We’re now a few days into October in Minnesota and it is 62 degrees outside, sunny and beautiful. It’s too bad it won’t last.
I just worked a Monday through Sunday. In addition to my shifts at the theatre, I had class on Thursday night and I spent time working on a synopsis for my novel, watched a few movies, read a couple hundred pages and in the fringes around that time I slept.
The last two nights I fell asleep in my chair. At some point I made it to my bed, but most of the night was spent reclined.
Today I saw The Social Network with Tiff. It’s an excellent film that I’m sure I’ll be thinking about for a while. David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin did a brilliant job distilling the origin story of Facebook into a movie that not only gives us a basic narrative on how that came about, but also indicts everyone who uses Facebook. There is a culture that has sprung up around it and I’m just as addicted and implicit in it as everyone else is. I think sometimes about life before the social networks–Facebook, Myspace, Friendster, before I blogged and Twittered and YouTubed … I was active, as I am active now, but was I as conscious of what I was doing? Conscious of commenting on it, grabbing onto statements that I would later quote online, looking for the angle in which I would record it from in a status post?
I have always, to some degree, observed my own life–observed and recorded in my mind and my notebooks. Before I blogged I had journals, notebooks filled with my scribbled accounts of days and weeks–my perceptions of the events that unfolded as filtered through my lens. I am now, and always have been, a writer. Now I’m working towards being a Writer, with a capital W, a distinction based on a paycheck, synonymous with Author, but I’ve always been a writer with a lower-case w, someone who puts pen to paper and records things: thoughts, ideas, stories, etc … But how is my connection to the world different now that there is a platform online to record publicly everything I so choose and then a little bit? Even now, I’m pondering these questions on an online journal instead of scribbled in a notebook that could then be placed in a drawer.
There is an openness to this new frontier as well as a risk. The pros to the interconnectedness of it is that I have friends and acquaintances all over the country, and in truth, the world. I would have long ago lost touch (an in some cases had lost touch) with most of these people. In the brave new world I don’t have to, I still have an invisible string that connects me as long as they are on a friends list or in an email address book. I can follow their status updates and photo uploads and know tangentially what is going on in their lives, whether or not I have had any sort of direct online contact with them (messages, emails, etc) or real world contact with them (by phone or face to face). Is this better or worse than the way it was before? Should some of these relationships have just drifted away long ago? Or is it better that they can be catalogued on a website? Should they be able to know at a glance, without directly contacting me, what is going on in my life? Cons to this brave new world are the slow disconnect of physical connection because of the ease of these virtual ties. I can keep in contact with someone I’m intimate with via Googlechat or Facebook messages, but does that heighten or lessen our physical time together. Would we talk on the phone if we couldn’t instant message? If we’re more comfortable with the latter is that a statement on us, the former as means of legitimate communication (or at least the sole acceptability of it as “approved” long distance communication), or is it an entrance into a new type of relationship that augments our former definitions of what that means? Long distance used to be hard because of the lack of contact–is it easier because we have means to stay in contact differently or harder because we are teased by a virtual connection that is less than physical contact but still more than that black hole we had previously? Do we begin to hold onto these long distance ties harder while also ignoring new ties that we could be forming with people that are near us? And then there is the way that this openness can affect our financial situations–not only increasing the number of ways we can be stolen from, but also by affecting our relationship to our employers. In the film, Zuckerberg (the character, had to know what the real man did since the film also shows the levels of “truth” in portrayal of events and persons through the several legal battles Zuckerberg goes through) blogs his drunken thoughts as he is creating “facesmash” a website that allows people to choose, hotornot style, between two pictures from the Harvard facebooks. In the blog he also slanders his ex (or would-be) girlfriend after she rightly dismisses him for being an asshole (or is that, again, filtered through a layer of truthful portrayal?). This blog, as much as the website, gets him into trouble and put on academic probation. I also got myself into a situation when I commented on a friend’s blog about a situation at a place of employment. The comments themselves were fairly innocuous and innocent in that they were our perspectives on a tough day–should we have said them? No. It is that line that has gotten blurred as we’ve migrated online, things that can be said person to person have been transferred into type online and been opened up to a much wider audience. Our comments, grumbling about a rough day, then began to go through a gambit of interpretation and perception. People perceived them as being slanderous, or offensive, or inappropriate, and at that point it didn’t matter what the intention of the comments was, they became as they were perceived. I’ve learned my lesson. I don’t associate my name with this blog to not only protect myself if I should make the odd comment that could be misinterpreted, but to also make that distance greater between what I say and what I’m talking about. What is the distinction? Should I just not be online at all? Is that a choice that can be fully made today? We’re online to some extent, whether we like it or not. If we weren’t on a blog or a social network, so much of what we do is via email, which, whether we like to admit it or not, is not completely secure. It’s harder to get to those messages, but it is still recorded (or cached, if you’re up on the parlance) somewhere. Phone calls are done via cellphones which transmit digital signals. Even if we took these things off grid, used landlines and only interacted business in person, shredding all documents after we use them, there are still electronic records of all of our bill payments, medical records, DMV information … everything is recorded somewhere, somehow. What we do online, with the social networks and blogs, are manage our message.
