The Blue Dot After a Flash Photo

I’ve become interested in the idea of conflated memory. It’s taken me down an interesting rabbit hole with my silent film and Ernie Kovacs research. And now, it appears, it seems to have become part of the social media experience.

Some of the stereotypes people know and believe about silent film involve scenes where a woman is tied to train tracks, erratic policemen in Bobby hats are running around, or people are throwing pies at each other. All things that rarely happened in silent films, or — like the Keystone cops — were only around for a couple years.

Ernie Kovacs is often talked about as a television comedian who did a lot with special effects, and whose best-known sketch was the Nairobi Trio. Kovacs used the vision part of television way more than most comedians, but special effects were occasional dabblings of his. I’ve seen everything that survives of the Kovacs shows — including the 70 or so surviving episodes out of the approximately 150 of his NBC morning show — and have only found a handful of iterations of the Trio routine.

For me, sometimes posting on social media can feel like an endless game of jumping up and down and trying to get someone’s attention from across a crowded room, of constantly blowing bubbles that pop and need to be replenished. It’s a lot of work, posting interestingly and frequently, and I’ve been wondering about what the general impression it gives off is. It turns out an interesting way to gauge this is to stop for a while.

Buster Keaton postal worker

Not the “hey, folks, I’m taking a break from Facebook” kind, where you announce you’re going to stop posting and start up again a week or two later. Just stop. With a little mild trickle here and there when you’ve got some big news (like that you were a guest on Gilbert Gottfried’s podcast or if you’re releasing a new DVD).

This is what I did from August to October of last year, and again since just before the holidays. October to December I posted a little more, but mainly about the 9 week series at MoMA in NYC I was doing.

Regardless of whether I was posting regularly or hardly at all, people I’d encounter (in real life) and chat with will say “You’re really traveling a lot!” or “you’re really busy!” Which I was, even if I hadn’t been posting about it.

There seems to be a general time-lag or at least a long trail of the impression I’ve made on social media, like the way a photo flash hangs in your eyes and brain for several seconds after it goes off. So, maybe I’m off the hook, as far as feeling I need to be constantly blowing bubbles online.

One of my goals for the year (okay and last year too) is get better about sending out emails. They’re less ephemeral than social media posts, but they take a little more time and focus. Maybe if I dial back posting on social media I’ll get a little more consistent at it. After all, it doesn’t seem to make much difference how much I’m posting.

If you’d like to get my emails, you can sign up here. I’ll only be in your inbox a two or three times a month. Or, if you like, subscribe to the blog.

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