Tag Archives: blogs inspired by Facebook posts

Life Envy: The FOMO

 

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I want to be living that life. By myself, late at night, sitting in the dark of the back yard with my phone, the dog, and a drink, I actually heard myself say this out loud: I want to be living that life. It’s crazy, I know, but looking sometimes at pictures of people on Facebook doing things you would like to do, having experiences you would like to have, you get this feeling, an inescapable feeling that you are missing out. We call it FOMO. I must admit that I have experienced the FOMO. I try as best as I can to massage my FOMO into something like happiness for the person in the post: I am so glad they get to have this experience. Then, I take it a little bit further by thinking that I am so glad they decided to share this moment with their friends, of which I consider myself one. Then, the conclusion of the exercise is to think or actually say out loud how grateful I am for the experiences I have had, the luck, and the privilege. I know, in these moments, I have had experiences that some of my friends have never had, and I know that I am super fortunate because of that. In 95% of my waking existence on the planet I would not trade my life for anyone else’s. But on this last occasion, when I caught myself expressing the FOMO out loud to no one in particular, to the trees, to the dog in the yard, to the martini I was sipping, to myself, I panicked for a moment. What is it about this that I desire? The person in question may be beautiful. It may be that they seem extremely happy or content. In all likelihood, they are in a place I have always wanted to go, seeing something I have always wanted to see, learning something I have always wanted to learn, successful at something at which I too would like to succeed, or doing something I know I would enjoy but find I have not yet had the opportunity to enjoy. It is ridiculous and ridiculously human, a tendency we have always had, to be envious of others, but now exacerbated by social media because we are not only hearing ABOUT the experiences of others, we are seeing them in photo, or seeing and hearing them in video, ALL THE TIME. And that pushes the buttons of desire and envy. But . . .

It’s like meditation. You don’t beat yourself up when your mind wanders. Instead, you simply notice its wandering, you pay attention, and then you come back to the breath or the mantra and you continue. Maybe that’s why I said it out loud: I want to be living that life. I was paying attention. It was kind of an alarm set off by my internal brakes to the wheels of envy and desire. This is better than what I suspect a lot of people do: they see their friends and acquaintances living a great life and they begin to feel anxious and sad without being aware of the connection. And we have to remind ourselves, don’t we, that our facebook personalities are self-curated. Some people select only the happiest moments and ignore the trauma and sadness, others, in an effort to be authentic, balance the joy and the suffering, while still others use social media to essentially suffer in public. While the middle way seems most admirable, none of these strategies are inclusive of a life. They’re still just snapshots. Judging me from my facebook posts, it might seem like the only thing I ever do is play the drums and listen to music and that I am an extremely cheerful guy. Only partly true. There are things that make me fearful or anxious; there are issues that need attending in my own inner and outer work; I sometimes question, as William Stafford does, if “what I have done is my life.” It is pointless to haunt one’s self with What If questions. If one is haunted by a What If question, perhaps some action is necessary. But if one is suspicious, self-reflective enough to recognize the FOMO for what it is, sure, go ahead and say out loud, I want to be living that life. In the next moment, though, allow the gratitude to bubble up for this one–and then put your phone away, write a poem or read a book, or have a drink outside with your dog.

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Filed under Culture, Self Reflection

On Social Networks, Redux: Is Real Dialogue Possible?

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This is a follow-up from an entry I made in 2012, before Trump’s presidency, before fake news, before Russian interference in our democracy, before doctored videos that made Nancy Pelosi seem like a drunk, from a time when, nevertheless, half way into Obama’s two-term presidency, a vicious kind of divide was taking place, exacerbated by and made manifest in all social media platforms. In that moment, I was writing about a facebook fight that ensued between myself (a public classroom teacher) and a “friend” of mine who posted that school shootings were somehow the direct result of Americans falling away from religion.

I thought I had learned my lesson. I have, since 2012, been in the habit, when facebook friends of mine post something that makes me angry, rather than engaging in the faceless debate, of simply ignoring or de-friending them. It’s easy enough. But yesterday, when a facebook friend (who is not a close friend but a former peer from high school) posted a meme with the image of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accompanied by text seemingly attributed to her, text that she clearly has never uttered, text that, nonetheless, made her sound like an idiot, I felt compelled to respond. I responded. I said something to the effect that the meme was bullshit because AOC had never said the words the meme attributed to her: “Yes, we can land on the sun; we just have to go at night.” So, to unpack this a bit: the message, of course, inherent in the meme is not necessarily that AOC said this–but that if she were given the chance, she would have–because, you know, she is, after all, just a stupid waitress. This is unfair and inappropriate on so many levels, but that, I believe, is the gist of it. And there are lots of mouth breathers out there who would just mindlessly accept that the sentiment here is true. Additionally, and even more troublesome, there may be a number of slow-thinkers reading this meme who believe that AOC actually said these words, and thus, believe it provides proof of her lack of intelligence. This is the fake news–this is the propaganda so perniciously and easily spread throughout the web by an ideology that has no respect or regard for truth.

