Tag Archives: social media

The Wider, More Ignorant World

Your words can live forever
cast out in the virtual plane.
They truly are immortal now,
and the internet’s to blame.

No matter your intentions
or the crowd you thought to reach,
your thoughts will be interpreted
and stretched until they reach

the few who you expected,
several more who understand,
a couple dozen converts,
maybe some who’ll take a stand,

and thousands, who although confused
by how you use your terms
will swear your wisdom isn’t fit
for thinking men, but worms.

But that is not the full extent
to which your text will go.
In violent, fiery rhetoric,
some radicals will show

that you are either full of light,
or bullshit, and your words
will serve to fuel the fires of hate,
no matter how absurd.

And nothing you can do or say
will make that flag unfurl,
once you decide to publish for
the wider, more ignorant world.

23 AUG 2017

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The Oxymoron of Social Media

Social media: the name implies communication (defined by me as an exchange of ideas only possible between individuals who consider themselves equals) yet most of us seem to use it exclusively to sell ourselves – our products, our services, our ideas. There is neither space (i.e., post limits) or time (i.e., lifespan of the average post) to conduct in-depth meaningful exchange, and the medium itself gives us the illusion but not reality of personal interaction, if only due to its inability to effectively transmit sarcasm, irony, humor, or any other subtlety. It is as a result the drink that temporarily sates, but does not satisfy. If it refills our “social” meter (to use a concept from the SIMS), it does so only vaguely, like a sugar or caffeine high that leaves us more tired and alone than before we indulged.

The media is indeed the message: Keep your thoughts brief, your repartee sharp and lightning fast. Use emoticons to reduce a wide range of human emotions to a small set of easily recognized and irritatingly vague options that transcend the need to maintain (or even develop) language skills at all. Show solidarity by sharing – but not by sharing reasoned, thought-out, and well-spoken dialogue between equals (see “communication”, above), but by changing your screen icons to the same colors.

These all-too-public gatherings are not water cooler conversations (at worst) or coffee shop klatches (at best). They are sound bytes that convince us we’re watching the same movie – and each hearing excerpts of an assumed larger and shared soundtrack to our lives. This assumption gives us “brotherhood” without commitment, “sharing” without sacrifice, “community” without neighbors, “friends” without relationship.

How does that work, exactly?

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If Privacy is Power

If privacy is power,
then our public-facing selves
are palimpsests of who we are;
and that which we pretend to be
(that hides our truest form)
has more in common with a mist
than blood, muscle or bone.

If privacy is freedom,
then construction of our cells
begins the moment we arrive
and lasts throughout all time.

If privacy is sacred,
then our gods are merely dust;
and our Valhalla in the clouds?
Bankrupt and turned to rust.

If privacy is power,
guard your every waking thought,
and never show just what you know;
your shy, divergent secrets
are what make you worth recall.
There is no greater good that needs
to know it all, right now.

15 DEC 2016

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We conversate, but what’s the point of it
when what we say results in nothing new?
Instead of acts to reinforce our views
we throw up walls of words, then simply quit,

imagining ideas are enough
to put the wheels in motion, so to speak.
Oh, never mind our arguments are weak,
and for the most part, made of silly stuff

we quote and quote, ad nauseum, and feel
ourselves so clever and so in the know;
and so our endless conversations go –
like spears we thrust them onward with such zeal!

And if our words should damage, what real harm?
Why worry over consequence and such?
Our so-called, self-named victims cry so much
that caring has lost both its worth and charm.

Besides, it’s not our fault the world is mad
and will not listen to the sense we preach;
put those who disagree far out of reach,
and write them off, as evil, cruel or bad –

they waste the precious manna of our words,
so surely they do not deserve the air
we need to rule the world from our armchairs.
Let them feed on our crumbs, like starving birds!

But now, enough of that, back as you were:
what was that witty comment I just wrote?
Let’s keeping on talking; we can sugar coat
the world, and keep reality a blur.

11 DEC 2014

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Keith Jarrett and the Abstract Truth

Keith Jarrett once said that the more you know about the piano, about harmony, the harder it is to decide which note to play next. Because you’ve moved from thinking of seven possible notes (the ones right under your fingers, in the diatonic scale) into a world of chromatics, modes, extended chords and passing tones, you have a lot more choices in your palette.

