Social media substitutions

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Brian McFadden's recent comic on "Social Media Substitutes" starts with this panel:

The whole strip:

Café or diner scenes would be appropriate additions…

But in any case, technological, generational, and network effects make substitutions (initially) difficult and (eventually) inevitable.


  1. Seth said,

    November 10, 2022 @ 2:54 pm

    I suspect the cartoonist is not old enough to have experienced the public telephone refrain "Please deposit (amount) for the next three minutes". Because then the "gimme eight dollars" would be a normal practice, even expected (i.e. not at all shocking per the character's reaction).

    There's something very interesting going on with the differing culture here. Musk is saying, this is a connection service, pay a fee for it as a subscriber, you cheapskate. And the reaction is basically, no, the connection service is a loss-leader for advertising, you should pay us as eyeballs for ads.

  2. Philip Taylor said,

    November 11, 2022 @ 5:26 am

    I am grateful to you, Seth, for pointing out that the protagonist in frame 1 is Elon Musk — until that point I had no idea at all what the cartoon was about, and even now I confess that I still have little idea. But from the linguistic perspective (which is, after all, why we are all here) is "substitutions" in the A-head what I might term "substitutes" ? Is the cartoon depicting a set of potential substitutes for social media ?

  3. Seth said,

    November 11, 2022 @ 10:31 am

    @Philip Taylor – Yes, the cartoon itself is "Social Media Substitutes".

    The cartoon is intending to joke "If Elon Musk ruins Twitter, e.g. his absurd horrifying idea of making it a paid subscriber service, here are some other old social media we might use in its place". If you read the graffiti in the second panel, much of it is about Musk and Twitter (I'll grant that panel is amusing). But the premise is badly executed. I don't think the cartoonist was around for the CB radio fad either – the most popular song from it ("Convoy") was about a bunch of truckers defying regulations and the police.

  4. C said,

    November 12, 2022 @ 12:21 pm


    As a non-truck-driving woman who participated in the CB radio culture of the 1970’s, I thought this cartoon was very funny. A bunch of people like the Twitter crowd coming in to use that medium would’ve been beyond my wildest dreams. Why not?

  5. Seth said,

    November 12, 2022 @ 6:17 pm

    @C If the premise is "If what people do now on Twitter, they went and did on older social media", then having a trucker say on CB "I'm offline and feeling fine" isn't effective with that premise. Especially as CB recalls to me stuff like ("Convoy" lyric):

    "I says, "Callin' all trucks, this here's the Duck "We about to go a-huntin' bear" … "We just ain't a-gonna pay no toll". So we crashed the gate doing ninety-eight. I says "Let them truckers roll, 10-4".

  6. MarkB said,

    November 13, 2022 @ 12:26 pm

    Reads to me like 'Twitter has been ours – how dare Elon take control away from us!' Although Elon has never suggested he'd stop THEM from having their say – he has just made that point that free speech is good for everybody – both right-thinking people like us and our hated enemies. I bath in their tears.

  7. J.W. Brewer said,

    November 14, 2022 @ 8:35 pm

    @Seth: according to wikipedia, this cartoonist was born in 1979. It certainly seems possible that if you walked up to him and said w/o any set-up or context "eleven long-haired friends of Jesus in a chartreuse micro-bus" he would have no idea what you were alluding to or even what you meant on a literal parse.

  8. Philip Taylor said,

    November 15, 2022 @ 4:34 am

    Is that because 1979 is a long time ago, Jim, or because it is relatively recent ? I ask because, born in 1947, "eleven long-haired friends of Jesus in a chartreuse micro-bus" almost makes sense to me except for the concept of a micro-bus, with which I am unfamiliar. But how any friends of Jesus could be on any sort of a 'bus is a mystery, since 'buses as we know them today post-date Jesus and his friends by around two millenia, so I am forced to assume that I was born too long ago to really understand your text in the way that much younger people might.

  9. J.W. Brewer said,

    November 15, 2022 @ 8:35 am

    @Philip T.: I suspect this is in part a trans-Atlantic difference, as many 1947-born Americans would recognize the allusion to words from a song which was a massive hit in 1975-76. (OTOH, wikipedia says it reached #2 on the charts in both the UK and Ireland, so maybe you just weren't listening to the right radio station at the time? I find that someone surprising because it was so keyed to the CB-radio craze which I don't think was really a thing over there.)

    As to "micro-bus," what was the British nickname for this ubiquitous-in-the-early/mid-Seventies vehicle?

  10. Philip Taylor said,

    November 15, 2022 @ 1:00 pm

    [Retrospective apologies for addressing you as "Jim", JWB — absolutely no idea how that came about]. As to "trans-Atlantic differences", I think that you are right — I had no idea that the phrase was a part of a song title, and as you rightly suggest, "Citizens' Band" was far less important in the U.K. than it was in the U.S. But we did share your passion for amateur radio (he said, writing as the former G3TGQ). As to the VW Type 2, I think that we would have called one a mini-bus, the phrase "micro-bus" not existing in British English as far as I am aware.

  11. Dara Connolly said,

    November 17, 2022 @ 5:30 pm

    I believe the micro-bus is/was known as a "Kombi" in Australia, as immortalised in the lyric:
    travelling in a fried-out Kombi, on a hippie trail, head full of zombie

    In Ireland and Britain I think it was simply known as a VW camper.

  12. Seth said,

    November 18, 2022 @ 8:37 am

    @Philip Taylor It's definitely US vs UK differences. The lyric as written is "An' eleven long-haired Friends a' Jesus". It's referring to the name of a real contemporary religious group, not biblical times. It's similar to how "Jehova's Witness" isn't about a courtroom drama. The phrase "long-haired" is basically a way of saying "hippie", which is another cue that this is talking about the current era. Essentially, it's "hippie Jesus-freaks".

  13. Philip Anderson said,

    November 18, 2022 @ 11:41 am

    If it had windows, it would definitely be a VW camper van, which is still a cult vehicle in the UK. I don’t recall seeing one without windows.
    I was aware of a CB craze, but it never really took off in the UK amongst the general public. I’d never heard that song, although it wouldn’t have been on my radio stations then.

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