Posted in Thoughts on Technology

My Love/Hate Relationship With the Digital Life

iStock_000020654306_SmallSometimes the digital world just doesn’t work for me. The damn remote with its sleek face has created nostalgia for a past that was full of easy to manipulate buttons and knobs. A knob is a deliberate turn. Click. It’s either on or off. A touch screen is fraught with the danger of accidently brushing over something that you don’t want to happen. “No, wait, I didn’t want the DVD player. No, not that, I just wanted cable news. How did I get into Netflix?” All punctuated by a deep exasperated groan.

 Addiction Weary: I’m an addict. I am addicted to 24/7 digital accessibility. In the good old days, the first thing that I used to do in the morning was to read the newspaper and have a cup of tea. The last thing I did before bed was to read a few chapters in a book. Now I am addicted to checking email, texts, Instagram and the dreaded energy suck, Facebook. Even when I don’t post on social media, I feel like a troll, looking into so many lives– a voyeuristic view of other humans–the new millennium version of a nosy neighbor looking out the kitchen window in case the Smiths start fighting again.

The Longing for Human Touch: I liked the days when I called family on the phone, or they called me. I loved when my great niece Nancy Ann would visit from college because there was no Facebook yet, because we didn’t have Internet/email. We met. And I cherish the memories of those visits when we sat face to face on the couch, our shoes off and our feet tucked under us, sharing the dreams and the plans for our lives. Now I have to be content with a “like” or a comment on Facebook which will never be as satisfying as being able to look into her eyes.

Technology Is Eating My Soul: Even with the best of intentions, I can’t seem to ignore my devices for terribly long. I never go anywhere without a phone and a couple of days ago, I was in the middle of the woods when my phone chimed, as sweet little Zen like chime, and I actually pulled it out of my pocket to see who was texting me. Whether I answered the text in that moment or two hours later was not going to impact my life in any way. Note to self: if your going to bring your phone on your hikes (good idea if you’re hiking alone) then turn the ringer off!

 What I Can Live Without: I can live without social media for stretches of time. I am hard pressed to believe that anyone really cares about what I ate for dinner last night. And while photos, replete with captions about hubby, dog and self make me feel like I have a zillion friends, all thrilled with the fact that I just climbed to the top of Mt. Ashland; I notice that articles and blogs over which I have labored get little attention. It takes too much time to read, and isn’t that a sad commentary on the state of things?

Someone reading what I’ve written is a thousand times more important to me than someone glancing at my picture and “liking” it. It’s just that one gets you validated and one gets you ignored. I feel like we all go on autopilot when we’re on social media. We become zombies, seduced by cute, light and irrelevant — the kind of emotionalism that makes advertisers lick their lips and come in for the kill.

I Am So Over Marketing Gurus: Do I really need to promote my self as much as the marketing gurus say, or do I just have to keep writing and keep working at getting better? Will 3,000 “likes” make me a better writer? Probably not. And yet the push for “create content” is the mantra of so many like myself. I don’t just want to create content, I want to write about stuff I actually care about. And with that comes some thoughtfulness, which takes time.

Bah, Humbug?: There are times when I enjoy social media, but I know that it’s not a substitute for the face-to-face connection that I long for in my relationships. There are times, when I appreciate the convenience of having a phone I can carry around with me. Still, constant access to a phone often pulls me away from interactions with live human beings, because I tend to feel important, or maybe I get some kind of chemical surge when I check my phone to see who is trying to reach me.

But I Love My Computer: Every day, I get up and write, so everyday I’m grateful to have a laptop that allows me to type faster, spell check, cut and paste, save drafts and send pages electronically. I’ve never felt a longing for the loud, enormous Correcting Selectric IBM that was once the tool of my craft.

It’s a love/ hate relationship that I have with technology and I don’t think I am alone in this. If you know me and are reading this, in spite of being connected digitally, if you live in my town, just come on by and let’s hang out like we used to before we relied so much on technology to do for us, that which is innate in our own hearts — connect.

