DOPAMINE GYMNASTICS: WE’VE BEEN BOUGHT AND SOLD/CANTO #4

DOPAMINE GYMNASTICS: WE’VE BEEN BOUGHT AND SOLD/CANTO #4

You know what I did yesterday? Nope, you don’t. Do you know why? Cause I didn’t fucking TELL anyone what I did yesterday. I didn’t post a picture of a meal, I didn’t update my status, I didn’t say shit. Well, as anyone who is trying to build a business in 2021 as an artist will tell you, I DID have to respond to a couple things cause we all know what happens if we don’t do so in a timely manner- everyone dies. That’s what happens, right?

Wait, that’s NOT what happens?!

Nope again! Unlike living in America as a person of color or as a transgender person, taking a break from social media isn’t frequently fatal. To the best of my knowledge nobody has been physically harmed if I decide to tune out of all that shit for a day. If I’m wrong about that I’ll REALLY need to rethink shit, but I’m 93.7% sure I’m right in this instance. It’s rare, let me have it.

I can hear the heavy sighs already, “Oh great, another idiot’s take on the ills of social media use”, and that’s fine. I get that we’re all logged in, signed up, and frighteningly dependent upon social media platforms for almost every aspect of our busy, modern lives but I’d be a REAL stupid motherfucker if I didn’t do my fuck-all best to smack you upside the dome (like a can of Twisted Tea, topical!) with what I know to be true:

WE ARE SLAVES TO THEIR ALGORITHMS.

WE HAVE BEEN BOUGHT AND SOLD.

WE HAVE BEEN TURNED INTO DOPAMINE ZOMBIES.

WE WILL DO NOTHING ABOUT IT.

Alright there, Johnny Headline Font- you guys get it though, right? It’s important to me that you do, cause it’s fuckin’ true. It’s true, all of it, and that’s coming from someone who has to use the fuck out of it just like everyone else. Almost every word I’m writing in this article makes me a complete and total hypocrite. A big one, like a “hypocrite-shaped balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” sized hyporcite. I’m an unoriginal bastard too, cause it’s not like this information is breaking fucking news or anything, but I don’t care. We all know it’s true, we’re all chained to the same meat grinder, and I’m gonna fucking speak my mind about it. I also won’t pretend to be concise in any way cause my brain is a “stream of consciousness” kind of monster and that’s just how I roll.

Let’s do a quick tally, shall we?

  1. Twitter (gotta do Tweets AND Fleets!)
  2. Instagram (credit where credit is due- it’s our best platform and the least shitty of them all, at least in my experience.)
  3. Facebook (the less we say about Facebook the better, I think my leading image says enough though.)
  4. Facebook Groups (The Ghost Generation is currently a member of like 20)
  5. TikTok (cause nothing says “living my best life” like slavishly producing videos in a desperate bid for attention!)
  6. Pinterest (overstimulated yet?)
  7. LinkedIn (the electronic embodiment of your brown-nosing coworker who, every year without fail, buys the boss a separate Christmas present outside of Secret Santa and keeps a coffee mug in the break room that says “My Other Car Is A Golf Cart”.)
  8. This wonderful website where I can update you lovely humans about the shop AND complain about the world at large in one shot!

That’s eight platforms. Eight platforms. EIGHT FUCKING PLATFORMS.

Eight platforms that I should be posting on, every day, multiple times, to expand our reach, grow our business, and keep everyone’s attention. That’s the bare minimum I should be doing in order to keep pace with everyone else and maybe, if I’m lucky, get ahead. You know what? I don’t. Twitter? When TGG was just a blog and I did video game reviews/interviews with bands we had a little momentum but now that we’re a jewelry company that still blogs here and there? Nobody gives a FUCK. Of our 1,187 current followers about 3-4 of them actually engage with our tweets which means the very following I built on that platform doesn’t even care about what we’re doing. So I guess a pivot in the ol’ business model is enough to alienate about 1,200 people, who knew!

