When I was in college in the 80s we had a friend named Joe, a guy of Italian extraction from New Jersey; short, muscular, with a harpo-marx hairdo and a devilish smile, quiet but with a wicked and odd sense of humor. I had the sense that he’d never been popular where he came from, but we found him delightful.
And, we egged him on.
So, he was the guy who, at the dining hall, would drink weird concoctions of things you would mix up; soda, milk, yogurt, pudding, hot-sauce…
My roommate had had cousins in Europe, and while visiting their farm as a little kid, he had egged his cousin on, making him ride farm animals, which of course, he wasn’t supposed to do.
“Ride the hog! Ride the hog!”
We were fond of that story, and when we egged Joe on, we’d invoke it, “Ride the hog Joe! Ride the Hog!”
Hours later sometimes, Joe would pull a face and put his hand on his stomach and shake his head. We’d laugh. Hard. And clap him on the back and show him he was ours, we loved him. We were kids away from home for the first time trying to make friends and figure out who we were, when we could be anything we wanted. Oh, and secondarily, we tried not to flunk out of school.
While talking to a friend about why I’ve never been able to land a pro position and do panels at my local SF cons, he mentioned, well, probably better if you haven’t FB friended them, if you want to do that, and I realized, oh.
If you channel a certain kind of political outrage and pain, your posts get shared, and you make friends, people happy to read what you write, as my roommate was happy to watch his cousin watch the hog rider, and we were happy to watch Joe drink simulated vomit, which we mixed up for him.
Like all scary things, it’s a feedback loop, of transgression and attention. Like watching the reality TV stars famous for being famous, famous for being drunk. Everybody is a grown up. Everyone has free will. Everyone is presumed to be doing what they want to do. But something in the mix isn’t quite right.
Social media has created an entire social class of free op-ed writers, generating really lovely pieces mixing the personal and political; they have only a few things in common. Their positions are extreme, and the only people who make a dime off of their work product are tech billionaires who build the platforms they entertain people on.
I’ve been using Freedom for about six weeks now. The insights keep coming, as to what I’ve been doing with social media, and why. I’m getting off the hog. I want to keep writing, keep emoting into keyboards, but this isn’t the way to do it, really. I’ve been fucking around in the dorms with my friends now for decades. Time to graduate; grow up, and get on with it.
To those that have clapped me on the back, I know you have done that with love, and I thank you for it. I hope to carry you into my voice in other ways in the future, but if we part company here, there are no ill feelings, and no regrets.
We’re all grown ups. I chose to ride that hog.
And now, to stop.