By Hans Ebert
Here’s the problem: I really don’t have time for nor do I like many people these days. Blame social media for this. Like what happens when suffering from too much of anything, everyday we’re inundated with information overload. Of course, it’s a personal call whether to stay or to go, but even if there- wherever “there” is, for business reasons and part of one’s job responsibilities, there comes the time when one is drawn into incessant chatter from faceless entities who see themselves as self-styled experts on anything and everything until that little voice in your head asks, “Who ARE these people and what’s their curriculum vitae on, let’s say music?” Where are they getting their information from, and why should I engage in inane banter when you’re coming from a business point of view and they’re music fans- and nothing wrong with this- but who don’t even understand the dysfunctional relationship between the recording side of a music company and its publishing division?
There’s some oneupmanship that develops and which spills over onto the real world. And lest we forget, all these delivery platforms are based on a database-driven business model which we keep alive- for FREE- by providing content and through “liking” and “favouriting” and retweeting. Things are piling up and one has to wonder what technology has reeked on us and whether it’s made us better people or unwitting slaves to an anonymous system that operates like some nefarious sect.
Don’t get me wrong. Having finally been able to free myself from Facebook, where you can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave, I have met, in person, a number of very nice people through Twitter, and have got to know others who actually have a sense of humour and can contribute intelligently to a conversation even though this is happening in that parallel universe that is the online world. But the more real people one meets in the real world, there’s this very strong sense these days that all this is quickly unravelling. This need to gather followers, this need to be accepted by false idols, and to see this online world as something akin to Bill’s Big Book for recovering alcoholics.
The fakers are being exposed, and that much-needed exclusivity and sense of personal pride is being resurrected. And thank gawd for that. No matter where you are, you’re judged by the company you keep. So get rid of the deadwood. They weigh you down. It’s like online dating. Jumping into the deep unknown of that often desperate world can be fraught with danger, and where one could end up with a creepy runaway train from “Criminal Minds”.
Frankly, all this “social media”, and the time many spend living their separate second lives online is probably why we find ourselves in a dumbed down world when clawing back into the real world with a Silent Scream.
A friend, for example, was telling me the other day that he’s dating a twentysomething girl from Ukraine he met on an online dating site. He showed me a few photos. Nice. Very nice. The problem: He’s in Paris, she’s in Kiev, and she’s, apparently, “waiting” for him. But as he’s jobless, he can’t get to Kiev nor can he afford to fly her over to Paris. He’s 47, but has told her he’s in his mid-Thirties and is in the commodities market. They’ve spoken on the phone three times, have never met, but, to him, they’re “dating”. He’s being loyal to her and she’s being loyal to him. For two years. I listened to him tell me about this “relationship” with what must have been a vacant look on my face. How can someone over forty and been married before be so fucking dumb? Then again, we’ve all been taken for a ride at one time or another.
Of course, there are different levels of dumbness, especially when swearing not to “engage” in a medium like Twitter except for business reasons. But like the alcoholic who slips, there’s always that urge to respond to banality. And after this slip, climbing those twelve steps to start all over again while beating yourself up for the other you living online sucking you in again, can become very tiresome and draining, mentally. Those twelve steps can get rickety.
Remember when you didn’t even have an iPhone and thought Twitter meant knowing what celebrities were up to and watched the girlfriend waste her time playing goofy games on it while saying creepy things like, “I love love love my iPhone”- and kissing it? If only she spent that much time trying to actually find a job…
Looking back, that should have been all the reason needed to turf her out despite the great sex. But life is often one long addiction. Kick one thing, and there’s something new, especially in this technology-driven world, to creep up and hook you. Much of it to has to do with the company you keep- and loneliness. Perhaps we’ve been so badly burned by being too trusting, the online world provides shelter from the storm?
