Jon Stewart’s closing remarks on his last ever Daily Show broadcast: “The best defense against bullshit is vigilance. So if you smell something, say something.”
I live by them, even though I’m cynical about the actual success rate of this show to change anything for the better.
Look at the state of things since 2001, where has all this knowing laughter gotten anyone?
I’m cynical about satire itself, about how to be vigilant as a writer and person against the massive wave of soulless corporate media that now encroaches into every mass social media space relentlessly, especially the evil little spaces we spend time in on social media.
It creeps into private life and the success of the corporate media messaging is there in the broad indifference / blindness I see every day to resist the utter crap hustled HARD to us as news, as music, as faux independent voices, as real criticism. I still live by this ideal Stewart speaks of, increasingly uncomfortably.
In my view, sincere writers now have to become COUNTER-CULTURE not pop culture oriented. We must become political even if we are not experts in politics. We have to become, again, journalists, and we have to do it in a world with no attention span. Pop culture is now a dirty word. Maybe it always was, but there was, until recently, a lot more room in it to breathe and to include news, noteworthy information, in-depth reporting/reviews, non-corporate messaging, dissent, opinion and interviews by and about sincere and interesting creative professionals and artists. It was founded on journalism and journalism was not snuffed out the way it has been recently (but, my aim is to say, not permanently).
Until the last decade, and accelerated by the dominance of branded social media in the last two years, people were almost always famous for something good or a talent. There were always outliers: a few clowns “celebrities” who were treated as the fools they were by all with taste, wit and brains. Anna-Nicole Smith was not on the cover of Vogue or Vanity Fair, but on many Playboys and New York magazine with the tag “White Trash Nation”. We could laugh at these clowns. But the joke is over. Smith would be A-list now, as her counterparts are.
Anna was miles more likeable, charming and interesting than Kim Kardashian. Now music, film and entertainment press is rife with faux-blog gossip crap everywhere I look. All of it. I used to live for Vanity Fair, music magazines, and entertainment magazines which contained journalism that inspired me and helped me to sleep at night, that informed inspirational dreams of one type or another, that made me laugh and challenged me. I used to dream of writing for VF. Now it’s useless to me, and I pity all who are under that masthead as the most embarrassing and shocking display of youth chasing and selling out I’ve ever seen in this world. Yet, I miss it so. I’m still reeling from this cultural shift that I’ve seen in my quest for something else and my ongoing work to be something else as a writer and editor in this messy time. This life long pop culture junkie who believed in the serious arts of film and music has almost nothing to read.
Vogue should, by now, be boycotted out of business for having Kim Kardashian (net worth $85 million) on their cover last year; one would think it would be a Marie Antoinette- like storm on the Manhattan offices by protesters calling for heads on stakes. Where are all the millions of discerning women & men who grew up reading it, paying for it and treating it as a fashion bible? Getting a Vogue cover still meant a lot in 2014 (unlike Rolling Stone that’s been a joke since the Britney era, and NME who’ve crumbled utterly recently in a bid to be youthful and provacative). Vogue’s reputation was still gold, even as it gave most of the covers of recent years to actresses. Have others quietly boycotted Vogue, saddened as I was over VF, or have they accepted this shift in grumpy silence like me? Have the inflated sales and press from hate-watchers made up for the irrevocable loss of credibility, something that was platinum for decades? Maybe culture has gone all the way around the bend, and fashion lovers agree with this brand of fashion. If so, then this would explain why The Hobbit did okay even though it was legacy and childhood trashing garbage. Hobbits are the new black!
We are bombarded with messages telling grown adults who grew up with a rich tapestry of 40-60 years worth of real music from poets in their ears, with, essentially, PhDs in real music appreciation, to give one shit about Taylor Swift in any capacity, and far too many do. As force-fed by powerful media outlets and their dirty old men who suddenly are falling embarrassingly all over her as a media authority figure (!!!) This former YouTube New Country singer who clutched the bottom rung of stardom by calling for Tim McGraw in her breakthrough teenage hit – a calculated move that paid off immensely- is rich, skinny, tall, white, blonde (utterly the “anti-Kanye”) and for those who don’t fall for her shit may be seen as the empty, grasping angry little crass commercial brand / product she is today: a 25 year old with a reported net worth in the neighbourhood of $240 million in under a decade. The same decade that modern pop culture has become wholly corporatized. Hearing about her every single day, unwillingly, just because I have chosen to be on Twitter and Facebook and read a FEW websites that I thought still featured some form of weak journalism makes me feel utterly discouraged as a writer, as a reader, and as a human being.
