the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: internet

Internet Thoughts #1 — How to Respond to Stupidity

We all are apt to say stupid or contentious things at some part of our internet lives. What should be the best policy for dealing with it? What makes the internet a better place?

Let’s come up an example.

I come home from a bad date, drunk and angry, and I write some insulting message on Facebook, “All women care about is money. Especially Canadian women. They’re the worst.”

Don’t worry. I didn’t really say that. Whether I believe it or not about our friends to the North — you will never know. But pretend I DID write this on Facebook. And this pisses you off. A lot. How would you respond, and which method makes for a better internet?

1) You immediately unfriend me.

2) You make the public comment, “Neil, are you drunk?”

3) You make the public comment, “Neil, as a Canadian woman I can assure you that this is false, and I am insulted by your comment.”

4) You DM me and ask, “Neil, are you drunk?”

5) You DM me and ask, “”Neil, as a Canadian woman I can assure you that this is false, and I am insulted by your comment.”

6) You write a public vaguebooking message of you own, some “The hatred of all things Canadian is alive and well tonight on the airwaves. I wish I could shove some poutine up this guy’s scrawny ass!”

7) You write a public blogpost, calling the person out, “Neil Kramer is a blogger in New York. He has a small brain and a small dick. He also knows nothing about women. Or Canada. Here’s why and here is his blog…”

8) You ignore it.

Which would be your approach? Which approach is best for the internet?   Does it all depend on our level of friendship with the writer?

One Friend

Jay was sick of the superficiality of his online life – the five thousand friends on Facebook, the ten thousand on Twitter, the seven thousand on Instagram. Others were envious of all these numbers, much in the same way that grade school friends were impressed with his large Topps baseball collection. But these were not baseball cards. Collecting acquaintances online made him feel stupid and lonely.

“It’s all an illusion – this internet friendship thing,” thought Jay.

Jay tried using Dunbar’s Theory as a basis of his online life. Dunbar was a famous sociologist popular in internet circles, who theorized that one can only maintain one hundred and fifty serious interpersonal relationships, whether the subject lived in a big city like Hong Kong or a small town like Podunk.

Jay created a list of only a hundred and fifty close friends and chose to only follow them online, but even the daily lives of a hundred and fifty were too much for him to handle. Every day, another friend’s child was getting bat mitzvahed or a beloved family dog grew ill, and Jay would sit by his laptop, tears in his eyes, needing to give someone a congratulating handshake or a hug. But before Jay would even get a chance to write a heartfelt response, the scrolling lifestream would flow on, like an endless river of pathos.

There was only one solution to all these meaningless connections. He would do Dunbar one step further. Jay made the decision to only follow ONE person on the internet. This way, Jay would finally be able to enjoy a true, satisfying bond with a single individual online.

Jay closed his eyes and picked a name off of his lengthy Facebook friend list. His finger randomly fell on the name of Karen Springer, an online friend that Jay didn’t know very well – she was the visiting sister of an acquaintance that he once met at a Twitter meet-up at a bar in the Village but never got a chance to say much to her other than, “Can you please pass the pretzels?”

Now was Jay’s opportunity to get to know Karen, as a friend.

Facebook gave all the necessary background for Jay to catch up with the basic details of her life.

Karen Springer.


Mother of two.

Dog Owner.

Resident of Nashua, New Hampshire.

Writer of the blog “The New Hampshire Momma.”

Monday, the first day of Jay’s social media experiment, was a joy. Unburdened by the useless links and demands of hundreds of needy “internet gurus” hawking their dull blog posts, Ted presentations, and artistically-bereft Kickstarter campaigns, Jay connected with Karen one-to-one, the way God intended — by reading her blog.

Jay didn’t just skim Karen’s latest blog post, spitting out some ass-kissing comment, but read Karen’s writing as if it was a prize-winning memoir. On Monday, he read the ENTIRE ARCHIVE, every post she wrote since 2007! In one swoop, Jay learned about Karen’s previous struggles with her infertility, her tense relationship with her overbearing mother-in-law, Rita, and even her favorite brand of vibrator, Doc Johnson’s Ultra-Realistic DM3 Dual Density Large-Sized Vibrating Cock, proving that a sponsored post CAN be written well.

On Tuesday, Jay explored Karen’s social media presence. Previously, his fast-moving Facebook and Twitter streams gave him anxiety, but now, by just following one person, it was as relaxing as a Zen Garden. Jay felt as if he was in an intimate conversation with a close friend. Jay dug deeper into Karen’s online life, even examining her well-organized Pinterest boards, which showcased her eclectic range of hobbies and interests, from “Retro Kitchen Appliances” to “Knitting Patterns” to “Sexy Firemen.”

The first bump in the road occurred on Wednesday. Jay expected Karen to be offline in the morning. After all, she did mention her busy day on Facebook the previous night – her daughter’s class trip, the extra shift at the hospital, and her early lunch with Barbara, an old friend from junior high, visiting from Cleveland. But by 2PM, when there was still no word from Karen, not even an Instagram photo of Barbara and Karen together at Applebee’s, Jay begin to worry.

