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Because by the time you get used to one form, it becomes "outdated" or "vintage" and you are forced to upgrade whether you are ready or not.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

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Post No Evil

Practically everyone I know or meet uses Facebook to stay in touch with people and keep up to date on what's going on in their friends' and family's lives. But what I've noticed lately is a change in the way people as a whole are using the social networking site.

When I first joined Facebook in 2008, there wasn't much you could do in terms of posting. You'd update your status or add a picture of your kid's birthday or the baseball game you attended over the weekend. Gradually, Facebook added a plethora of ways to post, including the ability to link to other social networking apps that would do the posting for you. Some of these apps include Twitter, Foursquare, Miso, GetGlue, and Yahoo. Before long, you only needed to be logged in to your Facebook account and your browser would automatically let others know what you were reading or watching in another window. And you could recommend things to your friends with a single click without even having to copy, toggle back to Facebook, and paste. But the latest trend is one of particular interest. And it concerns me for many reasons.

Take a scroll through your newsfeed. Notice anything? How many people actually update their status anymore with a, um, status? How many people actually take the time to write their own words; what they are thinking or feeling or doing?

All you see are pictures that are shared from not even another person, many times, but a page. A page that thousands or millions like just for the purpose of seeing pictures they can share so they don't have to say things themselves. Doesn't anyone have a mind of their own anymore?

Look, I'm guilty of sharing pictures too. Some of them are cute, colorful, funny, or too long and deep to put into a status myself without someone saying "get a blog!" But anyone who knows me knows that I have no reservations about stating my own opinions in my own words too.

Maybe it's not that people don't have a mind of their own. Maybe that was a poor choice of words. Maybe it's that people have been brainwashed and are too afraid to have and express their own opinions. They are worried that if they're not politically correct they might offend someone. But they're forgetting one thing. The First Amendment is not limited to actual speech. We have the freedom to speak our minds in the written form as well. If we choose to use our own Facebook wall as a platform to do that, well then so be it. Unless you're yelling "fire!" in a crowded Facebook room, you're not breaking any laws.

Now, that doesn't mean that it's okay to defame or bully someone on Facebook or any other site. Those actions should be punished accordingly. However, if you run the risk of losing friends simply because your religious, political or life in general views differ from theirs, then they weren't your friend to begin with. I think that while we should be considerate of others, we should not be silenced by them. We should not be taking the easy way out when expressing ourselves.

Not only does this behavior add to the lack of personal interaction but I think that by sharing the photos of generic Facebook pages, people are hiding behind the blame of the controversy caused by those photos. They sort of take on an "I didn't say it" attitude. No, but you shared it. You agree with it. Stop avoiding the issue. Either you stand for something or you don't.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

**SPOILER ALERT**

NOTE TO ANYONE WHO IS ABOUT TO READ THIS BLOG.

WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ CONTAINS A ***SPOILER ALERT***. 

A SPOILER ALERT FOR AN EPISODE OF WALKING DEAD THAT HAPPENED IN THE FIRST PART OF THIS SEASON BACK IN OCTOBER OF LAST YEAR.

I NEED TO COVER ALL OF MY BASES IN CASE SOMEONE DOES NOT HAVE A CABLE PROVIDER WHO HAS AMC OR IF THEY DO NOT HAVE A TV.

NOW THAT YOU HAVE HAD AMPLE WARNING, I CANNOT BE RESPONSIBLE IF I SPOIL SOMETHING FOR YOU RE: WALKING DEAD.
Not a day goes by that I see a gazillion or more people complaining on Twitter or Facebook or whatever social medium they choose about an ending or episode or some television event about seeing a "spoiler."

Spoilers are nothing new.  I remember I used to work with a guy on Sundays, and he was a huge football fan.  Typically, he worked till around 4 pm, and if his team was playing the one o'clock game, he'd have to "tape" it (back before there were such things like DVRs or TiVo).  He would resist visiting sites like ESPN or CBS to see scores.  If someone was following the game, and they started to talk about it, he'd start covering his ears with the "LALALALALALALALALA I'M NOT LISTENING TO YOUUUUUUU" song.

He did well for a few weeks.  As he came home from his shift, just moments before watching the game he had taped, a cab had driven in front of him...with a prompter on the top of the car with scores from ESPN fed into it.

Guess what game he saw the results of inadvertently?

So you see, no one is perfect, and no method is failsafe when it comes to spoilers or avoiding them.  They do eventually slip through the cracks.  Now with social media, our universes have expanded so greatly that even with all our might, we still manage to find out the results of things whether we like to or not.

Here's my advice: stay the hell off either one if you do not want a spoiler or the chance of something being spoiled.

Seriously, my conversation with @TexasBennet a few weeks ago wasn't intentional.  He told me that he doesn't invest in cable but rather a Netflix account.  He's a little behind on the seasons.  Meanwhile, this episode happened several MONTHS ago.  It wasn't like it happened last week, and I shouldn't have said anything for fear people have DVR backup.

Generally, I give a few days grace period before talking about a critical episode.  Like last week, I had finished watching an episode of Law & Order: SVU, and since it was brand new, and people who are following on the West Coast might not have seen it, this is what I wrote.

See?  Simple.  My philosophy is that if you are dying to talk about a pop culture event, like the Oscars or a television show, chances are that the social media are going to be abuzz.   If you are purposely staying away from the event, or for reasons beyond your control cannot watch it as it unfolds real time, wouldn't it make sense to stay away from Twitter or Facebook while they occur?  Isn't it human nature to want to share what's going on, or make a reference to it without getting all up in arms?

Don't be so sanctimonious about it, for crying out loud.

And while I feel bad that I may have divulged a little much about what I thought was common knowledge amongst Walking Dead aficionados, the reality is, the event itself had taken place three or four months before.  I'm surprised he was able to last that long without finding out what's going on.  I mean, heck, when (Another **SPOILER ALERT** for anyone who is Netflixing Dexter episodes that are over THREE YEARS OLD) Rita was killed on Dexter, I had a friend who doesn't have Showtime nor watches the show who knew about it a few days later.

Spoiler alerts happen.  But if you're going to be up in arms about it, blame yourself, not the people who share it.  If you want the element of surprise, don't think Twitter is going to be discrete about it just because you want it to be.