Tag Archives: social media

Anti-Social Socialites

Here’s the writer’s paradox (or, a writer’s paradox, for there are many). Writing is this highly individual art, yet we must be well-socialized to do it well.

It’s stupid, really. And it’s probably a major factor in the cascading neuroses that most writers seem to suffer from. Our brains are broken to begin with — we spend our waking moments imagining strange worlds we’d rather live in, playing god (and devil) to characters we spin from our wobbly brain Jello. So we’re living in a fantasy world from the go.

Then, when we’re actually creating the stories — breathing life into the characters, weaving the world out of loose threads — we have to withdraw entirely. Nobody can help us when we’re writing. We have to walk this road alone, armed with nothing against the dark unknown except our (limited) wits and our pens. Self-imposed solitary confinement. (It always strikes me as bizarre that solitary confinement, by the way, is one of the “worst” punishments they dole out in prisons. To go into a dark place with no human contact with only my thoughts? Meals provided? Sign me up. I might come out the other side insane, but I’d have the most interesting things to say.) We struggle alone, we succeed alone, we fail alone, we talk to ourselves alone.

Image result for all alone gif

But, see, that’s the thing. We’re telling stories about people. Fake people, sure, but people meant to be convincing representations of real people. Which means the author has to know how people act. How people speak. How they think. And while we’re working in solitary, spending more and more time clanging around inside our own heads, we’re getting farther and farther away from actual real people, from genuine interpersonal speech and behavior.

It’s a paradox.

Social media can help, sort of? You get to reach out from your cave of isolation and get some of that interaction without actually going to the trouble of leaving your cave. But it’s not a substitute for real interaction either, because social media is just a bunch of other shut-ins putting forward a persona, a version of themselves that bears some relationship to who they really are without actually showing you who they really are, what they really do, what they really say.

Image result for all alone gif

I don’t have an answer for this problem, except to say that the writer probably has to put more work than most into spending time in the real world interacting with real people. Which, for many of us, is difficult — because what we really want is to be shut away in our solitary confinement, writing away.

Yeah, writers. The anti-social socialites.

This post is part of Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday.

Father’s Day, and Social Media is Still Special

Father’s Day is one of those weird times of year where weird things happen and I just roll with it. Okay, pretty much every day of the year is like that, but Father’s Day is more so. Because really, think about your father.

All he really wants is to be left alone to watch some football or read or play some video games, depending on how old he is. Give that to your dear ol’ dad, and he’ll be a happy camper. But here we have Father’s Day, wherein you’re supposed to buy ties and wallets and tools and goofy t-shirts and cards for the old man, and don’t get me wrong, he’ll appreciate the gesture, but he doesn’t need any of it. He gets the joy of watching you grow up and do silly things and take first steps and be decent human beings and make him laugh, and occasionally he’ll photobomb you or take you to school in his bathrobe, but you forgive him for that. Because it makes him happy.

That’s what Father’s Day is about. Make the old man happy. But don’t do anything for him that you wouldn’t do on any other day, because he probably doesn’t like being made a big deal over.

Maybe I just speak for myself. But my Father’s Day consisted of staying home with the kids, taking them for a walk in the park, the 1-year-old having a screaming fit for about an hour before she passed out for a nap on my chest while I watched some Football (that’s proper football: the Women’s World Cup is on — and the Americans play tonight — you know), then wrestling with the kids, going out to the grocery store when the wife got in from work, cooking some hamburgers for the family’s dinner (yeah, I cooked, and I chose it!), and having a refreshing adult beverage before bed.

Not pictured: the screaming fit that made me want to die.

Not pictured: the screaming fit that made me want to die.

In other words, a day more or less like any other day. And you know what? It was pretty sweet.

But a weird thing happened this Father’s Day. I’ve been a dad for three years, and this hasn’t happened before. Strangers were saying “Happy Father’s Day” to me. In the park, pushing the sprouts in the double stroller: “Good job, dad! Happy Father’s Day.” Chasing the sprouts around on the playground: “Oh, I know you’re having a Happy Father’s Day.” In the grocery store, carting the sprouts around: “Why are you shopping on Father’s Day?” And it’s not like I crave or even want recognition for doing dad things — that’s just what you do — but I can’t lie, it perked me up and made me walk a little taller. I dunno if there’s something different about this year or different about me or the kids, but those little moments of recognition kinda made my day. (My wife pretty much wrangling 100% of the kids’ nonsense when she got in from work was awesome, too.)

So, there are good things in the world for dads.

