Recently I read a post on Girls Heart Books in which the author spoke about taking her teenagers on a vacation in a location where they could not (easily) access any Wi-Fi. The post got me thinking about the joys and failings of constantly being connected.
We live in a world where we can be connected to the entire rest of the planet all the time. We have smartphones small enough to keep in our back pocket, with enough power in them to handle almost anything we can do on a larger computer, and for the most part we can constantly have them connected to the internet and everything that entails.
In a lot of ways, having constant access makes life a lot easier. We can check on our work from home (or anywhere else we happen to be). We can contact friends and family members from wherever we are. If we’re lost, our phone’s can show us exactly where we are and how to get where we’re going. If we have a question we can access Google anytime, anywhere. We can talk to people on the other side of the planet. We have constant access to multiple forms of entertainment.
But as great as all of this can be, it’s also dangerous, because so many of us these days have what’s (creatively) known as “smartphone addiction”. We use our smartphones to check our email dozens of times a day, even though we know there probably isn’t anything new there. We spend more time Tweeting and updating our Facebook statuses than actually paying attention to the world and the things we’re updating about. Our brains have a hard time remember things because we subconsciously know that we can find anything out with the few clicks of the keyboard. We share fewer actual face-to-face social reactions because we can’t get our heads off of online social media. People have even been known to walk out into traffic because they refused to look up from their smartphone screens.
I’m not high-and-mighty; I know that I’m as bad as anyone. I’ve checked my email more times in one day than the number of emails I got in that day, and I’ve been known to not notice people talking to me because I had my head buried in 9GAG. But I know enough to know that all these things are bad things. Many of the habits we’ve adopted because of “smartphone addiction” are huge time vampires, actually take us away from our friends and families rather than bringing us closer to them, and regularly put us in danger (see the aforementioned walking into traffic).
So all I’m saying is to take a break every now and then. Put the Android down and look your loved one’s in the face. Watch the fireworks instead of trying to film them with your iPhone. And for the love of puppies, your text can wait until you have a chance to stand still for a moment.
Have you ever noticed how much time you waste on your smartphone? Have you ever gotten frustrated because of someone else who can’t get their eyes off the screen? Have you, or someone you love, ever gotten into an accident because of smartphone addiction? Please share!
Before I get on with the accountability today, I want to mention a couple of things.
First, a huge hug to the new followers I’ve been getting on this blog and on Twitter. I’m not sure exactly what I’ve been doing lately that suddenly has people sneaking in out of the shadows toward my sites, but I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Welcome, thanks for coming, and I hope you stick around! 🙂
Second, on a whim I recently tried Googling myself, and I was quite amused to find that the first three results were actually me. I rather don’t need my 9gag profile popping up on Google, but I was happy to see that the second result was this blog and the third was my 750Words.com account. It’s a good sign when your real persona pops up on Google, right?
Third: a call out for info and/or advice. I’ve Googled this problem many times but I can never seem to find anything that quite matches my issue. I’ve been having trouble sleeping again (it seems to happen for several weeks at a time, a few times a year), and the issue as far as I can describe it is that I spend an inordinate amount of time in dream sleep (REM sleep), meaning that my rest isn’t, well…restful. I’m waking up feeling like hell even when I sleep 9 or more hours, and it’s very wearing. I’ve consulted my doctor before and his only suggestion was to try antidepressants, which I thought was a little silly and insulting since I’m pretty damn confident that I’m not depressed. So since I can’t seem to find any information on my own, I thought I’d ask here on the off-chance someone may know something or suffer from similar. Help?
Okay, on to the accountability.
Health and Body Image Goal
If I’m totally honest, I’ve plummeted miserably on this one. I’ve been doing no form of exercise and have been eating rather terribly. It doesn’t help that I’m experiencing sleep issues, as mentioned above. I keep trying to convince myself to get up a little early in the mornings (before it’s scorching hot out) and do my zombie runs, but I haven’t been able to manage it because I’m so damn tired. I need some motivation, terribly, and that’s a fact.
It’s been a surprisingly busy week so I haven’t managed to sit down at my laptop for very long periods of time, but I’m still (slowly) plugging away at my supernatural romance. Really, really looking forward to finishing so I can submit it to a publisher and move on to my zombie apocalypse.
1,000,000 Word Goal
It hasn’t been a great week, but I did manage to get a few words in. Between blogging and a return to 750Words, I managed to get in 4802 words this week. I’m hoping to ramp it up this week through a series of ideas I’ve compiled, one of which is to use 750Words.com in the mornings to empty my brain of the dreams I’m plagued with every night. It might be a pro-bono situation…I get extra words, and maybe writing down the dreams will make them go the hell away. Starting this Sunday, as well, I plan to start reading The Artist’s Way and work my way through the 12-week process, so look forward to that.
29 weeks down, 23 to go. Here’s hoping the remaining 23 start to look up a little!
