Our old friend social media. Where would our lives be without thee? Remember the days when we had attention spans? Or how about when we could read something longer than 140 characters?

I do not blame the tools, but the people using them. In other parts of the world, social media has helped spark, organize and coordinate revolutions, bringing down oppressive regimes. Meanwhile, people here in the west use these tools to let everyone know what they had for breakfast. You know, essential information.

We must harness these tools for good, to push the world forward and evolve. For now, we’re heading further towards the realm of mediocrity, where self-importance is the most important. Think of this as a brief and general guide outlining some annoying uses of social media and other technologies from the vast online revolution.

Privacy is a constant issue. Every few months there seems to be a headline-inducing story about how Mark Zuckerberg is personally manipulating our privacy. My intention is not really to defend him, but I do want to ask a question: If you post something on the internet, how can you be upset afterwards about your privacy? I’ve got a simple answer to all privacy issues past, present and future: don’t post anything you wouldn’t want others to see. Especially with kids.  This is simple. I do not have kids and I do not wish to live vicariously through my friends that do. So please, someone should put forth legislation on posting kid pictures. This includes, but is not limited to: ultrasound pictures, just out of the womb pictures, first birthday party, second birthday party, third birthday party, at other kid’s parties, at the dentist with mouth open, at the doctor with a needle sticking out of his/her arm, smiling into the camera, laughing because they are so happy, crying because you yelled at them, sleeping (leave them alone), at the park hitting another kid, at the outdoor pool spitting water, at the indoor pool spitting water, playing soccer or any other sport on a field (because come one, they are not playing ‘soccer’, just really running around), learning to skate (falling and crying), outside making a terribly disfigured snowman, skating (falling and crying) on the canal, playing on the computer, leaving for the first day of school, coming home from the first day of school, and above all else, no random pictures with the tag: ‘my wonderful, super-intelligent, perfect, beautiful, one-of-a-kind, cutest kid ever’ because everyone feels the same way about their kids and yours are not any more special than anyone else’s. ANNOYING.

I don’t have many followers. It’s not the size of the number of followers you have, but how you use them. In my early days, if someone followed me, for example, Naomi Lopez who needs a date for the weekend and asked for funny guys to message her, or Cornelius Wankatron who tweets about exactly what you’d think he’d tweet about, I blocked them. My followers fluctuated between hardly any and nearly nil. So, I started keeping these obvious fakes in an attempt to bump up my numbers, even though I knew they weren’t listening to what I had to say. But there was this one person, a self-proclaimed ‘@supercareermom with two perfect boys, ready to take on all of life’s challenges’. I have no idea how she found me – I tweet about fart jokes and fail profoundly at trying to be witty and clever. A typical day of tweets from @supercareermom:

Off to work!
Traffic 🙁
My boys Cooper and Keegan – highest marks in class.
At work – let’s sell some houses!
Another happy client.
Anybody as excited about today as I am?
Just had an A-Ha moment. #oprah

You get the idea. At first, I was fascinated with @supercareermom’s feed. How far was this lady going to go with these mundane observations? Pretty far. Maybe this is a good thing, this celebration of the mundane aspects of life. But I don’t buy it – it’s just boring, and more than a little self-important. Look at me: I’m an amazing and interesting person. Meanwhile, she’s crying herself to sleep, hasn’t had sex since Keegan was born and her husband’s having an affair. Keep up those appearances. ANNOYING. I think the most perfect synergistic use of a Twitter exchange I’ve seen so far has come from my hero Louis CK:

@somebody Hey Louis CK, do you only respond to assholes?
@louisck Yes.

typing keyboard trolling scrolling surfing

The concept behind Youtube is that anyone can make a video and post it. This is also its downfall. The floodgates have been opened and originality seems to have gone out the window. Item 1: the mash-up. There is a difference between being influenced by someone else’s work and just cutting it up, mixing the audio in a non-sequential way and adding some beats. How clever. It goes to show you that with all the tools at our fingerprints, the only part that really matters is the brain, or lack of it. This is why robots will never take over until they surpass us not only intellectually, but also emotionally. Item 2: suggestions. When you watch a video on Youtube, suggestions load up on the right side. I don’t want to be told what to watch. And inevitably, the choices get down to porn or something with zombies, or a porn-zombie mash-up. ANNOYING!

This is really the future. If science fiction movies are an indication of what’s to come, many of them included visual communication. No flying cars yet, but we do have these things called airplanes. Not only is this form of communication a step into the future, but it’s free. However, does anyone else feel weird about watching someone watch you while talking to each other? There is something awkward about it. I’m used to talking on the phone, visually invisible, maybe in my pajamas or my boxer shorts. But with Skype, I feel there is a responsibility to wear something socially acceptable (from the waist up, at least) and to comb my hair. A few months ago, I had a business call over Skype. The time was arranged and when I dialed up, I immediately turned on my webcam. The person on the other end made up some excuse that their camera didn’t work. I felt that it would be anti-social to turn my camera off since I had already established this visual connection. As the two-hour call went on, I became increasingly uncomfortable by the minute, hyper-aware of every gesture and movement. This was totally unfair – if you get to see me, I want to see you. Don’t give me some line about your camera not working, we booked a Skype meeting! ANNOYING!

video phone

Google has taken over the world, especially since people started using the word as a verb. Who hasn’t Googled themselves? But when I type my first name ‘Paul’, these people come up, in order from top to bottom: Paulina Gretzky, Paul McCartney, Paul Bernardo, Pauly D and Paul Ryan. Four out of five Paul’s that I don’t want my name associated with. There is another writer named Paul Dore who penned the first book of the Truthfarer Series, The Ghosts of Earth. Sounds like a real page-turner.

The most interesting Paul Dore I came across appears on a web page starting with this line: “Monday, the second of November has got to be one of the worst 24 hours I’ve ever experienced.” The story was reported by Borderland Sciences Research Foundation, which states on the website: “We are here to help you in your explorations on frontiers of science, awareness and beyond. Serving Higher Intelligence since 1945.” UFOs. This Paul Dore was involved with the high-risk game of astronomy and saw something in the sky he shouldn’t have seen. He returned home on the aforementioned second of November to find three gentlemen waiting from the Government Communications Headquarters, the Royal Air Force and the National Security Agency. Paul Dore was told the signals he received were mistaken, not extra-terrestrial, but a classified intelligence satellite involved in the highly secret Project 415. Paul Dore had visions of being the first human to detect signs of other intelligent life in the universe. As he said, “I am a bit depressed right now, though that could have as much to do with the weather.” The three visitors made him sign a security oath, so the details of his discovery will be lost to history, as Paul Dore will be subject to prosecution under the terms of the Official Secrets Act. ANNOYING!

Now, doesn’t that feel better?