Monday, February 8, 2010

Fragments

The other day, I got an email from the Business Office at work. We now have the option to have our paychecks deposited into multiple accounts.

Instead of making me happy (which it should have-- I have three accounts that I could divide it among), it made me feel really crabby... and a little scared.

Sometimes, I think of the Internets in terms of, "Long-term affects have not yet been studied."

The Internet is so new, so fresh, changing and growing so quickly that sometimes it makes me fearful that it is a cancer that has swept us all along. The 21st century's small pox or black plague. Yes, I know that I am using the Internet to write this, and you are using the Internet to read this. But I am still a little fearful and suspicious about all of this.

Actually, the word "still" is a misnomer. I have only recently become a little fearful of it. Perhaps it goes back to a search for authenticity and simplicity. The Internet does nothing but fragment and complicate things. It divides my attention between the 5 tabs I have open, between me and my family, between work for this and that client.

Yes, it has provided me with a much larger, more personalized sense of community than I could ever have had otherwise. But I don't see depression rates dropping nationwide. We still seem to be a nation world focused on consuming, dependent on artificial ingredients designed to increase shelf lives (including BOTOX).

We have been making a conscious effort in our family to move away from processed foods and artificial ingredients. We have seen successful changes in our bodies and energy levels. I have lost 6 inches from my waistline since August. Of course, I largely credit this to a change in the medication that was bloating me for 8 years. However, I am running, I am eating mindfully, and Dereck and I are constantly seeking simplicity and locality in our foods. We are splitting half a cow with some friends, and will have it butchered this week. I can tell you exactly where it came from, its complete genealogy. I have declined to find out its name, because that seems a bit pointless and morbid now.

We buy pork from a local producer. We have eggs delivered to our house when we can. We drink whole milk, because it is the least processed. If we did not go through milk so fast, we would shell out the $6 for organic. Maybe we will get there. We often have lentils, rice, and homemade chapatis for dinner. We no longer use Ragu or other pre-made sauces on our pasta.

It just seems, in the face of these changes, that perhaps I personally need to simplify my online life. However, I seem to be so entrenched in it that I'm not sure how, except to try to walk away from the computer more often, instead of using it idly because it's here. I have a separate excel sheet (password protected, of course) that keeps track of my online accounts, usernames, passwords, and balances. I deposit money electronically, shift it from account to account electronically, pay bills electronically. The only time I actually touch money is when I have a little cash out to go on a pop run with the kids after a run-- and even then, I often use a credit card.

I prefer running outside and being in and part of the world more than I like exercising inside. In fact, today it is snowing hard, but I am still going to attempt to run outside. Yesterday, I ran 4.7 miles, and it felt great, even though the day was grey and dreary. But we have to coax and cajole the kids to go outside and get away from the Internet, which is infinitely entertaining. I know this. I know this. Apart from their gaming, the kids also read Wikipedia constantly, watch videos on Youtube, read reviews of everything under the sun. On one hand, this encourages their critical thinking skills. On the other, it makes them squabble and try everything under the sun to bargain for more time on the computer. We only have one computer that's really fast enough for their gaming and internet-- we also have a dinosaur desktop. And Dereck has been particularly good about resisting the pull to get each of them a decked out gaming computer (that we couldn't afford). They don't need to have a computer at all for anything but the occasional word processing for school. This is a luxury we provide them with-- and if I am fearful about the fragmenting affects of the Internet on myself, I should be doubly concerned for my children.

What is ironic is that some of my best friendships have been sowed on the Internet. My entire career depends on it. I don't think the Internet is inherently evil. I just worry that I have one foot planted firmly in a virtual world, in which I talk to people I don't see, whose eyes I do not look into, who I can't touch, and ultimately, everyone's voices start to sound the same.

Oh, I am savvy enough linguistically to know that we all have our own fingerprint, our own style, our own individual quirks. It's not that. But... it's so quiet. So inhuman.

One of the conversations Sam and I have a lot (that he initiates-- it is too far removed from the reality I can perceive or concern myself with at my age) is about whether or not humans will eventually become part machine or computer. There are people who believe that we will eventually insert computer chips of who we are into machines in order to increase our... our what? Our lives? Our intelligence? What is it exactly that we would be doing?

What makes us human? Is it a soul, a body, intelligence, compassion, or opposable thumbs? Is it the ability to make connections through written language, which other species cannot do? Does the Internet make us more human or less? Are we more human because now we can have high school reunions daily on Facebook, and let hundreds of anonymous, faceless people know that we ran 4.7 miles, or we are pissed or we are tired or we want coffee or... And why do we seem to crave this information about others?

I have a suggestion on that point. I remember when I was a young teen, living outside of town, hanging out in sweats and pajamas on a Saturday. If we didn't go into town, there weren't really kids in our neighborhood to hang out with. We barely had cable television, let alone video tapes or dvds. No itunes, and just some primitive mario brothers video games.

