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Spectrum Exhaust or AT&T and the Unions

September 4, 2011 Leave a comment

I can’t fault AT&T for trying to buy or T-mobile for wanting to sell because by now we have to know that big business only aim to make money for themselves. Unless coerced by regulators or by profit, big businesses don’t make moves to benefit consumers or improve the economy.

I spent a little more time browsing the article a link had taken me to. While skimming it, I read part of an AT&T press release that said they hope the merger will help fix the nation’s “spectrum exhaust” problem. Our what now? Google “spectrum exhaust” and see if you can find anything that has to with telecommunications that isn’t quoting AT&T’s press release. I got all the way to the bottom and found the dreaded comments section. I asked myself whether or not I wanted to see some Tea Party troll rail against the government’s decision with the kind of passion only a black President can inspire. I did and was happy to see that 10 out of 11 of the responses to her post were negative, but one of the comments led me to type the words “unions” and “AT&T” into my google search engine. I thought that unions would oppose this merger based on the rhetoric of  Tea Party members. I thought wrong.  Googling those two words makes it clear that the unions  favor this merger heavily for a variety of reasons, none of which have to do with creating more jobs for everybody or protecting any jobs other than their own. Union employee receive better compensation for the same work done by non-union workers meaning that if T-mobile becomes unionized they will have to hire less people because of the higher salaries and benefits.

Seeing the union response to the block of this merger, the tea party response to the block of this merger, and the AT&T response to the block of this merger made it clear to me that, wow, if not for the federal government blocking this merger. I would have never known or cared about how messed up this merger is. With those three powers on the same side of this, I can’t begin to imagine how heavy the lobbying will be in favor of this merger, but, as always, I can appreciate how little say I will have in whether or not this merger occurs. I think a mistake people make is assuming that businesses and corporations alone drive a healthy economy. If that were true, trickle down economics would have worked. Consumers with purchasing power and choices are integral to a healthy economy. Businesses and corporations can be an important part of that, but consumers suffer most in poor economic climates while bigger business are forgiven for trespasses and subsidized for their troubles. Businesses and corporations only need stability in order to find ways to make a profit, but without eager (drawn to buy by the quality and the variety of options), employed consumers, economies slow down and stagnate.

In response to a person posting that the federal government intended to protect consumers by blocking this, one of the tea party people commented that people didn’t need the federal government treating them like children in need of protection. I don’t like to be patronized either but the only other words that can better describe how I feel as corporations. regulators, and lobbyists clash overhead on yon Capitol Hill shouldn’t be uttered in polite company.

Using a chess analogy to describe my status in this fight, I’m not a pawn. I am brushstroke on a tile on which pawns move. Keep in mind this is a game we actually get a glimpse of. If the federal government never blocked this, we wouldn’t get to see any of this game play out. It would have just happened. I remember that headline, “AT&T acquries T-mobile”. That could have been it. Consumers need the government to protect them. I feel historical evidence supports that as much as it reveals government’s inability to consistently and competently do that. There’s a chance we can be protected from this, but it’s certain how we feel about it only matters in theory. This era* has been a bit discouraging. I think it’s reasonable to feel powerless, but part of me thinks it’s not okay to stay that way.

*By era, I mean the war, what the war gave us, what the war revealed about us, the collapse, what the collapse brought us, what the collapse revealed about us. We got some people trying to create a consumer protection agency and struggling to do so, we got some people  trying to improve our school systems resigning due to opposition, and some of the most passionate of us are some of the most misinformed.

THE SECOND COMING by William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

The Second Coming was written in 1919 in the aftermath of the first World War.

1919 between the 1st world and the Great Depression. I think it’s too bold of me to say that I feel any sort of kinship with Yeats, but this is the first moment in my life where I think, if he walked past me while I was reading this poem and noticed, I wouldn’t make light of him being such a downer. Foul stuff has been happening in the world before literacy even became a thing, but I feel least hopeful now than I have ever felt in my lifetime about America’s ability to do anything about it because of how terrible we are at helping ourselves. I think Obama’s missteps have hurt us, but I’m going to bristle even more the next time I hear about how history will vindicate Bush. The seeds of this malaise were sown during his time in office, but, although I say that, I can’t even give him 30% of the blame for those seeds being sown because I know the Executive Branch isn’t that powerful or even capable of having the foresight or flexibility to battle that. I can say the same thing about the Obama administration. If he ever thought he could be any type of savior, that’s a misconception both he and his supporters share. He’s been misguided in some of the things he has chosen to throw his weight behind in a time when mistakes are even more costly.

