The more you resist this truth, the greater your disappointment will be.
The more you resist this truth, the greater your disappointment will be.
The internet is supposed to be inhabited by trolls. Many believe that Facebook is a place of mindless drivel. Longer posts involving reading are a waste of time, according to some people.
Recently, I wrote a story titled “Lady Bird 1962.” I didn’t write it for profit, perfection or pride. I have a list of several thousand thoughts, stories, and one-way deadends. Lady Bird flew around in my head until it became to be a real story in my own imagination.
A few of my friends read the story on my personal page.
Thousands of strangers read it when I posted it on my public Facebook page. Despite being seen by so many people, I didn’t get one negative comment or trollish snark. For those who shared it, I got to read how much the story meant to them personally, as if they were standing in the snow with Lady Bird, or looking at her through the prism of a windshield, decades ago.
This social media experiment we find ourselves in, the one which polarizes so many people, doesn’t have to be exclusively for public discourse. It can be, even if only infrequently, a means to create a connection to people.
After reading a friend’s post about the perplexity of inattention for an artist, especially in this golden age of social media, I began to wonder whether a precise word exists for the sensation she was attempting to describe. I volunteered to create a word to encompass the described melancholy or resigned sensation, regardless of which method of expression the artist chooses.
Before going off on a wordy tangent, here’s my paraphrasing of what she was describing:
“…the untethered feeling a creative person gets when they see that an acquaintance shows deep interest in the happenings in some far-flung place or in the life of a distant stranger, acreage they’ll never traverse or people he or she will never meet and whose trajectory may as well be that of an alien star, often regarding some mundane subject, while turning a blind eye toward their expression, one which germinates in their own backyard…”
I think writers and artists might be the most prone to experience this detachment.
It’s ridiculously easy to share what others have created, to choose words and media designed to urge us toward an emotional reaction. Creating anything is an invitation to criticism; honest artists often share themselves.
Prophets are seldom appreciated in their own communities. Authors, painters, and musicians tend to be ignored until they become substantial; proximity stymies allure. “Familiarity breeds contempt” is a cliché with truth. We tend to need an outsider to tell us what we already know or we will reject the truth from those around us.
So many creative minds experience disconnectedness prior to recognition and when it comes, those same people comprising his or her initial disinterested audience clamor for reciprocity. It’s easy to overlook the fact that all those we find valuable once started with small voices, drawing, singing, writing and acting in small places. (And most of the time were labeled as eccentric or untalented.)
The biggest surprises come from the strangest places.
Doors to familiar houses seldom open to new rooms.
This is a modified version of a post I wrote in September of last year. It struck a chord in many places – and not all were harmonious.
The internet is a huge, vast space, much like the world around us.
No matter your pace, you’ll never reach the end of it, explore all of its mysteries or be able to pause sufficiently to breathe it all in.
Your time is precious, as is your attention, energy, and focus.
If you value the seconds stealing past you, you’ll wonder why it is that so many of us fixate on that which does not embellish our lives with wonder, interest, or happiness.
I assume if you take a slice of your finite life and spend it writing something angry or derogatory, it’s unlikely that anything I say will minimize the pain or frustration you’re feeling with either the world or the ideas on display.
There’s insufficient data to help me discover whether you’re having a bad day, chose ill-advised words or truly meant the words or tone used.
Rather than acknowledge it or waste your time or mine, I’ll hide, ignore or delete your interaction and focus my time and self more acutely. I treat any page I manage as my living room – and people interacting in my living room know what the expectations probably are, in part because they know who I am.
Each of us has a fluctuating ability to tolerate craziness, coarseness, discourtesy, and mayhem; what triggers us one day may pass unnoticed the next. I know full well that no one in their right mind wants me in their living room all the time, especially if I forget that the internet is a trillion living rooms, each inhabited by different people and inclinations.
Because the internet is so complex, wondrous and vast, we should treat it like a tv with a trillion channels. Change channels if you’re offended or find yourself focusing on how much you dislike the channel you’re on.
There’s no conspiracy, just a reminder to spend your time on worthwhile interactions – on pages and posts which give you pleasure.
Sometimes I make errors in judgment, as the written word often fails to capture nuance and subtlety. I apologize if I err and misunderstand your intentions.
Life is shorter than you can imagine.
It’s always my hope that if I misspeak, misstep or err that you’ll pause in your condemnation long enough for me to realize my error or make amends. Sometimes though, even good people reach an impasse in which neither appreciates the conundrum of their disagreement.
Let’s both enjoy time in the vast wilderness of the internet.
We don’t all need to play on the monkey bars together but it’s advisable to find fun and peace somewhere on the vast playground of the internet.
