Tag Archives: social media

social media

Calling Out The Social Media Prima Donnas.

By: Chris Warren.

I’m somewhat proud of how rarely I appear on my personal social media pages, and in weak moments when I scroll through my feed and see what everyone else is prattling about, I’m reminded of why I’m rarely on social media.

Those in my circle who must announce to the world their every ache and illness, every visit to the doctor, and the subsequent results of the visit, are annoying but tolerable. I have offline personal relationships with most of these people, so I just roll my eyes and give them a pass.

And the person who posts more selfies than a thirteen year old girl might be cute if they actually were a thirteen year old girl. But they are, in fact, an unattractive middle aged man who is fairly easy to dismiss as a creepy, narcissistic, pathetic attention whore with more vanity than a Hollywood champaign party. Luckily, I’m not friends with him in real life. I’m not even sure why I’m “friends” with him on line. Maybe I’ll explore that in a future Twenty First Summer article.

social media prima donna


Another breed of social media bottom feeder that has been popping up more and more and needs to be added to my list of things to deride is the social media prima donna.

A social media prima donna is someone who, not always but usually by the nature of their employment, think they are worthy of an elevated status or deserve special recognition for their sacrifices, both real and perceived.

The professions that fit the profile are diverse; teachers and public sector employees are the most common in my sphere. One piece of electronic flotsam that recently drifted my way reminded me how teachers selflessly help students and grade papers off the clock. It continued: Teachers put up with so many headaches and hassles and boo hoo! they want the whole damn world to know how awesome they are for it. Honestly, they are pretty awesome for it. But that’s not the point..

Here’s my problem with this whinefest: Accountants, IT administrators, engineers, utility workers, auto mechanics, insurance agents, office managers, secretaries, veterinarians, flight attendants, and tons of other people also make unrequited sacrifices out of duty to their vocations, and they also put up with a lot of headaches and hassles. But I don’t see any of them fishing for sycophants on Facebook.

The internet princesses want everyone to genuflect and offer perpetual accolades because they teach our kids or drive a truck or do whatever it is they do that makes them think they warrant more square inches of platitudes on my screen than anyone else.

To be clear, I’m not saying that what these people do is unremarkable or not worthwhile, or that they don’t merit respect. What I am saying is that they are not better or more deserving than anyone else. “The whole world would suck without me!” crybaby act is a tiresome trope even if the basic premise of the statement is true.

These jobs are and the people who do them are indeed very important. But so are carpet cleaners and bar tenders and cashiers and pizza delivery guys and every other occupation that does not lend itself well to compulsory hero worship by others. It’s not easy to find a social media meme extolling the virtues of being a plumber, yet we are never more than one toilet flush away from finding out how big of a deal plumbers are.

This issue is much more than sappy social media memes. More disturbingly, it is the growing attitude of entitlement, amplified by the internet, that induces people to believe that they are owed an elevated status. Every “like,” every “share,” feeds the pig of superiority.

For reasons even the social media prima donnas themselves might not understand, the simple, silent dignity of leaving work every day knowing they busted their asses and did something meaningful is not enough. Social media prima donnas can’t feel whole until  they’ve announced to the entire internet how much they sacrifice for us ingrates.

I’m not taking the bait. I don’t owe teachers and other public employees any more respect than I owe cab drivers and call center service reps. Everyone is valuable and needed and worthwhile. Get over yourselves. You know who you are, and regrettably, so do the rest of us.


A Shopping Mall Buddha And The Materialism Of Now.

By: Chris Warren.

I have fifty two items on my Amazon “wish list”. I don’t know how that compares with the average shopper, but I’m going to guess that I am a lightweight by Amazon standards. My wish list is just that..things that would be nice to have but are not particularly a priority. Some of the items have been on my list for years. The older I get, the easier it is to want stuff less. And the stuff I do want has a higher, long term purpose. Materialism for materialism’s sake is the source of a lot of the world’s problems.

During a recent weekend road trip I found myself hanging out in a very huge, very famous, and very upscale shopping mall. I’m not much of a mall person, but I do like to people watch and enjoy the experience of being around the energetic liveliness. As we strolled past the $1000 Coach purses and $600 North Face jackets, I noticed that pretty much everything that is sold in this mall is not necessary for daily life. I could not spot a single item that was truly needed and did not have a more reasonably priced alternative. I’m sure all those people in the North Face store were not there to provision themselves for an ascent of Mount Everest.

No one chooses to be poor, but materialism is a deliberate, conscious decision.

