Dave Eggers, Walter Mitty and The Challenge of Social Media Life

My wife gave me Dave Eggers’ new book “The Circle” for Christmas. You haven’t read it yet? Well go ahead–I’ll wait…

I know, right?  For a rather long book that’s dense with ideas, you do plow through it quickly (good job!). Eggers’ narrative revolves around the omnivorous, insatiability of social media and its intersection with and ultimate monopolization of modern corporate life. There were at least half a dozen moments that hit home like a punch to the stomach.

The constant checking of your various feeds? Check.

The need to declare every passing interest as a passion to enhance your perceived humanity? Check.

And then there was this passage, spoken by a lone Luddite holdout against this new insurgence:

“Listen, twenty years ago, it wasn’t so cool to have a calculator watch, right? And spending all day inside playing with your calculator watch sent a clear message that you weren’t doing so well socially. And judgments like “like’ and ‘dislike’ and ‘smiles’ and ‘frowns’ were limited to junior high. Someone would write a note and it would say, ‘Do you like unicorns and stickers?’ and you’d say ‘Yeah, I like unicorns and stickers! Smile!’ That kind of thing. But now, it’s not just junior high kids who do it, it’s everyone, and it seems to me sometimes I’ve entered some inverted zone, some mirror world where the dorkiest shit in the world is completely dominant. The world has dorkified itself.”

The character makes a good point, particularly when he goes on to talk about our ‘new neediness.’ The author makes quite a lot of good points, actually. And those were already bubbling in my consciousness when we went to see Ben Stiller’s thoroughly enjoyable The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  At a key point, Sean Penn’s photographer hero stakes out a highly-elusive snow leopard but ultimately decides not to press his shutter because he doesn’t want the camera coming between him and the moment. Not too subtle, but oh so true…

So this then, has become my resolution for 2014: to share digitally but live relentlessly analog. Not merely through re-tweets and shares, but rather through the visceral thrill of the first hand, with all its inherent mess and excitement, its disappointment and transcendence, all the immediate, the fleeting, the here and now.

That sounds like life worth tweeting.

BY DENNIS RYAN, CCO, OLSON

2 thoughts on “Dave Eggers, Walter Mitty and The Challenge of Social Media Life

  1. While I have wholeheartedly adopted the social media lifestyle, I have also wholeheartedly rejected smiley face sign off’s. Too much emotion. Yuck.

  2. Seems like I’ve almost exclusively used social to document my love for analog through my overly generous sharing of records of the 12 inch vinyl variety both through my music blog, Instagram and Facebook. Lately I’ve changed gears almost literally by documenting a reel-to-reel deck I scored at Salvation Army (a new found musical salvation?) for $8.00. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very dorky for doing this. My three followers included. But the four of us sure love this old mechanical musical world! Your essay today is a nice reminder to remember to live by living and not live by documenting. God bless your socks for this!

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