SHOULD I TRY TO FIND TRUE LOVE ON TINDER?
If you were asking me a year ago, I would have said, “Sure, loser.” But it is 2014, and Tinder is now a platform for people to make jokes, take screenshots of their jokes, and then hope their Tinder joke screenshots get picked up by BuzzFeed.
Do you think you could ever truly love someone who does that? Exactly.
Does Someone Have to Die Before Gamer Gate Ends?
Brianna Wu is a developer and writer who’s penned pieces on the gender imbalance in modern video games and the harassment women in the industry continue to deal with as part of their daily business. She heads up the small studio Giant Spacekat, makers of Revolution 60, a mobile game hailed as “a most triumphant and excellent adventure” by RPGfan.com and denounced as “a bland, uninteresting, feminism circle-jerk” by Metacritic user Realgamer101. I’m guessing that’s not his real name, but there’s no guesswork required to figure out the poster’s gender.
On October 11, Wu tweeted the above screenshot—a series of threatening messages she’d received from a Twitter account that’s since been suspended.
Before we go any further, it’s important to ask whether or not you want to read anything more on GamerGate. Since you’re on this page, chances are you’re aware of the sides in this bizarre online kerfuffle, as well as the problem with giving GamerGate any further coverage: These words may be further fuel for a fire that needs to die down before anyone can properly discuss the more pertinent points raised by a still-evolving debate.
If that means nothing to you, here’s a summary: A (formerly) low-profile indie developer named Zoe Quinn created and released a game called Depression Quest. Some people argued that it wasn’t a game at all—but that’s not the controversy. An ex of Quinn’s published information in August of 2014 implying that she had slept around to secure positive review coverage forDepression Quest. There’s no evidence connecting any alleged promiscuity—which, in any case, is nobody’s business apart from those doing the screwing, anyway—with the reception Depression Quest received, but the conversation quickly turned to ethics: As in, some game journalists were seen to be favorable toward certain projects that they were incredibly tenuously linked to. That connection could be chipping into a Kickstarter pot, or having long ago worked on a collaborative venture together. You get the idea: Person A once spoke to Person B, and for that reason Person A’s recommendation of Person B’s new Game C is clearly completely corrupt.
I Accidentally Fooled Conservative Twitter with a Fake Lena Dunham Quote
The internet is always stupider than you think. When you’re telling a joke to an audience of anonymous online strangers, as long as the setup is believable no amount of absurdism in the punchline will give the game away.
Here’s an example: The week before Breaking Bad ended, I tweeted, “My uncle is a teamster and got a copy of the ending.” And I attached a fake script page that clearly demonstrated I had never seen the show. I referred to the main character as “Bryan Cranston from Malcolm in the Middle,” gave him lines like “Here goes nothing! Suicide!” and wrote in the AMC copyright information with a Sharpie. But people still got furious and demanded I immediately take it down. One guy said my uncle wouldn’t find work again. Another told me, “Teamsters are pieces of shit.”
So every once in a while I try to test the limits of that joke format. And on Friday, I struck the mother lode: I took a quote from economist/sociologist Thorstein Veblen’s seminal 1899 workThe Theory of the Leisure Class and attributed it to Lena Dunham’s new book of essays, Not That Kind of Girl. I know almost nothing about Veblen; I just thought it was a funny way to say I don’t like rich people.
Obviously, Lena Dunham, who has chapters like “Take My Virginity (No, Really, Take It),” is not writing anything in the same universe as the Veblen quote, which critiques the cultural fallout of the Gilded Age while using words like “impinge” and “forfeiture” and “exigencies.” The joke made ten or so of my political science major friends smirk, which is all I thought it would do.
About That Fleshlight 9/11 Tweet
Today, on the thirteenth anniversary of the time two planes flew into the World Trade Center and set in motion a series of events that have led to uncountable cases of torture, death, and oppression, we are talking about brands. Specifically, we are talking about brands that have decided to commemorate 9/11 through social media. Even more specifically, we are talking about a single tweet from Fleshlight, a company that makes fake vaginas for men to ejaculate into for pleasure:
The Fleshlight tweet has been circulated far and wide on websites because putting “Fleshlight” and “9/11” in a headline is Facebook traffic GOLD, baby, and also because it is pretty funny and gross and awful that companies are taking a few seconds to metaphorically bow their metaphorical heads and go: See guys, we feel sad about the sad thing too. Here is a picture of a flag!