Pinterest? I currently have, and have EVER had, about the same level of interest in Pinterest as I do in Jeff Dunham’s “comedy”- fucking ZERO. YOU’RE NOTHING WITHOUT THE PUPPETS MAN! AND WHILE WE’RE AT IT, THE PUPPETS AREN’T FUCKING FUNNY EITHER! I had to get that out of my system and I’m not sorry in the slightest for doing so. That dude IS a pretty good ventriloquist though, it’s a shame there isn’t a productive non-comedy use for his skillset, ANYWHO.

I don’t give a shit about Pinterest and if you read the list above and have a brain between those two ears of yours you’d probably ask yourself where the fuck I’d even have the TIME to anyway, and you’d be right. We’re on it, and I try to at least post new shop listings there, but it’s not high on the fucking to-do list on any given day cause, again, I don’t give a shit about Pinterest.

Where’s the fucking time? And if there IS the time, I don’t have the fucking desire. I’m down to do what’s necessary but if life is meant to be lived, and I’m talking REALLY lived- ticking away the hours for incremental acceptance is not how we should be spending it. Ever, for any reason. It’s exhausting, and I know it’s exhausting to you too, whether or not you’ll admit it is on you.

FEELING OVEREXTENDED? YOU ARE, AND SO AM I.

On any given day, to make the rounds, keep eyes on The Ghost Generation, and make sure we stay minute-to-minute relevant it takes at LEAST two hours of social media activity, and that’s kind of a baseline. I could be doing it A LOT more. And, I probably SHOULD be. Cause if anyone wants to get ahead it has almost nothing to do with how hard you work, how dedicated you are to your craft, or how good you are at running your business- it’s ALL about how those fucking algorithms see you.

Those fucking alogorithms. Insidious little fuckers, aren’t they? Yeah, they are, they really really are. I like to think I’m a fairly funny and engaging kind of person, that’s why I do this shit, I wouldn’t be writing if I didn’t think there was a fucking point to it. Where Twitter is concerned though, it isn’t so much quality as it is fucking stupid, ridiculous, “Tim, we’re really worried about you” levels of quantity. I’ll laugh out loud posting something, a thought or a promo, whatever, and nobody will see it. Not one fucking person. Why? Cause I’m not on twitter ALL FUCKING DAY, that’s why. The algorithm makes you more visible the more you post, thus turning you into your own cocaine mouse. Want engagement? Tweet all day. Want Likes? Tweet all day. Wanna grow your following? Tweet all day.

I will go on record, loud and proud, and say that to the core of my soul I believe that fucking NOTHING anyone- and I mean ANYONE- is posting on Twitter is worth the time it takes to fucking read it, not even my own. If that platform disappeared forever society as a whole would be better for it, and if you don’t agree with that sentiment I doubt you’re still reading anyway so I’m thinking you’re probably of like mind.

SEND IN THE ARMCHAIR ACTIVISTS!

Said no one, ever. The kind of lightning-round tweeting the average person needs to do on a given day to show up in enough places to be relevant almost ALWAYS turns people into the kind of virtue-signaling, “nobody is as correct as me”, armchair fucking activists that you wouldn’t invite to a party at gunpoint. Give a human being enough attention and they’ll think they’re a fucking expert at something. I’ve never once claimed to be an activist of any kind, I’m a person with strong convictions and I write about, and speak about them openly and freely. I’m not out here trying to be that, I’m trying to express myself and grow a business while raising my kids and making sure we’re all safe, healthy, and fulfilled- that’s it. If you spend enough time on Twitter though, you’ll run into a slew of morons who think they’re the voice of a movement and the truth is that they’re fucking not. If they were, they’d be out doing the work. Tweeting isn’t activism, it’s tweeting.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with expressing your opinions, or advocating for ANYONE (as long as they’re not a dick), but the self-aggrandizing that’s floating around is fucking toxic, completely annoying, and a sure sign that the dopamine has gone to our heads. The Ghost Generation exists because we wanted to feel a little less alienated, so we started writing. Then, we wanted to start our own business and make art, so we became a jewelry company too. That’s it, while I have those strong convictions I spoke of earlier, I’m not gonna sit here and pretend that I’m the voice of all marginalized people and everyone should listen to me. In fact, I’m sure the LAST thing anyone gives a fuck about is a 40 year-old white dude’s opinions and I get it. The spotlight SHOULD be on other people in 2021, I just want a little space to carve out my place and that’s it.