But then, there are dumb things, too.

This is Matt McGorry:

He’s an actor on Orange is the New Black (among other things) whose character has done some unsavory things in the wake of fathering a child on a prison inmate (no spoilers beyond that, okay? sheesh.) His character has left a bad taste in the mouth of lots of fans, to the extent that real life fans started harassing the real life actor in real life about things his character did on the show.

He fired back on Father’s Day with a pretty hilarious tongue-in-cheek response on his Instagram (seriously, he and I seem to come from the same school of dubious wit), but it really makes you stop and think. There are people out there watching this show who think that attacking Matt McGorry is the way to resolve their feelings about what his character has done on the show.

As if McGorry has anything to do with what the character does. (Sorry, that would be the writers and the producers.)

As if McGorry would do anything like what his character does in real life. (That’s what “acting” means, boys and girls.)

And as if an irate tweet from @JoeBobDerpSalad266 would have an impact on what McGorry is going to do in his real life, regardless of whether he’s behaving like his character or not.

Similar things happened to Sarah Wayne Callies, of The Walking Dead fame:

Her character was so hated, people would come up to her on the streets to tell her “I [fargoing] hate you.” Because actors actually become their characters when they act.

The people who can’t make this distinction are probably pretty normal people. They have jobs. They have friends and families. They probably look exactly like normal people, except that they lack the ability to distinguish between what’s real and imaginary.

But they have access to social media, which allows them to bring their special variety of crazy into the rest of our lives at any time, without warning, and without remorse. I have a twitter where I tweet intermittently, but this kind of crazy makes me think everyday about just deleting it, and leaving Twitter to burn interminably in the smoldering dumpster fire it is.

Where was I?

Oh, right. Happy Father’s Day.

Easy Money — But the Hatred is Free

I know, I know. For the past few weeks it’s RFRA this, human rights that. But I’m not here today to argue about whether the RFRA functions properly as a backdoor allowing prejudice in a society that is trying to move past such a thing. Okay? I’m not here to talk about that. Never mind that, you know, it’s the 21st century, and we still have people in this country who think it’s vastly more important that they not have their feelings hurt by having to think about what goes on behind the closed doors of other people than to look out for the actual human rights of vast swathes of society… okay, god, it hurts to be so vague. Specifically the people behind RFRA, and in fact, behind the pizzeria I’m talking about here, feel really icky about homosexuals. To be more specific, they don’t feel that people that don’t like homosexuals (and, you know, whoever else they decide to hate that day) should be allowed to order cakes for weddings, or have a slice of pizza, or, god, I dunno, use the same water fountains as the rest of us.

But ahhh, there I go, talking about the issue I didn’t come here to talk about. Hate gay people if you want. In some states, it’s even going to be legal soon!

No, I’m here to talk about all the sweet, sweet green that’s out there waiting for you if you’re savvy enough to hop on the train early.

See, Memories Pizza is a trendsetter. They’ve shown us that you don’t have to work really hard, or even offer a good product, to make money… all you have to do is uphold a controversial point of view, get “persecuted” for it, and then complain to people — usually religious people, but I suspect it would work with other groups — and wait for the donations to roll in.

Because what’s important to people in this day and age are causes, not individuals.

Let’s say I have $20 that I don’t particularly need for myself. I know this is a stretch for most of us, but just work with the hypothetical. I don’t need this $20, and I want to use it to make a difference. I could take the money down to a homeless shelter and donate it directly, or maybe I go to the thrift store and buy a pile of coats and take those down to the homeless shelter. Maybe I prefer animals, so I take my money to the pet shelter instead. Or maybe there’s a donations bucket for wounded veterans or something out front of the grocery store. In those scenarios, I give my money to people that need it, though I don’t really get anything back for doing it — aside from the warm fuzzies in my heart.

Or, I could find a cause that I agree with and send the money there. A political campaign. The donations plate at my church. The GoFundMe page for a pizzeria that’s been closed down because of protests. Now I’m actively supporting something. Which means my money is speaking a little bit louder than just quietly buying meals or clothes for an anonymous group in need. I can put a face to the people getting my money. I can say that this person’s or group’s success is thanks to me. I’m part of something. And that’s important.

It’s so important that the pizzeria in question raised over $800,000 in the first 24 hours. That $800,000 didn’t come from the restaurant’s patrons; it came from anonymous people all over the country that wanted to support this particular pizzeria’s cause in discriminating against gay people.

