Social Media

Fiction Prediction: How Crichton Prophesied Our Awful Internet Age

The past two or three years, in my late twenties, I’ve almost exclusively read fiction. Call it escapism, call it the consequences of a creative writing college program, call it what you want — but after years of reading memoirs, business biographies and spiritual poetry, I’ve sunk my brainteeth into something else. I read fiction because I believe that is where the truth lies.

The author, or the voice, or narrator — whatever — through the guise of fiction is freer to speak.

As original hipster Sir Philip Sidney famously wrote:

Now for the poet, he nothing affirmeth, and therefore never lieth. For, as I take it, to lie is to affirm that to be true which is false; so as the other artists, and especially the historian, affirming many things, can, in the cloudy knowledge of mankind, hardly escape from many lies. The poet, as I said before, never affirmeth… He citeth not authorities of other histories, but even for his entry calleth the sweet Muses to inspire into him a good invention; in troth, not laboring to tell you what is or is not, but what should or should not be. And therefore though he recount things not true, yet because he telleth them not for true he lieth not.”

-The Defense of Poesy (1595)

Kevin, why are you quoting poetry? You don’t even like poetry.

Because I’m about to quote a Jurassic Park book, and I want to seem smart before I do.

What Sidney is saying is that the poet (or the author) has more power to tell the truth than anyone else, because storytelling taps into something that arguments, facts, and heavy rhetoric cannot. It taps into the human experience, which, of course, is truth. The reader is not agreeing or liking characters, but absorbing and experiencing, seeking to understand and further enrich his or her life. We might not agree with Ahab, for instance, on his search for the white whale, and we’re certainly not rooting for Kurtz in the African jungle, but we understand their quests and motives, and it teaches us something about ourselves, even if it’s dark and ugly.  

Whew. Okay, that took too much brain power.

A few months ago I read the sequel to Michael Crichton’s mega-famous novel, Jurassic Park, called The Lost World, and there was a passage in a stretch of dialogue that metaphorically punched me in the proverbial stomach.

Those who have read Crichton’s novels know the man was a genius. Agree or disagree with his logic, the guy had brains. As it turns out, the late science fiction author (that is, science with a sprinkle of fiction) of The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park, Sphere, and a bunch of other fantastic tales, was also a passive-aggressive Internet prophet.

In Crichton’s 1995 novel, The Lost World, his protagonist — the chaos-theory-mathematician Ian Malcolm (played brilliantly by Jeff Goldblum in the movies) — aptly predicts our modern, ultra-aware, internet-addicted, hyper-connected population. His outlook, however, is bleak.

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Our Lost World

“I think cyberspace means the end of our species.”

Say what now? (more…)

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Launching a Career in Freelance Writing: Leads, Clients and Pay Rates

Like a pack of baby seals conscious of the ever-pervasive and always hungry predator, writers stick together. One question I often hear is, “How can I make money on my writing?”

My answer is usually the same: build a blog, makes business cards, and network until you bleed.

Then I hear: “Shut up — it’s not that simple.”

I say: “Yes. It is.”

Them: “What can I do?”

Kevin: “Whatever they want.”

They say: “What if I’m not qualified?”

Me: “Can you write?”

Them again: “Do pigeons crap in the winter?”

Me: “Weird question, but yes. Then you’re qualified.”

#FreelanceMagic

There are too many obstacles keeping writers from working professionally. The biggest one is insecurity. That’s how it was for me, at least. I had been writing (creatively) since I was 10. Yet, I believed — before I could ever sell my skill — that I needed to be a perfect writer, that I needed to reach some rarefied echelon, some snooty status.

Then I realized: The only way I’d get there is if I started writing. And if I did it all the time.

Then I realized: I didn’t need to be Hemingway to write a business blog. Or advertising copy.

So then: I wrote.

And then I found: Most of my clients couldn’t write a sentence to save their lives. Or they hated the effort it took. Or they just didn’t have the time. Whatever it was, they needed my help for a reason. To them, I was the second coming of Hemingway or (depending on the client) Dr. Seuss. (more…)

Dear Job Market, or, Ode to the Digital Reinvention Revolution

It doesn’t matter how cool you are. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. When hunting for a job, you are a person in need of something that someone else has. That will never change. And until you get there you are a candidate on the sidelines, uncool and waiting. You hold your resume in your hand. You second guess every word, every bullet point, every comma.

The Internet comes along. It teaches us that nothing will ever be the same. For better, for worse.

The power shifts, just slightly.

Now: social media, infographic resumes, personal blogs, online portfolios, LinkedIN groups. A digital revolution to broadcast your personal brand, to make a splash, to recruit them to you!

The power shift! Good lord, I have so much power!

In the end, does any of it really matter? I wonder if anything has changed. Active networking and personal contacts, certainly, are as important as ever. And isn’t fate? A properly timed print-resume, or running into an old friend who works at a new company, or a chance encounter with a CEO in line while buying Dippin’ Dots.

Who knows, really, what it will all come down to. You certainly don’t. Either do I.

Hello, Dear Internet, Dear Job Market, and friend. 

