Editor’s Note: My ambivalence towards social medial is well-documented, as is the difficultly of promoting my writing and maintaining certain contacts without it. Thus, I have come up with a compromise of sorts: the accounts are active so I can be reached, so no one else can use my screen names, etc., and I can occasionally reach out to people. It’s a tenuous balancing act for me as I’m kind of over-the-top passionate about things and easily riled up. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll probably just use the block button more.
I recently deactivated my Facebook and Twitter accounts. It wasn’t any one thing that caused me to do so, but a litany of things, some external, but most internal. Quite frankly, I was tired of the constant “chirping.” The quiet, interstitial moments that I’ve come to love so much seemed to be filled constantly with the thoughts and voices of others coming at me from all directions. From the endless bloviating Facebook posts and comments that have grown particularly vile during an election season, to the pithy one-upmanship of Twitter, the sine wave of my thoughts began to flatline as the undulating waves of my thought were constantly filled in: the interstices vanished.
I will be the first to admit that I am not wired for the digital age, or particularly well suited either. While I enjoy many of the fruits of the age, I am by and large an old fashioned guy. I prefer print media to digital, I don’t really watch a lot of TV (we currently don’t even own one), and I’m not enamored with technology for technology’s sake. I never run out and buy the latest anything. I have an iPhone 4 that I am quite content with and feel no need to get an iPhone 5. Hell, I haven’t even upgraded to OS6 because I don’t want to lose my Google Maps. Technology is a tool for me, and my favorite cast iron skillet is as valuable to me as my iPhone depending on the circumstance.
Usefulness aside, there is also something extremely unsettling to me about our consumer culture and those that literally and figuratively buy into it. I honestly don’t understand why anyone would ever wait in line for a phone, tablet, video game system, or a pair of sneakers. There is obviously something profound that is missing at our cultural core if we equate possessions with happiness, fulfillment, or status. A thing is a thing, and we breath life and meaning into it. I, for one, don’t understand how anyone attaches a feeling of significance to something they are going to replace in two years. I save my sentimentality for my favorite chef’s knife, my old Les Paul, my worn copy of The Sound and the Fury, and my collection of vinyl. Things that over time have both imperceptible and noticeable scars of use and chart my own personal trajectory.
But I digress. And I don’t blame technology as much as I blame our application of it, and the lack of civility that accompanies it. I will be the first to admit that I am at times an overly sensitive person and can be thin-skinned. I will also admit that this is a poor posture to maintain on social media sites, where sniping, bragging, platitudes, put downs, and poorly executed humor are the soup de jour. I will also admit that I sometimes take things the wrong way even when there is no malicious intent. I am a pretty self-aware person. By the same token, I am also genuinely interested in people, in stories, and in forming friendships. Inevitably, because of this combination, I often leave myself wide open for some of the less savory elements of the internet world. I tend to be a lightening rod, and even when I don’t invite controversy, it seems to find me, and then I can’t ignore it.
I also have an addictive personality, and this was especially apparent in my use of Twitter. Twitter was like crack to me. It appealed to my ego and my love of wordplay and banter. The goal of Twitter is to be the smartest person in the room. Everything else is ancillary. The thing is, when you get addicted to things, you become both enamored and frustrated with them. And then you stop getting high, and just getting frustrated, and the experience becomes soul deadening instead of exhilarating.
The end of silence was the deciding factor, however, as I felt like I was playing a constant game of whack-a-mole, trying to respond, react, quip, and check-in constantly. It became a virtual dick-measuring contest, and an exercise in the power of group think. I am worn out on memes, links, petitions, and virtual guilt trips. I am worn out on being told what to think, what not to think, or that I’m an asshole/saint. I’m just a guy with more than my fair share of problems/blessings trying to get through life and help more than harm; and despite the fact that I’ve actually met some great folks through social media, at the end of the day, I think I’m better off without it.
It’s a big world out there, and an incredibly small one, and technology serves both of those paradoxical propositions incredibly well. Yet it is also, even as it brings us together, an incredibly isolating vehicle as well. It also makes us lazy. We post “Happy Birthday” on a Facebook wall instead of picking up a phone or sending a card. Hell, we probably wouldn’t remember otherwise. We call each other “friends” without really investing in friendships. Friendships aren’t convenient. They are messy and pregnant with possibility and are damn hard work. We are so reliant on our phones that we’ll walk outside in a hurricane to charge them in our cars. We don’t familiarize ourselves with roads and neighborhoods and maps but rely on GPS. We’ll text instead of call when we don’t want to face the music. And the digital box closes around us.
So, my blog is my last lifeline to the age that has gone by and the one that’s yet to come. If I sound particularly curmudgeonly, I don’t mean to be. I enjoy writing, and feel that there is a certain communion between author and reader that isn’t diminished by the medium. I just know myself… know that I need the peace of the interstices and the quiet of a good book.