Hello! I’ve missed you. Have you missed me? No?
Yes, you’re right. I did entirely fail to post an entry last week on this, my allegedly weekly blog. You have my sincerest apologies. If it’s any consolation, I don’t even feel bad about it. I have been busy, running about Orange County and the Central Coast, presenting interactive historical presentations, because that’s what I do now. I present things. I am a presenter. That is my job title.
And yet, here we are again. The pair of us. Me at my keyboard. You at your variously sized screens. Here I type, and there you read.
What shall we talk about this week?
What? You find this theatrically contrived, whimsically conversational introduction unnecessary? You think I should’ve just begun this week’s essay without it?
Well, you’re probably right, but try to see things from my point of view. Regardless of your own amusement level, I am thusly amused. I dearly love theatrical contrivances, and I have never been one to use words sparingly. Why should I? Words are, after all, sensationally, even scandalously free to use. They cost me nothing!
This is outrageously off-topic, but I am suddenly reminded of my favorite correctional note that I ever received back on a collegiate essay. The year was 2011. I was taking a senior level history course on the decline of the British Empire that semester, just for kicks and giggles, because the professor, Dr. Smith, was himself British, and when you attend a small school in rural Indiana that just seems cool as hell. I had handed in an essay on something or other, having worked fairly hard on the thing, history being my hobby then, and not my job, as it now is (somewhat ironically), and I received the essay back with a grade far higher than I dare say the silly thing deserved. But there, on the front page, which was almost completely covered in correctional marks done in blood-red ink, was a sentence now burned into my brain. Dr. Smith had sliced into my verbose, overly dramatic opening paragraph as with a scalpel, circling my topic sentence and scrawling next to it, “An excellent point lost in a sea of waffle.”
I memorized that, because I want it to be the title for my eventual, inevitable memoir.
An Excellent Point Lost In a Sea of Waffle:
The Life Story of Philip David Black
Take that, Dr. Smith! Incidentally, I hope you are well. You were an awesome professor.
Where were we?
We were deciding what to talk about this week. Next time, please cut me off before I prattle on about nothing like that.
Let’s talk a bit about technology. If I am to be completely honest, dear readers, I have actually started this essay twice already. It began as a rant about the pointlessness of social media. From there, it morphed dramatically into a strange essay in which I compared the smartphone we all now carry with a sword.
Weird, right? It made sense to me at the time. I think I was trying to make the point that the handheld technology we all now wield with wild abandon can in fact be dangerous if it is untempered by wisdom. I hoped to encourage us all to treat our smartphones with the proper respect.
But, I think I will spare you both that absurdly forced metaphor and its accompanying stench of self-righteous self examination.
Instead, I will simply share with you a few positive changes I have made to the way I use my own smartphone. As we have discussed often before on this blog, I am a pessimist, but I try not to be. It seems to me that our smartphones, our computers, and the internet in general offers us innumerable chances to do truly remarkable things. I have a suggestion. Let us consciously seek to use these super powers for good. The world is bleak enough these days.
Where to begin? I have already rambled long, so let us stick to a single subject for the rest of this entry-- the subject of social media. For starters, I have removed social media apps from my phone. Twitter and Facebook have been completely purged from it. I keep Instagram installed, because pictures are nice, but I took it off my home screen, so I can’t just mindlessly click on it and lose myself to the endless scroll.
Let me clarify. I have not deleted my accounts on these services. I still have them. I check Facebook occasionally (Twitter hardly ever), and I keep all my information on Facebook (and even Twitter) current. But, I no longer live there. I have removed my mental energies from these sites.
I have done this for two reasons. Firstly, I am blessed to have friends from many diverse walks of life and of many various beliefs, fields, and orientations. And, frankly, it made me sick to see these many friends, acquaintances, relatives, and co-workers all screaming at each other in comment fields, following the political typhoon that has engulfed us all. I am not, may it emphatically be said, unplugging from politics. More than ever, I am attempting to stay informed and communicate with people of differing views, but I have stopped imagining that internet commenting and fire-breathing, left-right turf warring on these apps has anything to do with the real business of citizenship. If you want to discuss politics with me, please do so. Just meet with me, or call me when you want to do it. I am earnestly seeking what it means to be a compassionate, principled citizen of this wonderful country in 2017. I just don’t do it on apps.
The second reason I removed these apps was because I was starting to feel like a harried intern at a media conglomerate. I celebrate the magnificent connectivity that these social media apps foster. I think it is marvelous that we can all now, at the press of a few buttons, know instantaneously what seemingly anyone we have ever known is doing this weekend. In many ways this is a delight. But, we are all of us only humans in the end. We only have so much time. And, in a world where we are increasingly aware (immediately) of every single scandal, disaster, tragedy, and happenstance that occurs anywhere in the world, the strange pressure we are all now under to promptly rush to our message boards and trumpet out our own personal stance and viewpoint on the subject of EVERYTHING is mind numbing, soul destroying, and, ultimately, physically impossible. It simply cannot be done. It is foolish to try.
Dear friends, I resolutely reject the modern notion that if you (yes, you!) fail to use social media to decry evil, you are yourself evil; although, yes, I have seen several people I know, love, and respect recently make this very claim. If you choose to use social media for that, then that is your decision. As your friend, I applaud you for seeking to make the world a better place in this way. However, I do not choose that route. What is more, I find it morally questionable to demand that everyone use their personal platforms as soapboxes. I do agree that we each have a moral responsibility to care for our communities in whatever way we are able. I believe we will each one day be judged for the choices we make in this life. But, just because we all now have a smartphone does not magically transform us each into a one-person Public Relations firm. We don’t need to each issue a personal statement after every single public tragedy. That is unrealistic and an impossible burden for a person to put upon themselves. If you see someone struggling in the room where you physically are, help them. If you see evil in your environment, and you can do something about it, do it. Simply screaming about the world and its evils does little. Let’s all get out and do our best to do actual helpful stuff.
Let’s stop there for now. I have rambled long enough. If you have another perspective on a how to use social media for good, feel free to comment below. I am always open for new angles on positivity. These are simply changes that I have made that have worked for me. Next week, we will cover a few other upbeat ways to use your smartphone.
Stay safe, everyone. My love to you all.