technology and life choices, black and white subway car wallpaper

From an essay by Jonathan Franzen in the NYT, Liking Is for Cowards. Go for What Hurts.

Let me toss out the idea that, as our markets discover and respond to what consumers most want, our technology has become extremely adept at creating products that correspond to our fantasy ideal of an erotic relationship, in which the beloved object asks for nothing and gives everything, instantly, and makes us feel all powerful, and doesn’t throw terrible scenes when it’s replaced by an even sexier object and is consigned to a drawer.

No doubt human beings are big on control. We have very little control over our lives in many ways – we’re born to random strangers and it is often downhill from there in terms of what we can and cannot control. Do electronic devices and social media give us the control we seek. Probably not. They are like the car, personal transportation, that theoretically gives us the opportunity to go where we want to when we want to go. After car payments, car insurance, maintenance costs and fuel, who really owns and controls who. Besides the roof over our head, cars, furniture and food one of the next biggest and most expensive must haves is electronics and the interwebs connections to go with them. All of this stuff goes into the luggage we call our life. The more of these things we put in the more the externals require we tow the line. The less we can speak up at work because the money has to keep flowing. those ethics we swore we would never compromise in our youth become the deep silence that is an answer to yet another boneheaded decision by our corporate lords.

But if you consider this in human terms, and you imagine a person defined by a desperation to be liked, what do you see? You see a person without integrity, without a center. In more pathological cases, you see a narcissist — a person who can’t tolerate the tarnishing of his or her self-image that not being liked represents, and who therefore either withdraws from human contact or goes to extreme, integrity-sacrificing lengths to be likable.

If you dedicate your existence to being likable, however, and if you adopt whatever cool persona is necessary to make it happen, it suggests that you’ve despaired of being loved for who you really are. And if you succeed in manipulating other people into liking you, it will be hard not to feel, at some level, contempt for those people, because they’ve fallen for your shtick. You may find yourself becoming depressed, or alcoholic, or, if you’re Donald Trump, running for president (and then quitting).

I’ve had some experience with this. A person becomes a friend, they realize you like them, warts and all. They think they’re fu*ked up. If you like them you must be needy or desperate or screwed up in some way, so they push you away. You can kinda of like these people as long as you’re not too obvious about it. Franzen is probably mostly right about the “like” phenomenon on social networking sites. Though not completely. I would allow that many people keep it all in perspective. It is a modern techno way of having fun. Even before FaceBook, MySpace and so forth I had web friends. I prefer the term acquaintances we were solely in the category of internet acquaintances. Most people put the people they know into categories of different kinds of friendships. The net has just added another category. As long as you do not become too obsessed with being added as a friend – friend requests – or whatever, you have just widened your circle of acquaintances. In some cases you keep friends who you cannot see anymore because of logistics. Nothing wrong with any of that.

I may be overstating the case, a little bit. Very probably, you’re sick to death of hearing social media disrespected by cranky 51-year-olds. My aim here is mainly to set up a contrast between the narcissistic tendencies of technology and the problem of actual love. My friend Alice Sebold likes to talk about “getting down in the pit and loving somebody.” She has in mind the dirt that love inevitably splatters on the mirror of our self-regard.

The simple fact of the matter is that trying to be perfectly likable is incompatible with loving relationships. Sooner or later, for example, you’re going to find yourself in a hideous, screaming fight, and you’ll hear coming out of your mouth things that you yourself don’t like at all, things that shatter your self-image as a fair, kind, cool, attractive, in-control, funny, likable person. Something realer than likability has come out in you, and suddenly you’re having an actual life.

I generally agree. Love is messy, it causes one to ask questions and duties of oneself that might be new or they are selfless in a way that is scary in its existential Buddhist kind of way. On the other hand maybe the net is the answer that many people have been waiting for. The right to be alone and still be part of humanity. yes it takes courage and fortitude to love someone, but it takes the same to say to oneself that while I get lonely, a long-term relationship marriage – is just not for me. It is only not just me, but I’m doing at least one person a huge favor by not trying to make a lifestyle work that I know I am not suited for. It takes courage to say that conventions are great and good luck to all of you that want that, but ultimately, on balance it is not for me. Hopefully between the those ever sleeker devices, the net and flesh and blood friendships that decision to set ones own course will not be as desolate as it would have been in ages past.

black and white subway car wallpaper

A slide show of Irish painter Chloe Early . The predominant theme of her work is the lone individual,  trying to preserve their individuality and thrive in an urban environment.

painting by Chloe Early

Rep. Weiner to Explore Civil and Criminal Charges in Alleged Twitter Hack Attack

Wolfe, who describes himself as a “conservative Reagan Republican,” has a photo of Ronald Reagan as his Twitter icon. Cordova is siding with Weiner, telling the Daily News Sunday she and the congressman were victims of online pranksters.

You think? What’s the likelihood of Andrew Breitbart “discovering” a lewd photo of Rep. Weiner, in the middle of Weiner’s public fight with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas over his stake in voting against universal healthcare? What is the likelihood of Breitbart allegedly “reporting” a story that isn’t really a story, but the result of hacking someone’s computer? Worse off, how do you sully the name of an innocent college student to get back at Weiner and think it’s justified? Will the smart and decent Republicans please stand up?

Twitter has been hacked a few times. It is an odd coincidence that Justice Thomas may vote on the constitutionality of the ACA. Judging by he and his wife’s political activities, should, if ethics mean anything, recuse himself from hearing the case. Now one of the political thorns in Thomas’s side has this very convenient little scandal. A scandal blown up by a serial liar named Andrew Brietbart who thinks no dirty deed is unjustified in the name of the cause.