Normally, Jay might have never noticed Karen’s absence. There would be others online screaming for his attention, as if each believed he was the sun in which the world revolved. Jay remembered that unfortunate incident last June when one of his Facebook friends DIED in a boating accident, and Jay didn’t notice this tragedy until five months after the funeral, and by that time, writing a “my condolences” update on his friend’s “In Memory Page “ seemed to be in bad taste.

But Jay was not following five thousand strangers anymore. Jay had a real friendship with Karen, one which involved concern for her safety and health.

By evening, Jay was deeply lonely. When you follow five thousand friends on Twitter, there’s always SOMEONE online with a witty comment about Kim Kardashian, even at 3AM when the Australians take over the airwaves, but when you’re following just ONE PERSON, if they aren’t online, that’s THAT. It’s only you, buddy. Jay’s social media stream was blank.

Jay thought about re-reading Karen’s blog archives, but since she rarely replied to outside comments, and the last comments were all his own, it seemed silly to reply back to his own self.

Jay grew despondent. He was about to shut off his laptop, the first time in a week, but then – Eureka! Is it possible….?

Yes, it was possible. Armed with Karen’s email address from Facebook, the name of the hospital where she worked in New Hampshire, and a few well-placed Google searches, Jay was able to pinpoint Karen’s home on Google Maps, and even determine how much the house was worth if put on the market today!

The next morning, Jay was on a Greyhound bus to Nashua, New Hampshire. If there was a problem, Jay could offer assistance. That is what friends are for, after all. And if his worry was misplaced, well, his arrival would just be a pleasant surprise!

Jay was relieved to meet Karen at the front door. She was looking happy and healthy, and wearing the same blue sundress that she wore in that Flickr photo as a volunteer at the hospital “fun run for childhood diabetes” in 2011.

“Surprise!” Jay said, one good friend to another.

Karen seemed rather shocked at Jay’s appearance, not rushing and hugging him as he expected. But then Jay remembered that he was in New Hampshire, and was reminded of the traditional stoic mannerisms of those born and bred in New England, such as his Aunt Mildred, who seemed stern and unfriendly on the outside, but was loving and fun once she let her guard down.

Jay learned that Karen had a good reason for not being online all day on Wednesday. Besides her chores, she was having a problem with her laptop’s battery. Jay immediately volunteered to come inside of the house and help her with the problem, being a amateur computer hobbyist, but she insisted that she didn’t want to impose on Jay’s time.

“Roger,” yelled Karen, calling for her husband.

Jay smiled. Karen was such a gracious host. She wanted her husband to meet her dear online friend.

The next day, Karen wrote a post saying that she was closing down her blog, and deleting all of her social media outlets. Jay saw this as a positive step for his friend, Karen. Clearly, over the last week, Karen discovered the true meaning of online friendship, and would NOT go back to the status quo – the superficial online life where numbers and influence were more important than a real relationship with another person. Karen had seen the light and for her — there was no turning back the clock

“More power to you, my friend!” Jay wrote to Karen on her feed, his last comment to her before she deleted her Facebook account.

Jay beamed, feeling a sense of accomplishment, as if in a small way, he had just started a revolution online, and then returned to his Facebook friend’s list, closing his eyes as he picked his next one friend.

Online Life and the Golden Rule

Despite what some might say, there are no definitive rules for how to act online.  Every individual must find his way.   To guide my own personal morality, I simply use the Golden Rule, both offline and online: Do unto others…

I share too much of myself online.  Do I feel guilty about this?   No. Because I respect it when you share your life with me.  Do unto others…

I do not like the constant pimping or self-boasting that occurs on social media.  I cannot control what you do, but I try hard not to do it myself.  Do unto others….

I love when you debate, so I debate with you.

Since I am bored by too many empty, positive affirmations, you won’t see me forcing them on you.

I like it when you are empathetic, so I return the favor.

I view trolls as mean-spirited assholes, so why in the world would I become a troll?  Fair is fair.   The only truly honest trolls are the ones who enjoy getting trolled themselves. More power to them!

If I think, “Why doesn’t Susan stop writing about **** all the time on Facebook,” I ask myself, “How much do I write about **** on Facebook?”

This morning, on Instagram, a guy in Sweden was posting tons of photos. He was on a trip to a local goat farm with his wife and kids, and he must be having one helluva time, or really love goats.  He is a talented guy, and I respect his work.  But enough photos already. Leave some room for the others, buddy!

After thinking this, I paused and acknowledged that I do the same. I have a bad habit of using social media too much, posting ten Instagram photos in ten minutes, drowning out the voices of others.

This might not bother you at all. But if it annoys me when others do it, it is an essential part of my moral code to question myself.

When someone annoys the hell out of you, rather than going into attack mode, ask yourself, “Do I do the same?” Chances are you do.  And as any good therapist will tell you, you can only change your actions.