I don’t understand what motivates anyone to be sucked into the vortex of materialism. I try hard not to be judgmental, but it sure isn’t easy. Ultimately, I understand that how others spend their money is none of my business. At the same time though I don’t feel too sorry for all the people who are up to their eyeballs in debt from impressing themselves and everyone with their trendy, premium brand stuff. No one chooses to be poor, but materialism is a deliberate, conscious decision.

Reaching a stage in life where it’s pretty certain that I am not destined to be rich is in a way, liberating. It does not bother me that I can’t (or more accurately, shouldn’t) buy the North Face jacket. It does not bother me that some of my neighbors have spent more money on cars than I have spent on a house. It’s not that I’m poor, it’s that my priorities go beyond the materialism of now. My focus is on things that matter, like securing my retirement and making room in my future plans for friends and family members who are not as well situated as me.


The Buddhist religion teaches that desire is the source of evil. If we remove desire from our hearts, then evil would by default not exist. I admit the previous synopsis oversimplifies one of the world’s great religions, but it does call attention to a valid point of Buddhism: Desire (from which materialism is derived) is a driving force behind pretty much everything bad.

I think we’d be in a better place if people desired less stuff. Unfortunately, we live in a society that celebrates materialism, and social media is eager to feed the pig. For months, one of my “friends” filled the internet with weekly photo updates of their new house construction; it read like an over the top real estate listing. The news feed was briefly interrupted only to announce their new boat and ski trip to Aspen. This person is not an outlier. Facebook is brimming with photos of new cars, exotic vacations, and expensive dinners. It seems no one can resist running to their computers to show off their bling.

Maybe I was a Buddhist in a previous life. Maybe I’m just simpleminded. For sure I’m not the kind of customer a mall operator loves to have around. They might get me for a $6 slice of pizza or sell me on an occasional good deal, but most of the time it’s easy for me to keep my wallet in my pocket and walk on by. Buddha has been dead for about 2400 years and his message is still relevant. There is great personal peace in being happy with what I’ve already got and feeling no intense pull to have more. Removing oneself from the materialism of now settles and warms a soul like no six hundred dollar North Face jacket could ever approach.

Facebook Therapy

By: Chris Warren

Twenty First Summer was conceived in part out of my disgust with social media. Somewhat hypocritically, this blog does have a Twitter account that I hope all my readers follow  @twentyfirstsum because it’s an unfortunate necessity for reader interaction. Yet even while I’ve happily been able to keep social media at the edges of my life, there are others, actually many others, who have turned it into their psychologist.

Here’s the kicker: I’m sort of thinking this may not be such a bad idea. Not for me of course, for them. I know that sounds a little way out there coming from a guy who has made mocking the stupid that is Facebook a recurring theme, but venting is a legitimate form of therapy. Just because it’s not done under the supervision of a $150/hour therapist doesn’t mean it’s not effective treatment.

In between the the ubiquitous cute puppy videos and trite “post this on your wall if you love someone with (insert name of unfortunate malady here)” memes, are things along the lines of rants about the weather, the boss, significant other, job loss, divorces, death, gastrointestinal issues, traffic jams, kids. All the turds of life are well represented.

The appearance of “too much information” personal issues may be shocking, but the reasoning behind them is legitimate. The on line catharsis provides a release that in another time would have been taken out on family members, coworkers, store clerks, or held inside until it could be contained no longer. For all its ridiculous vanity, Facebook at the very least gives users a platform to clear their frustrations in a relatively harmless, nonviolent way.

I very seldom post anything on my personal Facebook page but I will scroll through my newsfeed fairly regularly to lurk around and see what others are doing. My feed probably looks like everyone else’s except with different names. What takes me aback is the amazingly revealing public comments made by people I consider to rational, mature, and level-headed, at least when they are not on line.

Since screaming into a pillow is overrated, Facebook therapy works only when the rants are made when others will hear (or see) them. Part of me thinks these people are a bit kooky even though I otherwise respect them and understand why they have these outbursts. The problem: How do I respond? Should I respond? When I say I “very seldom” make a Facebook post I mean maybe two or three times a year, so clicking “like” or making a comment opens the door to an on line back and forth I’d rather not get involved with.

I’d prefer my friends just call me if they have something heavy on their mind. If they’d rather blow digital steam, I’ll be listening there too even though I probably won’t reply. If it gives them a comfortable outlet they might not otherwise have for their frustrations, then why should I hate on that? I still think Facebook is one of the most hopeless wastes of bandwidth since the Kim Kardashian YouTube channel, but even a pile of crap is useful as fertilizer.

