Friday, May 29, 2009

Becoming the 'whatever' answer

More than I have experienced in other places in have either visited or lived, the people here in the Springfield area seem the most detached from other people around them.   I think that may be the root of other experiences that I've had here as well.  Perhaps it is this detached social phenomena that causes people to do things like a friend of mine spoke about at church in his message saying that he lived in Chicago for three years and never experienced the volume of bad drivers that are in the Springfield area.  He mentioned that it seems to him that those drivers just can't seemed to acknowledge that they are not the only one on the road.

And that experience is what I've been party to in numerous other the the department churches...trying to befriend people...etc.  People are disconnected and they, in general, seem to not realize that the world isn't just about them.

The more unusual feature of this is that when people are in a position to have to give a hoot about someone other than primarily themselves in a genuine way, up comes the 'whatever' notion.  This 'whatever' notion is that people quickly try to distance themselves from whatever issue required of them to reconnect with those around them in a personal and genuine way, or in that they attempt to pass the need for concern about it off as if being concerned or personally invested in another person is distasteful.

To give a couple examples, I know one person here who is pretty talkative and likes to share with you, as long as you stand in agreement to what they are stating.  If you disagree...there is no discussion...there is no debate...there is no mutual sharing of ideas to weigh them all out.  The talking is merely over because to them there is apparently only one important opinion or perspective (their own), and no real peace without disconnecting.

Another example is a person I know who is generally neglectful and withdrawn.  We have a wonderful time together when we get together, laugh about things, relate to each other well and with understanding, and they have shared details about their life with me that are sensitive issues.  However, outside of my calling them with a perspective activity, like going out for a meal or game, they don't seem to want anything to do with me.  If confronted about this the 'whatever' answer comes quickly...even if there is merely an asking and not any accusations.

So, how does this affect people in the area?  I wager that people largely either become very used to this experience and do one of three things with it:  1. they adopt this social tendency as well, 2. they conduct life as they did before and stop 'noticing' this tendency in people, or 3. they withdrawal to no be party to it.   I give three possibilities because I think that most people would fall in this range.  There is clearly at least one other possibility though:  that people become patiently tenacious in their relationships and attempt to gently convince people there is another way.

Let me encourage those who are here in the Springfield area, and those who experience the same elsewhere in the world, that looking out for #1 is not the modus operandi of everyone.  There are those of us who don't wish to play the societal game of not caring about the world or each other.  We don't find any strength in being self-centered or grossly self-sufficient.  Granted there is a strong draw to also give the 'whatever' answer in the face of those people who don't care.  But I encourage you to resist that and don't also become the embodiment of the 'whatever'.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Social Experiment

Today is the day.  Today is the day that the new social experiment starts.  I can't tell any of you what it is, though I cannot prevent anyone from speculating.  When I'm done with it, I'm sure that I'll write more here about it.  I can say that I'm not going anywhere, but that is about it.  Otherwise, I'll let life commence as usual.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Lord of the Rings

Last night I finally finished reading "The Lord of the Rings" by J. R. R. Tolkien. I had read "The Hobbit" when I was in high-school, but never got around to reading "The Lord of the Rings" until recent.

Actually, I had started it quite some time ago on one of my first business trips for McKesson, whom I work for now, but it was many, many months of very spare-time reading before I completed it.

Anyway...all this to say that it was a very worth-while read. I loved Peter Jackson's adaptation of the book into film. But the book is really wonderful. And anyone who is a fan of the movies really should read it. There are just so many things that Peter Jackson chose to leave out, change, expand, or skimp on.

SO...I encourage this great story. Good stuff.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Seven lies we tell ourselves about social networking

Repost from Newsweek. Read the original here and click on their ads...they like that:

Facebook Made Me Do It
Seven lies we tell ourselves about social networking.
By Raina Kelley | Newsweek Web Exclusive
Feb 20, 2009 | Updated: 1:58 p.m. ET Feb 20, 2009

Everybody loves to complain about Facebook. But I've been wading through all the nonstop commentary over the last few weeks and I've made a startling discovery. Everybody also lies about why they use Facebook. After exhaustive research, here are the Seven Lies You Tell Yourself About Facebook.

1. I Only Friend People I Really Know: Stop pretending you have standards; you will friend anyone. You would accept Bernie Madoff if he asked. You want your friend count to be sky-high. That's why I accept all sorts of people I haven't seen in 20 years and couldn't pick out of a line-up. I refuse to have one less friend than my arch nemesis from college. I will not tolerate a lower count than my annoying colleague who sucks her teeth in meetings whenever I say anything. Admit it, you're no better than I am—how many of your "friends" would you invite to your house?

2. Facebook Made Me Do It: Facebook didn't make you tell all 1,384 of your friends that you once had chlamydia. Facebook didn't hold your hand onto the mouse and force you to type: "Josh is in favor of slapping geese and women," as one of your "25 random things" and it certainly didn't waterboard you into asking everyone what their slave name is. Psychiatrists call this "externalizing blame." It's a way to lay-off shame and self-loathing onto somebody (or something) else so you can feel better about yourself. I once wrote, "Raina is feeling like the cat's meow," and hated Facebook for days because of it. I know now that it was nobody else's fault but my own.

