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The Seven Social-Media Commandments

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Like any other technology, whether nuclear power or the printing press, social media is only as good as the people who use it—and over the past decade, we haven’t exactly used it well. What began as a promising prospect for connecting communities and amplifying new voices has gradually evolved into an engine for sowing upset, distrust, and conspiracy. As the next generation of social-media sites emerges, one question is: Can we do better?

I think so. Rather than holding out for unlikely top-down solutions from Washington or Silicon Valley, users can solve our problems from the bottom up. As individuals, we can’t necessarily make better social-media platforms, but we can make better choices on them. So whether you’re joining a new site like Threads or trying to get more out of an old haunt like Facebook, here are some tips for how to use social media without it using you.

Have a block party.

In real life, if someone crashed a gathering of strangers and started disrupting conversations while shouting abuse, they’d quickly be bounced from the party. Yet on social media, this sort of caustic conduct is not only tolerated but sometimes celebrated. In our day-to-day lives, getting disciplined for misbehavior is how we learn to be better. But because such norms were never upheld on the internet, many spaces turned toxic, and many people never got the feedback they needed to grow out of their bad habits. Blocking is part of that feedback. When people realize that their opinions won’t be heard if they express them in a certain way, they stop. Even if they don’t, you have no obligation to accommodate them. Your social-media feed is your party and you decide the guest list. By doing so, you’re not being thin-skinned; you’re being a conscientious host who cultivates good vibes.

Read the room—correctly.

The admonishment to “read the room” is one of the lazier retorts on social media. It’s a way for the intellectually unserious to dismiss an argument without engaging with its substance by gesturing to the reaction of an imaginary audience. But the concept contains a kernel of truth. On social media, we all operate in different rooms and have different people in mind when we speak. A lot of online conflict results from crossed wires, when conversation intended for one context (an ironic in-joke for like-minded people) bleeds into another (among people who don’t understand the joke). But this problem has an easy fix: Before posting something, ask yourself if this is the right platform for what you’re about to say.

Some pronouncements are meant for the group chat, not the entire internet. Others benefit from the widest possible hearing. Want TV or travel recommendations? Ask the hive mind of Twitter or Facebook. Trying to share your scenic vacation? Instagram it. Want to discuss sensitive personal stuff or work through a thorny political question? Hit up your friends in the chat or just send a private message to a trusted confidant. Done right, reading the room shouldn’t stop you from saying what you want but rather help you say things where they can genuinely be heard.

Don’t use social media as a proxy for public opinion.

Precisely because different platforms are good for different things, they attract different types of people and discourse. This means that these sites are pretty poor barometers of popular sentiment. To take one example, the Pew Research Center has found that only 23 percent of American adults use Twitter—the site now known as X—and of those people, “the most active 25% … produced 97% of all tweets.” Put another way, nearly all U.S. tweets come from about 5 percent of adults. There’s nothing wrong with this. In general, social-media sites each serve their own niches and communities. The problem arises when people try to use these platforms as something they’re not: representative samples of the public. This tends to result in wrong conclusions about our world, because the sites were never meant for this purpose.

Places such as TikTok and Twitter tend to privilege the loudest, most entertaining, or most abrasive voices—not necessarily the wisest or the kindest. Moreover, as is the case with most new technologies, the user base of social-media platforms skews young, which means one is less likely to hear from the elderly about their perspectives and experiences. (This is one reason why political candidates like Joe Biden tend to perform poorly on social media but better at the ballot box.) When adopting new platforms and using old ones, we should keep their limits in mind, and not uncritically permit what’s popular on them to influence the course of entire companies or countries.

Resist rage bait.

“The tricky thing about twitter is: you see how angry people get about injustice, and you’re like ‘oh this is a great place’, but then you scroll a bit further and the conversation about apple sauce is just as angry and you start to think maybe it’s not so great after all.” This 2020 observation from the video-game streamer Stephen Flavall perfectly captures the way that social media runs on outrage and othering, to the point that seemingly every online subculture is eventually overtaken by the angriest and most oppositional version of itself. There’s a reason for this: Rage travels.

