The Wanton Waste of the Social Internet

I downloaded TikTok for the same reasons most sad millennials did, thinking that the app would be a nice temporary source of serotonin. That was months ago and after even posting a few videos myself, I’m on TikTok fairly often now. I’m not here to discuss how it’s an app run by the Chinese government that may or may not be spying on me or the ethics (or lack thereof) when it comes to user data but I am here to talk about food waste. 

Yes, I said food waste. 

There’s one TikTok user that regularly “reviews” (I say this very loosely) who regularly goes to Dollar Tree and picks out items that you basically know can’t be good at a dollar store like steak or frozen meals and snacks; really the whole thing is obnoxious but he always claims they’re bad and then sprays them down with silly string. It’s a whole bit and the entire time I’m watching this video and quickly realizing that I am not in the age demographic to find videos like this funny I had a thought: this is incredibly disrespectful and wasteful. I have been dollar store food broke (I’m not here to wax poetic about my troubles) and for many Americans who are facing financial troubles now during the actual damn pandemic outside; for some Dollar Tree steak is a valid way to feed your family. 

However, it wasn’t just an immature Gen Z kid that got me thinking about how much goes to waste for the sake of clout on the social internet. I’ve been watching crush it videos, as well. For those that don’t spend time on strange sections of the internet: crushing videos with a subsection of shredding videos are videos in which items are crushed by a hydraulic press, destroyed in a wood chipper or blender: basically just items are destroyed. Yes, I promise I’m well-adjusted. I’m fine with some items being destroyed, sometimes it’s damn near beautiful to watch items be crushed or shredded but it took me noticing several watermelons enter a wood chipper to remember that those could have gone to a family or something. 

I thought initially that I was just getting old but then I remembered that this has been a thought lingering in the back of my mind for a little while now when it comes to being on social media. I could usually rationalize it because a majority of the food channels I follow are test kitchens or at least the cooking divisions of major media companies. Buzzfeed gives their food to employees since their campus is so large. The Bon Appetit Test Kitchen (which I am not going to talk about in more depth because yes, I am aware of their drama and that is not what I’m here to talk about today) has an entire gaggle of very eager gourmets to eat whatever experiment Brad has fermenting in Fermentation Station. But this restraint and reuse flies in the face of the Internet I grew up on that included a little show called Epic Meal Time. Yes, I was one of those Internet goblins. For those that don’t know of this obscure piece of Internet History: Epic Meal Time included a bunch of Canandian dudebros turned “chefs” and made copious amounts of food using mostly fast food, bacon, cheese, fast food sauces and booze into what can only be described as monstrities of food including a Human Centipede-inspired pig dish, sushi made with candy, giant (truly giant) burgers stuffed with all sorts of fauna: but the show’s scale was always fascinating to me. Watching these dudes order hundreds of burgers or hundreds of fries, clear out a shelf of bacon at the grocery store was entertaining when I was in college and had nothing better to do with my time but as the show went on and I grew older, I just couldn’t help but think of all the better places these resources could go to. Sure, they always had lots of people (mostly “babes”) there to eat the food along with other dudebros but for the amount of money spent on copious amounts of fast food…probably several starving families could be fed. 

Food photography is a science, more like magic, if I had to be honest. Painting on grill marks and using probing cameras to get every single nearly pornographic angle of milk being poured of fruit being sliced. Many of the things done to make food its most tantalizing ruin it for human consumption like puring wood glue over pancakes to mimic syrup or floating cereal on paste to keep it from getting soggy and as commercials also need to be viral and as fast moving as the next Tweet; they all have to be done exceedingly well and quickly thus upping the amount of food that doesn’t go anywhere but the trash all to get the so-called money shot of a burger that looks nothing like it’s advertised. 

I’m far from advocating for a radical redesign of how the social web approaches food waste and overconsumption. I’m not a saint, either. I have been guilty of food waste. I have a picky appetite and like food to be a nearly sensual experience, which means that I am selective and don’t mind paying more for something I really enjoy. Paying more for fancy mustard is not fixing the world’s food waste issue.

