I Think I’ll Quit Facebook (2014Aug21)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014                10:14 PM

I’m thinking of quitting Facebook. I’ve enjoyed ‘interacting’ with people—I was surprised that everyone in my past was still out there, living lives I knew nothing of. I was amazed at some of the accomplishments of people who I last saw as children, or at best, teenagers. The connectedness to all the latest of the very latest in politics, showbiz, art, music, movies, books, writing, poetry, science, astronomy, space exploration, gadgets, discoveries, and absolutely everything else, has made me feel much more in touch with the world and the people in it. It’s almost like a canoe that goes along; and you can slip your hand in the water and feel the world flowing through your fingers.

So why quit? There are several reasons. At the end of the day, I don’t want my sole output to consist of keystrokes, mouse clicks, and peering at a glowing screen (no matter how mind-blowing the graphic). I can’t ‘Like’ my way through life. And the shadows of Mordor are gathering, i.e. between commercial and marketing activity, and Facebook’s own mad-scientist muddlings with what does or does not appear on our feeds, Facebook has become a dark wood with giant spiders in it. Several of my Facebook friends have been hacked. The interloper was found and expunged, the true people are back behind their profiles, and all’s well—plus, we all have an eye out now, if any of our friends starts IM-ing or posting strangely—but the chill is in the air.

It’s unsettling—whenever anything such as the internet, or snowboarding, or break-dancing—whenever anything draws a crowd of happy, engaged people who not only watch the thing, but begin to participate in the thing, the filthy rich will set up some kind of commercial approximation of it. Thus the clock is started. Once anything becomes a commodity or an asset, the race is on. Who can attract more customers; who can find the cheapest costs, who can get the highest price? Who has the best marketing campaign? Ultimately, it becomes regulated, circumscribed, a dead thing, a shadow of its former inspiration. It becomes a dark doppelgänger of what it could have been.

But Facebook is still free. Rather than simply quitting, I should consider changing my privacy settings. I could restrict my profile to just friends and a few favorite content providers, like George Takei, The Daily Show, I fucking Love Science, etc. Then I wouldn’t have to wade through the posts that are cleverly disguised sociology-landmines, or outright sales-pitches. My favorite ad is the small one on the bottom right of the Facebook ‘frame’—it’s usually a picture of a large-breasted young lady without a shirt, with the tag-line: “You gotta see this!” I actually clicked on that thing before I knew what I was doing. But the site you’re brought to is like a small-town diner’s paper placemat, just full of local service-businesses’ websites—and just reeking of hacker-vulnerability.

But cutting myself off from the ‘fire hose’ kinda defeats the purpose of being plugged into the whole world—it’s kinda the point. Otherwise, I imagine my friends and I will all end up uploading phone-pics of our breakfast each morning!

I know to avoid anything on the side-ribbons of the Facebook frame—no matter how intriguing. And I know to look for those little logos that warn of a larger organization behind that post. But it takes so long and gets so tiring. So, I guess I’ll stick with my friends, for a while at least, until the foliage gets too thick to hack through to them… ..if it gets too bad, I may still have to perform some sort of self-intervention. Life should not be lived on a keyboard. I spend hours on the computer, preparing and posting my little videos and my little essays (like this)—but I will not ‘hang out’ here. I have a perfectly good front lawn—there’s even some decent lawn furniture to sit in and talk (to myself if necessary).

Now, this is not the fault of Facebook, this is a failing of our Capitalism—one of its many—but nothing, not even Facebook (“It’s free and always will be.”) can keep out their tentacles. Facebook is a fragile thing, and it has become a badly trampled garden. We’ve all experienced ‘trolls’—they can be blocked and are, therefore, relatively harmless—but the ones who crawl behind the code (like the employees fiddling with our Facebook feeds) are far more difficult to spot, much less defend against.

Sociology is a wonderful thing. I took a course in college—it was great. But the first thing they teach you is that individuals are random and unpredictable, but the larger the ‘sample size’ (# of people) you study, the more predictable they become. And the internet is a darn big ‘sample size’. Sociology is primarily used in marketing research—its most profitable use (though it has many more important uses going begging). So it is only natural for market researchers to salivate over a titanic mass of consumers, all with the power to pay by clicking a mouse. But Heisenberg is on our side—the stats are only valid if WE don’t know we are being observed.

I saw a Times article—a man clicks ‘like’ on everything he sees on his feed for two days straight—even stuff he hates, he clicks ‘like’. He started getting crazy feed-posts from such nutjobs that he was afraid he’d be put on a government watch-list. His Facebook friends’ feeds went crazy, they were all screaming at him, asking if he’d been hacked. And some administrator at Facebook eventually called him to talk about it! He was messing up their trending algorithms.

