Social Media Overload

by Leslye Joy Allen

Copyright © by Leslye Joy Allen

I freely admit I enjoy social media.  We social media denizens trade ideas, photos, debate politics, say prayers for people in need, raise money, promote good causes, advertise our own enterprises, post recipes and witty sayings, talk about art, film, theatre, and occasionally go on rants.  I try to keep rants to a bare minimum. But hey, if ranting on social media is what keeps you from going out and shooting people at the mall, then rant away.  Now with all that’s good about social media, I’ve also experienced what I now call “social media overload.” I thought I would share some of my opinions because occasionally I get messages from people asking me why I don’t comment on posts as much as I used to.  Well, I know I’ve lost time in the past by spending too much time posting, commenting, clicking and tweeting.

I primarily use my laptop much more than I use my smartphone for any form of social media; and I always log out when I’m done, so I don’t hear those dings you hear on a smartphone when someone posts or tweets something new. Plus, with a sporadic and highly irregular work schedule while I also try to write and edit and finish a dissertation is hard enough.  I can typically write a blog in less than 30 minutes, but writing and editing a dissertation in squirts is a slow and agonizing process, so staying online isn’t possible anyway.  I now deliberately and regularly go a minimum of 24 to 48 hours (often longer) without checking in on social media. The first time I did this several months ago, I discovered something about these 24 to 48 hour cycles.  My first full day away, I found myself severely missing posting and commenting on other people’s posts.

If you stay away from all social media for roughly 24 to 48 hours and then return, you will probably notice one or two (or maybe three) subjects trending.  There will be one post after another about essentially the same thing.  Let’s say it’s something that everyone seems to like; so everyone is super happy about an event, a film, you name it.  When that happens I can almost guarantee that if you sign off again and then revisit after the next 24 to 48 hours, whatever was trending that everyone liked a few days ago will now have its critics.  So then there will be a series of comments or a few articles telling you that what you initially liked 24 to 48 hours ago is no longer something that you should like, but something you should question or at least greet with some suspicion.  Some of these fresh critiques often have some value and tend to make good reading.  Yet, I noticed that a lot of these articles and comments read like the pseudo-intellectual hogwash they are; and often the real tragedy is that these articles are penned by perfectly good writers who seem to be having a hard time finding something to write about and have simply jumped on the bandwagon with the rest of the cynics.  Then if you sign off and stay gone for yet another couple of days, something even more curious will have probably happened.  Within that next 24 to 48-hour cycle—this is our third cycle, now—you will have another set of reverse critics who will critique those initial critics who dared criticize what you and everyone else liked in the first place. If you have a headache reading this, don’t feel bad.  I have one too!  However, I didn’t see these patterns until I let a few days go by without visiting social media.

I had an interesting conversation recently with a Personal Development Counselor. He was a charismatic young man who looked to be in his late twenties to early thirties.  He told me something that I found quite troubling.  Most of his work, he said, was with young male Internet Technology professionals, commonly called ITs.  He stated that almost all of the young male ITs he meets have problems talking to women because they spend all day staring at a computer screen.  He bluntly told me that most of them don’t know how to make small talk.  Almost all of the questions they ask him are about how they might best find the right words to approach a woman to date via some online service.  Simple things like having a conversation with a woman and then asking her out for a simple cup of coffee is totally foreign to many of these guys.  His job as a Personal Development Counselor is to give these young men some kind of road map to use to help them create a satisfying personal life because they do not know how to do it by themselves.

Now, before every Internet Technology professional sends me personal denials of such behavior and/or hate comments, hold your horses and slow your roll.  I know plenty of well-rounded IT professionals and I know that the majority of folks in this profession do not have the problems identified by this Personal Development Counselor.  I do suspect that  youth plays a factor in these problems. Those of us who are now in our AARP years remember a time when you didn’t need a computer or a smartphone to do anything and everything.  You had to go out and meet people, make eye contact, have conversations, and you did not have a smartphone as a constant distraction.  Younger men and women have no such memories.  What this young Personal Development Councilor shared with me made me take a good hard look at how much, how long and what content I place on social media and why I do it.

