The Newsfeed in Your Newsfeed

I’ve apparently taken a long leave of absence from blogging:  I blame the flurry of work and writing that accompanied finishing the MLIS (which is done!).

So here’s a little post/essay to interrupt your regularly-scheduled OITNB viewing.  If you’re like me, you immediately tried to find the song that ended the first episode.  Because I find it Deeply Inspirational, here it is:


The topic here is my tangled attempt to explain something I articulated poorly.  I said I deliberately dressed in a performative way, which was vague and confusing.  What I said was a lazy shorthand for what I should have been more specific about.

So, here is the not-shorthand version:

 The personal is very public at this time (see:  social media, particularly Facebook), and it’s often unfiltered (Twitter, anyone?).  Like so many other people, I use social media (Facebook, in my case) to construct the image of myself I want others to have.  We’re all yelling at people to ignore the man behind the curtain, to varying degrees. The genius and pitfall of social media is, that if you put thought into it, you become your own PR person.

 I do something similar with clothing.  I construct an identity that functions as a tent pitched protectively around the things I want to keep hidden.  I’m not talking about physicality, though I certainly could (but that’s not very interesting).  Every time I get dressed, I put on clothes and throw a blanket over myself.  Part of that is shame (emotional, physical):  I need to cover something up.  Part of it is hiding:  my clothes are my blanket fort.

In a contradiction (the confusing part), clothing as performance can call attention to myself, which is not what I want.  It’s inevitable, though:  who can ignore a walking blanket fort?  So what is going on?  It’s deflection:  look at this, but don’t look at me.  In a culture obsessed with distilling things to a perfectly flat surface (a phone screen, a laptop), it’s simple to turn the human form into a “virtual” social media feed.  I ask you to look at what I display and only what I outwardly display.

The outward display leaves limited space for comments and engagement, which is the effect I want to have.  It’s the picture I’m posting to prove that God’s in His heaven– all’s right with the world (here — “Pippa Passes”– talk amongst yourselves!).

Clothing as performance thus provides me with a shortcut way of expressing (publicly) that I’m okay, confident, colorful, and unashamed.  I am representing myself (on a daily basis) in the current cultural vernacular of virtual reality.  Please understand that I am not talking about social media; I’m talking about how 24/7 existence is increasingly interpreted as a newsfeed.  I’m not talking about lenses in the college-essay way, either.  I mean that reality really is merging with virtual reality.  There’s not even a lens of separation.  I am here copping to taking advantage of that.

The real reality– myself, the machine parts that power the display– is safely encased. (I’m not going to blather about whether or not there is such thing as objective reality; head over to Reddit if you’re interested).  Few people deconstruct an object that appears to be working perfectly well.  We count on people not probing beyond their phone screens to see what’s really going on, and I’m counting on people not to pick at my sleeve.

It works remarkably, or maybe worryingly, well.

This post is deliberately image-free.  The featured image is a picture of the sky.  That’s it.  The sky.  Make of it what you will, though, as we always do.


Did Anyone Read the Syllabus?

Sometimes, social media makes me brood (this is shocking, I realize).  A great deal of pop culture tends to fly over my head (again, I’m betting absolutely no one caught onto that).  Generally, I try not to rain on people’s various parades (okay, I get snide about Taylor Swift a lot, so maybe I should apologize for that one).  But as a rule:  if someone posted an enthusiastic post about Topic X, I wouldn’t write a snide/rude reply just to air my own grievances or dislike of whatever it was.

That’s what Twitter is for.

Kidding.  Mostly.  Not really.  This is why you don’t befriend the people you know on Twitter, though.  And it might not be the best idea to read some of my LibraryThing reviews (*there is no LT widget here; it uses Javascript, which WP forbids, and this is annoying).

Moving on.  When I taught English in the days of yore (I believe it was called Ye Olde Englishe at the time or something), I said, on the first day, to please note that nowhere did the syllabus direct that you must like the assigned books, books in general, or even reading.  None of that was a course requirement.  What was a course requirement was, that if you felt compelled to voice dislike of a book (section of a book, character, etc.), you did so in an adult manner and supply a cogent reason/argument about why you disliked whatever it was.