There’s sun for us all here, if we choose it.
(Just joking with the last picture…)
It’s true that my memory isn’t perfect and sometimes I exaggerate to amplify a point. But the story is mine, outlining a world I created in my imagination in response to the people, places, things and thoughts around me.
If you going to visit it, please remember that if you want to play a good character, you can’t be an ass and expect a starring role. I’ll try to minimize your story arc if you’re misbehaving but no promises in this regard can be made or kept.
I’ve used variations of the above for several years, as people struggled against my right to express the content of my life, even if I sometimes made errors in its telling.
When I started walking frequently, I downloaded an insane number of TED talks and similarly-structured audio files. I was walking near one of my favorite spots listening to my second TED talk of the day when Anne Lamott’s segment started.
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
This quote reverberated through my head. It conveyed almost exactly the sentiment I’d felt for years. It’s one thing to know something – and another when a bona fide voice of authority echoes your idea.
Now, I use Anne’s quote instead of my own original sentiment. Because I’m not the one who said these exact words, I can use them like a spear. Coming from someone who can be googled somehow grants the same idea some clout contrasted against my attempt.
So many people are reluctant to tell their stories. Some are worried they lack the ability to be honest and fair, while others are concerned that they lack the language skills to avoid being mocked. It’s a risk to tell a story, especially one which reveals a part of yourself to the world. It’s a risk not to, as well.
In my own world, I tend to be aware of not identifying everyone in my stories. It gives them the opportunity to continue on with their lives without my imperfect alterations. There are times, though, when I feel it necessary to describe people by name, relation or occupation. I hope it’s never out of malice but even I know that our minds behave in ways we don’t always recognize honestly.
I would hope that anyone reading this would welcome the chance to share their lives with those around them. Allowing people to experience our thoughts and lives is one of the only ways to experience a full life.
The stories are ours to share, for good, bad, or ugly.
Another social media friend posted about the depressing content of his or her social media. There are only two possibilities: he or she is not using the tools at hand to curate it or their friends, follows and likes are less than stellar. There is no reasonable way that social media, containing billions of people and pages, all representing every corner of the world, are the culprits in the equation. Social media is a prism which reflects the world of users, the same world that already exists. It might not be the world we desire, but it’s the one which greets us and gives both our joy and sadness.
The world might be spinning off its axis, but it is the only one we have. Generations have come and gone, each sure of its superiority over the last.
Social media is us, warts and all, smiles and frowns, fake news and authentic, gossip and compassion. Our aversion to it reflects more toward our self-recognition as a species than to the means by which we communicate.
Social media and the internet present new challenges, yet they also present new opportunities, especially in regards to engaging with one another.
It’s bizarre to me that two people can use the same technology and have disparate experiences. Social media can be a buffet of 10 million similar tv channels – or it can be a room with 10 million doors and windows, all of which can be opened by you on a whim, all leading to new worlds.
If you have friends who don’t share your values, sense of humor or worldview, be friends with them in the world instead of social media. Or hide their posts. If you don’t engage with them, at some point you are going to need to ask why you need to keep their names on a list in social media. You can still go to reunions, work, or lunch, – and hug and smile warmly when you encounter one another in a live social space. People fighting this cause themselves a tremendous amount of needless frustration in life. Friends lists are one of the new ways to hoard in our modern world.
If you find yourself getting upset or angry at what friends posts, hide their posts if you can’t unfriend or unfollow them. It’s your social media experience so take the time to make it your own.
If you are following news sites and pages which fill you with something other than interest, wonder, creativity, or inspiration, stop following them. Click “unfollow,” or “show less.” Unlike them. Bookmark them and visit them when the mood strikes, actively, instead of passively. Seeing content only when you are interested or curious keeps both you and the content fresher.
There is no danger of an echo chamber, no more than in your real life. All the tools are the same, within reach, and easy to use. If you live a full life, you are going to be exposed to a variety of languages, cultures, and ideas, whether you have a cellphone or social media.
In the same way that it almost impossible for me to ever get bored, I can’t fathom how anyone with access to the largest communication and knowledge resource ever created can feel anything except wonder. If it bores you, I promise you that you are doing it wrong.
I’ve always shared; not pictures and stories which only require a click, but words, anecdotes and parts of myself. Much of it is probably tripe to you – but that’s how it is in the world, too. I’ve seen so many eyerolls in response to my stories or comments that I started to believe almost everyone had an undiagnosed ophthalmological condition. If 1 in 10 people engaged like I do, we’d either be woefully tedious or richly engaged.
As a small part of this social media project we all live in, I wonder how you can read through the mountain of craziness I’ve produced and come up for air with a “meh.”