What keeps me from feeling old and crying “uncle” though, is that I’m lucky and smart enough to have stayed connected to real music through my chosen projects and a great partner who’s dogged about finding the diamonds. I resist my genetic programming and anti-social upbringing, I go to live music shows & festivals quite often. I know there’s many quality alternative realities in musical culture and a largely untapped, if marginalized narrative; that I’m not just aging out of music as the mass media would tell me. There’s music alright. This pop shit ain’t that.
In my view, there should be thousands of people (and free thinking, non-corporate media outlets) who vocalize, widely, the same criticisms I’ve made here, something that I think is obvious and not even worth a post, normally, and who do not accept this junk food as music, as culture, as a certain narrow notion of beauty= equals worth, as opinion, as the voice of her generation. It’s such a backwards step in a world that should be at the very least, way more diverse and multi-cultural by now. (I submit Rihanna as a vastly more interesting replacement for our “Pop” news feeds). Any worthy talent Swift may possess (aside from a supposed ability to stir shit like the best mean girl in the game) is lost on me for I can’t dance to the devil. And she’s just this year’s music girl/product, anyway. A brand, if a very wealthy corporation that may not cycle away as expected.
Too many musicians and artists and creators (and thinkers) are, in this fully corporate controlled media landscape, utterly marginalized, as are real independent media. People who experienced the pre-digital social media dominated world are likely the only ones with the ability to contextualize and critique what is going on here, and we are altogether marginalized. I’m lonelier than ever, even while social media has meant that I’ve met great, intelligent, critically thinking people around the world who give me hope as a light in the darkness. I know about many serious musical poets who are bona fide heroes who work regular 9:00-5:00 jobs and were denied the riches, acclaim and place in wider history their art deserves. I know these pop stars today just haven’t earned it, yet, baby.
It’s a societal norm now to “hate watch” bad TV, to treat everything as a joke (satire as ugly marketing) to accept gossip as news (from despicable, pathetic, desperate mainstream (lame-stream) outlets) or even just to watch the kitten videos to stay sane (I’m posting more and more of this shit on my own Facebook timeline as a cry for help) to think we are in on the joke of whatever this online world is now. Yet, on social media, we can express our views democratically, in new ways and almost globally which is its one saving grace. But unfortunately we are just utterly drowned out in noise about celebrities (even from our driest hard news media) and our tiny acts of resistance (commenting) are crassly monetized, put into stats and gobbled up as indifferent clicks. We attract haters and spammers with friend requests from nowhere.
We are encouraged, and by encouraged, I mean, corporately assaulted with the force and budgets of a military campaign TO FORGET THAT WE ARE or WERE ONCE SMART CRITICAL THINKERS, READERS and WRITERS, WHO SHOULD RIGHTLY BE REALLY, REALLY ANGRY AT THE STATE OF SO-CALLED CULTURE, NEWS, MUSIC, FILM, LIT, ART.
Comedy Central, 15 years ago was a nothing cable channel. No one cared, and so they could get away with anything. South Park beautifully made use of this gap as did Chappelle’s Show (too briefly). Has anyone wondered why Jon Stewart is really leaving? He has a soul. He’s discouraged. All good subversive things become corporate shit eventually. Like social media. Look at SNL which has been tripe for at least as long as The Daily Show’s been on: safe satire. Easy target comedy. Really bad comedy/improv. Killing a once great site for political/ social dissent. Claiming Justin Timberlake (worth $175 million) is relevant, a comedian, even, an actor. Selling detergent, after all that late 70’s bluster.
It’s a discouraging and depressing time to be an independent thinker, writer, magazine or website. Even for a beloved figure and writer, and importantly, orator of good satire/criticism like Jon Stewart/ The Daily Show. I’m interested in what he’ll do next, and it might be quite exciting. He stayed for the good of his audience while so many of his writers were all poached and decamped for greener pastures. But I’m also interested in the legacy of this show that so many claim to love and get that has only 5 million Facebook “likes” while 25 million people “like” Kim Kardashian.
