Monday, November 28, 2016

One thing we can do is exert control over our digital environments. Should be easy enough, right? We create them, maintain them, visit them daily.

How is it, then, that a simple social network can turn into such a raging sh*theap?

It brings to mind what Anil Dash said during a keynote speech at a conference in Vancouver last year. "If your comments section is full of assholes, it's your fault." He's right.

When it comes to news, it's not healthy to trim and clip your sources of input until there is no dissonance. You should hear bad news. You should be exposed to ideas you don't agree with. But one piece of the equation that gets left out, or that people are afraid to include, is that news should also be true. There's a difference between news and commentary, and it's up to every citizen to be able to tell the difference. Because the folks peddling misinformation sure aren't going to tell you.

But unlike the in-flow of news, a social network is what you want it to be. Even if that means it's nothing.

I love Twitter. I feel I have rich and meaningful interactions and in-flow there. Facebook, on the other hand, has never felt good. The whole friend thing just rings so hollow. And it is so easy to succumb to argument and flaming and get baited into dumb discussions and exhibit generally bad behavior.

It should be ok to unfriend people. It should be ok to go there once a month or year if I feel like it. It should be ok to not get an invitation or a notice because you didn't see it on Facebook because you don't go there.

Here's me exerting control. I intend for that control to include more frequent use of this blog. And of Twitter, and of other more direct connection with people whose ideas and conduct I admire. Because that is how to attain peace of mind, I believe. To tune out from that which does not help or strengthen you, to let go of that which drains you. To find meaning in art and nature, and only check in on politics as necessary.

(Thanks to Jeff Eaton, from whom I stole the toilet fire icon.)

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

This state of mourning

Today is a day of mourning for the soul of this nation. What it was a week ago is dead, what is left is under attack, and that attack will go on for years with tacit approval from a near majority of Americans.

Make no mistake: Something good died yesterday. Progressive changes over the last 60-70 years now stand to be undone. Cultural norms have shifted decades in reverse, and it's now not only okay but a sign of power and success to demean and insult those who are different or even inconvenient to you. Bullying is laudable. Cheating is smart. Getting mine is a guiding light.

There's another thing to be said, too, and this is the hardest thing. This election WAS about race, and about gender, and about whether we as a people could tolerate continuing on the progressive (not PERFECT, but steadily improving) path that we have been on. Marriage rights, gender income equity, civil rights, and on and on. These things hang in the balance.

Lots of people are saying that this isn't about race or gender, that everyone who voted for Trump is not a racist or homophobe or misogynist. But, isn't that worse? To not fall into these categories, which means by default that  you understand that these things are wrong and even repugnant, but to still cast a vote for President of the United States of America for someone who is explicitly and grandly and by his own definition all of these things? Isn't that worse?

The meanest but most obvious truth is that for the most part, the people saying they are not these things actually are these things. You know it, I know it, they know it. They're in our offices, in our neighborhoods, in our families. And we have to deal with this. I do not know how to do that anymore. I'll have to figure that one out, because right now I just don't see it.

I'm saying them and us. Us and them. It is a fact that this nation is divided. We've spent the last 8 years trying to Yes We Can our way out of that division. I was right there with you. That time is over now. Best to take this in, acknowledge reality, define your "us" and get on with your new life. Work hard and take care of your people and protect those who need it from those who would do them harm.

I don't know what to do, so I will take it step by step and do what I can. I'm staying the hell off of Facebook. Staying close to my wife and son. Working hard for causes I believe in, for people who will suffer under Trump in ways that I, a straight married middle aged white guy, will not. We'll be ok--but not everyone will, and we need to remember that.

I'll find a new center, new outlets, new meaning in art, get outside more, read more, hug my kid more. And I'll wait for reason to return.