As previously mentioned, I’ve been taking a bit of time to read some “craft books” on writing, and the first one I’ve been looking at is Kristen Lamb’sRise of the Machines. The focus of her book is social media and how writers can use it to create a working “author platform”, but she also touches on other subjects such as traditional vs. indie publishing, marketing, and occasionally a little bit of (related) neuroscience. Yeah, you heard me.
One of the side-topics that has come up in what I’ve read so far (enjoying it so much!) is this idea of ruining your platform without even realizing it. In other words, turning your name to mud by accident. In a world where everything can be re-Tweeted half a million times before you blink, it’s easy for one stupid mistake to go viral and effectively ruin your good name for, well, for good. This doesn’t only apply to writers (or the celebrities we so often see spiraling the metaphorical toilet bowl); it applies to everyone. That’s why I wanted to talk about it today, because this is the kind of thing that everyone should know, but which most people never think about.
I’ve spoken before about how anonymity does not truly exist on the internet and how we should watch what we do and say because it can come back to bite us in the ass. In that previous post I was focused on what I called “The Golden Internet Rule”, which is simply “don’t be a jerk on the internet”. This time I’m not talking specifically about being a jerk, but simply about understanding that whatever you choose to talk about on the internet has now become searchable, findable, and quite possibly eternal.
I’ll give a personal example, because what better way to show people what you mean than by sharing your own morbid embarrassment?
When I was in university, studying to be a technologist, I had ups and downs. I had chosen my path partially on a whim because of a stressful situation (the course I had originally chosen was cancelled two months before the start of the semester, so I had to pick something else quick or simply not go to school). The result was that I often wondered if I’d chosen the right thing, whether or not I should drop out and choose something else, and was I really suited for this kind of career? I kept pressing forward because change is scary, and eventually I found myself in the fourth and final year of program, having an all-out panic attack. It began to occur to me that I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do when I graduated. I didn’t know what kind of jobs I was even qualified for, how I would go about applying for them, where the work would end up taking me, or whether I would even be any good in the field. Sure I’d made pretty great grades in school, but the real world is a lot different from the class world. I didn’t know what kind of work I would be doing, but I was pretty confident it would not be writing short lines of computer code to set tiny LED lights to flash on and off at timed intervals.
One night when I was particularly stressed, I went online to a forum that I frequented in those days. I wrote a long post about my concerns, my worries, my stress level. I ranted about things like “wasting time and money on a degree I don’t even understand” and how I would disappoint my parents if I suddenly up and decided to do something different, and how I was terrified of the idea that I might have to move away from home for a job and “why oh why didn’t I choose a career path with a clearer future?!”
It was a rant born of stress, passion, and an overwhelming desire for someone to wrap their virtual arms around me and say that it was going to be okay. I did get that virtual hug from my virtual companions, but I also made a teeny tiny mistake. Within the confines of that rant, I used my full, real name. It wasn’t a concern because most of the folks on this forum knew my real name anyway, but in this particular post I wrote one line that described what my diploma would look like when I graduated, with my full name in the center of it. I added that bit in to make a point concerning my rant, but I didn’t consider what adding my full name in actually did to that post.
Haven’t figured it out yet?
It made me instantaneously and easily locatable on Google.
For the most part this was a non-issue. I was a nobody that no one cared about. Who would even go looking up my name on Google, and if they did find my post, why would they care? At least that’s what I thought until someone did happen to Google my name and did click on the link that led them to my post. It was my uncle. I can’t recall the reason that he searched my name in the first place, but when he did he happened upon my post, read it, and subsequently wrote me a very long, very concerned email.
I was mortified.
My uncle was just trying to be helpful and calm my concerns, and he was very sweet. That’s not the mortifying part. The mortifying part was that he read my post in the first place. When I wrote that post it was with the intentions that only my internet friends ever see it. I just wanted a little bit of anonymous support from people who I never had to deal with face-to-face. For good or ill, I’ve never been the kind of person who can share their pains and emotions with their closest loved ones, so when one of those close loved ones found my whining, complaining, melodramatic post I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. And while in this case I had the opportunity to go back and change what I’d written (posts on this forum were editable), in another place I may have been stuck with what I’d written forever.
This is what we’re dealing with when we put ourselves out there on the internet, and my example is absolutely nothing compared to what some people have put themselves through. Every one of you reading this right now has seen at least one photo of someone who uploaded their pic on a social network site only to realize later that there was something excruciatingly embarrassing about it. One particular photo that comes to mind is of a teenage girl who took a “selfie” of herself and uploaded it to Facebook before noticing that her vibrator was sitting in plain view in the corner of the pic. As if that’s not mortifying enough, before she noticed it dozens of people had copied it and posted it elsewhere. The picture went viral. Because this girl failed to take a few seconds to actually look at the photo before posting it, she is now an internet meme that will never die.