A while back I made a personal commitment to not post the news on my Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts.  What appears on MSNBC or CNN or FOX is almost always bad news anyway. I’ve managed to stick with this formula about 98 percent of the time.  On those days when something tragic has happened yet again to another Black person, to another woman, another LGBTQ person, another child, and etcetera, you can expect the threads on most social media to be filled to the brim with this bad news, tragic news, and horrible news, along with their shock and hurt about these tragedies.  All of it would be easier to stomach if there wasn’t so much of it.  It’s not that racists and sexists and misogynists and homophobes and rapists and murderers don’t do ugly, horrible mess to people with great regularity; it’s that this ugliness is not happening to me or you every single minute of the day because if it were happening to all of us 24/7, none of us would have the time or the luxury to post about it and debate about it on social media.  It is not that bad things don’t happen, but rather that good things happen as well. Now before you say that we all need to talk about these problems and vent about these tragedies, consider this:  If you do not post or comment about some major issue or problem, what exactly is going to happen or not happen if you don’t post or if you are absent for a few days?  What exactly would you be doing if you were not posting and commenting on your own or someone else’s posts?  This leads me to what I call the “Instant Gratification Trap.”  I’m as guilty of being caught by it and in it as anyone.

The “Instant Gratification Trap” is when you discover that your posts are rather popular and/or make people feel better and/or make people think deeply. Suddenly you feel important and admired. When I simply stopped posting anything negative and made it a point to post something positive, I found nothing wrong with basking in the warmth of compliments generated by folks who pressed the “Like” button and “Share” button and those who “Re-Tweeted” my posts.  All of this makes for good feelings all around.  However, the next thing I felt was obligated to continue making these kinds of intellectually stimulating posts.  “Obligated” is actually the wrong word here.  I felt compelled to post more positive posts because I ENJOYED and DESIRED the affirmative reactions of my real friends and my “cyberspace associates.”  Even further, I started to believe that what I had to say was so very important that I better hurry up and post something else that was wise and wonderful because, hey, what’s going to happen to all of those people who rely on my posts and my comments if I’m not there to post or comment?!  Let me say this as plainly as possible:  This is some ego tripping of the highest order.  All of us, hopefully, get to help people out, give some good advice and feel a little extra special, which is healthy.  We should feel confident about our work and our words and our contributions.  But exactly where do we draw the line?

Now, I read a lot of writing by my own real personal friends and many of my cyberspace associates; and there are some seriously talented writers and thinkers among them. Many of us are quite bright and we might say a lot of things that need to be said, but we’re not the only crayons in the box.  The problem with Instant Gratification is that it is short-lived because you haven’t worked that hard for it; it’s fleeting.  So, like a drug addict in search of another high, you post more and more to get more and more validation.  That validation strokes the ego; at least I know it stroked mine.  However, here’s how I’ve decided to use my ego.  I have enough of an ego to not want my very best writing to be on some social media site because once it’s posted there, it belongs to the site.  You can always lay claim to what you wrote, but the jury is still out as to whether any social media site needs your permission to reproduce what you’ve written somewhere else for the site’s own purposes.  When I feel the need to say something really serious, I put it in my blog or in my notes for some future essay.

Now, here’s an aspect of social media that is more delicate.  On most social media sites you can “unfollow” or “block” people. On Facebook you can “unfriend and block” people.  Every person I know has had that moment when they suddenly discover that “friend” or what I call a “cyberspace associate” who disagrees with them on every moral or ethical question out there.  Their contradictory opinions seem to come out of nowhere, but they really don’t come out of nowhere.  Remember, you don’t actually personally know a lot of these people who make it to your friend list; and they typically made it to your list because they know about thirty people that you actually know or they seem to be natural allies due to their posts and comments. Then one day they comment on some thread of yours and manage to annoy everyone with their narrowmindedness or their determination to ram their opinions down everyone’s throat and by their unwillingness to respect the opinions of others.  So after a few acrimonious comments and a variety of pithy rebuttals to their opinion, you get angry as hell and you click that “Unfriend” button so you don’t have to hear from them again.  Now, there are some good reasons for unfriending these creeps.  I got rid of one that was running for public office and who also turned out to be damned near a stalker.  (I also blocked him and thank God he lost his election.)

