Hate in a Digital World

Despite how exhausting the 2016 election cycle was in this regard, I continue to be fascinated by the effect of social media on interpersonal relations, something I wrote about a little bit in 2012 when I deleted my Facebook account, in 2014 about the intimidation of professional Twitter, with respect to activism in 2015.

I stand by most of what I wrote before, about the ways in which social media is performative (there is an entire genre of Instagram posts comparing posed and “natural” pictures), is intimidating even when interacting with well-meaning enthusiasts, and isolating. I would revise my assessment of its role on friendship, something I was reminded of this week in light of a thread on Twitter. The general point, since this is not my main focus here, is that when there is a reciprocal interest, social media and other forms of digital communication are an immense boon to friendship. The catch is that reciprocity is foundational, so while it has allowed me to maintain several friendships with people who I have only seen in person once or twice in a decade, many others have withered as one or both sides in the relationship have lapsed. This is not explicitly the fault of social media—people have busy lives and many other responsibilities—but I think Facebook and other social media sites that give the appearance of intimacy make it easier for people to not put in the work to maintain relationships.

Like a lot of people, I have been impressed with the high school students from Florida and elsewhere in the country organizing marches and keeping up the pressure on issues such as gun control. Their ability to sustain pressure online is the one thing that gives me hope that this time, in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting might result in change. Not immediately, and probably not enough, but something.

On the other side of the equation is this:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

As the Twitter user mentions in subsequent tweets, the origin of this photoshopped image could well be a Russian troll farm, but it still has its intended effect. This and the issue of privacy, brought again into public discourse by the revelations about Cambridge Analytica, are the legacies of the first two decades of social networking.

The features of the internet that were meant to bring about an enlightened, educated populace and connect people have done that. There is more information on many more topics on Wikipedia than there ever were in the old, lacunate collection of hardbound Encyclopedia Britannica’s I pored through as a child. Sure, it might not have the same specific figures for the size of the East German army as in EB, but in terms of breadth, depth, and (if you know how to look) granularity of the information online, even just counting the content that isn’t behind paywalls, is astounding. News travels at an incredible pace, though rumor still travels faster. The diversity of voices and ability to communicate online is remarkable.

And yet, these same features have their perversions. Falsehood, rumor, myth, and propaganda abound, reinforced and socialized in niche communities. The intersection of the intimate and the impersonal are particularly insidious in this respect. Beyond even the fact that it is easy to attack someone anonymously, the tools of the internet make it easier to attack someone for several reasons.

1. It is possible to see someone like David Hogg as a social media avatar rather than as an individual. He is a face to an issue, not a person expressing one. Besides, if everyone is performing to some extent online, then who is to say that school shooting victims aren’t actors?

2. There is the impersonal nature of the internet. Not only is it easier to attack someone who you will never meet, but it is also easier to caricature or otherwise other them.

3. It is easier to engage with a partial or corrupted versions of ideas rather than their entirety. This happens on all sides; I know I have been guilty of falling for fake Twitter accounts or buying a misleading headline of an article that I didn’t read.

4. This is always the case, but the acceptance of a truth is the responsibility of the beholder. Some facts are more verifiable than others, but accepted truth is just that: a social consensus that is usually based on a deference to authority. With an abundance of information and misinformation online, anything and everything might be regarded as “Fake News.”

Here is the thing: none of this is new. Each of these forms of slander and misinformation has been used against people for as long as there has been communication. For instance, portraying your opponent as an “other” (the more grotesque the better) is a common feature of anti-Jewish, Bolshevik, Irish, and German iconography. Partial truths and outlandish fabrications fill the pages of ancient texts. Some of these come from cultural misunderstandings and curiosities, some from deliberate propaganda, and some out of simple malice. These stories have been the justification for slavery and the cause of wars.

What has changed, in my opinion, is how easy the internet has made the transmission of information. In other words, hate in the digital age is not new. It a cancerous mutation of old problem.

Social Network Activism

Whenever I mention that I’ve been off Facebook since 2012 people remark that it sounds like I am talking about a drug. It is perhaps better for me to refer to this as the date when I deleted my Facebook account, but they mean fundamentally the same thing and part of my problem with my experience with Facebook was my own inability to tear myself away from that morass. Regardless, I have not had a Facebook account since July 2012, more than three years ago. This may sound like an addict repeating a mantra in hopes that someday it comes true, but I don’t miss Facebook and, most days, don’t even give it much thought. I have my Twitter, which keeps me up to date on the world at large, keeps me entertained, and hits all of the buttons in my brain that drew me to Facebook. I miss some people, but I would miss many of them if I had a Facebook account.

