Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: social media (page 1 of 2)

If There Were “Links” in Real Conversations

Tom’s Coffee Shop, near Columbia University. This morning. I am sitting with my two old college buddies, Barry and Rob. Just like we used to do in the past.

Neil: It’s so great to sit down with you both in a real coffee shop, and just talk. I’ve missed our talks together, like back in college. Now all we do is talk to each other on Facebook, never face to face.

Barry: It’s great to hang out with you again, Neil.

Rob: You said that you wanted to talk to us about something, Neil?

Neil: Yeah. Well, it’s more like sharing something.

Barry: Sure.

Rob: We’re here for you.

Neil: I just feel a little sad lately. Like it’s finally hitting me, I’m alone. Like I’ve finally moved on from Sophia or Juli, but yet I really haven’t moved on at all.

Barry: So, are you depressed?

Neil: I don’t know if it is depression. I don’t know, maybe.

Barry: Have you ever read the Bloggess? She writes about depression.

Rob: Yeah, depression lies.

Neil: Yeah, yeah. I’ve read her. But that’s a different type of depression.

Rob: Here’s a link to one of her posts.

Neil: Yeah, yeah. I’m just not really in the mood to read the Bloggess right now.

Rob: She’s so funny. I love her last post. It’s not about depression. It’s about ten words that sound like vagina. It’s just so funny. Here’s the link.

Neil: Not in the mood for funny today.

Barry: You know, the best thing ever written on depression is by Allie Brosh from Hyperbole and A Half. Here’s the link.

Neil: Again, I’m not sure it’s depression. And I don’t want to read anything. Just hang out with you guys. Have a real connection. I already spend too much time online.

Barry: I hear you. Everyone only shows a façade on social media, avoiding real interaction. Here’s the link to an op-ed in Slate Magazine suggesting that Facebook makes all of us jealous and unhappy.

Rob: I read that op-ed. She’s a Luddite. You need to check out this link on Wired magazine to learn that there are no fundamental differences between friendships online or offline. There’s a pop-up in the link, but just ignore it.

Neil: Maybe I’ll never find love again. I mean I know it’s not true, but I feel it in my gut.

Barry: Your story would Juli would make an excellent memoir or Modern Romance piece in the New York Times.  Have you seen the Modern Romance submission page?  Here’s the link.

Rob: Actually, I read that romance stories are not selling that well in the Publishers Weekly, unless it is YA or a sci-fi twist. Here’s the link.

Some guy at the next booth turns around.

Guy: I don’t want to interrupt, but since I am overhearing your conversation, but I’m not listening very closely, I just wanted to tell you that I’m on a date right now, my fifth date since breaking up with my wife of 15 years, and here’s a link to my article in the Huffington Post “How I Got Back Into My Groove After 15 Years of Marriage.” Let me give you that link again, in case it was wrong the first time.

Barry: I never go to the Huffington Post after I read how they treat their writers. Here’s a link to an article in Gawker from one of their former writers.

Rob: Oh, I love that writer. He’s also an excellent photographer. Here’s a link to his Instagram account.

Neil: I know you guys are trying to help. But I just want to hear what you think. I just miss our talks at Columbia. The way we used to share thing with each other.

Barry: I miss our days in college, too.

Neil: Did you see the story from Columbia about that student who is carrying around a mattress as an art project to shame her rapist? Shocking how irresponsible the administration has become making the campus safe for women. Here’s the link.

Rob: The world has gone mad. And no one expresses it better than Chuck Wendig at Terribleminds.com. Here’s the link.

Neil: Do you ever have this feeling, that your heart is breaking? That love is slipping away, like time…

The waiter approaches.

Waiter: I’m Joseph, your waiter, but before I take your order, I’d like to tell that your heart breaking is inconsequential when compared to the broken rubble of the victims of the Israeli genocide in Gaza, or the broken spirits of colored people in this country who face police brutality every day. You can educate yourself on my blog at this link. Now, would anyone like to hear about our specials of the day?