The name of the month Twitter chat group I moderate with Schmutzie and Laurie White has been changed from #Blog2012 to the more sexier #BlogNow. Our first post-BlogHer meeting will take place tomorrow, September 11 at 9PM EST. Discussion topic: Do you write for the love of writing itself, or is it a means to an end for you? Does the quality of blogging suffer if the love of writing isn’t there?


How I Would Explain the Internet to John Adams

Today’s guest post is written by the Boston-based Rhea of The Boomer Chronicles.  I like her blog because even though it is more informational than most of the other blogs I read, she writes it with humor (and I agree with most of her politics).  I think you’ll see how her style works well with this piece of writing. Rhea and I have a lot in common.  We are both Jewish screenwriters who are attracted to women.   Thank you, Rhea, for cleverly tackling this impossible assignment (even if you did leave out the part about what you would make him for dinner — but maybe that will be in the sequel!)

“How I Would Explain the Internet to John Adams
by Rhea


EXT. Carpenters’ Hall, a stately brick building in the city of Philadelphia, August 1775

INT. Grown men in white wigs, about 30 in number, are gathered in a room furnished with wooden chairs, long tables, and a lectern. There is a DIN in the hall as the men heartily greet each other.

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Hear ye, hear ye! 

A gavel POUNDS the lectern.

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: The Second Continental Congress is now called to order!

The men slowly shuffle to their seats. Soon, one man rises. It is Mr. John Adams.

JOHN ADAMS: Esteemed members of Congress, you are probably wondering why I’ve asked you all here today. (RIMSHOT!) Besides the necessity of determining the future status of our fledgling government, we have a guest speaker.

GROANS all around.

JOHN ADAMS: Gentlemen, please. Our visitor has traveled a long distance to be with us. In fact, he has traveled from two and a half centuries hence.

An agitated MURMUR ripples through the crowd.

JOHN RUTLEDGE: Two and a half centuries? What were you smoking at Harvard, Mr. Adams?

JOHN ADAMS: Mr. Rutledge, I assure you, I am in full possession of my faculties, and all of my senses, to boot. (RIMSHOT!)

EDWARD BIDDLE: But Mr. Adams, it is imperative we resolve the Tobacco Act and the Stamp Act today, as well as the Class Act and the Third Act.

JOHN ADAMS: I implore you, gentlemen. Lend your ear to our speaker, for he brings news that I am certain will cheer you.


A deafening clap of THUNDER sounds outside the windows. Inside, a blinding SPOTLIGHT illuminates the double-doored entrance to the hall. The doors swing open. A man enters wearing a pale blue leisure suit and Woody Allen-type glasses. He is lugging a rolling cart upon which some objects are concealed by a cloth. He guides the cart to the center of the room. Behind him enter a three-piece BAND whose members all sport yarmulkes, a CATERER pushing a refreshment table featuring a whiskey sour fountain and bubbling pot of Brunswick stew, and a PHOTOGRAPHER with a camera bag and two cameras. The band explodes in a lively rendition of “Winchester Cathedral.” The Congressmen rise to fill their plates at the buffet table and then take their seats.

The lights DIM. The VISITOR whips the cloth off a machine. A screen silently descends from the ceiling and a PowerPoint show commences. The Congressmen GASP and SHOUT in astonishment.

The gavel POUNDS.

SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Order! Order! Come to order!

The Visitor begins his show.

VISITOR: When we became aware of the troubles you were having hammering out the foundation of our country, we decided to time-travel back to offer you three indispensable tools. First–

The slide reveals an image of a prescription bottle.

VISITOR: Viagra. Mr. Adams, you have traditionally provided saltpeter to men of the Continental Army, but believe me, an erection lasting longer than four hours can pretty much have the same effect.

The next PowerPoint slide reveals a patriot in a running suit.

The Congressman MURMUR.

VISITOR: Second, we have Lycra. Have your wives add stretchy waistbands to your britches. You won’t have to replace them as often.


The third slide shows a desktop computer.

VISITOR: Finally, we have a little something called the Internet. If you take Ben Franklin’s electricity, combine it with Pascal’s Principles and Heisenberg’s Hypothesis, you get the modern-day Internet.

The Congressmen look puzzled.

VISITOR: Oh, trust me, you don’t really need to know how it works. You just need to know about this: Wikipedia. You see, it’s an encyclopedia. But the beauty of it is that — unlike other encyclopedias — the facts it contains can be altered at any time. Don’t like your biography? Change it! Have you been a traitor? A heavy drinker? A slave owner? It doesn’t matter! You can rewrite history any way you’d like, and at any time you choose.

RUTLEDGE: Mr. Samuel Adams could most certainly take advantage of that. His imbibing is legendary!

Sam blushes. Hearty LAUGHTER all around.

VISITOR: Sooooo, guys. Whaddya think?

JOHN ADAMS: I move to nominate this man a delegate to Congress.

The assembled Congressmen rise in unison with their whiskey sours aloft.

ALL: Hear! Hear!

EXT. Carpenters’ Hall. Its bells CHIME and CHIME.


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