Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Most Worthless Thing on the Internet: Sexed-up Trend Piece Edition

Let’s say you’re a writer for a respected (well, pretty much) New York City publication. It’s your job to write things about New York, which is great, because everyone knows what people do in New York is important, especially if they are “creatives,” especially if they have money, and especially if they live in Manhattan. They are on the cutting edge of culture! What is that edge cutting? Why? What drugs are the young people doing? What music are they listening to? What cuisines are they consuming? These questions must be answered and it is your job to do it.

One way to do it is you could just get loaded with a bunch of trust fund babies, look around the room, and write about whatever you see.

That seems to be what Nate Freeman of the New York Observer did in what will no doubt will go down in infamy as another entry in that already-infamous genre, “The NYC Trend Piece.” Trend pieces, for the blissfully uninitiated, are articles that describe something that a supposedly broad group of people (usually rich people) are doing, but do so without any numbers at all. “Trends” are always described using anecdotal evidence, partly because statistics for trends are hard to come by, and partly because trend pieces are often bullshit that gin-soaked writers make up in the face of deadlines and demanding editors.

Here’s what, in journo-speak, we call the “nut graph” of Freeman's piece:

Young New Yorkers no longer care about having sex. It’s not the endgame, nor even the animating force of social interaction. Men and women still get dressed up, but not for the purpose of taking off their clothes in another’s company. What used to signify desire or the desire to be desired now boils down to narcissism. How will I look on Patrick McMullan tomorrow? Or just on Facebook? The Observer spent a few weeks at parties and gatherings fraught with abstinence but slack of any sexual tension, and we heard a repeated sentiment, often delivered with uncharacteristic fervor: “We are a self-obsessed generation.”

We might ask, for starters, what the hell? Since when does “spending a few weeks at parties” count as reporting? (Since we died and went to reporter heaven, I guess.) And how do you know they were “slack of any sexual tension”? No one was making out in front of you, or getting erections, or quietly taking off their panties in the bathroom? And what is “Patrick McMullan”? I’m a 24-year-old working in the media, and I have no idea what that is. Oh, Google reveals it’s a party photography company. Well, maybe people don’t try to dry-hump that much at the kind of fancy party with professional photographers that the Observer apparently went to. To put it succinctly: you guys are going to the wrong parties, apparently.

Elsewhere, the writer recalls a coke-fueled party that lasted until dawn, full of “day laborers in film, public relations, media, fashion”—get it? “Day laborers?” Because ironically, these people do not do hard labor and get paid a lot!—that disappointingly did live up to the writer’s expectation that “one should choose a member of the opposite sex and set off for his or her apartment, to sleep together.” Damn, I guess Nate Freeman really wanted these hot 20-somethings to bang. Maybe they were tired after a long night of cocaine.

The thesis that young New Yorkers like me don’t care about sex because online social networks, er, make social interactions awkward later (or something?) is backed up by a few quotes from people who are experts because they, themselves, are in their 20s and in New York. Those quoted seem to be having a tough time with their sex lives, and I can empathize to a degree: If you and your potential mates work long hours, it’s tough to schedule a night of fucking in. And maybe it’s awkward for some people to have sex with people who later appear in your Facebook feed—but c’mon, that’s a fucking stupid obstacle to stand in the way of a good orgasm.

Then, as is usual in the trend article genre, there are some people who are bucking the trend. Is this bucking the trend it’s own trend, or just a sub-trend of the original trend? Whatever--in this case, Freeman talks to a couple teenaged actors from Skins and concludes, “younger [more sexual] kids are poised to take their places.” Is that creepy to say? Maybe! Anyway, the kids who aren’t old enough to drink are totally DTF, and amusingly, they have no idea what the Observer is talking about, responding to questions about how undersexed New York with “I haven’t actually, um, heard that?”

Well, I haven’t heard that either. Maybe there’s not as much anonymous sex in this city as there used to be because, y’know, AIDS, but I’ve been to plenty of parties with sexual tension to go around. A few Manhattan people are too coked out and workaholic and obsessed with internet status to fuck each other senseless? They just have their priorities out of whack, and I don’t believe many of these people exist because I’ve never, ever met them. If people want to have sex but aren’t, it usually means no one will let them.

To fight anecdotal evidence with anecdotal evidence, I posted Freeman’s story to my Facebook wall and someone said, “Man, whatever. I do blow and fuck like every night.” Does that count as a trend?

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