Mothers’ Smothering Meets The Rule of No Rescue.

By: Chris Warren.

It’s not very often two totally opposing yet in many ways related ideas come along that make me wonder if the world is becoming totally unglued or if there may be some hope of sanity after all. The latest example of “is this for real?” to pop up in my daily reads involves groups of people who typically agree with each other most of the time and have nearly identical priorities. However, for this one aspect of their lives, they are probably as far apart as they can get without leaving earth’s orbit.

First up is is the growing fad of mothers opening social media accounts for their young children, in some cases before the kids are even born. Yeah, it’s for real. Mothers (and dads too) have reached a level of self-absorption and “helicopter parenting” that they need to create an exclusive venue to display the kids’ every potty triumph and jelly-smeared face until the adorable little ones become teens who without any maternal prompting will jump on line and cheerfully mouth off all the essential details of their lives, keeping in mind how a teenager defines “essential”.

helicopter-parentThe most common reason given for pushing Junior into the social media jungle before he’s had his first diaper change, and I’m totally not making this up, is because the moms want an on line life of their own separate from the kids’ and don’t want to clog their news feeds with constant kid pictures and updates. Of course, in order to make themselves feel good they wrap their narcissism in the soft cuddly ubiquitous cloak of doing it “for the children.” It never occurs to them that the easiest solution is not to post a bazillion pictures in the first place. So instead of leaving it alone until the kids are old enough to make these decisions, parents are giving their offspring a head start. How important is it that a toddler have an “on line identity” anyway?

Years from now I’ll have a ready-made blog topic when all these babies hit middle school and realize mommy has spent the last decade or so building an on line individuality for them. They may be mortified and not want their friends to find out, but take heart future teenagers: There are very good odds that many of your peers also had a carefully engineered internet presence since before they were old enough to cut their own food, so at least it will be a zero-sum game. You can be equally embarrassed together attending group therapy to figure out why your mommies didn’t let you be you and give you the same options they insisted on for themselves. Heck, there is enough of this going around to form an official school club.

Back here on firm reality, the “No-Rescue” parenting movement very slowly gets some traction. The theory is exactly as the name implies: Mom and Dad are not going to bail the kids out of every little screw up. Forgot your lunch? Didn’t bring your math textbook home? Oh well. Bet you’ll remember next time. As gratifying as it is to hear about someone not raising their children to be overindulged prima donnas, the idea of holding kids responsible for living with the results of their own negligence is not exactly groundbreaking.8bc53f96bcc3a9c3ca2f61639e52f90e

Parents who think they’re being innovative by letting their children fall down and learn from the experience would be very disappointed to find out this is how it was done in generations past; there’s a bit of amusement in seeing young parents stick a trendy name on an old idea and then act like they’ve discovered fire or something. What’s next? Making teenagers do household chores and holding them accountable for completing the required tasks? Wow, how novel!

I’m not going to razz No Rescue parents too much because in spite of their complete lack of originality, they are absolutely on the right course. Yeah, I know it hurts to see a young person struggle with situations mom or dad could very easily resolve, but the character lesson of letting children fly solo when dealing with forgotten homework assignments and interpersonal conflicts will last far longer than a parent’s discomfort of blowing off a kid’s plea to do the dirty work for them.

It says something about our times when individual responsibility is held up as an uncommon virtue. If we were to gather these two groups of parents together and pick their brains, I am confident they would agree on most things regarding their kids: A good education, stable home life, safe neighborhoods, etc. So how is it that one group involves themselves to the point of micromanaging kids’ on line profiles before the kids are even old enough to know what they are, and the other purposely refuses to intervene and blunt the effect of every little (and sometimes big) whoopsie?

What is most unsettling about too-young kids being set up with social media accounts is that it’s not done for their benefit and minimal thought is given to what it could mean to them years down the road. It’s impossible for me to to see how giving your newborn his own Instagram has long term benefits for him. The converse to this is parents who flatly refuse to throw their kids a lifeline and “save” them from any and all of life’s stumbles. I have no doubt that both groups love their children and want the best for them; some are smart enough to see that by doing less now the kids will have more later.

Please Check Out The New Site Features.

By: Chris Warren

On the upper bar menu you’ll see two new options I hope will add value to your experience on Twenty First Summer.

Links and Resources will have links to external websites that I have personally checked out and vetted. I fully support the causes and topics these websites represent and think they deserve your attention. The list will be edited & updated as needed. If you know of a website that might fit in, send a tip via my contact page.  I’ll look into it and add it to the list  if it checks out. I will not link to anything I do not sincerely believe in.