The idea there was that there was no way I could force everybody to like everything (and does anyone say, “welcome to Biology 101, where you will develop a lifetime love of science!”  I doubt it).  However, what I was hoping was that people would learn to think, analyze, and reason in an appropriate manner for the subject material.

In other words, “I hated that” was not a sufficient response, and nor was “that was stupid.”  If nothing else, let’s raise the level of discourse here.

The first day of the first class I taught, a student answered the question “what do you expect to get out of this class?” with:  “It sounds like we’re going to read about books then talk about them.  That’s stupid, and I’m dropping this.”  It was a reading literature course.  And he did indeed drop.

All of this is to say:  the level of national discourse has officially reached the level that student articulated so magnificently, and there are quite a few people I wish would drop.  Like that student, they do not know how to engage in appropriate discourse, and, like him, they’re not even willing to try.  Unlike him, though he exited with bad attitude ablaze, at least he did everyone else a favor and removed himself from the situation– thus not exposing everyone else to his thoroughly poisonous attitude.

What is currently making headlines as if it were appropriate discourse is shameful.  As anyone who has taught or has been in a class where this has happened can attest, a vocal student with a sour attitude can effectively infect an entire class and turn the whole mood south.  If this continues, I fear that this phenomenon will infect more and more of the country, given the way that powerful personalities can control larger groups of people (who are not necessarily weak-minded; that is not the implication).

Before ascribing to any position or belief, think back to that high school or college English teacher who kept asking you to defend your position, to provide evidence in support of your thesis.  Remember that you had to have a solid basis for that evidence:  something you could reference directly and that the objective reader would be swayed by.

If all else fails, start with an outline.

A Tale Told by An Idiot (The Usual)

I’m terribly addicted to the quizzes that pop up all over Facebook; we once had the temple at Delphi telling us to “Know Thyself,” and now we have Buzzfeed.

[moment of silence for approaching end of civilization]

Anyway.  The one that’s making the rounds right now is “My Most Used Words on FB.”  If the OED has deemed an emoji the word of the year, I’m thinking that a post about my most-used words on a social media site is practically dissertation-quality material.



It took a lot of censoring to get my name and location off that screenshot.


One at the center is puzzling; I can’t figure out what context made that the #1 word.

My mother (cough Avril Incandenza cough) had trained me to use “one” when speaking:  “One would think . . . .”  That could have been the origin of this #1 (heh) word, but my college roommate immediately set out to rectify this grammatical situation.  She either repeated whatever I’d just said, substituting a militant “you” or just outright threatened me.  It worked.

I do like the reading of “I’m also one.”  It sounds like some sort of riff on “Imagine.”

If you don’t know this version, listen.  Also Google her.  She managed to disappear.

I also like that my manifesto (well, it’s my manifesto as of this afternoon, when this quiz gave it to me) appears in there (reading down, on the left):

books thats right book read

That’s pretty much all I know on earth and all I need to know.

However, there’s also some life advice that I ought to listen to more often:

take happy around always

I’m betting most people reading this never leave home without their phones.  Do you leave home without your happy?

Instagram your happy.  Tweet it.  Hashtag it.  The world will be okay without another picture of coffee.

I feel like morning favorite coffee please is completely self-explanatory to anyone who knows me.  Particularly to anyone who’s been around me in the morning.  Morning and I swipe left on Tinder (did I get that right?).


many trying tried bad represents a lot of what went south over the past year.  But that’s two forms of the word “try” versus one “bad,” so trying wins 2:1 over bad.  I hope.  And good is many, many times bigger than “bad.”

gnomes is also much bigger than “bad.”  So that’s what life needs:  more good, more gnomes.  There is more goodness and more gnomes in the world than bad– if you’re looking and willing to believe in things that others say don’t exist.


I don’t know what the next current anything is, for tomorrow, let alone next year.  That does indeed drive me crazy.  Hopefully change.  

All I’ve got at the moment is a great big now.  And now I’m writing a post because this is therapy.  I’m reading a book because there was a while there when I couldn’t, so I’m making up for lost time.  It feels good.  I cooked dinner, because wonderful people (on Facebook!) helped me find cooking resources.  And that feels like an accomplishment.  I crashed the coffee place again, because it was a beautiful day, and I got to wander around downtown at some length.  I sat outside and read.  Fussed with my plants.

