I often do some writing and editing at several local coffee shops. There is something about the energy I get from being around other people, mostly strangers, that draws words out of me.
Most of my visits to those diner-style coffee shops are uneventful. Some, more eventful. Others, very profound. (Even if only in a subtle way)
Two days ago, I stopped by my favorite local haunt to spend an hour editing the final draft of my new book, read a bit, and get a few cups of java down in me. The place was nearly empty when I arrived. After 30 minutes, I was the only customer there.
As I edited, I heard the shift manager complaining to the cook about the state of some other employees who call in often, are late, or just no-call/no-shows. The two men commiserated a bit as they swept the floor, rolled utensils tightly in paper napkins, and did other tasks. Also, the manager called some servers on the phone in an attempt to shore-up the schedule for the rest of the week. He was only partially successful it seemed.
Then, a young (maybe 16 or 17 year old) waitress showed up. As she was walking in, the manager met her at the door, motioning with his arms in an “I don’t need you here” fashion. She walked in anyway, asking what the deal was. He explained that she had called in with only minutes notice a few days prior, put the rest of that day’s workers in a bind, and that he was considering firing her. She attempted to smooth the situation over, but wasn’t successful and left. A few minutes later, she came back in with a middle-aged man and both walked toward the manager. I thought to myself, “This may turn into a blow-out,” and readied my camera phone just in case a video-worthy event took place. I have seen too many things get out of hand over the years and I am a bit edgy when I see people possibly heading toward a serious contention. I figured this guy might be “dad” coming in to straighten the boss out on behalf of his daughter.
The man and the manager started talking about the situation… and I was wonderfully surprised. I am a sucker for civil conversation. I absolutely love engaging in respectful discourse, even if the participants don’t agree on a particular matter. Also, I so rarely observe disagreeing parties in person or on social media who are able to succinctly present their case, hear the other’s, discuss both sides, and then achieve an amicable resolution, respectfully disagree, or agree on something that was previously disagreed on. Beyond that, observing a person change his or her mind on a firmly held position in 2015 is nigh to seeing a unicorn at the park.
Due to my persuasions regarding discourse, I was very happy to observe the manager express his concerns about the server’s performance and reliability in a respectful way and with an even temper. Then, the father-figure apologized for the issues on behalf of the girl. He asked for a second chance for the girl and gave credibility to the manager’s concerns. Also, the girl assured the manager of her commitment to do better and genuinely gave heed to his concerns. After some more conversation and consideration, the manager allowed for a write-up rather than firing. He clearly shared his expectations, which were reasonable, and the consequences present if they were not met. All parties ended the conversation respectfully, amicably, having reached a common position, and asserting a common goal. Not one voice had even been raised through the whole parley. I had to pinch myself.
I know that was a boring, everyday type of story. But, there is a great lesson to be gained. That being, our abilities to deal with other people, have conflicts, argue, discourse, and find common ground (or not) are “everyday” skills. They aren’t just for a college debate class, the board room, marriage counseling, or when some aspect of a relationship breaks down. Those abilities are for the coffee shop, for Facebook threads, for our home, for our friends, and even for our enemies.
Witnessing that interaction between three strangers encouraged me. I personally hope to do as well the next time I have some type of disagreement. Fellow humans, we’ve come a long way. We still have a long way to go. Pass the love on! 🙂
Here is a related TED talk by William Ury that I very much enjoy. If you have a spare 20 minutes, it would be worth your time.
We all have them… Facebook friends who just lust after “Fear Porn.” You know, spooky stories with only a meme or link to a sketchy website for “evidence” of some new terrorist threat, food that will kill you, something that will cure cancer, or some other ridiculous news story.
Generally, when you examine the social media pages of these types of folks, you find a regularly watered tree of social media bullshit. They see no reason to vet anything. As long as it supports their particular ideology, faith, or political leanings, they post that new link for all to see. There can be a particular relish for Fear Porn with these types. They love to be seen as “in the know” among their social media peers and enjoy getting other people’s blood pressure elevated with their posts.
“What is ‘Fear Porn?” you may ask… My definition would be, “Bullshit stories on the Internet which are originally constructed by intentional liars and then shared like a virus by credulous people with a desire to make life seem more exciting artificially.”
