I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways

A few days ago I decided to swear off social media. This was for a few reasons. Mostly, I watched the Netflix “documentary” The Social Dilemma, in which the creators of social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and others explain that these programs were built to be addictive but no consideration was taken as to the long-standing effects of this addiction. How the algorithms used to mine your personal information also channel different kinds of information. According to the show, if you are using social media, you are the product.

I don’t like that.

I think that the creators of social media applications are no better than tobacco companies, quelling any controvery or research that their products are actually killing people. So I dropped off. Fittingly enough, I got a little bit of pushback from my friends who are on Facebook. Things like “You do this about every six months, you’ll be back.” So supportive. I wonder if AA meetings are like this. I know that bars are. That is why it is hard to quit drinking when all your friends are at the bar.

That being said, I have been a full on Facebook/Instagram addict, spending upwards of six hours a day scrolling through my feed, sometimes just staring at the same crap I’ve already looked at, hoping somehow that it will somehow refresh and I’ll either get that dopamine bump for getting a like or a notification, or something new will appear for me to comment on. Life for these last several months has been lonely. As with many of us, these might be our only outlets of social interraction. I think it’s time to get off that bender.

For the last few days, I have had a lot more time to work on my book. Last night, I finished a 10,000 word chapter. Written in around two or three days. It’s hard to determine how quickly I got it done, since it was a hard chapter and I wrote some other scenes. The writing for the last few days was hard, and sometimes it nearly broke me. But I’m pushing on ahead.

Sometimes I get the doubts that there is no reason for doing what I’m doing. Who will actually read it? Who will care? Then I’ll have moments like the other day when I was buying coffee and the barrista asked me what I was working on. When I told her, she said she had a similar experience. Even just the idea of it resonated with her. So, maybe what I’m working on is important. At least it might be important to at least one other person.

No, it’s not Harry Potter, though some have told me I should write something like that and get rich. Which is a myth. I’m not interested in writing stories for children anyway. There is enough of that out there, and God knows I’ve tried my hand at fantasy and nobody cared. This story is writing itself right now and I’m just holding on for dear life.

Without social media, I’ve been reading more too. I re-read Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” and recently I started reading Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast.” Hemingway really wasn’t a novelist. He was a short story writer and all he did to get that novel length was to string a lot of pointless short stories together. But I have enjoyed the language and the glimpse into 1920s Paris.

I have a first edition copy that I’m working through. The smell of old paper, vanillin, the feel of a hardbound book in your hands. No eReader can compare to it. I’ve decided I dislike eBooks. Everything that I have read on a tiny screen fades quickly from memory. I can’t hold onto it. With a book it is an immersive experience. Much like how I got through college, you participate. You turn the pages, you hear the clock on the wall, you can associate what you are reading with what you are doing at that time. I can pick up some books and turn to a page and know approximately in the story where I have landed. I’ll also remember what was happening around me when I was reading it last. I don’t get that from an eReader.

If I want content, I’ll read an eBook. If I want a reading experience, I’ll read a real book. There is a difference.

Too long didn’t read for this one: I’m learning how to use my time better. Sometimes I get lonely. And I guess I’m still a little old fashioned. I’m still moving forward.

We are alive, but we aren’t living

Tonight I’m going to get up in your face over this horseshit we’ve all been living through for the last three months. No real end in sight either, since the Press continues to stir up the fear.

Yesterday was the first day I hung out with people who weren’t my immediate family since March 13. Just sitting around people in the back yard, enjoying conversations, eating together. Petting dogs. It was wonderful.

It wasn’t this bullshit ZOOM meeting that just makes me want to put my fist through the screen either. A few days I sat in a restaurant by myself while the waitress in her facemask attempted to do her job in “these unprecedented times.”

Fuck you.

