The Social Media Ecosystem – a.k.a. the Internet – is overpopulated with blogs and tweets that tell you 5 things you should do to succeed at blogging and tweeting. Anyone contemplating a career change to “social media consultant” should check out the millions of social media consultants on Twitter. If Social Darwinists prevail over social networkers (like a grudge match between Neanderthals and “modern” humans), survival of the fittest won’t be pretty.
So there. How many obtuse cultural references can I cram into the lead paragraph? How many do you get? How many do you Google? And should I worry about it, or just blog?
Sasha Frere Jones, the pop music critic for the New Yorker, gets into these questions with OTM’s Brooke Gladstone in an interview called Talking Tween. He concludes that those of us fortunate enough to still have day jobs need to listen to the editor and explain away the obscurities. Off the clock and teetering on other platforms, though, go ahead and jump into the void:
SASHA FRERE JONES: We don’t want to alienate people. On the other hand, let me not coddle the reader. Like, get up. You know, use the Internet. If you don’t know what it is, figure out what it is. Bad writing is one thing, but a couple of references you don’t know, well, maybe that’s how you find out about that thing.
Maybe it’s that you love George Pelicanos or Richard Price. Well, if there’s someone who is just as good as they are and really obscure, well, I’d kind of like to know who that is.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Yeah.
SASHA FRERE JONES: I might want to go to that person. And, or if people don’t know that George Simenon was one of the first people to write the policier, okay. If you really love crime novels, maybe you should go check out this French dude. You might like him. You might not.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So you have this voice for The New Yorker
SASHA FRERE JONES: Right.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: but you also have a couple of other writing voices. You’ve kept a personal blog since 2003.
SASHA FRERE JONES: Mm-hmm [AFFIRMATIVE].
BROOKE GLADSTONE: You’ve started Tweeting. And in those outlets you write in a way that’s very different from your New Yorker style. It’s dense — to me —with obscure references. Here’s a posting from a couple of years ago I think you got a little flak [LAUGHS] from, called It’s Off Tonight.
“Anyone expecting some kind of ‘Lyrical Gangbangs Keep Falling On My Head’ must take a quick sprint around the block, get some frogurt and find a new dream. Mr. Warwick’s new album is dire bougie make out piffle, and all Dr. Mr. Dre does is contribute three drum loops that I swear come off a sample CD.”
SASHA FRERE JONES: Um —
— I wonder what record I was talking about?
Somebody responded to me last night and just said, I don’t get your Tweets. And I thought, that’s an interesting thing to say because, I mean, with something like Twitter or the Web, you know, like a blog, I really do feel like, look, man, [LAUGHS] you don’t have to look at it. And, you know, if it confuses you, stop reading it. Unfollow. Do whatever you want to do. It’s fine. I’m not offended, because I’m interested in what these things do, almost like instruments, which sounds a little bit corny, but
BROOKE GLADSTONE: You mean this new technology.
SASHA FRERE JONES: Yeah. I want to see what they do. The only way I’m able to figure out what they do is by using them. The Web uses links intensely, which you can’t do in print. You’ve got images. Twitter has this built in limit, which affects the voice in an interesting way. Why not take it for a spin?
I’m not going to get anywhere with my writing. It’s not going to help me if I’m duplicating something I’m doing during the day. If I’m not letting the technology take me somewhere, then why am I using it?
Sasha Frere Jones blogs at SFJ. His interview is paired with Talking Retro, an exploration of Baby-Boomer linguistic artifacts with Ralph Kayes, author of I Love It When You Talk Retro. (I think Kayes is a YS neighbor, or usta-b.) His book deserves a post of its own. Until then, here’s the OTM stream:
I admit it, if the crime is talking retro, I’m guilty as charged. That’s this blog’s mission, documenting one flaneur’s spendthrift cultural capital before dementia fritters it away.