Sometimes, it feels like this axiom applies to information. We have much data available, not just names, dates and places of historical or “newsworthy” events, but thanks to social media, we are exposed to a lot more information about a lot of people (only some of whom historically we would have called friends, the rest mere acquaintances, relatives, coworkers, and perfect strangers). It seems like we have more data with which to plan, justify and/or execute our next moves. But while browsing online may be an education of sorts, it’s not the kind of skill set expansion Jarrett is talking about.

First off, it’s unfocused. The breadth of available topics makes pointed study impractical. To take in all the news alone, compiled from dozens of sources worldwide, dictates a mere skim of the details, a sound byte or video clip’s worth to give us enough to form a quick opinion and reshape it into a 140-character tweet. Most of us aren’t actually delving deeper, doing the additional research and investing the time to appreciate the underlying issues.

Secondly, there is so much out there that either accidentally or blatantly isn’t accurate. Misquotations, news leads based on the popularity of someone (usually any random celebrity someone, but just as likely someone who by freak luck went viral), automatic knee jerk repostings, and hundreds of varying and often contradictory opinions (too often presumed as informed, educated and/or expert opinion without the benefit of credentials or evidence of wisdom).

Third, an education like Jarrett’s is based on an objective pedagogy. A thirteenth chord is a specific thing. Likewise, a Dorian mode is just that and nothing else. In other words, regardless of what you think or feel, although your choices may be subjective, the lessons are not. With information, however, particularly the data we obtain through social media, we tend to see first that which agrees with our worldview, second that which our friends believe or repeat, and only third that originated from our “enemies”, opposites or outside our comfort zones. That’s true of all information, I suppose, from the beginning of time. But the sheer volume of today’s “big data” means that many of us never get past the first set, never seeing the counterpoint, rebuttal, refutation or otherwise completely contrary information so essential to critical thinking, conscious decision making or evolution.

Finally, and not least importantly: not everyone has wherewithal to become truly educated. In fact, few people are educated about their world the way Keith Jarrett knows the piano and music. Becoming good at something, truly acquiring a skill or knowledge base, takes a lot of work. Most people would rather listen to music than do the work required to play it at least well. To reach Jarrett’s level requires a level of effort beyond most people’s comprehension.

Let’s face it. Most people are inherently lazy, at least when it comes to enlightenment (and truthfully, isn’t the purpose of education to lighten our load, our hearts, to see beyond the endless drudgery that can be daily living – or “making a living” – to something meaningful, joyous and in a suitable context for the pursuit of happiness?). Surfing, browsing, “liking” is easy. For most, there’s no need to do the research to validate or verify an opinion. There’s no time, after all, and what’s the point? It’s only idle conversation anyway, not an “approved” or traditional way of learning. If it were, perhaps it would be a lot less popular. After all, the modern trend is to disguise something nutritious as something fun (if your kids knew they were eating vegetables, they would be disgusted). In other words, eschew anything that even LOOKS hard. It’s so much more convenient just to parrot the party, church, national, racial or otherwise acceptable line. Like the Sufi story, in the end, everyone drinks the new water and there is peace. Well, homogeneity, at least. No one’s rocking the boat, judging the emperor’s wardrobe, or questioning the status quo. It’s like a warm bath. You can safely and quietly drift off to sleep.

But someone has to man the helm, right? If not you, then who? In this quagmire of essential diversity, freedom of speech, free enterprise, and information overload, if you can’t verify and validate for yourself, you’ve lost the foundation of liberty, of evolution, of actual personal growth.

When I was a kid in the 70s, there was a lot of focus on self-realization – figuring out what you were, what that was worth, and how to go about getting it. Yes, a lot of it was about material things. But it was personal effort, personal responsibility for your life’s outcome, personal solutions to personal issues. How else can a nation or world consider itself free, except as reflected in the achievement, responsibility, independence (and acknowledged interdependence) of its individuals? And being an individual has, and always will, required individual effort. Regardless of the amount of information available. Because Keith Jarrett didn’t learn how to play the piano using someone else’s hands or letting someone practice for him.

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