The purpose of Facebook when it started was to eliminate the barriers between people and make communication easier; I maintained in 2012 that it only did this superficially and while I stand by that statement, my problems with the site now are that it hits just the right balance of ubiquity, accessibility, and performance so as to encourage its use to organize events. For those people with Facebook accounts, I am sure this works wonderfully. For people without Facebook this frequently results in being left out of the loop, usually with a perfunctory, “oh, right, you’re not on Facebook,” by way of explanation. The prospect of a world of communication taking place on this space that I voluntarily excused myself from does not bother me, but it is socially alienating in the sense that perhaps having an account could result in invitations to physical events. But this is generally just a little frustrating.

The past few years have seen a rise in (and exponentially more complaints about “slacktivism,” or activism that requires no more energy than signing a petition or saying something online. I’m indifferent to these and tend to skip the events, but there is something to what might be termed “snactivism” or activism that takes place principally on social networks.

Recent events at the University of Missouri have seen a lot of the graduate students organizing, with one of the cornerstones of the frustration being an active social media campaign on Twitter using the hashtags “#GradsDo” “#GradRights” and “#GradInsurance.” The movement was sparked when the university pulled graduate student health insurance to comply with a 2013 IRS ruling based on HHS definitions, and told faculty and graduate students about the change with just thirteen hours notice before it expired. This was in the wake of decisions and SNAFUs that directly hinder graduate student research and place increased financial demands on graduate students who make next to nothing already. The response was loud and immediate, with there being a walkout and rally on campus today. The movement itself is important, but is not what I am interested in here. In addition to the Twitter and Youtube campaigns to express frustration, the movement has utilized Facebook to organize, plan, and disseminate information. I am not surprised that this happened since most people have an account and it is cheaper to use this resource than it is to send mass emails using the school lists, but I still maintain that the biggest piece of the scandal on the part of the University of Missouri was the utter lack of communication about any of the decisions, so there is some irony that a certain segment of people are left out of most communication regarding the activism, needing to go out of their way to find it and being prohibited from contributing the conversation.

This is not slacktivism, but snactivism has its own limitations because there are barriers to information available on Facebook to people without accounts. For their part, many of the Mizzou grad students involved in organization have been good about sharing information and events and there are usually Twitter links to developments. Nevertheless, there have been several times where I have had that same “are you going/what/right that message was on Facebook” exchange which is at the least off putting. And I cannot help but think that this setup is exactly how M. Zuckerberg designed it.

Social Networking II: The Twitter

Just about two years ago I deleted my Facebook account with the declaration that, from my perspective, it had failed. I do miss its convenience for contacting people whose phone numbers or emails I do not have readily available and am disappointed by the occasional missed invitation (the “oh right, you’re not on Facebook” by way of apology gets old quickly), but gchat has replaced Facebook chat and my life is improved having rid myself of that attachment.

With Twitter I get all the aspects of Facebook I liked, with none of the annoyances. By using Twitter clients I’ve even mostly managed to avoid the “new layout” angst. In particular, I find the micro-blogging more conducive to mixing work, hobbies, social commentary, and jokes. I also prefer it as a platform for sharing links despite–or perhaps because of–the limited space for commentary.

At its best, Twitter is a place where I can share my love of food, sports, history, and literature with like-minded people, including those I know offline and those who I respect, but who I have not yet met in person. I’ve also had discussions about ancient sources and topics that have proven valuable in my own work. On the other end of the spectrum, Twitter takes on the worst aspects of demagoguery, leading to all manner of harassment both for good and for ill, and sometimes for both simultaneously.

But more than its penchant for channeling outrage, I’ve recently been having a second problem with Twitter: its intensity. As I was with Facebook, I am too capable of simply watching the world flit by on Twitter instead of doing my own work, let alone going out into the world and thus being limited by whatever there is around me. This escapism also prompts me to frequently reopen the Twitter page when it is closed, sometimes for fear of missing out on whatever aphorism, quip, or thought has just been posted, but more often because I am struggling to write or read whatever I am working through at that moment. Unlike Facebook, though, I am much better at closing down Twitter and coming back to it at more regulated intervals and accepting that I am not missing anything important in doing so. Still, this aspect of Twitter is less time-intensive (at least for me) than Facebook was.

