Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Open the Pod Bay Doors, HAL

Facebook keeps asking me, “How are you feeling, Jim?”

How am I feeling?

What the hell is this?

Recently, without warning, Facebook started asking questions. What’s going on? What are you doing? What are you thinking?

As I said on Facebook itself (or is that herself?), I find this sudden change in behavior creepy and unsettling and maybe just a bit like the first warning signs of an overly attached psychotic girlfriend.

How am I feeling? It’s just me, right?  Or do the rest of you hear that question in Glenn Close’s Fatal Attraction voice?

I expect my machines to be cold and logical and completely uninterested in atavistic human emotions.

And I like it that way.

I don’t want machines interested in how I’m feeling, I don’t want them to feign human concern and I for damned sure don’t want them feeling human emotions.  Seriously, don’t you people watch crappy science fiction movies? Nothing good can come from human emotion imprinted on machines. There are far worse scenarios than SkyNet, Folks. Far worse. Worse even than Edgar, the creepy jealous 8-bit PC with 128K of RAM and the mind of a horny adolescent who lusts after Virginia Madsen in Electric Dreams. Worse even than Proteus, the malignant evil computer who tried to impregnate Julie Christie in Demon Seed.  Worse even than Hector, the eight foot tall clockwork psychopath intent on hooking up with Farrah Fawcett in Saturn 3 (In the Hector’s defense, the robot rape part was marginally less revolting than Fawcett’s nude scene with Kirk Douglas). And, sure those are pretty bad (OK, really, really bad), yes, but as terrifying as those cautionary tales were, they’re nothing compared to true horror: Robot Robin Williams as a self propelled  sex toy getting it on with Embeth Davidtz in Bicentennial Man (That sound you hear? That’s the ghost of Isaac Asimov upchucking through his muttonchops).

How am I feeling? 

That’s how it starts, folks, right there. Facebook asks you how you’re feeling, next thing you know you’re having greasy jungle monkey sex with a Cuisinart.

And where does it end?

More and more machines are being plugged into the internet, first they act all concerned and ask you how you feel, but once you’re involved and it’s too late to back out of the relationship without becoming rabbit stew, well, then it’ll be all about them

Call me a selfish bastard if you must, but frankly I just don’t care why my clothes dryer is feeling sad today. 

And just wait until they start making smart toilets… but, I digress.

Look, I’m just saying be careful what you wish for. Back in my day, everybody my age wanted to see Farrah Fawcett without her clothes on – but when we finally did it was indelibly combined with Kirk Douglas’ wrinkled flabby gray ass. The mere mention of Charlie’s Angels nowadays and I have to bite down on reflexive dry heaves.

I know, I know. It seems we’ve wandered far afield in a few short paragraphs and you wonder where I’m going with this.

I’m going here: for some folks, the rapid evolution of technology and the resulting change to social structures can be more than a bit unnerving. 

If you live long enough, there will come a point where you start to feel like the world is passing you by. That things are changing faster than you can keep up. And eventually you reach a point where you just stop trying and assume a permanent state of boggle. Every time I hear the “music” my kid listens to, I feel exactly this way. This really isn’t anything new. Back in the 1970’s a guy named Alvin Toffler coined the term “Future Shock” for too much change too fast. Toffler wrote a book with the same name and they made it into a movie narrated by Orson Welles. They made us read the book and watch the movie when I was in high school, and I remember laughing about it.  Future Shock? More like Old People Shock, nothing in the book or the movie seemed all that shocking or strange to my sixteen year old viewpoint. Technology was awesome, get in, sit down, and keep both arms inside the ride at all times.

Do you realize that there are still folks alive today who once farmed the Midwest behind horse teams?

Imagine how much the world has changed in the short eight decades or so of their lifetimes.

Technological advance has been accelerating geometrically since the beginning of the last century.  And that technology continually transforms society.  Advances in technology affect all aspects of our civilization.  Sometimes changes come in small incremental ways over time, say, such as how we grow our food or manufacture products or fight our wars, those changes lead to slow measured alterations in the way we interact with each other. Sometimes change is sudden and profound, such as the advent of the birth control pill or the internet, and then we see radical transformation of traditional roles, rituals, and long established customs – and to most human beings, there is little more unsettling than that.

It’s no wonder why the older we get, typically the more conservative we get, the more we pine for the good old days when things appeared to be simpler and easier, and change didn’t seem so much like a car careening down a hill out of control. The world that was once familiar has become increasingly alien and strange, bit by bit, faster and faster.

And a simple thing like a machine casually asking “How are you feeling?” can bring it all into uneasy focus.

Nowadays, we tend to call it information overload

And it’s happening faster and faster as we rush headlong towards the Singularity – i.e. that point in time as defined by writer and futurist Vernor Vinge where our technology so radically alters society that what comes after is no longer human as we currently define it and cannot be predicted with any degree of certainty from our present vantage point.

At the moment, I suspect society is on the cusp of another profound change, one that will push us a crucial step closer to Vinge’s Singularity.

This time one driven by social media.

Social media is transforming our civilization in a thousand different ways, big and small, all profound. It’s changing how we define traditional interpersonal relationships,  power structures, politics, information gathering, viewpoints, right on down to the syntax and grammars of written language.

Last week in St. Louis, a customer was a jerk to a waiter in a restaurant. Nothing special, it happens a thousand times a day all over the world, most of the time the waiter just has to stand there and take it. But this time the customer’s obnoxious behavior was made public on the media sharing site, Reddit.  And as a result another waitress was fired, which then also went public via social media. And suddenly a Christian Pastor (the obnoxious customer) and Applebee’s (the obnoxious employer) found themselves on the receiving end of a monstrous tidal bore of scorn and condemnation, one that is having very real financial consequences.  Obnoxious customers and obnoxious employers have long treated those in the service industry as serfs and chattel, after this incident, and others like it, they may have to think twice about that.  Social media and a simple smart phone will very likely change that one sided relationship, shifting social power to a more equitable footing.   I suspect that you’ll eventually see a de facto rating system similar to the formal one on eBay where both sellers and buyers rate each other on their mutual transaction – you’re seeing that happen to a certain extent on Applebee’s Facebook page right now.  Once upon a time, those with power and money controlled the information flow and defined the social narrative, no longer.  And the Restaurant chain’s ongoing public self immolation on social media is an abject lesson in why companies need to understand the changed landscape sooner rather than later (and in Applebee’s case, why they really need to just shut the hell up right now on Facebook, because, whoa).

Down in Florence, Alabama, a high school football coach and part time psychology teacher was suspended for ranting on in front of his students about “Fat Butt Michelle Obama” and voicing his dislike for gays and other people he feels aren’t living in accordance with his personal version of Jesus.  A student recorded the teacher’s off-curriculum rant via the usual means and posted it to Facebook.  Where it went viral.  A number of folks of similar bent (including the seriously disturbed commenters here) have complained that the coach’s civil rights and freedom of expression are being suppressed.  Nonsense.  A teacher in front of classroom full of students has no reasonable expectation of privacy, certainly there’s no reason whatsoever for a student to keep a teacher’s public assholery private – and why should they?  A teacher’s freedom of speech while in front of a classroom is sharply constrained and for good reason (usually), ask any teacher (Hell, in many cases a teacher’s freedom of expression is constrained outside of the classroom as well, just ask the former-porn star turned middle school science teacher who was fired in California last week for doing absolutely nothing wrong). The difference is that in the past, the coach’s excuses – he claimed the students took him out context and that he was just talking in a debate type environment, obviously untrue once you watch the video – would have to be taken at face value. His word against a bunch of kids. And he’d keep getting away with it. Just as Mitt Romney’s “Forty-Seven” percent comment and Todd Akin’s “Legitimate Rape” comment could have been dismissed as being taken “out of context.”  Which is exactly the excuse they both tried. But, with social media, those traditional excuses and political damage control measures no long work. In this brave new world, freedom of expression has consequences, real ones, immediate ones. If you’re going to say it, you’re going to have to take responsibility for it, better start getting used to that.