In 2021, researchers at the University of Cambridge and NYU found that tweets about a person’s ideological opponents were more likely to be shared, and more likely to evoke angry responses, than tweets about their political allies. Disagreement, in other words, proved more viral than agreement. Meanwhile, researchers at Yale found that likes and shares of angry posts encouraged those who wrote them to make more angry posts in the future. Taken together, these studies illustrate how social media creates a feedback loop in which users are encouraged by the platform itself to post progressively more unhinged utterances about their enemies. Behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated.

Marinating in spaces optimized for outrage has many negative consequences for both our civic discourse and mental health. If everything is outrageous, nothing is, and we lose the ability to express opprobrium when it’s genuinely necessary. Professional trolls have weaponized the fury of others for personal profit, purposely provoking outraged responses to their content in order to elevate their profile. (One of them even became president.) But there’s a simple way to escape this trap: Boost things you like and ignore things you don’t. Block bad actors rather than engaging with them. There can be exceptions to this rule, but sticking to it as a default will greatly improve your online experience and disincentivize incendiary individuals from attempting to hijack our collective attention.

Put down the pitchfork.

In June 2020, Peter Weinberg trended on Twitter and was inundated across multiple platforms with vicious, excoriating messages from people he’d never met. The 49-year-old’s home address was even posted online. The reason: He’d been captured in a viral video assaulting a girl who had been posting flyers in support of George Floyd. Except he wasn’t. The entire affair was a case of mistaken identity on the part of amateur internet sleuths. Weinberg had been at the scene of the incident—the day after it occurred. He also wasn’t the only victim of this drive-by vigilante justice. As New York magazine reported, “Another man, a former Maryland cop, was wrongly accused, too. The tweet accusing him was retweeted and liked more than half a million times.”

Outrage mobs are perhaps the most pernicious manifestation of social media’s pathologies. Many of these pile-ons are mistaken in their choice of target and nearly always disproportionate to the offense. Because you can’t know in the moment whether you are joining an outpouring that is justified or misguided, the responsible choice is to abstain. If you wouldn’t want your existence upended over a grainy partial video clip or a poorly phrased post, you shouldn’t help upend someone else’s. And frankly, getting repeatedly exercised over the antics of individuals you’ve never met and wouldn’t know existed if not for social media is neither a healthy nor productive use of our limited time on this Earth.

Choose your lane.

When it seems like everyone is talking about something, it’s natural to feel compelled to talk about that thing. In this way, social media prods us to perform as pundits and comment on events as they unfold in real time. Plenty of people ignore this impulse and just keep posting pictures of their grandkids or dog. But others give in to it, which leads to all sorts of problems. That’s because no one is an expert on everything, and we all have plenty of blind spots that could lead to embarrassment—whether about communities of people we don’t know or intellectual topics we haven’t studied. In real life, we usually don’t run into many situations where these blind spots are exposed, and when we do, we hopefully have friends who will gently correct us. A platform like Twitter is not so forgiving—it’s more like a string of ideological banana peels laid out in front of an audience of millions of strangers. Every day, something on the site or its many successors tempts us to comment outside our expertise. But we don’t have to do it.

Not only will such restraint save you from embarrassment, it will prevent you from overreacting to the latest breaking news, and it will help you make a difference when you have something important to say. The more topics you publicly pontificate about online, the more likely you will slip up and give people reasons to discount whatever else you say. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be outspoken on the internet! But you should limit yourself to your areas of actual expertise, where you most hope to be heard or influence people. The last thing you want is for your off-the-cuff take on a culture-war issue to discredit your deeply informed insights on the things that truly matter to you. This is also why journalists and academics, who rely on public trust to get their message across, should stick to their beats rather than post about subjects outside their ambit. When in doubt, recall the wisdom of the first-century rabbi who said, “All my days I grew up among the sages, and I have found nothing better for a person than silence.”

Read before burning.

We’ve all done it. Incensed by a headline, tweet, or screenshot of an article, we shared our upset about a story—without actually reading the piece in question and finding out whether the headline was accurate or the context of the excerpted quotation changed its meaning. Doing this may seem harmless in isolation, but in practice, it’s not happening in isolation. Many social-media users today believe it is perfectly reasonable to pass judgment on content they haven’t actually consumed, and the collective accretion of such potemkin pontification has the effect of polluting the public discourse.