And that now is important because today started off really, really horribly. If I have to string a bunch of nows together like beads on a chain to pull through, then that’s what I have to do.

This was a pleasant now.  Thanks for joining me.






I’ll Have the Usual, with a Side of Enissophobia

I have only a vague idea what psychiatric diagnoses I have, and I don’t really care; I’m not going to get any of this printed on a t-shirt.  My real complaint is that I’ve so often heard about other people’s experiences taking an psychology 101-type course where they had the wonderful (to me) opportunity to study every psychiatric illness on the book and self-diagnose themselves with everything under the sun.  The intro to psychology course at my school was reportedly not of this sort, and I eventually ended up in a chemistry class instead.

The chemistry class, incidentally, was at 8 AM in a winter term, and I finished it with 9 pages of notes, total, because I slept every single day.  I’m not sure what was going on, but I couldn’t stay awake, no matter what I tried in advance of the class to jolt myself into a conscious state; I primarily remember that the desks were the old-fashioned kind, and they were bolted to the floor (which didn’t stop me from passing out).  My course evaluation was an apology note for being disrespectful in the extreme.

I didn't have a cell phone in college, so pictures required a camera.  Therefore, I have little photographic proof I was there.  Here's some!

I didn’t have a cell phone in college (who did?), so pictures required a camera. Therefore, I have little photographic proof I was there. Here’s some!

But back to self-diagnosis.  I’ve done a post about this before (first entry here), but some things never change.  Age like fine wine.  Whatever.  You know, I do plan on getting around to a point here.

I was reading something that veered off on a tangent (very brief, but enough to distract me) about odd phobias; this, of course, sent me to the internet, where I felt sure I could find a very complete list of every phobia under the sun (yep).

Whatever actual diagnosis someone scribbles down, it’s not going to change the fact that it exists, whatever it’s being called at the moment.  The ones that you choose yourself (from a textbook or Dr. Google) are much more malleable and can be self-adjusted as necessary to compensate for any missing symptoms:  “I know it says you have to exhibit X, but you remember that time I did Y?  I think that counts.”

Clearly, I am halfway to a medical degree already.

Where is this going?  Enissophobia:  fear of criticism.  [Note:  I somewhat doubt it’s very officially recognized; information is scant and varies— just bear with me.]

When I originally found this word on a phobias list (let’s see, ten minutes ago), it didn’t list the sin component; apparently, this “fear of criticism” often involves having committed an unpardonable and unnameable sin, a fear thought to stem from a religious background.  [3/4 way to medical degree]

This is still going to work.

The number of articles about people breaking down their social media personas (generally perfect but untrue) and presenting the reality instead seems higher lately (or maybe it’s just my sometimes-sporadic reading of Facebook, which has often caused me to miss things; I thought Honey Boo Boo was a fictitious character for an unreasonably long time).

Moving on.  When I finally became aware of Timehop not long ago, I did get it on the “it’s free, could be interesting” basis– and it is interesting.  I’ve been using Facebook for just over five years; I broke down when I created the page for where I was working (and figured I should screw up my own first).

What’s really interesting is the shift in realizing that this is not particularly a forum that’s effective for promoting politics; those once-frequent posts eventually crash out of existence.  My life is more peaceful for it– not so much because of fear of criticism, though.  It’s because of not being able to speak to people in person and have anything resembling the back-and-forth of a natural conversation.

Also, apparently most news is now delivered in the form of memes.

The fear of criticism is worse (at least for me) when it involves the personal.  When I abandoned the once-common political posts, I was still trying to figure out what Facebook is for— particularly if you lack much in the way of an exciting life or the energy to concoct one (and I’m still not sure about this one).

Positive news or something funny is always better received than something negative, which does make sense.  I do wonder, though, how much self-censorship is going on because of fear of criticism:  spoken, thought, or implied.  If you commit the unpardonable sin of not appearing happy (for something other than a really good, logical reason), then does it carry the fear that you’re inviting criticism of your decisions, the way you live life in general, your inability to appreciate a situation?  It certainly does for me.

Even public restrooms are ultra-polite.  What?  You take pictures there, too.  Admit it.