Though, I do enjoy the definition on the Urban Dictionary website for comedic reasons:
“Fear Porn- Conspiracy theorist information used to generate sexual excitement in Red necks, religious extremists and dudes that live in their mom’s basement.”
I found myself considering the issue of Fear Porn sharing when I first logged on to Facebook this morning. A Facebook friend had shared a new “story” from another person’s page. It was a video with the caption, “Yesterday mexican police tipped off the texas melita that iSIS WAS GOING TO CROSS OVER IN TO TEXAS AFTER SUNSET. TEXANS SETUP A WELCOMING PARTY. 25,000 ARMED TEXANS MET THEM last night as they tried to cross. The ones not shot quickly retreated.”
The moment I saw the post, my skeptical antenna picked up the story’s BS qualities: no actual source cited, poorly constructed caption, original poster is some ‘Murican type dude trying to gain a following on social media the easy way. Believe me, he’ll pick the low hanging fruit with no trouble at all.
Here is a link to the original post. Be warned, it may not be up for long if the original poster catches too much flack over it.
Then, I clicked the video. Seconds into it, I thought, “Hey… this is just a video of the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot in Kentucky!” I have never been there, but have known some people who have years ago. The event includes a night shoot where a bunch of people blast their machine guns into the hillside using tracer rounds.
For contrast, here is another video of the same night shoot from another person in 2006:
Here is the thing my friends; we live in an age where ANYONE and I mean AAANNNNYYYYYOOOONNNNEEEEE can use a re-edited video, a picture from some war or old news story, a photoshopped image, or create a quote meme to propagate total bullshit on the Interwebs. As a human, alive in the modern age, and on social media, you MUST become good researcher. You MUST employ an appropriate level of skeptical analysis. You MUST do your due diligence before sharing wild news stories and such. When bullshit stories and memes are shared, they contribute to the sum total of wasted time for and the dumbing down of your fellow humans on social media. Are there ever amazing stories, new discoveries, and/or staggering events that happen? Sure. But, thanks to irresponsible sharing on social media, the fewer true stories are made harder to find by the many fake ones.
It helps to have an epistemological foundation based on demonstrable evidence and reasoned logic rather than emotional whim, faith, and confirmation bias. In the digital media age, skepticism is the appropriate mode.
There are some great online tools which make sussing out Fear Porn bullshit easy: Google, Snopes, Google Image Search, and many more. They are free… please use them 🙂
Here are some memes that I created which relate to this issue. Please feel free to use them when confronting Fear Porn and other Interweb bullshit.
For credulous posters of BS who actually believe it…
For those who quote mine, but particularly quote mine using fake quotes…
For those who do not even bother to Google search before posting…
and my favorite for general purposes 🙂
The worst event in modern history has just happened… It appears that Facebook is not working. Not for anyone on Earth. In the short minutes since it has gone offline, there have even been videos posted about the issue.
Here is my advice. In the mean time, read a book, go out for coffee, catch up on my previous blogs… you know, whatever 🙂
I think it is a bit nice when modern technology takes a slight pause every now and then just for humanity to catch its breath. So my Facebook friends, enjoy the break and breath life in! 🙂
Kudos to the guy who published the video below. You were able to get a video up in less than 15 minutes by my count about the crash.
**UPDATE!! At approx 4 p.m. my time, Facebook is back up. Humanity is saved!
From the tame “Chubby Bunny” challenge to the uber-dangerous new “Fire Challenge,” social networking sites are teeming with “Internet Challenges.” What is an “Internet Challenge” you may ask? Well, it is basically just a dare, but instead of being done for a payoff of street cred with real friends you know personally, it is for internet cred with complete strangers. You are supposed to accept the challenge, video yourself doing it, and then post the video online.
I remember dares when I was a little kid… A buddy daring me to talk to the girl I had a crush on or jumping a really high and sketchy ramp assembled by friends at the trailer park on my BMX bike. Hell, sometimes we’d even jump over each other. There were regular dares, “double-dog” dares, and so on. Yet, for the most part, I wasn’t into dares, dishing out peer pressure, or giving into it. I carried that trend even more so into adulthood. What I want to do, I do. What I don’t want to do, I don’t do. You won’t bully, manipulate, or peer pressure me into doing some shit I don’t want to do.
