Category Archives: Blogging

Why “Social Media” Should be Renamed “Social Masturbation”

We have hundreds of friends on Facebook. We follow hundreds of people on Twitter. We interact with dozens a people a day, spread across an equal number of timezones or even countries.

We follow funny blogs, meme-generators, and news sites on both of these services, and they deliver dozens of posts that we like and re-share to all of our friends, so they can see that we like them.

We feel like we’re making such a difference in the world! It’s so amazing! A collective consciousness if forming, almost — who can stop it? Who can fight it?

Disadvantaged groups are in control of such power! They now have a voice in the world so that everyone can hear of their struggles, thanks to the Internet! Social behavior that would’ve been illegal 50 years ago, and just an enormous faux pas even 25 years ago is now completely normal and accepted… isn’t it?

I mean, that’s what all my friends think. And I’m sure yours largely do too, if you’re probably reading this.

The reality in the rest of America, however, as we just learned, is very different.


Stages of Grief

We’re still not even in the postmortem stage from the Trump election win in 2016, but we’re close. Right now, people don’t know who to blame, mostly because the final results were such a surprise. Nobody saw the coming — not even FiveThirtyEight, who haven’t predicted an election wrong before this one.

And why would they? Why would any of us?

How many Trump supporters are you close to, on a daily basis? How many do you talk to daily, as a friend? Not bickering with online, but in person — where you’re more than just text making them angry on a website, but a living, breathing person in front of them, that they can see, and hear.

If the answer is zero, honestly I don’t blame you. Trump supporters aren’t usually… let’s just say it’s hard to have a conversation with someone who’s starting position is “Ban the Muslims/Mexicans, Build The Wall, Lock Her Up!” There’s not much gray area — not much room for common ground.

Even I only had about half a dozen, and they were all online. Mostly family members who survived earlier Facebook purges and friends from high school who stayed behind in the small town area where I grew up, and never left.

After this past week, of course, I’m no longer friends with them. Not because of anything they did or said, of course — most of them were fairly well-behaved — but because I realized, after the election, that we’re not really friends.

I didn’t talk to them in person. I couldn’t affect their lives in any meaningful way. In any discussion, there was never any meeting of the minds — no give and take. Every conversation could stop immediately when the aggrieved party wanted it to, by just walking away. There was never any reconciliation attempted, because there was no need to.

Our interaction was limited to them sharing their funny conservative memes from ridiculous websites and fake news sources, while I would groan inwardly and put up with them, because I was being “open-minded.”

They were certainly never going to change my mind about Hillary Clinton by posting some link about a “child sex ring in Macedonia run by the Clintons” (all false, of course), and I was never going to change their mind about voting for ol’ Agent Orange himself by telling them about his six bankruptcies, piggish attitudes about women, or the ridiculousness of building a “90 foot wall on the border of Mexico.”

So, why keep up the charade of pretending like we’re friends?


Fair and Balanced

However, I didn’t stop there. How many like-minded people are you friends with on Facebook, that you also don’t see in person? A dozen? Ten dozen? A thousand? How many do you follow on Twitter?

Do you think these relationships are healthy? Do you think you’re making a difference in their lives? That by liking their posts, and replying to their comments on yours that you’re doing something nice for them?

Maybe — just maybe these interactions are robbing you of the desire to make actual relationships, with those people around you.

Now — before you get outraged — I’m not saying you can’t have a meaningful relationship with someone in a purely online fashion. I met my partner online, so I of all people am not saying that.

I’m just saying you can’t have a dozen simultaneously. Or ten dozen. You’re not Scarlet Johansson’s character from the movie Her. And you certainly can’t have 1,456 real “friends” on Facebook, no matter how much you like seeing the number.

These interactions you are having on Facebook, or Twitter, with people you rarely ever see in person, are having a negative influence on your life, and you may not even know it.

They momentarily quench the desire to have real connections, out there, in the real world. Friends you can visit in the hospital if they’re in a car accident. Friends with who you can move a couch. Friends you can go to a party with, or to the park.

And most importantly, friends who, if they don’t think exactly the same as you, may come around to your way of thinking when it’s voting time.


Beating Us at Our Own Game

Because you see, like it or not, this is something “the other side” has the non-Trump-voter beat in, wholly — real life social engagement.

They have churches, where they see the same people regularly, every week.

They go to tailgate parties. Constantly.

They go to real parties, out in the woods, where cell phone connections are spotty and where you’re forced to, you know, talk to people.

And when it comes to voting time, they’re the ones telling their real-life connections, in person, who to vote for.

Yes, they have huge social media presence online, mostly — the recent trouble with fake conservative news being spread like wildfire across Facebook being an example of that — but it’s not their only, or even their most major form of social engagement.

Human beings are social creatures — it’s coded into our DNA. You may think you can survive without a tribe, or a group, but you can’t — that’s just our pleasant, safe, modern world fooling you.

When we human beings were first coming down from the trees and learning to walk on just two legs, the tribes we formed required people to work together to achieve goals — you had to know like-minded people (or in this case, hominids), or you didn’t survive. Human beings weren’t the fastest, or the strongest; we didn’t have sharp fangs or claws or sticky webs to trap pray in; but what we had was cooperation.