Even public restrooms are ultra-polite. What? You take pictures there, too. Admit it.

Any detail of your life you lay bare on social media– which is, of course, what I’m doing now– is something you’re potentially throwing to the lions (there’s that religion/sin thing again).  Many people say that the alternative is to disconnect completely, but I’m not sure that’s actually solving the problem; it’s avoiding it.  Put another way:  if something very specific triggers a negative reaction, you will probably not be counseled to resolve this by avoiding whatever it is at all costs.  Instead, exposure therapy, coping skills, or something similar will probably come up.

Please note that I am not advocating social media exposure therapy as a new clinical methodology.

I don’t have any answers at all, in fact.  Zero.  None.  What I am wondering is why and how social media has evolved into something that provokes a fear of criticism.  I know that presenting a certain self on social media isn’t a new observation; what I’m wondering is if this is the new new cultural unpardonable sin, to open yourself to criticism:  not even necessarily of a political or other unpopular opinion but of your 24/7 life.

Hey, look!  This is something I found entertaining!  Mi vida loca!

Hey, look! This is something I found entertaining! Mi vida loca!  (And I will someday be thrown out of a store for photographing things I find hilarious but have no intention of buying.  Until then . . . .)

I don’t have any current plans to disconnect.  Knowing myself, the best I can do is try to be less paranoid about criticism (and that will probably not go so well; I’m already worrying about hitting “publish”).

But I do wonder if the prevalence of enissophobia has increased steadily with the rise in social media.

I Wish It Would(n’t) Rain

First of all:  YAY, I went away for the weekend!  Sorry.  I’m very excited.  We can argue about the meaning of “vacation” all day, but I’m counting this.  So there.

Also, before I move into quasi-content:  vote on the 2016 Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.  I can’t actually buy your votes, but why aren’t more of you voting for The Smiths?  I’m not even talking about music here.  I’m talking about how this would somehow involve trying to figure out how to get Morrissey and Marr on the same stage.  Or in the same building.  At the very least, it would be a very, very exciting year for this ceremony.

Also, to go ahead and get this out of the way, I was going to quote something from Furiously Happy at the end (I did anyway).  When I flipped to find it, I realized I had inadvertently written something pretty much along the same lines thematically as the Australia chapter of that book (except not clever, funny, etc.).  That was probably part accident and part some sort of back-of-mind recall.  In my defense, that was the first book I’d been able to complete since August, owing to a mental crash-and-burn (which I’ll say again, but that’s due to no current external circumstance; I get paranoid about that sort of thing re: myself, so I feel like I need to say it), so I’m still getting the pieces picked up.  It’s also after 2 AM.

Photos Go Awry . . . Before I Even Leave Town

I had a nice little plan set up, which is probably when the universe decided to heave buckets of rain down.  See, I was anticipating one of those photo albums of mountain-type fall pictures to show (read:  prove) that I’d been outdoors and all that stuff that I hear other people do.

I’m already taking weird pictures to demonstrate I do normal things.  I realize other people Instagram fascinating meals and exquisite culinary preparations.  I took a picture of this . . . whatever I made last week:

WHOEVER is currently in charge of the kitchen on OITNB (because I lost focus so many times last season, except when some favorite character was disappearing) will now have to relinquish it to me.

WHOEVER is currently in charge of the kitchen on OITNB (because I lost focus so many times last season, except when some favorite character was disappearing) will now have to relinquish it to me.

Technically, I sort of used a recipe.  More importantly, EXCHANGES.

Oh, I did take a picture of coffee last week.  This reminds me of a chromosome pair I saw once in a photo, but I haven’t figured it out yet.  Let me know if you recognize it.

Requisite coffee photo of vaguely biological looking splotch.

Requisite coffee photo of vaguely biological looking splotch.

“He Says They’ve Already Got One!”

Anyway, that’s why I wanted some more impressive pictures.  Most of the ones I take around here are of garbage and other street debris.  Seriously.  Tons of those.

However, the weird-person-staring-at-street problem could be remedied, if I could have taken home my new friend, the Trojan Moose:

Calling him/her/whatever Bullwinkle seems very obvious.

Calling him/her/whatever Bullwinkle seems very obvious.  Please note that it is really raining indeed.