What I mean by intensity is that many people I follow have crafted erudite and intelligent professional personae on Twitter and tweet with passion about professional matters from their current writing projects, to the articles or sources they read and recommend, to thoughts about the academy. In isolation, this is a good thing and when my own work is progressing to my satisfaction, I am encouraged to see such a positive and enthusiastic community on social networks–and, in my experience, it is an incredibly positive and supportive group of people on Twitter. The problem is that when it seems that my own progress has stagnated, the same positive and enthusiastic community becomes intimidating. A swarm of Care Bears, puppies, or kittens remains a swarm, particularly if one appears, solipsistically, to be on the outside of the given group.

There appear to be two root causes of this dissatisfaction above and beyond the frustration with my own work. The first is that I do not use Twitter as an exclusively professional medium, but one that brings together a variety of aspects of my life, a fact that make me feel like a dilettante rather than a scholar. The second returns to the idea of a swarm. Everyone has periods where they do not write as much as they would like, if only because most go through periods where the immediate demands of teaching and grading cut into writing time, but, because there are one or two hundred scholars whose social media personae I follow, there is a constant stream of positive information about research in progress. Very often, I find the torrent a source of motivation and encouragement. The problem is that when the current ceases to be uplifting, I find it entirely overwhelming and I am further paralyzed.

I do not foresee myself deleting my Twitter account anytime soon. Rather, I noticed an ebb and flow of my own activity, writing here on my personal blog and production of pages on my dissertation and a correlation with my enthusiasm for and activity on Twitter. Twitter does not cause the ebb, but neither does it always inspire a rebound.

Assorted Links

  1. Defense Nerds Strike BackAt Wired, there was a symposium on the Battle of Hoth (from the Empire Strikes Back, awhere contributors analyzed the battle as though it was a historical event. My favorite contribution, though was by Tim Burke, The Longue Duree of the Galactive Empire, wherein he talks about Hoth as a particularly well known, but otherwise unremarkable example of a recurring type of event in the Star Wars Universe.

    ”Treating the Rebellion as a privileged mode of dissent in an era when many other systems and social classes were in other ways ‘slipping through the fingers’ of the Coruscant metropole is itself granting too much credit to a ragtag band of avidly self-promoting malcontents.”

  2. Quitters Never Win– An article on the Atlantic about the pitfalls of leaving social media. The author specifically addresses recent articles advising or giving strategies for opting out of Facebook and he is right to a point. Not being on Facebook does cut you out of opportunities for “self-expression,” and it is true that most of the security concerns about Facebook in contrast to other social outlets are overblown, that many of the strategies for hiding important information are self-defeating, and that an increasing amount of social planning (even for academic events) is going through Facebook. What he doesn’t address is the veneer of proximity that lulls people into a false sense of connectivity and intimacy, a feeling that I miss sometimes, but that also left me with a deep sense of disquiet. Then there was the amount of idle time spent on Facebook and my frustrations with some of the heavy handed changes Facebook was making.

    That being said, the author tries to use the example of Facebook as to why you shouldn’t quit any social media sites, and the same concerns on those other media sites as to why you should not quit Facebook. It sounds nice and, like I said, true to a point, but it is also overly simplistic.

  3. The Geography of Happiness– A study of vocabulary from Twitter charts happiness by state. Certainly there is more that could be done to substantiate the findings (as the article points out), but it provides food for thought.
  4. New Book Traces the Education of Adolf Hitler– There is a new history (in German) the examines the period in Hitler’s life between the end of the first world war and his political involvement.

