Saturday, January 31, 2015

"Her" and the Network Socialization of Relationships

We all have them...friends...and "friends."  We talk about them in present tense.  We laugh at their jokes.  We share silly memes with them.  We interact for the same interests, like sports teams, television shows or even social/political beliefs.

If you're an active person on Facebook, we all categorize friends in certain manners.  We have family, former schoolmates, next door neighbors, coworkers.  But we also have the exclusive "online friend," which is a growing subset of our population and a real relationship.

It's occurred to me that the next level of human interaction and relationships is online.  That's not necessarily groundbreaking, that thought.  But what's  fascinating to me is that when one has an "online friend," it's just as important and weighted in high value to the people involved in these interactions.

Therefore, I've come to the conclusion that one can't discount the "online friend" or "online relationship" phenomenon anymore.  The online friend is almost an exclusive category now to those as our networks expand ever so greatly and rapidly.

Yet, I can't help but wonder, if this is just systemic of the growing isolation that's pervasive in our lives.  

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Anyone around here seen Her yet?

I saw it in the theaters last year, and the subject matter fascinated me (let alone the people story the movie followed).  I won't give away too many spoilers, but the general synopsis is well-known.  The story is about a relatively ordinary man who lives alone and strikes up a relationship with his operating system, who calls herself "Samantha."  We find out that the protoganist, Theodore (played by Joaquin Phoenix), has had intimacy and relationship issues in the past.

Yet, I couldn't help but wonder...with the advent and importance placed upon online relationships, how far off are we from having relationships with our operating systems?

Director Spike Jonze made the movie seem futuristic without being too deliberate in letting us know just how many years he predicted a relationship between a human and an operating system would occur.  Yet it seems as though it could be happening right under our very nose. A major plot topic was on how Samantha knew everything with which Theodore had interest, which is why I think exclusively online relationships are intriguing and most of all attractive to people.  By the same token, people with online relationships are free to be whoever they want to be in other forums.  Forums, which, one may not be aware of.

Without a face, body language or the pressure of vis-a-vis interaction, people can expand themselves to be who they want to be without the responsibility of a real living, breathing human relationship. 

As I watched the movie, however, I saw so many parallels between online relationships and mostly the emotional interaction between people.  To some, it's almost as if we're all having relationships with our operating systems.  We chat and send messages on our computers.  We text and Kik and WhatsApp others from our phones.  Some of these types of relationships have been going on for years.  The idea is nothing new. 

Last year, right around the time Her was in the theaters, Daniel Jones wrote about the very topic of online emotional relationships in the New York Times.  He claims that not only does technology alter "our romantic landscape," he has a term for these individuals who rely on these relationships: "Soul Mate in a Box" (or "Smiab" for short).

Prior to seeing this movie, I have seen technology play out as a third party for many "relationships," which I use as a term very loosely.  I guess I'm kind of a traditionalist in that I still think that the face-to-face interaction is weighted a heck of a lot more.  Yet I get the value of an online relationship.  I have a very good friend whom I've never met face-to-face but we've collaborated on podcasts and talked on the phone several times.  Of course, I'd feel our relationship would be more "legit" had we ever met in person, and that will come in due time.

Yet, at the same time, I know there is a certain subset of the online population that I interact with who are perfectly fine with never meeting in person.  It used to upset me, because you know, "how convenient" that I am going to be in your hometown and we've talked about meeting for over five years.  And you have a family emergency that has you out of town that same time.  Now, I really don't mind.  I guess I've come to the conclusion that there are people who will just be an exclusively online relationship for me.

Yet, I've seen so many people put so much stock in their virtual relationship, that they go through a true sense of loss if something happens to end it, as we see in Her. I'm quite sure anyone who reads this knows someone who has been in a virtual relationship like this, or at the very least has either been a party to one or participates in one.

I've had a few ideas as to why these seem so prevalent, as Mr. Jones elaborated on in his column.  One theory he had was the idea of a physical relationship being more "work" than an online relationship.  People don't have to put too much effort into being physically present (and yes, that does take a lot of work).  And while individuals are making themselves emotionally available, there's not a ton of maintenance going on there.  Say a few nice words, put the other on a pedestal and get to go home by yourself at night.

I feel like technology has allowed those of us who prefer or don't mind being alone (I'm a proud introvert) stay that way.  As an example, women tend to be emotionally available and can be more vulnerable or receptive to an emotional online relationship.  Remember, folks, the biggest erogenous zone is the brain (thank you Jackie Treehorn).  This was evident in the scene in Her where Theodore and Samantha "consummate" the relationship.  Though when presented with an opportunity to use a surrogate proxy to have a physical relationship, Theodore couldn't do it.

