Category: TTC Notes

Web is free, when you don’t afford to pay

The date that I went on a short while ago was by far among the best first-glance interactions that I have had with a person of the opposite sex in as long as I remember. She sipped her white wine and I submerged my psyche in my second double-shot of Kahlua. The thick bitter liquid was at the right temperature, thanks to the two cubes of ice that shined in the glass and glittered under the dim light of the cozy pub that I had chosen for our special night.

We spoke at length of existence and agency. Whether the table in front of us existed, and if there are different kinds of existence. More specifically, whether we existed in a way similar to that of the table. If agency was a phenomenon to be analyzed, or if it was merely the mirage of the coexistence of the multitude of cells that constitute us. My companion did not miss the opportunity and opined that a true relationship happens at the atomic level, and not on the more apparent conscious stage. A nuclear physicist by profession, and passion as well, as I was to reckon soon, her view of the now was intimately based upon the physical, as opposed to the magic of a notion of the supernatural.

We “met” less than one hundred hours prior to that rendezvous on a dating app. I had set up a profile that reeked of distaste for the mediocrity of the mainstream and would urge only the one who “thinks Chomsky is important” to bother to cause a splash in the electromagnetic ether that we have become used to accepting as a sixth sense that connects our brains absent of the need for physical proximity. She liked me and then sent me a “Hi :)” message.

I would have not noticed the like, had I not paid the premium that allows one to have a full picture of her presence in that environment. In other words, you can interact with the app, or rather allow the app to interact with you, in two distinct ways. One, you are a freeloader; You set up a profile and like people and wait to be liked and called upon. When people interact with you, however, you don’t see the details. “Someone liked you”, that is what you are told. Someone. One person amongst the eight billion occupants of the planet thinks that you are worthy of a few seconds of her time. Or his time. Or its time. How many years in the future and we would first encounter and then get used to, as we always do, bots running people’s presence on the web? What if it is an app that is “liking” me? Maybe it wants to test the waters before the master allocates a minuscule of her attention to me?

There is a second, rather more affluent, way to interact with the app and that is the route that passes through your bank account. For the price of a few pints of quality beer, you get the full picture. You see who liked you, and you can let them know that you like them. You also receive boosts to the top of the list, especially when everyone is looking for a mate. Come next Friday evening, when the population of single women are pretending to be solely interested in their drinks, and you can pay to show up at the top of the list of the available bachelors in the vicinity. A larger transfer, and you can feature a handsome profile picture and boast about your familiarity with Hegel and Schopenhauer and how well you know the underground culture in Toronto. Alas, this second payment is to a different merchant, but that is not the point. You have better chances when you pay.

Last night I decided to pay for porn. It is a valid question whether porn strips women off of their humanness. While the answer to that question is vitally important, with so many women identifying with their erotic appeal, I, as a man, can manage to pack up a clear conscious and enjoy the sight of evolution having gone astray. All in all, my concern last night was not whether or not porn is an acceptable form of pastime. On the contrary, I questioned my decision in the past two decades that I would not give my interest in exploring my sexual desires the same opportunities that I allot to my urge for food and shelter. I have chosen to live in a paid residence, and not in the streets for example, and do not pick up food from the dumpster. Why and why then do I succumb to the mind-numbing repetition of unimaginative free porn?

The same logic is applicable to not only dating apps, but apps in general, and in fact the entirety of the digital sphere. Recently, our book club was postponed for two months due to some glitch in the human psyche. That was painful, no doubt, but what was more daunting was Facebook’s refusal to allow me to change the date of the corresponding event which had been scheduled to happen in the past and never did. It was, and is, clear to me that I must be able to interact with Facebook as I wish. Yet, Facebook does not allow me to do just that. “An event can’t be created in the past.” That is what Facebook keeps announcing, or “toasting” as the Android terminology suggests, when I try to update the date of the book club Facebook event to tomorrow.