We do this every year. September 11 rolls around and people feel the need to acknowledge it, because it remains this shadow looming over everything. There are the streets named after 9/11 victims and the fading memorials painted on walls; there are the stories about young children who lost parents in the attacks; there’s also the matter of US foreign policy, which is still centered around getting the bad guys responsible in the Middle East. The event seems monumental and impossible to understand—this infuriating injustice that has spawned lots of other injustices. Just thinking about it for too long makes you feel angry and sick. It sucks all the irony out of the room, and you get a twinge of guilt or transgression when you joke about it.
RT to Kill: It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Tweets a Death Threat
On the night of March 11, a Twitter user with the handle @StillDMC stood at a window in downtown Los Angeles and took a photo of his rifle, the barrel aimed at what appeared to be a couple of pedestrians standing on a street corner in the distance. At 12:09 AM, he tweeted.
“100 RT’s and I’ll shoot someone walking,” he wrote alongside the picture, which quickly racked up well over 100 retweets. An hour later, he followed up: “Man down. Mission Completed.”
This time the image showed a young man lying on the ground, clutching his torso—along with what looked, in the pixelated dark, like a chest wound.
The next day, LAPD detectives arrested 20-year-old Dakkari McAnuff. The police report states that investigating officers had “discovered multiple pictures displaying an unknown type of rifle pointing in the direction of various Los Angles city streets [sic],” determined McAnuff was @StillDMC, and confirmed his location. At midday, police officers arrived at 22-year-old Zain Abbasi’s high-rise condo building, where McAnuff was a guest.
According to Abbasi’s account of the arrest, the building’s property manager summoned him to his office, where detectives placed him and another friend in handcuffs. Helicopters circled the building, snipers took aim from a complex across the street, and multiple police cars blocked the parking lot.
The detectives told Abbasi to call McAnuff and to instruct him to come down to join them. As soon as he left the condo, McAnuff was apprehended by ten LAPD officers who were lying in wait, their guns drawn. The officers searched Abbasi’s apartment and found the weapon pictured in the tweet: an unloaded air rifle.
The entire group was handcuffed and taken into custody. McAnuff was “jailed on suspicion of making criminal threats,” and his bail was set at $50,000.
It was all supposed to be a joke, of course.
Dumping a Bucket of Ice on Your Head Does Not Make You a Philanthropist
Unless you lack access to the internet, you’ve certainly seen the viral onslaught of Ice Bucket Challenge videos in the past few weeks. The idea is to dump a bucket of ice water over your head and “nominate” others to do the same, as a way of promoting awareness about ALS (a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease). If you don’t accept the challenge, you have to donate $100 to an ALS association of your choice. It’s like a game of Would-You-Rather involving the entire internet where, appallingly, most Americans would rather dump ice water on their head than donate to charity.
There are a lot of things wrong with the Ice Bucket Challenge, but most the annoying is that it’s basically narcissism masked as altruism. By the time the summer heat cools off and ice water no longer feels refreshing, people will have completely forgotten about ALS. It’s trendy to pretend that we care, but eventually, those trends fade away.
This is the crux of millennial “hashtag activism,” where instead of actually doing something, you can just pretend like you’re doing something by posting things all over your Facebook. Like the Ice Bucket Challenge, good causes end up being a collective of social media naval gazing. We reflected on our favorite social-movements-gone-viral and found out what happened to them after the fell off our Twitter feeds. Because, yes, social problems continue even after you stop hashtagging them.
Before hashtags even existed, there were still ways to obnoxiously flaunt a social cause that you had no real connection to. Remember Livestrong bracelets? Those rubbery yellow bracelets were the brainchild of Lance Armstrong, who sold them through the Livestrong Foundation to raise money and spread awareness about cancer. Everyone from Lindsay Lohan to Johny Kerry sported one on their wrist; wearing them signified that you were both sensitive and stylish.
At least the dollar you spent on the stupid-but-trendy bracelet went toward funding cancer research via the Livestrong Foundation. Or at least, so you thought. In actuality, the Livestrong Foundation started phasing out its cancer research in 2005, and stopped accepting research proposals altogether just a few years later. Over 80 million of the bracelets have been sold. Where the hell did all of that money go?
The world was more than a little shook-up when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked Haiti, burying at least 200,000 people and destroying much of the country’s infrastructure. #Haiti became thesecond-largest trending topic on Twitter that week, and was the subject of at least 15 percent of tweeted links in the week afterward. Remarkably, many of those links directed people to donation sites. Even the Red Cross mobilized on Twitter, encouraging people to send donations and spread the word about #HaitiRelief.
