is you claim to be fighting against?
Get angry, sure. Say your piece, even better. But don’t serve their fucking agenda. Make a case for what you believe without linking to that offensive tidbit that baited you into action. That’s the way to do it.
Think of it in terms of that old philosophical exercise:
“If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a noise?”
The answer is: no it doesn’t. Noise is a human concept. There are vibrations in the air, but they are not interpreted by a human mind that makes a judgment about what is noise and what isn’t.
So, if a shitty tweet is posted and no one reads it, is it offensive?
Without human attention and interpretation, all of this is nothing more than dust blown into the void. Binary ones and zeros dumped into a sea of data storage.
Until you make it something.