So, when I now behold the trendy spectacle that has become known as the “Internet Challenge,” I stand amazed at the nincompoopery of it all. The first one that I ever noticed a couple years ago on Youtube was the Cinnamon Challenge. There isn’t much to it. Basically, you just eat a huge spoonful of cinnamon and try to swallow it. The result? Hacking, watering eyes, a nose dripping with snot, and instant regret apparently. See the video link below for a compilation of people doing the challenge.
One reason I stopped doing dares at a pretty young age was, once you start, you just can’t stop. If you gain your fame among peers for doing dares, the dares will never cease. Not only that, but they tend to increase in ridiculousness (and danger) as they go. Such has been the case with the Internet Challenge phenomenon as well. The Cinnamon Challenge became The Ghost Pepper Challenge, The Flour Slap became The Knock Out Game, The Ice Bath Challenge became the Fire Challenge, so on and so on.
Let us park there just for a moment… “The Fire Challenge.” This challenge is a simple, yet staggeringly moronic one. Basically, you dump flammable liquid on yourself and then set it ablaze. Yes, you set yourself on fire. As much as I’d like to rename it the, “Darwin Award Challenge,” or, “The Proof That I’m Incredibly Stupid Challenge,” that would only serve to confuse such an obvious title for the challenge. There is really only one downside to doing this challenge. That is, you end up on fire. If that isn’t enough to dissuade you from doing such a challenge, likely, no other reason I can provide will. See the following video for a good example of this nonsensical challenge. (language warning)
There have been many news stories done on these Fire Challenges gone wrong recently. In my opinion, since you end up on fire, they are all gone wrong. One of the most interesting things to me about many of these videos is, the participants seem really surprised the the fire is hot once lighting the flammable liquid. PEOPLE! It’s fire! Of course it is going to be hot! That is one of the primary reasons that you typically avoid catching on fire when it is under your power to do so. The sad thing is, this new challenge won’t be the last of them. Once the enamor and prestige of setting one’s self on fire has worn off, inventors of Internet Challenges (whoever they may be) will come up with something even more dangerous and stupid. I could presuppose some insane ideas, but I won’t for fear that someone would be crazy enough to try it.
That said, I would like to reveal the last Internet Challenge you will ever need to do, ironic though it may be. I call it, “The Ignoring Internet Challenges and Social Media Peer Pressure Forever Challenge.” This is how you do it… After committing to participate in my perpetual challenge, any time you see a new challenge pop up online, you totally ignore it. You say to yourself, “Self, this new challenge was probably invented by a moron with nothing worthwhile to do but come up with stupid challenges. I will not allow the foolish whims of a nameless stranger nor the potential praise of others on social media to manipulate me into doing something dumb.” That is it! So, please share my new, “The Ignoring Internet Challenges and Social Media Peer Pressure Forever Challenge,” and make the world a better, hopefully less nitwit filled place! If you would like to post a video of yourself doing my challenge, basically just record yourself doing anything but an Internet Challenge: eating cereal for breakfast, reading a book, watching TV, drawing a unicorn… whatever. 🙂 -Luke
In the “Information Age” we live in, we are confronted daily with issues, ideas, and news stories faster than our ability to absorb them can keep up. In days gone by (and I mean like two decades ago) the necessity for us to confront and formulate multiple opinions on so many things daily or even hourly didn’t exist. There may have been a “water cooler” discussion over some worthy topic at work, an important newspaper article to think about, or a story on the evening news to digest, but typically only a few a day.
Now, even when checking your home feed on Facebook, you are inundated with a host of earth-shattering stories and ideological challenges. Life on social networking isn’t all just cat pictures and Farmville anymore. Not only that, but the expectation of a response is as instant as the posting of the issue. When I scroll down my own feed at the moment, I see deadly protests in Venezuela, an article about the foolishness of snake handling churches, an article about people being buried alive, a treatise on the potential moral evils of the Judeo/Christian God, and varied responses to the recent “coming out” of Michael Sam and Ellen Page. That doesn’t even cover half of the pithy issues and stories that have been shared in the last day.
