16 April 2007

How to Simulate Popularity

Mathematically speaking, not everyone can be popular. Indeed, the popular must always be a minority. On reaching a majority percentage, any deemed popular automatically revert to being boring and outmoded.

Traditionally, the subject of popularity was relegated mainly to high school social status. With the advent of social networking sites, each individual, within and without high school, has an opportunity to become popularity. Depending on the number of social networking sites to which an individual belongs, one's experience with each site, and the subculture particular to each site, one might become simultaneously more and less popular than one's self. Unfortunately, the social identity disorder caused by the accumulation of multiple virtual identities, while fascinating, lacks significant scientific study and is beyond the scope of this article at this time.

Certain aspects of online social networking require special attention to ensure one's popularity. Though variable, these generally include the following: knowledge of pop culture, friend volume, status and activity monitors, and conditional uniqueness.

Knowledge of popular culture often takes the form of either quizzes or forum-style discussion on particular topic of sufficient obscurity or childhood reminiscence value. Fortunately, neither exchange is constrained by body language, tone of voice, or the temporal dimensions of face-to-face social situations, alleviating a great deal of stress and anxiety from an individual's response. Usually a few well-worded search queries and wikipedia articles will provide adequate information with which to appear both knowledegable and interested, thereby increasing one's online popularity.

By friend volume, we mean the quantity of other users of any given social networking site who have agreed to associate, however loosely, their virtual identities with that of the individual. Again, being that these friendships generally require hardly more depth than a few mouse clicks and some shared interest, e.g., becoming popular on social networking sites, very little effort is required to appear popular.

Status and activity monitors are built in to nearly every social-networking sites, or at least the ones worth joining. These display important information such as recent log-ins, number of posts, and often more varied and site-specific means of determining one's involvement— and therefore, popularity— in any given social network. Furthermore, regular profile reformatting and picture updates will ensure that others view one as highly involved in pseudo-community life, again, increasing one's popularity therein.

Conditional uniqueness is a significant, if nebulous, aspect of social networking which one ignores to their own virtual exclusion. The difficulty is in appearing unique enough to not be associated with any mass movement (which, being of the majority, is decidedly unpopular), while maintaining close but inexact similarities to an identifiable subculture. Indie music is a helpful analogy. Bands which are generally too unique either sell out or burn out. Those that survive best are those which sound like one another, but are nevertheless never associated under any particular record label.

In conclusion, the reader should understand that online popularity is both much easier than face-to-face popularity, and equally unrewarding. However, unlike face-to-face popularity, anyone can, with little to no significant effort, become popular within online social networking sites.

01 April 2007

How to Remain Single Indefinitely

Dating is a game of chess. Ladies, you know I love you, but for this post, let's just sit back and listen patiently and sympathetically. Guys, I repeat, and I'll expound below: dating is a game of chess.

You're playing white, because white always makes the first move, often a gambit. Perhaps some scrawny-necked pawn with no defenses, wide out in the open, ripe for almost certain decapitation. I applaud your vulnerability: moving that knight is too defensive.

You know as well as I do that the early game is about control of the center. Often— there are no professionals here— you'll never know if a move you make will come back to haunt you later, or whether a move you thought useless will garner some later advantage.

The mid-game requires tactical skill and precision. You may be tempted to go for the capture early— a risky move, no doubt, but what will it cost you if you fail? Likewise, playing it safe and defensively is a guarantee of a non-win. Perhaps you'll manuever your way to an endgame win. Or a tie. Or a loss.

The truth is, you won't find out. Even if you've managed to make only entirely dubious moves, the board will certainly be abandoned and all the pieces left to rot before any satisfactory culmination to the match occurs. Because this woman with whom you've recently been so strategically entangled, will decide not to finish the game in favor or playing Candyland.

In chess, you took risks, maybe made sacrifices. You could have handled a loss; you'd maintain the dignity of retrospection. You could have settled for a tie; rarely are two so evenly matched. You had hoped for a win, but the muse of unfair play has drawn you away to a game altogether unlike the first.

Here, in this Land of Candy, chance rules over skill; superficiality over depth; novelty over longevity. You're still playing a game, yes, but one meaningless and emasculated. Completion promises no sense of accomplishment for a game well-played, only the numb repetition of another round of mere friendliness and sugary geniality. But being just friends is better than nothing, right?