It makes me wonder how many of these relationships wouldn't go the distance.  Sure, we've heard of online relationships being very successful.  There are just some relationships that serve to be just "online."

Like the catfish.  Remember a few years ago the story about football player Manti Te'o? He was involved in a scheme that an online personality lured him and made him believe that his online counterpart was involved in a fatal car accident, and it made the news because his grandmother had passed away as well that same week.  It was found to be a farcical relationship that he went public with later.

Why does something like catfishing occur?  You'd think in this day and age, we'd be less trusting and even more questioning of an online presence's motives.  I guess at the root of it, we try to believe the best in people, and those stories happen to "other people."  Plus, it's easy to believe you know the "real person" behind the curtain.  When the reality is, we don't even know if this person who may present themselves to be female is EVEN a female...because they've never met.  And how convenient they do not like posting pictures of themselves?

Then there's the "emotional cheat," as I like to call it.  I think the disconnect happens once again because of gender perceptions.  Women are seen as emotional beings, men physical.  If there's a man who is not getting his emotional needs fulfilled by his significant other, guess what?  There's a woman he's never met and doesn't need to service on a physical level willing to meet those needs.  Women have been seen as more apt to "fall" for the other in an emotional relationship, while it may be seen as collateral damage to the male in the relationship.  There's no actual physical interaction...who exactly is being harmed?

The complicated layer of technology and relationships is a prevalent theme here at CDV.  It's something that is not going away, but it needs to have the respect of something as important, destructive but also character building and enhancing as a real life face-to-face meeting.

I can't discount the fact that I have met some of the most important people in my life online, even my husband.  I can say with an absolute certainty that I am not sure if I could have met other people whom I consider friends without the social networking level.  It's important to me, and certainly something I have a healthy appreciation for.

But when people rely on technology too much for forming their relationships, then it becomes a real life problem, like it did in Her.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Isolation

Someone, who didn't own a smart phone let alone have interactions on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook, once told me that when history looks at this period of time, it will be looked upon as the "decline of civilization."

I found it funny because while I didn't know this person well, the reason I was in this setting was because I knew the majority of folks at this event THROUGH social media.

This gentleman's argument was that while we were at a social function, most of us were either taking pictures or attending to items on social media.

I saw his point, though I disagreed with it.  Social media, warts and all, has brought a lot of joy in my life.  It's kept me posted on world and current events, and has put me more in touch with distant family members and friends. 

The point was, we were in a social function setting...but we were attending to our smartphones.

Yes, he said, when history looked at this period, they would see the decline of civilization.

In some ways, social media has taken things too far, but in others, it's made us better people.  Perhaps more understanding.

Yet, if someone was an introvert, hermit-like or isolated to begin with, I think that social media can unintentionally amplify those behaviors.

Then, there is the advent of the selfie.  Selfies are officially defined as:
"A photograph that one takes of oneself with a digital camera or a front-facing smartphone, tablet, or webcam, especially for posting on a social-networking or photo-sharing website."
Selfies can be fun.  Heck, Ellen Degeneres put selfies on the map at the Oscars last year, infamously taking one and posting it during the actual ceremony.   We can get in a group of friends and make funny faces.  It's also a safety issue.  If I'm in a touristy place where I don't know a lot of people, and I want to take a pic of myself, I'd rather take it myself than worry about some dishonest person try to take my phone.  

How many times have we joked that "I need longer arms, lol!" to take a photo?  

Well, fret not folks...because earlier in 2014, the selfie "stick" was born.

VOILA! A selfie-stick!
A long arm type of device that you can put your phone or point-and-shoot camera, selfie sticks have popped up all over.  

And my question is...why?  Why is this needed?

And I guess it was something that's needed, because I see them everywhere.  EVERY.  DAMN.  WHERE.

I saw that at a fall conference I attended.  I see them on the streets.  I saw them all over New York City from tourists.

I admit, I have been known to take a selfie at times if I didn't exactly trust another person in the area to my own picture with my camera or phone.  Now, the selfie stick not only takes away the awkwardness of asking a total stranger to take your photo...

It also increases the isolation that the gentleman I met over a year ago warned us all about.

Think about it: selfie sticks aren't just used for groups of people who "need those longer arms - lol!"  It's for people who are traveling on their own or want to keep themselves isolated, if not for protection but to reduce their human interaction to a further degree.