I know that the event has not happened yet and, no, I am not “creating” an event “in the past”, but how am I going to let that be known? No one is liable to listen to my complaints. Zuckerberg has guaranteed it in the fine print whose acceptance is a prerequisite for living and breathing on Facebook that I, as a non-paying user, am not more than a tolerated leech, whilst unbeknown to me it is my blood that lets the wheels of the digital machinery churn out the billions of dollars that pay off dividends to the investors as well as is the source that yields the salaries of the executives at Facebook.

Here is the core of the argument, unveiled of the shroud of allegories and half-baked thoughts. As long as I do not pay to Facebook the price of my ticket, I am not a passenger, but a mere cog in the ship. If I am not paying, then I am needed to behave in a certain way, and while I admit that the conundrum is more complicated than such a dichotomy, I would like to dictate the terms of my ride.

The dating app that I got to know the fascinating lady on at least gives me the option to pay, and I do pay, and as a result I go on dates that stimulate my mind and give me food for thought well past the date night. Similarly, because I am paying for my porn, I now expect better content and at least a shred of imagination and a tangible storyline. I want to be given the option to pay for the treatment that I receive on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and hence expect a minimum level of acceptability for the service that I receive there as well. Decidedly, that is going to segregate, even further, the haves from the have nots. My brain is not at ease with that. I fathom, however, that such a move would at least put an end to the shortsighted declaration of the digital sphere as an idealistic utopia in which “things are free”.

Cat videos are what we need the Internet for

It is 2:37 pm on Sunday November 11st, 2018. One hundred years and a few hours ago, the first World War concluded with an armistice. The use of the word “concluded” is rather unwarranted here, because twenty years later a conflict that strode on a more technologically advanced basis shook earth and its inhabitants. The use of the word “shook” is not allegorical in this sentence, as the second world war did indeed end with the massive eruptions of two nuclear detonations.

Last night I watched in horror the despair of the German submarine soldiers onboard a U-Boat that was under attack by British soldiers during World War II. I had found the film a few days earlier, and I need to admit that it took me a substantial amount of time in order to sift through the heap of what constitutes the common stock of Netflix’s offerings, before I landed on anything that appeared to have some notion of value and content.

The film is narrated from the perspective of the “aggressor” and that makes it particularly interesting. Here I am seeing the victimization of the victimizers. That is a particularly interesting vantage point as it rips the discourse off of its use of victimization as a justification for the criminality of the war. Too many films and books, especially of the type that mainstream Hollywood loves to utilize as a cash grab, hone on into the scapegoat of portraying armed conflict as an evil act imposed from without. That, inherently, makes it unnecessary for the capitalist-artist to have to address the controversial question of “why do we fight?” Das Boot is void of that. The tormented souls whose life and misery is chronicled in the film are the aggressors, they are the bad guys, they attack an already burning Allied tanker and then watch in shock and awe as burning human figures jump into waters that are covered with oil that is ablaze. And they watch in horror as the sailors swim towards their boat, which intentionally distances itself from the inferno and makes itself unreachable by the dying men.

I can almost never watch a film from start to end in one sitting. When I arrive home, generally past sunset, and after I hurriedly take care of the usual chores, I have a mere hour to dive into life as it must be lived. The rest of my time is, mostly, occupied by the necessities of survival: sleeping, making money, and transitioning from one to the other. Such is life of a bourgeois white-collar mental labourer in the last decades of the reign of Capitalism. Hence, I had to pause the film and then it slipped off of my mind until I stumbled upon it again on a list published by CBC, carefully scheduled to show up on the website a few days before the Remembrance Day, and leave no trace behind on the day in which no one is supposed to dare to ask about the futility and criminality of the concept of military conflict and the supposed valour encoded and experienced in it. Alongside All Quiet on the Western Front, Schindler’s List, Life is Beautiful, and The Pianist, Das Boot is another testament to the validity of the question “why do we fight?”