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?

20 Minutes on IM #4: With Jana

Tonight, on Facebook messenger, with Jana of Jana’s Thinking Place.

Neil
Ok, you ready?

Jana
Ready ::clears throat::

Neil
Ok, preamble… this will all go on record…. unless you politely tell me to strike something….

Jana
OK.

Neil
We will go on 20 minutes. You don’t have to be interesting.

Jana
pfft

Neil
Very few read this anyway.

Jana
Ha. Do it.

Neil
OK. Let’s start. Hi, Jana.

Jana
Hi, Neil. Thanks for inviting me to talk.

Neil
I know I am supposed to be making believe that I am talking to you without the others listening in, but I should put some context into this — you just started a new job. So now I’m gonna ask, how’s the new job? Oh, crap. Re-do. I didn’t have to break the fourth wall. I could have just said, how is the new job and people would have understood.

Jana
OK, so just erase that?

Neil
No. Just go on. I am nervous doing this with you.

Jana
I did start a new job!  And I’m loving it. Although I gotta tell you, it kinda feels like i’m just sitting around playing on the internet all day and getting paid for it.

Neil
Hey, that’s what I do but I don’t get paid!

Jana
Which technically, I am. But I feel like a social media hooker.

Neil
Hmmm. So, can we follow you in your biz account? Are you on twitter hawking Georgia products?

Jana
But i think the job’s going to be a good fit for me. I mean, i’m not a hooker and never have been. This isn’t what you’re looking for, huh?

Neil
You may be fired from your new job now for calling yourself a hooker because that makes your boss a pimp.

Jana
All the research I’ve been doing, and cooking summer stuff, has led me to a question for YOU.

Neil
Oh, shit. I knew you were going to ask me a question. You have the guts to turn this around and put me in the hot seat. Ok, ask.

Jana
Ok, so I was shucking some corn the other night and thought to myself, knowing I was going to talk to you tonight, “When Neil goes to the grocery store and buys corn on the cob, “Is it already shucked? Or does he have to shuck it himself?”

Neil
Your question is about corn on the cob?

Jana
Because i can’t imagine you shucking corn. Or even that your grocery store in NYC would have corn that needed to be shucked.

Neil
I thought you were going to be about my sex life or something interesting.

Jana
Nope. Corn.

Neil
Actually, the shucking is a pet peeve of mine.

Jana
Why?

Neil
They usually have a garbage bag hanging by the corn in the supermarket, and people peel the corn and kinda throw the shucking all over the place, and it is gross.

Jana
Same here. It is kinda gross. and then all the silk? It’s messy.

Neil
Sometimes I just take the whole corn and do the shucking at home.

Jana
But you pay more when you do that.

Neil
Do you?

Jana
They weigh all the stuff you should shuck off. You’re paying too much!

Neil
I think they usually charge by each individual corn cob.

Jana
SHUCK THE CORN IN THE STORE, NEIL.

Neil
Wow, I have been doing it wrong. I have been a sucker. I do take the stems from tomatoes, though.

Jana
Oh, well, if they do it that way, you’re good. Depends on the time of year for that here. Sometimes it’s weight. Sometimes it’s by the ear.

Neil
Why pay for stem?

Jana
Tomato stems are extra weight too.

Neil
Although I read it keeps the tomato fresher longer.

Jana
Do you always test a grape?

Neil
No. I don’t want to eat chemicals. Needs to be washed first.

Jana
Me neither. I figure if they’re bad, it’s just closer to being wine.

Neil
Sophia did show me how to buy a watermelon by hitting it. One thing I learned in marriage.

Jana
Eh, i’m not worried about chemicals. I used to sit out back under the crop duster and i’m not dead yet. Something’s gonna get me. Knowing how to buy watermelon is a huge life skill to know.

Neil
Let’s get personal.

Jana
Ooh.

Neil
We have chatted on IM about nonsense quit a bit over the last few months, not just tonight. Maybe we are even friends by now — no?

