It’s All People’s Temple ‘Round Here Lately
In the late 1970s, cult leader Jim Jones led a flock of his unfortunately sheepish and deceived people off to Guyana to die a most unfortunate death by poisoned juice. Since that event it has become a memetic cliche to say among us Americans to another who has lost all sense of reason; that he or she has imbibed the proverbial Kool-Aid laced with the opiate of their sad choosing. (Personally, I am very offended by the inclusion of the name Kool-Aid, as it was my favorite powder mix drink as a child. Way to go American pop culture. You ruined my childhood.) But if I may play the hypocrite, I am compelled to say that I have come to my senses and jumped off the social media wagon. I am escaping Guyana and heading back to South Florida. (The juice was some generic brand I never heard of and so I left.)
Please do not get me wrong. I like Twitter, Facebook and blogging. And I have not become one of those ascetic borderline schizophrenic types who are so sure there is a devil under every bush. Essentially I am saying that the novelty of social media has run its course with me. I appreciate its place in modern society today and the great interconnectedness that it brings. However, I sometimes feel a bit hyper-connected, or just too on the grid. Look, when I have a friend asking me where have you been, when my weekly routines have not changed outside of inactivity on Facebook, that means either I or both of us need to chill with the tweets and the book of faces or whatever. (When I feel myself cackling at my one-hundredth Tardar Sauce AKA “Grumpy Cat” photo caption on Facebook or Twitter, then its time to enact a personal intervention.)
Flashback to 2007 – 2008: Web 2.0
Almost six years ago buzz words and phrases like “social media” “new media” “web 2.0″ “unconference” “meetup” and more were bursting on the stage of the internet. The world wide web had experienced a rebirth of some kind and people were hyped to be connecting not in person, then “meetup” to talk about the coolness of connecting impersonally through social media. (To this day I don’t understand this weird phenomena.) At any rate, this was the year that I was immediately sold to handing over my unborn children to the gods of the internet so that I could be with the in-crowd–whoever they were. At that time if you were not Facebooking, MySpacing, YouTubing, then blogging or Tweeting about it, and doing some kind of web developing or at least looked like you knew what you were doing, then you were letting the world pass you by. Then there were these self-proclaimed web gurus and analysts who would sell their children to convince you to throw money at them to tell you how to beef up your blog or website aggregation to earn you a bigger following–they used “community”– and eventually money. I was all in and yet somewhat untrusting of what was glorified door-to-door salesmanship. Nevertheless, I was drinking the Kool-Aid and loving every drop. I even threw myself into two degrees in New Media design programs that I have never finished to this day at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. (It’s sad, really. You can stop shaking your head now!)
And so, 2013…
But you know, poison laced Kool-Aid is really a misnomer for what is happening now. Nor do I really want to seem so sardonic in my reference. Perhaps I should say that Twitter and especially Facebook, and yeah, even the internet at large, are being ruffied by some mysterious creeper. And strangely people keep coming back to the scene of the crime–same bar, same seat, same creeper–and are totally Girl Interrupted with the pathological psycho-dedication to time spent tapping their phones and tablets to see what’s up in their twitterfeeds and/or newsfeeds. It’s absolutely disturbing!
One day I was struck with a moment of clarity. I didn’t have my phone on me at lunch, so I was forced to look up from my dry thirteenth turkey and ham sandwich of the week to see that everyone at the table was looking down at a shining brick. Here we are, glorifying the devices that allegedly bring us closer, but then there is this group of adults supposedly having lunch break while not talking for what was a very long uncomfortable sick silence. (I wonder if anyone besides myself noticed the weirdness. Go to work or go out with friends and just observe their behavior. If you want to be disturbed even more, keep time on how long it has been since they last picked up or pulled out their mobile device to take another hit of some App. Can you say, gateway drug?)
So since then I have actually chosen to intentionally put more time into actually spending physical real-time with people, writing letters, journaling (both online and paper) and reading in the time that I would have formerly spent on social media and game apps like “Candy Crush.” Strangely, I joked in my last post about my undying dedication to sacrificing 10 percent of my blood and money as offering to Apple, Inc once per month. But truth is that I am not really a Fanboy. It’s the kind of technology that I happened grew up using and still use it because it all just works. That is all. So in the same way, the web and technology have become just that for me–tools to accomplish things that still got done before the new tech toys of today. Two decades ago, humanity was doing just fine.
I don’t know. I have become more and more an advocate of getting unplugged enough to appreciate all the life that is in me, and then to step into the warm fresh air and sunlight with the half-person I love–just me and my dog Coby. And when I am with family and friends, I intentionally put my phone away to ignore calls and messages (and my family does the same due to my continuous idle threats to let Coby eat their food when they aren’t looking).