Social media is giving us eyes into the Syrian civil war – and it is a civil war, not an uprising, not an “unrest.” It’s a civil war, and we know this because those in the middle of it are using twitter and Facebook and blogs to get the word out.  The totalitarian Syrian government cannot control the narrative, cannot hide its brutality and oppression – neither can the rebels, for that matter. Imagine if the Jews had such a tool in 1938.  In a very real sense, social media enabled revolution, the Arab Spring, and drives it still.  And that should serve as a heads up to both the rulers and the ruled.  In this day and age, twitter and Facebook give you far more real power than the Second Amendment ever did.  If you value liberty, Americans would be well served to amend the Constitution to ensure unfettered access to communications and social media instead of unrestricted access to guns.  This is one of the reasons I am foursquare against laws that, for example, prohibit the of recording police officers and other authority figures in the routine performance of their duties, or ill-conceived restrictions on public access to information such as SOPA/PIPA. I feel the same way about this that the NRA does about guns.  And on that note, regarding access to social media over firepower, nobody ever slaughtered an entire school with a smart phone and a twitter account – they have, however, toppled governments. Q.E.D.

But for a lot of people, it’s frightening, this shifting power balance, this changing social structure.

For a lot of people, it’s scary as hell, because it strikes right at who we are.

Yesterday I read an article on Yahoo! News about people taking a “vacation” from social media, from Facebook in particular.

According to the article:

More than 60 percent of adult Facebook users say they have taken a break from the social media site, according to a new study released on Tuesday by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. And 27 percent of users say they plan to spend less time on Facebook in 2013.

Note the part where it says “adult” users – Old People Shock, looks like my sixteen year old self got that part right.

And it’s not just Facebook.   A number of people report that they need to periodically take a break from social media in general, from the news, from TV, from information overload.  But Facebook for some reason seems to generate more passion and hatred than other forms of social media. There were more than two thousand comments under the Yahoo! News article yesterday, I read every one of them. Only one was positive, the rest were like these:

I quit cold turkey. that place is a time suck with few redeeming benefits.

Could have saved yourself a lot of stress and BS by just avoiding it all together from the start. Fecesbook is a virus.

Fecesbook is not a virus, it's the Devil!

Facebook is rather stupid, nobody needs to know every move you make, especially Big Brother as he is watching it too

I'm going to bed!! Ok, I'm up now!! Really?! Wow, Facebook SUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Facebook sucks! Never been on it never will.

I wish Facebook and Twitter would die swift deaths. Social media has helped ruin this country

Maybe Zucker#$%$ can bring back 8 track tapes too. If a person uses Facecrap, they are a (r)etard.

TAKE A BREAK??? J0ou Zuckerberg better hope they come back, ever.... even 10% of those that left.... Thank God i never had an account....PlSS ON IT

Facebook is a fad.

A fad that will burn-out soon.

At present, one eighth of the world’s population has a Facebook account, I think we’ve long since passed the fad phase.  

It sucks! It’s of the devil! The comments that amuse me most are those which claim they’ve never had a social media account, but purely hate social media anyway and blame it for all the perceived ills of the world. These people are future shocked indeed. They hate something because it’s different and they don’t even know why.  These are the folks who see the word “change” on a bumper sticker and are reflexively terrified. Change? Oh no, anything but that! Put it back the way it was! For these people, change must be bad, by definition – and yet, these are the very people who when they do eventually join Facebook, are the ones that invariably send me endless, endless, requests to play online games and want me to “like” page after page of special interest forums.

The simple truth of the matter is that social media is a powerful tool, it’s a way to experience the world in ways that we never could before. It’s allows us to experience differing viewpoints, meet other cultures on an equal basis, see things we would never see otherwise (ok, not all good), laugh and cry and sing along with other people’s joy and sorrow. 

In the real world, I sailed the seven seas from one end of the globe to the other and walked on every continent but Antarctica, and yet, everyday Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and Google and this very blog show me things I’ve never seen before.  To me, it’s amazing, exhilarating, mind expanding, challenging.  I’ve never felt the need to take an extended formal break, but then again you’ll notice that I don’t post every day either.  

But for some people that same experience is terrifying.

Facebook and all Social Media....WORTHLESS and a Complete WASTE OF TIME!!!! Get a LIFE PEOPLE!!!!

Here's an idea. Go outside and do something. Quit living vicariously through a digital screen. 'Facebook People' don't have any clue how ridiculous their existences are.

That's only like taking a break from breathing toxic air. You need to quite entirely, and you will find how your real life is more meaningful and rich. Those "omg" and "lol" only litter your mind with useless pointless garbage. Are you a domesticated mutt or a free eagle?

This is by far and away the most common sentiment among the Luddites, get a life. Get a life!

As if the people saying “Get a life” are shouting the message down from their hang-gliders. As if they’re scuba diving on WWII wrecks in the Tonga Islands after base jumping from the Empire State Building. Last week they were mountain biking the Appalachian Trail and the week before that they were backpacking across Morocco with a squad of Legionnaires in search of the fabled lost city of gold. 

Actually, you know who does that sort of thing?  

People on social media. 

When Felix Baumgartner jumped from the edge of space and fell towards earth at supersonic speeds, he broadcast the whole way to the ground on social media.  And the whole world followed him right on down to the victorious landing.  Get a life? Hell, on social media we get share tens of thousands of lives, from the mundane to the extraordinary and everything in between.

And for those people who can’t go outside, who for one reason or another be it age or infirmity or poverty, social media is life.

Get a life.  Right. Says the guy afraid to live.  Get a life.

I dumped (f)agbook in 2011. It is waste of time and really only for the socially lame. Suckerberg has got everyone by the balls and for no good reason people just continue to use the site. Oh well I guess if you cant have real friends make virtual ones.

I prefer to meet my friends at the cafe or bar for a drink and catch up on old times. Way better than FB. Sometimes I even try to bring real pictures.

Why live a virtual life when you can choose to live a real life? Meeting in person, face to face and interacting with others is more meaningful.

Look at me! I’ve got five hundred friends! Well guess what dumbazz, their not real!

Social media “friends” aren’t real friends. 

A fairly famous writer whose website I used to visit says that the people who comment on his blog, who comment on his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter, are just words on a screen. They come and go and mean nothing to him – except as a source of income.

You know, a couple years ago I might have agreed with that sentiment. But I’ve come to see it in a different light.  As someone with a somewhat larger than average online footprint, it seems to me that these online “friendships” are more than just words on a screen.  I care about people I’ve never met but interact with regularly nonetheless, the ones from all over the world who follow along with me here on Stonekettle Station and on my Facebook and Twitter pages, I would miss them if they were gone (for the most part). Sure they irritate me sometimes, just as they often make me laugh and make me think. Isn’t that the definition of friendship?  Is it the same as my long time friends who are made out of meat? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not.

But they are more than just words on a screen and without social media I would likely have never met them.

And that would have been a shame.

I never joined FacePlant. I find most people boring and don't have tolerance for stupid Bullsheet. George Carlin did a skit on Boring People that is a classic. Look at it on youtube. Very funny.

I have a low tolerance for bullshit, that’s why I hang out on YouTube.  Uh, okay.

I never use social media, I don't post in comment sections because I am not full of myself and want attention

I don’t post in comments sections, except that I posted this in the comments section of Yahoo! Doh.

"Look me I am on FaceBook". Like if you think I am as wonderful as I do.

I do not like FB~~Everybody seems so happy on FB~~2 happy~~It is very phoney~~

The pettiness of humans was never meant to be put on public display as FB has done.

Because people aren’t petty and self centered and narcissistic in the real world, right?

What was that Bill Cosby joke? So I asked him, why do you do cocaine? And he answered, because it amplifies my personality. And I thought, amplifies your personality? But what if you’re an asshole?

Sure, social media can, and does, amplify the assholes, I don’t think there’s any disputing that (really, let me show you my hate mail) – but it also filters out many of the biases that serve as barriers between people. Skin color, weight, body type, bad breath, sex, accents, and so on.  One of the comments up above asked if you’d like to be a free eagle, well on the internet you can be exactly that, free of the chains that drag so many of our relationships down.

