When logging into Twitter, turning on the TV, or snapping open a newspaper can practically cause a full-blown mental breakdown, we gotta cling to what keeps us un-crazy. Back in November, after The Incident, Dan Piepenbring wrote in the Paris Review imploring “Writers [to] Start Writing,” and I think about it like every day:
The creative impulse is such a fragile thing, but we have to create now. We owe it to ourselves to do the work. I want to encourage you. If you aspire to write, put aside all the niceties and sureties about what art should be and write something that makes the scales fall from our eyes. Forget the tired axioms about showing and telling, about sense of place—any possible obstruction—and write to destroy complacency, to rattle people, to help people, first and foremost yourself. Lodge your ideas like glass shards in the minds of everyone who would have you believe there’s no hope. And read, as often and as violently as you can. If you have friends, as I do, who tacitly believe that it’s too much of a chore to read a book, just one fucking book, from start to finish, smash every LCD they own. This is an opportunity. There’s too much at stake now to pretend that everything is okay.
Lodge your ideas like glass shards in the minds of everyone who would have you believe there’s no hope. That’s some good stuff!
So, in keeping with this idea of art destroying complacency and rattling people and making scales fall from eyes, I’d like to share the ideas that lodged in my mind like glass shards, and I’d like to do this often.
Being cool on the internet is like attempting a sweet-ass Pinterest recipe:
Mix one cup retweeted memes and one-third cup effortless selfies. Add one tablespoon of self-deprecation for every teaspoon of self-promotion; stir counterclockwise for three minutes. Melt one stick of mutual followers and fold it in. Bake at 375 degrees for seventeen minutes; remove when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean of Harambe references. Drizzle topical political jokes on top and garnish with petty subtweets.
Oh, wait, you did the tablespoon-to-teaspoon math wrong? Now your sweet-ass Pinterest cake has fallen in the middle and you’ve lost 50 Instagram followers.
With such precision often yielding such a fruitless outcome, it’s no wonder millennials are depressed. Never mind that, though—here’s a brief but definitive guide to being cool on the internet.
Photos in sunglasses that flatter your face shape = cool.
Listening to Chance the Rapper on Spotify = cool.
Posting half-nudes with your art-hoe tattoos on your finsta = cool.
Joking about your insecurities using the current hottest meme = cool.
Calling Hillary Clinton/Kellyanne Conway/other women in politics ugly c*nts = SO NOT COOL.
Freaked out about the distinct possibility of World War III? Just Photoshop tiny Trumps until the threat of nuclear war no longer looms above your head.
Worried that the polar ice caps will keep melting and sea levels will keep rising and coral reefs will keep dying and global temperatures will keep breaking all-time records? Read The Onion articles with the air conditioning on until you can practically feel the earth cooling.
This is how I often deal with news-consumption exhaustion and a resulting feeling of powerlessness: replying to a sexist post with some witty retort, mocking male senators who call pregnant women “hosts” or sheriffs who discredit rape victims, installing a browser extension that displays Trump’s tweets in a childish scrawl. Sarcasm and satire keep me from holing up in bed in the fetal position, party pizza and a bag of chocolate chips alongside.
But some things require seriousness and, even scarier, vulnerability. I wanted to discuss something we see in the news often, and I meant to do it with humor—I wanted to present lowest moments as zany misadventures, talk about stigma in all-caps OUTRAGE. But as you’ll read, it didn’t quite work out that way.
In the past, the same kind of person composed the entirety of America’s government. But as America’s population grows increasingly diverse, and as citizens realize the effects of electing minorities and underrepresented groups to office, the need for a legislative body to reflect the diversity of the people it governs has become more widely recognized. “The more diverse a group of decision makers is, the more informed the decision will be,” California senator Kamala Harris recently tweeted. Unfortunately, progress is discouragingly slow, and Congress is composed of more or less the same type of person it was a century ago.
In times of representation stagnation, it’s easy to become disheartened. So when you get bummed out about your governing body’s lack of diversity, it can help to remember the many historic steps forward. Just take a look at these Senate game-changers, all of whom are bringing a fresh perspective to Congress, the majority of which looks totally different than them.
Listen up, you pussy-hatted crybabies. Despite all your yapping and yawing about a president with “qualifications” and “government experience” and “a semblance of tact and human dignity,” Mr. Donald J. Trump is the leader of the land of the free, and no amount of #NotMyPresident tweets can change that. It’s time to set aside your whiny little Medium thinkpieces and cross-stitched pillows and unite with the silent majority of this country in its quest to restore our great nation to its mid-twentieth-century glory. C’mon, give Trump a chance.
There’s this kind of shitty thing we all do that we occasionally feel an obligatory but ultimately negligible guilt about but continue doing as if there are no consequences of our kind of shitty actions. It goes like this: my phone pings with the bright light of a Gmail notification. “There’s a new petition taking off on Change.org, and we think you might be interested in signing it,” reads the message, a sweet-looking white family smiling up from below the subject line. I skim their earnest plea; my heart brims with sympathy at their plight; out of my own overwhelming generosity, I tack my name at the end of a thousand others, therefore changing the world with a few mere clicks and keyboard strokes.
Or maybe I read about a troubling development in a distant country—a terrorist attack, perhaps, or a kidnapping. There’s a hashtag trending, and I tweet, very passionately, employing the hashtag, attaching a heart-wrenching photo, imploring all 567 of my followers to take two seconds out of their day and perform the same laborious task and #prayfor [fill in the blank]. And I feel, for a moment, a sense of pride and of fulfilled duty. Hey, I made a difference today.
This is slacktivism:”[t]he act of participating in obviously pointless activities as an expedient alternative to actually expending effort to fix a problem,” as phrased by Urban Dictionary user 1Spectre4U. Slacktivism operates upon two inherent human qualities: a quest for the evasive warm fuzzy feeling of performing a good deed and a desire to do nothing at all. Combine the two, and you get a virtual circle jerk of self-approval and ineffective faux-advocacy.