Assorted Links

  1. We the Aggrieved– An essay on Inside Higher Ed about the partisan nature of this election and how “tribal” anything political has become. The author focuses on how both sides have been playing up the victim card.
  2. Like: Facebook and Shadenfreude– An article in the Paris Review that discusses one of the many issues with Facebook, namely that it does not distinguish between types of sharing, but rather categorizes all sharing as a positive experience. The author examines some of her own experiences on Facebook and discusses the triviality of the sharing and witnessing frustrating and heartbreak in others, more or less concluding that Facebook did not make her happier. I agree with most of her article, though it is also shallow on a few levels, including that she (evidently) has no plans to change her behavior vis a vis Facebook, and deals with some of the larger social implications of the online life in a tangential way.
  3. Two words: working wifi– A portrait of modern life–people huddled around a closed Starbucks, likely in order to use the free wi-fi.
  4. Chris Christie, Your Future President, Sandy Edition– Charlie Pierce at Esquire’s Politics Blog suggests that (by merely doing the right thing in terms of hurricane relief, ironically) Chris Christie is reaffirming his credentials as the early favorite to win the 2016 election. All he has done is praise the president’s leadership, take responsibility for disaster relief in his state, and tell people to get lost when they ask about politics.
  5. A Trip Through Hell: Daily Life in Islamist Controlled North Mali– A story in Spiegel by a German reporter who got permission to visit Northern Mali and see what hte condions were like under Ansar Dine rule. He suggests that there is growing popular unrest against the Islamic group which one of the people he interviews characterizes as a group of adolescents. Interestingly, one of the activists interviewed is female.
  6. Sandy zeigt, wie marode Amerikas Infrastruktur ist – From Joe, an article in German about the ailing nature of infrastructure in the United States. The article claims that nearly all infrastructure systems (power grid, roads, bridges, dams, ports, airports) are a problem, both susceptible to storms like Sandy, but also to more typical weather conditions. Of course, not modernizing the infrastructure will merely cost more money and hinder the economy in the long run (not unlike healthcare). The article does not cover every infrastructure issue I have with the US, but it also called attention to a few I had not considered, including that many ports may be too small to accommodate new generations of container ships.

Assorted Links

A few things that piqued my interest.

1. Why I deleted my Facebook account – An essay that echoes many of my own sentiments and articulates a few of the major issues I had that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

2. Writing by Hand: The Lost Art – Another op-ed about writing by hand, particularly noting that more and more students seem to be putting the onus on the teacher to decipher illegible handwriting, rather than making sure their writing is legible. She raises some interesting points, and I have expressed at least some of my views on this issue here, though I was responding to a scientific article about the hand as a a way of linking writing to tactile processes in education. I generally agree with this essay, though I generally think that she is harping on some of the (relatively) superficial consequences of weakened [sic] handwriting, and overlooking something more fundamental.

3. Taliban commander: we cannot win war and al-Qaida is a ‘plague– An interviewed senior Taliban commander admitted that the insurgents are unlikely to ever win back Kabul and that most members of the Taliban are angry with al-Qaida, saying that Osama bin Laden contributed to destroying Afghanistan and that if he truly believed in Jihad, he would have gone to Saudi Arabia.

4. Grading and Its Discontents – A post on the Chronicle of Higher Education about what grades actually stand for and how there is a fundamental misunderstanding, largely on the part of students, as to what is being measured, what needs to be improved, and how to approach their grades.

Seems like a light stretch for me; anyone else see anything good?

Social Networking

Facebook has failed. I joined the site in 2004, my freshman year of college and it was the thing to do. Facebook offered a platform through which you could stay in touch with hundreds of people at a glance–status updates, relationships, links, and so on. It also offered game and applications. This was–and, according to many people, still is–the wave of the future. This medium epitomizes the information age. An age that, for better and for worse, is the one we live in. And the promise is this: the world comes closer together, information passes nearly instantaneously and there is a constant stream of data.1

The information are is wireless, too. Today, before writing this, I took a walk in Central Park and saw multiple people sitting in groups with their Macbooks out. I am hardly exempt–hardly would I let three minutes go by without pulling out my cellphone to see if new texts had arrived in one of a half-dozen ongoing conversations. Now, though, I am sitting at a bar called Earl’s,2 writing with pen and paper about and for the internet.

One of the primary concerns in this internet, information age is privacy, and this has been true with Facebook since its inception. This, however, is not my primary concern with social networking. In fact, I consider this a fundamental trade off of the internet. I am somewhat selected about what and where I post and comment, but neither am I going to stop using my gmail, google search, or any of the sites that hold contact and personal information about me. In order for me to use the internet, I feel that I have to sacrifice something and put my information into the hands of anonymous entities which–I hope–have more interest in keeping that information secure than in selling it.3 This is an entirely rational trade off and (though this might be naive) not something that I can envision an alternative to. Thus, the privacy concerns are not where I believe that Facebook has failed.

The failure of Facebook–and, by extension, all social media–is that in the pursuit of bringing the world closer together, it has actually served to dehumanize socialization.4

Before launching into my critique, allow me to eulogize social networking. Social Networking sites do provide an excellent database of personal and contact information and since they have wide visitation, they are a wonderful platform for event planning. Likewise they provide an excellent place to share and spread links because the sites are designed such that anything posted is streamed in front of the networks without requiring anyone else to actively search for it. Lastly, the sites do serve to provide a quick-form update about people chosen as “friends,” that does not actually require any interaction with that friend.

