It sort of dawned on me recently what it is I don’t like about Facebook, or social media in general. For a long time, I’ve had this sort of inarticulate feeling that I didn’t bother to think about, a sense of looking through a window fogged by the cold into a large house with hundreds of parties going on simultaneously. I can hear but not follow the music; each party has their own sound system blaring as trumpets and tubas compete with screeching guitars and monotonous thumping trance beats to try and capture the fickle electorate of the dance floor.
Despite the noise, I can hear a few voices, but they’re mostly repeating other people’s words as everything is endlessly reposted, mostly without even the an interpretive comment. It’s as if nobody has an original thought any more.
If we could somehow wave a wand and remove the inanity from social media, it wouldn’t cease to exist, but it would shrink considerably, very considerably. I suppose it might resemble a hot air balloon that ran out of hot air and lay collapsed and flaccid on the desert floor.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but these days that saying has been devalued. You can’t enter the social media sphere without encountering post after post of some saying or quote that someone felt had to be placed inside a rectangular block of JPEG pixels. I realize this practice is a gambit for attention, but it seems as if the puritanical has overrun common sense to the point that even words aren’t allowed to be naked. Furthermore, the social media equivalent of a Hallmark greeting card is still a Hallmark greeting card. It may provide a brief warm fuzzy, but it provokes little contemplation, as triteness will, and besides, it is quickly lost (to be replaced by another) in the grinding machine of a news feed that must change every 30 seconds.
Fecebook is like high school. Within the circle of your acquaintances, there’s a small group of top cool kids. No matter what they say, no matter how shallow or unimportant, all the not-so-cool kids follow them around licking the so-called cool words like a dog will lick an ice cream cone. Of course, the not-so-cool kids want to become the cool kids and I’m sure some of them do eventually. The cycle repeats.
I guess I’ve never had much use for it, although I admit that ever since actual high school, a part of me wants to, badly actually, at least sometimes. But another part of me – the stronger part, the part of me that values originally and individualism, the part of me that wants to move away from the stale feel-good that everybody seems to need these days in order to shield themselves from the world – this part of me won’t let me lick the cone.
I know a lot of wonderful people, but I’ve come to the wonder of them in person. Or at least through individual one-on-one correspondence. The very broadcast nature of Facebook rules out the one-on-one. Except for personalized messages, people don’t care what you or I think, as an individual. They only care that somebody – anybody – acknowledges their existence. Social media has become a world where everybody shouts into canyons, hoping to hear a trace of the echo.
Over the years, I’ve attended many poetry workshops, and usually enjoyed them to one degree or another. But little by little, they began to be less helpful. Too many times, the workshop leader attempted to steer the participants into the direction that worked for him or her. They were good poets but not good instructors. For instance, one iconic poet [no point in naming names] said: read the piece you brought to share, but “leave out the bad parts.” Another: “My book costs more than it says because I’m going to sign it.”
Attitudes like this don’t work well with me. I frequently have different ideas and am not afraid to voice them to the teachers, iconic as they may be. Not in an argumentative way, but to present other ways of looking at things, and mostly for the other participants. But some instructors don’t take very well to that, as if we aren’t allowed to have ideas of our own.
The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind. Khalil Gibran
I've been in many group settings and am willing to listen to what others have to say, but I change my work based on the reaction of others infrequently. Sometimes what somebody says seems like a good idea, but I tend to think of these things as more of a reaction than a criticism. My most common reply is simply “Thank you for your feedback.”
I believe that we are all our own best critic. We know what we want to say – and perhaps more importantly – how we want to say it. It’s not generally the way someone else would want to say it, but that’s part of the point. On a bit of an amusing note, I once had someone pounce with glee over my word order because it wasn’t grammatically correct. Seemed odd since he had been with the weekly group for a long time and would have known by then that I do these things on purpose.
When I have my editor hat on, or I am participating in a group session, I frequently see work as too unlabored. That is, it seems that words have been selected to serve, but only to serve. There’s nothing wrong with that per se and at times it’s quite effective. However, I like to choose my words – or more precisely: my word combinations – with precision. There’s always a certain quirkiness, nuance and musicality that I want to convey. I appreciate it greatly when others do so also.
Mostly, when it comes to workshops and critiques, I’m a loner. I have enough life experience and exposure to a variety of writing and cultures that I feel good about being my own critic. I’m more interested in staying true to my vision than following the path of others. There’s like-minded souls among my friends and I’m very thankful for that. With them, it’s okay to share work before it gets published. And because they are good and generous people that I trust, I do take their comments under advisement.
Was thinking about this the other day, how the idea of testing for drugs ahead of any actual evidence or reasonable suspicion is repugnant. American society has come to accept the practice because it’s prevalent in the job hunting market, but that doesn’t make it right. Society has come to accept it because not enough people are willing to say no. I had a job offer a while back that included drug testing. I said no, I won’t be treated with that level of disrespect. If you think I’m a drug user, don’t hire me. They said, okay and waived the whole testing.
More and more people are being treated as if they had broken the law, before there’s any actual evidence or indication of that. I for one am sick of it. Drugs can be a problem, but much of the problem comes not from the drugs themselves but from obsolete ideas that permit society to enforce their general lack of trust upon other people and from archaic ideas of what is right or wrong.
Used to be you got punished if you did something wrong, these days the punishment is handed out ahead of time, regardless of whether or not you deserve it. It’s humiliating, disrespectful and wrong. Count me out.
As you may know from an earlier post, Noris Roberts, a poet from Venezuela has been working towards the causes of peace and justice through her international project, a project in which others poets and musicians participate by reading her work and composing music to accompany it.
I recently had the priviledge of recording two of her pieces, which have since been set to video and published on her YouTube channel.
This latest piece is titled Manifesto of Pain. The video work is outstanding. Kudos to the video producer and of course to Noris for her strong words and unflinching observations. As she says:
This is my humble tribute to those who sadly died between February and May, 2014; to those who were imprisoned; to those that, ever since 1999, have and are being persecuted and discredited for thinking differently; to the reviled and humiliated; to the people who took to the streets with courage and hope, leaving up to their last breath, trying to restore democracy and justice to Venezuela, and its return to the rule of law and freedom for its citizens.