Your first-grade teacher had this one right: Don’t judge a book by its cover, or, in this case, a story by its tweet or headline. Commenting confidently on material you haven’t bothered to read isn’t just intellectually dishonest; it disrespects your followers by telling them you don’t think enough of them to read the things you share with them. It turns social media into a farce in which individuals spar over imagined arguments that nobody actually made. No one wins these debates, and no one emerges any wiser. It’s time to collectively commit to ending this practice, and, when necessary, call out those who engage in it.

Oh, and if you got to this point before commenting on what’s written here: congratulations. You’re already part of the solution. Now feel free to tell me why I’m completely wrong.

 

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From Mansion to Moat: Drake’s Million Dollar Home Gets Soaked

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Toronto residents woke up to a soggy Wednesday morning after the city was pummeled by record-breaking rainfall on Tuesday. The downpour caused widespread flooding across the city, and even the opulent mansion of rap superstar Drake wasn’t spared.

 

Drake’s “Embassy” Flooded

Drake shared a video on his Instagram story showing the extent of the water damage at his Toronto mansion, nicknamed “The Embassy.” The sprawling 50,000-square-foot estate boasts an NBA-regulation basketball court and an art-deco theme, but on Tuesday, it was battling ankle-deep murky water flooding its halls.

The video shows Drake himself, clad in shorts and holding a broom, wading through the water. Someone else can be seen desperately trying to hold a large glass door shut as water surges in, presumably from a flooded patio or balcony.  Drake captioned the video with a touch of humor: “This better be espresso martini.”

The extent of the damage to the mansion remains unclear at this time.

 

Historic Rainfall Causes Citywide Flooding

The flooding at Drake’s mansion was just one symptom of the unprecedented rainfall that lashed Toronto on Tuesday. The city saw over 100 millimeters of rain in a single day, easily surpassing the average rainfall for the entire month of July (71.6 mm). This deluge makes it the fifth-wettest day ever recorded in Toronto’s history.

The heavy downpour overwhelmed the city’s drainage systems, leading to widespread flooding across neighborhoods. Emergency services were inundated with over 700 calls reporting flooded basements.  A major artery, the Don Valley Parkway, became an impassable waterway, with cars submerged almost entirely and some drivers forced to wait for rescue on the roofs of their vehicles.

 

Toronto Cleans Up After the Storm

As of Wednesday morning, the city is in cleanup mode.  Emergency crews are working to clear debris and assess the damage caused by the floods.  The extent of the financial losses incurred by homeowners and businesses is still being determined.

While Drake’s mansion may have gotten an unwelcome soaking, the true story of this weather event lies in the impact it had on ordinary citizens across Toronto. The city is now focused on recovery efforts and ensuring the safety and well-being of its residents.

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Ryan Reynolds BLEEDS for Deadpool! Sacrificed Salary to Keep Franchise Alive!

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Marvel fans, rejoice! After a whirlwind journey filled with setbacks and triumphs, Deadpool & Wolverine is finally clawing its way onto the silver screen. This highly anticipated pairing of Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman has had its fair share of challenges, from production delays due to Hollywood strikes to struggling to solidify a cohesive storyline. But through it all, Reynolds’ unwavering dedication to the project has shone through, proving that sometimes, the biggest victories come from the most unexpected sacrifices.

The road to Deadpool & Wolverine began in May 2023 with a triumphant start to filming. However, that momentum was abruptly halted by a wave of strikes that swept through Hollywood, forcing a hiatus until late winter. This wasn’t the only obstacle the project faced. The creative team, including Reynolds himself, wrestled with crafting a narrative that lived up to the outrageous charm of the Deadpool character while seamlessly integrating Wolverine into the fold. There were even whispers of the entire project being shelved altogether, leaving fans anxious about the fate of this dream team.

 

Reynolds’ Pockets Take a Hit, But His Vision Persists

But amidst these uncertainties, a heartwarming detail recently emerged, shedding light on Reynolds’ incredible commitment to the Deadpool franchise. In a revealing interview with The New York Times, Reynolds opened up about the financial sacrifices he made to ensure the success of the original Deadpool film.

“Deadpool wasn’t just a movie; it was a decade-long passion project,” Reynolds confessed. “Honestly, when they finally greenlit it, I wasn’t thinking about box office numbers. I just wanted to see this crazy character come to life on screen. I even gave up my acting salary for the project just to get it off the ground.”

