Monday, July 15, 2013

What Has Social Media Done for You Lately?

Sometimes I get the urge to rip out every plug from every wall, every device, and go be a bum on the beach. Sadly, I live nowhere near the beach. That makes being a beach bum kinda hard. 

I don't think I own the right outfit for beach bumming.

Unfortunately, I don't own a tutu and I live in the mountains. Mountain bum doesn’t have near the same ring to it. It actually sounds kinda creepy. 

I don’t think I’m online too much or too connected, even though a lot of people would surely disagree. I think I’m just too casually connected with people I flat-out don’t like. How come in the real world nobody expects us to give even a nod to people who drive us crazy, but many of us find ourselves smack in the middle of online discussions with people we can’t stand?

We’re still allowed to not like certain people, right? Or did I miss a memo...

Facebook has this magical, sparkly, happy-kitten, wondrous ability to bring people together. Especially people who would be much better off not knowing that the other existed. That’s like tossing a bee hive into a hornet’s nest just to see what happens. 

Let’s all be friends! 

Lions eat gazelles, you know. They eat elephants, too. Didn’t Animal Planet teach us anything? 

I don’t like the way excuses for bad manners are made as if a person’s hometown makes it all ok. Rude is rude, regardless of where it hails from. New York, Knoxville or Los Angeles, surely we all have some idea about what’s rude and what isn’t.

I got not time for rude. And I don’t want to grow a thicker, elephant skin. My skin is aging fast enough as it is, thankyouverymuch. And I don’t want to be eaten by a lion. 

So with this questionable experiment called Social Media, we’re shoved together all in the name of friendship. But some people were never meant to be friends. I stand a much better chance of keeping my karma in good condition if its not tested every damned day. 

Lennon said that instant karma’s gonna get you. I always wondered what “instant karma” meant, but maybe this is it. We do live in a world of instant everything, after all. Instant gratification on all fronts, including communication. 

One theory about instant karma is instant accountability for your actions. Holy crap, what a concept! The Internet takes away a great deal of accountability. A keyboard and the anonymity of not saying things to a person’s face makes us 10 feet tall and bulletproof. 


Sure I would, since I don't actually know you. 

The sensation of no accountability online is pretty dang ironic considering that we’ve all heard the warning: What you send out into the  interwebs is there forever and forever and forever. 

And forever.

My darling Mr. Vagabond avoids all social media as if its lava. I’ve teased him about that, but I think he might be onto something. 

Being the loudest, the most forceful, the one with all of the “real” answers, and the one with the quickest wit--what does that actually mean? 

Does it mean anything at all? Or is it just a facade that lets the bully feel important for a minute?

You!  No, YOU!  

It is bullying, you know. That’s pretty much a given, and we’re supposed to shun bullies nowadays. That’s the right thing to do, correct?  Or is that only true if you’re five and on a playground?

Of course anyone would tell you that all social media lets its users decide who they want to see and interact with. But wasn’t this supposed to be fun, and not another job?

Myspace was fun.

If we don’t treat it like a job, staying on top of all of the changes that happen on pretty much a daily basis, it's our fault for being at risk of whatever. 

That’s actually another thing that pushy people love to remind everyone else about. “Well, you know that you can (insert remedy for whatever is pissing off someone else).” And then the educator feels all super-smart and good about himself or herself, and the one who is already having a shitty day feels worse. 

Let’s all be friends! Remember: Animal Planet. 

No, I don’t think social media brings friends together, or at least that’s not its primary function anymore. If you don’t believe me, scroll through your friends list and see just how many people you actually interact with, and how many of those you would consider friends out in the “real world.” 

No, dear. There's no arsenic in the tea.

In my case, the percentage of real friends versus acquaintances online is about the same as the percentage of those among people I know in the flesh-and-blood real world. 

So are we really making lots and lots of awesome friends? Or are we just broadening connections that don’t enrich our lives? I’m “friends” with a few rather famous people. Some of those people have interacted with me personally on Facebook and Twitter. Some of them, I have even shared space, time and cocktails with out in the real world. I do not, however, expect to get an invitation to their next BBQ or birthday party. 

If we’re only broadening connections, how long until we’re spread so thin that there’s not a whole lot of our real selves left to devote to the people who actually matter to us? 

I think I need a margarita on the beach, my toes in the sand and some time to think this through. Or some moonshine and dirt, since I am unfortunately a mountain bum. 


