There was a moment in an episode of The Simpsons (“Mountain of Madness”), that aired back in 1997, that I’ve mentally revisited every so often over the past decade:
In transcript form:
Homer: So, Mr. Burns is gonna make us all go on a stupid corporate retreat up in the mountains to learn about teamwork. Which means we’ll have to cancel our plans to hang around here.
Bart: Teamwork is overrated.
Bart: Think about it. I mean, what team was Babe Ruth on? Who knows.
Bart: Sharing is a bunch of bull, too. And helping others. And what’s all this crap I’ve been hearing about tolerance?
Homer: Hmm. Your ideas are intriguing to me, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.
In 1997, that last line was the joke: I wish to subscribe to your newsletter. Homer is such a dope that he thinks that he can subscribe to a newsletter from just one person, as if that would ever be practical for your average person, especially his own nine-year-old son.
Of course, that’s a thing now: Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus. On Twitter, about 1,200 people “subscribe to my newsletter,” in its various guises (I have six Twitter feeds). At least a couple of times each week, I think “your ideas are intriguing to me, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter,” and I hit “Follow” or “Subscribe” or “Add to Circles.” It was a punchline 14 years ago. Now it’s just part of our social fabric.