The rich, mostly organic world of “Pop Culture” I loved is long long gone, obliterated in under 10 years by what the corporate media which owns everything we read has replaced it with: advertising & marketing. Everything is advertising. Even if you’ve “cut the cord” of cable providers and stopped reading rags as I have. I can report that IT ALL GETS IN regardless of these active decisions to not open any magazines or have a TV around, and to be blissfully cut off from even a car radio.
In the media, PR is given in exchange for access. We do that on this site by openly pursuing and promoting only artists and subjects we feel have true merit and do not smell like bullshit to us. We debate this and are careful, and we have journalistic and personal ethics, discerning taste, and standards that are hard wired, old fashioned, perhaps obsolete and surely financially limiting. We are happy and proud of the result, the content, and the voices. But audiences for indie websites will always be limited by the managed, corrupted messages that dominate the cultural landscape and our “private” social media worlds. Not just ours, but legions of good indie publications do not land in front of the readers that they deserve, readers who need to read something real to connect with.
There should be much more diversity online than there is. The marketing via pop music leaves no room for creativity or democracy or criticism, even thought the actual potential of the internet and new communication streams should explicitly have enabled this very thing. We publish for the principle and for the act itself but we also want to be seen, heard and read, by ALL who would call us friends and beyond our circles. Everyone in media today knows the same ready joke that all our sincere and careful labour will never amount to one good meme or cat video.
The perspective this personal social experiment to cut the cord and avoid all corporate radio has given me is to notice that even the neutral, independent, “quieter” fun spaces, like the social networks we are now addicted to more than TV (just in time) the casual blogs and smaller media sites (too many just corporate extensions) and also what’s left of the strip mined and desperate mainstream media has gone off. It’s bad, spoiled, rancid. Corrupted and ugly.
Notice the Left Shark meme/story. I observed that during Superbowl 2015, an event I did not watch (nor the commercials or halftime show except for a few clips for context) all the “indie” media and major media, including those I thought were real/respectable non-pop music outlets, started, like a hive mind, falling over this story about Katy Perry and Left Shark (which still has legs and is considered valid humour). Perry’s people toasted this event as a big success not of music or performance, but of “buzz”. I don’t know who paid for the spectacle that was like the precursor to a Roman orgy if cocaine had been discovered that same week. But in any case, this was the first time since starting Step On that I noticed social media en masse – both private twitter accounts and public/corporate ones were taking up this “story/meme/joke” and running with it. Was it organic, like a real “cultural” moment, or was it a well-orchestrated campaign? It was both.
Katy Perry, while not on the campaign trail currently, and would go on to copyright Left Shark as this is one of her brand extensions, has stayed in the public eye and mind via Left Shark (and a PR-orchestrated feud with “rival” Taylor Swift) to this day, six months later, in a marketing move that was genius and worth many, many millions (she is the highest earning female celeb this year: $135 million, with a net worth of $200 m). If you like Katy Perry, funny shark costumes, sharks, and memes (or any of these) you’re a consumer of this branded message. If you think Katy Perry is a frightening, dangerous, yet somehow still an utterly boring American corporate brand who divorced her husband by text message, a fool akin to those souls who wear signs on the road advertising a business, except obscenely rich for her clowning; a sad clown who’s gimmick is blowing out whipped cream from her tits towards young audiences, you might rethink your enjoyment of Left Shark, as cute as he is. Think of the sharks.
Since the Superbowl and Left Shark, I’ve noticed this happening a lot. That what I thought were indie/cool music mags would all jump on stories/jokes/memes/headlines (press releases) about top 20 “musical artists” in a gossip sense, with the content not even giving the pretense of being about their crappy music (because there’s so little to say). And I assumed that the one time cool kids/discerning people/adults/thinkers/critics/journalists would see right through, scorn, shame and correct those sell outs who wrote these stories. That you and “we” would all rally. That there was a we. A silent majority of discerning people, writers and readers.