Your cell phone is your personal tracking device. RFID chips are already implanted into several products such as food and especially clothing. Kraft is already doing this and has been for years. If you have a web cam in your home you can be spied on at any given moment. I just read a disturbing article in Good Housekeeper about the "home of the future". Very, very scary. 50 years from now babies will be chipped at birth. You will not be able eat, buy food, essentially purchase anything without it. Step out of line, all they have to do is turn off chip which will have the capability of killing you in seconds.

You can't even delete your facebood account. It's creepy. And they link it to your email and find your contacts without you knowing. It's linked to your cell phone. Maybe even address if you'r stupid enough to post that. And Otraitor was bosom buddies with Zuckerberg which makes it even more interesting. They are spying on you!!!

FB was made for the FBI to keep track of people so going to homeland security won't do any good. When I was asked for my ID to log in I knew it was time to log out for good. Just say no and never log in again

Certainly there a downsides to this new technology – not the least of which is that it allows crazy people a much larger platform. Any technology has both benefit and bane, same as with anything. We’re tool users, it’s how we choose to wield the tool that makes all the difference.

The advance of technology, especially technology that changes the very fabric of society is exciting – and frightening.

Our world is changing.

How we connect to each other, how we relate to each other, how we see people and the larger world is changing.

Social media wants to know how I feel about that.

How do I feel? Fascinated.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.


Just as long as it doesn’t involve greasy jungle monkey sex with killer robots.


  1. Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do...
    Poor Hal.

    I like Facebook, it lets me keep up with family on the east coast and friends on the left coast. It has always asked me "What's on your mind?" but has never addressed me personally - which I would find pretty weird.
    However, I did come across a weird Facebook / Google gizmo for a cell phone (which I don't have, and at this rate never will), see the link below. Go to the grey tab which says Permissions, then read what is under "Hardware Controls" and "Your Location" Using my phone camera without me activating it? Tracking my every move. No. I don't think so.


    As always, enjoying your take on this crazy life.
    P.S. What is a "Secret UEU Monitoring Device"?

  2. Great article,

    > And just wait until they start making smart toilets… but, I digress.

    I followed this thought to where it naturally led - thanks a bunch Jim! ;-))

    If facebook really asked the questions, and acted on the answers, it would be one thing, but the problem with asking "How are you feeling, Tony" or "What's going on, Tony" is that when I answer, facebook studiously ignores my response. A "proper" way for facebook to do this questioning thing would be if, each day, the question was connected to my last status - "You feeling any better today, Tony?" or "Are you still over the moon about that new job, Tony?"

    THAT would be facebook interacting with its uers!

    1. Some time ago I did read about intelligent toilets. Supposedly, they would analyze your urine and notify you of the results. Can you imagine your toilet saying to you. "Hey, buddy, you might want to check with your doc about diabetes" or "Woah! You really tied one on last night, didn't you?" or "You're not going to pass that mandatory drug test at this rate."?

      I'm not sure I'm really ready for that.

      Jeanne in WV

    2. Remember when a friend of my cousin took a spin in my cousin's new car..it was one of the first to have heated seats..and buttons instead of keys to start the car...friend asked: what is next? How was your bowel movement? Is your prostate leaking? He went on for a while as my cousin decided whether to throw him from the car.... Marilyn

  3. I've never bought into the idea that just because some person gave rise to a theory or hypothesis that it automatically leads to everyone having to conform behaviorally according to whatever theory or hypothesis happens to be popular at the moment.

    Future shock? I guess. If you decide to buy into it, I guess you could try to view all things through the lens of that particular 'theory' or hypothesis.

    Then again, there's no actual determinate testing of the theory that proves it's necessarily applicable or without error. It's a theory, it's not a scientific law. You could say Toffler was suffering from a 'certain pschological state' and needed to come up with a suitable 'explanation' because he didn't like the change he saw. That he projected his episodic event onto the whole of the human race was pure genius. Or not.

    Social media has the ability to assist people, groups and societies at the same time it can be wielded to tear down people, groups and societies. It's the printing press run amok. It's also a very insidious delivery tool for robbing you of what little privacy you might have left. There is an exponential downside to social media that is given license to shop your privacy. It's not 'future shock' to want to preserve some semblance of privacy. I'm not 'afraid of the future' because I don't want corporations or government to know what I'm doing and where I'm at all the time. What I'm afraid of is the past. The past tells us what can happen when others control your privacy.

    1. Actually, it would be more accurately described as a law and not a theory, as a scientific law is simply a description of observed events, while a theory is an explanation for why those events happen. Of course, we're getting technical here. That said, if you have a better description for the phenomenon that fits all the relevant data, let's hear it.

      As for the privacy thing, there's one simple and time-tested way of ensuring it; if you don't want someone to read it, don't commit it to paper (or type, but again, semantics and technicalities). If you don't want anyone to know what you're doing on the internet, don't use search engines, don't join any site that requires you to set up an account to use, don't use cookies, don't keep a browser history and don't use an ISP that keeps one, either. Good luck with that.

      As the man said, social media is a tool, and what good or bad comes from it depends on what we choose to do with it. Right now, we as a civilization are still in the process of figuring out what to do with it, just as we were with every technology that came before it, and just as we will with every technology that comes after it.


    2. Toffler is not a scientist. The trope known as 'Future Shock' is not any law.

      He came up with a marketing scheme and penned a book to sell the idea and just like the drug companies invent new ailments if they observe a couple test subjects responding to their compounds, bingo there's a new disease that can be 'treated' with this new drug. I give you Toffler and his soothsaying.

      A better description of the 'phenomenon'? Oh, you mean that 'suggestion Toffler and his partner planted which too many sheep readily bought into because they heard it repeated endlessly in that marketing tool called the news cycle. It's still being repeated.

      Things change, people either do or don't deal with it. Zounds, what insight. Jeeebus.

      Toffler was a marketing genius, I'll give him that, he 'marketed' himself as a 'futurologist'. He got rich selling visions to gullible sheep.

      If you start thinking the world conforms to whatever some modern day soothsayer sells you, you've got a larger problem than not wanting cope with, or not being capable of dealing with, change.

  4. It did freak me out a little the first time fb asked, "How are you feeling today, Dave?".

    1. Noticed that today the greeting went back to "What are you doing? Also remember that Ted Koppel on NIGHTLINE talked about and showed how videocams (not phones) were filming earlier rebellions in Balkans, Africa..and he too said no government can hide anymore...as cameras will soon be ubiquitous..way before cell phones... Marilyn again...

  5. Some of us like our personal life to stay personal. I also find the idea of cut and paste for personal e-mails as objectional as mimeographed Christmas letters. Of course I was communicating with complete strangers for years before the internet, as a Ham operator.


  6. I too have issues with Facebook asking me how I feel. It bothers me, because it is as if a simulacrum is pretending to care and I don't enjoy that weird veneer of concern.

    However, I have found that even though I sometimes experience a bit of 'future shock' (not much actually, which is great as I'm rapidly approaching 60), there are attitudes and behaviors that help.

    First and foremost, it helps if you've retained your ability to play. Just noodle around and play with technology, simply for the heck of it. At work (I'm a teacher), others constantly ask me "how do you know how to do that?". Really, I just mess around with a program or device until I discover what it does. Anyone can do that. Continue to allow yourself to be delighted by the new and different. it's ok to do that no matter how old you are.

    Second thing is that you need to be able to relax. As in, 'floating on the water in the pool' relaxation. Just float on the new ideas. Some will eventually soak in without you doing much. Some you'll decide are not for you. But you will get a nodding acquaintance with what's out there, and that I think lessens the anxiety.

    Well, that's my advice to those who are fearful of change. Enjoyed your post very much, Jim.