WE DEPEND DEEPLY ON SOMETHING THAT DOES NOT LOVE US BACK. IN FACT, IT WAS CREATED TO GET US ADDICTED SO IT COULD TAKE OVER. LIKE METH, EXACTLY LIKE METH.

This shit makes us NEED IT. It’s crept its way into our homes, our businesses, everything. When was the last time you did something awesome and DIDN’T post about it on the internet? Don’t worry, I’ll wait. Yeah, that’s what I thought. It’s like every single person in the world has been tasked with making themselves out to be these mini-celebrities and it’s not getting better because this shit is encouraged, the world NEEDS Tina’s brilliant snapshot of her Wagyu beef sliders. So then, people and businesses like me who are just trying to get some eyes on their work are left in the dust for a bunch of mental Chuck E. Cheese pizza- meaning it’s shallow, sloppy, and not very good.

I’ve heard enough “well, we all have to do it!” and “it’s just how it is” or “you gotta wear a lot of hats these days!” to last mine and a few of your lifetimes too, and while that may be true it doesn’t make it OK. It is NOT OK, and as a result WE ARE NOT OK. Our collective mental health is circling around the global toilet bowl and sinking ever-closer to just fucking flushing right down completely, but FAR be it from me to suggest it might have something to do with the constant metaphorical dick plunging into our dopamine centers courtesy of human DustBusters like Fuckerberg. Crazy talk! We’re fine!

IF YOU’VE EVER SEEN A GROWN ADULT ATTEMPT THE “FLOSS DANCE” YOU’LL AGREE THAT WE’RE PRETTY FUCKING FAR FROM OK.

Shit, we’re not even ON YouTube, that would be NINE platforms! Why, might you ask? Cause we’re fucking writers and jewelry makers, we didn’t also set out to be the next John Waters. We’d be lucky to be the next Tay Zonday, and while I DO have a metric ton of genre-redefining parody songs floating around in my head that doesn’t mean the world needs to fucking hear them. Or, see me do it in video form. Why do people want video of me removing something from a mold more than the actual thing I’m removing itself? Why do people want so much, all the time, demanding of us as artists a constant state of performative servitude when we so frequently get little back?

Case in point- the other day I spent like 2 and a half hours making sure I got a TikTok video JUST right. I was proud of how it turned out, I might hate this shit but I AM kinda decent at it, stemming most likely from sheer frequency and staunch refusal to fail. I put in all that work and do you want to guess what returns it yielded? A handful of “likes” here and there, a couple followers (pretty sure the majority were bitcoin bots but hey, numbers is numbers), and approximately ONE order.

Not exactly what you call “astronomical”, amirite? Look, I’m not here to complain- at all. If it wasn’t for the business I wouldn’t even have gotten back ON social media. We were off of it, ALL of it, for almost 6 years and you know what? It was awesome. It was “birds gleefully chirping in the freshly-green trees of spring”, four-alarm joyfully fucking awesome, and while I understand it’s become a necessary part of our collective shit, I don’t have to pretend it’s a good thing. It’s not by the way, if you don’t agree with me yet I really do hope that SOMETHING here has made you think, even for a passing second, that maybe I’m on to something.

It’s just flat-out fucking disheartening sometimes to do all the work this shit requires of you for nearly nothing back, and I haven’t even touched on stuff like cyberbullying, identity theft, or fucking trolls yet. This shit is causing kids to take their own lives, this shit is causing us to chase unhealthy standards of beauty, this shit is breaking us down and ruining how our minds, bodies, and souls process joy and the world around us so you’ll excuse me for being a little pissed about it.

YOU SHOULD BE TOO.

You should be taking one look at smilin’ Mark Zuckerberg’s face and vomiting instinctively. I know I do.

Ok, not really, but close. These guys have become billionaires by believing we are too stupid to know when we’re being mentally fucked by an algorithm that favors the addicted above all else and wants nothing more than to keep us clicking. We’re lab rats with Stockholm Syndrome and we ran topless into the cages screaming “YOLO”. The death of consciousness as we know it? Enslavement to the dopamine cartel in exchange for an abundance of digital affection? YASSSSS QUEEN!