Whatever you say, whatever you post, whatever you do, it only takes one opportunist to back-up your mistake on his computer before you can backtrack. In this way the internet is forever. Ask anyone who has ever found themselves depicted as a cruel jape on sites like 9gag. It doesn’t matter how much you beg or cry or scream, you can’t erase something from the internet once people have decided to use it at your expense. Even if it is an extreme example and you have grounds for legal action, it only takes one person to store the quote/pic/post away to whip out again at a later date. And the bigger a deal you make out of trying to abolish a bad rep, the bigger a deal people will make out of making sure that it never dies.
This is why we have to be careful, not only when dealing with touchy issues like religion and politics, or when letting our tempers get the best of us online. We also have to be careful with everything we say or do on the internet. Before you say or post or upload, step back and think. Think about how you would feel if your parents (or your children) happened across your post. Think about the repercussions if your employer saw that pic. Think about the veritable shit storm you might inadvertently stir up with your status update.
Basically, just THINK. It’s something we don’t do enough of these days, and with the Internet playing the part of devil’s advocate, one stupid mistake can mean that you name is mud for a very, very long time.
Have you ever said or did something on the internet that came back on you in an embarrassing or painful way? Do you know anyone else who has had to deal with this kind of unintentional reputation ruining? Thoughts and comments?
I wasn’t going to bother writing a blog post about this because so many bloggers already have and it seems superfluous. But then I thought, screw that, I have opinions dammit, and they will be expressed!
A few days ago I came across the following image on 9gag.com:
Given that 9gag is primarily a comedy website, at first I thought the image must be some kind of joke. After all, surely someone whose job it is to sell product wouldn’t willingly and purposely offend half the damn country, right? So I promptly brushed the image aside…for about 4 hours or so, which is how long it took for the internet to explode with anger. Social media has been figuratively setting fire to this guy’s name, and after reading a few of my fellow bloggers’ posts, I decided to add a little firewood of my own.
Three concepts came to mind as I contemplated the epic assholery that is this quote:
1. There are tons of clothing lines out there that don’t make clothing for plus-sized individuals…and while it probably diminishes their possible sales, that is the company’s right. They can make their clothing in whatever sizes they damn well please, because it’s their company. That said, there is a huge, huge difference between neglecting to make larger clothes for larger people, and publicly announcing, “F$ck fat people!” And that’s basically what Jeffries did. He told “fat” people to go pound sand because they aren’t good enough for his super-special clothing. Evidently his clothing is so special that it can cure cancer or some shit, and fat people don’t deserve to so much as gaze upon it. Wow dude. Really, just…wow.
2. And the real kicker is that he doesn’t even just leave it at “fat” people (I put fat in quotation marks because I refuse to let any clothing line determine what a reasonable weight is…those f*ckers are biased something fierce). He also goes ahead and puts the kibosh on “ugly” people as well. Ugly people. Ugly people. First of all, Jeffries, exactly how are you defining ugliness? Do you have a panel of beauty pageant judges hanging out at the entrance of each of your stores, turning away those who you deem not pretty enough to done your super-special cancer-curing clothes? My mind is absolutely flabbergasted over this one…do you have some special beauty-level-determining-machine? I find this statement also particularly mind-boggling considering the man who spewed it…is it just me, or does Jeffries look like an old leather boot that got left too close to a bonfire? I’m just saying is all…this man is trying to make a statement about beauty?
3. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve been led to believe that the primary market for Abercrombie & Fitch clothing is overwhelmingly teenagers…as in, young people who for the most part don’t have access to disposable income and rely on their parents to purchase things like clothing for them. With that in mind, I think Jeffries may have seriously shot himself in the foot on this one. Of course he will always have consumers; there will always be people who only care about status and are happy to consider themselves “worthy” of A&F clothing. But I have to believe that there are going to be a lot of people who swing in the other direction as well. A lot of parents out there are going to hear this message and think, “Jesus Christ, this guy is a collosal asshat and I will never purchase any of his clothing for my son/daughter again,” and since that son/daughter can’t just go out and buy the clothes themselves…well you see where I’m going with this. At least, I genuinely hope for this kind of a reaction because the whole thing sickens me and you can be damn sure that I’ll never buy those clothes for my daughter.
Seriously though, people? The media is bad enough for telling kids what they have to look like without the store where they buy their clothes outright telling them that they aren’t thin enough or pretty enough (or popular enough, or cool enough, or freakin’ rich enough). Do we not have enough young people in this world becoming violently depressed and/or suicidal because the whole goddamn world endevours to convince them that they’re somehow not good enough? The fact that Jeffries had the balls to actually make this statement publicly…I think that deserves a swift retaliation. Stop buying his clothes, that’s what I say, because if they’re too good for “fat” or “ugly” people, then I think they’re “too good” for good, decent people too.