"The true gentleman is friendly, but not familiar." - CONFUCIUS

Thursday, April 29, 2010


FACEBOOK, THE SOCIAL NETWORKING SITE HALF YOUR LIVES REVOLVE AROUND, has finally figured out how to make money. More than 50,000 sites now have ‘Like’ buttons which, when pressed, generate a message in your status timeline indicating your interest for said site, story, product, etc. Go to cnn.com, for instance, and you may see a window containing pictures of your friends alongside summaries of stories they ‘like’ (assuming your friends read the news, that is). Of course, if you click ‘Like’ on TieMeUp.com, don’t be shocked when you see buttplug ads on your profile page the next day. Facebook shares the data on your tastes with companies who then pay to advertise directly to you. Observant users already know Facebook has been doing a small-scale version of this for years. Just check the right column of your profile and see. But of course, the concerned citizens of the Internet are at full-on, nipples-out Indignant Level Red, flooding status feeds and news sites with words like “privacy”, “breach” and “privacy”.

Did I say “privacy” twice? Well, lets talk about privacy then. First of all, what are you hiding? Who are you people? Serial killers? Secret agents? Do you unlock your apartment door using face recognition technology? You wish you were that interesting. These are the people who clamp passwords on their laptops so nobody will steal those 200 new pictures of their ugly newborn that all their friends have been just dying to get their hands on. These are the kind of people who just want something to be outraged about, but find things like war and the corporate looting of America too racey. Whenever you meet someone who takes privacy extra seriously, be on alert, because they either have serious skeletons in their closet, or they’re just serious pains in the ass. I’m happy to share 99.99% of my personal information because, for the most part, I’m a law-abiding person and I’m not ashamed of my interests. The few things I prefer to keep private, I KEEP PRIVATE - a.k.a. off the Internet and out of my mouth. We share information because we want others to know who we are, what we like, and how we feel. That’s why it’s called ‘sharing’. You don't have to press 'Like'. Got a high-profile job? Leave the ‘privacy settings’ page alone and just keep the flicks of you huffing nitrous oxide off the Internet. Nothing’s foolproof, and it’s not worth it. This was true before Facebook’s expansion, and it’s true now. Nobody's got a gun to your head.

If you have a website, the ‘Like’ function may also be good news for you. If you install the button on your site, both you and Facebook should begin to see a healthy uptick in visitors - provided people actually ‘Like’, or like, what you’re promoting, of course. Nobody in history has ever clicked a web banner deliberately. The economy’s in the toilet partially because everything is on the Internet now, but nobody has figured out how to make it profitable for the big guys and the little guys - until now. This is the future of business, and for the sake of your eight blogs and two real estate websites that haven’t seen ten visitors since February, it’s wise not to interfere.

Which brings me to my final point, which I will pose as a question: do you want Facebook to survive? Since you’re probably reading this article between commenting on your friends’ new Cancun pictures, I’ll assume the answer is a healthy ‘yes’. Then be happy that the site you spend so much time on has finally found a way to make a buck and tailor advertising to your personal tastes in the process. Advertising is a fact of life, and if products must be shoved in my face, I’d prefer they’re products I’m interested in. You’ve been using Facebook all this time for free. You even use Facebook to start Facebook groups to complain about Facebook. Now you’re crunchy because they finally figured out how to make money off you? Nothing good is free, folks.


BACK IN THE DAY, I COULD NEVER UNDERSTAND WHY GURU WAS FAMOUS. When I first heard Gang Starr in 1994, I said "dope beats, but is that guy really rapping on the whole record?" His famed 'monotone style' sounded like talking. Half his rhymes made me laugh out loud. Fifteen years later, the "who can recite the funniest Guru line' game is still a house party hit. It's not that I didn't like him to an extent, I just couldn't understand what he was doing in a group with DJ f^&king Premier. Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony was rapping in triple-time. Redman was rapping on the moon. Guru was rapping about going to the bookstore.

But if you wanted to hear Primo, you had to hear Guru. So I listened. And as time went by, I started putting together the pieces of a man. Here was a guy who sat on a stoop for his album cover. The back cover was a close-up of his hands. Here was a rapper who never raised his voice, used no vocal overdubs, no loud hooks. Here was a rapper who talked about being his own worst enemy. About how to survive, how to strive. About grace under pressure. As we grew, Guru became indispensable. Plenty of rappers were better technically, but there was no replacement for Guru, no substitute. There isn't a lyric from any Gang Starr album since Hard To Earn that I don't know by heart. And they make a whole lot more sense to the man I am now than they did to the boy I was then.

As teenagers, we obviously had no idea what ‘keep it real’ meant. Ask us to explain it and we'd normally take it upon ourselves to fill a blank that wasn't there: real 'tough', real 'hardcore', and on. A lot of murders went down in the name of that phrase, and it might have killed hip-hop as we knew it too. ‘Real’ is a concept that escapes adults, never mind a bunch of insecure street kids who suddenly became the center of the pop world. Too many of us thought “keeping it real” meant nothing more than owning up to the evil in us, giving in to the evil in the world. Too few of us understood that it also means pushing to be the best person we can be, and improving the world in the process. Life is a struggle between the way things are and the way things should be, and too many of us stopped struggling. Guru never did. Even then he was older than most of his listeners, so we were too young to understand what he was saying, or how it was molding us all. Guru talked about being grown, and, well, being grown is corny sometimes. 'Keep it real' is the value that defines my generation. It’s a value I live by. It’s a value Guru taught me, and he embodied it. Guru will forever have a place in my heart as a shining example of the virtue of life’s twin pillars: honesty and good intentions.