I am in Stratford, a small town one hundred and fifty kilometers west of Toronto. I have never been this far west. I used to live and work in Waterloo a few years ago and, thus, the first half of the road brought in notable memories to me. I approached, and passed, Shakespeare, an even smaller town in the eastern outskirt of Stratford, and then I found myself in the usual scenery that identifies almost any small town in Ontario. There is always a singular busy road that is crossed by dirt roads and other more commonly commuted paved passages that lead to farms and cemeteries in the horizon. Antique shops, diners, rundown houses, and the usual car that advertises on its windshield that it is up for grabs, are the ever-present decorations along such roads. Then the town erupts into the view. There is always an elaborately erected and neatly maintained core to the town, where the main diners are and which is the place to go for the dwellers of the urban area as well as the passing tourists and curious individuals who travel from a distance to soak in the exquisite vitality of the town people.

And that is where I am. Seated in a Balzac’s Cafe on Ontario street. I had been to Balzac’s cafes, in Toronto for sure and also possibly in other towns in Ontario, but B. told me that this is where the action started. This is the first Balzac’s cafe, according to her. “It used to be a hardware store, and that gives it its rustic charm”, B said. B’s comments are preempted by my inquiry into what I can do in Stratford. She has just poured my second cup of coffee and I have just told her that the steak and eggs was fascinating. “Fascinating? A breakfast being called fascinating?” she asks and then leaves me in order to respond to another customer. When she comes back to the bar, my place of choice in small diners like the one that I am in now as well as larger pubs and eateries in the city, she tells me about K., “the only other person that I know that uses this word in this context”. We are a gang of three, I think, but before I can utter these words, she starts combing her mind in search of an attraction in Stratford that she can guide me to. She is short of ideas and, therefore, stares into my eyes and asks me “what do you do?” Her eyes are gray or blue, I cannot recall, as I was absorbed into the deep glister of the spheres of life that sent out waves of livelihood and mischievousness for the entire time that I was with her. She must be in her fifties. I imagine that she has had a full life. One spotted by lovers and hardships and moments of desperation and elevation, intermittently shaking her vessel to the core.

“You mean what I do for a living?” I ask. “Well, that, and also other things; what attracts your attention?” she replies. “I read, and watch films, and go to plays, and while on that topic, what’s up with the festival?” I am referring to the Stratford Festival that I have heard a lot about and have never attended. “They are only doing The Rocky Horror Picture Show on December 2nd this year”, she says. I remember watching the film, or rather the communal performance that included it at the Apollo Theatre in Kitchener. The sight of people throwing toilet paper in the air and the request from the owner of the cinema to avoid targeting the screen by the water guns. I even took one of the playing cards that were dispersed on the cinema floor with me when I left. “I have watched the film, it was hilarious” I say. “You need to watch the live performance, or you haven’t seen anything” she says as I bathe in her irises.

Back to the topic, she is warmly inquisitive of the lone man who has driven one hundred and fifty kilometers to have a non-remarkable breakfast that is the staple of any diner in the one-thousand-kilometer radius around where I live. “What do you do in life?” she is now asking about my packcheck, I reckon. “I am a Machine Learning scientist, I replace people with machines, I am disgusting.” I give her my canned response. “How fascinating, that is indeed disgusting!” she stares back into my eyes and after a pause that takes a few seconds to converge into any tangible thought she tells me about the Balzac’s Cafe.

I want to pay a visit to the cafe and, therefore, I decide to get back to my car, take out the laptop from the trunk, and spend a while in the cafe doing what I do in these circumstances; a hard-to-explain combination of life and work. I don’t need to think about it, it always comes to me when I install myself behind a table in the cafe and before my latte starts to consider letting out the heat that makes its oily bitterness so deliciously desirable.

I need to cross Ontario Street before reaching the church parking lot that I decided to let my compact SUV squat in. The lights are red and I have a few seconds of existence that are void of any purpose. As I casually canvas my surroundings, I notice that a cat is staring at me. The gray feline is taped into a pole and is advertising the Feline Film Festival. It seems to have happened two days ago in the basement of a Presbyterian church, and as the signage appears to be suggesting, it featured the “Best of the Best” short cat videos. Did anyone tell her friend, “hey I am going to this FFF thing, do you want to check it out?” Or is that an unintentional harmless ploy by the mad random generator that governs the world? Is it a mere coincidence that the three f’s are lower-case? I don’t know.

