Reddit. The next frontier. Assuming you’re subscribed to the appropriate subreddits, of course. While browsing my front page I found a link to an article about the transformation of the preposition “because”. It’s brusque but it got me thinking, partly because it touched on a topic I’d been considering for some time. Additionally, my chancing upon this article coincided nicely, humorously, with an article my uncle sent me with the following headline: NFL Player Quits Because, You Know, Noam Chomsky. So I’m writing this now because, you know, fate.
There was one line by the author of the “because” article, Megan Garber, that led me back to memes and the new, ever evolving, lexicon of the internet. She stated that this new development in how we use because “[is] a usage … that is exceptionally bloggy and aggressively casual and implicitly ironic. And also highly adaptable.” This is the absolute essence of what these social media cultures are creating: incredibly efficient, pragmatic forms of communication that still manage to inform and engage in manners that are highly effective and chock-full of meaning.
This was the topic of an email conversation my uncle and I had earlier this year where he brought up the question of what this new internet culture, and by extension this new mode of communication, meant for actual, in real life (IRL) culture. He had just read Douglas Rushkoff’s newest book, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now, and was impressed with Rushkoff’s theories on… well I don’t know because I haven’t actually read the book, so I’m just going to quote my uncle:
Rushkoff does a lot with how The Simpson’s, South Park, Family Guy make no attempt at all to follow a narrative but instead are all about references & cross referencing pop culture idioms, tropes, and memes. So couple that type of presentation to our obsessive use of the remote control device and we have this interactive participatory TV experience that for so many substitutes for real life. It’s like porn…how people would rather jerk off than have the real thing. What’s that about? When the simulation becomes more attractive than the actual? Yeah, how this unfolds in coming years should be mind blowing, right now it’s more interrupting or explosive or at least negatory…but you’re right it is the new framework from which creative potential will grow.
I’m including that last sentence because I’m a smug bastard, and since I’m lazy right now I’m going to quote my response:
Once you get in the realm of social media websites it’s not as lazy. Reddit is a good example of potential positive outgrowth from this cross-referential culture. I find reddit to be a forum of sorts that deals primarily with pop references, memes, and snide commentary. Depending on what subreddits you visit you’ll find a different culture, which is partly why reddit fascinates and enthralls me. Once you find the more mature crowds or subreddits you’ll notice that the interaction is not just about lame or worthless culture references. There is meaning and purpose behind what is said. As an example, something as silly as the “socially awkward awesome penguin” meme or any of its variations is in fact a very practical/functional way of exploring and critiquing social life. This quality of being able to condense complex ideas into quick, easily appreciated and interpreted images is what makes memes so wonderful. And they’re constantly evolving, in addition to new ones coming to life and others dying. Not only do memes have their own inherent properties that lend them certain meaningful cultural or perhaps even intellectual value, the manner in which the memes are delivered and then received by others can ultimately foster a very enlightening dialogue. The dialogue is always very curt, snide, a matter of constant “one-ups”, affirmations and counterarguments. This leads to a constant barrage of information where logic and intellect is rewarded (unless you go to 9gag where I’m pretty sure the population consists solely of preteens calling each other fags). The more time you spend involved with Internet culture the more “street smarts” you develop, by which I mean knowing what will be ridiculed or punished and won’t be. It’s not conformism, it really is a critical dialogue. On the other end it really is fascinating how an anonymous, online forum with little repercussions can also develop such strong mores. This is happening all over the Internet. Hell this IS the Internet. To respond to the author, I don’t think this is necessarily disconnecting people from the real world or supplanting the actual, if you will. It is becoming a part of the real world, and people are organically integrating online culture with offline culture in ways that aren’t worthless.
Reading back on what my uncle wrote, and my subsequent response, I see that I totally missed the point of what he was saying. (My diatribe was born of a singleminded need to assert my self-perceived brilliance by morphing the conversation into something palatable to myself.) But I include the former to provide context for the latter, the latter being directly relevant to Garber’s article.
This is an awkward ending…