Okay, so. Since this is my first post, I thought it’d be fun to share a concept with which I’ve become enamored – Modern Jackass Magazine. The idea came from the start of a This American Life a few weeks ago, titled “A Little Bit of Knowledge…” The theme was how much trouble folks with only a little bit of information can get into.
“Modern Jackass” refers to an imaginary magazine that we all write for from time to time. Whenever you’re in over your head, half-improvising information to prove a point that you read in an article that you can’t exactly remember? You’re writing for Modern Jackass.
Have you found yourself lecturing your friends about things which, if you were being totally honest, you’d have to admit that you know very little about? You’re writing for Modern Jackass. Giving a history lesson about a country that you’ve never visited? Modern Jackass.
It’s cool, we all write for them from time to time; their contributors list is practically a whole magazine in and of itself. The trick is to just acknowledge it, like this:
“Well, the study I read said that the SPF of certain types of over-the-counter… um… you know what? I’m totally writing for Modern Jackass right now.”
Because believe me, it’s something that happens to all of us, and ALL THE TIME. I’m, like, on the freaking masthead for MJ Magaine. I don’t mean to be, but I always find myself reading some super-interesting article in Mother Jones, then really wanting to share what I learned. The next thing I know, I’m telling my roommate about how there are three TYPES of skin cancer, though I can’t remember their names, and how Melanoma is only caused by one type of UV ray, but it’s not blocked, or maybe it’s only partially blocked by sunscreen, and blah blah blah Modern Jackass.
Whether it’s while discussing dietary choices, the decline of the music industry, the voting habits of middle america, art history… I’m sure that at some point you, too, have found yourself twenty feet too far down the conversational river, bullshitting just to keep your head above water.
Things only get worse when more than one member of the conversation is currently in Modern Jackass mode (and it seems as though more often than not, that’s the case). Before you know it, everyone is throwing around half-remembered statistics, unattributed quotes, other names that whatis-name’s last name sounds like, and promises to “email you the article.” It’s never pretty.
I won’t get into the possible causes of Modern Jackassness – perhaps that is a subject for a later post. Common sense suggests that the incredible amount of information gleaned during a spin around the web is contributing to a sort of broad intellectual shallowness? Whatever; it’s kind of a young phenomenon, and as of now, the data are inconclusive.
For the time being, all we can do is sort of, you know, Modern Jackass it.