I approach the car and for the umpteenth time take pleasure at the fact that the hatch opens upon my touch. Wonders of technology! I am carrying a pendant that belongs to this iron and plastic creature in my pocket and therefore it listens to me without the need for me to ask it to. That is enjoyable. I am a master and the black bent down piece of technological marvel is my obedient servant. And what’s more, I don’t need to feel any agony when I make it accelerate and maneuver as I wish. Which slave owner of the eighteenth century would have hesitated upon learning about this possibility?

As I feel and enjoy the inner warmth that is sliding on my skin in this cold November day, I feel something else bubbling up inside me. B., K., the triple F, words start spilling out. I run into the cafe and start typing “It is 2:37 pm on Sunday November 11st, 2018”.

Addiction 2.0: What would Schopenhauer say?

These days I am receiving a steady dose of Schopenhauer through my ear canals and while that gives me a sense of admiration for the exquisite individual that the German philosopher was, at the same time I cannot help but imagine the horror that he would have felt had he been transported to the year 2018 and had, unavoidably, observed and, quite possibly, grappled with the digital ether that has swallowed the contemporary human brain. What would Schopenhauer do? How much more bitter and condescending would his thoughts and writings have become had he observed the “human bipeds” as they are glued to and fed by their digital obsession?

I spent last evening in an innocuous-looking room on the second floor of a building at the University of Toronto campus on St. George Street. The sign on top of one of the two doors that led to the classroom stated that the space could serve about ninety two people. During the three hours that I spent in the room, however, no more than twenty people were present in there. On the blackboard mathematical notes that I could decipher as describing a multi-variable normal distribution integrated on a manifold were in stark contrast with the topic of the talk. On the surface, one could have easily fouled herself that this was another cold and impersonal analysis of some aspect of existence. Attention to the terminology used in the presentation and the intermittent chuckles of the presenter and the audience made it clear, however, that this meeting happened on the sharp edge that separates the current perspective into human cognition from shamanic rituals that I imagined are being reproduced in student housings around the campus and, frankly, in many other places in Toronto and potentially other cities in Canada.

I was expecting the legalization of Marijuana to cause a sizable uproar. In reality, I, for one, did not observe almost any reaction in the streets and by the public. Whatever the dynamics of the Canadian society are that yield such a reserved response, the acceptance of being “high” as a decent pastime would, to my understanding, encourage the risk-taking sections of the Canadian society to brave up and consider the topic of psychedelics as a matter to be discussed, rather than feared and despised. Whatever the outcome of such a process may be, it might not be the most pressing matter when one considers the prevalence of another, more pervasive and hazardous, type of substance abuse in the contemporary society and its implications on human psyche and its prospects for contentment.

And that is where I would let my imagination fly, rather widely, and consider how Schopenhauer would have rephrased his observation that “If we do not want to be a plaything in the hands of every rogue and the object of every fool’s ridicule, the first rule is to be reserved and inaccessible”. To be safe, I cannot confirm if this is a statement made by Schopenhauer or an assertion opined by Yalom. Nevertheless, having spent the last two weeks sifting through Schopenhauer’s mind, albeit through the lens of Yalom in his book “The Schopenhauer Cure”, I am willing to take a leap of faith and assume that this is either a Schopenhauer quote or a close rendition of his perspective towards human interaction and the futility and hazard of being accessible to fellow human beings.

On my phone, if I allow it, I am going to be accessible through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Telegram, Whatsapp, old-school text message and call, email, and a few other mechanisms. Does that make me happy? Indeed not. I have been a netizen for too long in order to be under the impression that these brand names are merely innocent pieces of code. The tools in reference should be more accurately called Drug 2.0. They are adaptive mechanisms for stealing and exploiting my attention. They experiment with everyone in order to become adept in keeping everyone hooked. Their livelihood, and that of the giant multinationals that feed off of them, strictly depends on these potent potions not losing their hold on the human psyche. Under the guise of posing as freebie gifts to humanity, in order to allow us to rage against supposedly strong oppressors, such as tradition, they strangle the human mind in a glass cell of accessibility and spontaneity.