A few months ago, my husband and I were going to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade which runs right through our neighborhood in New York City, and a few tourists asked if they could follow us, as they wanted to go where the "locals" went.  We were happy to oblige.  We found out that they were visiting from the United Kingdom, one of their travel companions had broken his foot a few months earlier and couldn't get around as well as he wanted, and they didn't want to be "annoying tourists." 

These folks could have minded their own bees wax, taken selfies themselves or just been "annoying tourists."  Instead, we had a nice time answering these folks' questions (and trust me...I know from **annoying tourists**), and chatting them up.  

We'll probably never see them again, but that's not the point.  Instead, we were able to give these folks some survival guide tips that they can share with their friends who make the trip over as well.  Or they could go back to whatever city they were from, and tell them about the "brilliant New Yorkers they met" (I'm making that up of course).

It used to be that we'd go overseas or be social for just that...the social interactions that add a layer to our lives.  The selfie stick allows more tourists and visitors to keep to themselves, thus leaving the social interaction part dormant.

Also, you look like a jerk.

Selfies were coined for the teenager making duck faces in their bedroom, and they have kind of taken on an irony of their own.   The selfie stick is just another layer to add to a self-perpetuating culture of selfishness and isolation, which is antithetical to what the social media movement is trying to achieve.

I see what the gentleman was saying about the decline of civilization...I don't believe it to be true.  But what's next in this culture of isolation...talking to one self on social media?  Well, I guess we do see that sometimes. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I Hate Technology

Apple II advertisement from 1983
I didn't ask Apple to support THIS machine

In order to run an operating system upgrade, I had to get a patch.  However, the hard drive kicked the bucket, and I have to replace my poor laptop that has been through the technology war and back.  Good thing I believe in backing up my documents and external hard drives.  

Today, I don't come in praise of technology but to bury it.  I really hate technology. 

Why now, you may ask?

Because by the time you get used to one form, it becomes "outdated" or "vintage" and you are forced to upgrade whether you are ready or not.

I had a Macbook Pro laptop.  I entered the Apple world after years of being a Windows user in 2008.  I was single when I made the purchase, so for the first few years of its existence, I was the only person using this.  Add my husband using it a few years later, it's just around five years old and things start breaking.  Like, the "N" key sticks on the keyboard, and it runs slowly and I'm constantly backing up documents and photos (which turned out to be a good thing).

When the keyboard started sticking, the geniuses at the Apple Store tell me my laptop is not considered "vintage," and they no longer make parts for this.

I guess five years is like 100 years in technology time.

I unexpectedly had to upgrade my laptop to a full blown desktop.  My new iMac kicks serious booty.  It's refreshing to have a fast and working computer, with a non-sticking keyboard.  But prior to it dying, I was fine with my broke ass laptop, sticking keyboard and all.  I guess I just don't like being forced to do anything, ya know?

Of course I see my iPhone is now at a point where I should replace it.  It is nearly three years old.  Yet, I find smartphones to be the worst technology offender of all.  As consumers we are almost encouraged to spend an average $200 each year to upgrade these suckers, otherwise we're left in the dust with smarter and faster phones.  

Gordon Gecko started this trend, I'm convinced
I was almost envious of my aunt a few months ago, when she showed at least a seven year old cell phone -- read: NOT a smartphone -- that she still used.  I had to cut my Facebook usage down by not having it on my phone at all, but I still manage to find a million ways to be attached to my phone. Music, email, texting, Twitter, following weather radar...it's any wonder I barely use my phone to call anyone. Who has time to do that with all those other distractions???

(And don't get me started on my husband.  He's never owned a cell phone.  NEVER.  Back when cell phones were used primarily to call people, he didn't like being on the phone.  The important people knew where to find him.)

I might have to roll my eyes at the word "smart" to describe a phone.  How smart are we that we live in a world where we are forced to keep up with the Joneses, technology-wise, not to impress anyone, but because the technology manufacturers no longer support the technology we do have?

Sometimes, I wonder what we did before technology pervaded our lives.

Not too long ago, one would buy a newspaper, look at job listings in the Help Wanted section, and physically mail our resume and carefully tailored cover letter. 

Not very long ago, people had one phone number in order for people to reach them.