Don’t forget, I’m talking about the same shit that has caused people to risk their actual lives for the perfect selfie. I’ll also remind you that a “more-than-tiny” amount of them actually HAVE lost their lives in pursuit of said perfect selfie. Fuck it, while we’re at it let’s ruminate on the complete and total insanity that selfies are even a fucking thing in the first place. An entire world full of people standing in the middle of the sidewalk making that duck face and getting 17 takes of the same shitty picture to assault our brains with. Thanks a ton, but your fucking faces are gonna freeze that way if you keep doing that shit, STOP IT. Who knew that the face that used to be reserved for photos of heiresses puking up Grey Goose would be adopted by, and loved by millions of people the world over? Yay progress!

A few weeks ago I even did the thing that makes me want to have my eyelids pulled off by someone wholly unconcerned with the comfort level of the procedure- I posted on social media about taking a break from social media for the day. Christ, if there is anything you shouldn’t give a FUCK about it’s how often I’m going to be in your face screaming LOVE ME, VALIDATE ME, I’M IMPORTAAAAAAANT!!! If that matters to you I implore you to stop reading this, go outside, and slam your face into your garage door. Why outside? So everyone in your neighborhood can see it jackass, that’s why.

Way harsh, bud.

Yep, the kind of love we need is tough. The kind of love we need is tough because there’s no readily available solution I can offer unfortunately. You’re not gonna delete your Facebook page and go volunteer at the food bank cause I said it was a good idea. I’m not gonna delete our Instagram, cause I need to grow our business. My cousin Fuller isn’t gonna stop wetting the bed every time he enjoys a glass of Pepsi. That was Home Alone.

I’m joking around, but that IS about how long our attention spans last these days. “Look at this thing on my Twitter feed! Wait, where are my keys? How’d this baby get here?”. That’s THE WORLD.

I keep my fucking ear to the ground, I’m a diligent follower of all things rad, I’m not some fucking “old man yelling at the clouds” and if you call me that I”LL FIND YOU. I’ve felt this way for a LONG time about where we’re headed as a society. I got my first cellphone when I was 22 and I didn’t fucking want it then either. “Why would I want to ALWAYS be available, that’s more stupid than my brain can calculate!” I’d say in futility as I stood in line to buy minutes cause fuck you YOU’RE old. “This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen, people CARE about this?” was my reaction when, upon starting my ascent to radio greatness (and sarcasm expertise), I was shown what MySpace was and told why I had to start doing it. That’s right, this old bag of shit has been on Team Fuck This from the jump, folks.

Yeah, I do my best to be funny, engaging, and smart. I walk the razor-thin line of gaining, and keeping, people’s attention when you want to also maintain some level of freedom to be an artist. I deal with the worries that come with trying to build something of your own in the most backwards age in history where the only certainty is is the next global disaster. I do what I can to be available to everyone, put in enough hours, and put us out there so we can claim our scrap of relevance from the Royal Coattails of The Internet and I step in it all day long with pleasure. I do it because The Ghost Generation is MINE. I do it because it’s not only mine, it’s my wife’s too. She’s downstairs working on top-secret new shit RIGHT NOW, working much harder than me up here annoying you and that’s a fact! I do it because I want to succeed, I believe this deserves to succeed, and it’s enough for me to swim in the less-than-comfortable waters of social media to reach those goals. Like I said though, I don’t have to be quiet about it and I’ll never lie to ya- we’re fucking slaves to this shit and the only ones putting the metaphorical chains and ropes around us are ourselves. We’re prisoners of our own emptiness, our own desire to be loved and seen, and we’re serving life plus twenty with no shot at parole.

PRISON METAPHORS, REALLY?

Yes, really. Walk into any restaurant on a Friday night and instead of seeing people engaged in rousing conversations, couples sharing memories of that time Cheryl had a little too much tequila at the Christmas party, or a first date enjoying each other’s company you’ll instead be greeting by an off-puttingly quite room full of people staring at their fucking phones. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. One time, we heard a father and daughter in the table next to us and they were talking about Facebook, while both of them were on their phones, LOOKING AT FACEBOOK. What in the wild blue FUCK is that? Is there a fifth wall? Cause if there is, these two robots broke the motherfucker.