Jana
Sure. I’d say we’re definitely friends. And yes, we have chatted about a lot of nonsense.

Neil
You worried we are going to start gossip?

Jana
I just know my mama’s gonna read it.

Neil
I was just trying to say that the internet is cool because I wonder if we lived in same city whether if we would be running in different circles and never meet.

Jana
Interesting. I don’t know. I mean, maybe we would?

Neil
The internet allows you to interact with people who are seemingly different. Like I learned all about college football and grits and the Waffle House from you, but then you find out that people are basically the same everywhere.

Jana
That’s exactly what i was about to say. We’re so different so i don’t think we would run in the same crowd in person.

Neil
While here, we can cut through the exteriors.

Jana
But now that i know you? We totally would.

Neil
That is different. But then of course it would be weird being real life friends unless I was also friends with your husband. Who sounds pretty cool. Cooler than you.

Jana
He is pretty cool. He used to be a DJ you know?

Neil
Maybe this conversation is going in a weird direction, talking about “can men and women be friends” thing. This whole conversation needs to be edited now doesn’t it? I mean we’re now talking about your husband in a public blog post.

Jana
We’ll work on that.

Neil
First this conversation will get you fired for calling your boss a pimp. Your mother will disown you for talking to me. And then your husband will want a divorce for gossiping about him online. This post is a disaster. Let’s talk about your son next.

Jana
OK.

Neil
And then maybe, your son will run away after reading this, the cherry on top.

Jana
Hahahaha. OK. Go.

Neil
What grade?

Jana
4th grade. And acts like a 13 year old who’s been given an EXTRA large dose of hormones. But he’s a cool kid.

Neil
hmmm…. maybe we might need to strike that too.

Jana
Gah.

Neil
Maybe we should do this over again next week.

Jana
We suck at this. The corn thing is good though. Save it.

Neil
The corn thing was terrible. But maybe I can edit things.

Jana
But this defeats the WHOLE point of the exercise.

Neil
Maybe I can salvage this by putting in… (deleted)… so people will understand

Jana
And then (deleted) would read it and start internet rumors about us

Neil
Oh great, let’s bring her into this so I get in trouble too. Why not ask me about (deleted) too?

Jana
Hey, if i’m going down, you are too, mister. Maybe you can just post the corn conversation. and then cut it off because I had to leave for some redneck emergency.

Neil
I’m not sure what you are talking about. This was my worst conversation. We just already know too much, so it felt phony. We’re just burning bridges with everyone. Hey, why don’t we badmouth Dooce while we are here?

Jana
(deleted)

Neil
Now, I have to delete that too. Ok, we are off record.

Jana
Hahahahaahahah. We’ve been off record, man.

Neil
Ok, time is up. This was terrible.

Jana
OK. we’ll make stuff up to make it better.

Neil
We can’t do that. But thank you, Jana. Let me read it through and see if I can salvage this. What kind of dumb question about corn?

Jana
It’s a good question.

Neil
Ok, later….

Will Meryl Streep Ever Follow Me On Twitter?

meryl3

Tonight is Oscar night, which brings up the same question I have asked myself again and again over the last seven years — “Will Meryl Streep ever follow me back on Twitter?” Or let me ask this in another way — “If I go my entire life without Meryl Streep following me back on Twitter, will I view my existence on earth as somewhat of a failure?”

I rarely dream about being followed back on Twitter. I know you care a lot about this.   I see you.  I see how you ass-kiss celebrities in the hope that they will validate your life.  I’m not impressed with that many people online.  OK, once I stalked someone. Yes, it was you Bon Stewart. I read one of your blog posts back when you wrote normal posts not about your crazy dissertation, and I went onto Twitter and asked, “Does anyone know this person? Because I want to know her.” And within an hour we were following each other on Twitter.

I don’t think this approach will work with Meryl Streep.  Meryl Streep is not as “easy” as you.

