Thursday, April 21, 2011

Shattered consciousness

Last time on Tirades, rants and other things ignored:

I cancelled my Facebook account a while ago. I'd found that I was obsessing over it the way an alcoholic obsesses over that next drink.

I also found that I was becoming a monster, a ranting screaming sort that acted more of a troll than a man. So. Not for me.

And now:

As if this blog weren't enough.... (insert self-deprecating laughter here)

However, as I had lost contact with several people there, one who is a good friend IRL sent me a note full of angst. I understood what he was saying in that email, and the more I thought about my response to him.

Being connected to the world is IMHO a good thing. We can communicate without boundaries, and I truly believe that the more we understand about our fellow humans, the less likely we are to think of them as something other than less than human... Q.E.D., it goes to follow.


My son in law and I were discussing music one eve, as we are wont to do, and while we were talking, he was waiting for a web page to load, and the longer the page took the more annoyed he became. Finally, after I chided him about his lack of patience, he said: You don't seem to understand. Our generation wants everything at a click.

A statement that, had it been said twenty years ago, would have been meaningless... but now, I see that he was correct, and more... or less, as the case seems to be.

By our collective interconnected instantaneous response to the World As We Know It, we as a culture seem to have lost the capacity for reflection, which means a death of contemplation.

The more I thought about it, and thought about the note my friend had sent, the more I kept coming back to a simple phrase that I have now heard so often that once I repeat it here, you, dear reader, may say, that sounds like me....


I need a vacation. Not from work; from my life.

Indeed: so it would seem.

During the first week I disconnected from FB, I noticed something that can adequately be described by an album title: The Roaring Silence. There was a sensation of total quiet, a type of emotional solitude that I had not known in quite a while, and it made me to grow uncomfortable with my self.

As time continued, I so desperately wanted to go back to the noise of Facebook that I struggled, every day, to NOT do so. It was an addiction, an alluring sense of being with others... and I thought to a moment in the film One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

The moment is during a group therapy session, and the villainous Nurse Ratched is speaking down to one of her wards (as she is wont to do both in film and novel), mentioning that this patient had withdrawn from the others during the day. One of the men present, possibly the man being quizzed (I forget), says, "Are you saying it is wrong to want to be alone sometimes?"

The accuracy of the moment and quote notwithstanding, the fact is: people need a moment alone. We need the quiet, the moment of contemplative thought, we need the book and candle and peace.

Consider: the more interconnected we have become, and the more information that floods in, the less time we have, the less focus on the things that we, ourselves, cherish that the rest of the world has but a nanosecond, or less. We do not have time to process what is coming in, and thus cannot consider the ramifications for anything more than a moment.

Our collective subconscious is falling apart, the world about us is charging in and that which is most private, that thing that is the self separate from the rest, is being drowned in minutiae.

Of what value are the latest antics of some Hollywood actor when we ourselves have our own lives to live? Vicariously we surrender our own souls to be part of a greater whole...

This is the way the world ends: Not with a bang, but the whimper of you have been sent a friend request. Click here.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Facebook no more.

A few days ago, I deleted out my Facebook account. The reasoning, at the time, was rather clear to me. I was developing the signs of addictive behavior. My sleep patterns of late have been disrupted, one thing and another, and I found I was online, on Facebook, reading and posting, posting and reading. When I wasn't, I was surfing the web to find clever, funny and sometimes brutal things to attach to my Facebook page via Shareaholic... in and of itself that name should have been a warning.

As if spending more time on Facebook and Facebook related activities were enough of a sign, I began to notice that more and more I was acting like an angry drunk: simple comments would lead to a blind unreasoning and unreasonable response, which would lead to the inevitable "I'm sorry."

Just like a drunk... or an addict.

Regardless, the point remains: it had to go. In so doing, the withdrawals were strange. I sit at the keyboard, uncertain where to go. There are other sites I go to, of course, and one, Zen Running Order, is in its own way a social networking page. The problem, I found, is that that sudden rush of adrenaline was missing. Where's the rage?

That is a good thing.