I am contributing to the problem; I am aware of that. And if you twisted my arm, I still take in a decent amount of the very content that I just several hundred words complaining about. I still like crush-it videos or watching people make impossible cakes of impossible items. I still like those kinds of videos and it’s absolutely okay if you do, too. No one has an easy fix for this and if they do; well, I have several questions. 

I just found that the older I get and the more aware I am of the world outside of myself, it’s gotten a little harder to stomach some of these egregious crimes against food and wanton destruction of resources. 

Surviving Canceling

You may remember that I posted a little blog post on Masons’ Cavies…but you also may not know that the post didn’t exactly go over well…so let’s talk about canceling, cancel culture and how I’ve been since that happened.

My Shockingly Complex Feelings on Masons’ Cavies

Most Saturday mornings, if I am not woken up by my cactus’ automatic grow lamp, I wake up and slither over to my couch, open up my laptop and watch the Breecast. The Breecast is an hour long live stream featuring Sophie the Magpie and her male (Andy) and it’s the best balm in these trying times. Just a bird and her human answering questions, talking about biscuits and enjoying nature. It’s the best thing my anxious mind needs. But Sophie and her male are not the only British people with cute animals I follow. There’s also the herd of Masons’ Cavies. Masons’ Cavies is helmed by Sophie and Mark Mason and their herd of guinea pigs. At the start, there was around 50 but now the numbers are closer to 70 (but I have not recounted since a recent string of deaths in the herd). I found their page after a viral video featuring Mr. Mason as a waiter dropping off plates of food for the guinea pigs. I was instantly in love because long-time readers will know that when Carlos owned two guinea pigs I loved them more than he did. The group had a ton of guinea pigs that squeaked and had names and the Facebook page around them mostly featured cute videos of guinea pigs eating veggies and overall things just being okay which was exactly what I needed in the landscape of 2019. It was calm, cool and cute. 

Or at least, so I thought. 

One would assume that a Facebook page about guinea pigs would not be a complicated issue but oh the dram around Masons’ Cavies. Sophie Mason will tell you over and over again that her and her husband are not a rescue, yet she and her husband rescue a lot of guinea pigs. With their viral videos, her and her husband will claim to not need financial support from followers while also in every post ask for paid supporters on Facebook and dropping her Amazon wishlist and PayPal. Her and her husband insist that they are over the drama while also passive aggressively mentioning all their haters on live streams and posting entire musical montages about how people “need to calm down”. There’s an odd paradox to the Masons but if it’s just about the guinea pigs then I can swallow the drama. 

I want to really go into the money part because it brings up an issue I have with a lot of things which is having others pay for a hobby. Now, I have a podcast and that podcast has sponsors and I’m happy to have sponsors but that offsets costs and we have never asked for that money. And if we lose those sponsors, the podcast will continue because I’m okay with budgeting for cheese and wine and image assets. And I understand that taking care of 50 or so guinea pigs must be expensive and I understand that there is no issue with accepting money from those that offer but literally no one held the Masons hostage demanding they take these cavies. And if someone did, I would love to meet this person who is throwing guinea pigs at people and demanding they have a soft pet as penance. I do think its admirable that they do continue to rescue guinea pigs but good lord do they ask for money. 

Additionally, the Masons seem to be in the middle of a great deal of drama because of their unwillingness to just say they’re a rescue or to just continue to be some backyard enthusiasts with a great deal of time and energy put into their herd mostly because with their viral status, they do take up a great deal of attention away from actual rescues that aim to give guinea pigs homes or take them from terrible scenarios. 

There have also been concerns about the conditions the guinea pigs are held in. Now, I’m not a vet but the guinea pigs live in a shed that is nicer than my first apartment and if we ignore this recent string of deaths…I don’t ever question their care. 