I’m an adult and I realize that this is what I’m doing now. I’m managing a virtual representation of myself. If my career as a writer ever takes off, these things that I have established will be leveraged to raise my profile in such a way as to promote the pieces I publish. I’ll be using a fraction of the “real” me to promote the professional version of myself. It is a managed me, managed by me.
Think about how a celebrity can use Twitter to give people a perception of them that can counter the one that is concocted by the bad photographs taken by the paparazzi that stalk them–both are created personas, though one has the credence of being managed by the person and illuminating only the personal details that they want to share, while the other is an amalgamation created by someone hoping to profit off of a fictional image created in the illusion of “facts”–photos can seem factual without being so. Both are created images, but one is created maliciously to profit off of someone else’s profile. The term “the public has a right to know” has quickly lost, not only it relevance, but its integrity as a result of the paparazzi. That they create situations that they are “documenting”, harassing and hounding people so that they lose the ability to function the way “normal” people can function all under the grounds of their “celebrity” is sickening and a reminder of how things can get out of control when we don’t pay attention to the stuff that we choose to use in our online portrayal.
Most of the stuff that I’ve said is not necessarily in the movie, but it is inferred as a result of the actions depicted. The single saddest moment in the entire movie happens at the end, and this is not a spoiler as the movie is not exactly chronological and is a matter of public record: Zuckerberg is left in a room after a deposition and “friends” someone on Facebook. The movie closes with him refreshing the screen every few moments waiting for a friend confirmation … this is one of the many ways that the people involved in the creation of Facebook are used to analyze the users of Facebook. One person gets into a dangerous relationship with someone as their actual self turns out to be far crazier than her online self and things like the relationship status become a knife in their fight. That this guy, who was involved in the creation of Facebook, didn’t know how to use Facebook … well, that is just an added level to the possible dangers of what being on a social network can bring. If you are participating in something without full knowledge of how it works or what it means you end up opening yourself to all sorts of potential dangers.
So, I left the movie and came to B&N to work on the synopsis of my novel for class and to get some pages written. I’ve now written almost 1800 words on the movie on this blog instead of working on my own book. Part of this is as a warm up to my other writing, but it also distracts. It becomes a job in and of itself.
What else did I do this week?
Last night, after I finally got off of work, I met up with Tiff and Kristy and we got dinner at The Blue Door in St Paul. Delicious food and beer (I had a Bacon Bluesy–a burger with bacon and cheese inside of it, tater-tots and a glass of Surley’s Bender brew). The Bluesys are a variation on the Jucy Lucy which, as I’ve heard it, originated at Matt’s Bar in Minneapolis (they are very good there, but they haven’t expanded past the original as places like The Blue Door have). After we went back to Tiff’s place, watched an episode of How I Met Your Mother and then the original Wall Street and drank some excellent wine.
Other movies I watched last week: Persuasion, Raw Deal, Robin Hood: Men in Tights. I also watched the first half of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere.
I read The Mortal Groove for class and have gotten about one hundred pages into The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, also for class. I need to finish that, read Persuasion and re-read Snow Falling on Cedars for class yet. I also need to get cracking on my novel. This time I’ve spent not writing I’ve still been working on plotting it. Little details keep shifting in how the story is being told and I’m figuring out the parts that I hadn’t thought about and need to. Like ripples in a pond, these details are going to subtly change the entire piece as I’ve previously conceived it. It’s good, these things are never done until they are and if I had everything figured out before I started writing the damn thing then there would be no real enjoyment in writing it.
Needless to say, I’ve got a lot going on. The other night, as I tried to relax after a performance, I found that although I was completely exhausted, my body was still vibrating from all the things that needed to be done. Such is life, and what’s more, such is my life as it is. That would be the life that I’m living and not the one I’m portraying online.
More later …