Product Reviews are exactly as the name implies: Honest, unbiased opinions of products and services I have actually used myself. Right now there is only one entry but more reviews will be added as time allows.

Also, if you are a member of any online forums, social media pages, or groups that might like the content on Twenty First Summer, please ask them to link here and/or follow my blog. It would really mean a lot to me!

In the almost ten months since Twenty First Summer launched, there has been slow but encouraging site traffic and audience growth. Thank you very much to everyone who has supported me and given me a reason to keep doing this. I’m trying to do something meaningful here and am heartened by the response.

Keep it Thoughtful, Positive, and Relevant!




Downloading A Hot Mess.

By: Chris Warren.

Call it pride, misjudgement, or just plain looney, I can’t figure out why a certain element of people will dramatically claim they were wronged and in the process of trying to make everything right, they become a party to making it worse.

Foolishly letting themselves become hapless ringmasters of their own very public circus, they realize only after the tent collapses that if they had just laid low and kept their mouth shut, the embarrassment and damage would have been mitigated if not eliminated outright. Assuming, of course, they had a legitimate gripe in the first place. In many of these situations, the only “problem” is the one the self-appointed victim created.

For today’s cautionary tale of looney, I present entertainer Barbra Streisand, who went off the hook when a photographer incidentally included her house in an aerial photo. The photo was buried in a collection of many thousands of pictures of California coastline geographic features publicly available on line. When Babs found out, she quickly lawyered up to have the photo purged from the internet. The lawsuit and ensuing media coverage resulted in exactly the opposite of what she was trying to achieve: The photo became a huge draw. Prior to Streisand’s childish meltdown, it had been viewed less than ten times, and that included web page hits from her own attorney. After the Hollywood paparazzi caught the scent of the lawsuit, the image pulled in over 420,000 views in less than a month and is to this day still widely copied and reposted.

The house that launched an internet legend.  Photo © 2002 Kenneth & Gabrielle Adelman, California Coastal Records Project.
The house that launched an internet legend. Photo © 2002 Kenneth & Gabrielle Adelman, California Coastal Records Project.

This spectacle of incredibly poor foresight was the genesis of the Streisand Effect, a term coined to describe what happens when someone tries to erase something from the internet and the attempt epically backfires to spawn a high-profile storm of attention that, but for the effort to get rid of it, would have never occurred. The inaugural Streisand Effect incident was back in 2003…social media did not exist, the internet was still an emerging platform, and digital cameras were big dollar luxuries. Had Streisand stuck to opening her mouth only when singing, the aerial picture of her house would have been just another obscure web page with single-digit popularity. Not only did she ultimately lose her legal case (along with the ton of money spent on it), she became an eponym for the ages for more than just her singing talent.

The year 2003 is ancient history in internet time. Today, it would seem to be a common assumption that everyone has a greater awareness of the possibility that unwanted information is difficult to erase. It only takes a short trip to YouTube or any one of the hundreds of comedy websites to figure out that the assumption is totally wrong. There are infinite gigabytes of people doing things that they would probably not do if they knew it would end up on line. As if that were already over the top, there are still other more-guts-than-brains types who know full well their gags will live forever in cyberspace because they are are purposely uploaded by the participants themselves.

It’s one thing to be upset when something is released by others that was not intended for public consumption, it’s quite another to let the genie out of the bottle yourself. By doing so, one forfeits the right to complain about it later. Hardly a week goes by when an amazing act of dumbassery flashes across the net in mere moments, then realizing what they have done, the perpetrator makes a vain attempt to backpedal out of the mess, which serves only to make the mess bigger and more popular.

As Ms. Streisand’s now (in?)famous example teaches us, there are very few purely innocent victims of internet embarrassment. And of those who are, many bring further damage unto themselves by going on a fool’s errand to remove the offense. Much of the “humiliation” out there is manufactured by the humiliants…if that’s a real word.

Putting anything about yourself on the internet is a lot like getting a tattoo: It stays there forever so you better really, really make sure it’s what you want. Young people in particular lack this level of discretion. The internet hasn’t been around long enough to fully know what the extended effects of immortalizing adolescent misadventures will be, but there can’t possibly be any lasting benefit of a digitized half naked teenager holding a can of beer, especially a decade or two down the road when they have kids of their own.

A recent European Union court ruling that everyone has “the right to be forgotten” means google and other search engines are legally required to remove links upon request if the person to whom the link refers to does not want to be found on line. Those wishing to take advantage of this new right may want to consider that they risk being sucked in by the Streisand Effect. There is already a cottage industry of websites based outside the jurisdiction of the E.U. dedicated to exposing what google will not. You’ve been warned.