The Masons are great people and I have no questions about that. The guinea pigs are well taken care of, that I have no question of. I love each guinea pig more than the last but ones that hold my heart are Squeak, Willow, Luna and Albus. I love watching these adorable creatures squeak and popcorn and eat more kale than I have ever seen in my life. It’s relaxing and innocent and it shows me that in theory, everything is going to be okay. It’s a shame that there’s so much drama behind the scenes of something that should be relatively unproblematic. After all, they’re just guinea pigs living in the English countryside. Why is there so much drama? And realistically, it doesn’t have to be like this. Sophie the Magpie has no such issues with her fan base. Anyone that asks about her enclosure are insured that she is happy and healthy. Anyone that asks about why she’s in an enclosure are told that she is an imprinted bird and is happy and that her male would not do live streams with her if he thought that she was unhappy or stressed in any way. Sophie the Magpie’s male goes out of his way to refuse money and overall, it’s just a chill time.

So where does that leave me? I’m just a lover of cute animals and viral videos. What am I supposed to do with all of this drama? Well, I still watch a lot of the Mason’s Cavies videos even though Sophie Mason cannot pronounce Pecan correctly and I’m sad that they seem to be dealing with an odd series of deaths in the herd. But I can’t help but admit that a lot of the drama makes it very hard to stomach. All of the asking for money and the passive aggressive comments towards haters…it just seems like so much. 

When did guinea pigs get so complicated? Why does it have to be this way? Why can’t I just think the best guinea pig is Squeak? And as a marketer and brand personality; I’m very aware of how difficult it can be to be in the public eye and to suddenly feel like everything you do is being viewed and judged. I know how difficult it can be to suddenly be famous (I’m not famous but I manage brands, calm down, I know I’m not famous). I do feel something that I assume resembles bad for the Masons. Sophie Mason recently suffered a horrible injury that she is recovering from and then there’s recent string of guinea pig deaths has been deeply emotional. And to be fair, people have been harsh. Folks, they’re guinea pigs who live in a shed bigger than my first apartment: they’re fine.

The internet is a strange series of tubes and cats that can manage to take something like a herd of guinea pigs in the English countryside and make it an entire Machiavellian drama. 

That was a lot but you all come to this blog for all of the hot goss when it comes to cute animals on the Internet. I don’t want this to be a super negative piece and I certainly don’t wish ill to the Masons. I do think they’re doing their best and their guinea pigs are truly a safe place in a hellish world. But I can’t help but continue to think that this all seems to be a bit much for the sake of a few furry creatures running around in a backyard.

Tending Your Social Media Garden

It is the new year and with that, many people are doing what they can to take a break from social media. Now, with the current times, I understand that social media is a cesspool for many. There are trolls. There are racists. There are homophobes and misogynists. There be devils out there and in this post I have no intention to take away the validity and power of those things. I am fortunate to not be that famous and I get to screech about feminism, the arbitrariness of the gender binary and why female anime characters are intentionally written poorly by bad writers. But I have been trolled. I have faced my fair amount of backlash. I am old, despite how young my face looks. I know what hate is on the Internet. And thus, I do not tolerate it.

Today, I’d like to share with you all how I keep my sanity online.

Now, for those of you who do not know, my day job is as a social media manager. It is literally my job to stay online. And in today’s climate that can be…taxing. I know about every mass shooting, every celebrity death, every terrible thing said by a terrible politician. I am aware of all those things and it’s an emotional drain each and every time. But I do what I can to put that in a little box. Every generation faces hardship and I use that discontent to do something to make the world a better place: I continue to panel, foster productive conversation and I vote, dammit I vote. But back to being online. I keep my online news on a pretty strict diet. Once I’m home, it’s nothing but Live P.D. and cat videos. Whatever breaking news happened will continue to be breaking when I get back into the office.

As far as my own personal social media: I am a strict and intense gardener. Let’s explain that metaphor. When I was younger, I tended to roses (because I am an anime boy and of course I did). Roses are fickle. You have to remove ones that are not as strong as others. Water but only so much. Prune back thorns and branches. Gardening is a lot of work and it’s exactly how I approach social media.

Someone who is toxic and does nothing but complain about a situation they can and should leave? Hide all posts or mute. Someone spouting transphobia or hate speech? Full block or removal. Someone says something cruel to me or one of my friends? Full block!

