Social Media and The Finklemeyer Propositions

by James Scott Bell

Dr. Hans Finklemeyer

The Hydrozoa are a class of marine lifeforms which include the medusae, or jellyfish. These forms share a similar structure in that they have a mouth but no brain. They can be found most plentifully in warm seas and on social media.

And in a remarkable reversal of Darwinian selection, it has been observed that certain mammals possessed of both the capacity for thought and the modulation of passions have chosen to revert to the Hydrozoic stage where they can no longer do either. This has produced a lower form of life taxonomically grouped as Tweetozoa.

According to the late Dr. Hans Finklemeyer of the University of Palaver, these creatures are identified by their ieiunium digitos—“fast fingers”—that mix actual words with bastardizations, such as ur and lolz. “If we do not reverse course soon,” wrote Dr. Finklemeyer in the August, 2015 edition of The Journal of Witless Organisms, “we will all be reduced to grunting and gestures, which will make the viewing of old TV shows indecipherable, with the possible exception of Married, With Children.”

On his deathbed, surrounded by his students and one DoorDash guy with Buffalo wings, Dr. Finklemeyer suddenly sat up and shouted, “Think, damn you! Think!” and promptly died.

His students tried to figure out what he meant, but eventually gave up and ate the Buffalo Wings.

In the spirit of this great man of science, let me offer you what I will call the Finklemeyer Propositions.

1. Do not open your mouth before your brain wakes up.

2. If your brain has been asleep for more than a week, begin to retrain it. In that regard:

– Figure out what principles are worthy of your belief. Do not follow Groucho Marx’s philosophy: “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…well, I have others.”

– For the sake of future generations, learn at least the fundamental rules of grammar, the first of which is that words have objective meanings. This is contra Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass:

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to meanneither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

3. Say unto others only as you would have others say unto you.

4. Resist the tides of popular opinion. Learn to how to swim for yourself.

5. Do not give your children smart phones before the age of fifteen…or in some cases, thirty. Give them good books instead.

And if you are a writer, let your books do the talking. Do not attempt to argue with the Tweetozoa. They have lost auditory capacity. Like the jellyfish, they can only sting. You may then be tempted to sting back until you realize, too late, that you are a Tweetozoan yourself.

So do you agree with the estimable Dr. Finklemeyer? Are you applying any of his propositions? Any others you’d like to add? 

50 thoughts on “Social Media and The Finklemeyer Propositions

  1. I heard Proposition 1 as “Better to remain quiet and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and to remove all doubt,” from my father.

    Though edited and attributed to both Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain, at the time, I thought Pop was old enough to have been a contemporary of both and that they simply took the debated credit…

    In any event, it’s a lesson I’m still learning…

    • George, you reminded me of a little ditty my grandfather used to say to me…I can still hear his voice:

      A wise old owl sat in an oak.
      The more he saw, the less he spoke.
      The less he spoke, the more he heard.
      Now, wasn’t he a wise old bird?

  2. Funny and not funny. Sadly, I don’t think the ‘right’ people will read this, and if they do, they won’t think it applies to them.
    Happy Sunday. I know it’s Sunday because JSB is at TKZ.

    • Oh, for a forum of respectful debate, Terry. That’s why debates have rules. It’s not just some free-for-all of screaming ninnies. Which is what presidential “debates” have become. What a joke. Gotcha questions fired by talking heads for a sixty second response in search of a sound bite for a commercial. From what I’ve seen of the Nixon-Kennedy debates, they had opening and closing statements and plenty of time to answer the questions of a dispassionate moderator. No one threw a chair.

  3. Solid advice for all social media, Jim. Tweetozoans are like crickets. They make a terrible racket until someone approaches them, then all of sudden they go silent.

  4. Good morning, Jim. Thanks for the entertaining yet serious advice.

    “Do not attempt to argue with the Tweetozoa. They have lost auditory capacity. Like the jellyfish, they can only sting.” This reminds me of Proverbs 18:2: “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”

    Maybe we should call it the anti-social media.

    Have a great day.

  5. Great post, Jim. Amen!

    “5. Do not give your children smart phones before the age of fifteen…or in some cases, thirty. Give them good books instead.