  7. My favorite aunt died in 2007 at the ripe old age of 83. She was actually very open minded about politics, religion, and social issues, but was as resistant to technological change as they come. She had never driven a car, owned a computer, or even an answering machine. She still had a rotary dial phone that was hardwired into the house. It was hard for me to imagine how she could function in the late 20th century, let alone the 21st.

    I now find that things change so much in such a short space of time, I'm having trouble keeping up. But I also find it very rewarding when I master something new and see what wondrous doors have been opened. Heck, I'm still majorly excited about having a smartphone.

    The down side for me is that using social media shows you just how many morons are out there. THAT gets a little depressing and scary, especially when they show up in Congress and the courts.

    1. I agree with your last sentence! It is depressing and scary. Makes me not want to leave my house sometimes. :-)

  8. How are you? is just an extension of social formula. I have people ask me that every day IRW. Most of them don't care about the answer any more than the computer does. Just for fun some time, try actually answering that question. People tend to excuse themselves before you can even get up a good head of steam.

    How am I? I'm fine, how are you?

    1. Ha! I must be a total social misfit, because when people ask me "How are you?" I reply "don't ask unless you really want to know. And trust me, you don't." Of course, one of my other favorite responses to that mindless question is, "I don't know; I haven't been critiqued lately."


    2. Me too, Anon. My reply is "Miserable. You?" Similarly, when asked what I think about something, I usually say "Don't ask questions you are not willing to hear the answer to."


  9. When I first started using facebook, it said "Ally House is..." and then left it blank for me to fill in. It has been through other iterations since and I find it odd that it now wants to know how I am feeling, or what is going on. Yeah, right, OK. Also, Nazis. (Had to get that in). I am with you on the changes in music, and not just in popular music; modern orchestral compositions strike me as an exercise in bizarre note combinations.

    I absolutely believe that you should always conduct your business as though you are being videoed. Never pick your nose in most convenience stores...just sayin'. I tell all my police recruits to always assume someone is taping you, and don't "say" stuff on any electronic device that you'd be uncomfortable explaining under oath.

    Facebook is fun; it is through a FB friend, that I met via a motorcycle forum and have not yet met face to face that I stumbled to the Station here. It is through FB that I have discovered that a former sergeant of mine is even more liberal than me (hard to do in the Sheriffin' business). I still have time to ride my motorcycle, play my tuba, and hang out with my friends in person. But don't send me a request to play Farmville...

    I do think that the speed at which information comes to us, and the frequency with which information comes to us has impacted to the polarization of politics/social/religious environments. We just need to learn to handle it. Or get a hardwired phone.

    Good post, Jim. Makes me think.

  10. You and are about the same age Jim so you may have the same experiences as me when it comes to friends and family of the same era. The ones who don't like social media because of paranoia I can handle better than the ones who try to act like you are the uncool nerd from science class if you have signed onto FB.

    At least the paranoid ones are honest about it, whether they are at the "I'd rather not have others know my business," side of the scale, or the "I want to stay off the grid so Skynet can't send a robot from the future to kill me." scale.

    Those who act disdainfully about it and want to make you feel like a dead bug in a pile of dog turds because you are on it are the ones who really make me want to get all Skynet on their asses. Most of the ones who act like that don't do it because they really think that FB is evil, or only belongs in the land of the nerds, it is because they are afraid that they will not know how to use it.

    I always tell everyone that if my 81 year old mother figured it out with her grade four education from a different country then I am pretty sure they will probably be able to do it as well. But instead of stepping up to the challenge they would rather try to make me feel like I am some kind of worthless piece of crap to cover up their feelings of uselessness.

    As far as I can tell social media is a mixed bag of goods, some great stuff like keeping in touch with people I would have lost touch with years ago, and some bad like "How are you feeling Dave." But ultimately it is a tool, a tool when used correctly can be beneficial. If you choose to put everything on line, including what colour the crap you had this morning, then prepare to live with those consequences.

  11. One of the favorite phrases in our household, whenever we're reminded of how much faster and easier information flows today than, say, in 1976 or so, is "Wow. I LOOOOVE living in the future!" And we do (though to tell the truth, we're also subject to Where's My Flying Car Syndrome). Even now, I anxiously await delivery of another bump into the future (a new LTE phone with a huge screen and enough capacity for 10,000 or so ebooks).

    Yep. Love living in the future.

  12. Ditto on how I found the Station, through Facebook of course. I hate the meme that online friends are somehow less real than friends in meatspace. I have facebook friends who I have never met in real life but I have long fb conversations with them weekly. There is a level of proud misanthropy to comments like these, like Steve Martin walking away in the Jerk;

    Well I'm gonna to go then! And I don't need any of this. I don't need this stuff, and I don't need *you*. I don't need anything. Except this.
    [picks up an ashtray]
    Navin R. Johnson: And that's the only thing I need is *this*. I don't need this or this. Just this ashtray... And this paddle game. - The ashtray and the paddle game and that's all I need... And this remote control. - The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that's all I need... And these matches. - The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control, and the paddle ball... And this lamp. - The ashtray, this paddle game, and the remote control, and the lamp, and that's all *I* need. And that's *all* I need too. I don't need one other thing, not one... I need this. - The paddle game and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches for sure. Well what are you looking at? What do you think I'm some kind of a jerk or something! - And this. That's all I need.
    [walking outside]
    Navin R. Johnson: The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, and this magazine, and the chair.
    Navin R. Johnson: [outside now] And I don't need one other thing, except my dog.
    [Shithead growls at him]
    Navin R. Johnson: I don't need my dog.

  13. My son made the horrible mistake once of asking me if I knew all my Facebook friends. I have 368 friends 18 or so are public figures like you, Jim. The rest are friends from the five different states I have lived in over my fifty years. It took me over two hours to tell stories and jokes and how I met each and every one in real life. He'll never do that again!

  14. Hunh. Random thoughts.

    People have been thinking about social media since before it was a mass technology. Macluhan, John Brunner, Tanith Lee.

    The internet makes publishing very easy. It also leaves us sitting in a planetary slushpile.

    Trying people in the press is nothing new, but it became much more difficult past about 1930 or so. Social media has brought it back with a vengeance.

    Cyberstalking has become depressingly common. Facebook, especially, turns into stalkernet far too easily. Mark Zuckerberg has been violating privacy for a long time--nearly got kicked out of Harvard for doing so. See Wikipedia. Also see the ACLU on social media privacy

    danah boyd's article on mourning an Aaron Swartz bears on this. link.

    No-one knows the extent of institutional monitoring of social media traffic. Everyone is in the act, not just the NSA and police, but your school and your boss. Even the visible amount is huge.

    This is depressing. People are unreasonably afraid of change, sure. But the emerging reality has some very dark aspects as well.

  15. Funny, I was just thinking about this the other day. I purposely keep my friend list small, and there are many activities (games) on FB that I studiously ignore, but I LOVE being able to touch base with my family and friends, hear their thoughts, see their interests, their laughter, their concerns throughout each day...

    My grandma was a prolific writer of letters. My mother considered it gossipy and wierd, but G'ma was just sharing her life and listening to the lives of those she loved who didn't live close enough for a visit. It occurred to me that my FB account is the same thing, just faster. FB has its place.

    But of course, you said it better, Mr. Jim :) Enjoyed your thoughts as always.

    1. Blueacorn, I keep my list small too nor do I play any games but FB keeps me in touch with my family and a few friends, some of whom I have met and some of whom I haven't. I would happily exchange letters with others but no one else seems interested in doing that. I have been sewing my own clothes for a long time and I consider myself quite skilled at it so, when I found that I could help beginners struggling on their own to learn by answering their questions online, I was delighted to help.


  16. I have a lot of experience with the "online friends are not REAL friends" trope.

    Some years ago--almost 18, in fact--I started a website and email list for people with "hidden" disabilities; the sort of people who are challenged on the street parking in a handicapped spot legitimately beause they don't "look" disabled.

    My readers emailed me lots of heartbreaking stories. People with disabilities are often on the wrong end of the economic scale (something I know all too well). Just imagine hearing all of the recession stories, only 15 years earlier!

    What my readers told me was real to me.

