January 26, 2022

Now the virtual is primary, IRL secondary: From digital people to embodied accounts

As this year shapes up to be worse than 2021, something has become suddenly clear to me about the relationship between virtual reality and physical reality. Zoomers are even more virtual-dependent or virtually-existing than Millennials, who were already bad enough on that score. And Gen Alpha will be worse still.

Usually these discussions treat the virtual and IRL as merely separate domains, with some interfaces. But there's really an ordering where one is more fundamental, and the other is an outgrowth, parasitic, dependent, or otherwise secondary to the fundamental layer underneath.

For most of online history, IRL was primary and the virtual was secondary. Most of young people's conversations in the '90s were face-to-face or voice calls, which fall under IRL (more on voice calls later). That was not affected by them having online access. Online was only for stuff you couldn't already do IRL, and conversing with your friends and family was something you could and did already do IRL. Therefore, nobody had their friends and family on their AOL buddy lists for Instant Messaging, or their email contacts, both of which were instead reserved for accounts belonging to people some distance away who you had encountered only online (in a chat room, bulletin board, etc.).

During the early 2000s, the balance shifted more towards the virtual direction, while still having IRL as primary. In college, most students' AIM buddy lists now included their friends from around campus, not online-only contacts. Ditto for emailing their friends instead of calling them or dropping by their dorm room. Text messaging over a cell phone is, socially, the functional equivalent of IM-ing and emailing, and the opposite of a voice call or face-to-face chat, and texting IRL friends and family also took off during the 2000s.

This trend grew worse over the 2010s as users demanded even more virtual-dependent interactions with their IRL friends, family, and co-workers. This drove the growth of social media platforms, mainly Facebook but also Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, etc. By the later part of the decade, young people's social lives had dramatically shifted toward online interactions with accounts on social media platforms, rather than keeping in touch with IRL friends and family on a dinosaur platform like Facebook.

And now, as of the 2020s, this decades-long shift from IRL to the virtual has finally crossed the threshold where now the virtual is primary and fundamental, while IRL is relegated to secondary and parasitic / dependent status in young people's social lives.

Perhaps this crossover event just happened within the past month or so, rather than 2020 or '21. But I have never seen public spaces so deserted, even compared to 2020 when COVID hysteria was far greater. They basically never leave the house, unless they have to for work, and even then, they're still in online-mode while outside the home.

In 2020, I used to see girls out filming TikTok videos in public places like parks and outdoor shopping centers. That itself was treating virtual reality as primary, and IRL as dependent on it -- we'll only go to the park in order to film a TikTok video and interact with other accounts on that platform as a result of our upload. Or we'll only go to the park to take Instagram-worthy pictures. We'll only hang out at the Starbucks in order to bitch about some aspect of the atmosphere there, on Twitter / Tumblr / Reddit / wherever else. We can have a face-to-face conversation, but the topic has to be what some accounts are discussing on one of the platforms, or what one of my friend-accounts texted me, etc.

But by now I don't even see that level of IRL participation. All TikToks are now being filmed within their hermetically sealed domestic pod. (And maybe the gym? I don't know, never been to one.)

* * *

This post is more of a preliminary one, just to note the crossover event where IRL has finally been driven into secondary status, and the virtual finally having risen to primary status. But to briefly preview where this mini-series is headed...

I'll follow this up with more about what distinguishes IRL from virtual reality, since it's not obvious. For example, most people would not immediately recognize that a relationship where most of your communication is through texting or other messaging tools is a virtual, not an IRL, relationship. That's because IRL, understood as referring to a real space, also goes along with "in real time". Two people in the same place at the same time. But virtual interactions do not require two accounts being in the same virtual space at the same time -- usually they are not. Voice calls do unfold in real time, though, which is why they never felt fake like texting, emailing, or DM-ing do.

The strangest development on that matter is the inability of Skype and Facetime to displace texting and its variants, despite the former seeming to be more techno-futuristic and progress-marking. However, it makes sense because they required communication in real time, and that is anathema to virtual reality. So something that would've seemed out-of-this-world in the '60s, like Facetime, plays second fiddle to a glorified form of pen-pal letters or playing phone tag on each other's answering machines back in the '80s.

And we'll also have to adjust what we consider "going out," "joining the crowd," "enjoying the hustle-bustle environment," "leaving the private behind for the public," and so on and so forth. Now that people's social lives are primarily online, they can "go out in public" by logging on to a public platform and interacting with the other accounts on there, even while remaining alone in their home.

