Archive for the 'Philosophy' Category

The Disconnected Life

October 30, 2009

I’ve come to ponder the movement among we Internet savvy and our obsession with online networking. More and more, connecting through the Internet has become a social norm. Venues like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and other sites have given people access to friends and family and complete strangers all over the globe with a simple click of a button (or touch of the screen for you iPhone people). It is an ever-present obsession, and yes, it is an obsession (one that I readily admit I have fallen prey to – and most likely, if you are reading this, you have, too). I know my examination of this quandary presents nothing new to those of you who were the founding members of MySpace, who have 784 followers on Twitter and 361 friends on Facebook and keep up with your very own swell of blogs. “Duh, like, where have you been?”


Good question; one that I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. I have avidly poured myself into blogging and staying connected online for various reasons (my book, my career, my need to indulge in the latest-and-greatest, juicy gossip, my desire to keep in touch with many near and dear people who live too far away to see/talk to on a regular basis and my acceptance of the fact that sometimes there is just nothing better for an occasional insomniac to do at 3 o’clock in the morning), and anymore, me without my laptop and joe just isn’t me at all. In fact, I practically live to share my latest thoughts with hundreds (or thousands) of other cyber companions. Sometimes I network to entertain, sometimes I do it to pass the time, sometimes it’s the closest thing to connecting with a friend that I can find. THAT’S what got my noggin’ throbbin’. I have friends & family (and a dog), I go out, I meet people – I have a very rich social life, and yet, I find myself entrapped by these online social networks that I have come to know as my own.

“So what?” I easily dismiss. “I have my reasons. I am not OBBSESSED.”

Puleeze! We all know that I am. The Internet has become my adulthood pacifier. I don’t think I could live without it.

Remember that scene in The Truman Show when Truman exits his ready-made life into the real word, and all of his loyal (obsessed) followers cheering him on are suddenly faced with a void they had not known in a long time? It was as if they had all waken from a coma, lost for a moment in their surroundings as if they had never really looked because the whole time they had been living vicariously through Truman. The void Truman’s followers faced was THEIR existence and what it had become (or not become) in the real world while they were busy following Truman on TV.

Will I one day suffer such a rude awakening, too? I’d like to think not.

However, it is a frightening prospect to consider while pondering the scope of what online networking has become; we may be alive; but who of us are really living? Just how deep are some of us sucked in? How many of us have fallen into a make-believe world where our friends are icons on the screen and we laugh alone at jokes and comments that should have been shared over dinner or drinks, but instead are buried as encrypted 1’s and 0’s in the social-cyber web we weave? How many of us turn to the Internet for companionship because we don’t know what else to do with ourselves? How many spend countless hours blogging and tweeting and tagging online each and every day?

I think we are all a little guilty of succumbing to the lure of online networking and the opportunities it doth offer – A chance to reconnect with long lost friends? A chance to lead a double life? A chance to meet people who aren’t privy to the skeletons in our closets? A chance to expose a few skeletons to others who understand? A chance to belong?

Whatever the reason we are initially drawn to join an online network, it seems that more and more, these cyber communities have become a preferred place to exist. It’s convenient, it’s uncommitted, seemingly “safe” and it can even be anonymous if you so choose. Previous college roommates can catch up on old times and soccer mom’s can chat with unregistered sex offenders all in one big, happy network. Shiggle my giggles, it’s GREAT!

Or is it? At what point does the appeal of online networking take priority over everyday interaction with peers? Anymore, it seems people prefer to trade passing smiles with loved ones for typing smiley faces on a monitor and laughing with friends at lunch for “LOL.” So why do we do it? Do we hide behind our online personas because we fear the social stigmas presented by flesh and bone? Are we trying to avoid the ridicule we may face for who we are, what we do, how we dress, what we eat? Do we prefer the abandonment of commitment cyber networks offer, allowing us to “catch up” with people at our leisure over the burden of a real-time friend calling at one in the morning because her boyfriend dumped her and she’s in desperate need of a real shoulder to cry on? Do we prefer the opportunity to make known our thoughts without regard for the consequences our words may befall? Is it a façade we can hide behind when given the opportunity to fabricate a new existence in which everything comes at face value, because no one knows (or cares to know) otherwise?

“The world is your oyster! Its name is Facebook…”

Oh the Web that weaves us!


J’taime Ze Frank: Ze Frank throws a tea party

September 24, 2009
Photo courtesy of Ze Franks Last.FM page.

Photo courtesy of Ze Frank's Last.FM page.

Via TIME Online…

Ze Frank Throws A Tea Party

I appeal to you again, Ze Frank, please come to SF and whisk me away to your land of awesome funny poltical commentary… please?  I LURVE you.

Taking the high road is hard…

September 22, 2009

Sigh.  I know I said that the blog was on break until 1 October, but this is a post which needs to be made right now.

I finally had to draw the line with Bonnie Bowes and Ben Acevedo, (the authors of the TFC,) and send cease and desist letters to them via email and snail mail.  They crossed multiple lines in posting about me and I was encouraged to put my foot down by multiple people who care about me.  The thought was/is that if I just continued to ignore them, after they clearly violated my privacy and clearly violated copyrighted works, that I would be as complicit in what they were doing as I would be if I continued to interact with them either on this blog or the TFC.

