Stupid Is As Stupid Does

As Instagram has evolved from a place to post adorable kitten pictures to a place to proudly display stupid decisions, incidents like this are becoming so common place that even the most avid Instagram followers yawn and keep scrolling.  Well in advance of shark week, a beautiful Instagram model decided to swim with nurse sharks for an impromptu photo-op, and was – surprise, surprise! – summarily bitten and dragged under the water. Apparently, she saw a school (herd?) of sharks milling about and thought, “this is the perfect opportunity for an action shot.”  Now so much is wrong here, from her “Everybody else is doing it” attitude that led her to her predicament to the article’s emphasis that she is due to start nursing school and had been raised around the water.  The former is, as my mother always taught me, no reason to do anything while the latter is completely inconsequential; intelligence is completely useless if it is ignored.  Besides, after being attacked by a nurse shark, maybe she needs to rethink her future choices.

I wonder if the shark posted the pics to his own Instagram account.  “I was so thrilled to meet her, but when I tried to shake her hand, she freaked out.”

Katarina is proof that all the beauty in the world can’t protect you from regrettable decisions.  Or nurse sharks.

From liars to cheaters and all manner of stupidity in between, Instagram takes all that is dumb in the world and displays it for everyone.  Why do people continue to do these things?

I will agree, it never crossed my mind to tell my own daughter not to swim with sharks.  I also never told her she shouldn’t run in front of a speeding train or drive with a blindfold on.  I think there comes a point when some things are as obvious as the sun in the sky on a bright summer day.  There are already incredibly stupid warning signs everywhere, indicating that people have actually done the things listed.

My personal favorite is the one on roller coasters cautioning people not to stand up on the ride.  Is this a common problem in amusement parks?  I saw a fan belt for a car with the cautionary warning to make sure the car isn’t running when the belt is being installed.  I mean, seriously? “No diving,” urges a sign at a two foot deep inflatable kiddie pool.  Have we become so absent-minded that we need to be told to turn off the electricity in the house before installing a light socket? If we’re not there yet, we’re certainly on our way.

Here is a story – with video – of a family who got out of their cars at a Safari park.  Now this went down in several layers of stupidity.  First, the husband opens his car door to get a picture of the cheetahs.  The wife decides this is a great time to put something in the trunk of the car.  A little farther down, they decided that some resting cheetahs would be an amazing photo-op (they’re not wrong, but still …), so they all get out of the car for a family romp amongst the wild cats.  The cheetahs were not amused, frankly, and start to charge the family.  I think the thing that gets me more than anything else is that the article states that the woman “Shooed” the cheetahs while walking back to the car.  Recap:  Your family is being chased by cheetahs.  You scoop up your younger child and casually stroll back to the car.  You wave the cheetahs away with your hand, scolding them with “shoo!”  Heck, “shoo” doesn’t work on the feline demons we invite into our homes to live, why on earth would it work for cheetahs?  Did she think they would stop, reconsider their actions, admit they acted hastily, and offer the family tea and a biscuit?

Now, I’ve been told that walking slowly and not running was the exact right way to deal with that situation as it makes you seem less like “prey.” The only thing she did wrong was turn her back on them … or so say the zoological experts in my circle. I’m not going to say they’re wrong, but I will interject that, in my opinion, had the cheetahs not been so utterly shocked and taken aback at the audacity of this family, the cats might’ve recovered a bit more quickly and the situation would’ve ended differently.

Personally, I don’t think I could forgive the men in my life if they simply took off like bats out of hell and left me to fend with the cheetahs while holding my (and one of theirs?) offspring. But that’s a topic for another day.

For whatever reasons dangerous selfies and stupid photo ops have gained popularity, people need to stop and think before they act.  My friend went on a beautiful road trip along Skyline Drive in the West Virginia mountains, and saw many bears walking along the side of the road or perched along the stone walls lining the drive.  The one encounter that stuck with her was the car full of people in front of her who rolled their windows down about three feet from an admittedly surprised black bear and her two cubs.  The people then half-stood out of their car windows, phones in hand, to get a selfie with the mama bear.  The bear was, my friend believes, too shocked by their stupidity to do anything at all for the entire five minutes they “posed” with her.  My friend isn’t a rocket scientist, but even she knows you don’t mess with mama bear and her cubs.  She had her own phone in hand to video the mauling she fully expected, and maybe to consider calling 911 as Darwinism played itself out in front of her. Sadly though, as has happened too often in the past, it would have been the bears who paid the ultimate price had they reacted to the idiotic tourists, like, you know, bears.

