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Facebook Follies

October 4, 2009 2 comments

I have to start out by saying that I think this applies to me individually more than most people, and I’m not pushing for some mass exodus from Facebook. If it serves a purpose for you, if you derive pleasure from the use of it, if you don’t really spend much of your time on it at all, then this isn’t me trying to ruin it for you or get you to change your mind, but one of my friends had to go and tell me that my reasons were worth pondering so I felt compelled to write them down.

It all started at work. By now, I’ve already tried several times to stop or decrease my use of facebook for the sake of productivity, but, sitting at work, writing about whatever came to mind, I finally gave myself a reason compelling enough to stop. After more than four years since began using it, I finally realized that it hadn’t brought me that much pleasure. In fact, more than anything it probably stressed me out, and that’s not counting how it chips away at my productivity. Actually, scratch that. Let me talk about one way that it chipped away at my productivity that I didn’t realize until now.

When I was in high school, I was a studious kid who was acutely aware that he was missing out on things because of his studios nature. After I got done with my homework on Friday nights (yes, on Friday nights) with nothing to watch, sometimes I would just look out my window at the Vegas-lit night sky and wonder what I was missing. See, back then, I was aware I was missing out on some experience, aware that my “business before pleasure” mindset was depriving me of some of the experiences that my peers were enjoying at that time, but, back then, I had no idea until I tried them. I couldn’t even imagine what they were, and although I had a relatively diverse set of acquaintances, I still had no idea or picture of what I was missing. Enter facebook, specifically facebook minifeed.

Now, with facebook, I start to believe that I know exactly what I’m missing, and the more pictures and wall posts that I see the, less I think about the life I’m leading. “They”, the infamous they, say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but they never said those thousand words necessarily came together to give you the truth. Personally, I remember my recent trip to Europe and how much effort it took for me to maintain a good attitude most of the time that I was over there, but, when I looked at the pictures later, except for one or two in particular, I remember thinking about how those pictures made it look like I had a much better time than I did. It never occurred to me until recently that the pictures that people post don’t tell you the whole story or tell even part of the truth. I’m finally realizing that I’ve spent all this time feeling down because of how I’m getting along in comparison to these people based on my interpretation of these pictures and these tidbits of conversation that get fed to me. On top of that, I shouldn’t even be comparing myself to these people I barely rub elbows with anyway, but by design this website compels me to do it with each visit. I’m also wondering “Why I feed what I feed?”, and “Who really cares to see pictures of my family trip to cancun?” Am I egotistical for doing it? Do I have to do something special to them to make it acceptable for me to post them? So I’m aware of my neurosis and telling facebook to feed me less about her, less about him, none about them. I’m telling facebook not to feed this to people or that to people because no one cares to know that.

Then, I see someone that I know who is pretty popular and well liked. He’s got considerably less than 200 friends. I’m on there with 300+ friends looking at the amount of friends that he has and feeling like some kind of poser. Then I see someone else who’s pretty popular, and they’ve got like 700+ friends. I think that’s justified, but then I see another dude with 500 friends and get a false sense of superiority because “pfft, that guy” when really what am I doing comparing myself to and passing judgment on these people in the first place? So I’m deleting and adding buddies, trying to maintain an arbitrary acceptable amount of friends on my page and wondering about how selective I should be when it comes to adding new people or requesting new “f-friends”.

Eventually I also come across these articles posted on facebook ( http://www.mygazines.com/issue/2432/82 and http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/information-rich-and-attention-poor/article1285001/ ) by a friend regarding how websites such as facebook, myspace, and twitter might actually decrease the quality of our relationships, and I’m thinking, “Word”. I feel old when I say things like what I’m about to say, but I remember when you met people, had fun with them, and made a little connection. When physical proximity made it impossible to have a relationship, the relationship just fizzled, AND THAT WAS OKAY. There are plenty of jokes out there about how facebook allows you to reconnect with people you knew years ago and lose interest in them 30 minutes later. Relationships begin and end. It’s a part of life, but facebook isn’t about ending relationships. Facebook allows you to put relationships on this online life support apparatus. SURE, it’s a relationship, but is it a relationship worth having?

Slight detour

A while ago a pastor spoke at church, and one of the things he said was, “I HATE RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS.”
I was like, “HECKYA! Me too. Wait…why do YOU hate it?” He went on to talk about how it doesn’t match up to the Christian concept of love and how love takes time, effort, vulnerability etc. In my words, random acts of kindness is like starting a game of tag with someone where you quit immediately after you tag someone, and they’re just supposed to be happy that you included them in your game. Your purpose isn’t to invest in someone and necessarily build them up. You just randomly think of something nice to do, and, when you do it, your obligation is fulfilled. Hopefully it makes them want to come get saved eventually, or helps people see that, “HEY! Christians can be good people too”, but you’re certainly not thinking that you’re going to be the one there for them when life gets they’re struggling with guilt or grief or loneliness. Yeah, real kind gesture, but is it a gesture worth making if you’re not willing to follow up on it?