The fact that Facebook is not yet a regulated substance bewilders me. Use of Telegram, to my understanding, precisely fits the bill on what constitutes substance abuse. I pay for the cellular data that allows me to converse with others in a way that has no precedence in human history, and I am expected to do it the way that is prescribed, not because that is how I want to do it, but because the cartel that explores and expands the evil reach of Drug 2.0 has decreed how people ought to connect to and communicate with each other. Facebook used to give me the option to “Like” things. Now, I can show “Love”, “Rage” and a few other emotions. I am not me on Facebook, I am who Zuckerberg wants me to be, and his prescription for me is in sync with his business plan. The fact that the revolution to free us all from the grips of the digital exploitatory machinery has not started yet awes me.

What can be done? That is the key question and I don’t have an answer for it. I know two things, though. One, survival of the Homo sapiens, as a species, is dependent upon enforcing a leash around the many necks of the digital Chimera. And, two, the fact that no one may have an answer for a question of such magnitude and implication is in fact a key reason why the question must be asked and pondered upon.

And here is the question: What do we do with Addiction 2.0, personally and societally?

What do we do now that Capitalism has swallowed the web?

I have more than once been called an Anarchist and having read Noam Chomsky’s “On Anarchism”, I have found the A word a more accurate description of my disposition, compared to the other terms that have been used to describe the inner dynamics of the contents of my cranial cavity. I am an Anarchist. I get that. What does it mean, though, to be an Anarchist in the age of Capitalism? How can an Anarchist be involved in the use and development of Machine Learning, a technology that is destined to be the most severe blow to the dignity of the bottom of the pyramid of humanity?

A new friend, upon hearing that I have active presence on all major social media websites, suggested difficulty in understanding why I would not depart the latest manifestations of human exploitation instantly. I had, a few weeks prior to that interaction, heard Chris Hedges pose the rhetorical question “Why would anyone want to be on Facebook?”

Why am I on Facebook? And Twitter, and Instagram?

There are practicalities. The logistics of human survival in the second decade of the twentieth century makes it hard to leave Facebook. For example, I got to know about Chris Hedges’s talk through a message that I received from an acquaintance on Facebook. Moreover, the person in reference, who suggested that I should leave the sweatshop of human interaction, i.e. Facebook, was in fact introduced to me through a mutual friend whom I met on Facebook. The matter of fact is that I know many of the people in my life almost exclusively due to my presence in the online world. I am under the impression that if I categorize my acquaintances according to how I befriended them, then there will be a clear correlation between how I got to knew a particular person and the quality and longevity of my connections with her. I am aware that I have never executed a systematic assessment of my friendships as pertaining to how each one came about and was maintained. Nevertheless, I only need to look at my most fruitful interactions with humanity to recognize that I am indebted to the masters of human exploitation for the life that I live.

And that’s where the second important function of the social media in my intellectual well-being becomes apparent. I have seen multiple plays, watched numerous films, read shelves of books, only because I have received a pointer to them through the social media. Although sometimes implicit, for example when a “friend” on the social media refers to the book that she is reading, in many other instances the guiding hand has been explicit. I once received a package from a never-met “friend” who leaves in the northern shores of Europe. The package contained a book with a simple note that was delivered later on Instagram. “I read the book and liked it. I hope you like it as well.” The book in reference was Kader Abdolah’s My Father’s Notebook. Indeed one of the best books that I have read in 2018 so far.

Should we quit the social media in droves? Or, put alternatively, is there any justification for remaining on a platform that is built around the exploitation of the human urge for socialization and group bonding?