About that poem, I’m starting to think about that anarchy line in the context of the whole poem. I think anarchy is a transient state because eventually the most passionate and the most powerful will figure a way to gain control. I think in the poem it’s just a transitional thing that’s not descriptive of the entire setting.

Last thing. I know it’s a simple obvious thing to say, and people who I strongly disagree with would say the same thing. Nevertheless, I think the best government isn’t the government that governs least, but the government that does its best to equally empower the people it’s serving. A consumer protection agency would be nice. Bolstering our educational system would be nice. However, legally treating corporations as people and making it harder to hold powerful people accountable when they make mistakes http://www.slate.com/id/2290036/are not the way. I find that since I stopped watching the Daily Show, I have plenty of things to irritate me without Jon Stewart telling me what stupid thing some pundit or guest on Fox News said.

Everything that follows this is a lot of me playing pong in my head with different stuff. I’m not really trying to make a well-formed coherent argument about anything from here.

On a happier note, check out Rachel Held Evans blog. I want someone to give her her own show. I’m thinking O’ Reilly Factor format and just let her tell what’s up. Also about that Yeats poem, I read that poem years ago and I kind of understood it, but it didn’t resonate with me in anyway that I could use. I find that that’s the case with a lot of literature for me, and it just makes me question how we teach literature. I don’t think during the time I was in high school, I was mentally developed enough to make a lot of the connections that I make now on my own. I don’t have any ideas on how I would teach it better because I don’t think it’s a matter of teaching. I think on some level you have to be open to it, and being open to it is like gene expression. Like you can be predisposed to this or that, but unless you have the right environmental exposure the gene may never manifest.  This can be good things or bad things manifesting. During 9-12, I think you just might be too insulated to pick up on a lot of stuff. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad or intentional insulation, it’s just maybe you’re dealing with being a high school student too much to really let anything sink in. I don’t know. Like now I listen to podcasts all the time, and a lot of them have depth to them. I think high school me could have benefited a lot from these podcasts, but I wonder if high school me would have even been capable of appreciating them. Not to say high school me didn’t have things going on for him, just this me is evolved in different ways that high school me wasn’t, this me is also deficient in ways high school me wasn’t, I’m working on it.

Categories: Life, Politics, Uncategorized

Kobe Bryant’s Petard

April 21, 2011 2 comments

Do you remember when Kobe and Shaq both played for the Lakers and people knew that, in order for the Lakers win championships, Kobe needed to limit his shooting and defer more consistently to Shaq?  Now, can you recall how often we hear people are saying that the Lakers play better when Kobe shoots less?  Over time, I don’t think the meat of what we’re saying has changed, but we’re saying it more respectfully now because Kobe has carried the heavy individual load that he so desperately coveted and because of his unhealthy stranglehold on the role of closer that previous Phil Jackson Lakers teams allowed to fall to whomever had the best shot after running offensive sets designed to produce multiple options.  Kobe Bryant is, without a doubt, the most versatile, dangerous scorer in the NBA, but we are unable to fully recognize that his unyielding ambition to stand out as an individual has consistently done more harm than good for all of the championship teams and potential championship teams that he has been on.  I believe that he has played better in his last two championship seasons than he did when he played with Shaq, but he has not evolved so drastically that he merits greatest of all time consideration.

First of all, during those first three championships Shaq was the best player on those teams, and the most obvious reason that Kobe’s numbers have improved qualitatively since Shaq’s departure is that he now plays in an offense designed for him to score a majority of the points. So that should raise a question. How is it that an all-time great’s team struggles more when he takes a lot of shots in an offense built to give him a lot of opportunities to shoot?  In other words, a guy whose best ability is scoring hurts his team’s ability to win when he scores too much. Unlike other all-time greats, Kobe hasn’t shown an innate understanding of how to employ his greatest talent in a way that allows his team to be as high above .500 when he uses it most. We know that being an entertaining scorer doesn’t make you an all-time great and neither does being the best player on a championship team, but if we examine Kobe closely those are the things that he contributes.