Instead, everyone seems to be too fragmented into our separate social network feeds and timelines, and is far too often carelessly complicit; are suddenly volunteer marketers/advertisers (for no money) as shills caught up in the need for retweets, likes and shares and the accellerating anxiety to be in on the “joke” that changes daily. I watched something sheep-like happening at all levels of social media, in real life, in print media, in the air, and despite my own wariness and guardedness, in my own head.
The corporations, advertisers, and marketers that promote a handful of brands we are expected to believe and accept as musicians (just one channel of their brands) KNOW that many, many, people have turned off from the bombardment of ad noise. That an alarmingly growing number, a record number in 2015 have forever cut the cord and turned off the radio. So this online unregulated space is the last frontier for them to stalk us with their weapons of mass culture destruction. These weapons have legs and lungs and smiles and suspiciously well-crafted personas, and can be alluring, annoying, provocative, meme-y, disturbing or clowns; it all works as long as it gets through and is converted back to cash through the money laundering operation of us, the unwilling, unwitting, or careless consumer. Or the loving parent of the youngest, naive but powerful consumers who are surely the only ones who can think this is music.
As recently as this week I’m learning that even the few really independent voices I used to read, the ones who write critical stories, are now suspect. When an independent-seeming site and a young writer I enjoy published a very funny, insightful, critical and snarky 90’s style exploration of Tom Cruise’s filmography, I fell for it. I posted it to social media. Always highly wary of Tom Cruise’s whole brand and a concerned critic of his “religion since the 90’s, this is out of character for me. But it was so funny, so well done and made me laugh. I tweeted praise to the writer. I then noticed that it was“Cruise week” on several indie-ish sites, with lots of content (ugh) about Cruise and his old films written in a shady, ironic, blog style way. People on Twitter, journalists and non-writers alike, began making jokes like”free Tom Cruise” and favourable comments about Cruise and his image. I see: a campaign is underway for this public figure, celebrity, brand, who has been a weird joke and little more for 5 years due to his own exposed foolery and alleged litigiousness and reported history of gagging the media, and more. I realized, too late, that the story I enjoyed so much and shared within my tiny sphere had been successfully marketed to ME -a stoic anti-Cruise media watcher- from whatever studio and powerful PR firm wants us all to stop talking about dominant non-news of Swift and Jenner and real news and truths about excessive police force against black Americans and for a long minute talk about Tom Cruise as it’s the opening of “Mission Impossible Tokyo Drift look at me woo hoo, no hands” or whatever it’s called.
Sound paranoid? I’ve always had a healthy appetite for paranoia, cause I came up in the 70’s. And over the last two decades its become my most important instinct in life and served me well. It’s in too short supply, it seems, when I try to find consensus on what I see in this crazy digital world. For look where we are. I’m telling you my speculations, opinion, editorializing. That’s all there is anymore. Do with it what you will.
Because of The Daily Show and common denominator TV like Family Guy we are (or like to think we are) all pretty savvy to snark, irony, and satire, so the best way to sell a Cruise movie and Cruise himself to the many film loving and discouraged people like me who really aren’t at all interested in it or him is to spread some money or other considerations around to a few big entertainment/humour websites and ask a few writers to write something – anything- on it. Good or bad, it doesn’t matter anymore, here in Gossipland. There was for a while such a thing as bad publicity. But not in the age of the famewhore and reality garbage and ownership of nearly all mass media by a few big, ugly media entities that are just as protest-worthy as Dow Chemical or Monsanto or Proctor & Gamble or Barrick Gold or Nestle and on and on, perhaps even more so if you have adored film, music and the idea of real culture for a lifetime.
Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, One Direction, Miley Cyrus and others like them that fill the charts and our every public space- those suspiciously successful meteoric pop stars, are all PRODUCTS that you can decide are either good or bad for you or your family or your society or your use of expendable dollars, time, data usage, and mental space. Music that you hear once, and while your brain rejects it with every cell, the song yet gets stuck in your head for a year unwillingly, is scarily subliminal and makes me want to run from it.
Taylor Swift’s entire career success and outsized, frightening power and currency today is based on an instance like left shark, but much bigger. My main issue with Kanye West is not that he married Kim Kardashian, a person/brand/symbol/family/corporation/OJ Simpson murder beneficiary I loathe quite avidly, and not what he has become lately within his fields or his humiliating display at this year’s Glastonbury, but that his MTV award show stage bombing of Swift 5 years ago and the press it garnered her (and the inherent racism underlying the way the story was told forevermore) led us to this day where she drives the success of corporations via open letters written on tumblr stationary with her album cover/face on it. Dark days, my friends. Dark days.