I also grew attached to a kindred cow and pig inside (not so much the raccoon; I was afraid it would go through my kitchen trash).  I’m not sure if I could have also remained in this apartment if all three had come home (and how I would have gotten them here), but it would have been lovely to have them around.

Apple:  Now Bringing U2 to All Devices

This is in a parking garage elevator.  Some enterprising soul made it picture-worthy.  It may be that I don’t have a great concept of what constitutes vacation picture material:

Good one, Banksy-in-training.

Good one, Banksy-in-training.

I think I did better with the yarn-bombed bike.  Of course, A) taking a close picture while B) not walking away might have helped.  I was distracted.  There were also things up ahead.  So sue me.

I just want to ride my motorsickle. Stop fighting me on this one, autocorrect.

I just want to ride my motorsickle. Stop fighting me here, autocorrect.  It’s a word if Arlo Guthrie says it is.

The Ballad of the . . . Well, Not Sad Anything, Really

What else have I got?  Here’s a house I saw that was falling apart and looked cool:

#lifegoals: be known as the creepy old woman who lives here in a distinctly Southern Gothic manner

#lifegoals: be known as the creepy old woman who lives here in a distinctly Southern Gothic manner

There was a version of that one that had me standing in front of it.  It does not appear here.  No pictures of me will be in this post.  The vacation was good, but I certainly don’t like the way I seemed to look in it.  This has been a message from the voices in my head.

Other assorted buildings:

Roofs! Tiles!

Roofs! Tiles!

Some sort of really interesting church!

Some sort of really interesting church!

No idea, but I stalled everyone on the sidewalk to take a picture because it was interesting.

No idea, but I stalled everyone on the sidewalk to take a picture because it was interesting.  I have even made it larger here, for your viewing pleasure.

Classy ™ Starbucks ™.

Classy ™ Starbucks ™.

“Sweeping Every Category Except Congeniality, Which Is Not Something the Women in My Family Aspire to, Anyway”

There’s some other stuff, but I’m not going to deluge anyone with a slideshow.  What I am going to say is that the past five or so days have been a lot better than some other recent ones, not for any reason relating to external circumstances (read:  no one’s fault, etc.).  I already put in a brief plug for Furiously Happy [link to blog; it may cheer you up] in the previous post, and I’m going to do it again here.

Here’s why:  most people would probably think I had a boring vacation, and I certainly don’t have a lot of wild ‘n’ crazy pictures to show.  Everything I did (well, except for the getting soaked bit) was something I like to do, though.  I probably went too slow for most people.  I probably took more naps.  Lord knows I had a more “interesting” eating schedule.  I also veer off sidewalks to look at strange things, duck into oddball shops where I will buy nothing, and pretty much set up shop in bookstores.  I even like old bricks.  A lot.  And if none of that is your thing, that’s also fine.

Here’s where I’m going to stop babbling and quote the book:  “It doesn’t mean I’m a failure at appreciating the good things in life.  It means I’m successful at recognizing what the good things in life are for me.”

“Better to Light a Flamethrower than Curse the Darkness”

I would absolutely not say I deserved any of this weekend, but it was such a wonderful relief to have five days where I felt like a human instead of a mole person.  When I try to tell people what the “good things” I’ve done or experienced are, I feel pretty paltry and want to fade away again.  So tonight I’m not caring about that part.  I’m going to bask in the feeling of not feeling like crawling back in bed and staying there.

Is this a picture of someone on a good day or a bad day? You decide.

Is this a picture of someone having a good day or a bad day? You decide.

And I also really want to thank [this sounds like a speech.  I should sleep.  I’ll be doing a pageant wave next] a few of you who helped me keep this up these past few days, especially since I’ve been so bad about hiding from, um, everything. Also the person who told me to quit shading everything on social media (none of it’s a lie, incidentally; it’s finely-presented truth) so that things look like they’re going fine until I end up in some train wreck situation (this isn’t social media per se, so those who never want to read this blathering will simply be able to ignore it).

I’m going to try to return the favor and be better about responding.  I will try to answer. I’m working on it.  I may be asleep or have the phone off at some times.  Otherwise, I’m  trying.

Finis, in the usual manner: