I’ll be straight up with you. While I can do some pretty snappy multiple regressions on yield data to get the "right" answer on Excel, create befuddling infographics with Photoshop Illustrator and even file a nearly believable version of my income taxes online, I’m still baffled by social media.
For example, I use #s on Facebook. I worry about syntax on Twitter. And I keep posting selfies of my thumb on Instagram. As for LinkedIn, I think my enthusiasm to be accommodating has moved me way past mere connection promiscuity to "fun date."
Nor am I the only one. Meanwhile, every communication channel from newspapers to quilting blogs now have regular features reporting social media blunders. Clearly, the more that you have to lose, the more drawn you are to losing it by self-inflicted public humiliation.
In self-defense, Jan and I have developed a plan that minimizes the implicit dangers of my actual participation in social media outlets. She friends our—umm, friends (Is that right?) and a wide variety of amusing strangers. When pertinent news arrives at her computer (less often than you might think), she edits and shares it with me. In addition to solving the grown-up supervision problem, we now have something to talk about at supper.
It’s not that I don’t grasp the upsides: fresh pictures of grandchildren who apparently live in a constant state of cuteness, instant access to alarming rumors about celebrities, inside information detailing how our government is not working and urgent sales pitches from concerned advocates who somehow think I care about panda retirement refuges.
Moreover, after living the squalid, seamy life of a farmer, engineer and choir director, you can imagine the sordid secrets I could accidentally betray, should I begin spontaneous "twerping" ... things that could return to haunt me during my Senate confirmation or parole hearing.
Anti-social apps. I don’t think I’m alone in this scary place. I smell an opportunity, or something with the same salami-like fragrance. We need an antidote to all the gooey, mushy connectivity that threatens to turn us all into a Borg-like emo collective, although I have to admit I’d sign up for that if Seven of Nine was in my cubicle.
It’s just those kinds of damaging blurts my websites would prevent. I’m calling it "antisocial media"—Internet pseudo-intimacy. Here is the planned set of "apps" (appendages).
Getouttamyfacebook. All you have to do is not sign up online (the National Security Agency will do that for you), and you can fire out "don’t-cares" to every Duck Dynasty update and kitten picture. With a few keystrokes, you can be assured to never read about Justin Beiber or his friend Frodo, the still inevitable market crash, the latest Obama birthplace or the weird tip to shrink forehead wrinkles.
Blithr. Exhausted by those longwinded tweets? Then fire off a "blit" instead—only 10 characters with no more than six letters—essentially communications by license plate. Save "#&*" for profanity. On Blithr, the hot new symbols are "~" for "whatever" and "<>," meaning "could go either way."
A companion channel would be AbsolutBlithr—just like Blithr, only always positive. (Author’s note: My contract states I’m allowed one math joke per year, and this is actually the funniest of the bunch. Plus, now the joke is over.)
LockedOut. I’ve started getting LinkedIn requests from Bangladesh and even Nevada (which apparently is a state now), even though I’m in no position to hire anyone. LockedOut will subtly detach embarrassing "overlinkage" and recouple the contacts randomly to complete strangers, or at least their upper halves. In a matter of minutes, you will be utterly alone and never feel the warmth of pretend virtual human association again.
Repeeterer. By recycling the discarded "e’s" from Flickr, Tumblr and Raptr, this virtual community will filter any original content from users, replacing it with timeless hoaxes, images and videos that cannot seem to die. By logging in, users cannot only relive the ancient Internet of last September, but with any luck, overload the servers where this spam originates, freeing up needed bandwidth for more dancing cat GIFs.
By now, I bet many of you are lining up to invest in my pending IPOs. So sorry; Google just called.
John Phipps writes from Chrisman, Ill. Contact John: