The Creepy Contentization of Halloween

October 19, 2023 —
One night, a few weeks ago, I rolled my garbage bin down to the curb. The street was quiet and dark, the air chilly. A few dry leaves scratched across the asphalt like skittering creatures. I turned and saw my house glowing in its Halloween halo against the darkness, making my dark little house an even darker spot against the darkness of the forest behind it. It was a good moment. I posted a photo of it on the socials afterward.

A couple days later, my girls and I made popcorn balls (somehow burning two bags of popcorn in the process), and then sat down to watch a Disney mummy movie called Unwrapped 2. Popcorn balls felt like the perfect accompaniment for a mummy movie, I’m not sure why. It was a good moment. I posted a photo on the socials afterward.


A couple days after that, I hit the road to New York with some friends and ended up visiting a pair of filming locations for the horror movie A Quiet Place—a street and a waterfall. It was a good moment. I posted a photo of it on the socials afterward.

Ten years ago, I would have written 800 to 1,000 words on each of those moments for the OTIS Halloween Season blog, examining them, elaborating on them, pondering them, crystalizing them, connecting them to other moments, finding new ways to discuss and describe them and to make them interesting enough to truly share them—not just the image, but the moment and the meaning and the feeling.

These days, like so many other people, I often just take a few seconds and throw a photo on the socials (although I did write a little about my A Quiet Place trip in the OTIS Club Newsletter on Patreon—plug!).


Among social media’s many, many war crimes is that it killed the personal blog. The socials allow us to scratch that itch to share and connect, to draw meaning from moments of our lives, to record them. But it leaves out the examination, the sitting with them, the exploring them and transforming and translating them. The socials made us turn away from those moments where effort was put into making them as valuable as possible to other people and turn toward mere naked content, the purpose of which is to distract the bored.

That’s right. Content.

Once upon a time writers and artists and musicians and directors balked at the term content. “We’re not making content,” they would say. “We’re making art. Thoughtful entertainment. Connecting with our fellow humans through artforms. We want them to spend time and thought with what we’ve made” And they were right. Content is a corporate term. A business term. Like product. Or commodity. Not an art term. Not a human term.

But then people did start making actual content instead of art. Reaction videos and lip syncing videos and little skits and rambling diatribes at the camera, 280 character drops, photo dumps, recycled jokes and memes and mimicked trends. Things that only demanded an eye-flicker of attention. We just needed to fill these social channels, didn’t matter with what. So we shoveled what we could in there. And, of course, it’s easier to do that. It takes seconds for me to post a photo of my house all Halloween’d up. It takes hours and hours to create something interesting around that scene and that moment and that photo, to put context and emotion behind it. To make it worth more than a millisecond pause in somebody’s mad scrolling. To make it worth thinking about. To take the risk that there is more to it.

I miss personal blogs. But I see why we stopped writing them. Why spend hours composing articles about our experiences at a haunt or in a seasonal aisle if the socials are awash in thousands of images of them.

Of course, this isn’t a Halloween issue. It’s a life issue. Although maybe not much more of one since we seem to be nearing the end of the social media phase of culture, this thing that we spent so much of our lives doing now doomed to be a nostalgic and expired artifact up there with soda jerks and gelatin dinners and smoking indoors and disco music. “In my day,” I’ll tell my grandchildren, “We used to post photos and tiny snippets of thought online all the time to blend and disappear in a cacophony of other people’s photos and thoughtlets.” And those grandchildren will find it as weird and irrelevant as briefcases and breakfast cereal, cable channels and gas-powered cars.

Watching A Quiet Place on the street where the first scene was filmed.
And maybe you’d say, playing the devil’s advocate during this here devil’s season, that the moments I listed at the beginning of this post maybe weren’t worth writing about. Personally experiencing? Sure. Photographing for my family? Sure. Throwing them out on the socials as a quick update? Sure. But spending hours writing about them and them sharing with strangers? Nah. And you might be right. You really might.

But hopefully the moments we do something with, invest in, and explore will outlast the moments we just threw out there before moving on to the next. It’s like there’s this pile of rocks at the edge of a lake. We can toss them all in the lake and make a nice series of splashes that last a few seconds. Or we can take those rocks and build a bridge or a quay or something at that lake that will last a long time and be useful for other people.

I bet you had no clue the word quay was going to appear in this post. Me either. But we both knew this thing was going to end in a clunky metaphor.

Now to go post this article on the socials.