Social media is your garden: especially when you’re like me and have both a public and “private” persona. I set an expectation and basic level of understanding that if you read my blog, see my panels or follow me on social that such behavior like coarse language, homophobia, transphobia or general ignorance or hatred are simply not tolerated. Like O-ren Ishii I do always try to be respectful during these times where people are not so kind but much like O-ren, I have very little patience for trolls. I spent too many years on the Internet being berated, spoken to in not so kind ways to and other not so wonderful things. I am old now and full of ennui and wisdom: I know my worth and I know the worth of my friends; cruelty towards me or those I care about are simply not tolerated.

Back to gardening. Muting or removing people doesn’t always mean that I do not care for that person. There are plenty of people that I care about but do not have the time, patience or energy to deal with the nonsense that seems to surround them. It is entirely like a garden, prune and keep the roses that are show-stoppers and trim back the ones that are losing their luster.

But wait, you may insist: what do I do if I’m already being trolled? Well, I’m glad you asked. I do my best to be civil when civility is allowed. Most trolls are incredibly thrown off by simply engaging with them. They aren’t expecting a response, yet alone one that isn’t filled with fire and fury. I simply try to kill them with kindness. And if kindness doesn’t work, communication is a two-way street: it’s just as easy to block them as it is to continue to engage with them. I tend to think there’s two kinds of trolls, the defensive kind and the reprehensible kind. The defensive ones just have opinions and they’re ready to fight you if you so much as look at a beloved property the wrong way (something that puts me, your beloved Prince of Unpopular Opinions, at times at odds with this type of Internet warrior) they have fifteen comments already queued up as to why you’re wrong and usually will throw in an insult or two just to add “strength” to their point. This kind of troll can be reasoned with sometimes if you engage kindly and simply explain your position: even if you can’t convert them, sometimes, they’ll see your side of things. The reprehensible one is another sort of beast entirely. This type of creature wants to get under your skin, wants to say something nasty, wants to get a reaction; they are waiting for that reaction.

Don’t give it to them. For the love of all things good, do not give them that attention. That’s exactly what they want and I know how easy it is to say that. I know how easy it is to say that from the comfort of my apartment and relative obscurity. For those more in the public eye or more under scrutiny, know that I feel for you.  It’s hard to ignore those comments but it’s vital to do so. And every time you want to respond to a hateful person, know that you cannot change their mind.

Now, some will say this sounds a lot like Tina Fey and her cake analogy that many people hated her for after the horrendous Charlottesville protest and subsequent violence. Her SNL skit centered around eating a cake and screaming into it whenever something terrible happened in America. Many compared her to Marie Antoinette and her famous “let them eat brioche” line and while I am empathetic to those who think the comment was out of touch: I don’t disagree with the sentiment, just the delivery. There are plenty of instances in real life that many people have no luxury to quietly and in a dignified way endure hatred; there are lives at stake. But as far as online trolls go, it’s hard to get any proper context online: it’s simply not worth it sometimes. But when it comes to real life, well, that’s another post perhaps.

In this new year, I hope that all of you find more comfort in social media. The social internet was not invented to isolate us into tribes but it has. I want things to get better. I’m sure things will get better. I hope these tips are helpful.

AichiYume’s Facebook Page!

I finally did it. I finally made a Facebook page! This page will act as a central hub for panel videos, costume progress, costume work and more!

It’d mean the world to me if you gave it a “Like”.

https://www.facebook.com/AichiYumeProductions/

The Death of the Creator

“Literature is that neuter, that composite, that oblique into which every subject escapes, the trap where all identity is lost, beginning with the very identity of the body that writes.” ― Roland Barthes, The Death o.png

I have the benefit of following several artists on Tumblr and Twitter and while social media is an excellent way for artists and creators to connect with their audiences: is the direct contact really helpful for all of us?

I’ve touched on this topic before but it hasn’t left my mind. Because of the illusions of closeness that social media can provide, many creators that I support and follow tend to be very candid on their social feeds. Many have expressed suicidal ideation, hateful messages, unfiltered rants and have flat out attacked their readers.

Let’s take a step back.

