DISCUSSION: Generation Why

Choose one paragraph and explain how it’s working. What moves is Smith using? How is she supporting her points? You can comment on what she’s saying and whether or not you agree, but I also would like you to consider the movements of a paragraph that you think are particularly successful.

10 thoughts on “DISCUSSION: Generation Why

  1. In the second paragraph of the “When a human being…” section Smith dehumanizes people and makes the reader feel worthless, but the ultimate goal of this paragraph is to speak on the topic of how Facebook is a vehicle for Zuckerberg to generate revenue. She strikes the reader with powerful phrases such as “whatever is unusual about a person gets flattened out.” Smith makes users of Facebook feel like workers in Zuckerberg’s factory. Us users are doing all the work for him. We market Facebook. We attract advertisement. We click on the advertisement. Smith makes this point by first establishing that users are just as good as Zuckerberg’s puppets. She whittles us down and finishes us off with a final blow, “One nation under a format.” After this sentence she has a well executed transition into the economics of Facebook. She writes about how we only think of ads as a side note with our pictures and posts as the main focus, but for advertisers we are “our capacity to buy,” and that is it. This paragraph is artfully crafted because by the end of it the reader feels like they want to go to Zuckerberg’s front door with pitchforks. Smith makes the reader feel like we have lost our individuality due to Zuckerberg, and if that isn’t enough, we are also the reason why he is a multibillionaire.

  2. I personally identify with, relate to, and admire Zadie Smith’s writing style. Smith uses very dynamic descriptions that enable the reader to see, not only hear, her argument play out in an ideal mountain-like progression, an argument that rises and falls. At the same time, her style is not rigid nor completely academic. She incorporates dialogue, quotes, and personal anecdotes to make the essay a lot less intimidating and relatable to the reader. My favorite part about her essay though is what I would describe as the “mic drop” method. I find that essays are more engaging when the readers are given room to develop their own opinions throughout. Being able to make connections or object in the reader’s mind makes for a much more dynamic relationship with the writing. To create this space, Smith asks open questions and “mic drop” sentences that force the reader to develop their own stance. Take for example, the paragraph on page five that begins with “When I finally decided…” I want to specifically draw attention to Smith’s choice to end the paragraph with a quote from Zuckerberg answering the question of “Are you ever truly removed, once and for all?” It is clear from her argument that Smith is not content with Mark Zuckerberg’s answer to the question. She could have gone on the explain why this is a poor answer and why she doesn’t agree with it. But instead, she dropped the mic. In doing so, I personally was forced to question why Zuckerberg’s question unsatisfied me. I found my own argument about Smith’s topic taking shape as I read the essay more and more thanks to her cliff hanging statements, questions, and quotes.

  3. Zadie Smith’s style is writing is one that I really enjoy reading. She writes in a way that is very easy to read and allows readers to understand and relate to what she is writing. In this particular piece, she writes of a movie that some might not be familiar with. Although I have heard of the movie and know what it is about, I have never seen it and was unsure of what Smith was talking about at some points, until she described it to me. A tactic that Smith used throughout this piece that I thought was useful was her asking questions for the reader to think about, and then sometimes giving her own opinion to show how she feels. In the first paragraph of page 4, she asks: “would Zuckerberg recognize it, the real Zuckerberg? Are these really his motivations, his obsessions?” She allows the readers to potentially think about how they feel about Zuckerberg before finally answering: “No—and the movie knows it.” Smith also uses a technique to get the readers to understand the industry that Facebook is and how Zuckerberg is making off of us, the users, and the millions of advertisements we view on his site. She makes us users feel worthless and just Zuckerberg’s money-makers. This strategy seems pretty useful to me, as it got me thinking and I’d imagine some others felt the same way.

  4. In the third paragraph of the seventh page, Smith succeeds in unpacking the motives and ultimate achievements of facebook as a whole in an insightful way. To begin the paragraph, she claims that the concept of facebook encourages the idea that who you really are does not matter and the only thing that does is the set of choices or purchases that you make. By starting out with a bold statement, she gives herself room to elaborate and explain this idea in the rest of the paragraph. In this sentence and the following sentence, she intrigues the reader through personification, giving the internet a mind and facebook the ability to flatten. She then creates a short statement that packs a punch, in my opinion. “One nation under format.” The sentence is humorous, but also supports her argument thus far, in a cheeky way. The next two sentences successfully compare and contrast who we believe that we are and and how the internet, facebook and advertisers see us. It offers a good transition between the two main ideas of the paragraph. Finally, she closes the paragraph with a sentence that is equally as bold as the introductory sentence — she likens us to only our capacity to buy and calls our social media presences irrelevant. Overall, the paragraph remains strong because it makes bold claims using bold language, but also contains a good transition between ideas and a bit of humor to entertain the reader.

  5. This essay once again delved into the idea of public identity and private identity in the age of social media. It interestingly picked Mark Zuckerberg the founder of one of the most famous social media platforms there is to discuss. In which she compared the real Zuckerberg to the Zuckerberg in the film Social Network where Zuckerberg was seen as a man who betrayed his best friends and those who supported him, almost as a emotionless robot; however, in the real world the man has been dating the same Chinese American Med student for 14 years while professing an interest in the Greek philosophy of Stoicism, which emphasized the importance of eliminating desire.
    The author mentioned the concept of generation why, which also asks the question of why Zuckerberg is doing what he does? Its is obviously for neither money nor girls, as he dated the same girl since 2003 and gave away his popular music program instead of selling it to Microsoft. The author explored that the very reason Zuckerberg, the somewhat socially “autistic” and different kid is making the world becoming a more public place and let people form groups is because he wants to become someone he has never been. He wants to be more “normal”, instead of the internet nerd who seeks joy from programming. Lastly, the author delved into the concept that being addicted to Facebook is actually parallel to addicted to the mind of Zuckerberg, and the deeper you use it, the more deeply entrenched you are.

  6. In the middle of her essay, Zadie Smith begins a paragraph with “You want to be optimistic…” in bolded type face. She continues, writing about her personal discomfort with her generation’s obsession with the internet, and how her feelings are mirrored by Jaron Lanier, a “master programmer and virtual reality pioneer.” In this paragraph, she introduces a new topic: how we reduce ourselves online. Smith supports her personal position with the words of an experienced, although older, techie. In the beginning of the paragraph, Smith uses Lanier’s words to confirm that her discomfort is neither misplaced nor irrational. Smith also adds italics to his quote to draw attention to her own point, which I think is an excellent strategy. She also points out that it’s easy to forget that an internet profile is not a whole person. She then backs up this assertion with another Lanier quote: we as humans have made a “philosophical mistake” in believing that “computers can presently represent human thought or human relationships.” However, software can mimic social interaction, which is Smith’s next point. After she shuts down the possibility that computers are not humans, she back tracks. She delves into what software can do, continuously informed by an outside expert so that her philosophical assertions cannot be contested.

  7. In the Paragraph beginning with “You want to be optimistic about your own generation” Smith makes the argument that while we all claim to understand that computers and social networks are not an accurate version of reality, we often forget it. As we attempt to keep up with our peers in a quickly developing “new world” of social media, we make the mistake of believing that computers can realistically depict human thoughts and relationships. To drive home this point, she uses evidence from a master programmer and computer aficionado Jaron Lanier. She begins her paragraph with a broader claim about why we feel the need to keep investing our time in the internet, then transitions into a quote from Lanier after she introduces him. This is an effective method of backing up and explaining her point simultaneously, because as she analyzes the quote she integrates both his ideas and her own. She interprets his views on information systems and uses his expertise to add strength to her claim that we are forced to “reduce ourselves” as we participate in this new digital world. The computers do not yet have to capability to represent more that a portion of human complexity, but in our haste to keep up the this “2.0 generation” we often don’t realize how much is lost in translation.

  8. I’ve never heard of Zadie Smith before or this so-called movie. It was a little hard to follow at the beginning, but her writing style is so entertaining, and the way she involves the reader in her rhetoric was really appealing. The first paragraph on the fourth page really got my attention. This is mainly because of her use of rhetoric questions. “It’s pitiful, it pains us, and we recognize it. But would Zuckerberg recognize it, the real Zuckerberg? Are these really his motivations, his obsessions? No—and the movie knows it.” Her use of repetition, questions, and italicization creates a very dramatic tone then she just drops the simple answer, no. I, for one, am a fan of this type of dramatization, and I tend to use it in a lot of my writing. I think repetition helps get your point across in slightly annoying, but successful way. And rhetoric questions are an an interesting way of backing up your point by creating an active conversation with the reader without needing an actual answer. It was really clear to see where she stood on her opinion of this generation and social media from this point on. I also found it really interesting to see how she mixed her creativity, especially when she described people of this generation as robots, and opinion to make a really well thought out piece.

  9. One of my favorite paragraphs in “Generation-Why” is the one that begins on the end of page 9 and extends onto the beginning of page 10. It interests me when writers ask questions to the reader and then answer them in the ensuing sentences. The points that the writer makes are interesting, too. As someone who saw The Social Network a while ago, I don’t remember or recognize most of the references in this writing. However, this paragraph was about Facebook in a vaguer way and I appreciated that. Furthering her point that Facebook was designed to serve a very singular purpose, she brings up the point that the only reason Facebook is designed all blue is because Mark Zuckerberg is red-green color blind and he could see blue well. The way to reach out to a “friend” is to poke them, which is “what shy boys do to girls they are scared to talk to.” Our lives are consumed by this social media outlet and so we give these things little or no notice, but they aren’t insignificant. One quote that stuck with me is “Yet what kind of living is this?…Doesn’t it, suddenly, look a little ridiculous?” This may just be due to the fact that we’ve spent a week thinking about filter bubbles and how addicting Facebook is, but in the way the writer describes it, there really aren’t many benefits to the social media outlet. All of us Facebook users are just people entrapped in the drunken, bored ideas of a Harvard student. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t realize the monster he created, and we don’t know the monster we’re addicted to now. Finally, even though it’s not part of my chosen paragraph, the second to last paragraph on the 8th page also makes a good point. It talks about how even when people die, others will post on their Facebook page as if they still are alive. Likewise, people will post Instagram pictures congratulating those who clearly do not have accounts and will never see it, like their grandparents. “Generation-Why” does a fantastic job of describing how unable people are to separate the versions of themselves.

  10. My favorite of Smith’s paragraphs was the one beginning with “You want to be optimistic…” on page 6. The reason why this paragraph stuck with me was because it related to a very specific point that I made in my last essay about social media and the divide between your online and real-life selves. In my essay, I spoke about the fact that there really is no way to avoid a gap between your two selves due to the fact that a social media profile is simply a one dimensional version of yourself that can never replace the real you. Smith’s use of the Lanier quote “Information systems need to have information in order to run, but information underrepresents reality” specifically caught my eye due simply to the fact that those were the perfect words to describe an argument that I was not exactly sure how to phrase. In terms of the literary tools that Smith uses, her ability to hook the reader in by making claims like “you want to do this” or “you want to do that” help the reader engage themselves by making them think about their generation, their feelings towards it, and their potential worries of being left behind technologically. Then, by transitioning back into topics discussed in Lanier’s books, she was able to use quotations and explain them in her own words, which not only shows a very deep understanding of the content, but offers other methods of thinking about the topic of social media and the negative effects of our use of it.

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