Now, I don’t blame folks for not wanting to be bothered with internet trolls or real life ass holes who spend the better part of their days trying to start arguments and foment dissension among groups of people who might be having a stimulating and insightful discussion. Yet, the problem with unfriending people with opposing views is that’s not how it works in the real world. As I have encouraged healthy debates among my former History students, they know like I do that you don’t learn as much from the people with whom you agree, but from those people with whom you disagree.  It might make you feel better to “unfriend” someone. I know it made me feel better. Yet, when met with opposition face-to-face instead of in cyberspace, you have to monitor your anger to prevent a debate from turning into a full-fledged argument or worse.  You have to think with more precision because you are in the physical presence of someone who disagrees with you and who has also pushed your buttons. I often think we argue on social media because it’s physically safer to do so; and there is nothing wrong with that. However, you might discover in face-to-face communications that your adversary has a point worth listening to.  And the key word here is “listen.”  Unless you’re communicating via FaceTime, most communication on social media is written. I have read (and learned to stay the hell off of) some threads where someone’s words were misconstrued precisely because no one on the thread could see that person’s body language or hear the natural inflections in that person’s voice that give additional meanings and depth to the point they were trying to make. And this leads me to something the Personal Development Counselor said about empathy.

The last thing he told me was that he thought too much consumption of social media led a lot of folks to believe that they were highly informed and highly sympathetic to people with problems when they were not.  Reading a book or a story, he said, created empathy.  He’s right.  You identify with the protagonist or some character in the book.  After you’ve finished reading the book, you continue thinking about the characters, the themes, what did it all mean, and why you enjoyed it, etcetera.  The brevity of posts on social media, he said, doesn’t require this kind of investment. You read a few lines of a post, and think about it for a few minutes, and then you move on to the next post or the next thread.  There isn’t much time to ponder and process what you just read if you’re suddenly distracted by something else that is more provocative.

I met a couple of young people recently who have deleted several of their social media accounts, including this Personal Development Counselor.  I probably will continue to enjoy social media for all the reasons I listed at the beginning of this blog.  I personally know plenty of people on social media who are caring, thoughtful people who genuinely want everyone they know to be informed about some serious problems going on in the world or about the good that’s out there; but there’s a creeping shallowness on social media that I’ve noticed in recent years.  It is no accident that the rapper Kanye West thinks “slavery was a choice,” if we consider that his exposure to the subject and its history has obviously been through imbibing short blurbs, 30 second soundbites, memes and slogans designed more to catch the ear and eye than to honestly analyze and inform anyone about what was a highly complex and brutally oppressive institution.

The fact that West and others think you can explain and reduce Chattel Slavery in the Americas—a 400-plus year old institution—to something as simple and singular as “choice” not only speaks volumes about what books they haven’t read, but also how their brains are now wired to believe that their ability to understand complex subjects can be accomplished via tweets, short articles, and a few posts.  West is not unusual nor is he an anomaly.  Kanye West is the results.  It’s hard to invest in people and consider their feelings when empathy with other people and their history is short term because the next post or thread about someone or something else is so much more exciting.  It’s easy to dismiss what is not provocative or catchy; after all, most of these posts are designed to draw people to them.  I don’t know what the long term repercussions of this type of media saturation will mean to everyone, but for me it means I’m going to be taking regular breaks from all forms of it from now on. Peace.

Copyright © by Leslye Joy Allen.

This blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Any partial or total reference to this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen, or any total or partial excerpt of this or any blog by Leslye Joy Allen must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: https://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.

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I Owe Ted Turner and my Maternal Grandmother

by Leslye Joy Allen

Back in the day in Atlanta, Ted Turner, the TV mogul, was keen on making sure television shows like Jacques Cousteau’s nature shows stayed on the air. Turner believed in the preservation of our natural environment.  He drove an economy car and at one time he had an office without air conditioning. This was his contribution to not contributing to dirtying up our environment.  When I was a teen, I thought he was just another eccentric White multi-millionaire.  Yet, when I listened to his reasoning about cleaning up the environment, he made so much sense.