But the flipside of that is that merely leaving their IRL domicile does not constitute "going out in public" -- their mind and behavior is still entirely centered on their online existence, whether it's stewing in what another account posted, or thinking of how to exploit their outside-the-home trip for online engagement (perhaps something as innocuous as leaving a post on their feed about what they picked up at the grocery store, to generate some attention and engagement). They don't tell their neighbor what they got at the store, and they don't share a picture of their hike face-to-face with their family member. Those details are uploaded to an online platform for other accounts to see and interact with.

Sadly, this means the total death of the brick-and-mortar danceclub among young people, its primary demographic. TikTok or its successors will be the virtual danceclub where they go to show their moves, see and be seen, get some quick validation, etc., but without actual physical touching or even proximity and feeling corporeally part of a single pulsating superorganism called a crowd. That will be the hardest IRL space to let go of for me, especially since we're in the restless warm-up phase of the 15-year excitement cycle, and that always means dance fever. Which is in fact happening right now -- but only online, via TikTok, not IRL in clubs.

Oh yeah, and no IRL relationships will ever be initiated spontaneously IRL. Whether for same-sex friends, opposite-sex friends, or romantic / sexual partners, everybody will have to pass through an online app's algorithm, after submitting their personal data. At the very least, you will have to "meet" first online, whether it's an explicitly designed dating app or just a generic social media platform. It will be accounts forming bonds with accounts, primarily. Secondarily, and occasionally, the accounts may take physical form and hang out as friends on the beach, or as lovers scratching their animal itch for sex, before disembodying once again to return to account form in the virtual domain.

Plenty more to say, some of it as per yoozh will be posts-within-the-comments-section, and others will be separate posts altogether.

January 4, 2022

Collapse of new pop music: Year-end charts dominated by previous years, as American empire enters decline geopolitically as well as culturally

A post from April last year noted that the "contemporary hit" radio stations were not playing much music from the current year, despite that being the sole raison d'etre of that radio format. If you wanted oldies, you would tune in to an oldies station -- not contemporary hits radio. In the comments, I left updates every few months noting the same pattern throughout the year.

As of 2021, there is no such thing as "contemporary" hits -- it's just 2020 and before, with only a handful of current-year songs that are quickly retired for good after a few weeks in rotation. If you listen to the music played in public spaces, it is also from 2020 at the latest, and generally the 2010s or earlier.

Even the libtards who control the music distribution industry are desperate to pretend that the entire Biden usurper interregnum is simply not happening, and we'll just make believe that, culturally at least, it's no later than the Trump era, whether you liked or hated it politically. That's why one of the few songs from 2021 that was allowed to go into heavy play throughout all of last year was "Driver's License" -- *the* breakout song of the year -- since it was released in early January, before the Biden usurper admin took office, and therefore technically a Trump-era song.

As teetering-on-the-brink as the climate and the culture were during Trump's term, it had not yet plunged into full-on irreparable collapse. That switch was only triggered once Biden took office, as most clearly signaled by the soaring inflation.

Aside from monitoring the contempo hit radio station playlists, now we have further confirmation of the collapse of the music industry in 2021 -- the Billboard year-end charts. Of the entries in the Hot 100 chart, merely 42 were released in 2021, a clear minority. Meanwhile, 51 were released in 2020, along with 4 from 2019, 1 way back in 2017, plus 2 Christmas revivals (from '94 and '58 originally).

It is normal for a handful of songs to carry over from the previous year, especially if they were released at the end of the previous year. But not a solid majority. And these were not just released at the tail-end of 2020, but all throughout 2020.

The only other year I know of where a majority of the year-end chart was songs from the previous year is 1985, whose charts were dominated by songs from 1984, as discussed here. I haven't done a fine-grained study of other years, but I've looked over these charts for over a decade, and no other year really jumps out as having been dominated by last year's songs.

At any rate, is the 2021 chart explainable like the 1985 chart is? No. First of all, there was a phase-change in the 15-year cultural excitement cycle in 1985, as the cycle switched from the manic phase of '80-'84 to the vulnerable phase of '85-'89. This is not just any old gear-shifting, but shifting from an invincible high to a crashing hangover. This was the difference between the New Wave half of the '80s and the slow & soft half of the '80s -- no contest.

But during the move from 2020 to '21, there was no phase-change, as both years are part of the restless warm-up phase of the cycle. And unlike the New Wave '80s, nobody is going to point to the songs from 2020 as some kind of recent peak in musical awesomeness, inevitably bound to overshadow whatever followed after them.