I, of course, share stories and issues as well. We all desire to inform and/or challenge our peers via our social networks about things that are important to us. Such interaction is a big part of what social networking is all about. Ironically, you will probably form an opinion of this blog entry, which addresses having to formulate opinions on articles, social network posts, stories, and blogs. That said, I want to encourage us all about this current reality in society; a reality where issues and ideas are constantly barraging us.
Here are some of the positives that result from this:
1. We are being tacitly encouraged to become faster thinkers and rely more on reason, evidence, and logic to ascertain good information and deflect the bad. If we cannot adapt to this social mode, we will be easily fooled and be reactionary to unsubstantiated claims. I chuckle when an “Onion” satire article inflames the sensibilities of a person who isn’t privy to such parody and “Poe” stories. I see this trend as a type of intellectual, “Natural Selection,” revealing the “fittest” for this new Internet driven world.
2. The Internet allows for us to be exposed to positive ideas, technologies, and relevant issues that we wouldn’t otherwise know about.
3. It is very hard for a person to be kept ignorant by those around them who would desire to limit their information access.
Here are some of the potential negatives:
1. Anyone, and I mean ANYONE can post anything they want and “trolls” are aplenty. Memes, photoshop, and slick looking, cheap or free websites can give the appearance of validity to an idea and the ability for people to share nonsense. Some of these are even dangerous. For example, when a person who needs effective medical treatment abandons such for the “essential oils” or “homeopathic remedies” they see in a meme or foolish article, they can actually die.
2. We can spend otherwise enjoyable time researching and formulating opinions on all the things we are exposed to. Ultimately though, it is on us to prioritize our time and shape our own online experience. If our exposure is stressing us out, we should curb internet time and/or rethink our “likes” and “friends list.” (I use the pronouns “I,” “us,” and “we” heavily as I consider these pros and cons because as we engage in online interaction, we are all in this new social world together)
All that brings me to an important consideration… Who says we need to have an instant opinion on everything? Who says we have to know everything? I think there is nothing wrong and everything right with asserting, “I’m just not sure. I’ll have to think about it and get back to you later.” Humbly saying, “I don’t know,” is also a glory in today’s world. In this modern Age of Ideas, intellectual humility and intellectual honesty is sometimes hard to come by. Of course, there are many things that you may have already considered and developed a position on. Share those positions straightaway of course, yet be willing to revise them if new data necessitates it.
Give yourself permission to take appropriate time to formulate an opinion or make a reasonable judgement regarding issues and ideas you think are worth considering. If you don’t have enough information at present, suspend judgement until you do. Then, you can do your due diligence to acquire sufficient data and/or perform needed philosophical consideration at an effective pace or at your leisure. You can also require those making certain assertions to provide their own evidence. It is not your responsibility to prove their ill-supported case for them or provide proof against a claim made sans evidence and reason. To quote Christopher Hitchens,
“That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”
In temporarily suspending judgement, you’ll also be teaching those around you that you require time to consider issues of importance and lean on rationality over emotional, knee-jerk reactions. Be an example of effective intellectual methodology among your peers. Fostering a less emotionally reactionary society wouldn’t be a bad thing. Such an intellectual climate is even more desirable as society becomes increasingly dependent (if that is possible) on Internet social networking.
So, what are your thoughts? (Take all the time you need) 🙂
*The meme at the top of this blog is my creation, but feel free to use it as you wish.
It has been amazing to see the speed at which the Buzzfeed article, “22 Messages From Creationists To People Who Believe In Evolution,” has blown up on social media. Not only that, but the passionate response from people on both sides of the theological and scientific argument has been huge.
Click the link to see the article:
Buzzfeed journalist, Matt Stopera, was live at the Nye vs. Ham debate last Tuesday. As I was making my way around the Creation Museum, taking pictures and writing notes before the debate, I saw Mr. Stopera actively working the crowd to get a balanced take and opinions from “both sides.” I did an on-camera interview for Jonathan Ryan from the, “Geek Goes Rogue,” blog on Patheos, but did not get to speak with Matt Stopera from Buzzfeed. I was impressed by his demeanor with the museum patrons and his efforts to get balanced coverage. Though the secular and non-young earth creationist contingent was in the minority at the event, it appeared easier for Matt to get “messages” from their side. As the appointed debate time drew nigh, he was still working hard to get enough message pictures from the creationist side to make the pictures even.