Computers weren't in every home, but when they were, baby boomers and early Gen Xers were hardly staring at screens for hours on end, at least not work-related, and certainly weren't in such a mad rush to get back on when they had a chance.  See, the home computer was functional.  This is where you could write up and print out those resumes and letters to mail out.  Perhaps they helped the kids do homework.  Of course, there were items like chat rooms and instant messaging.  I know that I, for one, came around late on the technology party.  I never got

Today, there are so many different reasons why people use computers and smartphones and technology in general.  The reason I needed to run a patch on my laptop was that I needed to install an application for my out-in-the-field job.  The install didn't take, and neither did the patch, subsequently.  I couldn't NOT be without a computer.  I had hours to account for, and if I did not, I didn't get paid...not to mention all the other stuff we do that requires use a computer, not a phone. 

I hate technology.  I hate that I needed it. 

Unfortunately, we do.  We all do.  Unless you're living in a cave, under a rock, or in the Yukon, being and staying connected is of utmost importance.  Mostly because those home phone numbers I discussed earlier?  They no longer exist.  And we no longer exist if we're not in a social profile.

I remember a few years ago, reading that an older generation person made a comment that our generation (Gen X, Millennials) didn't know how good we had it.  Heck, the "greatest generation" got along just fine without the use of smartphones and computers.

I hate to say it, but things are different now.  The United States, specifically, switched from a manufacturer economy to being part of a global consumer economy.  We are all consumers now.  Credit is also cheap and more readily available.  As a result, time is more attached to money, and not being connected could mean the difference between making the deal of a century or losing billions of dollars.  Eat or be eaten, at least in the technological world. 

Technology has provided a perfect storm, in a vicious and never ending cycle.  It's like the Hotel California: you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave. 

So technology, I hate you. I hate that you've added a layer to my life that I can't live without or at least without for a very long time.  I hate that in a breath, you are considered obsolete.  What's worse is that no one bats an eyelash when an upgrade is needed.  And I hate that even if I'm not mentally ready, I have to be physically ready to make a purchase. 

I guess the silver lining is that I do like my new computer.  Although my phone now needs an upgrade, and my husband may join in the technology club now that I've been an inspiration. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Not Just Because

Facebook. An online social networking service. At least that's what Wikipedia calls it. I call it a crock of shit. But I'm actively using it. Again. And not that I have to defend myself to anyone but I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings either. I think it's important for others to know why I do certain things I do on there, and then if they still have a problem with it, then it's their problem.

Facebook is my space. No, not MySpace. My. Space. And I should be able to use it however I please without being judged or ridiculed. I shouldn't be made to feel guilty about who I choose to be friends with on there and who I don't and the reasons why. And while others don't have to agree with my decisions, they do have to respect my right to make my own decisions.

One of my own personal Facebook "policies", if you will, is "Just because I know you doesn't mean I have to be friends with you". In other words, just because we work together or went to school together, or you are family or somehow connected or related to someone I know, doesn't mean we have to be "friends". So, if you fall into one of or more of the following categories, I see no reason for you to be in my personal space on Facebook:

1.You're never on. The occasional Facebook user doesn't realize that they are putting their friends at risk should their account get hacked or spammed. I'm sorry but I don't need my personal information compromised because you can't stay on top of your account.
2. We don't interact. The purpose of Facebook is to stay connected to people. If we aren't staying connected then we don't need to be connected.
3. You're my ex. Ex-friend, ex-boyfriend, ex-guy-I-used-to-be-interested-in, whatever. You're an ex for a reason. No need to keep my past in my present.
4. You only acknowledge me when I post something bad. I shouldn't have to hide my feelings from my true friends who will be there for me in order to hide them from you who gets joy out of my misery.
5. If you are not part of my real world life, you don't have to be part of my online one. If we hardly know each other, don't see each other, and don't talk to each other outside of Facebook, what kind of relationship could we possibly have on it? (See #2)

And so you see, I have real reasons why I do what I do on Facebook. It's not "just because".

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Passion of the Teenager

Since when have teenagers (or "tweens" for that matter) become so influential?

Most don't work.  As far as consumerism goes, they are at the mercy of their parents or guardians for stimulating the economy, with allowances and all that jazz.  Years ago, my mother worked for a company that did tween and teen focused makeup lines.  It was seriously one of her biggest sellers.

Teens set the trends, and I'm baffled as to why and how.  Yet it seems the next bastion of teen influence is going to be in social media. 

Seems to them the almighty Facebook has jumped the proverbial shark. 


(Of course, I'm showing my age by using that reference.  But that's besides the point.)

I've gotten older and crankier as time has gone on, but I have to say I agree with them.  I'm on my second Facebook detox of this year, and I have to say, I am not eager to get back.  Quite frankly, it's been too distracting.  Sure, I can just not log in, and no one in any way is forcing me to stare blankly at my iPad, and comment on my friends' pictures.  But if I don't have the temptation, I won't go on.  And it's been great! 