Shaq must have hated Kobe. I know it’s glaringly obvious now but look at Shaq’s behavior in his 2nd season away from Kobe.  Kobe obviously wanted to be top dog on his team, but I don’t think people noticed how willing Shaq was to give up that responsibility after he left.  Shaq happily played 2nd fiddle to Dwayne Wade in their championship run, but some combination of vitriol, envy, and or pride kept him from doing the same with Kobe and drove Phil Jackson out of LA.  If Kobe had the patience or the humility or the wisdom to do so, he might have begun winning championships sooner, but, if he had that, I probably wouldn’t find his status as an all-time great so questionable.

Traveling further down the Kobe sans Shaq path, I think Kobe hasn’t evolved beyond needing a Shaq, and it might be due to bad habits he picked up in his first season without him where he actually had to score 30+ in order to improve his teams chances of winning. In the summer that followed that season, we saw Kobe whining publicly about the lack of help LA management had provided him when he was the one that chased it away the previous season.  I don’t know if an all-time great has to be able to figure things out with his coach and superstar player so they can continue winning, but I think it certainly reflects poorly on him considering plenty of all-time greats had rocky relationships with their teammates but were able to work amicably enough to keep the band together. Nevertheless management responds to Kobe’s demands and gets him Gasol, but a healthy Gasol isn’t enough to win him a championship.  Kobe needs a healthy Gasol and a productive Bynum in order to win a championship.  I’m not including all of the other players and Coach Jackson because those were roughly equivalent pieces that they had in place when Shaq was king of the Lakers. Let’s do some more rough math. Kobe with Shaq equals championships. Kobe without Shaq doesn’t get to the conference finals. Kobe with Gasol equals out in 6 with a blowout loss in their last game. Kobe with Gasol and Bynum equals championships.

These are rough generalizations, but you also have to add the fact that in the first and last scenarios where championships are won, Kobe displays just as much of a propensity to shoot his team out of contention as he does to shoot them into contention.  This also relates to how predictable and static Kobe’s Lakers become in the final minutes of close games.

A contrast between Shaq’s Lakers and Kobe’s Lakers is that in close games Shaq’s Lakers had multiple options and attempted to run the offense in order to find the best possible shot late, and opposing team defenses had more variables to account for in the final minutes.  Shaq’s Lakers were more likely to look for the right basketball play than simply defer to the most macho player on the court.  Kobe’s Lakers are statistically worse near the ends of close games because the opposing team’s defense knows more often than not Kobe will take all of the shots in the final minutes in spite of the Lakers have multiple players, Odom, Artest, and Fisher, with the confidence to take those final shots. People are pleasantly surprised when they do it now, but Robert Horry who quietly shuffled out of the league recently used to be their most regular finisher because he had the confidence to step into a good shot when freed up by a well run offensive set.  Instead you have Kobe doing his best to convince everybody that he’s much better than Shaq. I understand that Kobe on fire approaches unstoppable, but if Kobe is just Kobe, which is still really good, then he can’t be as effective as he is over the course of a whole game because, unlike in the final minutes, an entire team’s defense isn’t dedicated to stopping him.

In spite of his gifts and his talents, his proven ability to undermine himself in his own self-magnifying pursuit of glory keeps me from being able to consider him an all-great.

Sinister Simulation

June 10, 2010 Leave a comment

This 22 year old architect from the Philippines “spent four years wallowing in equations and graph paper” and created a self-sustaining city named Magnasanti using the game Sim City. When I played Sim City, I found it frustrating at every turn and could never get to a point in the game where I really felt in control. If the budget wasn’t bleeding money, fires, monsters, or rioting citizens seemed intent on destroying my cities. I used to feel a bit impotent in my inability to respond properly to the demands of the game, but, after finding out that it took an aspiring architect just under four years to master the game, I don’t feel so inadequate.