Celebrities tend to only follow back OTHER celebrities. Sometimes I see that they follow some journalist or author so they can appear intelligent to their fans, the online equivalent of Jessica Alba going to the gym wearing librarian glasses. Of course, celebrities only follow  other famous people when they are at a career high.  If a celebrity, journalist, or author gets in trouble for a inappropriate tweet or has a nervous breakdown on TMZ, then Goodbye Charlie.  As a CAA agent once told me during an interview, “Winners ONLY associate with winners.  That’s what Hollywood is about.  Period.”

Imagine the stress celebrites must feel not following us all back. We find it hard juggling 300 friends on Facebook. Imagine having people wanting your autograph and photo every time you walk into an Arby’s. I can understand why Meryl Streep might want to hide from her fans.

But me too, Meryl?

I like to look over the following lists of celebrities.   I’m always wondering, “Don’t celebrities have any friends outside of other celebrities? Don’t they have any annoying friends left over from grade school, or an Aunt Tilly in Tulsa that they are forced to follow on Twitter because their mother told them it was polite.”

It’s as if once you reach celebrity status, you can’t use social media for anything other than being a celebrity. I’m sure Meryl Streep would love to engage with me and talk about my instagram filters, but she just CAN’T — “says her business manager.”

Meryl, is that true?

Here is some article on “How to Make a Celebrity Follow You on Twitter.”

But honestly, do you really think any type of “engagement” or mere gimmick is going to win over Meryl Streep.   She’s not an idiot.   She went to Yale.   My movie buff friend Danny Miller interviewed Meryl Streep, AND could quote lines from Sophie’s Choice to her all night long, and Meryl Streep still doesn’t even him!

Perhaps this is my motivation to finish this dumb screenplay I’ve been working on forever. If I can change the stoned twenty-something character to a beautiful and sophisticated fifty year old artisan bakery owner, perfect for Meryl, and we can get her to agree to the part, maybe…. just maybe… but then again, I don’t think actresses even follow the screenwriters of their films. It’s a step down in the hierarchy. Way down.

I need to accept that Meryl Streep will never follow me back on Twitter. And what do I need her for anyway? I love all the friends that DO follow me back, and I would never trade any of you in for the greatest living actress.

OK, I would.

Offline – February 15 – February 22

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As a Valentine’s Day gift to myself, I am going to show some self-love and challenge myself (thank you, Karen Rivers for the idea) for a full week offline from blogging and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, etc.)  Zero Facebook.  Zilch Instagram.  Instead of update or scrolling through your nonsense, I will read a book, write some personal stuff, socialize with friends, and focus on my own sense of solitude.

This is going to be a grueling test of my fortitude.   I know most of my friends are laughing, expecting failure, but like the Olympians in Sochi, I will not stop until I am on the podium with my gold medal.   I will be checking my email, so if you need me, you can reach me from Saturday, February 15 to Saturday, February 22 at neilochka at yahoo dot com, or you can find my phone number on Facebook.

Wish me luck.  I will return with a blog post, my addiction to social media forever broken, and my joy of writing and blogging renewed.

And Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you, especially Juli.   And my sincere apologies to anyone on Facebook who has a birthday next week, because I will miss saying happy birthday to you.  I’ll make up for it on February 23rd.

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.

Wife.

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.

The Thomas Edison of Twitter Mute Filters

I’ll admit it. The torrent of information online wrecks havoc on my anxiety level. While most writers worry about getting more “hits,” I am consumed with filtering you out. I say this with love because I care about you. And if I care too much, I start to flounder. Everyone seems to have a blog, or at least a Facebook page. Who should I deem most important to me? I follow terrible writers who are amazing individuals. I follow amazing writers who are terrible individuals. I follow college friends, homeschooling Moms, Orthodox rabbis, Wiccans, and journalists with the New York Times. Sometimes I just need a rest, or at least to make my online world a smaller village.