It sounded like fun, but then I thought maybe it’d be better just to sign off for good and all. Would I lose something important, something worth staying in my present mode of checking out Facebook for two or three hours every day? Well, there are some people I interact with almost every day, very nice folks all of whom I enjoy being in touch with. And we all share stuff from the internet-fed chaos around us. All of them are too far away to have any regular contact with outside of Facebook.

Now here is the hilarious record of what happens when I try to play doubles with a real musician, Peter Cianflone–it’s almost too embarrassing to post, but I had so much fun—The first picture is to click on for the entire playlist (listen to all five videos in a row). The five individual videos are available below that, so you can pick and choose as you like. Enjoy, I hope!

Click picture above to hear Playlist..

Click picture above to hear Playlist..


Easily-Disproved Fantasies

Thursday, December 12, 2013            3:30 PM

“For old Ralph, former top quick draw artist,

lousy guitar player, tossed in the ground yesterday[…]”

                                     — (c) Dec. 12th, 2013 by Dean J. Baker  http://deanjbaker.wordpress.com/

I highly recommend Dean Baker’s blog “Dean J. Baker – Poetry, and prose poems”. I read this today, from his poetry-blog, and it struck me how my take on these words would differ from that of others’. You see, I’ve been playing lousy piano for most of my life, and I’m proud of it.

We bad musicians are an elite few—we cannot restrain ourselves from playing badly, figuring lousy music is better than none—we don’t concern ourselves with bad reviews because we’ve never gotten a good one. (O, sure, you get those fake good reviews from people who love you—but they only highlight the lack of enthusiasm amongst strangers.)

It doesn’t surprise me that Old Ralph was homeless—we lousy musicians are easy prey amongst the people that face reality, that have black and white judgments on things—we need our dreams and we don’t see any great value in tearing them down. We dislike the smart-alecks who insist that hungry is hungry and cold is cold—as if we have never been hungry and cold (or, as if they ever had been).

It is the voice of fear. Yes, fear has its place—but I’m convinced that we’ve taken ‘fear’ into a strange, new place. We’re not concerned so much about climate change, but we fight like dogs over water rights. We’re not concerned so much for fundamentalists who endorse ignorance over curiosity, but we argue late into the night about why God created us 10% homosexual and how we should treat that 10%.

We witness politicians legitimize fear with legislation. We see capitalists use our fears against us. We see major faiths enshrine age-old fears. And more and more we see the powerful super-wealthy advertising their most cherished fears as if they were common sense—actually spending money to form puppet NPOs and buying airtime to spread their solipsisms from coast to coast.

We can never go back, either. When society makes a technological advance these days it is pre-formatted to fit in with the existing tech (think USB ports). To fail to use the new, next thing is to be instantly mired in obsolescence. High-finance types and legislators use this to their advantage—if they can put in a fix, the world goes by too fast for anyone else to undo their treachery (think the ‘derivatives market’). And the truly gigantic egos that struggle to keep their hands on that tiller—well, their interests aren’t exactly congruent with the 99%.

But I digress. Shying away from advanced tech, or circumventing tech altogether, as the Amish sometimes do, is only protected by the massive civilization that surrounds them—this is a dead end, as it would put us even further under the sway of the top of the pyramid. See ‘hippy communes’ for more information regarding the abuse of power in a small community—and how it makes just as much trouble as the super-wealthy do in their element, i.e. world domination.

Thus we are disabused of the fantasy of idyllic retreat. Pollution, de-forestation, and gorging on non-renewable resources are all in fast-forward mode. We can’t turn our backs on the entrenched powers-that-be, because they are rushing pell-mell towards the destruction of the planet. And speaking of speed, this situation isn’t static—the human race has jumped onto a speeding, out-of-control train—we have to fix things with one hand as we hang on for dear life with the other.

Which brings up another problem—we already have a lot of problems, many of them involving hunger or hatred, and we can interrupt any effort to alleviate one of those problems simply by pointing out that some other problem is being neglected—the politicians keep us running in circles while little change is realized. We now have a full panel of distractions (other problems) the number of which is so large that conversations may go on for days without reaching any clear point.

So, yes, I say that maintaining our dreams is invaluable—and this applies to easily disproved fantasies as well—because modern problems surround us, threaten us, every damn day. We must do what we can, try as we might—in spite of our society appearing to head full-speed towards its own destruction—and in that struggle for change and the struggle to survive, to care for our families and their futures, we need a little rest stop now and again. If I pretend to be a piano player, where’s the harm? If I was trying to interrupt a concert at Carnegie Hall so I could play for the audience myself—well, that’s just plain crazy—and I am by no means endorsing crazy (another time, perhaps). But if I just play to myself there’s no reason to cure me of that delusion other than cruelty or spite.

And so I mourn old Ralph, the lousy guitar player—and I mourn the loss of his brave example, playing guitar to soothe his soul — even when others didn’t applaud.