So instrumental was West’s indecorous and misguided moment to Swift’s trajectory and rebranding as a MAJOR pop star (neatly replacing the aging and more overtly crass Perry today) that I’ve come to wonder if it was PR orchestrated (a radically paranoid idea suggested by the now defunct, once quite interesting and relevant Hipster Runoff/Alt Report). Although it felt real and I NEED to keep believing that when he took to the stage of the gawky innocent fawn Swift, Kanye West was in a dark place and reeling from the sudden death of his dear mother, an academic and intellectual who yet sadly died in an utterly cheap Hollywood way.
Go ahead and like pop music. We like to think it’s an innocent, harmless distraction, as it was in the 70’s and 80’s. Carefree fun without reason, isn’t that the joy offered by pop itself? We always need party music, club music, and surviving the drive music, whatever that is for you. But it’s just amazing how fresh the 80’s and 90’s and even 2000’s stuff sounds by comparison to what is being peddled today. And I can’t like anything that to me sounds like what the tin foil hats say when they talk about The Illuminati. I can’t dig music that as it strives to sound happy, fun, energetic, sexy, pornographic, earnest, sad, anthemic or thoughtful is just EMPTY. ALIEN. Cynical. Corporate. Bland. Auto-tuned. Ghost-written. Managed. Put through a focus group. Cult-like. Sold by people who literally don’t deserve the gift of hearing. Fast food is ok once in a while. But pop culture fast food would have us replace both home cooked meals and the best meal out at your favourite spot. And real good dark chocolate. And a nice champagne on New Years Eve. It’s taken over, are you having any fun on the drive?
I’ve managed to avoid entirely most of the corporate pop chart for years (as I do graphic horror) and yet I know all the stories about these people that their handlers and corporate sponsors and owners want me to know via the internet. This is a good benchmark for who we would include in any capacity in this magazine: is this artist known for their music, or for their personal life/gossip? Their twitter feuds? Are they famous for their art or for their uninspiring sex tape?
“Selling out” is not an obstacle anymore for artists, rather it’s step one to “relevancy” to making a living at music, to get in the game. For those real artists (musicians who’ve paid some dues) who are hustling, we have to respect the hustle (I do). It’s so unfortunate. We used to have a keen eye for this sort of thing with already wealthy celebs; someone doing a hair commercial (any commercial) was desperate, over, aging, pitiable. Now when a new star hits the stroll, you can almost see the marketing spreadsheet behind them with its campaign and sickening jargon, the channels, the content providers, the launches, the buys, the photo ops, the PR boyfriend, the beard, the rival. 25 year olds have serious perfume fortunes, a shadowy area of commerce not too long ago the domain of the aging, diamond hungry icon (and first modern celebrity) Liz Taylor. Oh, is that why they think these spoiled, low-life garbage people are anything like Liz Taylor?
Aided and enabled greatly by social media channels (which have largely replaced the internet itself) social media have been quickly turned from useful and fun apps and social/personal network sharing to tools that sell US as the product in the most squeamish way. I’m talking The Matrix; bio horror; and sci fi without the wires. Twitter was the exception- pointless and barren for years until the tastemakers mastered it and the celeb idiots followed or were paid to get online to feud (one of the most laughably scummy aspects of media/celeb culture today, and one that caused me overnight grey hair when the media started using celeb and regular people tweets as content for news, an icky, dangerous trend that is now the norm.)