This is by no means something that just afflicts webcomic creators: I’ll take umbrage with an author whose work I love but who I can no longer stand: Jo Rowling. I love Harry Potter but Rowling’s overinvolvement with the fan community utterly exhausts me. While she could be spending her time recasting Johnny Depp or writing the damn Marauders movie I’ve been asking for. But she’s much more content to comment on fan theories, correct pronunciations on spells and micromanage what fans have been doing with her work for the last decade. Not to say she’s done a lot of good. She’s very supportive of cosplayers of color and queer fans but her input is not needed in the Wizarding World until she pens another great novel.

Here where I will pause for those in the back hooting about author’s intent.

Let’s pick up there. I’m in the camp that would rather separate the author from the work. While it is nice to get trivia and information from a still-living author, often times it ruins interpretations individuals make. Rowling doubling down on Harry and Ginny while also reminding us how miserable the Weasley marriage is doesn’t do anything for the fans who have been saying that Harry ended up with the wrong girl. Think of the creator of Neon Genesis Evangelion who will swear up and down that he designed all of the things that make his series great because they simply “looked cool”. I’d love to know how he thinks because I rarely think of the Kabbalah or the different types of angels when working on a hip, fun fighting robots show.

The Death of the Author is not a new phenomena and is a helpful way to study the work and think of some of the influences but allows greater freedom to discuss any body of work. This is helpful from Kubrick films (considering that he was a bit of a monster) to fantasy novels. Now, there are times where you cannot separate the artist from the art. It is nearly impossible to remove Orson Scott Card from Ender’s Game and that did affect their box office numbers when the beloved movie became a feature length film. It’s almost impossible to remove Tolkien from Lord of the Rings for better or worse. It is almost impossible to remove Johnny Depp from his current controversy.  

And sometimes keeping the corpus and the creator together is okay. It’s nice to hear Stephen King rant about how much he hates The Shining and how many times he and Kubrick argued over the film.

Let’s get back to the crux of my concerns: webcomic artists specifically have really taken off in this new era of social media and self-publishing. Most of the time, this is great. I love being able to connect and share my enthusiasm for something that I love with the person who made it. Some of my best convention memories have come from meeting comic artists that I love. I love having my ships confirmed, my theories heard and even being acknowledged for literally wanting to cosplay most of the comics that I read. (Saint for Rent and Devil’s Candy are high on that list, all else will have to wait.)

And others have taken their platforms to correct simple errors in gendering characters or assuming where pairings go. Not to say that fans are innocent in this. Some are downright rude, nasty and condescending. The artist always knows best and challenging a creator is almost never the way to go. But that doesn’t mean that well-intending folks are to be barked now. Well-intending is a subjective term and it is up to each individual, it isn’t always the best PR move to fuss at people. It’s one of the biggest reasons I’m so selective with where I post and where I am active. I can be defensive just like the best of us so I’m careful with where I post and where I am opinionated. You’ve heard me mention before my issues with Sister Claire and how they’ve been handling criticism since the plot has seemed to fly away with all of my hopes and dreams.

How much an artist owes their audience is perpetually up to the person. Some have patrons whose word is law. Others value input from all and even more see art as a purely selfish endeavor and post and do as they wish. I’m in favor of the middle path, as always, patrons and those who pay are important but one need never forget the countless folks who support them silently just through being there.

This extends to when artists have…let’s be kind and call them ‘meltdowns’ online. Many have expressed thoughts of self-harm, candid conversations about addiction and personal confessions about mental illness. And while I appreciate the frank nature of such discussions, it’s almost frustrating and almost always heartbreaking to watch. I like I’m sure so many readers do, feel connected to these creators. As I hope you, dear reader, are connected to me in some way. It leads to questions about what readers owe creators and what responsibility audiences have to performers. Should I encourage an artist when they say they feel worthless? Do I correct someone else in the comments when they misgender a character? Do I defend a troublesome old tweet? What does an fan owe a creator? And does a creator owe their fans anything?

Those aren’t rhetorical questions: let’s bring this conversation down into the comments.

Some News!

Some News.jpg

Hello, all.

How’s your day going? I hope it’s been well! You may have noticed some changes around the site! I am now more social than ever.