According to research done in previous years, Facebook was the king of all social media to teens, Twitter was behind.  With the advent of Instagram, and almost it's instant gratification to a degree, Twitter has emerged as a more popular medium.  I can get behind that, I suppose.  Instant gratification is easy to understand. 

Yet, there's a simple reason why teens are flocking to these alternatives to Facebook: expression.
“Teens who used sites like Twitter and Instagram reported feeling like they could better express themselves on these platforms, where they felt freed from the social expectations and constraints of Facebook,” the (Pew Research) report said.
It's hard enough being a teenager these days what with peer pressure, school stress and feeling like living in fish bowl.  Facebook can be too much of a good thing, expression-wise and getting noticed.  For a culture that thrives on ADD activity like Twitter, Facebook may be too slow of an instant gratification process. 

Expression is something else to consider.  I had a lot to say, but really no outlets when I was a teen.  I don't know if Facebook would have been good for someone like me when I was a teenager.  But getting a constant flow of info, like Twitter or visual like Instagram. 

There's also the element of hobbies and activities.  Sites like Tumblr, Twitter or Instagram can be easily customized to get tailored info for what interests you - the true definition of user-generated news. 

So what is the real issue at hand?  Are teens really that influential?  Or is their leaving Facebook an epidemic?  It could be, because it seems that what made Facebook unique and special isn't so much anymore.  I often said that when Facebook was new, it was great.  Then it grew, and it's more of a sounding platform of businesses and a place to share memes.  We could go elsewhere for that.  There seems to be a gravitational pull of mini-sites to take away what we like about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and make that the focus.  I like the photos and info sharing.  I can keep in touch with my friends in other ways. 

Facebook used to be one giant distraction.  In 2013, there are multiple elements to distract us.  That's the ADD culture I am used to. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Buck Tradition

I was talking about the holiday season experience from when I was a kid the other day.  I always felt they were a little "forced," especially from my mother who would go overboard with the commercial aspect of things (I was an only child, so whatever).  We'd have a big Christmas tree, but I always remembered dreading Christmas Eve.  The reason being was that my dad used the holidays as an excuse to drink into oblivion. 

Of course, I thought this was the case when I got older, but my parents had split up by the time I was a teenager.  Yet, my mother still went a little on the Martha Stewart-contrived side.  I grew up with a devout Roman Catholic family, yet the holidays were kinda like meh.  Mom always went out of her way to decorate, but she couldn't care less about having people over or anything like that.  Grandma kinda did it to keep the kids entertained, but I don't think she derived any joy from it. 

It wasn't until I was in my twenties that I found out that my grandfather (my mom's dad) attempted suicide right around Thanksgiving when my mother was almost five.  My mom was separated from her family while my grandfather recovered, and she always kind of felt like she had to overdo it for me.  I guess it made sense.

You'd think we'd have had some special memories, since it was just her and me for a long time.  However, I don't.  We are not close.  It takes a lot for me to admit that.  We just aren't.  She's also been in a long term relationship with a man who has a huge family (nieces and nephews), and his family has a big tradition.  Mom still decorates, but mostly, it's for show.  She feels like she has to.

This could be the second year in a row that my husband and I may not visit my family for Christmas Day.  And that's okay.  We do our own thing.  What's more, is that I have not seen my family for several years going for Thanksgiving either.  It's not that they are far.  It's just that my husband and I do our own thing for it.  Traveling five hours total when everyone else is, on a day off, to spend four maybe five hours tops only to come back isn't that attractive to me.  Plus, my husband has to work the day after the holiday.  It makes sense for us to stay close. 

When I worked on Wall Street, I was in a relationship most of those years.  Some of the years, I had the day off Friday.  Some of them, I had to work (albeit remotely).  The markets don't close, so financially related businesses usually have to operate.  We would usually do our thing with his family, and it was fun.  After we split, I used to do something with my cousin when I had to work the day after. 

Truth be told, I miss those days.  He made the bird, I made the sides, and we had a shitload of leftovers.  Then he moved away, and I moved to the city.  Then I got married.

I've run the gamut of being nonchalant about the holiday season, to really looking forward to it.  Mostly, because my husband and I are nontraditional, so we have a nontraditional tradition  And that's the way I like it.

