Ask Matt Labash
An audience member uses an iPhone to tweet a question as President Barack Obama and Twitter co-founder and Executive Chairman Jack Dorsey hold a "Twitter Town Hall" in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, July 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) An audience member uses an iPhone to tweet a question as President Barack Obama and Twitter co-founder and Executive Chairman Jack Dorsey hold a "Twitter Town Hall" in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, July 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)  

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

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Matt Labash
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      Matt Labash

      Hi, welcome to “Ask Matt Labash.” I’ll be your host, Matt Labash. The idea for this column – if idea isn’t too strong a word – is that it is not a column at all. Rather, it’s a conversation. One in which I do ninety-five percent of the talking. If you did most of the talking, you’d have to watch my eyes go dead and my attention wander until it was my turn to talk again. So trust me, it’s better this way.

      For those unfamiliar with me from my day job at The Weekly Standard, I’ll give you a capsule bio by way of introduction: I have the gift of wisdom. Does that sound arrogant? I’m sorry, that wasn’t my intention. I didn’t choose wisdom. It chose me. If I had my druthers, I’d have chosen another gift, perhaps the untold riches of Lil’ Wayne, whose teeth are made of actual diamonds, or to be the sexiest man alive, like Rachel Maddow. But wisdom is what they gave me, so wisdom is all I have to give back to you.

      This is not, you should know, a mere advice column. If you need advice, I’ll give it. But the only rule here is that there are no rules. You can ask me a question about anything that’s on your mind: current events, pop culture, media, theology, string theory, fishing tips, wicker repair. The only limits we have are those of your imagination. And those of my knowledge base. Which is considerably limited, truth be told. So try not to ask me anything that requires research. Though they tell me I have access to Google on this computer if we need it.

      If all goes according to plan, ours will not be a traditional writer/reader relationship. It’s more complex than that. I might empathize or cajole. I might educate, instruct, or inspire. I might pretend to answer your question while actually reporting you to Social Services, since you’re a dangerous person who should not have contact with children. I might tell you to climb up on my shoulders, that you’re not heavy, you’re my brother. Or I might tell you that you are heavy, and that you should hop down until you lose a few pounds. I might just sidle up behind you, put my big strong man hands on the small of your back, and whisper in your ear the words of the poet, Kenny Rogers: “We’ve got tonight, who needs tomorrow?”

      To which you’ll say something like, “I can’t, I’ve got to go home and wash my hair.”
      To which I’ll say something like, “Shhh. We’ve got tonight babe, why don’t you stay?”
      Wherever this takes us, our journey begins now:

      <i>Matt Labash is a senior writer with The Weekly Standard. His first book, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Fly-Fishing-Darth-Vader-Evangelical/dp/1439159971">Fly Fishing with Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys</a> will be published next month by Simon & Schuster.</i>

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?
Sincerely,
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.

  • Pammie-La

    I hate putting out constantly as well… ;)

  • blewits

    I started following your writing after your Facebook article in Weekly Standard. I think I love you. Don’t tell your wife . . . . or my husband. btw, I’m on fb & the twitter machine if you want to write me back! i used to be a good person.

  • Pingback: Morning Message: Why Matt Labash Still Thinks Twitter is a Waste of His Time and Yours - FishbowlDC

  • Carl Spackler

    Nice juxta, but not much on fins or ta-ta’s. Almost high browesque.

  • semihardrock

    it is THE ONLY way to get Obama re-elected! Keep em Stupid…Stupid!

  • pastiche

    Mr. Labash, the literary comparison between the top 100 figures of American history and the top 100 twitter leaders being followed is priceless!

    Superb article.

  • stephenkaus

    Yes, let’s leave writing for public consumption to Einsteins like you. No use for the rest of us.

    I don’t follow show business people, unless Shaq counts, and I have a good time and learn stuff. Maybe those who follow the people you mention skip an issue of People. What is the problem?

    • abderecho

      What is your point?

  • Baltotrav

    Yes, yes and yes. You are completely right in my humble opinion. Let’s see….how many times have I been retweeted, how many followers do I have, how many friends on facebook, “great picture, you aught to put that on facebook”. How about a Linkedin account but no job. How many replies and followers on my Tumbler account. “New blog post today!!” Oh yeah, guilty, guilty and guilty. I’m not a writer but have been playing one on the internet. I have to say I still go to church, walk the dog and read, a lot. And if anyone would like to fund it, I’d love to live in a cottage in the Scottish Highlands with NO internet, a dog, books and all the Golden Eagles and Kestrels I can spot with the best birding binoculars I can buy. Just let my husband and 3 teenage boys where I am….you could email them.

    • Carl Spackler

      Bring by some Guiness and biscuits for a spot of tea, dear?

  • ChickFight

    Mines is most smartest generashun evah – yo! We kicks arse! Bill Maher fo’ life y’all!

    • noonespetgoat

      Hells yeah!

  • baal

    I work for the company most responsible for this plague. Every day in every way I hate what we as a culture have become. I know this article isn’t a luddite dirge but I’m fixing to compose one.
    We are less intelligent, creative, intuitive and aware than we were just a decade ago. We are less healthy than we were a decade ago.
    Just imagine going back to the 80′s and showing them the present. Imagine how disappointed they’d be. Where are the cities on the moon? The most powerful nation in the world fighting cavemen in the dirt? AIDS didn’t kill you but obesity did?

    Would the people back in the 80′s have respected us? Would we respect who we became?

    I need a vacation.

    • SargeH

      Obviously you weren’t around in the ’80s. Back then we were saying the same thing about the good old ’50s.

      But I do believe Mr. Labash did a good job of nailing our present situation.