How To Keep It Zipped

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I mentioned to John the other day that every morning lately, I pop a couple of ibuprofen. He suggested that this wasn’t a good sign. I think it’s a sign I need a couple of ibuprofen, but I guess I’ll take his point since he’s the only one here.

My recent use has to do with the weather, the absence of my wife, and maybe some other vague psychological stuff, none of it worrisome. That is, I’ve been too sedentary, with no incentive to get outside and move around (it’s actually been cold), and then the sun comes out and I get active. The tug between the two states of being seems to settle in my lower back. That’s all. Stop sitting so much, I say. I should listen.

And yeah, whatever. I’m older. Could be part of it.

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I learned how to smoke for a play, and it took me forever to stop. I really loved to smoke, go figure. After watching my father hack and what-not for years, I had no interest at all until my hand was forced, and I turned out to be a wonderful addict.

I was thinking this morning about the inertia of vices, using vice loosely and staying away from dependency stuff—just how hard it is to stop doing what feels comfortable and comforting, and how much of an external force is necessary to change.

It turns out I’ve changed, without much effort. Last spring, I backed away from Facebook. Not social media, per se, just the Big Bad. I didn’t have a plan other than to limit my engagement, to resist the compulsion to comment on things that were none of my business.

Maybe more importantly, my comments are none of your business, although I force them on you because I make them in a public place, and you end up seeing them in your newsfeed. Facebook has made us all voyeurs and eavesdroppers, and I wanted to try to resist.

It worked, too. Withdrawal wasn’t hard, if a little tricky (it’s very hard to resist sometimes), and then the whole thing got clearer. I could see what we were all doing, how human nature was directing the show, how nobody could have been prepared because we’ve never experienced this before.

And oh boy. Once I stepped back for a few weeks, it got so much more obvious. Here: I’ll posit something I’ve noticed, with absolutely no data behind this, just anecdotal observations.

In normal human, face-to-face interactions, if a person begins to tell me about their vacation to Hawaii, say, my first inclination is going to be courtesy (at least I hope). I’ll probably smile and nod, maybe ask a couple of questions. It might take a minute or so, depending on the conversation, for me to personalize it a bit and share some of my vacations on Hawaii. Might not do it at all.

Now look at similar sentiments expressed on Facebook, and read the comments. We had a great time there last summer! Make sure to see the volcano! You HAVE to take the Wiki tour of the pineapple whatever.

We all know people who do this all the time, turn every conversation toward themselves. I had a girlfriend who was so reliable at this that I’d mention random things, just to hear her try to come up with a personal story. It was some low-grade insecurity thing, I think, something to do with self-confidence maybe.

But not most people. But most people on Facebook. Discuss.

I dunno, man. I think we’re probably overusing toxic these days, but something smells bad in Zuckerland, and not just the bad actors. The platform somehow, and almost certainly not anticipated, inspires some of our most antisocial impulses.

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This is a work in progress for me. It’s hard not to pass judgment at the drop of hat, being exposed to details of so many lives, seeing what others like to eat, or their political opinions or favorite shows. We compare, contrast, assess, evaluate, and assign value. How can you watch that crap?

But, y’know. Of course we like the stuff we like. I posted a few things about seeing all the Marvel films in a week. There are surely friends of mine who think the whole franchise is ruining American cinema. I thought they were fine. They take up a lot of oxygen, and there’s trouble sometimes finding a good grownup movie at the Metroplex, but we have lots of ways to watch movies. And then there’s TV. I don’t think anything’s getting ruined this side of democracy and the permafrost, but it’s definitely different.

So I don’t feel the urge to get snotty about people watching The Bachelor. Watch what makes you happy.

Same goes for the relentless posting of recipes or stupid videos. I don’t have to read or watch. I can skim right by, and I certainly don’t need to add my two cents. That’s all it is. Refrain from saying much, and only when I have something useful or funny to say.

That’s the bulk of backing off. If I feel like posting, I will. If I feel liking commenting, I’ll take a moment and assess. Most of the time it would be a comment about me, more or less, and I can express my own opinion with my own account.

See? Easy. Let’s everybody follow my lead. Because that always ends well.

Chuck Sigars2 Comments