Sunday, July 14, 2013

How to Be a Real Writer -or- Where's My Membership Card?

Years ago, I had a romantic view of real writers. Alas, my life as a writer is nothing like the one I imagined. I meet deadlines to buy groceries. That’s pretty much the long and short of it. So, where is the mysterious life of the real writer I fancied so much? A little birdie told me it exists somewhere, and I’m determined to find it.

Real writers travel to far-off countries, nod knowingly toward fellow intellectuals and sample exotic cuisine. They sit in faded leather chairs beside roaring fireplaces. They puff on pipes while sipping cognac and discuss conceptual topics while practicing foreign languages.

That, friends and neighbors, is the life. Well, maybe not the pipes, but you get the idea.

I have never tasted cognac. I have never been outside the United States. Spending a week at America’s Best Value Inn of Farmington, NM doesn’t qualify me as well-traveled, even if they did offer a continental breakfast. My leather chair is pink. Pink! And it reclines in three different positions (sometimes). 

There is definitely something amiss. 

Did I miss Real Writer Orientation? Did I leave a bad mailing address? Maybe my welcome packet went to the wrong house. I spied the mailman delivering a Rosetta Stone package across the street a few days ago, and I am not amused. My neighbor thought he was slick, but I saw him stuff that pipe into his pocket. I know what he’s up to.

We’ve all seen the classic image. A black turtleneck with a pair of odd-looking spectacles is the epitome of Writer. A glass of red wine and an overflowing ashtray on the table don’t hurt, and neither does listening to obscure music that only a few can appreciate. And there’s always a quiet, stealthy cat.

My "look" consists of a flannel nightgown or a pair of sweat pants and a T-shirt. Maybe that’s part of the problem; I don’t have the official uniform. Legend says ensembles are issued at the annual Secret Society of Real Writers meetings. Invitations are sent by carrier ravens, each one reciting Poe as it disappears into the night after depositing the engraved paper on a lucky recipient’s windowsill. I have yet to receive one. The only deposits on my windowsills are from pigeons. 

Dirty birds.

Maybe changing out of my nightgown would help my chances. Sadly, the tortured, brilliant writer regalia is not available on clearance at Walmart (and their alcoholic beverage selection peaks at Boone’s Farm Tickle-Pink). The fact that I even have a best sweatshirt pretty much wrecks my chance of finding a gilded invitation on my windowsill for the next meeting of the highbrow elite.

In my quest for that elusive Secret Society membership card, I am earning battle scars. I’m not sure how much weight those carry toward acceptance, but maybe they will help pad my resume. At least they show dedication to the cause. Damages include dark circles, eye strain, coffee stains on my best flannel nightgown (I have one of those too), and a calloused pinkie from hitting the delete key repeatedly. 

My eye doctor explained that I need reading glasses. He took three paces backward before saying, “It’s happening younger and younger these days.” I didn’t believe him, but it was a nice effort to preserve my pride and his shin bones. Maybe I’ll get a pair of impressive glasses out of the deal, so it’s not all bad. I wonder if great spectacles make a yellow sweatshirt look introspective and brilliant like those elusive, would-be contemporaries. 

Probably I ought to apply for a passport just in case.

Writing at a computer has not only taken my eyesight; it has abolished my ability to write with a pen. Failed motor skills: Another battle scar, and one I can prove by signing the RSVP if / when my invitation comes. Incidentally, I am the only person I know who rarely needs spellcheck and makes up for it in serial "typos" with a pen and paper. I recently depleted an entire book of checks just to make the car payment. At least I remembered how to write the word VOID by the time I was finished. 

I wonder how VOID sounds in Italian. Impressive, I’ll bet. Even more impressive if I happened to be holding a snifter of cognac.

Try as I may, I can’t seem to get the whole package together. My glasses are ordinary and my fireplace is a kerosene heater. I listen to Metallica and my dogs would eat any feline critter unfortunate enough to live here. 

I’m certain there are guidelines and bylaws to follow for becoming a real writer. Since I remain convinced that my neighbor pilfered my orientation materials, I’ll have to wing it. If you see me peering in his window, please don’t call the police. I’m only trying to peek at the manual. There’s always hope for next year.


I originally wrote this post for the humor blog, An Army of Ermas, in November of 2010. A cat has since joined our family, and I am happy to report that he hasn't been eaten by the dogs. The DOGS, however, have learned to watch their backs.