we’re just a little unwell

Gone are the days of face-to-face interaction, when being social actually meant talking to someone — in person.

I have this love-hate relationship with Facebook. Some of you know what I’m talking about. On the one hand, it allows me to stay in touch with friends I’ve made at various points in my life around the globe. I have friends from grade school, friends from abroad, friends I’ve made blogging. With some of Facebook’s newer features like the “Calendar,” I can discover local events I wouldn’t otherwise know about, including races to participate in and concerts to attend. It’s fun to watch my friends’ kids grow and neat to see what people are up to.

That said, Facebook can also be a terrible thing. It can be a time suck, a comparison trap, an excuse for and detractor from “real” relationships, and an overall waste of life. It’s “On this day” feature sucks at differentiating between good and painful memories, and sometimes it makes me feel plain old. It’s been EIGHT years since such-and-such? I swear that was just yesterday!

I haven’t ever delved into Instagram or Tumblr and haven’t spent much time on Twitter. At some point these platforms just seem like another thing to check, another waste of life. Sadly, I think I’m going to become one of those “out of touch” middle-aged people who’s still blasting Matchbox 20 like they’re cool when it’s actually Drake who’s popular now.

Oh, and of course there’s that whole discussion about how much of our personal information Facebook has — how nothing in our lives is private anymore . . .

Countless studies have been done showing the negative effects of social media on people and society, and yet it’s apparent social media isn’t going away any time soon. I have no idea how I’ll handle social media if I ever have kids. When I was in school, a boy had to call and talk to my DAD in order to get a hold of me after school. These days, I don’t even have a landline!

And so, am I nostalgic for the “olden days”? Maybe a little. My friend Sam posted this music video online the other day. Matchbox 20 released “Unwell” as a single fifteen years ago. Sheesh. The funny thing? The song’s message is just as relatable now as it was back then, if not more so. Some things never change.

These days I try to keep my time on facebook and other social media to a minimum.
What about you? What’s your relationship with social media?

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*Images Institute Al Islam and Study Breaks magazine

sorry, not sorry

I sit at my laptop, looking out the window — a blank stare.

No, not blank. There’s a lot going on inside the walls behind my glasses. There’s always a lot going on there.

I think too much.

I watched a movie last night. In it, Reese Witherspoon delivers a spot-on line. “You know what the difference is between men and women? Men just do. They decide what they want to do, and they just do it. Women always have to think about the consequences.”

Like today. After days of rain, it’s finally beautiful outside. I’ll be out on my bike soon, but even then, where is my mind?

With the victims of Parkside, with the gun war, with social media and online identity. With what it takes — what it really takes — to become a writer. (Do you need a degree? Dickens didn’t.) With passion versus practicality. With “forge ahead” versus “let it flow.” With “be yourself” versus “be what others want from you.” With finances. With family. With faith versus real-world experience. With famine versus plenty . . .

With race, privilege, power, poverty, circumstance, personal responsibility, finances, friendship, loneliness, thankfulness, climate change, litter, recycling, consumerism, capitalism, love, hate, tradition, change, aging . . .

Did I mention that I think too much?

I’m tired of being sorry.

Sorry, I’m not sorry.

who needs grammar?

Okay, I (unintentionally) started this conversation, and now that I did, I might as well finish it.

I didn’t have time for a longer Christmas-related post on Friday (I’ve been negligent, I admit), so I posted my “friday funny” instead. It was a silly image, perhaps — with the CIA stepping in to correct a person’s grammar — but there is a larger conversation here that’s been bothering me for some time.

Since moving to Knoxville I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking for furniture on online yard sales through facebook. The online yard sales are a sort-of new and improved version of Craigslist and make it easier than ever to communicate with buyers and sellers. That said, they’re also a place where people frequently “show their true colors,” so to speak, and I’m never quite sure what to expect.

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In addition to online sales, there are also online “watches.” The below examples come from a stolen bike watch in the Bay Area.

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Say, whaaa?? Some of the above are simple spelling mistakes — perhaps the person was rushing, no biggie — but in others the grammar is so bad I have no idea what the person is saying. In these cases, I can’t help but wonder, “Do they know how confusing this is?”