The idea of anyone running to their attorney over something as mundane as a distant, indistinct picture of their house seems quaint compared to what is easy to find on line these days. The trifecta of lack of sense, lower standards of acceptable behavior, and a digital camera in everyone’s pocket has busted the door open to all kinds of crazy, a lot of which the involved parties are actually proud of…for now. On the cosmically small chance Babs Streisand reads Twenty First Summer and doesn’t like this article or the photo that goes with it, I’m betting this time she will keep her lawyers out of it and quietly move along.

If in my own moment of crazy I am memorialized on the Web, I promise not to say anything to anyone. I’ll just fade into the background and hope the whole ugly deal is lost in a sea of other people’s foolishness.



United States v. Elonis Is A Supreme Mistake.

By: Chris Warren

Almost everyone, including myself, has at some point said something they later regret. If it’s said on the internet, or later leaked onto the internet, then it has the potential to create an ocean of unintended consequences. YouTube alone is littered with career-ending remarks that are so jaw-dropping dumb, it makes one wonder: What path of insane reasoning did the speaker use to come to the conclusion that what they were saying was a good idea? Adding to the astonishment, many of these comments were made with the full knowledge they would be open to the public. It’s not a “what were you thinking?” moment, It’s an “are you even capable of thinking?” moment.

The story of Anthony Elonis might have been just another cautionary tale of how a guy let his mosquito brain overpower his alligator mouth; what makes it stand out is the small brain-big mouth combo pack is going all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. The gist of the case is that Elonis was convicted of making threats of violence to others on his Facebook page. At least one of the comments was directed at…now get this…an FBI agent who was investigating his other threats. The particulars of the case are rather boring and lengthy as would be expected in a legal proceeding. I have read it so you don’t have to, and trust me when I say in addition to his legal trouble there is something really wrong going on inside Elonis’ head.

Elonis does not deny that he made the comments and the facts of the case are not in question. In simple terms, Elonis wants the Supreme Court to overturn his conviction because his remarks were made on line. His defense is that people talk trash on line all the time and what is said there should not be taken seriously. He therefore considers his statements, which include musing about shooting up a kindergarten class, “free speech”.

To be clear, this is not about one coarsely-worded rant or a volley of argumentative one-upmanship of the kind that pops up on Facebook and Twitter millions of times a day. There were numerous threats of graphic violence made over a long period of time and directed at more than one individual, and Elonis has a history of inappropriate behavior in his off line life. Among other things, he was fired from his job for making sexual advances towards an underage female coworker. Legal issues aside, Anthony Elonis is at minimum a creepy pervert whom I would not allow anywhere near any woman I care about.

The failure is not in the legal system, but in Elonis’ screwed up sense of his “rights” and a general breakdown of civility enabled by the internet. It way too easy to be abusive while hiding behind a keyboard. Being mean to people you can’t see is an easy trap to fall into even for those who are normally in control of themselves. Many times I wisely re-worded a message because it sounded unnecessarily harsh; and a few times I later wished I had more carefully edited myself.

The Supreme Court blew it by agreeing to hear this case because by doing so they acknowledge that Elonis might be right. No doubt the lame “it was on the internet so it doesn’t count” defense was cooked up by Elonis’ attorneys. In a way I do not blame the lawyers. They have a duty to represent their client  and can only work with what they are given. But wow, is this such a tough call that we have to bring in the Supreme Court to deal with it? The defense’s theory is that there should be a different benchmark of acceptability for on line speech than there is for any other medium; this is known as the subjective standard. He expects the Court to affirm that threatening someone with violence is ok as long as it’s done on line.

Elonis is a criminal with a proclivity towards violence and his conviction should stand. Threatening an FBI agent and giving a step-by-step description of how you want to whack your ex goes well beyond free speech. I don’t understand why the Supremes think there is a possibility the lower courts got it wrong and Elonis was simply pursuing his First Amendment rights. If the Court rules in favor of the defense, it sets up a precedent for every nutjob and hate group in the land to go on line and threaten whoever they want under the protective umbrella of free speech with no legal recourse for the intended victim.

What is it about sitting in front of a computer that turns otherwise considerate people into ultra-jerks? Maybe not to the level Elonis has elevated it, but unkind nonetheless. We non-criminals can learn something from the case of Anthony Elonis. The world would be a more gentle place if we imagined ourselves speaking face to face with the target of our flames before pressing send.