Also, in 1985 the contempo hit radio stations were in fact playing lots of that year's new releases, throughout the year, whereas in 2021 those stations play a few recent releases and then retire them immediately. The new releases of '85 lasted into the rest of the late '80s zeitgeist, whereas the new releases from '21 do not even last through '21, let alone the rest of the early 2020s.

* * *

There will be a few exceptions, like "Driver's License" and perhaps Olivia Rodrigo in general, but that is it. She is the very last dying breath of the moribund American empire's musical culture. The kind of wild and enduring cultural innovation that we saw in previous decades only comes from a people who are high in national cohesion (asabiya, or collective action potential), as they are fashioning their own group identity (ethnogenesis). The kind that could propel them into an expanding empire.

Now that the American empire is in clear terminal decline, the other things that stem from our formerly high levels of asabiya will also enter terminal decline. And nowhere is that more obvious than in music. The movie industry has been reduced to remakes and reboots, but at least those unoriginal new entries do something at the box office. New songs are not getting played and listened to, if they are getting made at all.

This dovetails with the national fragmentation and people not wanting to be part of a single, shared national culture. The days when Katy Perry and Taylor Swift united fans from both political parties are long gone, though it was only less than a decade ago. That's just another aspect of our asabiya stagnating for awhile, and has now begun plummeting off a cliff.

When was the last you ever heard of Babylonian scientific and artistic accomplishments? Don't get too smug -- that's going to be America's story in a few hundred years.

By the way, this is also why our national culture is more influenced by foreign peoples, who happen to lie within our geopolitical sphere of influence -- especially South Korea (K-Pop, and BTS specifically on the Billboard charts), and Japan (anime, video games, VTubers, e-girl fashion, etc.). We're running on fumes here in the imperial core -- anyone else out there in the Pentagon-occupied sphere got anything we can borrow for a quick fix of novelty?

Not to get all sacrilegious by comparing Christianity to anime and Nintendo, but it's not terribly different from the cultural influence of the Levant on Western Europe, as Jesus-following missionaries from the Roman-occupied Near East spread the gospel to the Roman-occupied regions of Europe, including the imperial core around Rome itself (but not the pagan north Germanic or Baltic tribes, who were unoccupied by Rome).

Of course, that extra-national cultural influence only began once the Roman Empire had entered terminal decline, during its Crisis of the Third Century. Hardly anyone in Roman Europe became a Jesus-follower during the Empire's peak and later stagnation periods of the 1st and 2nd centuries. However, once Roman literature began collapsing, at the same time the empire itself did, well, anyone out there on the periphery got anything we can borrow to fill the void?

* * *

Last year I showed that the popularity of rap music is a mirage, and that someone somewhere is cooking the books, tweaking formulas, or playing / downloading songs that no one is actually listening to from that genre. This was done over the course of the woke 2010s to boost representation of African-American culture in the national-level statistics and metrics -- but not the actual culture that actual Americans actually consume, just a bunch of white lies in a data spreadsheet. This was a symbolic fig-leaf to a neglected Democrat coalition group, rather than do anything for them materially.

"Digital song sales" is a far more reliable Billboard chart now, since it only measures the number of paid downloads for a song. The "faux representation" book-cookers have an infinite number of ways to tweak the formulas for the Hot 100 chart (which takes into account paid downloads, radio airplay, and streaming of various types).

And yet, even this illusory genre's hits in the 2021 year-end charts fit the same overall pattern, with loads of them having been released in 2020, including two of the highest entries -- "Go Crazy" by Chris Brown & Young Thug, and "What You Know Bout Love" by Pop Smoke. These songs reached #19 and #22 on the Hot 100 chart, despite not breaking into the top 75 Digital Song Sales chart, and neither hit #1 on the weekly Hot 100 chart.

Meanwhile, "Easy on Me" by superstar Adele, a new release in 2021, did not make it onto the Hot 100 year-end chart at all, despite being #1 on the weekly Hot 100 chart for fully 7 weeks (not to mention dominating multiple other weekly charts), and landing in the top 30 of the Digital Song Sales year-end chart, and her YouTube videos alone having reached into the hundreds of millions of views.

This kind of flagrant fakeness is the result of transforming the Hot 100 chart into the NYU admissions office of the music industry, where objective merit counts for little, and it's all about woke representation and reflection of Democrat party demographics (*not* the demographics of "society" as a whole, or else there would be a fake boost to country songs as well as rap). If you want to see how the songs scored on the music industry's SAT, go to the Digital Song Sales chart, or consult the contempo hit stations' "recently played" lists.