That’s awesome, isn’t it? The owners can retire and never bake another pizza again, all because they hate the gays, and there were enough people in the country that think it’s bad they got backlash for hating the gays to send them almost a million dollars IN A DAY.

It’s all so clear now.

I’ve been laboring under the false pretense that the American Dream involved working really hard in your job and making enough money to provide you and your family a decent living. Picket fences and all that. But that’s yesterday’s dream.

In the age of the internet, there’s a new American Dream, and man oh man is it sweet.

The dream goes like this:

  1. Work somewhere. Anywhere. It’s probably better if you own your own business, but I don’t think it’s necessary.
  2. Acquire some controversial beliefs. Gay issues are hot right now and thus are probably overdone. Maybe look into weird oppressive stances on dwarf boxing, or insist that the earth is flat.
  3. Operate your business as usual until you meet somebody who runs afoul of your chosen controversial belief. Refuse to offer this person your goods and/or services based on your dispute over said belief.
  4. Make a big stink on social media about the argument that ensues. If necessary, call a local news station. (It’s better if the person you refused service to does this for you, but however the dumpster fire gets started, it works out in your favor.)
  5. Close down your business or resign your position, citing “protests from the community” or “online threats” or “fear of magical civil rights fairies”. Again, make a big deal about it on social media.
  6. Create a GoFundMe page in support of re-opening your business or getting your job back.
  7. Retire in Aruba.

This will work for as long as fools and their money remain in close quarters with each other. Oh, and for as long as people continue to hold their religious (or social, or scientific, or whatever) beliefs more dear to them than the rights of individuals.

Which will probably be forever.


I finally joined twitter.

That’s a lie. I joined twitter some many months ago, explicitly for a flash-fiction challenge. One that I quite enjoyed, actually, and even toyed around with extending around the time I finished the first draft of the Project. It crashed and burned, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, twitter.

On its surface, I can’t stand twitter. As an English teacher, I laugh to scorn at it. How can you possibly express a complex thought in only 140 characters? In so many cases, it shouldn’t even be attempted. I can sneeze 140 characters. Hell, I can fire off 140 characters winding up for the sneeze.

But then you consider the fact that twitter has been almost singularly responsible for the deposement of governments, and the FOMO starts to set in. For better or worse, the world is on twitter, banging out 140 characters at a time in a maelstrom of tidbits, snatched fortune-cookies of thought and expression, billowing away on the digital breeze like a blizzard of daffodil petals. And apparently, it’s good for networking. And keeping up with news. And then there’s @pentametron, which scours twitter and smashes together inadvertent iambic pentameter tweets to create abstractly delightful Shakespearean couplets.

So I have it now, and I’m resolved to use it, at least a little bit, as I go forward with this whole “writing” thing. But only insofar as it serves that purpose. Social media in and of itself feels like fluff and nonsense to me. This blarg is no exception, with the exception that I’m convinced that I’m using it as a whetstone for my narrative blades. But that begs the question: what the hell do I post there?

I’m a rambler and an overthinker. If I feel strongly enough about an issue, I’m going to strip it down to its component parts like an old motorcycle in the garage, and I’m going to beat those parts to death examining them from every angle I can think of. I can’t do that with 140 characters. Besides, I have the blarg for that. So what’s left? Post about what I had for breakfast, or the random epiphanies that strike while I’m walking the halls at school or running in the wee hours?

I dunno.

I feel that any endeavor on twitter lacks depth just as a by-product of the form, and I’m leery of things that waste my already too thinly-stretched time. But I’m going to give it a spin just the same. Just to say I tried dipping my toe into the 21st century, if nothing else. So here goes.

Seriously. Other budding authors, how do you use twitter? Is it a waste of time? I am making this all up as I go.

Russell Wilson and Fifty Shades and Why Do I Bother

I don’t follow social media kerfuffles. For the most part, I don’t follow social media period. Mostly this is because I can’t stand people, and I doubly can’t stand the egocentric narcissism that too often goes hand in hand with extensive social media use (and yeah, I grok the irony of expressing such a sentiment on a blog — is there a more narcissistic endeavor? — but what can I say, this is my platform, big or small as it may be. In other words, I avoid social media as a rule. I check facebook once every couple of weeks; usually because my wife tells me to. I have a twitter that I’ve used only once; that, for a writing exercise (the result of which, if you care, is here).

