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Upcoming NY Times Magazine article.

I’m sure you’ve read, or been subjected to, the buzz over Emily Gould’s piece for the upcoming NY Times Magazine, “Exposed.”  Most webloggers find it silly, predictable ... a tale told many times over already. What was the Times thinking? The photos, especially, confused me. The trendy Flickr-self-portrait-style photos on the first two pages of the article are a clever touch - though contrasting with the title in a very odd manner. Who is this person, really?  The carefully staged one on a mussed bed with a come-hither look, or the greasy-haired one standing looking abused and forlorn?  Ms Gould seems to be trying on different personas, as one might try on the latest lipsticks.  I was all set to feel sorry for this person, but what’s going on here?

The Jimmy Kimmel interview, mentioned in the article, really throws a monkey wrench in the works. Fascinating, really, to read the piece, then screen the interview.  Kimmel, “frighteningly angry”?  He would only seem so to an inexperienced interviewee.  The article photography really herded my mindset in one direction ... whereas the video showed an eye-rolling shallow teenybopper.  I honestly cannot reconcile any of the personas exhibited here in print, photo, video. And where is the alleged termagant of Gawker?  Slain, or just restive?  Reinforces my personal Luddite viewpoint - we should all value face-to-face much more than social media.  All online renderings are subsets of perceived reality, and inherently inaccurate.

The article strikes me as one of the most successful “Bilbo Baggins routines” in some time (and that is my all-time favorite Bumpism) .  What’s a Bilbo Baggins routine?  You know it well, if you’ve been weblogging long enough:  Someone upset with their online persona - either feeling underappreciated or garnering too much of the wrong attention.  They get all wrought up, decide it’s time to snap the fingers, do a little dance, and yell “I’m leaving NOW.” BANG. Gone.  Offline, if only for a while.  They watch to see if they’re missed, read their weblog-eulogizers.  Then return to their adoring hordes, like a phoenix from the ashes.  Some tried to make this tactic into a cottage industry in the old days, the only way they could keep their traffic at acceptable levels (acceptable levels to them). Crises-as-gravitas-generators. Looking at this article, here we have a whole online biography in prose leading up to the Baggins moment, not to mention the rapprochement.

Because of those Bilbo Baggins experiences, the general take among webloggers is: if you’re leaving in a huff, don’t let the firewall whack you in the butt on the way out.  You’ll be back — a little wiser this time, we hope.  We might even read you again, if you’ve learned your lesson.  Crazy thing is, some successfully translate their supposed weblogger ‘victimhood’ into contracts with magazines, book publishers ... even movie studios. Feeding this stereotype must be easy to parlay into more lucrative pursuits, if you know the right people.  Next stop, a nice Freying on Oprah. 

Wish I could parlay my most-idiotic moments into paying gigs.  I tip my hat in your direction, Ms Gould. 

NY Times, you got snookered. You need editors who’ve had a history on the internet, with experience of the weblogging phenomena going back to the beginning of the revolution.

Why is there such a strong reaction among webloggers to this piece?  To us, the lessons gleaned from this article were new eight or nine years ago. Now they’re reflexive, done without thought: Revealing personal information online, is like lending your favorite books. Only lend what you don’t mind losing. Never lend what is valuable to others, without permission.  Don’t expect to be forgiven if you do, because you cannot ‘take it back.’ 

Repeat after me: The Internet is personal, pervasive, and permanent.

Again, louder.

The Internet is personal, pervasive, and permanent.

The sooner you memorize and understand that, the better.

[11 AM, MST, 5-24-08: This has had a mild rewrite; network outages caught me in the middle of editing it last evening.  I had to correct some text, and add important points this morning.]

05/23/08 • 04:20 PM • ArtsWeblogs(2) Comments
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