The internet and its biggest component social media is a box. Whether it is to be filled with a surprise of daily delights or duty and drudgery depends on you.
Stop looking at the things which make you lesser. Strike that. Stop focusing on those things. Look toward those things which remind you of what it means to be alive and creative.
I’ve not posted in a few days because so many people who’ve never met me read my last post on my public figure page. ( My public-figure FB page….) It’s a separate FB page of mine, still using my real name. My personal FB page is at: My personal FB page… I took the time to stop and consider every word shared with me, whether shared on social media or my own website. Instead of posting or writing, I took the time to ingest anything sent to me.
Every once in a while I write something, albeit inexpertly, which resonates with a wide swath of people. The post about “The Glass Castle” was one of those things which echoed and ricocheted. It drew very little attention on my personal FB page but it went far on the public-figure version of my FB. It is a strange thing to see total strangers react to my words and engage in a way that people who know me don’t. It led a few people to find other things I’ve written; many of them reacted with surprise at the sheer quantity of it. If they wrote, they told me that they were caught off guard by the mix of personal stories and weird humor.
None of them have gone beyond casually mentioning that my grammar is sometimes in need of a ruler across the knuckles. The internet’s usual trollish response was nowhere to be found. One person reminded me of something I wrote several years ago: “Write without the discoloration of perfectionism. Someone else can proofread and edit. You don’t need to know how to plumb your house in order to turn on the kitchen faucet and prepare a gourmet meal, do you?”
To anyone who has written, I’ve replied by including a request that they share a story of their lives, whether it is funny, serious, or unpolished. I explain to them that we have one of the best communication tools ever devised being wasted on resharing and repetition of what others produce. It’s my hope that most of them will think about what I’ve asked and use social media to tell the rest of us a story.
Several have sent me anecdotes and shared stories of their lives with me. To me, this is the essence of social media – and one which we tend to neglect. So many say they are displeased with social media, but rarely does anyone put in the effort to make it interesting and personal.
To anyone who shared, I consider it to be a gift, one of the most personal ones possible. If I can write anything which propels another person to take moments of their lives and share a little of theirs, I’ve achieved a measure of success. These types of exchanges erase almost all the animus of political and personal animosity people experience.
What total strangers continue to teach me is that it is difficult to know one’s own story in the way that others might recognize. I’m enthralled with the strangeness of social media reaching so far, through the almost impenetrable fog of the unfamiliar.
I’m still contemplating the fact that very few of my friends interacted with the post, while hundreds of strangers read what I wrote, and some then took the time to share their own stories. I got a glimpse of the power of words, even at the hands of a hack like myself.
This post isn’t going to be particularly popular because it jabs at each of us as we struggle with the dislike we feel toward other people’s need of self-expression – and their opinions, heartfelt or whimsical.
Because we are trapped inside our own worldviews, it is an alien thought to us that things which we find to be ridiculous or nonexistent matter to other people. Often, we challenge even the other person’s right to voice their praise or displeasure, so certain that we don’t look and sound equally preposterous to others with differing frames of reference.
It is a weakness many of us share as human beings. As people take action and express ideas, observations and yes, even complaints, we react, often collectively and with great venom and glee in our condemnation of it.
Like it or not, this is hypocrisy in its most crystalline and maddening form.
I’m not a good person.
I can’t be.
Today, I read a social media post from someone lecturing his friends about posting false claims about drinking from copper mugs. You’ve probably seen these posts yourself. The specifics don’t matter – not really.
My friend ranted about people not checking sources and making untrue claims. He undoubtedly was standing on a literal soapbox as he typed his post to berate his friends for being so ignorant. His eloquence rivaled that of a drunken sailor reading a Portuguese dictionary while blindfolded.
I almost choked on my coffee.
I waited, hoping to hear the clap of thunder and lightning from where I was sitting as it came from the sky and struck my friend for hypocrisy. I finally started breathing a little later as I realized that no cosmic justice was forthcoming.
This admonition came from the same guy who fervently believes that this planet is only a few thousand years old, that nothing about evolution can possibly be true, that racism isn’t real (unless you count the prejudice that white males now suffer in society), that the car industry secretly hid a vehicle which would get 100 miles to the gallon, etc. Also, I almost forgot to mention that he thinks climate change is totally bogus.
But I did forget the big comment: he dips tobacco. Tobacco is all natural, so it can’t possibly harm you, he would say. I guess uranium would be next on his list to sample?
But hey! Stop trying to tell people on your own social media that you think copper mugs are poisonous. He was quite clear in his implication that you are a degenerate moron if you do.
I don’t have any interest in the argument. I don’t care if copper mugs are poisonous or if looking directly at one will turn my grandmother into a vampire.