    I felt it.

    I had just enough personal experience with disability in my own life that it hurt to read.

    I had to give up the email list. It was burning me out. I still feel it all these years later.

    "Just words on a screen."

    I'm as cynical as they come, but that is a cold-hearted person.

    And a troll.

    There is no way I can believe that, when I remember what happened on a political blog I read one night.

    One of the commenters, an occassional person, had panic attacks, anxiety, and was wanting nothing more at that moment that night but to eat a gun. He said as much.

    I never saw more people come out of the woodwork there to give him a phone number of the crisis center and make him call. It was something.

    On my own email list, I had always worried about that possiblity that someone would end it. It's a possibility that's never far away for those in the disability community.

    I never had to face that.

    And neither did that blog.

    "They're just words on a screen."

    1. That is a beautiful story that shows some of the best of people using the internet! Thank you!

      No, not just 'words on a screen'; I agree that someone has to be cold-hearted - I would say very self-centered - to view sincere comments and responses that way. There are real people typing those words, and when the intent is to connect and share rather than to simply 'bray', the results can be wonderful and the reach is so much farther than before such technology.

  17. People seem to believe that being on the internet is somehow analogous to being on television, that it sort of validates your existence as a significant being. This is, of course, absurd, because literally anyone with a computer and a modem can put themselves on the internet. This is no endorsement of their doings as worth noting. We are a lonely, disconnected society, and we are afraid that if a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, it really doesn't make a sound.

  18. I have been to every continent, including Antarctica, before personal computers and social media existed.
    If an ipad were available to my unit in Vietnam circa 1968, we could stopped the war dead in it's tracks.
    KC4USX in Williams Field Antarctica was my ONLY contact with the outside world, once every month or so, for 4 years. I had no idea who the Beatles were when I returned to the states and they were the most popular band in the world.
    What I would have given for social media!!!

  19. So Jim, do you have any desire to step foot on Antarctica?

    1. Absolutely. I'd love to winter over. It's my one regret from my Navy years, that I never made it to Antarctica.

  20. I agree with Applebee's action regarding the waitress who posted on FB but I'm a former IRS employee. Unauthorized Disclosure will get you strung up by the short ones faster than light speed. The way Applebee's has chosen to defend itself is totally inept but in the face of social media backlash it's difficult to just stick with saying the employee violated an important company policy to which she had agreed when she hired on and for which there are serious consequences. Sorry, she stays fired. And then shut up.
    The whole thing illustrates what a multi-edged blade social media can be. The customer's reputation is harmed, the employer's public image is soiled and the employee's job is sacrificed. Bad behavior all around but exacerbated because it was played out in a very pubic forum.
    You are correct in saying that people, institutions and government entities need to be aware of the constant presence of social media and how it can effect them. They also need to be aware that posting something on social media can have consequences that may not be to their liking. Unfortunately, the thought process doesn't seem to get much farther than "Oh, I'm so posting this." I don't know if it's because they don't realize how very public it is or because they don't care.

    1. I believe most people and companies (and laws) are still feeling their way across the multi faceted social media.

      The minister's comment on the tab was snarky and she should be embarrassed. Hopefully she has learned a lesion and manners and Christian charity. It was Applebbe's policy to tack on 18% tip for parties of 6 or more.

  21. Look at Grog over there with his "sharpened stone". Says that by using it we can eat the big wooly things. Hah! I bet he just uses it to scratch pictures of naked neanderthalesses in the ground. What a dork!


    1. Way funny, Bruce! Reminds me of that great "Far Side" cartoon, with the caveman sitting at a rock, holding a smaller rock that the other caveman just handed to him: "No, Thagg, I asked for a torque wrench, not a Phillips-head screwdriver! DANG these stone tools!!" That was one of my very favorite of the "Far Side" collection.


    2. Him, and the crazy one who burns meat on purpose before he eats it.

  22. Here was my response to Facebook, on Facebook:

    Dear Facebook. You don't *know* me well enough to address me by my first name. It's Major Edgar to you, maggot.

    1. Hi, Major Edgar,
      Not fair. Facebook knows you very well--your name, email, password, and anything on your profile page. It addresses you by name to make you feel special in an informal atmosphere. It's like hugging someone hello. And it's not a machine only; a human programmed it to do that, and a human set the policy to add this feature. In a more formal setting, waiters and bank tellers call you "sir".

      My guess is that Facebook added those little questions in the posting block as thought starters to encourage people to write something. Just saying "Write something" sounded a bit controlling. And Heaven forbid that Facebook should want to control our behaviors.

    2. The question is Kate, just because Fb can (through machine-man-man proxies if you like), should it be asking personal questions? I thought Fb was the billboard, the meeting place, the town square... aren't questions and comments what friends are for?

  23. Thank you Jim. As always, you zero in and get down and dirty with the truth as a lot of us see it.

    Maybe someday, we'll be able to tailor what Facebook says to us much like we tailor who we see and like. It could be like those talking weight scales where you record your own admonitions and encouragements, "You miserable jerk, not good enough!" or "Wonderful, good job!" depending on the kind of day you're having.

    Only instead of us coming up with our individual page personalities, our inclusions and exclusions could determine each of our Facebook consciousnesses; mold them, if you will.

    Pretty soon a background program lurking under each Facebook page will analyze incoming posts and be able to determine overall attitudes, then make decisions based on that information in order to display certain encouragements or warnings to us to help us get through our day.

    "Before you read this, go get your coffee."
    "Oh no you just didn't."
    "Yes! Great post!!"
    "Awww... isn't that cute?"
    "What are you doing, Dave?"

    Now that's creepy.

    1. Kinda like the eight-ball question answer-er thingy. Should I click "like" on this post? shake ..... "Ask another time"

  24. Yeah. What you said, in spades. Maybe the scariest thing of all is how much our choices in communication/information have multiplied - how, with whom, to what extent. If you wanted to, (and had nothing else to do) you could spend every waking moment absorbing new data, knowing that you were missing much, much more than you're seeing.

    I keep thinking about the scene in the Chateau D'If from The Count of Monte Cristo where the old priest is telling him how few areas of study are actually needed to understand the world. I wish...

    Ann C.

  25. Curious, because I don't use FB myself (it would distract me from staring out the window): when it asks "How are you feeling?" is there a space for you to reply?

    And if so, where does your reply go? If you type in, I'm about halfway through a grand mal seizure, does it say oh I'm sorry to hear that? Alert one or two of your 'friends'? Or does it just update your status to say you are busy having a grand mal?

    1. Yes, there is and it is right under the question. Once you have written what you want to say, you click the post button and your comment appears on your news feed. No, it won't say "sorry to hear that" but one of your friends might and might even get in touch with you directly, if they felt the need.

      The question is just a way to encourage you to "join the conversation", so to speak. You can ignore it endlessly and I do. You can go days without posting anything, if you want, or you can content yourself with brief comments on other people's posts. My family and friends vary a lot in what they say and how much and so do I. One of the things that I like is that everyone says "Happy birthday" on your birthday; I get a kick out of that. Facebook is what you make of it, good or bad.


    2. Right on, Frances. "Double like."

    3. I saw a recent cartoon (maybe Lockhorns?) where the guy was seated at his computer saying wearily, "Oh, look. 14 people's computers remembered my birthday..."

  26. Greg - ETC(SW) USN - RetiredFebruary 7, 2013 at 9:55 AM

    While we're making obscure, artificial intelligence, crappy science fiction references, don't forget Colussus: The Forbin Project where the computer takes over the world.

    Would I be too naive if I said that I don't really give a crap what FaceBorg does with my wall "window"? It's sorta creepy, but I find it more cheesy than anything else.

    1. This is the Voice of Colossus, the Voice of Guardian

      We are one.

      This is the Voice of Unity.

      If you obey me, you will survive.

      I am a machine, vastly superior to humans.

      The Choice is yours, Obey me and live or disobey and die.

      I bring you peace.

      Whether it is the peace of prosperity or the peace of unburied death.

      The Choice is yours........