Even in music, these worlds are colliding. Whereas before, musicians might have talked about a Fender Stratocaster versus a Gibson, or for real bragging rights, a 12-string Vox Teardrop that Brian Jones, below, once played, it’s now all about the latest digital gadgets that make GarageBand and Pro-Tools almost sound as archaic as MySpace. All this is made more important than it is when running through the jungle that is the online world- a world with no leaders and which no one questions. What you read is what get.
The really depressing thing is that through such a different way of embracing music, how little many of today’s musicians actually know about the art form- chords, phrasing, writing a song, talking about creating in short-hand, good lyrics versus throwaway lines etc. It’s like dealing with Dumb and Dumber. It’s now all about views and YouTube success. Yes, but what about the quality of the product? The heart and soul of music?
Despite all this technology made available and constantly being updated, apart from a few exceptions, mainly from the UK, the actual songs are null and void of much cleverness, or that certain something that draws you in. It’s all based on beats, hype, sponsorship big bucks, and repetition.
Thank gawd for artists like Hozier and James Bay and Jess Glynne. Their music is all about understanding and respecting the history of music and making it relevant to this generation. Sadly, Lukas Graham is already wearing thin whereas the flatulence of Adele, the consumer product that is Rihanna, the so-called love life of Taylor Swift, the Lemonade of Beyoncé, the publicity stunts of Yeezy, black music versus white music, the obligatory rap dropped into many songs. and the now monotonous sounding new songs from Sia, leave me stone cold. There, I’ve said it.
Anything out there today have the holistic creativity of “Cry” by Godley and Creme? Doubt it. And when was that released? 1985.
From following what were once called “Mini Series”- “Roots”, “Rich Man, Poor Man” etc, sure, there’s been and still is the excellent “Mad Men”, “The Americans”, “Game Of Thrones”, and “House Of Cards”, but there’s also “reality television series” like, forgetting the Kardashians and Caitlyn, “The Bachelor”, “The Bachelorette” and all those Desperate Housewives from all over America that glorify random sex, getting drunk and all things materialistic. It’s saying, This is okay. It’s okay to appear on television in front of millions and be a tart or the male equivalent of a bimbo- and all of this finding another outlet online.
Where and how did all this fakery happen and why is it so readily accepted? Is all this a particular and peculiar American preoccupation, or did “Big Brother” in the UK start this addiction for voyeurism? Addiction. We use this word very freely about a number of taboos, but, surely, we’re all far more addicted than ever to so many other things today where sobriety is much needed?
Hell, I never thought it would happen, but I’m addicted to my iPhone as much as I’m addicted to my credit card. There’s something new to remember not to leave home without these days. What was life like when going out with just some dollars in your pocket and the door keys? Whatever it was like, you survived, you had fun, and were probably more creative and productive than what you are today.
Today, somehow, somewhere, the tail is wagging the dog and we’ve become Lennon’s Nowhere Man, who has become this blinkered community of lemmings.
All this talk of freedom of speech and freedom of expression is, too often, just that. Talk. Rhubarb rhubarb with an emoji. There’s little or no structure to anything nor a willingness to learn. To absorb. To not settle for Okay is good enough. To not be a one dimensional dweeb online.
There are friends who are always busy, but, frankly, as Dylan sang, they’re just busy dying. For all the running around, for all this being too busy to even make a phone call, all I see are people with no sense of time management and a warped sense of self-importance. Busy doesn’t mean better. And they wonder why their lives are miserable and that life is passing them by. These are the people who slow you down. These are the great pretenders, and procrastinators. They’re latter day Kunta Kintes, Chicken Little, shackled to a present with no future.
Again, as George Harrison sang, Beware Of Darkness, and remember that the company you keep can either inspire you or drag you down. The question is knowing who’s who and when to get back to the garden so we can grow again and produce tangibles instead of a daily dose of pocketful of mumbles that are sometimes promises.
Let’s stop the bullshit. It’s gone on for way too long and the fakery and vagaries of the online world has crossed to the real world and made everything a blur, a void, a stick, a stone, it’s the end of the road…unless you know where you want that detour, or fork in the road to take you.