Disconnected

It’s been a month since I deleted my Facebook account. I don’t miss it. I’m still active on Twitter, still lurk on Reddit, still talk to people on Signal and on Slack. It would take a significant effort to go fully dark, and it’s not a change I’m willing to make.

When I heard that this morning was the first day of F8, Facebook’s annual developer conference, I paid attention. I wanted to hear that Facebook was committed to providing a service that took its users’ privacy seriously. That didn’t happen. Apart from the announcement of a function that will allow users to clear their stored app and website history from Facebook, nothing suggested a commitment to user privacy and data security. Oh, but Facebook is going to add a dating service to compete with Tinder. I am skeptical that it will go well.

The most jarring thing about leaving Facebook has been the absence of people. It doesn’t take long to realize just how much of one’s social circle relies on one service, and how it enables passive awareness of what’s going on with your friends. (I’m sorry, but I really only know a few birthdays.) I spoke with a friend recently, who suggested that a mutual acquaintance was going through some rough times and was struggling. I was surprised by this; I had no idea anything was wrong. Of course I didn’t know, I thought.

Maintaining relationships takes effort. Facebook can reduce a lot of that effort and, in its absence, I have to do a better job of reaching out to people. It’s a lot easier to mash that “Like” button than it is to really listen to someone talk about something that brought them joy, or a struggle they’ve recently conquered. It’s not something I could do consistently, day-in and day-out, for everyone. Still, I think it’s worth trying. Relationships are important. Connection is important. We are important.

 

Mediocre White Dude. (It me.)

Hi. My name is Mister Nicholas, and I am a mediocre white dude.

It feels good to admit it. One of the reasons I left Facebook was that I’d developed a persistent insecurity over what I’d call “lifestyle porn.” It is easy to cultivate and manicure one’s social media presence to present only the best, most-polished version of oneself. Flattering camera angles. Slacktivism that gestures at a deeper concern with Social Justice and World Peace. Pictures of yourself hanging out in Cool Places, doing Fun Things. I would see my friends having the times of their lives, and I’d look down at all the ways I felt disappointed in myself and dissatisfied with my life, and I’d feel lesser.

(This is not to say that I didn’t also engage in lifestyle porn. I definitely did. I liked to draw attention to the good things in my life. I rarely spoke of the things that weren’t working out for me. It provided easy doses of validation and peer support, neither of which can be overrated.)

Rarely did I see people talking openly and honestly about their insecurities. The things they didn’t like about themselves. Things at which they’d failed. It makes sense, it’s natural – nobody likes failure, or to appear fallible, or to be vulnerable. (I especially hate feeling vulnerable. Can’t stand it.)

Paradoxically, I think people are at their most relatable when they’re failing. When we stop trying to hold up the image of ourselves that we want everybody else to see, maybe that’s when we get to be who we really are. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I am a mediocre white man. One could definitely argue that this blog is a form of lifestyle porn. I’m presenting an image of myself to you, the audience, that reflects how I want to be seen. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to be seen and, as much as I dislike large groups and grumble about idiots, I want to feel connected to the world around me. I think it’s natural and understandable.

But I digress. There’s freedom in mediocrity. If you accept that you will fuck up, several times every day, maybe it makes it easier to be compassionate to yourself. Maybe that makes it easier to be compassionate towards other people.

When people talk about mediocre white men, I suspect they’re probably talking about this excellent tweet by Sarah Hagi. We’re overconfident because we’re too oblivious to our own privilege. It’s true. I agree with it. I remember talking about this on Facebook and being asked why I would ever accept being labeled mediocre. When I think about it now, I’d say this:

Accepting mediocrity is difficult, but it’s honest. It’s compassionate. You’re not always going to be the most intelligent, the most attractive, the most most whatever. There’s always someone a little better at something than you are. It opens up space in how you relate to yourself, and how you relate to other people. It’s good.

Happy Friday, Dear Reader. I hope this weekend brings you something good. I’ll be back on Monday.

Social Justice … What?!

I am a Social Justice Curmudgeon. (It says so right there, up top.) I don’t have a high-enough strength stat to be a Social Justice Warrior, and I can’t sing, so Social Justice Bard is right out. If life were a D&D campaign, I’d probably be the bartender in your starting village.

I consider myself to be firmly rooted in introversion. Social interactions drain me. Quiet time alone refreshes me. Any time I’m in a group of more than four people, chances are good I’m going to spend most of the outing looking at my phone or talking to one specific person. If I’m being gregarious, it’s a defense mechanism.

I also consider social justice to be a fundamental characteristic of a functional society. I believe that any society is only as healthy and functional as its least-fortunate, least-privileged members, and that it is an ethical duty of the privileged to use that privilege for the greater good. I agree with John Scalzi that Straight White Male is the lowest difficulty mode there is. I also happen to be a cissexual, heterosexual, white male.

I believe that equality is for everyone. I believe that love is love. I believe that black lives matter. I believe that trans women are women, and that trans men are men. (My pronouns, by the way, are he/him.) I believe that GamerGate was never about ethics in games journalism. I believe that there is no such thing as too much nuance when it comes to important topics of conversation.

I am a Social Justice Curmudgeon because, while I probably like you on an individual level, Dear Reader, as a collective group I find you all exhausting, and I’d just as soon be at home with a good video game and a nice glass of scotch.

(Please envision me telling you this as kindly as possible.)