I use Social Fixer for Facebook. It is a free browser extension that helps me hide things like your annoying games. Do what you want in the privacy of your own home. I don’t not need to know who you killed in Mafia Wars. I’m also a big fan of the Facebook “Close Friends” list. I’m constantly switching it up, depending on how I feel about you at the moment. So, be careful! No one is safe.

My Google Reader is a perpetually mess. I open it up, see 10,000 unread items and want to vomit. There are just too many choices. On days when my anxiety level is high, I borrow a technique I first encountered on Backpacking Dad three years ago — I use the Next Reader Bookmark in my browser. My system — I create a folder of personal favorites on Google Reader, no more than 20 blogs at a time. I then install the Next Reader Bookmark, but only for this specific folder. Now, when I am in the mood for some reading, I simply press the button and a blog boots up. I’m never sure which blogger will show up next, since it is ordered by publication date, but that’s part of the fun, like playing the slot machine in Vegas. But since the twenty-five reading choices in the folder are special to me, I’m usually happy with what shows up.

Do I use this Next folder all the time? No. I like to read new material. But on those days when life is stressful, my Next button is comforting, like a mother spoon-feeding a baby information.

Twitter is my true nemesis. Even in my private lists, I feel like I am constantly being bombarded by links. Do this. Read this. Vote for me. I know social media is all about promotion, but sometimes I just like the conversation. Tweetbot, my mobile Twitter app, and Tweetdeck, my web app, offer filters to help mute certain keywords or hashtags.

I hadn’t explored these mute filters very closely, until last night. I cleared my desk, opened up my Twitter apps, and spent some time experimenting with different words and phrases as mute filters. I wanted to create a better Twitter experience for myself. And that’s when the Eureka moment occurred — I typed the term “/” into the mute filter form box, pressed enter, and suddenly, every single tweet containing any link disappeared from my view — all of them, from the newbie blogger to Mashable. All that was left was conversation and status updates. It was as if I had inadvertently discovered the common denominator of ever link. If an update had a “/” it was muted. Again, I wouldn’t do this most of the time. I like having Twitter as an RSS feed. But I had just created a choice for myself.

I immediately called Juli in New Zealand. I told her the story, trying to impress her, as men are apt to do with women.

“That’s nice,” she said.

“I don’t think you get how significant this discovery is to the online world. I even googled this “/” thing as a Twitter mute filter, and found no references at all. It’s like I’m the Thomas Edison of Twitter Mute Filters!”

Last week, Juli’s mother had discovered my blog and read the post where I discussed the terms “pussy” and “dick.”

“He’s uh, certainly different,” she told Juli. “But what has he accomplished?”

So, HERE YOU GO, Juli’s Mother! I know you are reading this post. Here’s your answer — I am THE THOMAS EDISON OF TWITTER MUTE FILTERS!

You’re daughter is lucky to know such a genius.

The Accidental Viewing of the Gay Porn

This was my Facebook status update this morning —

“I will participate in the “Shop-In” on Sunday, February 12 and stand up to the idiotic, homophobic One Million Moms by going to my nearest lesbian bar and… oh, wait, I mean shopping at my nearest JCPenney to thank them for retaining Ellen as their spokeswoman.”

It was only later that I realized that I just committed myself to shopping at… JCPenney. OMG!  I called a gay friend who was aghast at even the prospect of walking into a JCPenney.

That’s when I started worrying. If you know me, you know that I worry.  Was my status update an authentic one?  Did I really intend to shop at JCPenney this weekend?  Or was I just joining the social media bandwagon?

I am a liberal who believes in social justice. Or at least that is my self-identity.  But who was I speaking to when I wrote that update?  Who was I trying to persuade?  Certainly not the 99.9% friends online who believe exactly the same as I do.  Is it possible that my update was self-promotional?

Does my motivation really matter?  If companies see us supporting Ellen, we defang the stupid One Million Moms.   My motivation is irrelevant.   Social media is about influence.

Social media. I am getting bored with it.

“Social” is not writing.   Writing is solitary.  Writing is digging deeper to find an inner truth. Social media is the enemy of alone.

