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Today marked a new milestone in my general regression: I used a new smartphone app to write and post a Facebook status update.
The app’s name, bugle!, is inspired by a brass instrument that has only three keys but, according to its jaunty press release, an “unmistakable” sound. And it's true — in the hands of skilled player, a bugle can do a lot with a little. But alas, the app is exceeded in its lameness only by the people who use it. People like me.
Now in my own defense, I was trying it out largely as a form of research. I've long (and by now, tiresomely) bemoaned the impact of social media on our ability to communicate, or even think, complex thoughts. But this app promised to dumb its users down to new depths. To repeat, its purpose is to help you write and post Facebook status updates.
I found it in the Google Play Store and learned that it works by guiding users through “three simple steps, selecting an attitude, a noun and an adjective.”
And then, faster than I could slap my own forehead and mutter 'What have I done?' -- it appeared as a status update from me on Facebook.
What, no step for verbs? Doesn’t every sentence require a verb? That should have tipped me off, but heedlessly, I installed it.
After perfunctorily signing over my rights to my identity and privacy, I was taken to Step 1. There, I was presented with a giant plus or minus sign that was meant to represent my attitude. Why not be positive, I giddily decided. Plus sign and the world plus signs with you. Minus sign and you minus sign alone.
Step 2 prompted me to choose a noun from a list that was a perfect distillation of what people generally post about on social media. It comprised the names of meals, many different types of food, a few generic types of people (children, boyfriend, client, zombies), a handful of strangely alliterative recreational activities (surf, sex, sports), one or two fashion accessories (tattoo, cat), and a lone, lower-cased celebrity. Why rock the boat, I thought. I’ll post what everybody else posts about. Dinner.
In Step 3, I was shown a list of adjectives — positive ones because I chose the plus sign in Step 1. First on the list? Amazeballs.
And then, faster than I could slap my own forehead and mutter “What have I done?” — it appeared as a status update from me on Facebook.
My smartphone instantly shuddered and burped. “I think your Facebook account has been hacked,” my daughter texted.
“No, I’m just trying a new app,” I responded. Or at least that’s how I intended to respond. Auto-correct had transformed my typo-ridden reply into “Not am I trysting a nap.”
Fortunately, my daughter knows me well. Unfazed, she answered, “Phew. So what did you have for dinner?”
I tried it again, this time choosing a negative attitude.
Quinoa frustrating was the result.
“Quinoa *is* frustrating,” immediately responded Kevin, my empathetic Facebook friend.
My next path through these three steps might have led me to post a heartfelt mayonnaise stinky. A less truthful one might have generated a status update liked mv awesome or kanye sexy.
Why would <em>anyone</em> use this app (save to gather fodder for an essay like this)?
But I’d seen enough. Why would anyone use this app (save to gather fodder for an essay like this)? For starters, it’s a lot of work for a two-word post, and not nearly as inventive as the Mad-Libs on which it’s obviously based. And though I understand that many people use Facebook less for sharing their authentic selves than for creating a persona that’s quirky, ironic and cool, I’m not sure that this app does much to achieve that objective either. After all, do I want to present myself like a cartoon caveman, capable only of crude verbal gestures and grunts? Offering nothing but personal pronoun-bereft expressions of repulsion or attraction to food or potential mates?
And yet judging from the Likes they received, my two posts entertained people. Was it their randomness that produced a delighted frisson of surprise? The fact that they sounded so unlike me? Or were they so ironic, so post-modernly self-aware that everyone got the joke but me? Like a magician who explains how he does his tricks as he does them, is the point of this app to entertain us while mocking us for being entertained?
I don’t know. In fact, I don’t know much, now that I’ve entered a verbless world in which we like or dislike nouns — mostly meals and movies — but never do anything, not even write our own stupid posts.
It makes me feel kind of … thumbs down.
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