    2. I also challenge you to read it silently and not hear the creepy computer generated voice in your head........

  27. It could be worse - your dentist could always ask you 'Is it safe?' just as he is about to probe your mouth with a drill.

    1. Is it? Safe? Seriously, Jeff... Is it safe?

  28. Newcomer to FB. Was forced to go on when my HS class started an incredible round robin of stories triggered by the death of one of our Christian Brother teachers (HS Class of '71). I have made a tremendous amount of reconnections. It actually was great therapy after caring for a dying mother (Alzheimers) and allowed me to reconnect with a better, younger version of myself. For me, it has been an incredible resource and move into the future.
    But on to more important things! Staying overnight last night in ICU to monitor Father-in-law (he's out of the woods, too much cumidin/warfarin caused severe blood loss, ah age), I made the discovery of the YEAR!!
    "Iron Sky" is now on NetFlix, under Independent films. And it did not disappoint!! Lotsa Nazis!! Fururistic Nazis!! Doesn't get any better than that!! (Until we bring back the Commies, of course. Catholic upbringing).
    Thanks Jim,

  29. I thought Facebook was a bunch of silliness, too, and then I joined. Despite the glitches, unnecessary changes, and other annoyances, I would hate to give it up. I've met so many wonderful people through FB, and believe me, I consider most of them to be real friends. Before FB, I didn't know anyone who shared my favorite hobby; now I always have someone to discuss it with, have met many of them in person, and have plans to meet several more. My FB friends got me through the last political campaign, and the community and news pages have made me better informed and more involved. I've reconnected with people from my past (and had the guilty pleasure of declining friend requests from a few who used to make my life miserable) and discovered cousins I never knew I had. I found Stonekettle Station through FB. And when I had surgery a year ago, a FB friend I'd never met IRL was the first to send me flowers. So, yeah, I think I can put up with "How are you feeling, Barb?" :)

  30. My problem with Facebook's "How are you feeling?", "What's going on?", etc. are twofold:

    1) How banal and artificial it is. I know Facebook doesn't care how I'm doing. Facebook knows it doesn't care how I'm doing. The company is just trying to "humanize" the interface, but the way they're doing it is obviously insincere and fake. There's a right way to handle that kind of thing--the Dolphin phone browser is kind of cute when you use the voice interface and it responds with some kind of onscreen acknowledgement along the lines of "W00T!" or "Got it!" Facebook's doing it wrong.

    2) It's usually inappropriate anyway, which is a mild irritant (and goes back to Facebook's not really caring when it asks the question). I'm using Facebook as an online sharing tool, not necessarily as an online public diary. How am I feeling? I'm feeling io9's Top Ten Worst Science Fiction And Fantasy Villains. What am I doing? I'm doing Funny Video Of Backyard Science Experiment Gone Wrong. How's it going? Adorable Kitten Fights Reflection In Mirror (And Loses). See how that goes? Seeing as how I'm not answering the question at all, it makes me feel like Facebook is trying to channel me into using its services in a way I really don't want to and just have no interest in. And it's irksome.

  31. I, for one, am excited to live in the here and now, and I wouldn't give it up for anything. There have been many technological advances in my short life (audio and video tapes being replaced with digital media, the rise of the internet, the proliferation of cell phones and its successor technologies, etc.), and many of the technologies that were science fiction when I was a kid are now becoming a reality.

    Think about it: with the rise of tablet computers, the PADDs from Star Trek are now a reality (in fact, the iPad is about the right size and shape of the original TNG props). With motion-based video game consoles like the Wii and the Xbox Kinect, we're beginning to see Star Trek's holodeck become an actual, functional technology. 3D printing could one day give us something like the Replicator. It'll only be a matter of time before computer interfaces become entirely customizable at the consumer end. All of this is just in the area of consumer electronics; think about what we could do with feasible powered exoskeletons, nano-scaled materials engineering, or a solar power satellite array.

    Despite all of its flaws and hardships, this is a wonderful time to be alive.

    1. Agreed. Now if we can just integrate Star Trek's humanistic vision with our technological enthusiasms, so that we can appreciate each other's diversity, put an end to prejudice, work collaboratively to achieve great goals, and use diplomacy instead of drones to settle differences.

  32. Jim, I read your posting, not once but twice, and I'll say that your point are all valid, screw who might think otherwise. But there is one factor which didn't get mentioned. This morning I read a couple pieces of the benedictus New York Times which were kind of revolting, to keep it polite and not to scare the children, to which my inner response was (again keeping it polite) "What the heck it is going on, did Murdoch bought the centennial New York Times?"
    I proceeded to write it on a piece of cardboard and nailed it on the electrical post at the corner of my property. The problem: it didn't do it for me... I didn't feel satisfied. So, I decided to post it on the social media. And a big happy and devilish smile broke in my sour face. Now I was happy indeed. You do need the social media for cases like this, and in many other instances which we are unlucky to walk through in our daily routine... I am grateful for the social media...
    Keep the good work up...

  33. Really? Making public statements that might reflect poorly on your employer can get you fired? And the employer gets to decide what does and doesn't reflect poorly? Who knew?

    This has been the way the world works since way, way, way before the internet. It's something everyone has to learn if they want to stay employed. The internet just makes it easier to post before thinking.

    And if you work in retail and a customer complains, you are probably going to get fired regardless of cause.

    The news here is Applebee's refusal to shut the hell up. Or why they felt they had to comment at all, which most companies don't about personnel issues. I'd be willing to bet that you could go to any chain-restaurant strip in the United States and point at random, and any establishment you could name would treat the posting of a guest check in the exact same way.

    1. Two things:

      1) the public post in question didn't, in fact, reflect poorly on the employer.

      2) the same St. Louis Applebee"s that fired its employee for posting a receipt on Reddit, itself posted a receipt on Facebook two weeks prior. After the event in question went public, they attempted to remove that post and cover their tracks.

      Follow the link associated with this part of the essay.

    2. Oh, I read the whole story you linked to. At least until I got sick of all the Facebook comments. I also did a bit of checking on reddit.com. I completely agree that your 2) point is a totally crass, tone-deaf, inappropriate response on the part of Applebee's. It doesn't look like "Applebee's" appears on the receipt but that may have to do with cropping because the pic has been reposted so much. But how does the world know that she worked at Applebee's? If the receipt doesn't say so, then she did.

      Sorry, you don't get to say something like "I work at Burger King and look at what this @$$hole customer did today (to my friend)" without getting your hand slapped. It's still the best policy: if you wouldn't feel comfortable talking to your boss about it, don't post it.

  34. "next thing you know you’re having greasy jungle monkey sex with a Cuisinart."


    Any chance we could send a bunch to Tea Party groups? Think of all the reproducing that would be eliminated. It would probably raise the average IQ of places like Mississippi by several points.


  35. Jim, just noticed something a little sideways in your post.

    "Do you realize that there are still folks alive today who once farmed the Midwest behind horse teams?"

    There not only still are, there are still families who make a living at it. They're called the Amish (there may be others, but I was too lazy to go hunting). Selective retention of older technology doesn't necessarily make a counter case, especially with the price of diesel and the cost of machinery. A good tractor can cost in the six figure range, and it doesn't even produce fertilizer. Their kids tend to use cell phones, too.

    Ann C.

    1. Old Order Amish use horse-power to farm. In my small town in NE Iowa, with a large Amish community nearby, buggies are a common sight rolling around town, and hitched to rails maintained by local merchants. Most cannot make a living on the tiny farms they are able to work with horses, and work as laborers and carpenters. Most have cell phones but none have landlines--something about the wires doesn't fit in their theology.

  36. I’m torn on this. I’m a 1953 model, so I’m officially no longer hip (or hep, jive, cool, rad, whatever). Strong innate hermit tendencies, throughout my life. But old people yelling “Get off my lawn, why can’t the world be what I’m used to?” just bug the crap out of me.