Therein lies the crux of the problem. Social networking websites provide an avalanche of (mostly trivial) information, updates from applications and games. There is some valuable information and (occasionally) stimulating discussion, but most of the time it is merely white noise. I do not mean to demean anyone by calling their posts white noise, but more often than not, that is what it is.5 Most of the people with whom I am friends on Facebook I have not talked to or heard from in any other medium in years. Sometimes this has been a choice, other times there has been an incident that prompted the distance, but most of the time it is because that person and I would never have really been in touch at all except for the social networking site.

Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with this and, in some situations, I am genuinely glad to reconnect and catch up. But more frequently, the reconnection is superficial and exists only on an online list. I bear none of these people any malice, but I also believe that social networking sites (and particularly Facebook) are having a negative impact on genuine interpersonal relationships. Thus, in the words of Bilbo Baggins:

“I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve…this is the end! I am going. I am leaving now. Goodbye!”


1 Another epitomes of the age is the 24-hour news network.
2 1297 Park Street, New York, Highly recommended.
3 I prefer to have assurances that they do not sell it, though.
4 See, for example, what Yiayia believes about internet communication: You marry machine?.
5 I can only assume how my posts appear to other people.

Midnight musings: social media

When Google+ first released I resisted joining, adamant that I was more likely to quit social media altogether than to join yet another new craze. I was a freshman in college when Facebook first took off (along with the ill-fated i2hub), so of course I joined. Joining Facebook was almost a rite of passage that helped define the college crowd and enabled communication, interaction, planning, and, of course, procrastination. For similar reasons I had a blogger account, which quickly gave way to a Livejournal. I also joined Twitter, which removes much of the excess baggage from the other social media accounts and provides a platform for shorter statements. The stereotype that Twitter (much like the Facebook status update) is for announcing publicly that one has taken a shower or eaten dinner has some truth to it so I will not deny that, but I find that it is actually a good medium for some discussions that would not otherwise take place, commentary on shows, movies, games, and books, among other uses. By and large it is far less private or personal than even email or Facebook messaging, but it is meant as an immediate form of communication. So, since I have all these platforms, some of which are not actually actively used (even to the extent that I blog), why do I need Google+? Or, perhaps more to the point, why did I change my mind?

The short answer is that I do not and did not. I have two blogging platforms, six or seven emails, Facebook, Twitter, and probably a Myspace account out there somewhere, and now Google+, all with varying levels of (in)activity. I added Google+ for several reasons, not least of which because it still has limited membership and so, when the opportunity came, I took it. I was genuinely curious as to how it was set up, and did feel some drive to sign up for the new toy when it arrived. Moreover, I like the setup, and would like to have a social media platform finally live up to the promise of the bringing me closer together with people, if for no other reason than that it gets lonely in the middle of the country.

It seems logical that when I left my job managing a Quizno’s for a university some of the technological opportunities and impulses would grow rather than shrink. The reverse has been true, which I am reminded of each and every time I return to the east coast. While I was in New York I overheard a business meeting wherein a programmer made a pitch for a phone app that would help bring together fans of particular teams, which struck me as just one example of the way in which the application of technology is consistently commonplace in metropolitan areas (New York and Boston are the two with which I am familiar), while any application at all only trickles slowly to more rural parts of the country. I have also noticed a growing disconnect with these sites. In particular, I have made it a practice not to comment on birthdays or anniversaries on Facebook. This is a policy I may wish to reconsider, but it is borne of the thought that if a) I cannot otherwise remember a birthday or b) I would not otherwise wish that person a happy birthday, then my wishes are not really of any value. Of course, I do allow Facebook to remind me of birthdays, and then I will sometimes put in the extra effort to make a more direct birthday wish. Perhaps this is all semantic, but I find that social media (at least on my pages) is more often a silent acknowledgement of posts than active participation. Then, if there is no actual interaction, what is the point of social media?

Right now, in no small part because of various apps on my iPod that allow me to post directly, I mostly use Facebook to post links to articles that I find interesting. I will likely do something similar, but to a more limited extent, with Google+. The bulk of my intended audience remains on Facebook right now, but if that changes then the bulk of my post would also change. Otherwise the bulk of my thought, writing and activity remains in pen and paper. I hope to replace some of that pre-digital activity with a set of social and communal sites, but until I find a way to do this efficiently and with wider participation I suspect that it will remain nothing more than another of my idealistic, unrealistic ambitions.