My name is Kevin. If you’re new here, let me introduce myself:

I’m a lifestyle blogger, five years running now, and I’ve had some (albeit limited) success. During this time, I’ve also been pursuing college. The official term is “nontraditional student,” but really, that just means I’m old. 28, I know, isn’t ancient, but at a private university, when I’m first into a classroom, I’m often asked for the syllabus.

In May, I graduate. We, my wife and I, are hoping to move back to the West Coast. Currently, we’re in sunny Rochester, New York. You know, sunny as in Sonny. As in, the mob boss from A Bronx Tale. As in dead. It’s 5 degrees outside with a negative windchill of 15. (more…)

I broke my Facebook argument virginity and all I got was this lousy blog post

I have a hate/hate relationship with Facebook. Sure, I didn’t have to rejoin the social media giant three times. But I did. The reality is that Facebook is a necessary evil. For me? It’s a networking tool for freelancing. Also, after moving across the country, it aided me in remembering new faces and new acquaintances.

Facebook, really, isn’t evil. I try not to be an either/or type of person. I believe it’s best to live somewhere in the middle. Between the mean of two extremes, as Aristotle would tweet.

Facebook arguments, however, are evil and dumb and silly and fun to watch.

They have never settled well with me. Mean spirited. All-too-easy. Festering and sprouting at every opportunity, usually ending in a dog pile of earnest, hurt emotions.

As a veteran online-conscious being, I have abjured all temptations to join any form of online argument. Even as a political Independent. The stuff I see on Facebook (racist, ignorant, stereotype perpetuating, heavy bias journalism) makes me want to scream my fingers off. And the way people pounce on one another. Ugh.

Facebook is a daily lesson in self-restraint, certainly.

That is, until I broke my Facebook argument virginity. I caved in. I can’t even find my promise ring.

The Facebook Argument

There are many kinds of online arguments. Let’s break this down. (more…)

Sharing Saturation Through DeLillo’s “White Noise”

Over summer, my wife and I visited the most photographed lighthouse in the world. We didn’t question the claim’s validity. We just went with it. The lighthouse stop was part of our New Hampshire and Maine last minute road trip. It was a good trip. We slept in the car and jumped in the water and ate a lot of seafood. We were in York when we heard about it: “The most photographed lighthouse.” Just up the road, said the internet, a few miles from where you are.

So we jumped in the car and found it. Instinctively, my first thought was, Yes, this looks like a lighthouse. It’s cute, scenic, impressionable. It is all the things lighthouses are and should be.

I didn’t want to take a picture.

Rather, it seemed better to be the guy who visits “Most Photographed” type places, and doesn’t take pictures. The concept would make for a good blog. But as I stood there watching dozens of tourists snapping their film and tapping their screens—a fervent mixture of new and old technology, crunching, shaking, iPhones uploading moments through invisible data, data that I too could claim!—something crept up inside me, like a tremor, and before I knew it, there I was, unceremoniously taking a picture.

So here’s the picture:

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It wasn’t until later, while reading a novel by Don DeLillo, that the lighthouse was *uhem* illuminated once more inside my head. As I’ve come to understand, DeLillo is a cultural critic; his novels address society’s many obsessions and explores what roles these obsessions play in our lives, as well as how they define us. Death, technology, consumerism, media, crowds, for instance, these are common motifs DeLillo highlights with excellent vision and irony.

His novel, White Noise, takes a look at these motifs and addresses them in terms of family life and the suburbs (also there’s an Airborne Toxic Event). Here’s what a book cover may look like: (more…)

Source-ry: Today’s Most Annoying Internet Sensation

The internet is like an annoying friend, an acquaintance we put up with because we’ve known it so long. But given the choice between spending two hours on the internet or doing something fun in the world, the world would win every time. We ditch the internet faster than we do soccer after the World Cup. “Internet who?” I am outside!

The internet, however, is our fall-back, our weapon to kill time, our tool to fluff our segmented lives. It is on the verge of replacing TV as a primary means of entertainment; certainly, many TV viewers are using the internet to watch “TV.”

But with the Internet becoming so common place, so comfortable, there’s no doubt that us users are letting our guards down with fact-checking, sourcing, and the questioning of content.

Sure, Net Neutrality is a big concern for all internet users whether they know it or not. But I’m here to argue that there is (possibly) a greater concern negatively affecting the internet’s saturated user base, i.e., the world, on a longer scale, individually.

Lack-checking

The old saying, “Don’t believe everything you hear,” or as my grandfather would say, “Don’t take any wooden nickles,” is as an important a warning as ever in today’s over-stimulated society. The dark arts of the internet age are upon us; word sorcery, (uhem… source-ry) is everywhere: posters posting garbage, a severe lack of fact-checking, massive amounts of assumptions and gullibility. It has all left the internet much like a chaotic and wild Cable Guy basketball game.

Prison Rules

That is, Prison Rules

Social media, Facebook specifically, has created a culture of instantaneous reaction to stimuli. It’s an immediacy that we are all beginning to crave. Fast-food awareness. The information behind this stimuli is often bogus, creating an aura of bullshit. And it drives me crazy.

On whose fault can we blame this madness? Yours, mine, the readers, the posters, the believers. Those who mean well. Those looking to start a fight. Everybody. Unfortunately, when it comes to information submission, there is just no barrier for entry. (more…)