Ask Matt Labash

Ask Matt Labash: The social media scourge, embracing the new dumbness, and keeping America mediocre

Editor’s Note: Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here

Dear Matt,
I’m really, really tired of hearing about how great social media is. If you want my opinion, social media is one of the most overrated things of the 21st century. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn — and that barely scratches the surface! Why can’t I just stay off the grid? Nowadays, being able to cram thoughts into 140 characters is basically a job requirement. I’m sorry, why do I have to know how to use the Twitter to be good at my job? Do I get any sympathy here?
Tabitha X.

First off, if you have a boss who insists that you need to be on Twitter to excel at your job, I suggest showing him two lists. Here’s a cross-section from The Atlantic’s “Top 100 Figures in American History”: Herman Melville, Ernest Hemingway, Louis Armstrong, Lewis and Clark, Babe Ruth, Frederick Douglass, Jonas Salk, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Albert Einstein, Alexander Graham Bell, Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison. All of them managed to do what they did without any assistance from Twitter. Now here’s a cross-section of Twitter’s Top 100 Most Followed: Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian, Ashton Kutcher, Ryan Seacrest, Charlie Sheen, Perez Hilton, Khloe Kardashian, Chris Brown, Soulja Boy, Kourtney Kardashian. Instruct your boss to compare and contrast the names on those two lists, then to go kill himself. But before he does, ask him to give you a raise, just for having to endure his mediocrity.

Second off, anyone who publicly slags Twitter specifically and social media generally automatically earns my sympathies and undying admiration. God bless you and keep you. Upon the advent of this scourge, I took immediate and hostile action against all of my friends who joined, attempting to shame them into quitting. Though since America is now a Post-Shame Zone, that had positively zero effect. This, by the way, seemed to encompass nearly all of my friends, since I’m a member of the media. And who is Twitter most ideally suited for, if not middle-aged, insecure media types who feel as though they are living in the Last Days and who therefore must give voice to every thought, tic and wind-breakage to prove their relevance to an indifferent public that is now distracted by loftier pursuits, like playing FarmVille.

Yet as time goes on, I’ve asked the most important question, one I always ask during times of tribulation that pose existential threats to my fellow man: “How does it affect me?” And since Tweeters tend to link to magazine work and other scribblings, for which I’m hypocritically grateful, I’ve decided they’re not without merit. After all, I am a vain writer. And if vain writers wrote with the intention of not wishing to be read, they should just apply for jobs at newspapers. Which I say with sadness, though since many newspaper editors are short-sighted sheeple who pretend that social media will save them as opposed to say, supporting their talent and publishing better stories, many are unworthy of our pity.

Personally, however, I have no intention of ever joining Twitter, not because I think I’m better than those who have, but because it would be a soul-destroying enterprise. Constantly putting out, and then clocking the ripple effects of such outputtings, would get in the way of more important things in my life, like God, family, fishing, and Googling myself. Besides which, I don’t like what social media does to the speed of everyone’s metabolisms. We are getting jaded faster than ever. The Internet tends to be a coarse and ugly place, because we get sick of each other. And we get sick of each other, because we’re never rid of each other. Too much now becomes old news before it’s even become news. The echo chamber is so loud, it’s hard for anyone to hear the sound of their own voice.  Which perhaps is why all voices start sounding exactly alike: #inserthashtaggedtiresometwitterclichehere.