    And if you are a writer, let your books do the talking.”

    I did that, Jim. My book for teens, Heart Brain 180, is an allegorical satire on the dangers of social media addiction.

    Sorry for the shameless self-promotion.

    • Steve, I love it that you have written “allegorical satire” for kids. I think that genre needs a shelf all its own! It’s a great way to reach the young’uns, and social media is perhaps the most crucial of issues to deal with right now because of its ability to lure and shape. Nicely done!

  6. I always look forward to your posts on Sundays. This one made me laugh. I heard #3 put another way: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” I believe that was from Thumper in Bambi.

  7. Happy Sunday, Jim. Thanks for the satire, and the serious advice. I especially agree with #3, essentially the golden rule of social media and in #4, resisting the tides of popular opinion. Doing and saying what’s right isn’t always a majority opinion.

    My own addition would be “make friends, not enemies by your conduct.” Not everyone can or should be your friend, but I’ve made many friends on social media, Social media helps people connect with others. It can also push people away, no differently than a selfish bore at a party, but I much prefer connecting.

    Have a wonderful day!

    • That’s a good reminder of the positive side of social media, Dale. Though there is always some “leakage.” What I mean is something that happened to a friend of mine, who is always positive, and posted a short encouragement to pray. Whoa! The mocking blowback was something else. Knocked him over.

      I keep thinking of the lyric from Randy Newman’s song about Monk: It’s a jungle out there…

      • Sorry to hear about your friend’s experience. No one should have to face that. “Haters” and trolls are particularly vicious Tweetazoa that are best ignored whenever possible, because the lack of response denies them their oxygen surrogate to continue. That’s easier said that done.

        BTW, I love that Randy Newman song, used at the openings of Monk. So true.

    • Thanks, Tom. I’m a big fan of the great Robert Benchley. Every now and then I like to try a Benchley-esque essay, for fun. That’s how this one started, and morphed into a subject that I felt like covering. So here it is.

  8. Excellent advice, Jim. I use this rule for my social media, which echoes the great Dr. Finklestein: Never post anything you wouldn’t put on a billboard on I-95.

  9. In the engine shop at the FBO where I worked there were two large signs.

    Push, pull, or get out of the way because we’re moving.

    Caution: Engage brain before starting mouth.

    They were good things then and now. My old crew chief Wayne Hawkins of blessed memory used to say a number of racy homilies but the most cogent one was “Money talks and bulls**t walks. Now get back to work, men.” I believe he had been a student of Doctor Finklemayer.

    Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM, placed signs in every place his company had a presence, and the signs said, simply,


  10. Agree wholeheartedly with the good Dr. Great post, Jim . . . and I, for one, am eternally grateful that smart phones-heck, even cell phones-weren’t a thing until after my children were all grown up. I truly feel for parents of children in these days, and usually include “all parents everywhere” in my prayers.

    These forms share a similar structure in that they have a mouth but no brain. They can be found most plentifully in warm seas and on social media.

    At the risk of . . . whatever . . . I would add to the warm seas and social media another place where mouths with no brains lurk. In the WH press room. And I’m not talking about the press…

    There, I said it. 🙂

  11. This one struck me. “4. Resist the tides of popular opinion. Learn to how to swim for yourself.” I work in an environment where populism is strangling common sense. People are always thinking Liberals are ruining their livelihoods and communities that I visit. It’s actually several things, but people gravitate to a singular scapegoat (and it would take 10,00 words to explain). I wonder if populism is infectious like sneezing or smiling—and people are reinfecting themselves on a daily basis.

    My ideas are best kept to myself and I actually think I could be lynched for thinking differently. Can’t wait for retirement.

  12. I was thinking yesterday of how JK Rowling has worked so hard to drop a nuclear bomb on her Harry Potter legacy. Her twitters, etc., are death wishes for her series. Harry and Hermione should have ended up together. To heck with Ron. Wizards poop in their robes, and a spell winks it away.

    Say things that will outrage the Woke/Cancel Culture. Write another series as movies but write them like novels so the movies stink. Sigh. I guess when you are as rich as the Queen you don’t have to care about pooping on your legacy although that poop doesn’t disappear.