So I called out my high school friendly-acquaintance. He wrote back: it’s just a joke. I wrote back, how is this funny? He wrote back: get a sense of humor. I wrote back and thanked him for the sage advice. He wrote back: go ahead and unfriend me, then. Okay, but then, a couple of his buddies chime in. One says, to confirm the veracity of the meme, “AOC is a dumbass.” And then, some other guy, after calling me “bitchy,” says this: “Mike, I’m close. Come find me.” And I’m like, what the fuck does that mean?–but I didn’t post that. In fact, at that point, rather than unfriending or blocking the friend or any of his brilliant pals, I just decided to turn off notifications to the thread. I don’t know what that guy meant, but it seemed to me potentially threatening. It’s the grade school playground all over again. Someone disagrees with you? Threaten to beat them up. And here’s the thing that I would like these guys to understand, even though I have refused to further engage with any of them: I don’t care what your politics are. I DO care that your idea of political engagement is to post insulting and blatantly untrue memes about your opponents. I DO care that you take the time to articulate your criticisms of policy and politicians with substance, thoughtfulness, and above all, honesty. I went back to this thread today to see if anything else had happened there, and this is as substantive as it got: “Three words: green new deal. How stupid can you be?” Wow. I’m convinced, aren’t you? This guy has deemed stupid the green new deal–and me into the bargain. I am sufficiently put into my place. I can’t even begin to unpack the ridiculousness of this comment.

So the question, again, is this: is dialogue possible in this format? I am almost completely convinced that it is not. There’s a part of me that feels responsible for calling out bullshit when I see it, because that’s the ethical thing to do, and yet there is another part of me that does not have that kind of energy to invest, that believes that ultimately, any effort I make to ask people to explain their insane ideas will fall on deaf, dumb, and hostile ears.

It’s all kitty and puppy pictures from here on out.

 

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Filed under Culture, Politics

No, I Don’t Want Any Music With My Coffee

I recently posted on my facelift page about the weirdness of walking into a Starbucks for an iced latte on an early summer morning and finding at the counter next to the register the new album by Fiona Apple. I’ve grown pretty accustomed to seeing music for sale there; they’ve been doing it for years. But there’s something uncomfortable for me about seeing music that I want in my collection at my elbow while I make my coffee order.  The post I made on faceplant was simply the question: why am I weirded out by this?  Why should I be?  And since the new Fiona Apple album is one for which I feel not just a little bit of excitement, why didn’t I plunk down another 14 dollars right there on the spot so I could enjoy my latte and my Fiona at the very same time as I drove away in my car?  I don’t know.  I really don’t know.

And then I got two responses to my query which served as the inspiration for this blog entry.  One friend’s response echoed the question in the preceding paragraph and went sort of like this:  “What’s wrong with buying music at Starbucks?  I do it from time to time and feel absolutely no weirdness.” And the other friend’s response was a link to an article that essentially answered all of the questions above.  Sort of.  Here’s the title of said article: “The Starbuck Brandscape and Consumers’ (Anticorporate) Experiences of Glocalization.” It was co-written by Craig J. Thompson and Zeynep Arsel, the piece was published in 2004 by the Journal of Consumer Research, and the bald-faced truth is that I understood very little of it. But I understood enough of it, as they say, to make me dangerous, enough of it, I’d like to think, to help me explain to myself and anybody else who might be interested WHY I got the heebie jeebies seeing Fiona Apple for sale at Starbucks.

To begin with, I’ve got milling around in my head what the authors of this article call “The Anti-Starbucks Discourse,” meaning that I share with a lot of folks certain criticisms of the Starbucks corporate enterprise. Whether because of infamous business practices, the exorbitant prices, the quality of the product, or the sense of the manufactured, 100% calculated experience of the environment,  there’s to begin with a certain amount of self-doubt and guilt when I buy coffee there as opposed to frequenting the independent or the local–which I used to ALWAYS do when I lived closer to the independent and the local.  Convenience has brought me back into the Starbucks fold against my better judgements. And then, feeling a bit sheepish to begin with about just being there, I see Fiona Apple’s new cd staring out at me from the counter.  Fiona seems to be saying, “It’s all right.  It’s all good.  Look, I’m here.  And you like me.  Why can’t you like the rest of it?”  It’s pure genius on the part of the PR people at the helm of this monolithic corporate enterprise, this strategy of fooling me into believing that, within this massive business structure, the local, no, the individual cultural interests are maintained and honored here.  Hence: “Glocalization.” For me, in Milwaukie, Oregon, there’s nothing “local” about Fiona Apple.  But there is something fiercely independent, individualistic about her, weird, eclectic, anti-establishment, personal, all things I value–for sale in a place that epitomizes what I don’t value: homogeneity, sterility, conformity, consistency–in the Emersonian sense:  “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. . .”

And this, I guess, is what weirds me out: the dichotomous feeling of patronizing an establishment at once sell-out and full of hipster credibility, at once representative of predatory corporate greed and independent spirit and experimentation, an establishment homogenous and conformist staffed by young, tattooed, pierced, multi-color hair-doed baristas.

I can’t buy Fiona Apple’s new album there.  It would seem, somehow, sacrilegious, wrong, and forced–yes, forced, because I bet that music sales at Starbucks are almost entirely 100% compulsive purchases.  No one says or thinks, “Fiona Apple’s new record was released today; let me go down to Starbucks and pick that baby up.”  No one says or thinks that.  Instead, they say, “I want coffee.  Oh my god, look, there’s Fiona’s new record.  I want that, too.  Let me buy it now along with my coffee.”  And that, for some whacky reason according to Michael Jarmer, is no good.  Let us buy coffee when we are thirsty for coffee.  And let us buy music when we are thirsty for that–and let us be okay with transporting ourselves in whatever way we can to a place that specializes in the medium.  Let’s go to the local coffee shop for coffee, and the local record store for records.  Then all is right in the world.

 

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Filed under Culture, Music