What is your relationship to technology? Love it? Hate it? Please share with me in the comments section.

 

 

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Friended, Fanned and Porned (How To Make Facebook and Other Social Media Un-Fun)

iStock_000017966432XSmallSometimes I hate social media! The problem didn’t start when I listened to a respected friend tell me that I needed to build my Facebook and Twitter accounts, so that when I have a book published, I will have social media in place. Up until her suggestion, my social media list had plateaued about 100. Those are actual people who I know. So I followed my friend’s advice and began making friends with lots of other writers on Facebook. Not hard to do when everyone and their mother is a writer these days. There is an initial high when you see your FB friends list go from 100 to 550. And the seduction in that is that I started to believe for a hot minute that I really had 550 friends. But we all know that’s not really true. If I died today, 450 of those people would not give a rat’s ass.

And the problem didn’t start when I got porned on Facebook. A sexually violent picture appeared on my timeline. I was able to report it and get a response from FB. But then I started getting porn sites in my friend requests, so that if I went to check out someone’s profile to see if we had friends in common or writers in common, I’d land on a porn profile. No way to report those to Facebook. Facebook started to become really un-fun for me.

Here is where I think the problem really started: I bought the line of bull about branding yourself. Oh my God, what a better world we would be if we didn’t worry about branding ourselves. Remember when being a decent person, one who cares about being good at what they do was enough? Is that so old-fashioned that it isn’t even relevant anymore?

Donald Trump is branding himself as the guy who is going to make America great again, but we all know that he is really just an asshole. Kim Kardashian is branding herself as a role model for young women, when we all know, oh well, never mind. . .  We live in a world of branding where we think we need a platform, where business as usual is not about what you can make well or about the good services you can offer, it’s about your brand. Brands sell. Unfortunately branding has taught us that whether or not you’re a company or an individual, creating a brand trumps (no pun intended) honesty as the best policy. Takes me back to the original question: remember when being a decent person who is good at what they do was enough?

In spite of being porned and feeling foolish for thinking that building a platform for my writing is essential, I am going to keep on writing. It’s what I do. It’s what I love. I hate it though, that writing now means you need to market yourself, promote yourself and friend and fan yourself. And more, I hate it that I let those things get in the way of the fun part of Facebook–watching cat videos from my friends and finding out what my nieces ate for Christmas dinner. So today, I unfriended 450 people and made my FB pages visible only to my friends, not the public. Unless I’ve met you, I won’t be accepting any new friend requests.

None of this, of course, has affected my writing. In the early morning hours I will still sit and write. There will be no selfies of that daily ritual. What I learned from this is that I can be satisfied with letting my work speak for itself. And if I don’t attract enough attention to it, I will be satisfied that I set out to do my chosen craft well.

As for the Twitter account, here’s my summation: It’s like being in a room where everyone is talking at the same time, and you can’t hear what anyone is saying. It feels like thousands of people you don’t know are pressing in, trying to get you to read something, buy something, like something or otherwise validate their platform, their branding or their status. It’s exhausting. Truth is, I don’t believe that all those writers on Twitter actually follow links or reads content, they’ve just learned to play the game well. It’s all about numbers, and if you are a writer it gives you some sort of perverse cred that you have lots of “followers.” What you have is your feet stuck in a landscape of goo with a bunch of other sheep that hope to tell their agents that they have several thousand Twitter followers. It’s like Donald Trump (because he is such a great example.) He keeps telling everyone how wonderfully well he is doing in the polls–which says nothing about policy. It’s just another version of being “friended.”

I’m not sure which is the worst of the pornography–inappropriate sexual content or the strangling culture of self-promotion. Okay, here’s the review: I unfriended 450 people today. My friend Mary assures me she will keep posting cat videos. I already feel lighter. And the next time someone tells me I have to build a platform and start creating my brand, I am going to smile politely and tell them that I am done being me, mainlining me. I just want to write.