writing challenge: 5 (spooky) problems with social media

Hi, Internet. Just so you know: I kinda hate you at the moment. You're on my Shit List. But I'm back to blogging and tweeting and all that, so obviously we're still speaking. No, I don't know why. We just are. Because I'm too addicted to you right now, and my Writer's Block is in full-on choke mode. Maybe.

....remember when people met at ice cream socials and/or bars? Back before smart phones, I met all my lunatics at bars, and all my best friends at ice cream socials. The more I grow up, the more I say we should have a total society overhaul and go back that route. And hell, while we're at it, let's clean up global warming and go back to riding horses everywhere and crossing oceans on pirate ships. (Have you ever seen M. Night Shyamalan's THE VILLAGE? That's kind of where I'm at right now. Let's all just go full-on Amish, and later we can let one of our blind children and a mentally disabled one go into the woods alone even though we've scared the freaking shit out of all of them that there's a horned beast in it that wants to eat them.)

So one of the 30 Day Writing Challenges was to write about 5 problems with Social Media. And I was all: JUST FIVE??? But it's fine. I've whittled it down:

1. Living out loud. I've written here extensively about how important doing this is, because connecting matters. I think the more honest and open you are about who you are, what's happened to you, and how you feel about that will only be cathartic for you and bring relief to who knows who out there. We all have stories, and by sharing these stories we can make connections to other people. We can give hope, heal, laugh, cry, be furious, incredulous, scared, amazed, love, and hate...all together. Connections (and Love) are real, and to social animals such as ourselves, they're important. 

So whenever I make statements like: I'm off this fucking grid! Heading back to Amish Country! (No, seriously...my mom's family is half Pennsylvania Dutch - they'd totally let me in), I know that's pretty impossible now. Social Media is how we connect these days. And so you connect...sometimes to good people, sometimes to bad people, sometimes to very confused people, and sometimes to people who will scare the holy living shit out of you just because they're psychos and bored. It's all experience, growth. But some of it is terrifyingly hard.

I mean, you can still meet people and experience a lot of terrifying growth from people you hook up with at ice cream socials or bars on Friday nights. But why do THAT when you can do it while lying in bed with your phone or laptop, while eating chocolate mint ice cream in your most tattered pajamas and your geekiest glasses and most hideous look? 

2. Seductiveness. Don't be fooled: the Internet and its Social Media are seductive. Don't believe for one second the NSA isn't watching you, Google hasn't tracked and sold your website preferences, and your mom (hi, mom!) isn't going to argue with you out loud in front of all your friends on Facebook and call you on it every time you go to her house for dinner. Social Media is full of 93% normal people and 7% socio-pyschopaths who'd sell their own grandmas down a river if they thought it would get them ultimate power. (Alternately, these same people usually run for Congress. If they're unsuccessful, they always get themselves a radio talk show or start a website WITH Social Media presence.)

3. Not being able to move on. Sometimes shit just happens. Friendships run their course. Divorces are finalized. Whatever. Back in 1999, when Steve Jones broke my heart into a tiny million pieces, there was no Facebook. There were no smartphones. There weren't even any flip phones. The computer was just a place you went to and hung out on IRC or sent emails or whatever. And there was that dial up tone, that crazy weird dial up tone, to connect to the wired world. So if something broke or fizzled or went up in flames, you just licked your wounds and went for a drink at Johnny's Hideaway to pick up the next ride. Which is what I did. Except I didn't go to Johnny's Hideaway. I'm not going to tell you where I went, but now I have a daughter and a looming divorce. So see? There's an angle that can be worked, and once upon a time Humanity did it offline.

Later, after I'd moved on and created a Steve Jones-free life for myself, Facebook became huge. I went to Facebook and looked up Steve Jones. Yup, there he was. Had his Facebook page set to Public. Still using the same email address from 1999. Still telling the same old jokes. Still wearing that one dumb shirt. But now I could see he was a racist, a Sarah Palin/Rush Limbaugh fan, a Bible-thumping Jesus freak, and (therefore) a complete and utter hypocrite. Had I known all of THAT in 1999, I'd have shed this many tears over losing him: 0.

Thus is the problem with #3: if you want to torture yourself over someone who's moved on without you, head to Social Media. (On the flip side, you may find out they support anti-abortionists and the 2nd amendment, and you'll breathe a sigh of relief over the gigantic bullet you dodged on that hard lesson.)

4. Ridiculousness, but the bad kind. Social Media is full of it. People hawking their wares online and not even trying to be smooth about it. I'll be honest: I suck at self-promotion. I have no idea how to do it, it's not natural for me. I'm too self-deprecating, all of this (THIS being Life in general) is just ridiculous to me. WE are ridiculous. So I just write these blog entries, link them on my public Facebook writer page which then automatically cross posts to my Twitter, and if a Hollywood producer wants to stumble on my foibles and come find me and ask me if I'd like to write a TV show for them or let them turn my life into a screenplay, then have at it. I believe in Fate. (I also believe in hard work, and staying grounded in reality, and do realize this will never ever happen.)

5. The Nefarious. You, Internet, are full of The Nefarious. When you came into being, you were the first place all the creepy bottom feeders living in their moms' basements, subsisting on Cheese Whiz and Mountain Dew, went to hang out. And you know those guys who used to come out of their houses once in awhile just to yell at kids to get off their lawn, and then they'd go back inside their dark holes and stand growling and muttering and touching themselves from behind a drawn curtain in their front room watching the kids play across the street? Yeah, those guys are all on Social Media now. When the Internet opened, they all ran out and got computers and an internet connection. When Social Media took off they couldn't believe their fucking luck. 

What I'm saying is: Social Media is a Child Molester's wet dream. It's the Playground of the Psycho. The lair of the Keyboard Cowboy/Cowgirl. It's where - if you're going to meet someone creepy and fucked up - this is where it'll happen. You are the dark, dank basement of all of Society's nightmares, Internet, and I'm absolutely paralyzed about letting my daughter start interacting with other humans on you.

And yet your cat and laughing baby videos. And WebMD.  

You, Internet, are just like religion: good in theory, always poorly executed. A useful tool, if only humans weren't in charge. And THAT, in a nutshell, summarizes the 5 problems with Social Media: too many goddamned humans. 

Happy Halloween.

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