His name, Vincent Ocasala, even sounds like the moniker of a fictional mastermind, and people who read about his feat, watch the youtube video, and read his interview seem to find him a bit terrifying but, to me, he more closely resembles the genius anti-hero archetype found in animes such as L from Death Note and LeLouch of Code Geass. I don’t know the effect that completing this game had on his mind because his philosophy seems a bit villainish, and he shows an unbridled affection for the game that he slaved over for years in order to successfully master. I don’t find him so immediately sinister because this interview seems like a smaller part of an unfinished story.

It’s possible that Sim City has its limitations and Vincent’s city exists as one of many possible solutions that the algorithms in the game allow for. If the creators designed the game deliberately so that only this type of city could maintain the highest population level without cheats, then I would identify them as the shadowy figures lurking behind the scenes in this existential tale.

What human being would think a city should have the ability to function indefinitely in this form:

“Technically, no one is leaving or coming into the city. Population growth is stagnant. Sims don’t need to travel long distances, because their workplace is just within walking distance. In fact they do not even need to leave their own block. Wherever they go it’s like going to the same place…

There are a lot of other problems in the city hidden under the illusion of order and greatness: Suffocating air pollution, high unemployment, no fire stations, schools, or hospitals, a regimented lifestyle – this is the price that these sims pay for living in the city with the highest population. It’s a sick and twisted goal to strive towards. The ironic thing about it is the sims in Magnasanti tolerate it. They don’t rebel, or cause revolutions and social chaos. No one considers challenging the system by physical means since a hyper-efficient police state keeps them in line. They have all been successfully dumbed down, sickened with poor health, enslaved and mind-controlled just enough to keep this system going for thousands of years. 50,000 years to be exact. They are all imprisoned in space and time.”

“The city symmetry uses a modified version of the symbol [the Bhavacakra, the wheel of life and death in Buddhism] to represent the sinister intent of enslaving all of its citizens for all eternity.”

“…none of its citizens seem to live past the age of 50.
Health of the sims was not a priority, relative to the main objective. I could have enacted several health ordinances which would have increased the life expectancy, but I decided not to for practical reasons.”

If you make it all the way to the end of the interview, there’s a twist. If you’ve seen animes like Death Note or Code Geass, then you know that the anti-heroes, for the sake of righting wrongs on a global scale, must resort to using harsh, unsavory methods in order to act as catalysts for the type of revolution that their world desperately needs. Instead of viewing it as an illustration of right ideology, Vincent explains it instead as a cautionary tale:

“It shows that by only focusing on one objective, one may end up neglecting, or resorting to sacrificing, other important elements. Similarly, [in the real world] if we make maximizing profits as the absolute objective, we fail to take into consideration the social and environmental consequences.”

This serves as a prime example of video games as high art especially if the creator’s intended to do this, and it wasn’t simply a failure to produce an unbeatable game.

The love of money is “a” root of evil, but idolatry in any form can be detrimental to an individual or a society as a whole particulary when it involves the pursuit of things that we collectively consider worth pursuing. An unchecked pursuit of safety, comfort, or happiness can easily lead to the devaluation of the value of human life, possibly the life of the pursuer, possibly the life of a person who happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, or possibly the value of human life in the context of a society.

I think that I’m a bit idealistic; I don’t think there was ever a time in history when a society ever came close to a proper approximation of the value of human life. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” falls short especially when people start throwing around phrases like, “You have nothing to worry about if you’re innocent. I’m innocent and…” Take the case of Henry Skinner in Texas who sits on death row because his lawyer valued his time and his paycheck more than Henry’s life and the justice system values the perception of being just so much more than this man’s life that waiting a month for DNA testing could sully that glistening reputation http://www.slate.com/id/2256188 .

Also there’s the case of 3 guilty-until-proven-innocent detainees, who died in U.S. custody because of how highly we value national security and how alluring a cash reward for turning over people to the U.S. was for people in their home countries http://www.harpers.org/archive/2010/01/hbc-90006368 (further rant by me here https://immaletufinish.wordpress.com/2010/01/20/bad-intelligence/ )

As an economics major and a part-time philosopher, I know a little bit about the actual difficulty of calculating the value of human life, but that doesn’t give us license to be callous monsters.