Due to some things I’ve seen on social media stating that Buzzfeed was just trying to make people look stupid on the creationist side or that Matt Stopera was “leading” people in some way, I can say as a very close bystander, that is not correct. Matt would give the people who wanted to participate a marker and paper, then allow them ample time to reflect on something to write. He didn’t prompt them to write any particular thing. He told them to write anything they wanted. Also, he must have posted nearly, if not all the pictures he took, not just ones that made one side look better and the other worse. It appeared that he was able to actively interface with people from about 4:00 pm to 6:30 pm. That isn’t a lot of time to get 44 people to participate in such a two-sided coverage piece, but he was able to make it happen. I was impressed.
Click the link to see the contrasting, “22 Messages For Creationists From People Who Believe In Evolution”:
I have also seen no shortage of satirical photoshops of the pictures and serious responses posted by others this week, primarily to the creationist’s messages. See two of my favorites below.
“The Amazing Atheist Answers 22 Creationists”
Here are a few things I would like to mention based on the varied responses I’ve seen to the first “22 Messages” article online:
1. To my secular, scientific, and atheist counterparts: These are real people and most are probably nice, hard working folks. Just because you disagree with them, that is no cause to go “ad hominem” on them via social media. I’d almost guarantee you NOT ONE of the people in the pictures had any idea how HUGE the response to their messages would be. To the people who have kept their comments on-point, kudos. But, I’ve read quite a few comments on facebook and elsewhere criticizing the looks or build of some of the people in the pictures. I have also read some comments that are just very derogatory with nothing constructive or instructive said to refute the “message.” That is out of line in my opinion. If you despise the young-earth creationist ideology, attack the ideology. None of the people in these pictures have done anything to you or I personally I presume. Don’t attack them personally in a way not directly related to the issue, from a presumably safe vantage point on the Internet. It is a cheap shot and does nothing to further your own argument.
2. To Young Earth Creationists: Don’t assume all the people in the pictures are “angels” just because they believe like you theologically. One individual in the pictures sat next to me during the debate. He or she made an interesting remark about some people who should, “Go back to Africa.” The small group he or she was a part of had quite a few interesting things to say as the debate countdown was rolling. That being said, I don’t put that on creationists in general. Far from it. But, on both sides, this issue needs to be about the issue. Regardless of whether you or I think a person we disagree with is “a jerk” or “arrogant,” that means nothing relative to if they are correct. This is an issue about modern, evidence-based science and the supposed scientific authority of the ancient Bible text. To paraphrase Bill Nye, “Show me the evidence and you’ll change my mind.” If you are shown contradictory evidence, but yet your mind remains resolute in your beliefs, please don’t fool yourself into a self-evaluated position of intellectual honesty.
3. I was staggered by the simplicity and lack of insight in most of the “messages” and questions. I wonder if many of the people have bothered to give google a work out on these subjects to find relevant scientific data from valid sources. Also, many messages show a distinct confirmation bias from people who probably have never searched out the argument of the opposition. Most of the questions raised can be answered very quickly and comprehensively with just a bit of research. I am surprised that some or all of the people in the pictures saw their messages and questions as a knock-out punch to modern science and/or secularism.
4. My last bit of encouragement is as follows: Seek out honest dialogue over debate. Debate can be a wonderful thing and I was very encouraged by the turnout and response to the one this week. But, it only goes so far. Reach out to people if you want to change their minds in a constructive way. If you wonder what people of the opposing view think, ask them directly when you have opportunity. Engage in effective, personal communication whenever possible. Aggressive posturing rarely ever leads to minds being changed or relationships being built. We have the privilege to live in a Nation with true freedom of speech. Use it fully; just mix in a pinch of kindness and empathy as well.
If you have not yet seen the epic debate, click the link below:
-Copyright 2014, Luke Austin Daugherty