When I sit down in front of my screen, I don’t need to prove my political beliefs to myself.  I frequently start with the question, “OK, what is wrong with me today?”  I want to take a journey within, not persuade you to act or do something.

Many of us want to take this inner journey, but are afraid of the reaction of others.  We might discover a version of ourselves that doesn’t belong on a Facebook status update.

A few weeks ago, I was searching for a video.  OK, so it was a video of some actress in a sex scene that I read about on a movie blog.

By accident, I clicked on the wrong link.  I found myself watching two men shtupping each other in a scene from a gay porn film.  I closed the browser so fast that I almost knocked my laptop onto the floor.   Watching the scene made me uncomfortable.  I do not want to see two men shtupping.  Two women shtupping: hot.   Two men shtupping: uncomfortable.

I am a good-hearted, pro-gay, equal-rights liberal who has real-life gay friends who have seen me naked (that’s another story).   But I was afraid of gay porn.   Why?   Was I afraid that I would secretly like it?   Was I concerned that I would suddenly be transformed and have the urge to change the drapery?   And what if this page accidently re-opened while I was sitting in Starbucks, and everyone looks over at me as hunky male porn actor on my laptop actor screams, “F*ck me, Joseph!”?   Would I be embarrassed?   Would I be slightly less embarrassed if it was a hot babe screaming the same thing?

Do gay men have trouble watching regular porn?   Do I need to force myself to watch several hours of gay porn in order to prove to myself that I authentically believe in gay marriage?

Of course, these worries are neurotic.   Hey, it is my brand!   And I can easily convince myself that I am still a good person.  After all, I am a straight man.  Why should I care about gay porn?  And unlike the Million Moms, I believe there is nothing wrong with two men shtupping.   You can enjoy your brand of chamomile tea; I will enjoy mine.

WTF is this post about?

I am writing about writing.   And how easy it was to write a status update about a well-liked celebrity.  Social media is about joining the mob.  Writing is about neurotic musings on gay porn.

Sure, this post is ridiculous.  Again, it is my brand!  But so much of what we talk about on Facebook and Twitter is downright fake.   We point fingers at the racism of others, then move our kids to private schools because the public school is too “ethnic.”  How many of us equate a “black neighborhood” as a “bad neighborhood” and lock the car doors when passing through?  If you say yes, that doesn’t make you a bad person.  It just makes you real.   And I bet writing about our own individual biases will advance society faster than the constant feel-good preaching to the social media choir.

The Evolution of Friendship on Social Media

Dick:  Hey, Jane, what’s up?  I had a tuna sandwich for lunch.  What did you have?

Jane:  I had a yogurt.

++++

Dick:  Hey, Jane, what’s up?  Did you see what Tom is doing?  All he does is put up links to his own blog posts!  How crude.

Jane:  I know!   What a self-absorbed loser.

++++

Dick:  Hey, Jane, what’s up?  Did you see that Tom has hired six ghostwriters to put up links all day to his own blog posts, and now he has a million followers?!

Jane:  That’s crazy.  Most people are just sheep who can’t think for themselves.

++++

Dick:  Hey, Jane, what’s up?  Did you learn anything from Tom at that seminar on social media?

Jane:  Read my post.

++++

Dick:  Hey, Jane, what’s up?

Jane:  Read my post.  And buy Tom’s new book on social media.  And vote for me as one of the top ten most interesting conversationalists online.

++++

Dick:  Hey, Jane, what’s up?

Jane:  [YOU HAVE BEEN UNFOLLOWED]

++++

Dick:  Read my post.  Buy Tom’s book.

Jane:  [STILL UNFOLLOWED]

++++

Dick:  Everyone, you MUST READ Jane’s brilliant new earth-shattering blog post right now!

Jane:  Thanks, dude!  RT @Dick “Everyone, you MUST READ Jane’s brilliant new earth-shattering blog post right now!”

++++

Dick:  Read my postRead Jane’s postBuy Tom’s book.

