Pop Culture
Jan 05, 2024, 06:27AM

The Vibe Is Always Already Shifting

Want to write the dumbest, most superficial type of article? Here’s how!

Download  11 .jpeg?ixlib=rails 2.1

Ah yes, the "vibe shift" article. It's the digital equivalent of fast food—easy to churn out, instantly gratifying, and forgotten as quickly as it's consumed. We're talking about the kind of pieces that skate on the thin ice of surface-level insights, dolled up with a dash of personal flair and a sprinkle of zeitgeist.

Take The Guardian's latest—a romp through what Ross Barkan is calling "New Romanticism." It's a jaunty jig down the lane of cultural observations, wrapped in the shiny foil of historical parallels and served with a side of spiritual musings. “The zeitgeist is changing,” the HED tells us. Say it ain’t so, Joe! But let's not kid ourselves; this is no “deep dive” from "Ross the Boss." It's more like dipping your pinky toe in the kiddie pool of cultural analysis.

You see, these "vibe shift" articles—they're akin shooting fish caught in this World Wide Web of deceit. Easier to write than an Uber Eats or Grubhub order. You've got your finger on the chatroom pulse of 50 accounts you call “frens,” you’re synthesizing their totally braindead takes, and boom, you're an oracle of the times. A sentence here, a guess there, and voila—you've got yourself a stew of opinions ready to be served to the hungry simps, stans, and paypigs who are doom-scrolling or goon-scrolling through their feeds.

But first let's talk about Ross’ little oopsie with Chrome's birth year, stealthily corrected in a subsequent revision—a classic mistake that’s made when you’re just banging these out like an OnlyFans star shooting a “fan appreciation” gloryhole sequence. Slip in a fact, don’t bother to check it because you’re edging with the hand you’re not using to type, get it wrong, and who the heck cares? It's not about accuracy; it's about feeling. It's the kind of content that makes you wonder if anyone's at the wheel, or if we're all just happy to ride the wave of easy takes and softer journalism into a ChatGPT-administered content future.

This genre's the perfect mirror for our tech-saturated lives. We're all a little burnt out, our eyes and crotches moist and glazed over from the endless scroll, yet we can't seem to stop. It's the paradox of our time—we're tired of the screens, yet we're magnetically drawn to them, hungry for the next byte of easy-to-digest, easy-to-forget content.

These articles, they're not just a reflection of our tired, over-gooned times; they're a symptom of it. The relentless churn of the content mill, the endless quest for the next viral hit—it's a merry-go-round that's spinning faster, with every rider trying to catch the brass ring of online relevancy.

Barkan’s piece, with its sweeping statements and à la carte historical parallels courtesy of Wikipedia, fits snugly into this mold. It starts with a dramatic proclamation about our "turbulent times"—when aren’t they, am I right?—setting the stage for a narrative that's less about concrete analysis and more about painting a Bob Ross picture with broad strokes of just-so societal change. Things ain’t like they used to be and they never were, bub! It's a narrative that's both tantalizing and vague, offering just enough to pique interest but not enough to fully satisfy the intellectual appetite.

Barkan takes us on a foray into a screen-mediated world of "new romanticism"—call me a purist, but I’d prefer the "old new romanticism," which is from whenever that term was last deployed. It's an attempt to coin a term, to render a mood, and to affix a label on a period time that we won’t understand even after the owl of Minerva takes flight. And let's be real—it involves a bit more of a stretch than what’s required for self-fellation. Drawing a parallel between today's tech weariness and the romantic rebellion of the 1800s is like comparing Red Delicious apples to, well, a very different kind of apple that hasn’t been genetically engineered to "suck r0x0rz," as we used to type on mIRC. It's a comparison that's more poetic than precise, more about feels than facts.

But that's the thing with "vibe shift" articles—they're not about nailing down God’s honest truth ("what is truth?" asked Pontius Pilate); they're about edging without release right at the crest of a wave of feeling. They're about tapping into a source sense of something, even if that something is as hard to pin down as a gnat’s shadow. Barkan talks about a shift away from empiricism, a rejection of tech's dominance, and a resurgence of spirituality—all points one could make, I suppose, but presented with the kind of sweeping generalization that's more about mood than methodology.

And then there's the part about spirituality—astrology, witchcraft, magic. It's a tidbit for the reader who likes their rosary and their rising sign-accented horoscope in equal measure—"my ideal world would be a little bit religious and a little bit spiritual," an ex once told me. But it's also quite a leap. To go from tech fatigue to teenage TikTok occultists—themselves cavorting on a big-tech platform, which is precisely where you’re reading Barkan’s thumbsucker of a take—in one fell swoop is a move that shows chutzpah, to say the least. It's the kind of leap that makes you realize you’ve left the realm of journalism and entered the land of (uncreative) creative writing.

But hey, kudos to Barkan—his article’s a perfect example of the "vibe shift" genre in action. It's got all the ingredients—a catchy theme, a touch of historical parallel, a dash of societal critique, all mixed together in a colorful but not nutritious Soylent smoothie of words. It's a frictionless blend of nostalgia and zeitgeist, eminently thinkable thoughts you’re able to slide down the throat of your brain with ease; but like most smoothies, it leaves you craving the mental meat and potatoes of real insight.

This narrative style is akin to shitty jazz improvisation in writing. Barkan swings between topics, riffing on trends, spirituality, and tech backlash, all without missing (or hitting) a beat. It's a free-flowing stream of consciousness that propels the skimmer forward but doesn't clarify anything. Like the worst jazz, it's more about the feeling it evokes than the structure or the content.

Let's not forget the role of these articles in our society. They're weenies to roast on the digital age's campfires, around which we gather to “like” stories we’ll never read, to feel the illusion of connection to our parasocial “frens”—most of whom detest us and would cancel us for a handful of likes or shares—in an increasingly fragmented world. Long ago, truth-y threads like this replaced the fabric of factual reporting, such as it ever was. When the narrative becomes more about vibe than verity, we tread on dangerous ground.

In the whirlwind of "vibe shift" articles, it's easy to get swept up. They're seductive, these columns in which writers just "say shit" that we can easily reshare with chewing or digesting. They're the sirens of the digital sea, luring us with their seductive, superficial songs, as well a reflection of our complex, ill-formed relationship with literacy, technology, and culture. They're also a snapshot of our collective consciousness, a mosaic of our most naive and primitive hopes, fears, and fantasies related to unavoidable, ever-encroaching obsolescence and death.

But as you navigate the choppy waters of this marketplace of bankrupt ideas, remember to seek the lighthouses of deeper understanding. If you must, pause to dig the rhythm and flow of these vibe takes, as well as their value as material objects for understanding what powers the “takeconomy,” but don’t forget to anchor yourself in those rare harbors of serious thought and reasoned analysis, wherever they might be.


Register or Login to leave a comment