Now, my late maternal grandmother, Lorena Wilkes Wilson was born in 1886.  She lived through the Atlanta Race Riot of 1906 when she was a student at Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University). I remember that sunny, warm, Fall day when I was in my teens. A large flock of birds swarmed our front yard.  I heard them.  “Some bad weather is coming,” Grandma said.  “It’s probably going to snow,” she said.  I looked at her confused, “Grandma, it’s almost seventy degrees outside. Where is the snow coming from?”  She stared back.  “The birds know. They plan for bad weather. So when you see a swarm of them, you can be sure some bad weather is on its way.”  Well…

right after that week of unseasonably warm temperatures, the snow came just as Grandma predicted.  A well-read, well-educated Black woman from a small Georgia town she was.  I remembered that my grandmother was born before there were any weather men and women on TV.  She relied on nature to tell her how to prepare for bad weather, when to plant, and how to dress.  I also remembered how cool Ted Turner was talking about saving animal populations and not disturbing the food chain.  Yet, I also remember people being turned off by things like recycling and driving economy, rather than luxury, cars.  Most people I knew then really didn’t want to hear any of this.

As I currently watch reports about one hurricane after another, about how deforestation has destroyed our natural speed bumps, I am grateful to Grandma and Ted Turner.  I wonder what people would think or say if I told them that I recently spoke with a scientist who told me that almost all of us are consuming tiny bits of plastic every time we eat seafood because we have dumped so much plastic on the ocean floor that the fish are now infested with much of this plastic.  The scientist said there was a guy working on some technology to clean up that ocean dumping ground.  Yet, I honestly hope that what I just wrote made you a little sick to your stomach.

I hope you will recycle your bottles and cans and papers rather than throw them in the trash. I hope you will think about the health and well-being of future generations. And I hope someday that one of your children or grandchildren writes about you and thanks you the way I have to thank Ted Turner and my maternal Grandmother. They both taught me to pay attention to and to respect all of creation on and in the only home we have; and to treat this home like the temporary home that it is and one that I must share with all of creation.  I hope you will too!  Àṣé!

I’m still not blogging as much for a while…So, you are welcome to read my older blogs until I return later (trust, there is some good stuff in my archives at my blog)…I have to get my dissertation finished, and blogging and responding to every little detail is not on the agenda…In the meantime, stay focused, and stay woke, and for God’s sake don’t fall for the easy answers because the news media is full of “easy answers.”  Do your research.  Think for yourself.  Peace and Blessings. I will see you when I see you.  — Leslye Joy Allen

This blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Any partial or total reference to this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen, or any total or partial excerpt of this or any blog by Leslye Joy Allen must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: https://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.

Remembering Belinda (Lynn)

By Leslye Joy Allen, Copyright © 2017.

(In memory of Belinda E. Fanning, August 1952 to August 2017)

A good friend

was laid to rest,

one who could

make you laugh

until your sides

split open,

one who could

play-the-dozens

until it drew a

crowd of

laughing witnesses,

one who nicknamed

me

“Yellow Biscuit,”

and

whose father

nicknamed

me

“Mosquito,”

one who my late Drew

loved and always

razzed,

DELIBERATELY.

Her laughter was

never muffled,

but

contagious and

deliberate

and natural.

To this

day,

I don’t trust

any

Black person

so prim and proper

that they suppress

their laughter.

As Drew used to say,

“If they don’t feel

better

after

having been around Lynn,

if they don’t like Lynn,

then something’s

wrong with them.”

I’m so glad I got

to tell her

over and over

again that he

was right.

 – Leslye Joy Allen, Copyright © 2017.

 

Still taking some time away from blogging for a while…So, you are welcome to read my older blogs until I return later (trust, there is some good stuff in my archives at my blog)…I have to get my dissertation finished, and blogging and responding to every little detail is not on the agenda…In the meantime, stay focused, and stay woke, and for God’s sake don’t fall for the easy answers because the news media is full of “easy answers.”  Do your research.  Think for yourself.  Peace and Blessings. I will see you when I see you.  — Leslye Joy Allen

 

This blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Any partial or total reference to this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen, or any total or partial excerpt of this or any blog by Leslye Joy Allen must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: https://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.

 

Finding Humility

by Leslye Joy Allen

Copyright © 2017 by Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

Adire Eleko cloth (Yorùbá, circa 1960)

Imagine you have just graduated with an architectural engineering degree from a prestigious university.  You rank at the top of your class.  You cannot wait to build skyscrapers and office complexes and churches and do the remodeling and refurbishing of old buildings.  Yet, you cannot build a bird’s nest.  A bird builds its nest without any training or instructions; and that bird’s nest often withstands torrential winds and rains and storms while buildings lose shingles, windows, and some even collapse.  I watched this happen once during a storm well over fifteen years ago.