Evolution works to thin out the numbers.  Instagram is just there to record it when it happens.

I sincerely wish Katarina a speedy recovery, but dear Katarina:  We all hope that if you are ever offered a sight-seeing trip in Africa that you politely decline.  Lions don’t like cameras. And they might not be as forgiving as the nurse sharks you encountered.

Grammar Police:  Heroes or Villains?

They are all over the social media sites.  They are hated and feared, but we all have to giggle at them.  Maybe you know one.  Maybe you are one.

The Grammar Police.

This is a very unique group of people who can take anyone’s heartfelt sentiment and reduce it to rubble with their inability to resist correcting misspellings and grammar.

Here’s an example of how the Grammar Police can ruin nearly anything they read:

Poster: I am thrilled to announce the birth of my sweet baby boy, Paul.  After years of trying and much heartbreak, we have a little miracle of our own.  I finally feel at peace with the tragedy that has struck so often in the past when I look at his perfect little face.  We weren’t sure he would make it through the delivery, and it was touch and go for me for a while, too.  An emergency C-Section saved both of our lives, but the surgeon accidentally dropped his watch into the incision and had to go back in to get it. The hospital lost electricity and the surgery was done without anesthesia by candlelight. We are so pleased that Paul is not only cute, but healthy, to.

Grammar Police: *too

Poster:  Really?  Your heartless.

Grammar Police: *you’re

I am anti-Grammar Police, personally.  The poster has clearly gotten their point across and has anxiously hit the “post” button, awaiting the outpouring of support or debate the update will bring.  Instead, an entire segment of the social media population fixates on one thing: the unfortunate use of “there” instead of “their.”  Or “to” instead of “too.”

I admit, any error in grammar or spelling jumps out of the impassioned sentences and slaps my brain like the thought of Elmer Fudd in the shower; impossible to ignore no matter how hard I try.  I am stronger than my urges, however, and will overlook the errors in the spirit of solidarity with the poster.  Inside, however, I am correcting with the best of them … I just choose to keep this obnoxious behavior to myself instead of posting it out there in public for all to see.

What I can’t ignore are people who abbreviate words in their postings for no reason whatsoever.  I’m sure you’ve seen these, too:

Poster:  U no I like u, rite?  Wut u doin’ l8ter?

Me:  What the hell are you saying? I know you’re trying to communicate … but come on! Work with me here!

I wonder what these people do with all the extra time they have saved by not typing out complete words.  My eyes wander across these posts, filling in the blanks, but the time they saved posting is time I waste translating.  I could have used those precious seconds to do so much with my day.

I think my favorite are the pseudo-intellectuals who attempt to drop big words into their posts, and use them incorrectly or spell them horribly.

Poster:  I just finished a grate autobiography today.  I understand Lincoln’s Emaciation Declaration much more, now.  People are so dumb; everyone should edukate themselves like I do.

Grammar Police:  Where do I start …

My own personal fear is auto-correct when I use voice-activated typing or texting.  If I don’t proofread my post before sending, I end up with something that reads:

Me: I read the cantaloupe yesterday.  I don’t knife why pickles hate digging that; I looped it.

Grammar Police:  I think I just had a stroke.

Grammar Police are either the unsung heroes of the internet, correcting their little world one word at a time, or they are the villains, wrecking dreams and sentiment with just a few keystrokes.  There is no in between; Grammar Police are all or nothing when it comes to their obsession.

If you are a member of the Grammar Police Force, knock it off.  We ALL see the errors, but we just don’t care; we read through the mistakes to the underlying message.  If you have been a victim of an overzealous Grammar Cop, keep on posting and know you are not alone.

As for the visual of Elmer Fudd in the shower?  You’re welcome.

Socially Unacceptable Social Media

If I look at one more picture of a dinner plate on my Facebook pages, my next status update will be from jail for assault.

Social media is simply out of control.  I wish it was as mundane as posting dinner pictures, but people are getting a little too comfortable sharing their most personal, intimate thoughts on their Facebook pages. These pictures of their innocent children on the first day of school, their vacation plans, or their real feelings about neighbors, religion or politics seem harmless on the surface, but consider this.

The average Facebook user has 338 friends. Okay, don’t ask me how I figured that out. It’s a terribly complex and difficult formula that I came up with all on my own. Out of those friends, only a handful are people these users actually know; family, coworkers, and real life friends account for an astonishingly small percentage of those 338 people.  That leaves an alarming number of people they really do not know on a personal level that subscribe to their page.  Friends of friends, people who pop up because of a shared interest or mutually “liked” page or TV show, and downright strangers make up the rest of the 338 people.

Many studies have been conducted regarding the various Facebook or Twitter users who feel it is necessary to inform everyone of every action they take throughout the day.  “Going to the bathroom, brb.”  “Taking out the trash.”  “Just woke up.”  “Going to the gym. Again.” And the selfies…good God, the selfies.  These are people who try to validate themselves through social media.  No one gives a damn about your carefully orchestrated duck face as you post that must-see picture of you holding your teacup poodle…all carefully filtered of course.

Yet, the people who make these posts really do think people care.  As if people are waiting with bated breath to see what they might post next. They randomly friend people who comment on someone else’s posts, and just as routinely unfriend people who don’t like that adorable selfie they took by the beach.  To be unfriended by someone is apparently devastating to the extreme, and they will take to their media of choice to cry about being unfriended.  In fact, in one astonishing case, being unfriended was a reason to commit murder. I mean, WTF?

Want to bet they duck faced for the mug shot?

This is all pretty frightening, but it hardly even scratches the surface of the social media lunacy.

People, mostly females for some reason, become so obsessed with actors that they post their reaction to every move the guy might make.  I’m not entirely sure what they hope to accomplish with this; perhaps it gives them a cachet and makes them feel important. Maybe they think this ultra-rich, ultra-handsome, ultra-everything will notice their post or tweet or whatever and simply appear from his island getaway to sweep her off her feet.

This was brought home to me a couple of days ago when I was watching an excerpt of a British talk show featuring host Graham Norton reading Facebook posts from women talking about their lust for actor Benedict Cumberbatch (Kahn in Star Trek: Into Darkness, Sherlock, Doctor Strange.) Poor Cumberbatch’s acting skills were really put to the test as he sat there and pretended that he was amused and not revolted or uncomfortable at all to hear someone say, “Just bury me in a Y-shaped coffin,” or “I can get pregnant just looking at him.” “I look at him and my ovaries explode.” Those were the “decent” ones. I could go on, but my mother reads this blog, and I try to save the ensuing lectures over my…ahem…colorful language…for rants I’m truly passionate about.

Oh, and just so you know, we have recently found out what makes women pregnant, and let me be the first to reassure frightened women everywhere that eyeing up Sherlock’s junk does not in fact contribute to pregnancy. Whew!  I know, right?  That was a close one. And by the way, get a grip. It’s one thing to have your private fantasies about an actor whom you like – there’s nothing new in that. We all do it. But to look at him solely as a sex object? Yeah, I suppose you could say it’s tit for tat as men have been looking at and objectifying women’s bodies since forever; long before the advent of social media. But still. Do two wrongs ever make a right? And to blast it out lewdly for all the world to hear see? That’s a little much if you ask me.

What’s the common phrase men write on message boards? “I’d do her,” referring to some actress whom they might not like in a role, but who looks so good that they’d “do” her anyway. I hate to burst that bubble, boys, but chances are the actress in question would never give any one of you the time of day. They’re on a whole other level from “normal” people. I’m also willing to bet my next Facebook picture of a baked potato that if 90% of the guys who say “I’d do her” on these message boards ever actually met the actress in question, they wouldn’t be able to muster up the nerve to say word-one to her…at least not coherently.

So, although I was somewhat revolted by this…psycho-gushing is the nicest term I can call it… it got me thinking about people who post things on social media of this nature. Do they expect the actors they’re talking about to read these posts? Do they secretly hope they will? Do they think the actor in question will actually want to meet them after reading this stuff? “Oh my goodness, did you read that!?  I just have to meet that revolting amazing person ASAP!”

These actors are real people, for goodness sake. They’re not just characters on a screen or a photo op in a magazine. They. Are. Real. People.  It is actually possible for them to read these Facebook and Twitter posts and what’s equally disturbing, so can their families.  These real people have wives, children, mothers, and fathers. People on the actor’s staff have to read this garbage, too; someone from Graham Norton’s staff obviously monitors the web very closely to find anything written about the actors he’s about to interview, for one.

Now as regular readers of my blog know, I’m a serious Marvel movie and TV fan. I like to think that if I ever met any of the actors who star in these creations (I’m looking at you Loki Tom Hiddleston), I’d act like a mature individual, say, “Hi, I enjoy your work,” and let them get on with their lives without 1.) thinking that they’d be so taken with me (one fan out of a thousand to greet them on any given day) that they’d even remember me 5 minutes later, or 2.) be that lewd, babbling stalker they do remember and recount as a “you’ve got to hear this one!” story on Graham Norton. That is if I’d be able to talk at all instead of just stare. But “Here, sign my boob!” I would never utter. At least not sober. It’s enough that I can enjoy their characters on the big screen, and know in real life they are totally different with lives of their own.

Long story short, Facebook posters and social media users everywhere, get a freakin’ grip.  Now, excuse me while I go post this incredible picture I just took of my lunch.

Darwin’s Law for a Younger Generation

For the uninitiated, Darwin’s Law is simple.  Basically, it revolves around survival of the fittest, or in this case, the smartest.  Those who don’t succeed in smart choices are doomed to fade away.  Or, you know, grow up and vote.

I would love to say I was immune to these challenges.  I’d like to say it, but that would be a lie.   Take the cinnamon challenge from a few years back.  You remember this one?  Kids would chug large mouthfuls of straight cinnamon while their supposed friends recorded the whole thing rather than offer to help.  Hilarity ensued as the victim choked and burned in agony, their pain forever recorded on YouTube or Facebook.  Good times were had by all.

I was maybe six when I did this myself.  To be clear, it wasn’t on purpose.  It was an accident.  You see, I loved cinnamon toast. Being the typical six-year-old, I figured there were only two ingredients: toast and cinnamon.  But who needs toast anyway?  The toast in cinnamon toast is sort of an unessential element if you ask me – kinda like the water in whiskey and water. Let me at that yummy box of cinnamon and let’s get right to the good stuff!

So there I was at the precocious age of 6…my poor mother. I climbed up the tall shelf that held all of the forbidden goodies, grabbed that box and upended it over my mouth.  Yummy…no…wait…yikes!  There was an immediate reaction.  I couldn’t breathe, the powder coated my throat and puffed into my sinuses. My mother had to practically drown me to get it washed out because water simply does not do much to clear the cinnamon invasion (if you notice, when you pour water on it, cinnamon separates and stays dry). My Mom said it was one of the scariest moments when I was a kid. So even though it sounds like it’s nothing, swallowing straight cinnamon is really very dangerous and stupid. Kids are doing this as a game.  It’s insane.

As a side note, I still love cinnamon toast, but I now know Mom had a few additional ingredients other than just cinnamon and toast in her delicious treat. I do learn. In case you were wondering.

It was actually my mother’s fault that I took part in what might have been the first trial ever of the cinnamon challenge.   You see kids, in the days that cinnamon actually came in boxes or tins, there was also a thing we used to call a wall phone.  Imagine, a phone tethered to the wall by a long cord.  These cords came in various lengths, allowing parents much more freedom to sneak up and catch their kids doing stupid things.  For the longest time, we had a short cord. However, after having lived with me for a while, my Mom secretly traded out the short cord for a long phone cord so that she could spy on my antics while talking to Aunt Margaret, Uncle Joe, or that gossipy lady down the street.  Moms have a weird sixth sense about when their kids are getting into mischief, or, in this case, blatant stupidity.  She also knew that a phone call was just enough time for her wayward child to partake in various shenanigans such as breaking a lamp, sneaking a cookie, or in this case, chugging a box of cinnamon.  I believe that I would have escaped unscathed had she not popped up around the corner, phone clenched in her hand, and caught me with the box.  She scared me so much that I choked on the cinnamon.  Hey, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Then there were the challenges involving innocent school supplies.  Ah, yes, the sissy test.  For reasons still unclear to psychologists everywhere, the kids in this one take a pencil top eraser and rub a spot on the top of their hand until the skin is raw. Because this is not nearly painful or satisfying enough, the kids continue to rub the spot until it becomes a painful sore.  I guess the idea was to be able to prove you can take the pain or perhaps to erase elementary school tattoos.  Of course had I known I’d be going through the excruciating agony pleasures of childbirth twice later in life, I would’ve scoffed at whoever created this challenge with a self-satisfied smirk and a wise nod.  “Ahhh, little grasshopper.  You’ve got nothing!”  At any rate, I still have the scar. I never said I was a brilliant child. In my defense, this was elementary school and not high school. Does that help?  No? Oh well.

Other challenges I remember included how high one could swing while STANDING on the swing; emergency room doctors and dentists were fond of this one. As we got older, we tempted fate by knocking down Old Lady Lloyd’s mailbox.  Sounds innocent, but you would be amazed at how fast a ninety year old woman can run down a sidewalk brandishing a cane.

There is a trend now in these challenges that seems to be more serious, with a risk of permanent injury and even in some cases life threatening.  When did challenges go from sticking your tongue to a metal pole in the winter to more ominous and dangerous risks?   Can we blame social media hysteria?  Attention seeking compulsions and a desire to be a part of something no matter how stupid? Unbelievable peer pressure?  A feeling of invincibility from watching too much violent TV?   I mean, there has to be something.

Activities like the “condom” challenge where you inhale a condom and pull it through your mouth just makes absolutely zero sense to me.  Then, there is “Sack Tapping” which, to me is just crazy.  Boys trying to dash their mothers’ dreams of grandchildren all in the name of “manning up.”  Do they not realize they can do permanent damage or do they not care? These parents more than any others deserve to have grandchildren if for no other reason than to say “HA! You now have kids that act exactly like you did!”

Duct taping a friend to a pole or some other object seems to be a thing. I know, right? I thought it was a fake challenge myself, but apparently it happens. The goal of course is to duct tape the so-called friend as tightly as possible and then the friend tries their best to break free. With friends like these, who needs enemies?  I understand one girl partaking in the challenge broke her teeth and several bones in her face because she fell over onto concrete and couldn’t catch herself. Because of course, her hands were duct taped to her sides. I’m sure she wasn’t alone. I’m sure others have endured similar challenge-related injuries. This challenge, among all the others, can sometimes include a glorious one night’s vacation stay in a hospital.

Believe it or not, setting your friends or yourself on fire is a game. A game. Yes. you read that right. A. Game. The rules here are simple.  You douse yourself in flammable liquid and set yourself on fire while friends operate the video equipment (aka cell phone), the results of which are then posted on social media. Marshmallows are optional, and the fun abounds as the winners get to discover the joys of second and third degree burns.

My immediate reaction to all of this of course is to say, WTF?  My second reaction is to question the parenting involved in these young people’s lives. As a parent myself, I know kids can get into trouble. I’ve had my fair share of worries, concerns, and downright “what the hell were you thinking” moments. I’m happy to report though that neither of my kids have set themselves on fire. Perhaps judging the parents is unfair…but if not the home-life, then what?  What drives kids to do these ridiculously stupid things? And more importantly, how do we get them to stop?

The one thing all of these stupid challenges share is attention seeking behavior from the participants and the “hey are these really your friends??” individuals egging them on.  If we could convince our kids and teens to unsubscribe and unfollow these people, their fame may be over and the challenges would stop.

Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open with your kids.  Explain that Wally McFlame may seem funny today, but that he is placing his life in very real danger.  I would not be averse to showing a few real pictures of burn victims to drive the point home.  Our kids are tech savvy beyond belief, and smarter than we give them credit for.  But they are also naïve in so many ways. We need to step in and keep our kids firmly planted in reality.

My kids have tested my sanity (still intact, thank you very much), stressed me (nothing a little wine won’t fix!), and have generally made life interesting through their ongoing antics, that is for sure.  But thankfully, my kids have thus far survived without having participated in any of the challenges that are apparently intended to weed them out of society.  I personally will keep the cinnamon far out of reach, and carefully monitor all school supplies to ensure they are being used properly.  I don’t want to admit to my kids that I may, or may not, have done a few silly things myself.