  13. Jim, I’m glad I’d finished my coffee before reading this. Otherwise it would have been snorted all over the keyboard.

    Wisdom delivered with wit! Well done!

  14. Your timing is perfect, Jim. Just recently, a FB friend–and a flesh and blood friend, for that matter–posted a screed on FB accusing anyone who believes a certain way to be mindless apes. All of them, no exceptions–certainly, he didn’t allow for any exceptions. Given that I fall within the boundaries of his generalized accusation, there are several ironies here. First of all, I was on the cusp of giving his latest book a good blurb. Not gonna happen for that book or for any in the future. Second, I will likely see him at Bouchercon in a couple of weeks, and he’s going to pretend once again to be my friend. But he won’t be. He can’t be. I will never be rude because that’s not my nature, but I will never lift a finger to help him or his career ever again.

    I don’t expect people to agree with me on any particular issue. In fact, I enjoy a full-throated discussion, and I can point to a large handful of cases where such discussions have caused me to change my positions on issues. But such discussions end when the other party resorts to name calling, including every epithet I can think of that has -ist or -phobe as its suffix. Once that happens, the caller of names reveals a critical character flaw, a bent toward violence. What else is name calling but attempted intimidation? Name calling marks the point in time when intellectual discourse ends, when persuasive ideas are spent. “Oh yeah? Well, you’re just an ist-o-phobe!”

    The anonymity of social media encourages such verbal violence.

    • Oh…well-said, John!

      My parents taught us, in the sixties no less, the art of civil debate.

      That art, I fear, needs CPR in these days.

    • Pure gold, John! And I am so with you on good “full-throated” yet whimsical discussions. Some of my favorite times have been at a table with you and others, quaffing a “Gilstrap” (Beefeater martini). Not to get all fanboy, but you have the perfect personality for such discussions—serious yet humorous—which is why you make a good radio talk show host.

      What a cautionary tale about your FB friend. We do well to learn that lesson. Name calling is indeed the bottom of the conversational barrel (the “sting” of the jellyfish) and only tempts us to respond in kind.

      And oh yes, that anonymity factor is a killer. We used to talk face-to-face, which in most instances kept things relatively civil (unless late at night in a bar when fisticuffs came into it). Then social media removed us from that. And anonymity got rid of all restraints. I can’t take much reading of comment sections anymore, as they are little else than nameless, faceless vomitus.

  15. My awful villain, Jubilee Jakes, denizen of “House of a Thousand Spiders,” has many halforisms that he whips out, often to justify his abysmal behavior. A few:

    * Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and get a swift punch in the chops.
    * Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names is what will get you hit with ‘em.
    * If you can’t say anything nice, lie your head off.
    * You can lead a horse to water but you’d better drink upstream.

    • Love that name, Jubilee Jakes. And what a great term—”halforisms.”

      Your last one reminded me of the famous Dorothy Parker quip: “You can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think.”

      • Dorothy Parker also (allegedly) said:

        ” On Icebreakers
        One martini’s allowable.
        Two at the very most.
        Three and I’m under the table,
        Four and I’m under the host.”

    • Sometimes those fictional creations say the best things. Like Wilkins Micawber in David Copperfield.

      We had a great columnist out here in L.A. named Al Martinez. He had a fictional drinking buddy (whose name escapes me at the moment) who was always waxing eloquent on this or that issue.

      Read about Martinez HERE.

    • A very instructive rant, Bob. I have also scaled back my social media significantly. The productive time spent on actual writing is well worth the trade off.

  16. Oh wow, you hit the hammer on the head with this one. No brains, all stings, haha, that describes social media perfectly. I’ve more or less stopped posting any kind of ‘audience engagement’ on anything with an algorithm. I refuse to feed that beast anymore. Newsletters and personal blogs and all that old-fashioned stuff is still the best way to go.

  17. I made up my mind a long time ago to only post or share what was encouraging or funny (without the bite). And down here in Mississippi when we see one of those stupid posts, we just say, “Bless their little heart.”

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