Power lines were down; branches of trees were down; some trees fell in the streets and across yards; some roofs had missing shingles and damaged gutters; there were a few broken windows; and even the tree in my backyard with a three-year-old abandoned Wren’s nest fell down, but the nest itself was still intact, as intact as when I watched Mama Wren build it.  That nest had no glue, no concrete, no cement, no steel, no aluminum, no iron, no rubber, no mortar.  It contained nothing that we humans associate with the secure building of anything.  Yet…

a Wren is just one species of bird, right?!  You could argue that a Wren will never earn a college degree, build a skyscaper or play a guitar.  It was not designed to do any of that.  Yet, the Wren that built that nest in a tree in my backyard simply did what Nature and/or God (or whatever you call this “Life Force”) designed and created it to do.

The leaves change colors and drop from the trees every year in the Fall and then, in the Spring, the multi-colored blossoms appear everywhere on all kinds of flowers and trees.  This all happens without a stop watch or a clock or a wake-up call or even a calendar.  Creation, great and small, does what it was designed and created to do.

We, humans, are not so pliable or obedient.  We find humility and our place only when we recognize that it is not so important to be the first to do something or to be able to do something that someone else cannot do.  When we recognize that we are good at something, we must also recognize that someone before us did something that made it possible for us to do whatever it is we may be good at doing now.  And someone (or some creature) also has talents we do not possess.  Humility is always found in that place where one finds his or her niche and recognizes that in that niche, they make their contribution just like everyone else.  It’s just that simple, and just that complex, all at the same time.

Àṣé!

Copyright © 2017 by Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

This blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Any partial or total reference to this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen, or any total or partial excerpt of this or any blog by Leslye Joy Allen must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: https://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.

 

How I Maintain Peace and Equilibrium

by Leslye Joy Allen

Copyright © 2017 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

Adire Eleko cloth (Yorùbá, circa 1960)

The following is simply a few of my methods for maintaining a sense of balance and a sense of peace.  This is not for everyone, nor should it be.  Each individual must find where their sense of balance is…The following I learned from my late mother and father, a few late cousins, several former professors, some friends, and from my students and the young people I mentor:

I believe in spending time with and listening to young people. Children, adolescents and young adults not only need guidance but I also need their guidance. Only they can tell me how they feel or how they arrived at a particular opinion. I ask them to teach me something and they always do; and just as I learn something new, they also feel empowered because an older person needed their assistance and advice and respected their capacity to give it.

I avoid negative people. That person (or people) who never has anything nice to say about anything or anyone can ruin an otherwise great day. I avoid them as much as possible or altogether.  (Included in this group are whiners, complainers, moochers, and those who are chronically lazy.)

I expect good treatment and greet almost everyone with a smile; and 99 times out of 100 I get that good treatment and friendliness back. Most people will smile back and speak, but even if they do not smile back, I do not lose anything by smiling and being friendly.  A kind word to a waiter or customer service representative has often gotten me a few perks.

I stop from time-to-time to take a snapshot of a flower, a sunset or a view that catches my attention. Occasionally, I have pulled over on the side of the road to do this. When I look for beauty I often find it.

I turn off the news. I have purged myself of the affliction of addiction to bad news, to horrifying news, to doom and gloom.  Yes, there are plenty of problems that need and should have my attention and my activism. Yet, a combination of activism and cynicism does not work for me; neither does feeding off of the gore and bad policies that have overtaken most news outlets.

I pick my battles. Not every battle is worth the tension and heat it generates. If the battle only allows me to blow off steam, if it resolves nothing nor makes me any income nor pushes me any closer to my goals, then I do not need to participate in that battle. When the battle helps me or someone else, then I might fight it.

I maintain an inquisitiveness about spirituality, the arts, about my ancestors, and I do the research.  For example, I love the idea that the Yorùbá people (along with their many Afro-American descendants in the Americas) believe that procreation is also a form of art.  A sense of wonder about creation and creativity (artistic and otherwise) without the rigid dogmas of organized religions is a better path for me to stay connected to my Creator, and all of creation.

I hope anyone who reads this finds (or has found) his or her own path to peace.

Àṣé!

Copyright © 2017 by Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

This blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Any partial or total reference to this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen, or any total or partial excerpt of this or any blog by Leslye Joy Allen must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: https://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.