These times are totally precedented. I lived through this bullshit for three years when I was married. I’ve spent the last six recovering from it. My ex wife went completely bonkers about germs, being afraid to leave the house, eat a meal that (I) didn’t cook at home. Microwaving the mail. Bleaching everything. Wearing protective gear and gloves. ETC. I’ve lived through this bullshit, and I want to let the rest of you know that we all have a thing called an immune system. For the last 100,000 years, people have relied on this. Yes, we have died of the Black Death and Spanish Flu and all sorts of other plagues. This isn’t the Black Death. Wake the hell up. It still hasn’t killed as many people as the normal flu season. Though I appreciate keeping people safe, at this point, it’s just like me when I would strip down as soon as I got home to be decontaminated.

I knew it then, but I still participated. It’s all about control. And Fear.

These precautions really don’t do much.

They are killing a lot of us though. One of the best relationships of my life ended in these unprecedented times. Had COVID not sent everyone into a tailspin, I would probably still be with her. I wouldn’t have been spending the last three months feeling like my mind was deteriorating from the isolation. You see, there are some of us who live alone. Other than my son coming over every other week, I don’t have many opportunities to spend time with other people.

I don’t have close family nearby. I don’t have a girlfriend. I don’t even have a job now where I see annoying co-workers everyday. I feel like a shut in. The most human interaction I get is visiting the kids at Dutch Bros. for a coffee every day. That’s $2.50 plus a tip that is keeping me somewhat sane every day.

Today, I went people watching in Fort Collins. I noticed something peculiar: The masks.

The primary function of the masks now is to look stylish. Many of them were wearing masks that matched their outfits. And I’m not talking about N95 masks either. These are just cloth masks that really don’t do shit. Other than match a nice off the shoulder dress or maybe a shirt or pair of shorts. The secondary function of the mask is to show people that you are supportive of keeping people safe from COVID-19. Even though even the CDC keeps changing their story on the use of masks. If you don’t wear a mask, you might as well shave your head into a mohawk and wear an Anarchy t-shirt and shout “FUCK THE QUEEN!” like punkers in the 1980s. You are THAT antisocial.

The third reason for wearing a mask is to you know, like, maybe flatten the curve and stuff. Because Black Lives Matter. Hashtag, I’m doing something to help. Hashtag. Masks are the new awareness ribbons of this generation. Disingeniune codswallop about a lot of people who usually don’t care getting to look like they do.

People were out on dates, basically breaking the rules for social distancing. Sure, they wear their masks. Until they meet at a table. And I guess a frosty glass of wine or a beer will give you immunity to the plague of the 21st Century as long as you are at your table, with a stranger, and your dress/pants match your mask. These are the people who just like anything else in their lives bend or break the rules and everything turns out just fine for them in the end. I couldn’t help but wonder if they hook up, do they keep the masks on or what?

“Flatten the curve.” You know, by completely ignoring millions of years of biological programming. Picking sides and politicizing a virus. it goes beyond that.

People are hard-wired for connection, and right now, the biggest virus I have seen sweeping the globe has been this fear storm that tells people that the lost, lonely, and isolated can be forgotten as long as everyone else gets to have a Brady Bunch moment on a Zoom meeting or we can continue to tell people that our immune systems can’t beat this thing. So, we can lose our jobs, lose connection with our support systems, start to slowly go crazy, drink a lot more, and feel unloved until we turn into dust and blow away.

Six weeks in, I had my first fist-bump with someone. Other than hugs from my son, it was the first human contact I had had. Three months later, I hugged my mom and dad. Two weeks after that, I ate dinner with some friends. Phone calls. ZOOM meetings. Shouting incoherently through cotton masks and plexiglass aren’t the same. Not even close.

We are alive, but we aren’t living. What kind of life is this anyway if we can’t get connection with others? Privilege is those people who break the rules and go about life out of force of habit because they can still be social with a few minor differences. A cute mask (that does nothing). A protest. Beer pong with friends. Walks out in crowded outdoors spaces and parks where people hardly visited before. But they wore a mask! Over their chin. Or put it on the table when they ate.

