Thursday, April 10, 2014

What Willem Defoe Was Warning Me About

Everything is A-OK!

I am sick today and alone with my thoughts. It's probably a nice day outside, but my shades are drawn, and I am in the dark. I'm quite happy, however, so you needn't worry about me. I'm as happy as one can be with a stomach bug.

I wish I could say that the most notable thing about today was my success in a new freelance job. However, I can't shake from my mind this morning's vivid dreams. I overslept for hours, obviously because I was ill, and I dreamed. I haven't done that in a very long time.

It was at first a very bland dream. I was at a baseball game and we were trying to convince some people to leave our seats. I had tickets to prove that the seats belonged to us, but one of my ticket numbers was damaged and the person refused to leave that seat. The entire dream comprised of me running around trying to find somebody to help me. It was very detailed and there was an awful lot of stair climbing and running around shouting at people in yellow jackets for help. Then when I achieved enough of a lucid state to realize this dream was very boring, a hallway I took led outside into the streets of New Orleans where everybody was celebrating Mardi Gras. I came across Willem Defoe who was dressed up in a carnival inspired Man-Bat costume. He informed me that everybody was going to rue the day when something or other was going to happen. Then he swept his cape at me and wandered off while I went on looking for somebody to help me with my baseball tickets.

How could any event today top that dream? It can't. I might as well stop trying and go back to bed.

Then it occurred to me that I needed to share this dream with somebody, and I opened up my Facebook app only to stop midway and think, “This would be better on my blog.” Putting it on Facebook seemed like such a waste. I had no guarantee that anyone would even see my post, never mind comment on it. At best a few friends might comment or like it today, then my dream would be washed away into the stream of the past, never to be seen again.

I think I have figured out why I am so displeased with Facebook in recent years. I used to enjoy using Facebook to interact with readers, but Facebook's emphasis on quantifying personal relationships has isolated me. I am such an eclectic individual that I rarely post things that my nuclear family is interested in, though my daughters are good sports. Mostly friends who I have known for years are my regular commenters, which is ironic because Facebook has decided that they are closer to me than my actual family. It does all of this by calculating comments and likes. My ability to interact with new readers who friend me lasts only for a brief time before Facebook decides we don't actually know each other in the real world sense. Its algorithms then isolate us across a great digital divide. Occasionally I will look over at the sidebar and see a post by them and think “Oh, hey! I haven't heard from them in a long time. I forgot we were friends.” Or is it that they forgot about me?

I understand that people could be unfollowing my feed but staying friends, or that they are stingy with their likes, but in all likelihood it is Facebook's meddling with the flow of information that is at fault. The end result is the death of conversation. Facebook in its effort to create stronger ties actually prevents us from creating newer friendships and stifles our efforts to personalize the service. We could friend 100 new people today, but after a week or two Facebook will have us interacting only with the small group we started with.

And then I remember that dream. How frustrating it was as I ran around doing pointless things seemingly in real-time while nobody paid me any attention. When I am sick I am too tired to chase social media tails. I stop and wonder, “What is the point of all this?” I know somebody who has three times as many Facebook friends as I do, and all he does is regurgitate other people's posts. Am I putting in the proper amount of effort or am I putting my effort in a place where I shouldn't? I can ask the same question of my freelance work. With all the effort I am putting into making money, how much time am I leaving to finish my book? I only have so much energy to give today. Should I be wasting it on likes? I wonder if this is what Willem Defoe was warning me about.