And those that could work together with others had their genes propagated to the next generation.


Say “Hi”

So what can you do? If you’re not going to delete your Facebook account in protest of their out-of-control “sharing” feature (I’m still considering it), start by unfriending everybody you don’t see on a daily basis.

Make a few exceptions for those two or three people who, no matter what the geographic distance, you’re still soul mates with. It won’t hurt.

Make an exception for close family that aren’t racist.

But that’s it.

Stop spending time talking to people who you can’t make a meaningful difference in their lives. It’ll hurt at first; I know. But soon that desire will turn into actual action that may help those that are close by to you right now, especially if you live in an area that’s a bit more heterogeneous. (You know, like those “swing” states that Hillary all lost.)

And that is where the culture war will be won. Not by posting rebuttals or Snopes articles on Facebook and Twitter. But by showing people who look and think slightly differently than you how you’re not a caricature.

And maybe, must maybe, they won’t vote next time for a man who thinks that women’s bodies are up for grabs, if you have enough money, or that it’s okay to mock the disabled, or that all illegal immigrants are murderers and drug-dealers.


Caveat

Now, please don’t misunderstand me — I’m not talking about possibly changing the minds of any Trump voters — you should know that’s not possible by now. You’re talking about a kind of person who believes in fake news, without any facts, and when confronted with facts to the contrary, simply chooses not to believe in them. You can’t change that kind of person’s mind, so don’t try.

I’m talking about possibly convincing someone who doesn’t vote, or who is undecided, that they might want to try voting. Those are the changes you can make. And they can be made.

Finally updated to WordPress 2.8!

Took a little while — had to wait until the plugin “Asideshop” was updated to be compatible to 2.8… and it never was.

That’s the downside of depending upon a third-party plugin — if the creator doesn’t update it, you either have to do it yourself or you’re screwed.

Well, with a little help from Nina and the blog post right here, I got it working!

The only problem with that tutorial that I had is that I would’ve prefered if the author included a complete plugin file at the end of it — I’ll get to work on releasing that right here, for anyone who just wants to copy and past the solution into their WordPress Dashboard.

Ubuntu Made Me Drop Out of College! What Was I Doing in College, Anyway?

logo-ubuntu

WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports -27 News Troubleshooter: Woman says Dell computer kept her from taking online classes.

This has seriously got to be a joke. I can’t figure out any other explanation for it. I’m going to try and not get too upset about, because I’m almost 75% sure this is a joke, because there’s so much of this article that is either grossly exaggerated, or just downright untrue.

Let me show you some quotes (after you read the article up above — don’t worry it’s not long):

But something stopped her: Ubuntu.

That’s an operating system for your computer similar to Windows that runs off the Linux system.

I love it when a journalist can’t even get the first farking thing right. No, Ubuntu is not “similiar” to Windows. It doesn’t even try to be. And it doesn’t “run off the Linux system” — I don’t even know what that means. It is Linux.

She didn’t realize until the next morning her laptop defaulted to the Ubuntu operating system.

Once again, I don’t even know what this line is trying to say. A computer no more “defaults” to a certain operating system than a car “defaults” to a certain engine. If it has Ubuntu installed, it has it installed — there is no “defaulting” going on. It’s not like anyone’s being tricked into running Ubuntu, which is what I think the author here was implying.

Schubert says she never heard of Ubuntu before learning that’s when [sic] she accidentally bought.

And here’s my biggest problem with the story — there’s no way to “accidentally” buy a computer with Ubuntu on Dell.com.  I challenge you to try.  Go ahead — load up a new browser window and go to Dell.com and just try to even find a computer they sell with Ubuntu on it. (Doesn’t count if you search for the word “ubuntu” on the site — you’re not “stumbling” onto something you’re looking for intentionally. :P)

Let me save you the trouble — you won’t be able to.  Dell did that on purpose, specifically to avoid this kind of thing happening (i.e., the novice computer user buying a computer with Ubuntu as its operating system, and then complaining when it’s unfamiliar to them).  When you’re buying computers on the “normal” section of their site, Ubuntu isn’t even listed as an option (you usually have a choice of either Windows Vista crap edition, Windows Vista poop edition, or Windows XP, which for some reason usually costs $100 extra).

I really can’t critique the rest of the article because of this.  Either this is a joke story , or someone else — conveniently not mentioned in the story — bought this computer and gave it to her, which isn’t either Ubuntu’s or Dell’s fault.

Just a few more points, though, because I honestly can’t resist:

Later, she discovered Ubuntu might look like Windows, but it doesn’t always act like it.

I love it when journalists don’t even try to make it look like they did any research.

Ubuntu doesn’t look anything like Microsoft Windows, other than the fact that they both exist on a computer screen. It doesn’t take more than a cursory glance to become aware of this. This is like saying your Ford Taurus “looks like a Ferrari, but sure doesn’t drive like one.” I mean, come on — they both have tires, right?

Her Verizon High-Speed Internet CD won’t load, so she can’t access the internet.

