Tuesday Thoughts – August 6, 2019

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Where is your phone when you fall asleep?

How soon after you wake up do you look at your phone?

These are questions that, a generation ago, would not have made much sense. Scrolling through news or social media apps is ritualistic to end and begin a day.

Today, here’s what I endured so far:

  1. A friend who is a police officer posted a statement on Instagram in the wake of the two recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. To paraphrase, its message expressed a wish that, in the event of his/her death at a similar mass shooting, he/she did not want his/her life to become political ammunition for liberals who want to take the guns away from citizens.
  2. A former student floated an inquiry on Facebook to learn of the “best places” to get world news. The comments were, to me, rather shocking. “Fox” was one response. A second suggested that all [cable?] news was biased (so it doesn’t matter). CNN, one reply stated, hated everyone equally. Toward the bottom (among the most recent) someone offered the link to Info Wars. Tone is difficult to measure with online posts such as this, so I cannot fully know how serious or sarcastic any of these types of answers were.
  3. My local newspaper’s Facebook page shared an article about some planned protests outside the downtown headquarters of one of the major political parties. Again, I chose to read the comments from others. The protests were also in response to the tragedies in Texas and Ohio over the past weekend. However, the comments were authored by individuals who has a wide range of explanations, redirected blame, and political talking points. One individual took the time to itemize a series of documented events associated with the current leader from one political party.

You’re likely familiar with at least one of the above situations. For an insight to my personal beliefs on gun control/gun legislation, feel free to read my essay from a few years ago here.

Sidebar: My kids want me to play with Legos with them this morning, but they’ve agreed to let me do some writing before I join in.

I’m currently reading a book entitled iGen by Jean Twenge, PhD. The current section concerns the startling increase in teenagers who self-identify as having depressive symptoms and, by a heart-shattering extension, a similar rise in teen suicides. In short, she surmises that, while there are likely a lot of factors for such an upswing in both of these, the single element in play across the board for teens from all demographics is social media access and activity.

I fear that we’ve already conditioned ourselves to become unaffected by tragedy–unless, of course, we are nearly or directly involved. Our collective participation in all corners of the Internet is not only deteriorating our human thirst for personal interaction, but it has rapidly become our most common source of accessing information. The severe problem is that we are also targeted by others with various agendas and the line between truth and propaganda has all but evaporated.

One of the earmarks of standard commentary on social media sites is the vast view on virtually any debate that the issue in question has two distinct sides. Thus, it’s common for someone to reply with something along the lines of “It’s not because of x, it’s clearly because of y.”

My job in teaching argumentative writing at the college level involves several elements that are grossly ignored, overlooked, or simply not implemented by the average individual, in my opinion. I spend a lot of time throughout a semester expressing the process of evaluating source material and validating that the creator is credentialed and/or qualified to share information. We also take time discussing “professional” language that, when incorporated into academic arguments, is much more widely accepted than a similar take on an issue filled with “charged” phrasing designed to incite an immediate (and equally ineffective) reaction. Ask yourself if you’re more likely to respond positively to your boss screaming at you in front of your co-workers or if she were to invite you to a private meeting time and shared her concerns in a calm manner.

I know this has gone on perhaps too long, but I’m getting somewhere.

While I cannot know for sure, I believe we all want basically the same things in this world:

  1. A better future for our children/the next generation(s)
  2. Respect
  3. Joy
  4. Love

In our quest to secure #1, we are sacrificing #2, #3, and #4 in unprecedented ways.

The problem we face, of course, is the Catch-22 of information sharing. I’m writing these ideas on a blog that I hope my followers and/or friends read. Embedded within this short piece, however, is the (until now) thinly veiled implication that maybe she put our fucking phones down and hang out in person.

But that’s at the heart of it, right? How else can we share our ideas to a similarly sized audience if we vow to take social media diets? If you were to strike up a political debate with the unknown person in front of you at the gas station, you’re likely not going to get much of a response. So, I hope it’s clear that I’m well aware of how I am guilty of the same notions of information-spreading that I’ve mentioned above.

But I also believe that we can start and end each day without feeling so pissed off (or perhaps some other distinct negative emotion) as a result of this habitual desire to “wind down” to someone’s meme or comment or propagandized (and fact-free) article shared from the open web. It affects our sleep, our interpersonal communication skills, and our souls.

Let’s be better than that. You know, for the kids.

I’m off to build Legos with mine.

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An End to the Endless Cycle – A Modest Proposal

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Last night, I was minding my own business and simultaneously reading my Facebook NewsFeed.  Yes, it’s one of those types of posts.

Someone I know shared a video from a gentleman whose agenda appeared to be to exhibit how little some college students knew about ISIS.

What do you know about ISIS?

Here is a trustworthy site that covers some basics.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/isis

I know very little.  I understand they claim to pose a threat to the US.  I understand they are an extremist branch of individuals who, for reasons we may never fully comprehend, may very well act upon their alleged hatred of the US.

For the sake of this post, the amount of intelligence that you, dear reader, or I have at the moment is actually not what launched the following.

This video was designed not to inform the viewer about something that could be potentially dangerous.  It was, it seems, designed to make fun of college students’ ignorance of this danger.  (In short, he says to one interviewee that one would assume that the college would be filled with informed citizens).

The caption, whose author is an apparent fan of capital letters and punctuation marks, reads like this:

[SO STUPID!! Can you believe HOW MANY COLLEGE STUDENTS actually SIGN A PETITION supporting the TERRORIST ORGANIZATION ISIS????????? Who lets these people vote???]

It’s me again…(Steve…the author of this post)

“Who lets these people vote?[??]”?

1.  I saw no voting booths in the shot.

2.  Any voting going on that afternoon on campus was more than likely unrelated to a world terrorist crisis.

3.  Our Constitution entitles all citizens eighteen and above the privilege to vote.

Why were college students targeted here?  It was unclear.

However, one might assume that the creator has a personal vendetta against college in general.  Ironically, assuming he and his crew were permitted to be on campus for this project, he certainly didn’t seem too interested in teaching anything the uninformed students had not learned.  [You’d think adults would be on a college campus to teach the students passing by.] No.  His time was much better used to embarrass them by filming them (I must assume) without their knowledge, and giving them no recourse or opportunity to gain anything useful from his project.

Nope.  Just laughs.

Is this guy a professional comedian?  Should we respect his art in making college students look- and feel bad about themselves?  What will his next project be, one wonders?  Which unsuspecting citizen will be next in his series of films?

It should be noted that he dances around a few ethical issues in obtaining these signatures.  I’m far from an expert on this and many other subjects, but I feel that misinforming a prospective signer of the petition might be what the invisible legal text beside me cites as “Bullshit.”

This, to me, is a sad version of the Modern American.  Instead of helping learn about a terrorist organization and sharing verified information with the world, we have citizens who devote entire blocks of time to show how some of us know some things and some of us have yet to learn those things.

It creates an even larger divide among our citizens.  We tend to do anything we can to show the world we aren’t as ugly, uneducated, poor, morally empty, or soulless as the person beside us.   I can’t say that the same mentality exists worldwide.  As an optimist, I would like to believe Americans are the only country to keep this endless cycle rotating (and publish it for the public).

Our lives ought to be filled with laughter.  However, I question the cost at which we reach that joy.

By the way, the series of comments I read (all of which appeared to be both entertained and pissed off) were startlingly consistent with this gentleman’s agenda.