Monday, September 8, 2014

Empty.

Some days, I'll sit before the keyboard and nothing will come. Nothing will happen. 

I'll look at what I have before me, so far and I'll think to myself - "what on earth is this bullshit I have written?"

I'm sitting here now, trapped in this dilemma. 

I hate it. 

I hate feeling like I can't move forward. I've done everything to avoid it recently. Filled my life with the demands of family, health - or lack thereof.

Today the house is empty and I have all the space I need to create. But I can't do it.

I've ironed the clothes. I've washed the dishes. I've made all the beds. I go back to the keyboard and sit there and look at it and just think - 

"Bullshit!" 

I am a fraud. 

I am empty. 

DFA. 


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Like Is The Hardest Addiction.

Last week, I began an experiment with Facebook after reading this article, by Elan Morgan about Facebook 'Likes'.

I have increasingly found myself becoming dissatisfied with Facebook and what I've seen as the lack of engagement among my social network. 

The basic premise of the article was that Facebook 'Likes' are actually manipulated by Facebook to push certain content into your news feed based on your activity. The article also suggests that simply 'Liking' content on Facebook is detrimental to the notion of social networking and engagement and I gotta say, it resonated with me. 

For too long, I was quite happy to go along with 'Liking' people's updates or photos or links without actually engaging with their message. I made what I felt to be the erroneous assumption that 'Liking' something was enough. 

But it isn't.


Like logo is Copyright © Facebook Ltd.

Liking stuff simply clogged up my feed with an ever growing stream of disengaging content (those fucking memes being the worst).

In a subsequent discussion I kicked off on Facebook, I made the point that, to me, Liking is akin to slacktivism. You can blindly scroll through your feed and click 'Like' on friends updates as if it were of no consequence but it doesn't equate to engagement.

So, I made the decision to quit Liking content on Facebook. Instead, I actively made an effort to interact with content that I personally found engaging. If I had an opinion about something someone posted, I commented. I made an active effort to comment my appreciation for what my friends were sharing and I also made the effort to re-share content with an updated status of my own that told my friends what I thought about the content I was sharing. 

I also made an effort to hide content I don't want to see anymore - aka - those fucking memes! There is a really handy function within the mobile app in particular that allows you to hide content that is shared by your friends without hiding their streams entirely. For example - I got so sick of seeing posts from "I Fucking Love Science". Sure - I do actually (fucking) love science, but seeing those posts every single day eroded my enjoyment of Facebook. 

The results, while not absolute, are encouraging. 

By not 'Liking' everything that vaguely impresses me, I've found myself having some really great discussions about different topics. I've also seen a large decrease in the amount of memes and superfluous content in my feed and in their place, I am seeing much more organic visual content - personal photos from friends which vary in their interest but I much prefer. I am also seeing content from friends I actually forgot I had. This goes to my suspicions that Facebook has been manipulating the content I see in my feed based on my past behavior.

Actively sharing content from friends has also become much more satisfying. I made the comment recently that if I share something of yours, it is because I care about you. The positivity of that 'paying it forward' has been borne out in both comments and increased interaction between myself and my friends. 

So it's been a week. And I can honestly say that I have enjoyed a greater satisfaction with Facebook overall. My interaction with it has been lesser - simply because I have a busy life - but the quality of that interaction has increased markedly. 

In conclusion, I recommend you try it out. Make the leap and really question what you want your feed to look like. By not Liking content straight up, actually interacting with the sharer of that content and actively hiding content that doesn't engage you, I'll bet you'll find your user experience greatly improved. 

DFA.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Too.

The past 24 hours - give or take - have seen an outpouring of grief at the sudden death of actor and comedian Robin Williams. Celebrated, much loved, kinetic, hilarious, legendary - all are terms that have been associated with countless tributes that have poured in from around the world. He was an actor of a generation, a pop culture icon (?), a figure of inspiration. 

These are all fair assessments of a man who has entertained for nearly 40 years or more. His accolades are deserved - his legacy cemented. But there has emerged, for me at least, another picture of Robin Williams that, while not detracting from my view of him overall, serves to humanize him to a level that is worth exploring.

Last night, I downloaded a podcast from comedian Marc Maron. It was an interview that Maron recorded with Williams back in 2010, book ended with some up to the minute thoughts from Maron about the actor's death. In the roughly hour long interview, Maron and Williams discussed the latter's early career, his comedic beginnings, his successes on stage and on screen and the material rewards that stemmed from that. 

They also canvassed the excesses of Hollywood in the 1980's, the vices that flowed to people like Williams as a result of success - the cocaine addiction and alcoholism and the mental illness. A fact that I certainly wasn't aware of before now was Williams was present the night John Belushi died. It was an enlightening and, admittedly, a sometimes disturbing insight into the perilous nature of success and excess that is not often talked about - though Williams has, in more recent interviews, been willing to discuss these in more detail. He didn't shy away from talking about the destructive nature of it all and how it shaped him.

The other alternate view of Williams came to me this morning via the comedy talk show Keith & The Girl. In it, host Keith Malley was quite forthcoming in criticizing the overwhelming expressions of grief on social media which he believed had gone way over the top in terms of a collective outpouring of emotion. He also broached - actually, he launched head on into - the subject of charges against Robin Williams that he was a joke thief. This, too was something that I was aware of in the past, though I wasn't prepared to give much credence to it. You always wish to see those you admire in the best possible light. 

Without pointing towards specific charges or allegations - you can Google this for yourself - the internet does throw up a number of articles that tackle Williams' apparent joke thievery which cast the actor in a different light. 

Malley's passionate argument around the faux grief and emotion poured into social media extended into his anger at certain comedians, whom he knows personally, who have pointedly criticized Williams in the past for joke thievery - yet they were in their on Twitter, on Facebook or wherever they could find a soap box, mourning, lamenting and telling the world how much of an inspiration Robin Williams was to them. 

There is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that Williams did in fact engage in a level of joke thievery. It's disappointing and saddening. But, in any posthumous examination of a person, particularly a figure as revered as Robin Williams, I think it's a necessary component of that examination. 

I'll continue to watch his movies and admire him as a performance artist of incredible energy and talent. But, I will add these alternative view points to my own impression of the man that Robin Williams was...

Because, at the end of his day, Robin Williams was human...

DFA.