Now, of course no one is turning these ads into their English teacher — I get that. What concerns me, though, is the connection I see between these and a larger societal trend that attempts to devalue and even make fun of correct grammar. I myself feel self-conscious when posting on facebook because I like to write full sentences and use punctuation. This is not the norm in online communities where short-handing and emoticons reign. After all, who needs “you” when you’ve got “u,” or “Way to go!” when you’ve got “👍“? (And, for the record, I see people of all ages writing in short-hand like this. It’s not just a millennial thing.)

But really, it’s no big deal, right? As long as you get your point across, who cares?

You’re right. It doesn’t matter — until college graduates don’t know how to put together a resume or write a cover letter, or until the lack of an oxford comma costs a company millions.

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(For the full article, click here.)

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The societal trend towards — I’m not even sure what to call it: illiteracy? ignorance? obtuseness? — is complicated and points to a number of factors, no doubt. Certainly our highly flawed education system and lack of government funding play a role, but I believe it’s more personal than that. I think it’s a trend we all choose to recognize and participate in or reject on a daily basis, and that it’s consequences are far more reaching than we realize.

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But then again, what do I know? I’m just a girl perusing online yard sales.

what man has made of man

what-man-has-made-of-man (2)I could go on.

With obesity rates skyrocketing in the United States, many people are asking, “Why?” Why are we fatter now than, say, fifty years ago?

Some look to fast food chains for their answer. “It’s all your fault!” they like to say. “You’re too cheap, and you taste too good!” Others blame more healthful foods. “It’s all your fault!” they’re apt to say. “You’re too expensive, and you taste like wood!” Some others blame traffic and a commuter lifestyle. “You take too long!” they often say. “You crawl along; you’re in my way!” And, still others, the weather. “By gosh, it’s hot. Too hot to go; I guess I’ll stay . . .”

Occasionally a bright-eyed individual will examine their use of time throughout the day. They walk when they could drive, move when they could sit. They actually enjoy exercise — or, at least they try to find ways to exercise that they enjoy. And they put their phones down. And turn off the TV. And have real conversations. And go outside.

They see more. And breathe more. And feel more. And live more.

Our bodies were made to move. When we render them stationary — be it by a desk job, TV addiction, video game, social media, or what have you — we compromise them, and our minds, and our lives.

One of my favorite poems by William Wordsworth sums up my thoughts well:

Lines Written in Early Spring

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.
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Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.
.
The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:—
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.
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The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.
.
If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?
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For an (imperfect!) audio recording of this poem, click below.
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for all that we’ve gained

social-impact-of-technology-social-isolation-3-638“Duh-uh!” The facebook notification ding! goes off at my computer. I’m standing at the kitchen sink. Oh boy. I roll my eyes . . . Oh boy? My curiosity is piqued. Who’s contacting me now?

I’m checking facebook on my cell phone. I see I’ve got a new message. I click on the 💬 button but am greeted, no, not by my message, but by a black screen: “Please turn on notifications,” it says starkly at the top. Below it, as if to soften the blow, the screen explains, “The app works best when you and your friends can see new messages right away.” It then gives me step-by-step directions explaining how to turn on instant message notifications on my phone.

I’m feeling alone. The work day is slow: I don’t yet have a lot to do, being new. But, oh wait! According to my phone I have ten new messages in my email inbox . . .  Never mind that they’re all from credit card companies or people I don’t know. Maybe I’m not so alone after all.

“Did you look at Yahoo this morning?” “No. Why?” “Just go look at it. Tell me what you think.” “Think about what?” “Just look!” “Uhh . . . Okay, okay.”

                                  

When I was a kid, the only way to look up the news was to read a newspaper or watch the evening news. The only way to get in touch with a friend was to call them up (on a landline) or to pass notes in class or write a letter — and send it via snail mail. I didn’t get a cell phone until I was in high school, and I didn’t have a texting plan until long after that. And I distinctly remember the first time I ever heard of MySpace (at an evening service in college) and Facebook (a friend convinced me to sign up so we could stay in touch over the summer). I remember that the very idea of a social network site seemed strange to me. Why would I want to use something like that?

How times have changed.

But have they changed for the better?

These days, even when I try to decrease my online time, I’ve got applications telling me I’m better off not. “I’m here! I’m here!” the Internet calls. “You’re better off because I’m here!”

Am I really?

Yes, I can now buy groceries, go clothes shopping, read the news, look for jobs, “follow” my friends’ lives, look up words, track races, watch games, and so much more — all on my computer — thanks to the Internet. But . . . Did you read the conversation about Yahoo above? For all that we’ve gained, how much have we lost?