A word on Twitter. It’s still the wild west in many ways, and capable of real organic events and powerful, uncontrolled communications from the street and independent minds. You’ll notice that the mass media has deemed it poison and evil and that it’s full of trolls (no one in power says that about Facebook though). Celebs have a love-hate with Twitter but it’s another huge income and free PR stream for them, so too bad. If uncorruptable as it has been (as we can fairly easily ignore unwanted messages) Twitter has a lot of potential for the NEW media I envision as seen by the social movements of the past few years and the ability for people to upset the propaganda of the corporate media through democratic dissent. Twitter (Black Twitter, more precisely) eviscerated the no-talent Iggy Azalea for hateful comments she’s made there to almost every group there is and, more importantly, brought to immediate light the events in Ferguson and more recently, the highly suspect arrest, detention and death of Sandra Bland. There’s also real humour, genuine satire, righteous shade, and democratic voices. Anyone who sees just Twitter trolls may just be troll bait. Twitter is raw and hasn’t been successfully monetized to death and all people can use it to hold people in power to account. So get on there and use it with us as that’s where we spend our happy time now https://twitter.com/@JacksStepOn and https://twitter.com/@StepOnMagTO (and thanks to all who already do, you are sanity savers!)
That money from old media is still there, it’s out there, someone has it. It’s in some clear cases paid to horrible online editors and publishers who are not writers, not journalists, not credible and should be stripped of all authority for they have no ethics to speak of. It’s funneled to inappropriately wealthy cretinous pop stars who won’t even just go away after 5 years like they’re supposed to. It goes to broken inside former Disney child stars, who are tragic figures even as they are just awful to behold. Now they all want to become business women moguls (thanks Madonna, they’re STILL copying you, just not in your music). They want to be owners. What will happen to our world then? Still funny then? Harmless Pop?
A final case study. The Beastie Boys are (now) accepted pretty universally as Hip Hop pioneers and highly original creative geniuses who were so out there and so singular in their vision from the time of Paul’s Boutique that they collaged an impossible collection of sounds that people and artists are still unpacking today. It wasn’t always an accepted belief, they took their shade and knocks for years. How did they do it? And go on being original, funny, smart, and above all cool for 20 more years in a rapid fire, constantly evolving genre of music that is tougher than almost all others? They put on those horse blinders, happy in their own sublimely superior and vastly more interesting inner landscape and ignored all the shit. All the negative. All the hype. All the shade. Even as Rap died. They NEVER sold out. They instead went inward, as a unit, a collective, a family, a world. And they stayed there. Their references would slap you with how unexpected and yet perfect they were, familiar intangible 70’s hooks from a real piece of vinyl that they touched and listened to instead of whatever was on the radio or TV. Their inner life, their creativity and their inside jokes were so good that millions of people wanted in on them. Wanted just a hit of that utter focus, that utter, utter cool. It rubbed off on us fans, a little. Drive down the street with the Beastie Boys on and feel instantly cooler. Analyze their discs the way they analyzed the obscure source material and it becomes all you need to hear for a whole day, for days. And Adam Yauch’s estate at the time of his death in 2012 for 30 years of original, generation defining, innovative labour was just $6.4 million. Yet, his co-band members will always honour his wish to never commercialize their music. The group died with him. Whether this is your jam or not- this is one impressive show of anti-corporate, anti-pop rebellion and genuine guts.
Everything that is valuable, cool, original, smart and interesting must be protected and must protect itself. Must speak up for iteself, as going inward and ignoring is not working anymore. If you don’t have a band, a gang, a collective, a squad, a blog ring any longer, the may I suggest it’s time to make one. Taylor Swift can copyright “This sick beat” til she’s blue in the face. Except for in the corporate world, that’s just not how authority, ownership, beats, or cool is ever going to work.
How ever journalists and writers in an important, once culturally treasured/protected line of work survived when they were shut down as if a mine had been fully stripped, the professional media (& ex-media) ALL now have easy and ready free tools to form a NEW form of digital & print media, a counter-culture, to restore an institution of information with integrity, free of advertising (with clearly defined boundaries at least) that we all remember from before the mass media apocalypse. There’s no pleasure to be gleaned from the zombie, near-future or post-apocalyptic genres anymore, it’s not remote at all, it’s not sci-fi. It’s documentary.
If The Daily Show ever meant something to you besides entertainment, and/ or you feel as we do that satire is just not enough alternative media for you to counter all the corporate shill, and you want to create change in your own experience of media/social media/communications and entertainment, here’s my how-to guide. It may be obvious to you but then I’d ask you to share it with your pop and meme loving, social media addicted friends:
* Watch the film Network again (on Netflix). Chilling and deeply resonant.
* Read old magazines and collected essays from the 50’s to late 90’s. Remember how good it felt in your mouth and your brain. Look for real writers out there today. Or be one.