After much protesting, I finally made a proper Youtube channel that’s full of panel videos and even a cosplay tutorial!

I also made a Tumblr account for generalized short musings.

And on top of all of that, I have an Instagram now for the ever so elusive photo of the real Amanda.

Thank you all for stopping by and to those who have stayed with me for so long.

Please check out all the places you can find me and as always, stay fantastic!

-A

 

Your Narcissism Is Showing

 

“For the most part people are not curious except about themselves.” ― John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent.pngI am a creature of the Internet. I’m a social media manager by day and by night I am a community manager, podcaster, moderator, social influencer, blogger and content creator. Like a Social Media Sailor Moon I am fighting evil by moonlight and by evil I mean spam comments and Nigerian prince scams and winning love by daylight and by love I mean the likes, comments, clicks and retweets of my fans/followers. It’s a delicate balancing act of managing this for my clients and then for myself. But I wanted to talk about when your personality and your content is quantified and how that feels.

Before we dive in too deeply I wanted to discuss a word I’ll likely be using a lot in this post: narcissism. The word itself stems from a Greek myth about a man named Narcissus who was so enamored with his reflection that he literally drowned in a reflecting pool after gazing at his reflection in the still water and some strange nymph creature said “Wow, this is totes sad. I should like make this dead dude a flower instead of like bringing him back to life or anything.”. The psychological use of the word describes a series of personality traits that then can lead to a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. NPD is characterized by an inflated sense of self-worth, egoism and immense self-preservation even in a negative light. The Narcissist does not care for others, only for the self. The Narcissist only sees people as a means to an end and that means is for adulation, praise and attention. When I use the word narcissism, I mean less the disorder and more the trait. It features all the same egotistical behavior as the condition but not in a pathological way. A person who is narcissistic may be annoying but they probably can’t hurt you. On the other hand someone with NPD may be more troubling and difficult to deal with.

I like most young people display a fair amount of narcissistic tendencies. A coworker casually commented on my despondency over a low number of Facebook friends and she asked rather coldly “What is the point?” to which I audibly gasped. The point? For heaven’s sake, I am a social media manager. What am I without a sizable following? And the pressure to maintain numbers is quite daunting. I was elated to reach over 2000 followers on Twitter and the fact that this humble blog here is quickly approaching 2000 views makes me happy while also puts a fair amount of stress on me. I am worried about the content I produce, I am worried about schedules and graphics and everything. I want people to see what I do since I am going through the trouble of posting it. I am not aiming to shout into the ether.

But what really got me thinking about self-worth and numbers was the release of analytics for personal accounts. Most social media platforms only allow and collect data for businesses: I’m a social media manager so I use this data for a wide variety of functions at work. I’ve never had to worry about my own analytics. Twitter was first and I did more and more to increase that number of followers, even setting goals to reach at least 1000 people per day. I beat myself up emotionally when those numbers fell and that determination led me to where I am on Twitter. Facebook then allowed a similar metric rating of your own personhood. Facebook suddenly let you see how many people were commenting, how many reactions you got and how far your content spread whether it was a brunch photo or a touching in memoriam to a lost loved one. I blog here on WordPress and I am very aware of how many people see what I post. I am due to the hardline nature of my social media role concerned with numbers but also as an image-conscious person I am enticed and drawn to pulling in bigger numbers. I have had some narcissistic personality traits for decades: I am an only child, after all. But this drive to succeed and to be seen is a hollow one.

There’s a funny trick about narcissism. A true Narcissus doesn’t actually like themselves very much. It’s all a show, it’s all a carefully planned out act. Think of the Insta-famous models and influencers. No one does this because they enjoy it. They do it because they feel like that have to. It’s exhausting to whittle down your self-worth to a series of numbers. It’s tiresome to be awoken by every alert and notification. It’s not fun to see your entire point as a person reduced down to how many clicks you get on a post.

So instead of just calling your social media concerned friend a raging Narcissus, consider the society we live in that values a woman more for her likes than her opinions. Consider that this is our making. And consider that maybe just throwing around a buzzword as a psuedo-insult doesn’t make anyone feel better: it just makes us all look a bit reductive.