Oh boy — here’s another little tip, O novice computer users — those little CD’s you usually get upon buying high-speed access when you move into a new house or change internet providers or whatever? You don’t need them. Throw them away. Any modern high-speed internet network is completely system agnostic — it doesn’t care what it’s hooking up to. Just hook your modem up to your wall, and plug it into your computer. That’s it. Doesn’t matter if you’re running MacOS, Linux, or Windows.

Your high-speed service provider will tell you that you need to run a CD, but trust me, you don’t.  This is proved later on in the article, when we’re told that “Verizon says it will dispatch a technician to try to assist her accessing the internet without using the Windows-only installation disk.”  Well, that’s nice of them to make an entire trip out there to do something that’ll take all of, oh, five minutes.

She also can’t install Microsoft Word, which she says is a requirement for MATC’s online classes.

This is a much larger problem, and one that I really don’t have the time to get into here, but you don’t ever really need specific programs to do school work.

You don’t need Microsoft Word to do word processing.

You don’t need Microsoft Excel to do spreadsheet tasks.

You don’t need Adobe Acrobat to use and create PDF files.

And for the love of G-d, YOU DON’T need Internet Explorer to browse the web.

It’s a sad, sad phenomenom in our society that an entire generation of computer users has grown up thinking that the “Microsoft way” is the only way to do things.  (And they’re definitely not doing anything to help that problem.)

Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t a time and a place for Microsoft products — Windows is a tool, and it’s a tool with a specific purpose, but just like you don’t need to buy one particular brand of hammer to build a house, you don’t always need Microsoft products to do things with a computer.

You can see this kind of thinking all throughout this article — Ubuntu “looks like Windows, but sure doesn’t ‘act’ like it. ”  (As if anything that doesn’t act like Windows isn’t a “real” operating system.)  Ubuntu just won’t let her install Microsoft Word!  (As if this is the only way to get word processing done.)

Tsk tsk tsk, WKOW 27 News Station.  Either this is a joke (and if it is, I’ve got to admit it’s actually pretty good), or you’re seriously, seriously uninformed when it comes to computers and the Internet.

(Yes, I used “uninformed” to be nice.  A less polite person than me would’ve said “fucking retarded,” but I’m not going to go down that path.)

My Tumblr

Make sure and check out my new little widget thingy over in the right-hand sidebar — it’s a plugin that shows the last 6 or so entries on my tumblr page.

I love my little tumblr account — it’s like Twitter, but I use it as a picture blog. The pictures you see on their are all uploaded from my cell phone, when I’m out and about.

The tumblr plugin code is a wonderful little bit of code from Robert Nyman — I had been working on my own Tumblr include script a while back, but was going at a from a completely different direction (I was trying to parse things server-side beforehand, and was kinda rusty when it comes to PHP). Robert apparently thought about doing the obvious thing and loading the Tumblr JSON API into an html “script” tag, and then just using JavaScript to do everything. Bloody brilliant.

Moblog!

I finally got me a moblog — a _real_ one, this time. Take a look over on the right — it’ll show the most recent photos from my camera phone.

It’s the culmination of several weeks of coding, drawing from both my newfound experience in JavaScript, as well as good-old-fashioned time-honored server-side PHP! (That PHP coding was a doozy, too, seeing as how I haven’t coded anything in it in years… but I came through, in the end.)

Keep an eye out!

Other Blogs

In case you were wondering, I’ve got some other sites that you might be interested in (this is mostly for you-know-who):

*1) http://mdm-adph[dot]blogspot[dot]com*
There’s “http://mdm-adph[dot]blogspot[dot]com” (feel free to replace the [dot]’s with periods). This is my work blog — I’m not hotlinking it here for obvious reasons (referrers can be tracked, and I’d rather not let my employers pick up on anything personal that I write).

I write about mostly tech-related subjects here, keeping firmly away from the areas of personal life or politics. I know they’re probably logging everywhere I surf to at work, so I make sure and keep this blog clean.

2) http://threshold-zero.com/blog
This will soon be a new blog of mine, or a place where I’ll put specific types of entries (movie reviews, book reviews, etc.). Really, I just wanted to use the new version of Movable Type that was recently released, because it’s finally gone free again.

3) http://threshold-zero.com
This is probably where I’m going to tie all of my sites into to — I bought this domain name about a year ago, and even though I haven’t done anything with it yet, I’ve grown rather attached to it. (There’s nothing there now, of course!)

4) http://gallery.macnahanchey.com

I’m trying to make this into a members-only photo-sharing site for members of my family, but I (and they) have been slow to get together and start putting pictures up. (By the way, if any of you are reading and need help putting some pictures here, feel free to ask for help.)

4) http://board.macnahanchey.com

This is going to be the same kinda thing, just for messages and posts instead of pictures.

And that’s about it!

MT 4

Well, Movable Type 4 has been released, and the makers have finally decided to release a free version again.

I’ll probably be moving back to MT, of course. I’ll still keep doing stuff in Textpattern, too — I still think it’s the best, with it’s combination of tag-based templates (vs. WordPress) and no-reload-necessary publishing (vs. MT).

I’ve got a testblog up at threshold-zero.com that I’m working around with — take a look if you have the time!