That’s why we came off it all back in 2015 and didn’t look back, and that’s why even though every word of this article makes me a big-ass colossal hypocrite I’m here saying it anyway.

I long for a better world for ALL people. I long for a world free of racism, hatred, and ignorance of any kind. I long for that “better world” we all keep talking about, but never achieving, where we find our way to an economy that works for EVERYONE and not just people who throw balls or act in movies. I long for a life for my kids that isn’t governed by the algorithms that bind us all to the toxicity of this digital terrorism. I long for peace, I long for love, and I long for us to wake the fuck up and realize that there’s a better way fucking away from all this shit.


Sick fucking thing is, I need it just as bad as you. I can’t afford a retail space, certainly not right now and definitely not for the foreseeable future- so, the internet is where I gotta operate. I get it, and I do my best to be good AT it, but it never feels like enough. It never IS enough, to hold people’s attention, to appease the algorithms, to catch the eyes. There’s always something lurking around the corner that you might be doing wrong, cause you have to scream in people’s faces just to show them the one thing you DO love doing- your art. The REALLY sick thing is, the quality of your art matters so much less than your ability to find the perfect hashtags. Fuck, we’re really fucking adrift folks- and we lost the oars a LONG time ago.

The reason for the season, as they say.

The reason you get out of bed and do this shit every day, your “thing”. Your art, your product, your music, your passion. Whatever it is, the thing itself isn’t what people want anymore. They want your privacy, they want your soul, they want EVERYTHING- until they don’t. Be honest, be raw, say what’s deep down inside but don’t get TOO honest cause that might make someone think too much. Promote yourself and POST POST POST but you gotta do it THIS way, and you should be dancing like a deer stuck in headlights and a shotgun sight while doing it. Do this, do that, and maybe the algorithm gods will allow you to been seen just enough to get a little traction.

Hardly seems fair and equitable, right?

Well, “fair and equitable” flew the fucking coop a LONG time ago. We’re in full Mad Max territory minus the dope post-apocalyptic clothes and accessories. We’re in a lawless swamp of human decline, like Florida but without the beaches and yummy seafood! It’s all fucked, and I have absolutely NO solutions to it. I could tell you guys to put down your phones and go live life, but I have to do the same shit that you do. I could tell you about artistic integrity all day long, but I have to do things that I couldn’t care less about just as often as the things that I DO care about just like you do. I can stand here on my soapbox and scream into the ether about how shitty it all is, but what the fuck am I DOING about it all? What’s my plan?

You DO have a plan, right asshole?

Of course I do! And, it’s actually pretty fucking simple- I’m just not gonna give a fuck. Yeah, you heard that right- I’m just not gonna give a fuck. Bold, right?! Shock, dismay! Before you go calling me a lunatic with a death wish, remember- this shit is internet life, not real life, so lighten up. Below, I’ll outline a few points detailing exactly how I plan to not give a fuck so you can understand how I can be a willing, reluctant, AND disdainful participant all in one shot and manage to squeeze some success out of it all in the process. Maybe doing things your own way takes longer, but it’s DAMN sure more worth it in the long run.

  1. I’ll not be doing the “here’s about post about me taking the day off from social media!” thing anymore. It’s fucking stupid, and I don’t owe anyone an apology for taking some time to let my brain cells regenerate. If you don’t see new shit on a given day, it’s because I’m doing other shit or ACTUALLY putting this shit down to work on my mental health, my business, or my family. No more fucking apologies for it.
  2. If I DO decide I need a day off from the mental meth circus, it’s not the end of the world. It’s usually right around the weekend, after a week solid of working, writing, posting, trying to come up with a zillion ways to be clever, I just don’t fucking have it. Plus, weekends are the only time we’re all home together and I want to play with my fucking kids- NOT be glued to the couch cause I just GOTTA make sure all my feeds have fresh content for you to ignore. Nobody will die because I, or anyone else, don’t post for a day.
  3. Number Three here is really more extrapolating on the same point- you see this shit coming from everywhere- “You should be posting on all platforms, multiple times a day, and maximizing engagement and delivering constant content!”. You know what, that may be true- we may all just have to crank out this bullshit on a constant basis to get ahead but if that’s the case, I guess I just don’t want to get ahead that badly. I’m one of those idiots that wants to believe that, eventually, with perseverance, attention to detail, and excellent word of mouth we might just come out on top. Who knows, maybe I’m naive, but I’d rather live in a world where our art, our craftsmanship, and our commitment to being our best is how we win the race- NOT how many likes we got for our hilarious TikTok, or how many views I get on a video about taking a thing out of a thing. if our art can’t speak for itself then what the fuck are we SAYING IT for in the first place? Think about that. More often than not I’m exhausted from all the social media I have to do instead of being exhausted from actually fucking CREATING something. We have stolen the creative process from ourselves and replaced it with a shitty variety show.