Legacy

I am an addict. I am addicted to facebook, to the blogs I read, to AOL Instant Messenger, to Google. To ESPN and the web-comics I read. I am addicted to the internet. The internet has so permeated my life that it is an extension of who I am, so bound up that to sever that link would be a testament to willpower. But I am not sure I can do it, I am not sure that I want to.

These are off the cuff remarks, ruminations while in a spiffy coffee shop (Mudtruck) in mid-town Manhattan. They stem from a number of sources, including another friend drawing back from Facebook, an upcoming movie about web-life versus real-life, conversations about culture and modernity while walking through Time Square, an article about loneliness and green living–to name just a few.

Life has always been about struggle and competition, whether this took the form of struggle against (and working with) the elements, or people, or nature or yourself, it is a constant struggle. Often the best solution is to work with the object of struggle, but the struggle remains. Further ambition, a goal to struggle towards provides inspiration for living, even if that ambition is (externally) to sit in front of a computer screen all day, it is likely (internally) to accomplish an particular feeling or to become an 80th level druid with the best healing capabilities on the server. Some ambitions are loftier than others. I am simply an observer of the realm of the mind, but not everyone is Alexander or Caesar or Napoleon, and to be honest that is probably a good thing. Nonetheless I am comfortable in saying that everyone has ambitions of one sort or the other, whether they know it or not, and those who do not have given up. That last group will hopefully be given motivation by those who love them, commit suicide or otherwise pass away. Morbid, but true.1

One of the most consistent ambitions people have is to leave a legacy. For some that is pioneering technology, or political office, or literary accomplishment. For others that is teaching people, or having children. This is so much the case that I wonder sometimes if there is something about sentience that pushes us to make a mark on the world, to be noticed.2 In the world of internet this urge appears through web presence. This includes facebook, youtube, google, and yes, blogs. This is not necessarily a bad thing and for many people this is great. I use most of the above and for one purpose or another, though usually to keep in contact with my loved ones who are not immediately available to me. More than anything else this is why I doubt I would be able to pull out at all, much less altogether.3 At the same time the more I use these things the more I feel I am caught in a real life matrix. In general I feel out of touch with so much of what makes modern America just because I don’t watch tv and I like this feeling. In a similar way that I am made uncomfortable by organized religion I am made uncomfortable by American consumer culture. It feels like a natural conspiracy, rather than an organized one, bent pulling a veil over our eyes and getting us to spend money. It is overwhelmingly successful.

Internet, especially these social networking sites provide a platform from which to scream your message. Pictures, thoughts, conversations are all enabled through these networks, foisting on others your life. Incidentally facebook provides a convenient mechanism to simply ignore those aspects you dislike–I ignore a number of games, including farmville, castle age and mafia wars, plus a handful of people. At times, though, this feels like yet another competition, another shoving match for attention. But leaving this mess behind will make me disconnected. Clearly not everyone will disappear for me if I did this, but enough would that I question the decision. This is ever more evident since my use of facebook in and of itself is not a health or societal detriment. I am not chopping down any more trees for its use, or drilling any more gulf oil.4 I am not Super-sizing myself, nor am I driving anywhere to do it. Facebook is a tool of procrastination and one networking. If I can conquer the first, the latter is a positive.

And still I may need to withdraw to drag myself from this matrix.

The day has not yet come where I give up online presence. It may never come. Likewise the day has not yet come where I give up technology and it probably never will. The day that is drawing speedily closer is the one where I give up everything unsustainable, everything corporate. Already I am making an effort to avoid the trappings and excesses–the unnecessary bags, containers, plastic silverware, grease, fast food, etc. I still want a legacy, I want to make my mark, but if mine is the same mark as a billion other people, how is that different from not leaving one at all?


1If you are feeling ambition-less, unmotivated or otherwise need a reason to keep going, please call me and I will give you some. Trust me, I have too many ambitions for my own good.
2Alternately this could be an urge more basic that manifests itself in more dramatic fashion due to sentience. Either way my point stands.
3Not to mention that I suspect my advisor would kill me if I stopped using email. And that Ancient History/Classics professors are notoriously bad with technology–as though the field needs more challenges to its survival in the 21st century.
4No, the trees suffer from my habits of taking notes on paper and hand-writing papers before typing them.


Post Script: The use of the term ‘matrix’ was deliberate and a direct reference to the original movie by the same name. The later movies in the trilogy expanded the allegory presented, but the concept itself is a message about technology and the most basic stages can be seen in the internet world that people voluntarily put themselves into, only to find themselves unable to, or unwilling to pull out of.