Social Media Detox 2

August 21, 2020 at 8:46 pm (By Amba) (, , , )

Getting off Facebook again, and for the most part Twitter (I might use it to post links to blog posts if I have anything to share), at least until the election.

I’ve pretty much concluded that the fragile feel-good illusions about the Democratic party and ticket that they have, against all odds, managed to recreate (quite a feat, I have to hand it to them) are all that can just barely save the country and give it a last chance to make good. At full enough flood, that nostalgic resurgence of willfully innocent Kennedy-era idealism might be able to float the country an inch or two over the horrific threshold facing us. Since I recognize that but can’t join in the inspiration (though I feel its pull) or the cheerleading, I’ve decided to stay out of it. So fragile is that gossamer feeling that some of my friends freak out if I express any realism; others are so cynical they seem to think we need another Trump term to trigger revolution, a privileged, romantic idea if I ever heard one. Some other time I’ll post about why I think a revolution is a bad thing to wish for. (Teaser: Revolution was brought to Romania by the Red Army. Romania’s simmering Communist Party seized its chance. The rich were expropriated and set to the lowest manual labor. Yay! Revenge! Some very bright peasants’ and shepherds’ kids got to go to medical school. Yay! Opportunity! As soon as they became full-fledged doctors, they escaped the country any way they could and came to America, where they could make some money and have a nice house, car, and lifestyle. They listened to Rush Limbaugh and now they are all fulminating right-wingers.) Reform is unromantic, but if it’s serious enough (big if), it can actually improve people’s lives, rather than destroying them to save them.

Anyway, I’ll copy some disorganized thoughts I wrote in my journal this morning.

We have to be saved from the abyss if at all possible, and it’s the naïve enthusiasm of the simple (white liberal) folk that will do it. Black people spotted this early on, and it’s why they wisely pushed Joe Biden to the fore. He’s perceived as safe and kindhearted enough for a wide spectrum of frightened constituencies to accept—from the masses of voters to the dollars of donors—and so he, or his handlers, could just barely hold this improbable coalition, with the tensile strength of Jell-o, together just long enough to squeak through the door. Okay, so it’s the same old coalition of the comfortable-enough to be complaisant while the plutocrats fleece us. The difference is that the voters now want to shoehorn the diverse new America into the crude fairness and opportunity of the old (pre-Reagan) America. It was pretty good for them, and they’ve belatedly realized that it wasn’t for everybody. It’s all necessary to survive and to inch forward another half-millimeter toward such justice as glorified chimpanzees are capable of.

The rich must realize they are rich on sufferance, that the only way to enjoy their wealth in peace, without becoming murderers to avoid being murdered, is not to leave the rest of the community behind. To recognize that they are still part of humanity, with reciprocal bonds and obligations, not untrammeled demigods. They have to earn the right to enjoy their wealth in peace, and they can’t be trusted to do it voluntarily. They have to be required to pay the rest of us to grant them that limited license.

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The Good Side of Facebook

December 31, 2019 at 11:37 am (By Amba) (, )

I’ve been focusing on its insidious and evil aspects, which are real, to get myself off it. Now that that’s settled (with the proviso you’ll find at the end of this post), I’m strolling around there feeling nostalgic, getting a good look at what I’ll be missing. Anticipated distance has already given me perspective.

In an age when we are so scattered physically, it’s how we have community. It might be disembodied community, but it isn’t illusory, the word I was first going to use. Unlike the one-to-one, spoke-and-hub communications by which we otherwise maintain our long-distance connections, FB is a collective virtual space where we can have a shadow of that comfy tribal feeling we evolved with, the solidarity of many bodies nearby, sitting around the fire.

And—this may be crucial—we can have it without the inconvenience and conflict that unavoidably comes with the presence of actual people, in their bodies, with their moods, needs, neuroses . . . we can have it stripped of most of that, even stripped of a lot of its “otherness” and turned into our own mental content. (The immune system comes to mind, with its snuggling up to everything “self” and suspicious bristling at “other.”) As incorrigible humans, we still manage to get into hurts and fights on FB, we still need to work at maintaining and repairing the relationships we care about, but it’s all carried so much more lightly, those “surly bonds” are more easily slipped. We can withdraw, unfriend, or just tune out. We can “turn on” presence like a TV show when we’re in the mood for it and not have to deal with it when we’re not. It’s less substantial, but more controllable.

This is the part that’s scary to me. Some commentators have worried that our animal instincts for relating directly to others will atrophy and our cultural skills for doing so will be lost. I’m not very experienced or good at relating to people on a day-to-day basis (I started out shy and unconfident and then, for almost 40 years, for all practical purposes, related to only one), and so it’s too easy to retreat into a solitary real life populated with a virtual community where I can vamp in my avatar of words, definitely my best foot forward. Yet the things I want and need most to do (if I’m not to die feeling I haven’t lived) are the things I’m not good at and am awkward and afraid of: real writing, Feldenkrais, intimacy. If I’m getting enough pseudo-hits on FB I may never get around to risking them. (I’ve got another post in the works on “the comfort zone,” how it is a needed nest to rest in but can become a comfortable coffin to dream in.)

But this was supposed to be a post on what’s GOOD about Facebook. It’s a hive mind, where we all fetch and cross-share bits of information and wit with a rapidity and richness that is impossible alone or one-to-one. This may be the wave of the future. Participating in such a hive mind, with such good other minds as you guys, is a privilege, a chance to make a small, often unsigned contribution to creating the world and the future. To retreat into 19th-century “Individuality” and try to create alone, with a byline, feels regressive and vain. It may call on my capacities more deeply, which will be privately satisfying, like a good workout, but the results are also likely to lie uselessly off to the side of the real conversation.

All that considered, I’ve decided to deactivate my FB account—for a contractual year—before I decide whether to delete it. Maybe after a year in solitary I’ll be fit for a better balance. I love you guys. Hope to see some of you in “the real world.”

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