Important questions, indeed. Does the human predicament improve if every one of us reforms herself voluntarily in order to become a Daniel Blake? Before attempting to scratch the surface of a question of this magnitude, I would ask an alternative question: Four hundred years ago, Prince Hamlet contemplated whether existence is a binary situation, to be or not to be. The question whether or not one can hold up a life that has any touch of value while being an accomplice in the digitization and commodification of the human social tendencies is, to my understanding, a similarly complicated philosophical question.

Henceforth, I suggest a rephrasing of the question from “Should one use Facebook?” to “How can one be present on Facebook and still live a life of value?” This is, evidently, only a minuscule step towards attempting to understand the question. One important step, however, as it, correctly, to my understanding, opens up the list of potential options from the stay/leave dichotomy to a plethora of possibilities.

I would like to give this topic ample attention, pending, obviously, the availability of time. As the late Iranian poet Ahmad Shamlu wrote “If the lust for bread allows me to”.

The Lure of the Ordinary

My parents are visiting me. This is the third time that they have travelled to Canada, from Iran, and, therefore, we have gotten used to the drill: don’t get into too many details, don’t discuss too many controversial issues too frequently, and, most importantly, focus on commonalities. Hence, Doug Ford’s reversal of sex education developments is to be touched lightly and Bruce McArthur is only a passing interest. The geographical distance has ushered us into intellectual differences and this by itself is an interesting topic for a conversation over some beer and sweet potato fries. The fact that people think more similarly when they are situated in similar circumstances is, to my understanding, a very good piece of evidence for questioning one’s authority over one’s most intimate thoughts and feelings. In other words, if A and B’s geometrical proximity is a good predictor of their shared beliefs, then one should ask how much authority either A or B has over how “they” think. But this is not the reason that I rushed to my laptop as soon as my parents left the apartment in order to attend to finding a couch for me, a presumably innocuous task that, I hope, will give them a sense of purpose and thus result in a more enjoyable stay for them. This is not about that, however. This is about 158 and this is about 168, both incrementing as I am typing this piece and as you are reading it.

I have been a resident of the different social media for what started with Orkut and then continued with Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and a few other online services. I can safely say that not one week has passed without me posting some content on at least one social media service. I have also written about the social media and the dynamics present in them as blog posts as well as more “serious” pieces for online magazines and media outlets. I can state, therefore, albeit cautiously, that I have casually investigated the dynamics of the social media and that I have attempted my share of experimentation hereto. From using the multiple-image feature in Instagram in order to capture motion in a scene, to attaching an image to a tweet in order to be able to surpass the 140 (and now 280) character limit, I have tried to both take use of this young phenomenon that has now engulfed a measurable portion of the humanity as well as to understand it. The social media, however, never ceases to amaze me. And this is about the latest incident as such.

I marked July 29th a few weeks ago on my calendar, as the day my parents would arrive from Iran. This was a Sunday, and, therefore, I spent the rest of the week until Friday evening as I would do otherwise. On Friday night I had a few friends get together for a potluck barbecue that, due to the pouring rain, and because another group had contemplated taking refuge in the gazebo in my building’s backyard sooner, digressed into a stay-in lower-key party with wine flowing and shots of St-Germain delighting everyone’s mood. That kept me up until late into the night, and, therefore, Saturday was the day to clean up the entire apartment. A great friend of mine also stayed behind in order to help me and the clean-up project took up until late into the evening. That was when we retreated back to St-Germain and the night collapsed. The next morning, I woke up at 7:30 and tied up the loose ends.  When at about 4pm I stepped back to look at the results, I was wholesomely satisfied, and I was accompanied in this delight by Sion, my seven-year-old cat. His posture was too cute for me to let go of, however. Therefore, I took three pictures of him and posted the results on Instagram (link). In the first and the third pictures he is seated on a high chair. In the second one, he is yawning, as if tired of doing some magnificent work, that he never attends to in reality.