If you think of different relationships as people in different stages of development, then a loving relationship would be a full grown, vivacious adult, random acts of kindness might be a sperm that didn’t make it to the egg, and facebook friendships might be children trapped in a state of arrested development. We don’t have infinite capacity or energy. When we pick something up or decide to do something, we do it at a cost, and sometimes we’re not even aware of what the cost is. It just hit me when I was reading those articles that maintaining these facebook relationships and using time to communicate to these people online, however good they are, came at a cost. Everybody has heard stories of people who put all their time and energy into their online lives and has found them hilarious, pitiful, or both, but it just hit me that putting my time and energy towards these online things meant less time and energy left over to spend on the people that I could physically interact with. I wasn’t aware of this until I read those articles, but I had already begun passing up opportunities to hang out with friends because “Eh, we’re not doing anything else too stimulating besides sitting and talking to each other, and I’m already chatting with them online now. What’s the point?” I had also been doing the same thing with my family i.e. spending hours in front of the computer chatting followed by going through the motions when it was time to spend 10 minutes with my family. It’s like settling for boiled hot dogs when I could have t-bone steak with some reasonable effort.

This indefinite leave of absence from facebook is really an attempt to improve my quality of life, work with what’s in front of me, and stop comparing myself to my interpretation of what I allow to be fed to me.

Afterword?

Also, now that I think of it, it was a stroke of marketing genius or quite a gamble to call it a “feed”. Farm animals eat feed. In this age where everybody seems obsessed with standing out and being an individual, we’re perfectly okay with the idea that every time we log-on we’re taking in what’s being fed to us.

So many things to be scared about, I forget to be scared, so many things to care about, I forget how to care