Time’s up.

Some of us are not doing so great because we don’t have the luxury others do of playing along with this horseshit. The elderly. The poor. Introverts. Isolated people. Marginalized people. People with mental illness such as anxiety or depression. People who have spent a lot of years trying to overcome OCD or germaphobia, hypochondria, etc. The curve will keep rising as people are tested more and more. That is basic math.

Some of us are dying inside, and not from a virus. From solitude.

I’m at the point where I have even stopped caring what happens next. I’ve always been on the outside looking in. I’m sure I’ll be several weeks behind everyone else who gets the memo that we can return to the “new normal.” And it will be just another way that I get to feel like I don’t belong at this party. Maybe those who survive that don’t require touch are just the next logical step in evolution? Human connection will become obsolete. After all, this just finishes what social media, dating apps, and wide-spread narcissism started already.

Remember when Meals on Wheels used to show those old people and shut-ins who were weeping because some college kid brought them a brown bagged sack lunch? That’s 90% of us now. If this all turns out to be a cruel hoax, I hope the people responsible are dismembered publicly for their crimes against humanity.

Selfie-awareness

Yesterday while waiting in line at Dutch Bros. we watched the young lady behind us take selfies in her car for a good ten minutes solid. From the moment she pulled up behind us to the stoplight on the street in front of Dutch. It was unmistakable what she was doing. The angles. The posing. The coy looks into her phone. That whole “(fill in the blank) hair, don’t care” look. The pouty expressions. The duck lips. The “who me?” the “I’ll have me another coronavirus por favor” pose.

This was a woman possessed.

She must have spent more time on her hair and makeup to take pictures for the Insta than some people spend on their weddings. But contrary to the fact that I am taking the time to write about it, I have to say something about it. Because I’ve seen this kind of behavior SOOOO often working at a university.

Nobody cares about your instagram.

That guy sliding into your DMs? (“Direct messenger” for other people who don’t know or care what that means) He doesn’t care about them either. He’s just someone who wants to get into your pants and waste time on his next conquest.

Other than the risk she poses to other drivers on the road, I guess she wasn’t hurting anybody. Other than cringe-worthy levels of embarrassment on a scale of spilling coffee on your crotch to shitting yourself in an elevator, I would have to say this was up there with being de-pantsed in from of the Bear Valley Girls Soccer Team as a Freshman. *Note how the embarrassment scale is very pants-based.

I have a Facebook and an Instagram account. I really don’t care about either one. Facebook is useful for snarky comments nobody reads and posting recent links to my blog, which nobody reads. Some people maximize the use of these to help out with their social media footprint and self-promotion. I am not a 20 something girl who looks good in leggings and corsets, so the experience is probably not one that is going to do well with my assets. Which are snarky comments. Pithy one-liners. And pictures of me wearing goofy hats or smoking cigars that are going to get me calls from my mother.

I have been thinking of doing a pod-cast recently. I know I won’t ever get to Joe Rogan levels. My GF and and I just watched two of those yesterday. The format fascinates me. It reminds me of sitting around with friends BSing about everything. A long-form platform of communication, which unfortunately has retreated to AM radio where people just blather on about how much they hate the opposing political party.

My problems would be:

  • Equipment
  • Production
  • What would I talk about?
  • Guests…since I don’t get to have conversations with many people in person these days anyway.
  • How do you monetize this whole thing? I like to talk, but if I could get paid for it, that would be cool too.

Anyway, it’s just a thought. It would be sorta like what I am doing here, only with talking. I–like many of you–hate the sound of my own voice on a recording, so that might get old.

Let me know in the comments if you would be interested in listening to a podcast. In the next few months I’m going to have some time on my hands to work on it. Is it as self-aggrandizing as that girl posing in her car? Or is it something else? I’ve seen it go both ways, honestly. Unless they have interesting guests and a compelling conversation, I’m not really a fan for the most part.