The Persian title of the Instagram post reads “After three days of cleaning up, in which he had no role.” The Instagram post is 19 hours old and it has received 160 likes. Let’s call them “nods of approval”. When I started writing this piece, the Instagram post had received 158 nods. The people who have given me jolts of pleasure for the trio constitute a curious group among whom stands, boldly and unapologetically, the second love of my life. The Instagram post is not the end of the story, however,

A few hours later, after I drove my parents back home and after we had had dinner in an Iranian restaurant in downtown Richmond Hill, I posted a second picture, this time in Facebook. In the picture my parents are standing, each with a red rose, and are smiling at the camera. I took the picture primarily for my sisters to know of our parents well being, and ended up posting it on Facebook anyways. The title of the Facebook post reads “Mother and father are here. I will be a family person for a month.” You need to be intimately familiar with the delicacies of the Persian language in order to absorb the deeper layers of this seemingly benign sentence. But that is not necessary. What is important is that 174 people have given me the nod of approval for that post. When I started writing this piece that number was 168.

There is nothing criminal about people approving each others’ actions when what is in question relates to welcoming a parent, going out with them, and, for what it takes, having a family life. These are actions that we enjoy, albeit the sought after vicinity of the same individuals becomes a suffocating leash as the number of the days grows. Why bother to discuss this matter then? People share their lives on the social media and people, the same people, give each other nods of approval. There are complications, of course. One example is the case of the 13-year-old Calgary boy who is suing his parents for “a decade of humiliation” exemplified by silly pictures of the claimant having been posted by his parents o the social media and thus “ruining my reputation”.

Ignoring rarities, what is wrong with sharing information about one’s ordinary life and receiving approval from one’s peers? The problem, I believe, is concentrated in the word “ordinary”.

I have not done any thorough research on the topic of what people share on the social media and what receives the most attention (I did look at Facebook IQ). Based on anecdotes and non-scientific personal observations, however,  my understanding is that eating at a restaurant, getting on a cruise ship, sunbathing, driving in Mexico, winning some award, getting married, and other topics of similar nature constitute the biggest share of the pie of the total attention paid to everything that is posted on the social media. My picture of the yawning Sion as well as the airport picture of my parents’ arrival sits well in this vaguely defined group. Notwithstanding, in terms of the aftermath, they indeed are an exception in the size of the reaction that I commonly receive on the social media. What I am used to is 80 likes on Instagram and 30 likes on Facebook, and, more importantly, these rewards are what I receive for a painstakingly taken shot, on Instagram, and a multiple-line blurb about the book that I am reading, on Facebook. Given that situation, it is no doubt an exception when I receive a reward many times larger for a piece of “content” that I have practically spent no time on. Speak of return on investment! No doubt the ordinary is significantly more economic when it comes to others’ reactions. And, I believe that’s how the full circle is completed. I explain.

I find it safe to assume that around me, i.e. in Canada, if not in the rest of the “developed” world, a sizable portion of human activity is driven, and more importantly is regulated, by considerations of return on investment. I would even step further and suggest that such considerations are so prevalent that the mere suggestion of their existence is alien to many people. This condition opens up the space for the provider of the return, which in this case is the crowd that “like”s what gets posted on the social media, to exert its defining power. Henceforth, and this is where the ordinary is cherished and rewarded, what people like in the social media is what people share in the social media. Therefore, if people allot more reward to “I just ate sushi” compared to “I just read a book”, then more people are going to share “I just ate sushi” compared to the number of people who would share “I just read a book”. This situation, I am speculating, subsequently develops further into not only sharing “I just ate sushi” more frequently, but also, and more importantly, in fact practicing the act of “I just ate sushi” more commonly compared to committing one’s time to “I just read a book”. One needs to merely consider the investment and the return associated with these two activities in order to realize that eating sushi is more affordable than reading a book whilst it also derives more return.

I am not going to draw any further conclusions in addition to what I have already stated. People celebrate the ordinary on the social media, therefore people discuss the ordinary more prevalently on the social media, therefore the same people steer their lives more prominently towards the ordinary. And that’s how the lure of the ordinary conquers our lives.