I’m confident that if I keep going with that list it’ll all just start to sound the same, and you’re smart- you get it. I’m done letting my happiness and blood pressure be the hapless victims of big tech. I’m tired of feeling like my art isn’t enough, and I’m tired of feeling like a robotic attention seeker trying to keep up with The Joneses, only The Joneses are TikTok celebrities and YouTube stars you couldn’t pay me a billion dollars to spend half a second watching.

I’m tired of living in a world where “it’s just how it is” seems to be the modus operandi of every living thing, where going through the motions is better than rocking the fucking boat. I WANT to rock the boat, but I want to rock it with my art and my words- NOT with my ability to write a clever tweet about how pineapple on pizza is trash, or “Things You Can Say During Sex And During A Full Frontal Lobotomy”, or anything involving the word “bae”.

If you’re over the age of baby, and you say the word “bae” for any reason conversationally, congratulations- you’re an asshole.

And by the way, let’s just draw a quick line in the sand in case there are some stragglers from Camp Dipshit still hanging around- if you use the words “cuck”, “snowflake”, “libtard”, or “simp” you can passionately fuck yourself with a claw hammer and leave me alone forever. I don’t wanna fuckin’ KNOW ya. Seriously, unfollow, delete, whatever the fuck it is that you need to do- just stay the fuck away from me, my business, and my zip code.

I’m on a “minimal toxicity” diet, and that means letting go of what “they” are trying to beat into our heads every day to keep us ENSLAVED TO THEIR ALGORITHMS. “Always Hustle!”, “Never Stop!”, “Wear All The Hats!”- everyone wants us to put down our phones and live our best life, but we’re also supposed to NEVER STOP HUSTLING. How does that fucking compute? It doesn’t, cause it’s bullshit. How are we supposed to “get 7-8 hours of sleep every night”, “practice mindfulness every day”, “exercise 30 minutes a day 5 days a week”, or “take time for our mental health” if we’re constantly working, posting, and clawing our way to the top of the algorithm? We’re not, and maybe that’s the point. Maybe they WANT us to be too exhausted to care anymore, so we’ll just be too tired to give a shit and we’ll all just stare at our news feed until the last flashes of life drain from our cold, weary eyes.

FUCK THAT. I guess I don’t have any real grand solution or answers, I just know that for me moving forward it’s gonna be all about doing what I want. If people get on board, the more the merrier. If it takes me a year longer than someone else, at least I’ll have done it on MY terms. Not Fuckerberg’s terms. Not Jack Dorsey’s terms. I don’t know any of the other names, but fuck them too.

We started The Ghost Generation as a way to express ourselves, and now we’re hoping to turn it into the way we make our living. Everyone deserves a shot at fulfilling their dreams, us included and so do you. We’ve put so much of our destiny in the hands of these machines that we’re almost like passengers in our own fate. Well, screw that- I’m taking the fucking keys back. Maybe I am a little bit of the “old man yelling at the clouds”, I don’t know. Being 40 comes with one definite perk though- I don’t fucking give a shit what anyone thinks anymore. I’ve lived approximately 13 years longer than I thought I would, I’ve built a life that I’m proud of, and when I DO go to bed at a decent hour I sleep JUST FINE. Maybe that’s not enough for the world or the algorithms, but it’s enough for me.

Let go, let yourself be, and for FUCK’S SAKE stop making that stupid fucking face in your pictures.

AFH

The Ghost Generation makes rad jewelry for equally rad people. Also, we write stuff occasionally. Est. August 2019.

Etsy.com/shop/TheGhostGeneration

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