The more time I have, and will continue, to put between myself and FB, the better. I find now that my fingers itch to write, and write more and more. Hell, from the moment of deletion, I realized that had I spent half as much of my time writing my second novel (or first non-fiction book) as I did on FB, I'd be done by now.

There was a defining moment for me, that moment one feels when the bottom drops out and then gravity does the inevitable thing.... and that sudden shock when hitting bottom. I had made a couple of posts, all rather innocuous, one meant to be a "funny" and another just a page about a band, and I had commented on someone's page in re: baseball. One thing lead to another, and the next thing I knew I was flying between the three posts and I completely lost sight of the fact that I was speaking to three separate people. When I completely went batshit insane, the internet version of SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS, complete with multiple exclamation marks and a few stumble rage fat finger typos, I slammed out of my browser... hands shaking, sudden shortness of breath (more like I'd been running) and could feel my heart pounding in my chest...

And then, reality, dear friend and occasional visitor, came back. In webspeak: WTF? What brought that on?

And then: Who was I screaming at?

I honestly could not remember at first, and slowly it came back to me... and I thought, well, I need to go back and remove it, or at least apologize... but what was said to me that made me so possessed of rage? Backtracking: nothing. Nothing.

Nothing was said to me, by anyone, at any moment, that could conceivably provoked that response. WTF?

No, said I. No more. Google: Delete Facebook Account: click here. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye...

Three people (out of close to 200, mind you) asked me what happened, where did I go? Three. Well, so be it then. That, too, was a wake up call. While there are some there that I didn't talk to a lot, fact is there were a lot of "friends" that while wonderful people, I simply did not and still do not know....

Thinking about this on this fine AM, I was wondering if I should post anything here. Letting my mind wander over its own internal landscape, I threw in a couple of films, watching them until I could identify where they jumped the track and/or shark, and had picked up the newspaper.

There, I read the column of a Mr. Leonard Pitts. I don't always see eye to eye with this fine gentleman, but I didn't see eye to eye with James J. Kilpatrick, either, nor did I with David Broder, and still don't with George Will, but I love (adore!) good writing and straight talk, and Pitts is one of the best. His column dealt with privacy, and how it has all but died.

Pitts does the one thing that I admire most in a writer: he causes me to pause, to ponder and reflect.

Privacy, according to the United States Supreme Court (see Roe v. Wade) is not in and of itself a right found in the Constitution, but is implied throughout. Freedom of expression (the 1st Amendment) would point to the right to private thought prior to the expression, freedom from unlawful searches (the 4th) takes the argument that one has a right to demand to be left alone, and the right to refrain from self-incrimination (the 5th) suggests that one can withdraw into one's own self.

Having said that, as I hear time and again Those Who Will Not Think saying out loud that "perhaps our rights should be more limited," it keeps coming back: Freedom cannot be taken from a free citizen, but it can be surrendered.

Facebook, et al, offer a unique opportunity to keep in contact with others and in ways far better than phone or mail. Tweeting does the same.

The question, of course, then would be: when does one stop? Is it our right to stop?

Of course we have the right to pull back, and in fact perhaps some should consider it. Much has been said and written within the last year of people that have lost their jobs over public postings of private matters, career options sabotaged regardless of the strength of resume or interview. The internet is public and the more public it is, and the more we reveal to the world around us, the more likely we are to find ourselves surrendering the right of privacy for nothing more than merely being able to gossip online.

Pitts' column was about an application that would allow a cell phone camera photo to be entered into a facial recognition database... and that, frankly, was all I needed to read. Dear God, are you kidding me? Big Brother is unnecessary, we don't need the Thought Police, we will do it ourselves!

This country (US of [North] America) has always had a proud tradition of attaining any goal the mind could imagine. We could go to the moon if we merely set our minds to it.

The horror is that more and more we are setting our minds to creating a technocratic tyranny and we seem to be hellbent to have it happen before the end of this decade. Total control is possible when the controlled populace does the work themselves.

How long will it be before we ask for it? How long before we ask for cameras on every corner, facial recognition scanners at everybody's fingertips?

How long before we sacrifice freedom for security? We are on our way, FedEx red labelled to Hell.