So, I tried to resolve the issue privately by sending cease and desist emails to them, imploring them to take my content and personal information down.  Of course this set them off and they republished my emails on their blog.  Which – frankly – made me see red for a bit, as it’s very frustrating to try to approach a problem reasonably, only to have the individuals you’re trying to open dialog with respond irrationally.  But, after confering with people much wiser than I am (both in my private and professional life) I was reminded that I know that I cannot control the behavior of others, I can only control how I react to it.

I have to say, that the siege that these two former friends have launched on me since mid-summer is exhausting, both physically and emotionally.  They have worn me out to the point where I don’t care what they say about me 99% of the time, I just do not have the energy to deal with it.  To be completely honest: I moved out of the apartment with Bonnie to get away from her and from Ben and from the toxic friendships I had with them both and to cleanse myself of the toxicity of the people who I was surrounded by when they were part of my immediate life.  It is my own fault that I have allowed them to continue to have a presence in my life and while I am frustrated that I cannot disengage with them six months out from having walked away from them, I firmly believe that I am meant to learn something from this situation.

I have not behaved as my higher self and I have made a lot of mistakes in dealing with this situation.  Whatever those lessons are, I am learning them and dealing with it.  I will not put up with their behavior any further and I will not sink to their level again.  Sending the cease and desist letters is my line in the sand and if it is crossed again, I will not discuss it or react to what they have done in public, I will simply act upon it in private.  Period.  The time for bullshit and juvenile behavior has passed, there are some things which are simply unacceptable to me and I will not tolerate anyone behaving as such towards me. Read the rest of this entry »

More on YOYOW…

September 17, 2009

No commentary from me on this, just a link to this great article from Ars Technia.

Not-so-anonymous speech: how to get yourself un-masked online

You Own Your Own Words

September 11, 2009
Come out from behind the pixels, please...

Come out from behind the pixels, please...

I had an interesting interaction in Laurel Bookstore today.

I was picking up a copy of A Wrinkle In Time that I ordered for a particular seven year-old I know and while I was there I asked the lovely young thing working behind the counter if she’d order a copy of She’s Such A Geek for me, as I seem to have lost the one I had.

Actually, I know exactly where it is, I loaned it to a former friend who now writes an anonymous blog about me.

Anyhow, the young thing working behind the counter had not heard of this book and given how much I love it, I felt compelled to extol on its’ virtues to her.  She then asked me if I loved it so much, why I didn’t have a copy already and I told her that I’d lost it, but needed to get a new copy because I’m using it as a resource for the book I’m writing.

The man in line behind me, who was purchasing the NYT (always a good sign), asked me what my book was going to be about.

“Online drama,” I said, turning to face him, “Both that that I’ve created and that which others have created and why it is that so many people subsitute social networking for a social life these days.”

He lit up like a Christmas tree at this statement and said, “Oh really!?!  What do you think about the blogger in New York who wrote an anonymous blog calling that model a ‘skank’ and then got upset when Google revealed her name to the person she’d been slandering?”

I just smiled at him and said, “Oh, I believe that you have to ‘own your own words,’ I don’t believe in Internet anonymity – I think that people should be held accountable for what they say online.'”

He nodded with me and smiled, bought his NYT and we parted ways.

It was a nice exchange, it made me happy.

Lemme ‘Splain:
The phrase “You Own Your Own Words” was first coined by Stewart Brand when he founded The Well community 1985 and the definition of this phrase has been debated by its members for decades.

The most accepted concept is that in community situations, the poster owns their own words and the community cannot be held liable for the bad behavior of its’ members.

What it means to me is this: Stand by what you write and do online, or don’t write or do it.

Basically, I do not believe that Internet anonymity should be allowed.  I write under my own name or aliases which are clearly connected to my real name. I stand behind everything I say, do or create online.  I equally take the praise and criticism for those acts and think that other people should do the same.

Here is why: Anonymity online allows people to behave in ways they’d never behave if people knew who it was that was actually writing the offensive or questionable material.  By getting rid of Internet anonymity or anonymous posting, you could systematically eliminate almost ALL cyberbullying, harassment, trolling and spamming because there would be online and real life consequences for bad behavior.

Sadly, it is near impossible to create a mechanism to moderate the entire Internet in a real way that could even begin to make a dent in identifying anon users.

And, there are some constructive political arguments for not banhammering anonymous posting or userids in a number of mediums – such as the situation from this past June in which political protesters in Terhan were using Twitter to report what was actually happening during the violent protests that started after election foul was called in the Iranian presiential election…

Those arguments are good ones and I agree with those precepts of anonymity.  But, in 99% of cases I think that anonymous posting should not be allowed… Because people are relying on not being identified to allow them to behave like assholes.

I digress.

Since there is no mechanism to force people to be upfront and honest on these here innerwebz, I choose to practice what I preach and I believe wholly in YOYOW.

The Well was a seminal online community which really defined ALL online communities from message boards to virtual worlds to blog communities.  And, Stewart Brand is a fucking genius.  Attention should be paid.  Which is why I believe, also, in outting people who behave badly online… Making them be accountable for their own words.  Perhaps it’s a bit aggressive, but it’s what I believe and what I do.