So my coblogger and I were talking about what our families do during the holiday season, especially with Thanksgiving and the idea of Black Friday.  I didn't really understand what the big deal is if she goes shopping with her mother at the late sales.  She's far from the only person who does it, of course. I worked in markets.  Trust me, if they didn't make money, they wouldn't be open. 

I started thinking, though, about stupid little traditions that my husband and I have done. We are child-free, and plan to stay that way for a long time. Our families are not close by (his relocated to Puerto Rico years ago, and we'd have to travel several hours on a holiday to see mine, when he has to work early the next day).  This is what we do.  We wake up early to go to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (we see it from the staging area where not many people are, believe it or not).  We watch movies afterwards.  Then we go to our favorite Cajun restaurant, where our favorite bartender (whose family is in Missouri) works.  We've sort of adopted each other. 

That, to me, is family.   That, to me, is tradition.  Keep in mind, there are no instruction manuals on how to have a Thanksgiving dinner.  Heck, I think that went out the window there was a vegetarian family celebrating here.  Here's an idea: make your own tradition.  And buck others.

One year, my mom and her boyfriend spent a few days in Florida to celebrate Christmas with his family.  I didn't go with them, so I tried to volunteer at a shelter.  I was turned away.  I guess some people wanted to get some charity points around the holidays.  I never knew that volunteers could be turned away simply because there were too many.  So I went to my dad's event, where he played Christmas carols and other goodies on his guitar at a senior assisted living center.  Then I went home and ate brownies, because I had given up sex for desserts (true story, just like Miranda on Sex & The City). This was also the year after a bad breakup. 

I often say you can't choose who you are related to, but you can choose your family.  I think in this day and age, if a mother and daughter would like to go shopping and look forward to hot chocolate after spending the day indoors together, so what?  My aunt stopped hosting Thanksgiving years ago, after my uncle passed away.  She and another aunt alternate it now.  I have relatives who live overseas and Skype during these hours so they can have at least the feeling of being home.

If someone is concerned about how others are celebrating the holidays, here's an idea.  Go to your local shelter, and see how families with next to nothing are making do...of course, if you are not turned away.  Help an unfortunate family make memories of their own.  Or stay with your family, if that's what matters to you.  Or go visit your favorite bartender because he lives thousands of miles from his family here.  Whatever it is, do what makes you happy. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

It's Not About The Sales

I've been taking some heat from people about my tradition of hitting the outlets and the malls on Thanksgiving night. It seems some people have a problem with what has become the very popular tradition of holiday shopping on, well, a holiday.

Look, don't get me wrong. There is a part of me that feels bad for those who have to leave their dinner tables and their families to go into work and put in a very stressful and tiring overnight shift. But don't blame ME. Don't tell me that if it wasn't for people like me, stores wouldn't be open. Because guess what? Yes they would! Don't tell me that it's my mentality that makes it possible for stores to pull this off. If you ask me, most people in these retail positions aren't really concerned about working Thanksgiving night. It's not about the holiday. It's working the crazy overnight shift, period, that gets them. 

The thing is, I don't have a big Thanksgiving celebration. It's just my mom and me, and we use this opportunity to spend time together and make memories. For us, it's not even about the sales or the shopping. We have no children to need the season's hottest toys, we already have laptops and televisions and iPhones, and honestly, how much less expensive do we really expect to find that cashmere sweater we've been eyeballing all autumn long?

And if you think about it, how is Thanksgiving different from holidays like Veteran's Day or Memorial Day? Why aren't stores closed on those holidays and why don't I hear anyone bitching about it? Or what about the movie theaters and 7-Eleven stores, or liquor stores and bakeries, pharmacies and supermarkets that are open DURING the day on Thanksgiving? Somebody's working those jobs, right? 

Better yet, how about all the servers and bartenders and DJs who work on New Year's Eve so that the rest of us have somewhere to go? I bet you they'd rather be ringing in the New Year with their own friends and family somewhere other than their place of employment. 

The thing is, these holidays aren't religious ones. They're commercial ones. And while every holiday has different meaning to every person, it's not like the malls are defying some holy tradition by opening on Christmas Day or Easter Sunday. 

Look, I work in the accounting industry. We have our busy seasons, work crazy hours, and don't get to spend time with our families sometimes. It's part of the job we took. If you don't like it, then change careers.

Yes, Thanksgiving is a day to be thankful for your family and friends and to enjoy the time with them. But I am doing that the way I choose to. And I don't think I'm being selfish about it one bit. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ill Communication

When I worked in data management, there were terms such as "dynamic" and "static" to explain data sets.  We can almost use the terms to discuss friendships or any sort of relationship.  Heck, even personality types!