 

However, Reynolds’ generosity didn’t stop there. The studio, it seemed, wasn’t convinced of the importance of having the film’s screenwriters, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, readily available on set. “They wouldn’t allow my co-writers on set, which was a huge blow,” Reynolds continued. “So, I took what little money I had left after forgoing my salary and paid them myself to be there. We basically formed a makeshift writer’s room right there on set.”

This wasn’t the first instance of Reynolds’ financial commitment to the Deadpool universe. Writers Reese and Wernick had previously shared on the AMC show Geeking Out that Reynolds also personally financed aspects of Deadpool (2016) to ensure the film achieved the level of quality he envisioned.

 

A Commitment That Reaps Rewards

 

Looking back on the original film’s scrappy beginnings, Reynolds described it as a labor of love fueled by limited resources and boundless creativity. “There wasn’t a lot of money, but I poured my heart and soul into every detail,” he said. “That experience taught me a valuable lesson: the importance of having a strong creative team by your side, no matter the project.”

Reynolds’ unwavering dedication wasn’t just about financial backing; it was about safeguarding the film’s creative vision. His actions ensured that the core team behind Deadpool’s success – the writers, the director, and himself – remained on board to bring their vision to life. This commitment is sure to translate into Deadpool & Wolverine, a film that promises to be a landmark achievement in the wacky world of Deadpool. Mark your calendars, fans – Deadpool & Wolverine slashes into theaters on July 26th!

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Bob Newhart, deadpan comedy icon Dies at 94

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Bob Newhart, the deadpan accountant-turned-comedian who became one of the most popular TV stars of his time after striking gold with a classic comedy album, has died at 94.

Jerry Digney, Newhart’s publicist, says the actor died Thursday in Los Angeles after a series of short illnesses.

Newhart, best remembered now as the star of two hit television shows of the 1970s and 1980s that bore his name, launched his career as a standup comic in the late 1950s. He gained nationwide fame when his routine was captured on vinyl in 1960 as The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, which went on to win a Grammy Award as Album of the Year.

While other comedians of the time, including Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Alan King, and Mike Nichols and Elaine May, frequently got laughs with their aggressive attacks on modern mores, Newhart was an anomaly. His outlook was modern, but he rarely raised his voice above a hesitant, almost stammering delivery. His only prop was a telephone, used to pretend to hold a conversation with someone on the other end of the line.

In one memorable skit, he portrayed a Madison Avenue image-maker trying to instruct Abraham Lincoln on how to improve the Gettysburg Address: “Say 87 years ago instead of fourscore and seven,” he advised.

Another favorite was Merchandising the Wright Brothers, in which he tried to persuade the aviation pioneers to start an airline, although he acknowledged the distance of their maiden flight could limit them. “Well, see, that’s going to hurt our time to the Coast if we’ve got to land every 105 feet.”

Newhart was initially wary of signing on to a weekly TV series, fearing it would overexpose his material. Nevertheless, he accepted an attractive offer from NBC, and The Bob Newhart Show premiered on Oct. 11, 1961. Despite Emmy and Peabody awards, the half-hour variety show was canceled after one season, a source for jokes by Newhart for decades after.

He waited 10 years before undertaking another Bob Newhart Show in 1972. This one was a situation comedy with Newhart playing a Chicago psychologist living in a penthouse with his schoolteacher wife, Suzanne Pleshette. Their neighbors and his patients, notably Bill Daily as an airline navigator, were a wacky, neurotic bunch who provided an ideal counterpoint to Newhart’s deadpan commentary. The series, one of the most acclaimed of the 1970s, ran through 1978.

Four years later, the comedian launched another show, simply called Newhart. This time he was a successful New York writer who decides to reopen a long-closed Vermont inn. Again Newhart was the calm, reasonable man surrounded by a group of eccentric locals. Again the show was a huge hit, lasting eight seasons on CBS. It bowed out in memorable style in 1990 with Newhart — in his old Chicago psychologist character — waking up in bed with Pleshette, cringing as he tells her about the strange dream he had: “I was an innkeeper in this crazy little town in Vermont. … The handyman kept missing the point of things, and then there were these three woodsmen, but only one of them talked!” The stunt parodied a Dallas episode where a key character was killed off, then revived when the death was revealed to have been in a dream.