But still, social media chases me down, even when I don’t want to use it. Theoretically, technology evolves to make our lives easier, but in a lot of ways, technology is evolving to take over our lives. That’s a post for another day. One sort-of social media thing I do use is Google+, not for networking and posting status updates, but for following certain topics, writing blogs, and other what-have-yous. Now, I’m a football fan (now that I coach soccer, I feel compelled to say “American football” fan despite it being a mouthful), and as such, in the past month, I’ve googled some American football topics. Super Bowl. Playoffs. You know. Well, Google is posed to become the real-world evil stepbrother of SkyNet, so it has started making assumptions about things I’m interested in, and as a result, this little gem appeared in my Google+ window today. In short, Russell Wilson (the quarterback of the not-back-to-back-Super-Bowl-Champion-Seattle-Seahawks) went to see the new film

Sorry. the cognitive disconnect knocked me out of my seat when I almost called Fifty Shades of Greyfilm. Anyway, Russell Wilson went to see this new skin flick for soccer moms and apparently people are pretty mad about it. Not because he wasted his time seeing a movie that was better left in the imaginations of its undeserved audience, but because Russell is a Christian.

There are two issues here, and they have alternately turned my blood to ichor and scorching mercury over the state of our country.

Thing Number the First: a grown man went to see a movie. This grown man happens to be the very well-paid face of a very successful football team. He also happens to have outwardly represented himself as a practitioner of a particular religious faith. Apparently, I missed a step in the middle there that enables perfect strangers to pass moral judgment on him and to condemn him as a hypocrite, but that’s not even what I’m upset about. Religious nutjobs are going to religiously nutjob all over any and everything; it’s their hobby, whereas normal people, you know, knit sweaters or keep bees or write blog posts about trivial sharknado that irritates them vaguely. No, the problem here came well before any religious element got involved in RW’s choice in Saturday night entertainment, and that problem is people who have no business sticking their noses into other people’s business sticking their noses into other people’s business. (The previous sentence is grammatically correct.) For the record, “people who have no business sticking their noses into other people’s business” is just a fancy way of saying “people”, because once you’re an adult and living on your own, the only people whose business your nose belongs in are the people living under your roof, and even then, there are limits. These idiots have decided that somehow the things a well-paid quarterback (whom they have never met in real life) does affects them in some abstract way — be it moral corruption, distaste, disappointment, whatever — and are now harassing him in a real way about it. I’ll grant that sending messages on Twitter might not count as actual real harassment, but I’ll also bet dollars to donuts that he’s received some similar messages in real life, whether via post or shouted on the street or scrawled on a brick on its way through his window.

What really happened? He went to see a movie. Somebody didn’t like it. Rather than eating their feelings or spouting philosophically high-and-mighty biblical aphorisms over a tense family dinner, these somebodies got all in his face about it. This is stupid. Russell Wilson’s business is Russell Wilson’s business. Taylor Swift’s business is Taylor Swift’s business. Even Lady Gaga (who I can’t stand) has business that is entirely her own and does not deserve idiots getting all up in it. The thought that I might have a moral imperative to call somebody on their bad behavior — or their behavior in general — is a concept that our society would do well to get shut of, sooner rather than later, if possible.

Thing Number the Second: Why is this a news story on any outlet, even one as lowest-common-denominator as Bleacher Report? It’d be one thing if it were an isolated incident, but it’s not at all uncommon to see “news stories” about this or that celebrity arguing with another on twitter, or this trashy thing that this politician said. What that means is that you have this one pocket of individuals who are involved in this little online “incident”. Other people “witness” this “incident” and tell other people about it, and like a fight in the schoolyard, suddenly every mouthbreather in shouting distance has gravitated to see one snot-nosed fool land a couple of punches on the next. And then what? It gets broken up, or the parties get bored and go home, and everybody at school blathers about it for a couple of days until the next set of chumps with nothing better to do dust off their dukes for their turn to go a few rounds.

Pardon me for pointing out the obvious, but there is actual news going on. There are atrocities in the world. People are murdering each other. Rights are being violated. Children are starving. Governments are rising and falling like the tides. But also, Russell Wilson went and saw a terrible movie that apparently, maybe, compromises his integrity as a Christian, and that’s apparently, maybe, worth more than a few idiots in their basements flipping their collective sharknado over.

And here’s Thing Number the Third, which occurred to me in the writing of this awful rant. I — me, personally — was dumb enough to click on the thing, stupid enough to read the thing, imbecilic enough to put myself into the dog-poo-encrusted shoes of the people involved to try to understand their thinking, and finally moronic enough to put this much effort into writing about how wasteful the whole thing was.

I think this is the part where I stop writing, and this entire post vanishes in a puff of self-aware irony.

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