3. Wall-to-Wall Flirting Isn't Cheating: Just because it's called "social networking" with "friends" doesn't make hard-core online flirting OK. Do not try and tell me that you were surprised when your boyfriend left you after he read your pornographic wall-to-wall with his cousin. Also: stop sending your assistant cute virtual gifts. Virtual gifting counts. In fact, it's probably not appropriate for you to be "friending" her or the cute summer intern in the first place. Same thing goes for wall-to-wall stalking the love of your 7th grade life. Online harassment is just as bad as the bricks and mortar kind.

4. I Use Facebook to Keep in Touch With People: No, the truth is you're nosy. Admit it. You scour the profiles of other people for the same reason I do. You want to know their business. Facebook isn't addictive—your desire to know what other people are up to is addictive. The over-sharing thrills you. I know I'm hooked. Don't you hunt through your friends' walls looking for any scrap of information that will produce that warm tingly schadenfreude feeling?

Facebook is our own personal reality show and our friends are the stars. What else besides "American Idol" or "Project Runway" allows you to be so judgmental while wearing pajamas? If people stopped revealing ridiculous stuff about themselves in their status updates, "Rock of Love" would be your "guilty pleasure" instead. You know you're dying to discover your college roommate lives in a trailer in his mom's backyard. I literally cried from joy when I saw that an ex-boyfriend was sporting a comb-over.

5. I'm Soooo Over Facebook: Come on. You love Facebook for exactly the reasons you pretend to hate it ... it's the Big Thing. And we're not falling for that ironic distancing pose you've been adopting lately. We know you spend hours looking for former girlfriends or that guy who you loved from freshman psych but didn't have the courage to talk to. I tried to act all Margaret Meadish when I first joined Facebook ("It's a classic example of mass hysteria inspired by our collective need to be famous. Blah, blah, blah.") But everybody knew I wasn't on there doing social anthropology. I was on there because I wanted to snicker at that girl I went to elementary school with who reports every single one of the eight pomegranate martinis she drinks every night.

6. And I am Soooo Not Competitive: We don't just want more friends than everybody else; we also want the highest score in Word Twist and the most virtual Easter Eggs. I recently spent nearly 24 hours playing Scramble on Facebook until I had a higher score than my friend Dough Dough. Why? Because I knew Facebook would send him a note that said; "Raina has beaten your personal high score on Scramble." When he commented on his complete and total defeat, I just said; "I didn't know Facebook would tell you that. OMG! LOL!" We love Facebook because it allows you to gloat to your heart's content and hide that self-satisfied smirk on your face behind the wall of the Internet. By the way, if you have a Scramble score higher than 147, don't even think about friending me.

7. Facebook is My Friend: No, it's a business (albeit one that has yet to make money). Everyone knows casinos hide the exits and pump oxygen into the air to keep you gambling and get all your money. Facebook is doing the same thing but with avatars and Food Flings. They want to trap you behind their dotcom walls so they can attract advertisers. Think about it. If Facebook really loved you, they wouldn't run those "5 Friends HATE you!" banners on the top of Scramble. And have you ever had a friend try to take ownership of all the posts and baby pictures you sent them for who knows what reason? Nor has a "friend" ever taunted me with ads that implied Obama owed me $12,000 in personal-stimulus money.

© 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

John Ridley: Keep Your Tweets To Yourself

Keep Your Tweets To Yourself
from NPR Blogs: John Ridley's Visible Man

At the risk of sounding like that old guy in Gran Torino telling those "young punks" to "get off my lawn," it's gotten to the point that whenever I hear somebody talking about Twitter or twittering or tweeting it just makes my little tummy want to hurl.

I haven't tweeted once in my life, but I'm sick of hearing about it already. What once may have been the cool way of letting a hundred people know that you're about to go mow your lawn now has the feel of a used-to-be-fresh means of communicating. So yesterday, like two-way pagers. And AOL.

To be honest, I think tweeting jumped the shark long before ultrahip CNN got into a Twitter match against superdown Ashton Kutcher. Back when politicians started live-tweeting responses to the president's demi-State of the Union address, Twitter had already taken on all the cool of your mom getting a tattoo.

I imagine, I hope, twitterers are ultimately headed for the social networking retirement home that's the current residence of Second Life and MySpace.

But my real issue with social networking sites isn't their faddishness.

It's the hypocrisy that goes with them.

We claim to be a nation of people who take our privacy very seriously. Just mention the idea of warrantless wiretaps and expect to get hit up with a congressional investigation.

But give somebody an avatar and a URL, and he can't tweet, post or hyperlink enough personal information about himself to as many people as possible.

Seriously, does valuable broadband space need to be taken up with announcements in that creepy Facebook third-person-ese that "John is enjoying two-for-one margaritas with the rest of the IT Team at T.G.I. Fridays"?

Where is the expectation of privacy anymore? Or, more correctly, where is the expectation that people will keep their private nonsense to themselves so that those of us who still like to communicate personal information with one person at a time don't have to get caught up in somebody else's e-mail circles or listen to their one-sided cell phone conversations?