Two later series were comparative duds: Bob, in 1992-93, and George & Leo, 1997-98. Though nominated several times, he never won an Emmy for his sitcom work. “I guess they think I’m not acting. That it’s just Bob being Bob,” he sighed.

Over the years, Newhart also appeared in several movies, usually in comedic roles. Among them: Catch 22, In & Out, Legally Blonde 2, and Elf, as the diminutive dad of adopted full-size son Will Ferrell. More recent work included Horrible Bosses and the TV series The Librarians, The Big Bang Theory, and Young Sheldon.

Newhart married Virginia Quinn, known to friends as Ginny, in 1964, and remained with her until her death in 2023. They had four children: Robert, Timothy, Jennifer, and Courtney. Newhart was a frequent guest of Johnny Carson’s and liked to tease the thrice-divorced Tonight host that at least some comedians enjoyed long-term marriages. He was especially close with fellow comedian and family man Don Rickles, whose raucous insult humor clashed memorably with Newhart’s droll understatement.

“We’re apples and oranges. I’m a Jew, he’s a Catholic. He’s low-key, I’m a yeller,” Rickles told Variety in 2012. A decade later, Judd Apatow would pay tribute to their friendship in the short documentary Bob and Don: A Love Story.

A master of the gently sarcastic remark, Newhart got into comedy after he became bored with his $5-an-hour accounting job in Chicago. To pass the time, he and a friend, Ed Gallagher, began making funny phone calls to each other. Eventually, they decided to record them as comedy routines and sell them to radio stations.

Their efforts failed, but the records came to the attention of Warner Bros., which signed Newhart to a record contract and booked him into a Houston club in February 1960. “A terrified 30-year-old man walked out on the stage and played his first nightclub,” he recalled in 2003.

Six of his routines were recorded during his two-week date, and the album, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, was released on April Fools’ Day 1960. It sold 750,000 copies and was followed by The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back!. At one point the albums ranked No. 1 and 2 on the sales charts. The New York Times in 1960 said he was “the first comedian in history to come to prominence through a recording.”

Besides winning Grammy’s Album of the Year for his debut, Newhart won as Best New Artist of 1960, and the sequel The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back! won as Best Comedy Spoken Word Album. Newhart was booked for several appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and at nightclubs, concert halls, and college campuses across the country. He hated the clubs, however, because of the heckling drunks they attracted. “Every time I have to step out of a scene and put one of those birds in his place, it kills the routine,” he said in 1960.

In 2004, he received another Emmy nomination, this time as Guest Actor in a Drama Series, for a role in E.R. Another honor came his way in 2007, when the Library of Congress announced it had added The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart to its registry of historically significant sound recordings. Just 25 recordings are added each year to the registry, which was created in 2000.

Newhart made the best-seller lists in 2006 with his memoir, I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This!. He was nominated for another Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album (a category that includes audio books) for his reading of the book.

“I’ve always likened what I do to the man who is convinced that he is the last sane man on Earth … the Paul Revere of psychotics running through the town and yelling `This is crazy.′ But no one pays attention to him,” Newhart wrote.

Born George Robert Newhart in Chicago to a German-Irish family, he was called Bob to avoid confusion with his father, who was also named George. At St. Ignatius High School and Loyola University in Chicago, he amused fellow students with imitations of James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Durante, and other stars. After receiving a degree in commerce, Newhart served two years in the Army. Returning to Chicago after his military service, he entered law school at Loyola, but flunked out. He eventually landed a job as an accountant for the state unemployment department. Bored with the work, he spent his free hours acting at a stock company in suburban Oak Park, an experience that led to the phone bits.

“I wasn’t part of some comic cabal,” Newhart wrote in his memoir. “Mike (Nichols) and Elaine (May), Shelley (Berman), Lenny Bruce, Johnny Winters, Mort Sahl — we didn’t all get together and say, Let’s change comedy and slow it down.′ It was just our way of finding humor. The college kids would hear mother-in-law jokes and say, What the hell is a mother-in-law?′ What we did reflected our lives and related to theirs.”

Newhart continued appearing on television occasionally after his fourth sitcom ended and vowed in 2003 that he would work as long as he could. “It’s been so much, 43 years of my life; (to quit) would be like something was missing,” he said.

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