Social media may have actually done Haiti a solid, helping to raise $8 million in relief funds. But, like all things on the internet, they lose their luster and their urgency, and we forget about them. It’s been four years since the Haiti earthquake and although those initial donations made a huge impact in rebuilding the rumble of Port-au-Prince, there are still at least 150,000 Haitians living in the plywood shelters in relief camps. Earlier this year, NPR reported that many of these people are living without water, electricity, or light. Why isn’t anyone tweeting about that? Because #Haiti is so four years ago.
The Top Ten Softest Net Artists in the Game
One of the mantras of journalism is that you should never become part of the story, but what happens when those in power target you specifically because you’re a journalist? That’s what happened to me when the cops, at the behest of Peoria, Illinois, mayor Jim Ardis, raided my friends’ home over a parody Twitter account written in the voice of a druggy, pussy-licking version of the city’s chief executive.
This Guy Hates Clickbaity Headlines. Here’s Why
Anyone who has ever scrolled through a Facebook newsfeed knows what “clickbait” is—the internet is awash in headlines promising a photo cuter than all other cute photos, an outrage-inducing news item more outrageous than all other news items, a piece of celebrity gossip juicier than all the previous undeniably juicy gossip bits. The key is that these headlines always withhold that critical piece of information: who the best guitarist in the world is, what the bad Republican man actually said, which nutritional supplement will cause spiders to grow in your stomach and eat you from the inside out.
Jake Beckman has achieved a modest amount of internet fame by ruining these headlines and saving people clicks in the process with his aptly named Twitter account @SavedYouAClick. Inoften hilarious fashion Beckman retweets links to stories from websites and publications like theNew York Times, Salon, the Atlantic, Slate, the Huffington Post, Forbes, Upworthy, and Buzzfeed, among others, with a pithy summary of the article’s interesting bits. His tweets save everyone time by boiling down stories into single words (“The World Cup is days away but is Brazil Ready?”“Nope”), but they also should shame people who write misleading or insulting headlines and tweets in the service of drawing traffic to uninteresting stories. @SavedYouAClick has apparently struck a chord, amassing 90,000 followers in just over 400 tweets, and last week, Beckman even got the opportunity to save his followers a click to a story about himself. How charitable of him:
VICE: You told Jack Shafer of Reuters that you don’t have a problem with headlines that ask questions, which leaves only teasing, “curiousity gap”–exploiting tweets in your crosshairs. But you don’t appear to be going after some of the worst clickbait offenders—sites like Upworthy and the God-awful Facebook mom feed, Elite Daily. Are those sites just too easy to target?
Jake Beckman: It’s not that headlines with questions are always OK—sometimes they’re legitimate, and sometimes they’re not. What I’m targeting, though, are the tweets: how these articles are positioned on social media in an attempt to score easy traffic. I definitely include Upworthy, and just recently followed Elite Daily—I’m always looking for more publishers to follow. Usually it’s just a matter of timing—when I’m looking for tweets and how recently the offending tweets were published.
Running a Twitter feed doesn’t pay, as much as we all wish that was the case. What do you do for a living?
I run @SavedYouAClick as a personal side project. I work for RebelMouse, a publishing platform with a focus on social content. I used to work in breaking news and editorial at ABC News and Bloomberg TV, so I’m very familiar with how newsrooms work.
Offline Activism Is the Tricky Part for #YesAllWomen
As with every mass shooting in the last decade, Elliot Rodger sparked a clash of ideologies. This being a misogyny-fueled massacre, instead of the usual gun debate, it provoked a nationwide Twitter war between anti-patriarchy feminists and a bunch of apologist white guys, with most tweets focusing on the fact that while not all men denigrate women, all women are denigrated by men, and culminating in the latest clicktivist hashtag #YesAllWomen. It’s a strong hashtag, and it has staying power, but does it have the potential to inspire people offline?
When a branch of the American Revolutionary Communist Party concerned with banning pornography for the benefit of women, called StopPatriarchy.com, organized a series of #YesAllWomen rallies in Seattle, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, and San Francisco, it meant another attempt at turning global social media awareness into community activism, in the hopes that the effort is broadcast somewhere, anywhere. Best case - recursively on social media; worst case - word of mouth. This cyclical advocacy happens fair often with little effect, #BringackOurGirls and #Kony2012 come to mind. Ralph Nader was right, “the Internet doesn’t do a very good job of motivating action.”