Ghost in the Shell Laughing Man

"I thought what I'd do was I'd pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes"

I’ve been comment-starved since January.  Let me know if you

Categories: Faith, Life, Politics, video games

Contrarian Gem

June 5, 2010 Leave a comment

I frequent the website IGN regularly, and the contrarian corner articles have become one of my favorite features.  In them, the author offers an antagonistic perspective on whatever video game is hottest at the time.  The author doesn’t simply nitpick like a photographer critiquing a top model contestant or a pick-up artist chastising his protege for not negotiating a threesome properly.  The writer challenges the consumer’s idea of excellence similar to how Socrates forced his fellow Greek citizens to examine their own culture and reevaluate their definition of good.  The writer regularly uses evidence from culture, history, and life experience to reach his conclusions, and when he does, his points often have applications that transcend the video game world introducing fresh, valuable perspectives on the basic concepts to anyone willing to notice.

In the following excerpt, he compares playing the newest iteration of Final Fantasy to his experience building a wooden fence around a small garden in Madagascar.  It’s unsurprising that he finds physical labor more difficult than playing a video game, but the way that he frames his argument enhances the juxtaposition in provocative way.

Begin Excerpt

[early on he is referring to Final Fantasy combat.  It’s a game where you play a character who uses spells, weapons, and armor to take down imposing mythological beasts.]

The most literal purpose of this system is to apply human logic to an array of barbaric spells and attacks with the sole purpose of subduing every living creature that surrounds your party. It’s a contradiction in terms, perverting a quality of thought and careful planning for a purpose that should only be tenable in the absence of human logic. It’s a fantasy in which your body can do the extravagantly impossible if you just logically plan for it ahead of time.  It’s a relief from the real world constraints where the gap between even the simplest ideas and their physical execution is the widest.

It took me three days to build my fence in Madagascar, digging in the hot sun, winding metal twine around sticks that were three inches in diameter. I felt a great and manly pride when it was finally done, looking at it in the evening air after the last day’s work. I pushed against it, feeling how tightly set in the ground the sticks were. I tried to wedge my fingers between the cracks, but there was no give. That’s a great fence, I thought to myself. All the math about how much wood, twine, and time would be necessary to cover the garden had been right on. I had bloody blisters on my hand, sandy red dirt all over my body, and my muscles ached from the continual exertion in the sun. But I had won.

A week later, I woke up and found three baby pigs eating my tomato plants. I couldn’t change into any other paradigm or hit the “retry” button. I ran outside and chased the pigs away and stared at the narrow gap in the corner that they’d come through. I could have wished for a menu command to let me “close hole,” but XIII’s the kind of game where the only option would have been “burn pig.” And in the pulsing blue menus, either choice would have been equally arbitrary and without meaning.

End Excerpt from http://xbox360.ign.com/articles/107/1079860p2.html

So in this game, you use all these make believe weapons and armor and spells to take down monsters, and you do it successfully by solving relatively simple math problems, observing and reacting to simple patterns, and using your common sense.  In the real world, you build a a small fence of wood and wire to the best of your ability, and you fail to keep baby pigs out.  Compared to his paragraphs, my two-sentence summary doesn’t really do it justice.

Live by the Spirit, live forever

January 25, 2010 6 comments

Something obvious struck me about the way things work “in the spirit” versus how things work in the world.  Repeatedly, I’ve listened to people, Christians, consciously describe the tangible world as “broken” and “fallen”, and, for a while, I’ve been questioning what that meant.  In my mind, it seemed that most, if not all, of the evil in the world could be explained by human action and/or inaction.  Famine, poverty, crime, all of it seemed to be part of some simple, nonspiritual, cause-and-effect relationship, and I felt that 1) thinking it through would lead everyone to that same conclusion and 2) understanding this people would be driven to act.  However, today I believe those two conclusions are false because they really don’t take into account how a lot of people actually feel about the state of the world.  How I currently feel about these conclusions has to do with the way that I view the spirit world.