I think I’ll visit the local chapter of the Flat-Earth-Society, though, and save this guy a seat. Somehow, I just KNOW he’s a charter member.
I take exception to the idea that the racists in Virginia were an anomaly. They are not unusual examples of ignorance – they are typical. These are our fellow citizens. They listen and watch, waiting for the moment which allows them to vent their anger on others. They often are garbage workers, but they are equally likely to be police, teachers, nurses, lawyers, or writers. People don’t answer the call to racism through logic. Likewise, condemnation of their beliefs often serves to galvanize their legitimacy.
We can look to Virginia and shake our heads, wondering what stupidity brought them to that place. While we are doing that, though, there are people around us secretly wishing they could be there in solidarity, shouting out their agreement. Even if it seems odd to some, there are people who think that being white somehow is a matter of pride, as if skin color is a determinate of anything substantive as a human being.
You don’t want to believe that people you know harbor such hatred in their hearts. They do, though, even as they continue to beguile you into complacency after you see a symptom of their ignorance and raise a red flag. Those who subversively conceal their true feelings of superiority toward minorities, other religions and races surround you, waiting. They’re disgusted that they can’t be true to their anger. The internal monologue in their heads has played so long that they can’t distinguish their prejudice from reality. If they live in a place where there is a cluster of like-minded small-minded people, they learn to push the boundaries of acceptability more often. If you are playing the banjo in a room full of banjos, you don’t look so unusual, but if you are playing the only banjo in a room full of cellos, you are the only person getting attention.
Sometimes racists gather in groups and act out. Mostly, they lash out in a million small ways, often indirectly observed. They gaslight you, innocently insisting, “I’m not a racist.” After repeated protests, they get angrier, turning the accusations against you. What they really want is to say, “So what? I am better than those people.” They know they can’t, though. Many use their intelligence to change the nature of truth, often at risk of your sanity. They have lengthy and complicated arguments they repeat endlessly. The signs are there; they grumble about foreigners, language, or convolute the nature of the Civil War, drop small comments about the real story of the Jews, or simply defend their ignorance as tradition or heritage. They point to Chicago as proof of inferiority or refuse to see the difference between Black Lives Matter and hate groups. They say they don’t have a problem with interracial marriage, but… Many have blacks or minorities in their social and business circles which camouflage them. If you are tuned in, your instincts invariably give you pause with most of them.
I grew up around a lot of racists. The dangerous ones aren’t the ones who distract you by gathering in noisy groups in other states. This isn’t a “there” problem. The dangerous ones are the ones you see at the supermarket, at your kid’s Friday night football game, or posting vaguely disconcerting insinuations on social media. They excuse away their particular racism by implying that everyone is a racist or that their version is indeed rooted in truth. They smile, year after year, falsely believing that much of the world reflects how they think. They know that hissing the “N” word will immediately identify their ignorance, so they artfully step around it, learning the nuances of language and presentation which will continue to allow them to live among us without being outed.
So, as time passes, you drop your guard, never imagining that the racism you’ve incrementally witnessed belies a deep vein of actual hatred in your friend or family member’s heart. Most of the time, you give them the benefit of the doubt simply because they haven’t overtly acted out.
People proudly look in the mirror, admiring the skin color they didn’t choose. They go to religious services their parents chose and tend to live in the same places. Their success or failure in life is based on privilege that’s invisible to them. Most get truly angry even at the mention of the word “privilege.” Many focus on what they feel is being “taken” from them as if their claim to anything is greater than anyone else in this country.
Only racists will read my words and get angry.
Only people who know that my words apply to them will recoil in protest. I’m simply inexpertly pointing out that racists aren’t solely a problem outside of our orbit. It’s possible for someone to trigger your instincts toward identifying them as prejudiced and yet be in complete disagreement with racist attitudes. It’s possible to be a Trump voter and not condone racism or violence. You can have issues with Black Lives Matter and not be a racist, too. Or want immigration control and seek to have English be a required language in public commerce. I’m not saying otherwise, though racists will focus on small perceived discrepancies and exaggerate what I’ve said. It’s what they do, instead of honestly admitting their prejudices.
Racists despise the people among them who recognize the signs of what truly echoes in their minds and hearts.
Those people in Virginia aren’t an isolated example: they are us.
It gives you comfort to believe in the best in people – and it should. But never doubt that for every racist holding a sign and grimacing in anger at a protest, there are several sitting at home, nodding their head in agreement. The ones shouting are doing us a favor by identifying their prejudice. The quiet ones, though, they are an almost insurmountable battle. They are the breeding ground for racism’s ongoing prominence.