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Overthrowing the Idiocracy

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Saw a posting today on my Facebook wall, a quote attributed to the man who’s name is synonymous with genius, Albert Einstein: “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” Directly below the quote was a photo of several teenage girls, all staring at their smartphones.

Being a PR professional, meaning I'm demographically inclined, my first reaction was, this might be perceived as sexist--why aren’t there any teenage boys in this photo texting? And let’s not forget that plenty adults spend countless hours in intimate repose with our smart gadgets, posting, texting, websurfing, what have you.

But believe it or not, today’s blog isn’t about the horrors of technology, taking over our lives, rendering us all Kardashian-obsessed, app-downloading, game-playing morons. I’ve talked about that before. Nothing to be done about it, once new technology has found its way into the mainstream, trying to stop it is like trying to separate wine that’s been poured into a glass of water. No can do.

No, my beef this week is with rise of stupidity and lack-of-class in general made manifest in mass media nowadays.

Earlier today I posted on Facebook about the “junior high school” antics of a local sports broadcaster who, while claiming he “felt sorry” for a noted Baltimore Orioles’ player’s batting slump, felt he was perfectly within his rights to make a joke about him, mocking said player via Twitter. This I do not understand. “It was funny,” was how the sports talk-guy explained it, as though, so long as you say you’re making a joke, that’s okay.

Here’s a thought: Is that really necessary? How is making fun of a player’s bad fortune in tandem with reporting sports news? Or is it, if you post a funny 7th-grade-humor-style remark on your Twitter account, you’ll get more followers and more retweets and boost your SEO…thus sending the message that most people who are listening to your reports and talk program are immature, sophomoric idiots, because only such people would find such a joke “funny”?

Guess what. It isn’t funny, and it isn’t okay. There was a time when there was an unseen, yet visible, unspoken of, but well known LINE that would not be crossed. You didn’t kick someone when they were down. Reporters knew about JFK’s extramarital dalliances, but didn’t report them. That wasn’t the story they were on hand to cover. Reporters knew about Babe Ruth’s off the field “antics,” but again, not the story they were out to cover.

Today, it seems NOTHING is off limits, and that if you say, well, it’s a joke, or that “people have the right to know,” that makes it perfectly okay. Sorry, but I can’t agree with Dave Egger’s Mae from his dystopian novel, THE CIRCLE, who states, “Secrets are lies,” “Sharing is caring,” and the one that is particularly prescient here, “Privacy is theft.”

As another character in the novel notes, people should have the right “to just disappear.” But that’s impossible nowadays. Further, I’ve also noted on social media, incidents of “ruffled feathers” and general “ticked-offed-ness” when FB friends apparently don’t “Like” their items fast enough, or post on their walls often enough, or respond to chat messages quick enough.

Sorry, I didn’t realize that using Facebook was a mandatory life requirement.

Personally, I use social media to enhance my client’s presence. I do post some personal items and do socialize and try to comment on other’s postings, because if I want people to care about what my clients are up to and actually READ my business-oriented items, I need to be a real person, with my own interests, and capable of responding to what others post, not merely “blasting out information” shot-gun fashion. As I noted to a colleague recently, if all you ever do is post your own material, but never respond to anyone else’s, you’re the equivalent of the terminal bore at a cocktail party who only drones on about his or herself and never engages with the guests around him.

Being sociable, and ONLINE sociable, is good business. It’s part of my job, and so I do it. However, it is NOT a mandatory life requirement.

Getting back to Einstein’s quote, ALL of this is the inevitable result of reducing the world to little images and words that appear on a tiny screen you can hold in the palm of your hand. People aren’t people with real feelings and lives and issues and problems, they’re something to tweet about, something that exists purely for YOUR INDIVIDUAL ENTERTAINMENT.

And that’s definitely not funny. And definitely NOT okay.

I don’t have a solution to this problem as this technology isn’t going away; technology NEVER goes away, it just keeps advancing and changing and becoming something new, different, and most importantly, profitable for whoever is making it. Still it would be nice to see if we didn’t always have to DUMB DOWN, and instead find ways to SMART UP. To show a little class, some decorum, some true caring about people as individuals, to not see everything as some kind of reflection on ourselves. I don’t exist to be permanently connected online so I can post about everything all my friends post. I’m not all about trying to be funny and to get retweets and higher SEO. I don’t want to be part of this budding idiocracy where mockery is considered “standard operating procedure.”

Just one of those days where I want to say, “Stop the grid, I want to get off.” Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to check my smartphone for messages.

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