Put simply, in the spirit world everything works like it’s supposed to (a bold claim, I know).  Good is rewarded, evil is punished, and grace is given as needed (and I don’t just mean forgiven sin, grace includes guidance through a trial, help in a crisis, strength for any scenario).  It is the realm in which fairy tales exist, a realm where the hero prevails, where the innocent are saved, where within each malady, a lesson lies.  I want to go back to the first sentence of this paragraph where I say, “Everything works like it’s supposed to.”  It’s interesting that how many, if not most, people feel, possibly as a result of something implanted into them from the time they were small, about how things “should” be never leaves them in spite of all that they see around them.

Actually, it’s possibly incorrect for me to say that because I haven’t done the real research.  I know there are religions and worldviews that a significant number of people adhere to that teach that the way things are is how they should be because…that’s the way they are.  I can understand how that can bring peace to a mind struggling to rationalize why the world is in the state that it’s in, and, actually, that’s the flaw in Conclusion #2 up above.  By seeing evil simply as part of a cause-and-effect relationship, it might lead to seeing it as a permanent fixture rather than something beatable and forfeiting the attempt to conquer it.   Also, I find it telling that even stalwart atheists who don’t believe in spirits or deities still believe that there’s an ideal that people “should” reach for in spite of disagreements on how to get there.  This brings me back to how pervasive the idea of a broken world is, at least, in Western society.

Now for a detour that will inevitably bring us back on the right route.

I recently read a comic book that explained why the Joker, a famous batman villain, did what he did.  It asserted that the Joker believed that his worldview was the true one and through his actions he could make it apparent to people.  The best example of this is in The Dark Knight where he tells the passengers of two different boats that if one of them did not set off the explosives on the other’s boat then both boats would explode.  It was his attempt to prove to the people what they were capable of if pushed, possibly to make them believe that they were truly capable of anything and that survival mattered more than right or wrong; it was his attempt to bring them closer to his way of seeing the world.  The thing that didn’t square with me about the Joker’s belief system was that if it was the truth then it should be playing itself out without his involvement; he didn’t seem to understand that he was trying to make it the truth rather than simply reveal the truth.  This is fine, of course, because he is a psychotic sociopath and making sense is not a prerequisite.  This got me thinking though.  In spite of what we see on the internet, read in magazines, or encounter in real life, something still seems to tell many of us, “This isn’t the way things should be,” regardless of the way things are.

Somehow, so many of us, rather than just wishing the world played by fairy tale rules believe that the world “should” play by fairy tale rules, but, unlike the Joker, we seem to have no good ideas on how to make that world our reality.  It occurred to me that maybe that was what living by the spirit was all about.   That living by the spirit is stubbornly refusing to play by the rules of a broken world not just because God said so but because it’s actually what a lot of us want.  That living by the spirit isn’t about being perfect because perfect people don’t need grace, and they sure don’t have anymore lessons they need to learn.  That living by the spirit can be our daily, personal attempt to live in utopia without actually being in utopia.  The truth that we want to see and wish to demonstrate is that THE Spirit is superior and capable of overcoming the current state of things.  It makes me reevaluate what Jesus and John and others meant when they proclaimed that the kingdom of heaven was at hand because it’s not about perfection.  It’s about good being rewarded, evil being punished, and grace given as needed, and when you, when WE, live like those rules apply who can say that the kingdom of heaven isn’t at hand?

Extra:  The title is a play on “Live by the sword, die by the sword” rather than just a random proclamation.  My understanding of  “live by the sword, die by the sword” is that after choosing to live life a certain way for so long, the consequences of doing so become unavoidable, but choosing to live life by the spirit wouldn’t result in “death by the spirit”.  In keeping with the fairy tale metaphor, it would instead result in a “happily ever after” ending which is why I went with the cute, but bold “live forever”.

Also, I don’t think Christians have a monopoly on “living by the spirit” as explained here, but I do think a Christian attempting to live by the spirit daily can be strengthened in ways that cannot be replicated by someone who doesn’t share the same faith.

Also, read “Bad Intelligence”, the earlier post, when you get the chance.  I have a feeling not many of you read it.

Categories: Faith, Life Tags:

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

Categories: Life