* Listen to just old music and alternative/indie and not corporate pop, as much as you can control for a whole year.
* Break bad habits (tabloids, most reality TV unless it is about a real job or is creative).
* Find out which sites are worth reading and which are just advertising for pop culture junk food.
* Like and Follow with discretion and comment strongly against the distasteful, questionable messages that assault you everyday online.
* Curate what is in your own feed better, and think about how what’s in there makes you feel.
* Create & fortify boundaries with social media friends and pages/groups/media.
* Promote worthy projects both local and digital.
* Fill the space on Facebook that is being mined to death for advertisers and marketers to “sell” some good stuff: take some time to create positive messages of support for creative people in your life doing labours of love; from music, to design, to art, to photography, to dance, to cooking, to small business owners, to writing. Many work and create for little or no money (which does not mean it’s of poor quality or a waste of time but rather that it’s badly impoverished and shut out of a corrupt and greedy system).
* Read, and read critically, things that are interesting and informative instead of the crap in your feed and tell others about what you have read.
* Be activist, not slactivist about things you care about whether mainstream and obvious and accepted as good causes or things you feel alone in caring about.
* Be an independent thinker.
* Actually READ again and click on things that are not baiting, unduly provocative, not cheap and feel real.
* Start your own site to create an alternative voice. Exchange links with others doing the same. Build better online communities, like what existed before social media took over. Think about how they could grow with social media as a tool for your media instead of the other way around.
* Limit social media time especially if it makes you feel bad.
* Write letters to the editor and comment on posts for those that you feel are corporate hacks and marketing/ads that are not clearly labelled as ads (nearly everything is such) then unfollow or block these sites/pages/people and stick with it.
* Boycott unworthy and promote worthy media streams in equal measure: follow your gut.
* Return seriously to the idea of blogging and personal websites and link them- social media was an irresistible novelty that made those endeavors seem dated. Bring them back into fashion because they are worthwhile, valid, positive, independent, personally enriching and necessary for digital culture. Maybe if we all own our webpages again and we each get the clicks instead of a monolithic corporation they’ll have monetary, statistical, social (and intellectual property) value instead of having our social network activity sold without our informed consent our benefit to us.
* Support your old favourite bands coming back out on the road, buy a ticket, a beer (or water) and a t-shirt. Take a maximum of three pictures and no selfies. Write about it and celebrate it for the goodness it is. You’re not wrong, and it doesn’t have an age cap.
* Get out and see live music and local events. Hint: Many worthy musical shows are rarely at the stadiums in larger cities with big live markets.
* Go on a road trip to see that band you loved that is back. Don’t ever hesitate if it’s within your means and within 4 hours drive or flight. Go out of your way. It’s an awesome way to make tourism interesting and a way to make solo travel less lonely. If your family or co-workers look at you funny when you tell them about your weekend, you’re living right. I guarantee it or your money back.
We can and must continue to found our own websites, forums, magazines, zines, comic strips, art books, indie labels, music. An alternative media. An independent media. A NEW “New Media”. And, importantly, a counter-culture. We can and must commit to filtering out all the corporate garbage information and spend our remaining time, thought, energy, effort, access, power, and authority on sharing real news, art, entertainment, journalism, interviews, humour, music by real/new/indie/talented/underrated musicians (as defined by all of us since we are discerning, knowledgeable, authentic capable and passionate thinkers, intellectuals, listeners) and finally, we can share these things, this news, this useful, satisfying, enriching, healthy food with one another and promote one another.
We can just become too busy, too engaged, and too satisfied by real culture (something as real and authentic online as it is offline) to care about garbage and junk culture anymore, and when these meaningful social movements start to impact these industries and their soulless stats, they will have to change their messages, tactics and product quality.
I can’t laugh or snark anymore, I can’t ignore or mute or block or gripe or create enough to distract me as my innate love of culture is part of me and I don’t know how to live in this space we’re in.
Culture is not dying, its been poached to near extinction but there is endless untapped power in words, in diversity of opinions and in the silence of muting what we don’t like, that is beautiful and belongs to every single one of us out here in the wild. Opt in any way you can. Opt out of what doesn’t satisfy, sustain and enrich you. All joking aside.
By Jacqueline Howlett