But let me ask a question: would you rather be a "dynamic" person?  Or a "static" person?  Meaning, would you like to adapt and change to the times...or would you just rather stay the same?

I guess on some levels, we can keep some of key qualities but adapt to the times.  Or constantly rethink a position.  However you want to look at things, we can look at things as being "active" or "passive."

Do you take an "active" approach or a "passive" approach to life?

Which leads me to my ultimate point.  I've noticed that since the "good ol' days" (which basically our only forms of media were of the mass approach like television, radio and movies...not the "social" media layer), people have been convenienced out of being personal.

Remember when you could go to the supermarket and ask your check out girl/guy or courtesy desk professional how their families were?  Even then, there were "lifers" in that industry, so you could build relationships and trust.  Nowadays, how many of us even chat with the people at the registers of a supermarket...let alone GO to one, since many stores are outfitted with "self" checkouts.  Even my coblogger and I were talking about how she uses a "gun" to scan her items, then just needs to bag her items and pay when she's all set (think of it as killing two birds with one stone).

Yet I think these conveniences for our busy lifestyles have infiltrated our personal lives.  We have seemingly dozens of ways to communicate.  Besides Ma Bell, there are even seemingly antiquated methods like "chat" or "messenger," but if you own a smartphone, there's texting, Kik'ing, Tweeting, and even emailing.

And there's Facebook. 

I've been on a Facebook cleanse since February.  There was no "over the edge" kind of moment.  In fact, I had just responded to someone in a message.  There wasn't an event or any major argument that set me off.  It just...felt like I needed to do it.

But I also had a revelation as I went off, and people started to ask me when I would return.

I'm not sure if I need to.  I feel as though I have a clear idea of what's going on with the people I care about.  I have kept my Twitter feed active, and there's some overlap there.  I am even Instagramming photos. 

But there's something else.  I felt as though I was being a passive friend.  And I think our culture of being convenienced out of being personal has allowed this to be "okay."

It's easy to drop a note on someone's wall to say "Hey, thinkin' boutcha" or "Happy birthday!"  Our culture has made it easy to never pick up a phone.  Even writing a letter or a written notes of thanks is foreign.

My friend has written a book on Table Manners, and how to integrate this into raising the next generation who will be pointing, clicking, gaming and no doubt texting at a very young age.  My fear for the next generation is that there will be NO ONE who chats or communicates by talking anymore.  In fact, think of how many families eat dinner at night and are attached to their smartphones.  I'm just as guilty.  I'll be at lunch and have my phone at the ready while talking to a guest.  Shouldn't my attention be focused on ONE person, the one I'm eating lunch with?

 Lastly, we live in a culture where calling someone to say hello is almost unheard of.  Just this past week, I decided to reach out the old fashioned way to talk to people.  I reached out to three friends, and even called someone who had a birthday.  Ironically, I wouldn't have known it was his birthday four years ago, when we reconnected on Twitter.

The sound on his voice was surprised...yet he was laughing because he said, "Man, I was just telling a story that I think you would appreciate!"  And he proceeded to tell me.  Now, maybe if I had reached out on Facebook, he might have told that story.  But the phone call was straight, sweet, to the point.

Shortly after my Facebook hiatus, I visited some friends down by where I grew up.  It forced me out of my comfort zone. I was able to make plans in person.  This is what I mean by being a less passive friend.  It's something that the technology driven environment has allowed us to do.

Think about how many people you know "online" whom you'll never ever meet in person.  Think about those you have meaningful relationships with in person, but you feel like you're enough in contact with them that you don't need to check in to see how things are.

Being off Facebook makes me wonder - hey, what's going on with these people?  It makes me be more available, and what I feel to be more of an active friend.

I'd rather be that dynamic person but wants to appreciate some of the simpler things in life.  I can adapt, but I don't want to be in a false sense of security in my relationships.

I want to be an active participant.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

An Apple A Day

Every morning on my way to work, I stop at 7-Eleven to get myself coffee and a buttered roll. One morning, I reached the door to go in and I noticed another woman heading out with a coffee cup in each hand. So I held the door open for her. She made eye contact with me and held it for a few seconds. However, she did not say thank you. It was almost like I did something wrong. How dare I hold the door for her!

Now, I didn't want to let some bitch with no manners ruin my day, but at the same time I couldn't help but keep thinking how some people could go throughout life without an ounce of niceness in their body. It started to eat away at me so much that I had to vent to someone. So, I called my mom.