Jane:  Read my postRead Dick’s postBuy Tom’s book.

One Day Off Twitter (Or “Getting Off” — Ha Ha)

Sophia and I had an unlikely laugh today, thanks to… of all things, Twitter.

I wanted to stay off of Twitter for a week, but I just didn’t have the self-control to do it. That’s when a friendly voice on Twitter came up — a blogger named @krisiallen — with the million dollar solution:

@Neilochka give someone you trust your password & have them change it & not tell you what it is.

I thought that was genius. Seriously. I think someone could develop a whole service out of this. You give access to your social media passwords to some bond-trusted customer service representative in, say India, and when you get too distracted from your work, you text this service, writing, “Cut me off from Twitter and Facebook for three hours, and don’t let me back on, even if I call you crying.”

A few friends offered to be my bad cop, but I knew the perfect person to help me with my plan — one person who was so loaded with integrity, and strong-willed, that she wouldn’t cave in no matter how much I begged or offered free Olive Garden coupons. Yes, Sophia.

Note: In retrospect, this was not the smartest decision, considering that she now has access to everything I’ve ever written privately to any of you on DM, but let’s just say that despite my advanced degrees, I’m not the brightest guy on the block.

At midnight, she cut me off from Twitter. I felt a sense of relief.

Unfortunately, this morning, there was an unforeseen glitch. I noticed that Twitter had sent me an email notifying me of the password change and wanting me to confirm it. I had to call Sophia to tell her to change the password AND the email.

After my morning coffee, I sat down to work. I was productive for about five minutes, when I absentmindedly grabbed my iphone to check Twitter on one of my seventeen different Twitter apps. And — boom — just like that — I was given access to the pot of gold. Even after the password and email change, I was back on Twitter. Would I have to destroy every laptop in the country before I could be free of this tempting siren with her heaving social media bosom? I was advised by a friend online that I would need to SIGN OUT first for the new password to take affect. Twitter certainly makes it difficult to leave, don’t they? Like leaving the Mafia?

I went one step further. I deleted all of the Twitter apps off of my iPhone.

Around lunchtime, I became hungry again… and not for lunch. For gossip. Was anyone talking about me? Perhaps there was an emergency on the blogosphere and someone was calling out for me on Twitter, desperately needing my help, and I was selfishly absent.

“@neilochka? @neilochka! We need you.”

Maybe I shouldn’t reveal this to other twitter addicts, but if you go onto Google and search you Twitter handle, like @neilochka, you can see if anyone has mentioned you! Sadly, my only mention was a spam offer for “penis pills from Brazil.” I guess there weren’t that many emergencies I had to deal with today. I could go back to work.

Five minutes ago, I went on my iphone to check on Facebook (which has been my poor cousin procrastination tool of today — I’m just not that into you, Facebook!) And there is was, sitting in a little corner of one of my iphone screens, right next to Evernote — Hootsuite, a Twitter client that I rarely used. I opened it up and instantly saw all my missed Direct Messages. There was only one, but it was like manna from the sky. I decided to keep this twitter application a little secret between me and God. I wouldn’t use it to update. I would just read up on what others are doing. I would just use it to pimp my new blog posts. That’s legit. If I don’t pimp my posts on Twitter, no one is gonna read them, right? And less money for my family.

But that would be cheating. And we are all trying to teach the next generation that cheating is bad. And I am supposed to be the Citizen of the Month.

I haven’t deleted the app just yet. But I will… right after I publish this post. Honestly.

P.S. — More important than this boring post is this — I don’t usually send my readers off to other blog posts written by better bloggers than I am for obvious selfish reasons, such as not wanting to feel inferior, or having you read her blog before mine, but Jenn Mattern, the super-talented writer of Breed ‘Em and Weep, wrote this post about marriage, divorce, hurt, and healing that is just beautiful, very personal in nature, and touched me a lot.

And while I greatly admire her writing, I even admire her more for her amazing ability to stay off of Twitter without resorting to using handcuffs.

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