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Categories: Life

A well-fueled train of thought

October 1, 2009 1 comment
The content of this article, “The Health-Care Ego Trip”, reminded me of Thomas’ faux fear before the presidential election of Obama becoming this unstoppable political force that would end up radically altering the course of history because of how popular he seemed to be with most of the news media and among some of our peers at that time.
“Politicians, in their most self-important moments, see themselves as instruments of national destiny. They yearn to be remembered as the architects and agents of great social and economic transformations. They want to be at the signing ceremony; they want a pen.”
A few months into his presidency, Obama seemed to have his sights set on how he intended to make history – universal health care.  At one point, I thought it was a reasonable goal – something that someone as seemingly rational as him would take gradual steps to achieve, but that’s probably part of his flaw, part of why he’s so driven to accomplish this.
The inner workings of the President’s mind:
“It’s a worthy goal.  I’m a logical person.  I can and should do this and should do my best to sway people to my side whether I’m completely honest about the realities of it or not.”
I don’t think it’s a bad thing for a President to strongly believe in things and have the desire to carry them out, but it seems that he’s so caught up in making this vision a reality and so ingrained in his own way of thinking that he seems unwilling to recognize the opposition to his plan as reasonable and unwilling to acknowledge that this 2-minute drill approach to pushing his agenda will not result in a health care system that is as good as it can be in terms of both coverage and cost.
This brings me to another article that I read about Netherland’s health care system where coverage is virtually universal, affordable, and of good quality, all without the existence of a public option.  The article is titled “Going Dutch” which, obviously, dismantles the idea that there must be a public option in order for universal health care to be a reality.  It outlines some of the practices that enable the Netherlands to do this and satisfy its citizens i.e. making sure everyone gets coverage regardless of preexisting conditions,  preventing insurers from charging more for preexisting conditions, engaging in a form of, what is termed, “risk equalization” that forces companies that serve relatively healthier clients to pay a fee while subsidizing companies that take on relatively sicker clients, and a variety of other practices.  It also outlines some fundamental issues that prevent the U.S. health care system from effectively serving its entire population – issues that will probably not be addressed by the current plans floating around D.C. i.e. insurance companies will still be able to be selective about who they cover and how much coverage costs depending on preexisting conditions and how hazardous their occupations are.  I also appreciate that this article acknowledges that even if we follow some of the cues from the Netherlands, we may never resemble them entirely – something that I’m okay with because, frankly, it irritates me when someone suggest we adopt another country’s system without understanding that because of who we fundamentally are as a nation not everything can and necessarily should fully translate.
On the same vein of thought but on a different tangent is an article about the soda tax, one of the ways proposed to help pay for health care “reform”, and its potential effect on poor, fat Americans.  I don’t mean that as a “put-down” to Americans, my patriotism wouldn’t allow that [sic] (is that how you use that).  The article specifically refers to its affect on Americans who are literally poor and obese.  Wonderful title: “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Big Fat Asses”.
The prevailing logic of people who support this soda tax as a way to pay for the soda tax is that soda’s bad for you anyway and the revenue from the soda tax will be used to serve the poorest, unhealthiest Americans, but the road to ruin is often paved with good intentions…or something like that.  The first thing that you might recognize is that its a pretty paternalistic way to run a country – “This is bad for you so we’re making it harder for you to get”.  This article goes much further than that and discusses how the tax ignores that poor people tend to be more unhealthier in the first place, and it’s not drinking, smoking, and overeating that gets them there.  Some of you who place more value on personal responsibility than others might shudder at how easily an argument can be made for how environment and other factors play a role  in how healthy or unhealthy a person might end up being, but the empirical evidence offered is pretty clear.  At the same time, I’m sure those of you who place value on personal responsibility will be happy that this evidence can be used to demonstrate whythe idea soda tax probably isn’t the best idea.  It also introduces the idea that it will not only place more pressur on the wallets of the poorer, unhealthier Americans who enjoy those soft drinks, but also further limit them in their ability to purchase an object from which they may cheaply derive pleasure from which proportionally is more limiting to poorer Americans for whom soda might be a key indulgence while for rich Americans be little more than an afterthought.  Ultimately, in a pretty cool, slightly roundabout way, the author makes an argument that if you want a healthier population, it helps to have a wealthier population, and the best way to produce a wealthier population is through education not only because wealthy people can stay healthier but they can also afford better treatment when they get sick.
Which brings me back to Obama…he seems more concerned with transforming the nation than fixing the obvious problems that existed before he was elected like with our public education system.  I mean I thought Obama as President would be, to quote Martha, a good thing, and I never once thought he’d be so hot to transform the U.S. universal health care system.
Personally, I thought that was one of the reasons that Hilary Clinton DIDN’T get the support and the nomination because Obama seemed like the cool-headed type of guy that would try to address the issues that weigh most heavily on the minds of the American people as a whole rather than try to change something that such a significant portion of the American people did not care to have reformed in this manner.
Which brings me to an article on education that’s actually a book review titled “Schools Should Stop Telling Kids to be ‘Nice'”.  I love articles that agree with me.  Seriously, I wasn’t thinking of children when I agreed with a similar sentiment expressed by my friend Chad a while ago, but a good portion of the article is utilized explaining the difference between being “nice” versus being “good”.
It’s one of the reasons that I disagree with the “random acts of kindness” campaign that seemed popular for a while in the Christian community because “love” and “random acts of kindness” were two different things in my mind and the latter movement seemed geared towards the instant gratification demographic while the former, original movement acknowledged the that it takes time and effort to show the type of love that Jesus did in the Bible.  Some might point at Jesus miracles and say, “LOOK, random acts of kindness”, but I strongly disagree that the extension of an all knowing deity walking on earth did anything random and also believe that there are times when he chose not to act or perform a miracle because he felt the negatives outweighed the positives – at times, Jesus clearly revealed through his words his wariness of people making superficial connections to him based on something that he might do for them.  To clarify again, although I’m sure I’ll have to clarify further, I’m not saying don’t be nice to people, but that people need to realize that to really do something worthwhile for a person takes a true investment of time not a random action based on a whim.
Now off that tangent, and back to the article for the finale.  It’s a good article.  I’m a bit spent at this point so I’ll just say that I agree with a lot of the conclusions that the author of the reviewed book and the writer of the article come to.  It’s apparent to me that the things like education are what people in leadership positions should be focused on because if you’re really concerned about the fate of the nation then one of your major concerns should be helping to produce people who will have the intelligence and skills to deal with any future problems that you might forsee ESPECIALLY if you can’t gain the support necessary to adequately address them now – WHICH YOU SHOULD’VE KNOWN GOING IN.
P.S.  I don’t have a link to the article, but it started out talking about Bill Clinton’s personal health care “nightmare”.  It talks about how when he was having serious heart problems he ended up going to one of the worst hospitals in the area and being operated on by one of the surgeons at the hospital with the worst mortality rates, and ended up having to get more work done because of complications that later arose.  Wish I had the article, I’ll be on the lookout, but at the time I didn’t think it was worth writing down the title of the whole article because I didn’t read the whole article.  This anecdote is another demonstration of how Universal Health Care isn’t the antidote for our ailing health care system and the people that it hopes to serve.  I believe the article was about the imperfect information issue that arises in the health care market.  Even people who have coverage don’t get the best treatment possible for their money because the information is not made available to them or they don’t make a great enough effort to seek it out, but you would think Bill Clinton’s people would’ve made an effort to make sure that he was getting the best treatment possible.  Again, I think it just goes to show that just making sure everybody gets some health care won’t mean everybody would be satisfied with it and wouldn’t it be something after all this hooplah to get universal coverage that we come to the realization that it wasn’t really worth it.  Just something to munch on.
“You gonna eat that dead fat guy? ” – Living Fat Guy on Family Guy
Categories: Politics