I explained the story to her and told her that these are the reasons why it doesn't pay to be nice. She pointed out that we shouldn't stop being nice to people who appreciate it just because we come across someone once in a while who doesn't. And she's right. Because as I am about to share, there are still nice people in the world.

This past Thursday I went about my normal routine and stopped at 7-Eleven for coffee and a buttered roll. Only this day, I wasn't really in the mood for the roll. As I stood there in front of the donut case trying to decide what to get, a woman came over and told me that the apple fritters are delicious and that I should try one. I'm not a big apple person but they did look really good, totally covered in icing. The woman walked away and I pondered it for a few seconds. I finally decided to go for it.

I got on line to pay and the woman was on line in front of me. She turned around and I told her that I decided to try it. The cashier went to ring her up and she told her to include my apple fritter. I told her she didn't have to do that. She insisted, stating that she talked me into it and if I didn't like it, it would be money wasted. (What she didn't realize was that I had the buttered roll in my hand as backup lol.) I told her that was very sweet of her and thanked her more than once. That small gesture totally made my day.

It's funny how I experienced two completely different personalities at the same place in a matter of weeks. It just goes to show you, no matter how many rotten apples there are in the world, there are still some sweet ones out there. So don't let one bad apple spoil the bunch!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

You Probably Think This Post Is About You

For years and years, the songstress Carly Simon was rumored to have written her epic "You're So Vain" about Warren Beatty, after seeing him walk into a party and someone commented, "Well he looks like he just walked onto a yacht."  Now, rumors are rumors, she's apparently only told one person on record about who the song, if anyone, was written about. 

Rumor has it, Beatty himself believed the tune was about him.  There have been some other attachments to it, but the idea is...a person obsessed with vanity thinks the world revolves around them.

What I find funny is that the title itself of the very song says much.  "You're So Vain/You Probably Think This Song Is About You" speaks to the very truth of social media.  Substitute "Facebook status/Tweet/blog post" for "song." 

How many times does one believe that a blog post, a tweet or a Facebook status is about THEM?

I wrote a blog post last week on an item in baseball news.  I was responding, in general, to mainstream media hysteria, which is pretty easy to do.  Yet, someone sent me an email, defending their position. 

Please note: I hadn't called this writer or person out, and at that point, hadn't even read their response on the topic I had written about.  I felt it telling that this writer, someone I respect on so many levels, felt the need to address it. 

When I hadn't even called that person out, personally.

There is truth, of course, to times that I do take issue with someone, and you will know about it.

There's the phenomenon of "subtweeting" that is basically calling someone out on Twitter without calling them out, specifically.  Say, someone is writing about their cat.  Then someone else following that person says something about a cat, without addressing the original tweeter, but definitely undermining or calling them out on something. 

I've certainly done my fair share of subtweeting, but it's usually in reference to several tweeters in general, not just a single person.  Although during the MLB playoffs, I was calling out specific and multiple holier-than-thou tweeters, and someone did respond to me.   Yet, I didn't mind chatting about the topic.  I wouldn't have written about it if I didn't think it was significant (silly or fair).

Then there's the topic of Facebook status, where a vague status is suddenly thought of as "OMG IS THAT ABOUT ME?????!!?!" 

I know a story of someone who had several friends outside of Facebook, and they all interacted there. All of a sudden, many of them weren't speaking to each other.   Why?  Someone had written a vague Facebook status, and one of the parties thought it was about themselves.  It was about a family member, but the damage had been done. 

It makes me wonder, however, what light people seem to think of themselves.  If someone writes something degrading in a post, and someone else thinks it's about them, why is that?  Do they feel like a bad person, or someone who needs to be the center of attention?

Which leads me what I think Mark Zuckerberg's famous social experiment is about: the narcissism and voyeuristic nature of humanity.

We like to watch and stare, and can either covet what others have or be happy for one another.  Then add in a layer of being self-centered and all of a sudden, the "ME" generation thinks everything is about them, even when it could be the furthest thing from the truth.

I had a conversation with a friend of mine before, and we talked about my recent Facebook purge, where I took a break.  I haven't been on in two weeks, and it's been very cleansing.  It frees up a lot of time, and to say I've suffered from burn out would be an understatement.  And yes, my friend, this paragraph WAS about you.

I found that my need to be connected at all times is very tiring, not to mention time-consuming.  But the very thing that draws us to these types of media can sometimes consume us: the need to be around people.  But what draws us away, the narcissism, over-sharing and vanity layer, can wear thin.