Twitter


If you’ve ever wondered why we can’t have a nice world. One that runs well and works for most everyone most of the time. It’s because of partisan bullshit. This deeply seated need too many of us have to pick a side and stick to it right, wrong, whatever because “GO TEAM!”

I have meandered all over the partisan map.  At some points half of my beliefs have been in opposition to the other half even.

However, most of the time I straddle the center line with the occasional tight-rope walk just to spice things up.

So when I am confronted with blind lemming followers of this or that, the best I can muster anymore is “Well, good for you. At least you care enough to sort of pay attention.” Seldom do I add “If only you’d bother to think for yourself and apply a bit of pragmatism and common sense.”

But you can’t have everything, right?

There are people who want to be involved and immerse themselves in doing their little or lot bit for the cause, and so what if they mostly don’t understand how their cause fits into the bigger picture? They care. Deeply. That matters. Right?

And it’s better than apathy. Right?

I’m not so sure.

Last night my Twitter feed was inundated with retweets about Ayn Rand’s personal failings.

The tweeter is not someone I follow. He’s a pompous ass. He only interacts with the adoring throngs because he isn’t interested in any sort of conversation that might show him up or disprove his preferred view of reality.

That’s fine. Twitter is kind of about building your own little tunnel vision and sharing it with those who are similarly blinkered.

But the gist of his argument boiled down to “Ayn Rand took amphetamines and had serial killer fetish, therefore her theories about capitalism are bullshit.”

I got a D in Logic and Reasoning back in the day. In retrospect I should have gone to class more than I wouldn’t have had to pull an all-nighter to get a B on the final and hold onto my pathetic D.

However, poor background aside, I am fairly sure that Ayn Rand’s rambling nonsense on all things the far right-wing loves is crap because it’s crap and not because she was a questionable human.

If you wanted to apply the questionable human equals someone who is full of shit logic, it just so happens that Thomas Jefferson, that great American Founding Father, would tumble off his pedestal too.

After all, how can the father of personal liberty hope to escape judgement given that he was not only a slave owner but he forced his 15-year-old sister-in-law into a sexual relationship with him because he owned her.

Yes, Jefferson’s long-time intimate companion Sally Hemmings – who bore him six children – was not only his sister-in-law and his slave but, according to some accounts – was the doppelgänger of his dead wife.

Creepy and worlds of wrong barely begin to cover this situation and yet, Jefferson is revered. His ideas are seminal in terms of American political world building.

Personally, I think Ayn Rand’s appeal is that most people who bother to read her dirge of a novel, Atlas Shrugged, are young adults or teens when they do. The themes are appealing to the young, and who really ever goes back and re-reads the “great” novels of their youth? Hardly anyone. The fuzzy memories are always better.

Randian love and worship is a sign that you’ve not quite grow up yet. At least in your political world view anyway. It’s like people who cling to the idea that pure socialism will save us all. An immature idea that refuses to incorporate the reality that life is complicated because “people”.

Even though Rand’s idea are simple-minded, her personal failings and quirks are just human. Humans can be awesome. They can completely suck. But for the most part, they are somewhere in the middle. None of these states of being detract from the things people can accomplish.

For all Rand’s faults, she wrote a novel decades ago people not only still read, but they find things in it which push them to think and learn, and let’s be real, not everyone who reads Atlas Shrugged gets stuck in the limited world view.

I fear there is no way to cure for the world of side-taking or the inevitable outliers who live and die in the absolutism that makes the world a less nice place for us all.

Personally, I am done pretending to care about the fringes. Feigning politeness rather than rolling my eyes. I am part of the problem if I don’t.

Sometimes the other side is right. Sometimes the middle path is the best way.

And sometimes people need to calm the fuck down, grow up and spend some quality time in the real world with real people who don’t reinforce every blind prejudice they learned as a child.

 

 


There are far more than five problems with social media but five is as good a place to start as any.

I should disclaim that I have technically been “social” on the internet since the late 90’s. Back in the day when message boards and list-serves were the meet up places for those who had decent access to the world-wide web and who realized the potential for using it to find people of like minds on just about any topic you care to imagine.

In many ways, the old days were pretty good. The forums that existed were tailored rather specifically, so the odds of tangling with someone who just happened to stumble across something you’d posted was fairly low.

Not that dust ups didn’t occur. Flaming was rampant and often part of the fun. But the fires were localized rather than raging wildfires that could burn across the planet in a matter of hours.

There was not much fear that anything that happened on a forum wouldn’t stay on that forum. The potential of ruining someone was not as great as it is today.

Which brings me to problem number one.

Social media’s tendency to mob people because it’s terribly easy to gather up a sizable and diverse audience, equip them with virtual torches and pitches and set them loose to vilify, humiliate and destroy anyone within a matter of hours or days.

Long after the initial spark has burned out, a viral posting on the Internet has a half-life that can easily exceed that of the subject. For good sometimes but usually for ill.

The immediacy of social media makes it dangerous in ways we simply haven’t come up with decent ways to counteract.

And some of that stems from problem number two.

Most of us are too exposed to virtual strangers through our social media use and neither appreciate how little we really know many of the people we “friend” or merely “follow” nor are wise enough to wonder or worry about it.

Which leads to the third problem – and I am incredibly guilty of this – a shocking amount of over sharing goes on via social media.

Where in bygone ages, we could only horrify our family, friends and sometimes co-workers with our exploits and opinions. Now our audience is anyone and everyone with the added bonus of reach. We are  also – initially anyway – shielded from reactions of those who have allowed us into their Internet neighborhoods and homes.