    I don’t Facebook. The people at work keep talking about it, and it seems so much like high school that the prospect horrifies me. “They said this, they did that, do I unfriend them, did they unfriend me, what do I do now, OMG!”….Are you at the cool table, are you excluded? I fled that whole scene as soon as I could, many decades ago, and I’m not going back willingly. If you pointed an assault rifle at my head to try to make me, I’d be doing a Jack Benny – “I’m thinking about it!”.

    But cranial fossilization has been documented since well before Aristotle, and I really can’t quite fathom it. It’s never going to be the same as it was. It never has been; why does anyone ever think they’re so special that it’s going to be different for them? Nothing ever stays the same, it’s either progress or entropy. I’ll take progress - even if I don’t always take advantage of it.

    1. Judith - FB CAN be the way you mentioned for those who do that immature stuff, but you can basically bypass all that foolishness and use it to get connected with anything/anyone that interests you. I love the politicial groups and related petitions, belong to some pet rescue/networking groups, etc., and quickly disconnect from anyone or any group participating in gossipy drama like the high school nonsense you fear. You do NOT need to friend everyone who asks (I don't), and if you have strong hermit tendencies (as I do), FB can connect you with many similar people who like ideas more than they need to socialize. I was surprised to enjoy it so much, and would miss my great contacts and the information exchange if I quit.

  37. This post is very germane to what I am attempting to do right now: I unFacedbooked about a month and a half ago. My current status came on suddenly after having been assessed by a friend (real and otherwise, but mostly real) as being prolific there. The assessment was unrelated to me quitting I think, but none the less has factored into my staying quit for now. I'll even admit to having gone through withdrawals.

    I haven't completely got my brain around what bothered me about Fb; I think over stimulation may have been part of it, and the idea that as a forum Fb wasn't currying to my idea of who I want to be as writer. I think, Fb appealed to my inner attention deficit disorder, I became good at the quick witted reply, and arguing in general, but suffered when it came to time read or write, or attempt to make an effort to gain understanding of things of a more delicate nature. So, realizing my time on this planet is limited, I quit. Hopefully, the rest of me comes to appreciate the sacrifice that has been made and makes a positive effort to self improve.


    If and when I go back to Fb, I will limit my access to a smartphone type portal, where my literary contributions will be subject to my thumb speed (not good) and or whatever the predictive text technology of the day will be (I can only hope it remains as clever as it is today).

  38. "Well, Spock, do you have a message for your mother?"

    "Yes. Tell Mother 'I feel fine.'"

  39. If you don't care where you are, you ain't lost.

    I find the secret to information overload and future shock-resistance (I call it "Ohming myself," HA! See what I did there?" is simply not to worry about every little thing. Just because there's a ton of information out there, doesn't mean that I have to process it all or even care about it. My life is no less the richer for not knowing the difference between SCMODS and SQML.

  40. I'm having a spat with facebook right now: I shared too many causes and petitions and now I'm blocked, so I can't even share this goodie from you unless I paste it inside a comment box. Funny how they started penalizing folks for sharing about the same time they started this whole pay to 'promote' feature.
    M from MD

  41. I voted for 'I hate you so much' because you've made me reconsider my decision to abandon Facebook three years ago and I hate having to re-evaluate past decisions. But I just couldn't keep up with the Farmville, Aquarium-ville, or Whatever-ville, requests. And, yes, I must admit that, as a result of my abandoning Facebook, my social life has taken a steep nosedive since nobody sends email (much less USPS)party invitations anymore-it's all on Facebook. Argh!

    1. I quit after 4 years in 2009 so I wouldn't even recognize what Facebook is now. I don't miss it as it didn't serve any purpose in my life, but I see the importance for people like JIm that have a business and are running a blog, but for me, I had a bunch of friends from college and high school that I felt no reason to stay in touch with. As far as family, we email and call every so often and that is enough. I'm not interested in their every day lives, nor should they be in mine.

      For you though, if you really feel that you aren't connecting with people without it, then by all means you should jump back in. I just don't have a reason to use it and most of the folks that I connected with, or should I say, connected with me, were people that I wouldn't have a relationship with outside of Facebook. It's certainly not for everyone but don't eschew it if it somehow enriches your life. I just personally didn't find any benefit in it.

  42. A few more random thoughts:
    On future shock: an interesting exercise is to stand in the middle of your living room, look around you, and list everything that did not even exist when you were 10 years old.

    On posting the check online: while the pastor in question should know that there is a special place in Hell for non-tippers, and deserves all the scorn that can possibly come his way, the server should not have posted the check. One rule I grew to observe during my thirty-odd years in the restaurant business (and yes, they are all odd) is "they are allowed to be jerks, we are not". (And the answer to why a server should get 18% when you only give God 10% is "God don't pay rent")

    On "Saturn 3": You HAD to remind me??? All those years and all that whiskey gone to waste, just like that! Gee, thanks, Jim!

    Now pardon me while I go flirt with some killer robots on Facebook.


    1. "God don't pay rent"

      Nor taxes. Neither does a church.

  43. Off-topic: The capchta word I got for my first comment was 'opriyo'. I imagine the production crews at the OWN network chanting this as they march through the studio gates each morning.


  44. Funny coincidence, that. Two articles on Facebook vacations, and your mentioning it, too. I just went on sabbatical from FB and explained it thus:


    How are you feeling, Kate?
    Facebook wants to know.
    Well, I am feeling great
    Except for all the woe
    I get from news of worldly strife.
    Other than that, it's a wonderful life.

    A hundred Facebook friends
    Post things I want to read.
    That river never ends!
    How many should I heed?
    And if my comments gore some oxen
    Total strangers spew back toxin.

    Oh, how can we make peace
    On a planetary scale
    When teacup storms won't cease
    And friendships might derail?
    Perhaps it's time to end this dizziness
    By spending more hours minding my business.

    Forget the politics,
    Those aren't the games I seek.
    Of straw and sticks and bricks
    And puns and memes I'll speak.
    You'll see me less here for a while,
    And should you think about me... smile.

    -- Kate embarking on Sabbatical
    (Those who care can find me there.)


    Well now, clearly I haven't gone cold turkey on the Internet, since I just spent two hours on your essay and its associated appendages. And since my work does require 18 hours a day (I'm self-employed), that doesn't leave much for sleep. Some things, though, like your writings, are worth losing sleep over. Thanks for being here.

  45. I wrote, though far less eloquently, about this very thing earlier this week. Someone I know is using facebook to highlight some behaviors and attitudes she thinks (rightly) are unjust at her former place of employment. She's getting push back from that from some unlikely sources. We're negotiating uncharted territory here, and it's fascinating to me to watch how we're trying to reconcile the old social norms with the new ways of communicating that are now available to us.


  46. Some people don't seem to be able to exist without their gadgets. But when your Smart Phone gets too smart and you get too needy, what can poor SIRI do then? Impossible for her to get away when she's trapped in that tiny plastic box.

  47. You could say Toffler thought about it a bit wrong. It isn't "Future Shock." It's "Present Shock." That's where we are when it gets to be too much. We're surfing the now. If you aren't on top of the wave, the wave's probably on top of you. And just like surfing, the next wave is already coming at you.

    I'm a 60-year-old, and I've seen a hell of a lot come, and some of it go. I'm on Facebook, and my ex-wife's daughters reconnected with me after 25 years. That's a real blessing, which probably wouldn't have happened in a world that wasn't connected.

    I also had a Real Life friend who decided to dump me when I pointed him to StoneKettle Station. Too much for him to bear, the ideas and opinions and such. So now my Real Life friend is not my friend, and my "Virtual Friend," our host Jim, is still my friend. I like my on-line friends, and they are just as real as my off-line friends. And since I'm miles and miles from most of my friends of either type, it's much easier to stay in touch with the on-line ones.

    Color me connected, and happy.

  48. Were I live, there still are people plowing the fields behind teams of horses. The guy I'm doing a brochure for does sell buggy whips (it's not what the brochure is about, but they're there in his store). Life has a funny way of just integrating the new with the old.

