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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Are We Maybe All Connected Just A Little Too Much?

The Lede

Sometimes when I’m driving I turn off the radio and listen to my inner monologue. Unless some jackass is driving 18 miles an hour below the posted speed limit, my inner monologue is far more interesting than anything else I subject myself to. Plus, it’s always a good idea to check in with my brain to see what the hell is going on up there.

We’re All Going to Die (If I Have Anything to Say About It)

It's a dark and lugubrious day here on the western reaches of the Jersey Shore. A good old fashioned March nor'easter is bearing down on us and even though there will likely be problems for some people on the immediate shore because of the diminished sand and dune protection after Hurricane Sandy – harsh winds and rain/snow happen here this time of year. The only unusual thing this year is the vulnerability of people on the immediate coast.

And the PTSD.

Back in January we had a coastal storm (that’s what happens on the coast, you get coastal storms), and people got on edge very quickly. The edginess was also prodded along by the social media news reporters who are in a desperate race to be the first person to break a disaster, whether they're right or not. On the evening of the storm, the Facebook status of a fire company on the barrier island breathlessly reported:
The ocean has breached in Ortley Beach.
While the ocean did in fact breach, anyone with any functional memory would know that cuts in the dune line are a normal part of life on the Shore. Of course, the 979 people who “Like” this fire company assumed the worse, especially since it came from an “official” government agency. At its best, reporting this the way it was done was irresponsible without some perspective. At its worst, this kind of social media fear-mongering and reporting plays right into the fears and pain of people who are still trying to get their heads around what happened here last October.

As we brace for another blow this morning, the social media outlets of fear and hopelessness are once again giving the main stream corporate media a run for their money in the doom department. Weather experts are positing the destruction to come while their followers ask exactly how much snow will fall on their block and whether they should pick Dakota up early from after-care or just let her spend the night at school.

Now I Talk About Myself In High School

I had three friends in high school. I knew about a thousand people, but 997 of them were either indifferent or engaged in full-blown loathing of me. I hated high school – every minute of it – and I wasn’t too fond of college either. In fact most of my twenties sucked and my thirties were hardly a treat. Since you asked, my forties were not much better and now that I am closing in on my mid-fifties I’m wistfully looking back on the good old days. Yet, in spite of how miserable I am to be around, I am more popular now than ever.

Let’s look at the Venn Diagram of the average adult on social media:

What the Hell Does Your Miserable High School Experience Have To Do With the Weather in New Jersey?

Well, I checked my Facebook account this morning. Here’s what I saw:

  • Weather alerts about our impending doom – 21
  • A band or somebody hawking something – 10
  • Political post I agreed with – 6
  • A personal status I had no idea the meaning of – 5
  • Sarcasm – 4
  • Memes designed to make me cry – 3
  • Legitimate bulletin from a legitimate news service – 3
  • A personal status I didn’t connect to – 3
  • A personal status I connected to – 3
  • Memes designed to make me care about something I don’t care about – 3
  • A meme designed to make me feel all warm and fuzzy – 2
  • A meme with no meaning at all – 2
  • Miscellaneous – 2
  • Birthday of someone I don’t know – 2
  • Food / interesting dining-related experience – 2
  • A political post I disagreed with – 2
  • Puppies – 1
  • A complaint about something disguised as a witty comment – 1
  • Kitties – 1
  • A HIGH SCORE! – 1
  • A status in a foreign language – 1
  • Vacation photos that just made me feel bad because they’re not mine – 1
  • Status I empathized / sympathized with – 1
I suspect your Facebook timeline is similarly populated. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy social media socializing, and I am certainly guilty of every type of post up there (except puppies and kitties). But, between the corporate media telling me that the sequester is going to cancel all of my plans, unless the Global Warming does it first, and the connection I have to everyone’s personal business, I’m beginning to miss the good old days when a friend of mine refused to give me his cell phone number to prevent me from calling him and running his bill up.

My point

Maybe we're all just a little too connected to disaster, cancer, catastrophe, puppies, politics, what I ate for dinner at P.F. Chang’s last night and how rude my server was, the obligation of wishing me a virtual birthday lest I think you’re really not my friend, and all of the other assorted stuff we spend our time on nowadays.

With the constant bombardment of bad news social media subjects us to, plus the fact that I can easily look at my horrible ex-wife’s ten year old profile picture whenever I want, maybe it’s too much connection. In my daily life of suckiness, things are ultimately not that bad, but good gosh-o-rama at the end of the day I can’t help but feel dragged down by everybody else’s misery.

To those of you about to unfriend me because you are taking this column personally: Wait! Stop! I enjoy the connections I've made (and the stuff I don’t enjoy I block anyway). It's better than walking the halls of my high school wondering why every girl I meet thinks I'm okay, but you know, ewwww, not okay in that way. I am interested in what people are doing, but sometimes I fear I may be too interested in the lives of others at the expense of my own reality.

I don’t know about you, but my low-functioning intellect only has so much room for stuff, and the stuff I'm putting in there isn’t helping me much.

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