While we are all familiar with the Facebook share, rant or errant Twitter post exploding virally, most of us will never experience anything like that personally. This lack of consequence than emboldens us at the expense of our silently suffering social connections. People who surreptitiously mute or politely unfollow our updates to spare themselves rather than risk confrontation, hurt feelings or awkwardness. What people we don’t know don’t know about us is often for the best after all.

So the fourth problem is that in our quest to connect more because it’s so easy to do using social media, we actually become less connected.

There is a reason why you don’t go to your 25th high school reunion, but you forgot it and foolishly reconnected with not just your teenage bff’s but everyone you were ever acquainted with in school and then were eventually forced to unfollow all of their updates. That reason is, of course, you never wanted to maintain those connections. If you had, you’d still be friends with these people in your actual real life.

Social media allows us to feel widely connected or reconnected while at the same time providing convenient barriers to be intimately connected with more people than we can realistically handle or endure. Here is the final problem with social media. We are no more social with it than we were without it.

Problem number five is that we all have a much more finite capacity for connection than social media would have us believe.

Humans are simply incapable of caring much beyond a small circle of people. That’s why we distinguish between acquaintances and friends, and why friends are categorized accordingly to how we met them and closeness to us.

There is a vast difference between work friends, activity buddies and close or best friends, is there not?

Though there are mechanisms for ranking people in social media, the reality is that those who use it more become the people we see the most whether they are all that important to us or not.

All this said, as an introvert, I find social media a great leveler. Take away the physical aspect of being social and I can be as outgoing as anyone, which is why I have always enjoyed it.

But I am less certain that it’s been a boon for human relations. While connectedness has allowed people to more readily see the things we have in common in our various quests, it’s opened the doors to divisiveness on a larger scale too. I am uncertain that the former off-sets the latter. Not enough anyway.

 

 

 


Actually, on NOT writing. Mostly.

“You should blog again.”

“When are you going to get back to your writing?”

From my youngest daughter, “I know you will finish your book.” And she didn’t even add “someday”.

I used to write a lot. Every day in fact. There are 1500ish posts here to attest to that. Not to mention (but why not?), posts and a few stray articles here and there on the wide web providing a testament to my more prolific writing past.

So, why don’t I fire up this old blog and getting my writing back on?

I don’t know.

There’s too much to write about is one of the issues. I simply don’t know where to focus my attention.

Fiction? Poetry? Politics? Social issues? Life in general? Self-help? Advice?

I’ve typed around, over, under and through all of these genres. I can’t say that I have a favorite, or a particular strength, which is probably part of the problem.

I’d write about everything if that were possible.

Maybe it’s possible. But I would have to rouse myself from my mostly retired state and find a whole lot of an ambition, a perennial problem for me.

I am just not an ambitious person. I have a lot of work ethic. It would be difficult not to given that I was raised by Depression Era farm kids. Work. Hard, dull and practical is what I raised to know. It was instilled in me at a very early age. And I resent it.

At some point, working hard morphed into working smart and that transformed me into the creature that I am. Someone who can get jobs done but views most energy expense in terms of bottom lines.

How negatively will my life be affected if I don’t bother? Or half-ass it? I am a Gen-Xer after all.

So in terms of writing, when it was something I loved – and I did love it – I could do it all day. It was day-dreaming on paper and later on – a screen. But once it became work, when I was mommy blogging and then working for Care2, my old work ethic kicked in and efficiency, out-put versus in-put mindset, took over.

How much effort do I need to expend to make X number of dollars or drive Z number of page views or snag a syndication run for Y blog pieces?

Sucked the joy right from the marrow with sharpened fangs.

Oh, I know. What horrible problems to have.

People were reading your writing and someone was rewarding you – with money sometimes even – for your efforts. Poor baby.

Yes, I get it. Fair criticism. Don’t think I haven’t scolded myself. I have.

The upside of walking away and turning inward. Getting back to the organic with paper and pen. Was that I found a bit of joy again. A little bit of that love.

But the downside was that I missed being read. I really do like people to read what I write. It’s a bit of an addiction.

I satisfied it with social media. A little. For a while. It’s a cheat.

However, I am here again and my novel is screaming at me from the corner of the living room where it is piled up but unable to be forgotten. So the time is now to get back to “work”. The dilemma is rousing myself daily to do it.

I am lazy at my core. I like reading. Thinking. Walking. Broken up by Interneting and house-wife’ng and momming. It’s not a bad gig. Truly.

Being writer is a job and kind of calling . Like teaching was a calling.

I’m not afraid of competing. I am a better writer on my worst day than many people are when they really try hard.

I am aware, however, that I will annoy, possibly infuriate, and very likely disappoint people. Despite what you might think, I don’t really want to do any of those things. Although sometimes it’s necessary.

So, if you decide to read – going forward or trolling back – best to bear in mind that I am a real person at a keyboard somewhere. I have good and bad days. My interests, and therefore my choice of topics, are varied. I am not static. In thought or opinion. I’ve held views that I don’t anymore. I’ve written things that I might not now. And I am just as likely to change my point of view as I am to cling to it.

In other words, if you have some sort of idea of who you think I am, discard it. You don’t know. You don’t even know what you don’t know.

This was a rambling post. Like splashing and treading a bit of water before settling in and doing laps.

There’s a lot to write about. Rob Ford. The Liberal Budget. Unisex wash and change rooms. Donald Trump. And why I’d still vote for Clinton before Sanders. Why Twitter still sucks hard. And less weighty topics like house hunting, being too lazy to take a proper holiday and why I love Ottawa.

I’ll get to it. But first, I need to do some laundry and make a cup of tea.