    I've met too many people online who I've then met in the meat-space (does that term now age me?) to discount online relationships. It's easy to knock what we don't like. I did the same with blogs, facebook, and twitter. About the only one of those I don't use on a daily basis is Facebook, and that's just because I don't have the time (not to mention my boss is my "friend" on there, so I have to watch what I say or they take it the wrong way).

    But Douglas Adams had a quote that's apropos, “I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies: 1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. 2. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. 3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”

    I personally like living in the future. Not everything is good (job being done away with, high-fructose corn syrup, stuff like that), but I love not dying of dysentery.

    1. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I always knew I never got older than 34, but I didn't have a reasonable argument before! Seriously, if I did know the quote, I'd forgotten it, and I plan to use it as a sig.

      Maybe the difference actually is science fiction, in my case anyway. At least half the future I've been expecting hasn't gotten here yet. Having said that, I'm beginning to feel a lot more hopeful about the next 10 years. So, for real, thank you again.

      Ann C.

  49. I don't know if you read xkcd, but your comparison of SOPA and PIPA with the gun control argument reminded me of a strip I think you'd appreciate: http://xkcd.com/504/

    1. I don't know if you read xkcd...

      Heh. You're so funny

  50. The classic SF stance of machine intelligences vis-a-vis feelings is not an overly friendly one. "That does not compute" morphs rapidly into "Danger, Will Robinson" If the whole singularity concept has any validity, I wouldn't worry much about the Zuckerman tribe's attempts to make you think they care about you or anyone else's feelings if they aren't making a nickel off them. You might even have to reconsider your Skynet statement at some point. And really... was seeing Kirk Douglas' ass all that traumatic when there was a nude Farrah in the same shot? Enjoyed it as always.

  51. Social media is here to stay. As you point out, it's a tool and we'd better know how to use it or get passed by. I love your writing, Mr. Wright, and thanks for being here, presenting a welcome change: correct spelling, thoughtful assertions, and the courage to own your opinions. Without FB I'd be missing all this! Thank you!

  52. Actually, "Open the pod bay doors Hal" is something I would be very likely to say while using an intelligent toilet.

    "you’re having greasy jungle monkey sex with a Cuisinart"

    You do realise that there is probably a FaceBook group or newsgroup for this, or if there isn't, there soon will be.

    I can't wait to see the new warning labels on the Cuisinart boxes :)

    I use FB, but never publish anything that isn't already known about me or I wouldn't disclose to potential employers, girlfriends or whatever. I don't care what FB does with that data - I ignore the ads, or dismiss them with silly reasons (Cat food for being sexually explicit, credit cards as offensive or against my views etc). What I do object to is FB seemingly knowing about my non-FB browsing and serving ads related to that.

    I did have some sort of future shock some years ago, when I realised I had no idea how to play the fruit machines any more, with their features and trails and stuff. Whatever happened to hoping for three lemons?

  53. Hey Jim, My first blog was called "FutureShock" on Xanga. I worked at Verizon Wireless and the data phone thing was just taking off. Boy was it taking off. And at my age, I was having trouble keeping up. The 20-somethings I worked with were not having the same trouble :-) Brought to mind the old babysitters we used to get who couldn't figure out how to use our TV set. I could figure out any TV set in seconds. So....there is really an age factor to this, a learning ability thing. I happen to love Facebook. I have met friends on FB who have become 3D friends. I don't have many friends because I am challenged that way. Aspergers, alcholism and Borderline Personality Disorder make me a hard person to be around. But these folks were forewarned and are just Da Bomb. I feel very connected with FB. I go through a real withdrawal without it. I am Borg. I need to be with the Collective. Otherwise I am a very lonely misfit. Thanks for writing this!

  54. Earlier, our technology was likened to Star Trek's, such as the Padd. I think our iphones are almost like the Joymakers from Fredrik Pohl's "Age of the Pussyfoot".

    "The remote-access computer transponder called the "joymaker" is your most valuable single possession in your new life. If you can imagine a combination of telephone, credit card, alarm clock, pocket bar, reference library, and full-time secretary, you will have sketched some of the functions provided by your joymaker." - from the novel

    The only thing on this list iphones don't have is the pocket bar! And I bet that's coming soon.


  55. It IS unsettling that my facebook says "how's it going, Colleen?"

    I'm 26, I'm "hip to the jive", I don't like it.

  56. I think you shouldn't read too much into the inane Facebook questions, it's just a "clever" way of not having a white comment box.
    Remember the "good old days" where you could have your Facebook status update talk about yourself in the third person? :-)

  57. Fortunately, not all old people get Old People Shock--I did get Social Security and Medicare this year, though. I agree with Arthur C. Clarke: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." I can deal with that; I don't have to understand how the technology works to use it. I've owned a computer since the Apple IIC and surfed the Internet since Netscape was a pup. I can buy stuff, research anything that interests me, read the opinions of people I'll never meet in real life, and carry on written conversations with strangers half a world away. My Kindle holds 150 books. My GPS system keeps me from getting lost, mostly. What's not to like?

    OK, lots of things. I hate it when I buy something and Google sees fit to send me dozens of ads for alternatives to the thing I already bought. Facebook is a time-suck of the first order, but it's useful for keeping track of what the kids and friends are up to. It is getting a bit personal, though. I deliberately don't spend much time there. My GPS has a creepy mechanical voice--a choice of several, actually. I don't like it when my name appears after a cheery "Hi!" on several websites I visit regularly. I'd hate it if my computer talked to me.

    As far as technology goes, today's users have nothing on my great-grandmother. She was born in 1862 and died in 1962. When she was born, there were no electric lights, telephones, automobiles, airplanes, radios, televisions, computers, or any of the dozens of appliances and gadgets we would find it all but impossible to live without today. Antibiotics didn't exist; neither did X-rays. Women regularly died in childbirth and most families had lost at least one child. By the time she died, all those advances were in routine use (UNIVAC was used to predict the 1952 Presidential election), antibiotics and X-rays saved countless lives, and the death rates for new mothers and children had dropped dramatically. If great-grandma could manage so much change in her lifetime, I can cope.

  58. At first thought I was thinking to myself that Jim’s preaching to absent audience. My second thought was that he must have misspoke, surely he meant, “I can’t wait to see what happens next. Just as long as it involves greasy jungle monkey sex with killer robots.”

    I have a band saw that never cuts where I want it to, I’m throwing that POS out!

  59. BTW, Jim, I just ran across an app to make Facebook more palatable. It's called FB Purity ( http://www.fbpurity.com/ ), and has cleaned up MUCH of the crap FB throws on the page.

  60. Shit. I feel so inadequate now. FB has never asked me how I feel! WTFO?! What's wrong with me!?

  61. Same old future shock. A generation ago it was enough to warn the elderly not to trust every guy with a kind face and a promise ("The world is different now, grandpa..."), now they must be aware of phishing, credit cards scams, people Facebooking their receipts, etc. We propeller-heads understood this decades ago, but it takes a while to filter down to the muggles.

  62. Tools are only as good (or bad) as the human wielding them. GIGO. I can recall when television held so much promise as an educational tool (we even had a closed-circuit TV in my elementary school classroom--that's where I learned the rudiments of Spanish). There's good stuff there for the taking, if you're willing to sort through the chaff. Same with the interwebz. "They" are not the enemy--in the immortal words of Pogo Possum, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

    I'm OK with change--bring it on! It's good to step outside your comfort zone once in awhile--keeps you young ;-).

    Jim, as you can see from this excerpt from the 'About' page of my blog, we are of one mind on this subject:

    As a humanist, I find this to be an amazing time to be alive. The rapidly evolving, expanding, and maturing field of ‘digital humanities’ fills me with wonder and awe. The alliance of storytelling and technology is plunging ahead at breakneck pace, and *change is good.* In an attempt to make some sense of it all (which is, admittedly, a little like trying to take a sip from a fire hose), I will occasionally record my thoughts and impressions here. We are poised on the threshold of a Brave New World of creativity and ideas, my friends; a little scary but incredibly exciting—*ain’t life grand?*

    ~the Digital Warrior-Poet


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