I remember being bored a LOT as a child. Sunday afternoons were particularly harrowing: Nothing on TV but sports or PBS. I could read, I could write, or I could listen to records while lying on the living room floor. I could bake. I could write letters. My brother and I played a lot of cards when we were growing up. We also played a lot of board games.

I'm not saying that kids have to be bored, or that that was a particularly enviable or great way to be a teen. But my brother and I are both writers, and I have to wonder: Did our boredom have anything to do with it?

I don't know. My kids are all writers too. Last night, Christian patiently explained to me about how to edit his 9-page story: "Grammar, spelling, and punctuation."

I gravely nodded and said, "I do this for a living. I think I've got it."

Christian and Tommy will often set up our typewriters at the dining room table and tap out stories. Are they more or less prolific thanks to the Internet? Does it affect anything but their ability to research more effectively, share their stories with more people?

But back to those days of physical and intellectual isolation when I was a young teen: I used to wonder and wonder what my classmates were doing. I was convinced that their lives were more interesting than mine, that they weren't just hanging out in their basements in their sweat. But now that I have the internets, I know for an absolute fact that everybody is basically doing what I am doing, except now we are all tapping away at keyboards and letting each other know: Yes, I'm human, you're human, we're all human, we are all lazy, tired, hate Mondays, stay up too late, have trouble with insomnia-- as much as I am somewhat skeptical about the Internet, I do love the fact that all of this makes me feel... normal. Like, I'm not so alone in what I'm doing and how I am doing it.


Am I worried for nothing, like parents in the 1950s worried about rock and roll?

Probably. Probably. This is my age showing. My fearfulness about change and things I do not understand. I understand blogging and facebook and twitter, but I am baffled by slurp! I don't particularly like Twitter, but I use it to drive up my blog traffic. Because of my time online, I write more non-fiction (prose) and less poetry... though that has actually changed lately too. I've been writing more poetry. And it has more to do with the change in my medication than about anything else, I suspect. Or perhaps the company I keep. If you hang out with a bunch of poets, maybe your own writing will take off.

Yesterday, I was talking to Jay Allen (aka The Zero Boss). We have both gone through periods of not blogging. I asked him, "Did you write privately when you weren't blogging, or did you store it all up?"

"I stored it all up. Blogging is my platform."

Blogging seems to be my platform too. Though, Jay is better at reinventing himself at the same site with the same blog persona he has inhabited for years. I am not so good at that, as two abandoned blogs can attest. I need a different space, a different name, a different look. Otherwise, I get cranky. And most importantly, otherwise, I will not write there, Sam-I-Am. I am comfortable here, it's a good space. It is a clean, well-lighted space.

And I am still undecided about whether that's a good thing or not. I would like to write even if I knew that nobody would ever read it. I journaled for YEARS with the specific intention of NOBODY reading it. So, am I trying to get attention? Trying to make connections? Y'all are a pretty quiet bunch of readers, generally. I see you in my stats, but you come and read and then you go away. I don't know what you are thinking. Is it enough that you are coming to read? Would I still want to blog if I shut off my comments and stopped tracking my stats?

No. I know myself well enough that the possibility of making a connection, even if it is a silent one, is too much of a lure for me. I do want the attention. I can tolerate being ignored-- I really can. But I do not like it, LOL. Not one bit.

This is a rambling bit of a blog post, but I'm trying to figure it all out. This world we live in, and my place in it.

2 comments:

  1. Hi.

    I think we strived more for "something" when we didn't know that everyone else was like us. Now, there's reinforcement to sit inside, doing nothing, knowing that everyone else is, too.

    I love the internet, but I'm trying to clear some of it out of my life. I still love blogging and reading blogs, but I am starting to seriously hate twitter and facebook. In a way, they're microblogs, but no one ever says anything interesting on them (you're probably one of the few who do).

    Personally, I'm conflicted.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have the option to do split deposits and chose it. Then one day recently PayChex upgraded from their DOS accounting software. When that happened, their import filter interpreted my 50% rule as an absolute dollar value, causing only $50 to go into one account and the balance to the other. It wasn't a big deal but I laughed when I learned about them upgrading from DOS in late 2009.

    The trick about studying the Internets is that they are a moving target and whatever you learn today is bound to be out-dated tomorrow anyway (unless you are PayChex). The evolution of it has been fascinating to watch (especially in the security arena). We have new technical needs technically that didn't exist 10, 5 or even 3 years ago.

    I share your mixed feelings about the benefits vs risks of the Internet. I also envy your healthy eating.

    BTW, some years ago maggie and I bought a quarter cow. When it was delivered she wondered to me what its name was. I laughed and said that ranchers don't name their cows. She asked the person she bought it from and learned it was named Chisolm (and was a 4-H project for one of the rancher's children).

    ReplyDelete