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Posts Tagged ‘loneliness’

This has actually been my favorite week of assignments for this class so far this semester. No, that’s not because there were no assigned readings. If anything, the four books Kyle discussed in the lecture have burdened my life because I now have 4 more books to try and read because they sound very thought provoking.  Somewhere down the line maybe I’ll read all the stuff I hope to read…as long as I don’t read their bibliographies. One book leads to another and to another…

I like doing this critical theory stuff, postmodern stuff, or whatever label you put on it. Critically analyzing the field is where I find myself at home. Having lost my faith and previous identity, my mom to breast cancer, and then my marriage, all within a few years time, the LIS world may actually be more of a refuge for me than a career. In many aspects, it is all I have left at this moment in time. And it is a world in which you are encouraged to read, think, discuss, and when you do that go back and do it some more. I like thinking big picture about whom we are and why we do what we do as it helps me do some of the same for myself.

So these thinkers have given me some things to think about and the way they have expressed these thoughts are unique ones I’ve never thunked before.

Sherry Turkle:

Some of her thoughts include:

The illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.” I thought about this when I “unfriended” (a great word and idea someone should write a dissertation on) someone on Facebook who had over 1,000 friends. I’m sure he’ll never miss me. We go back to our college years and were one time colleagues in the religious world. How do you have a 1,000 “friends”? Social networking easily becomes a fraud or status symbol. Ironically, in the ministry we were encouraged to have such behavior because we the emphasis wasn’t on depth but gimmick. Bring people in, keep them entertained, and get them to be members and contributors. That’s how you build community, so the thought was. Mega church pastors from the Midwest were always the examples: “He preaches to 5,000 each week. What’s the matter with you?” So we were given the “add water and stir” instructions for how to do that in our church. It was soon apparent I would never be able to do this because I was not a cult leader who would draw people by my charisma and entertainment value. I wanted to ask questions and make people question and think. You don’t gain many “friends” that way, but the few you do are greatly enriching.

I think she is on to something. True friendship requires commitment and trust, and surely you can’t do that with 1,000, or even 300 people. But it seems maybe everyone is so alone because in society we are Bowling alone (to cite another book title I’ve never gotten to) that we have to have so many “friends” online to convince ourselves we are connected, or have “followers” so we feel someone is listening when we don’t have anyone in real life who actually will.

Social networking can be just the opposite. We can have fuller relationships we physically couldn’t have in real life, and more contacts than ever before. The strong relationships we have can be stronger because no matter how far apart we can still connect. But I wonder if this is the exception rather than the rule.

* “Being alone feels like a problem that needs to be solved.”

We are so used to the instant and the loud we don’t even feel comfortable in the alone, quiet, and reflective. Yet, it is hard to appreciate relationships and connections without realizing the opposite, and being alone makes us appreciate company. But our devices attempt to “solve this problem” and give us constant, continual noise, dribble, and nonsense.

Well, connection if you look at it positively.

But unless used properly, we can become a slave to our devices and feel we cannot live without a constant tweet or text.

* “We are using them as spare parts to support our fragile sense of self.”

This is pretty true. When we don’t have a sense of who we are, we let machines do it for us. About a year I dabbled into the world of online dating. The biggest struggle for me was in writing my profile so I didn’t sound like a stiff, although I most likely am one, and trying to sound real without really being real. I was depending on a machine with all of its algorithms (how exactly does someone who is a 30% “match” get recommended to me anyway?), swarming with other people playing the same game. Friends have told stories of others they know playing this game, never taking it seriously, but doing it for something to make them feel good. I probably spent more time playing with filters and seeing what resulted, fascinated by how the whole thing works. I have a disabled account now. Not good at playing games. But yet, here we are as living examples of letting machines support our fragile sense of self.

People often feel that no one is listening, really listening to them and who they are. So, Facebook and Twitter create automatic listeners to make us feel there is someone who cares.

*”Human relationships are rich and they’re messy, and they’re demanding, and we clean them up with technology.”

How true. Take the pic down, delete the posting. If only real life were that easy to manipulate. Why can’t I just create a different screen name for the rest of my life? Maybe I can go through life making anonymous comments. That’s much easier than taking responsibility, having commitment, or investing in someone or something.

Then there were the thoughts from Keen:

I found myself agreeing with what he was saying. Then I realized he is part of the problem because he is using YouTube and participating in the same “Cult of the amateur” society we all do. I know he would say he is giving content rather than dog’s farting, but it is the same freebie audience that is getting information and entertainment for free that he is attracting on YouTube.

One of my realizations in moving from the right wing of my birth to a more center, then to the far left, and now whatever I am, is that there are obnoxious fundamentalists on both sides who simply state their opinion as the unfettered truth. Keen is one of these. I instead lean towards the Robert Frost quote: “A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.” We all have opinions and biases, but to present those in a superior way, is in Kyle’s words from the lecture when he said Keen is a jerk. I agree. If he wanted to, Keen could have demanded this video be available for a fee so pitiful folks such as ourselves won’t be stealing something.

Keen does raise good points, though. Imagine Cronkite saying “Let’s read some of the tweets that have come in about the moon landing…”

CNN has been broadsided reporting such things as “fact” and realizing it is some misguided fool. But these things happened in the old days too, despite Keen referring to the great institutions and establishments of old as guarding against such things. They were full of crap too, but you would never know it unless you were on the inside, and you didn’t have the luxury of it forever living on YouTube.

Meritocracy.

Today everybody is a doctor on the web, and Yahoo answers will help you diagnose your sickness. But who’s going to trust a government healthcare site that wreaks havoc on users, or what a politician says, or a company that makes its profit by destroying the environment? People are skeptical of the “grand institutions” he describes. While the great stuff does get “lost in the ocean of garbage,” we have access to great things we would not have before.

In a church history class in college, one of the few things I remember the professor saying was “Cream rises to the top, but so does scum.” He was referring to “cults” or erroneous teachings according to the established doctrine. I’m not even going there. But the key I remember was that because of so much other “stuff” out there, it helped re-define what it was they did believe. They hear a false teaching and say “That’s not right…but how do I respond?” Kyle said this well in that hearing these criticisms helps us in better articulating what we are presenting, and also helps us re-evaluate what we are teaching.

I think of an interview I heard on NPR this week with the author of the blog “Hyperbole and a half.” This was a great interview with a lady who shares her struggles through drawings, including describing her bouts with depression. Having had those same thoughts and feelings as her in a struggle with depression I’ve had, I found this interview and blog comforting. This is an “amateur” not a professional like Keen expects. The Idea Box is another example. But because of the free democracy of the web, this message can be sent out for free.

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