October 2, 2014
A no-news filter for status updates
For the Herald
What is your status? Please do share (1). Make sure to inform us of what you are eating or reading or doing at this very moment. Convince us you are happy and fulfilled. Otherwise, how would we know?
I'm not the first person to decry (2) how publicly self-involved we have become. And I'm certainly no less addicted to my smartphone than the average US multitasker (3), as my wife will attest. But there is a fine line between relying (4) on social media for information and communication — and using it to broadcast your every experience.
Have I interrupted a date with my wife to keep up with the latest happenings in Ukraine? Yes. Have I done so to Instagram my salad because (OMG!) it has currants (5) in it? Never.
Does that make me a social-media elitist? Probably.
But I am concerned about the way our obsession with the status update has transformed reality into something else entirely. When we regularly step out of the present in order to record it, filter it and then share it with people we do not care enough about to actually be around, we are removing ourselves from the moments we're documenting. Our filtered lives are subsuming (6) our real ones.
So by all means (7) enjoy that salad. But stop documenting it. No one needs a press conference about your appetizer. You are not news.
By Reza Aslan for The Washington Post.(1) Emphatic do
What is “do” doing in this affirmative sentence? One way to put emphasis on a verb when we speak is to stress the auxiliary, a word that is not normally stressed. But the simple tenses (simple present and simple past) do not have an auxiliary in the affirmative, so when we want to add emphasis we include a do/does or did, as the writer did in this sentence.
To decry something is to criticize it strongly in public.
This term originated in computers, to describe a system that runs multiple tasks (programmes) at the same time. It then spread to humans who do many things at the same time – drinking coffee while you watch TV news, read the newspaper and speak on the phone is a classic multitasking combo!
(4) To rely
When you rely on something or someone it means that you need or depend on that person or thing, and that you trust it.
Currants or raisins are small dried grapes.
(6) To subsume
When something subsumes another thing, it incorporates, includes and absorbs it.
(7) By all means
This expression means that you are very willing to do something, or that you support / approve of it completely.
To hyphenate or not to hyphenate
… that is the prefix! Prefixes are those bits that we put at the beginning of words to change their meaning, e.g. “pre” in “prehistoric” and “dis” in “disappear.” They make a new word, and therefore are not usually separated from the root. Still, in some cases we use a hyphen between them – just look at the examples of “No-” and “self-” in today's article.
When we use a prefix before a proper noun or adjective (one we spell with a capital letter) or a number, we always use a hyphen. Examples? “pre-Hispanic,” “mid-June” and “pre-1960.” When a prexix creates a double vowel, some style guides suggest adding a hyphen (“anti-inflation”).
Some prefixes are almost always hyphenated, though. “Self-” is one of them, and others are “post-”, “all-” and “ex-”.