No, I don't know what's hipper; to Facebook or to Twitter. I just know for me, personally, discretion never went out of style.

-- Erica Ryan

New Home

I've taken up residence, not in real life.

Visit my new blogging home:

Monday, May 04, 2009

Repost: It's Lonely Out There

It's lonely out there
Connections fray in wired America, study finds

A major national survey being released today shows that the average number of people with whom Americans discuss important matters has dropped from three to two in just two decades. The study is a vindication for the Harvard author of "Bowling Alone," Robert D. Putnam, who published a similar theory six years ago based on trends from the decline of dinner parties to lower voter turnout and falling participation in bowling leagues.

By Scott Allen, Globe Staff | June 23, 2006

Americans don't have as many close friends as they used to.

We're networking on, sharing photos and text messaging on our cellphones, and blogging at all hours. But a major national survey being released today shows that the average number of people with whom Americans discuss important matters has dropped from three to two in just two decades, a steep falloff in confidants that startled the researchers.

The study by sociologists at Duke University and the University of Arizona provides powerful evidence for the argument that the country is becoming increasingly socially isolated even as cellphones, the Internet, and other technology make people more interconnected. The authors found that fully one-quarter of Americans say they have no one with whom to discuss their most important personal business.

The study is a vindication for the Harvard author of "Bowling Alone," the provocative book published six years ago that portrayed an increasingly lonely society based on trends from the decline of dinner parties to lower voter turnout and falling participation in bowling leagues. The title became a catchphrase for modern alienation, fueling a passionate debate over whether the "good old days" are really behind us.

The new work, carried out by researchers skeptical of author Robert Putnam's theory, found the isolationist trend extends to people's closest relationships.

"These are the kinds of people that you can call on when you have times of trouble, if you really need help or someone to move in with for three months after Katrina hits your house. . . . We've got less of a safety net," said Lynn Smith-Lovin , a Duke sociologist and coauthor of "Social Isolation in America," published in today's American Sociological Review.

Putnam said the new study, based on a comparison of data from national surveys in 1985 and 2004, captures escalating social isolation that began around 1965 as the rise of television, two-career households, and increasingly farflung suburbia combined to destroy old, close-knit neighborhoods. Putnam believes that growing isolation helps explain the escalating rate of depression and other signs of worsening mental and physical health.

"As a risk factor for premature death, social isolation is as big an independent risk factor for death as smoking," said Putnam, a professor of public policy at Harvard University. He said that the drop-off in confidants measured by Smith-Lovin and her coauthors was even more precipitous than he anticipated.

Some academic critics have said Putnam overstated the degree of social isolation, pointing out that bowling leagues have been replaced by other, more powerful connections, such as e-mail. For instance, in other studies, two thirds of Internet users say it draws them closer to friends. Others pointed out that critics have been decrying the decline of community for much of the last century: The authors of the landmark Middletown studies in Muncie, Ind., in the 1920s worried that automobiles and radio were making people more isolated.

The new study, based on face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative group of 1,467 adults, provides the most comprehensive look yet at Americans' degree of social connectedness. The 20-minute questionnaire was done by pollsters at the University of Chicago as part of their General Social Survey, one of the longest-running national surveys of social, cultural, and political issues.

In the survey, respondents were asked to identify people with whom they had discussed important personal issues in the past six months. On average, they named 2.08 people in 2004 compared with 2.94 in 1985. Almost half of those surveyed could name only one or no confidants, while the portion with at least six close friends has dwindled to 4.9 percent of the population.

The researchers said that over the 20 years, Americans were most likely to turn away from friendships outside of their families. Four out of five people surveyed in 2004 said they only talk to family members about important personal matters, compared with 57 percent in 1985. The percentage of people who confide only in their spouse increased from 5 percent to 9 percent.

"We were surprised to see such a large change. We remain cautious -- perhaps even skeptical -- of its size," said Miller McPherson , a Duke and Arizona sociologist and Smith-Lovins's husband. "But even if the change is exaggerated for some reason . . . we are confident there is a trend toward smaller, closer social networks more centered on spouses and partners."

There were striking differences in social connection among demographic groups: White people, young people, and people with more education tended to have larger social networks than non-whites, older Americans, and people with less education. African-American men over the age of 60 saw the biggest overall drop-off in confidants, from 3.6 people in 1985 to 1.8 in 2004. "People who are disadvantaged in various ways are especially likely to have smaller, more family-based networks" of confidants, said Smith-Lovins.

Smith-Lovins said other research that she is now analyzing shows that Americans belong to fewer outside organizations and spend less time with them than they used to, while spending more time at work and with their families. She concedes that the numbers tend to support Putnam's "bowling alone" theory, though she still believes he has overstated the decline of social connections.

But Putnam said the new study underscores the need to look more closely at how intimacy and community are getting lost in the rapid changes of American society. Some have chided Putnam for appearing to champion a 1950s version of "the good old days," but he said that's not true. "We should think of new things to connect us, not try to resuscitate your grandfather's Kiwanis Club," he said.

Scott Allen can be reached at

© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.