Society

All posts tagged Society

On the struggle with technology.

Published March 5, 2016 by mandileighbean

I absolutely loathe my dependence on technology.

I know this may seem like quite the hypocritical statement as I am using my computer and the internet and social media to update my narcissistic, self-indulgent blog, but hear me out. I want to be a writer, so in this digital age of selfies and tweets and whatnot, I’m going to have to adapt and get on board or die (metaphorically speaking, of course). If people take to Google and social media for book recommendations, I have to be on Google and social media. It’s a concession I can live with to help build my writing career. It’s almost unavoidable.

So let me rephrase my earlier statement: I absolutely loathe my dependence on technology in my personal life.

My phone is nearly always in my hand. If I’m not texting (but hardly anyone ever messages me because I physically interact with those who matter most, which is certainly a good thing) or checking e-mail (does anything important ever really come via email?), then I’m using Safari to check Facebook (I deleted the app to make a statement, but I found a way to be on the social media site constantly anyway). I’m scrolling and scrolling and scrolling on Instagram and Twitter, looking for likes, re-tweets, mentions, whatever. When there’s nothing satisfying there, I play Bubble Mania, Candy Crush or Tetris. I’m always looking down, disengaged and only pretending to listen to the authentic life happening all around me because I’m obsessed with this piece of technology and all the artificiality that goes along with it.

It’s my greatest weakness, and what I dislike about myself the most.

In my opinion (so please only take it for whatever it may be worth), social media only reinforces the crippling need for outside validation that seems to plague the human race. I recently traveled to Philadelphia to see David Cook in concert with my sister, and I took pictures. That in itself would be harmless if the intention had been true, if I had honestly taken pictures to create memories. However, creating and saving and storing memories was only part of my motivation. I wanted to take those pictures so I could upload them to Instagram and Facebook so I could count the likes and comments so I could feel cool and hip and modern, so I could feel like I belonged at the metaphorical watering hole of this super progressive, hyper intellectual, digital age. How stupid. How vain. Why do I need everyone to know where I am and what I am doing at all times? Why do I think everyone wants to know where I am and what I am doing at all times? If I put everything out there all the time, there’s no mystery left. I’m essentially robbing people the opportunity of getting to know me because I’ve created this false persona using technology and social media which could easily satisfy anyone even remotely curious. I’ve created an alternate version of myself for the masses and have rendered myself lonelier than ever. What kind of masochistic nonsense is that?

A wonderful colleague recently told me she’d read a few of my blog entries. She complimented me on my writing (yay!), but said I broke her heart (oh no!). She told me I was too hard on myself, and I know this to be true. Self-deprecation is usually the only humor I can handle, and I am constantly screaming at myself for all of the awkward, dumb, harmful, and lazy behaviors I engage in on a daily basis. Reaching for my phone and idling instead of reaching for a book to expand my mind fulfills all of those categories. It’s awkward to sit in a room – any room at anytime, anywhere – full of wonderfully interesting humans and ignore all of them to go on a phone. It’s dumb to not expand one’s mind and perception through reading, writing or conversation and instead retreat to multicolored candies that need crushing. It’s harmful because it perpetuates the idea that self-love is indulgent and ugly, and that worth is truly determined by society and the media and this new social media. We are all forced to become our own PR people and it’s weird and gross, and I dislike it more and more the more I think about it. It’s lazy because all I need is my thumb and a pair of glazed-over eyes.

Now, I’m not saying I’ll go completely off the grid by any means. Family and friends and loved ones can be scattered from one end of the globe to the other, so it is important to stay connected. I love that my aunt in Pennsylvania likes the memes I share about weight loss, and I love that she likes the sexy pictures of Elvis I find and post from time to time. I love that my cousins in Alabama can be brought up to speed with my life by a few pictures here and there, and vice versa. My coworker is going to the Big Apple today to see “The Crucible” on Broadway, and I’m looking forward to pictures and her review. My cousin is currently overseas serving his country, so we need the social media to keep in touch, to share messages of love and support. These are harmless human connections that are beautiful and wonderful.

But it’s all about moderation, right? It’s all about keeping our minds right and prioritizing.

The best part about the David Cook concert was not the blurry pictures I posted on Instagram a few hours later. It was spending time with my sister. It was shouting out the word “bipartisan” when David was struggling to find it, him thanking me for doing so, and my sister rolling her eyes because I’m “such an English teacher.” What a beautiful moment to feel validated about my passion and career. I did all of that without my phone. When my former phone was destroyed last month and I was without a phone for a few days, I survived. The world did not end. I was okay.

I did lose thousands of pictures, though. That was my own fault because I never backed them up using my computer. I assumed those treasured images would always be on that phone, because I tricked myself into believing technology is infallible and perfect and the answer to every question I ever had. That is simply not true, and I just feel that if I remind myself of that, I’ll regain faith in nature and people and all that surrounds me.

I fell in love with a great friend, but he didn’t feel the same way, and the friendship has since changed and is beginning to fade. Some of the pictures I lost were of the absolute greatest day we ever spent together. This makes me sad for many valid reasons. However, I was inspired to write this post (but really, it’s become a rant, hasn’t it? My bad) because in mourning the loss of the digital images that I never printed (what a metaphor for the relationship, huh? I’ll save that for my next novel), I realized that I felt I needed the pictures because I didn’t trust myself, didn’t trust my own memories and feelings. Those pictures became a kind of talisman that helped me pretend the friendship wasn’t fading, that I was right about everything, so look, look everyone! Look how we’re smiling with our arms around each other! I’m not crazy! There was something there, and I can prove it!

Why should I have to? I don’t have to, and that’s my point. I want to reduce my dependence on technology and social media in my personal life because I need to love myself and my life in reality. I don’t need the approval of others, and I don’t need to know everything about everyone because then what will our conversations be made of? What will I discover in intimate moments?

When I’m at the dentist’s office, or waiting for friends at a bar, I’ll pull out my journal or a book, but never my phone. That’s a new resolution. That’s a promise to myself.

I’ll post to promote my writing and my writing career, but not to start some drama or for attention or to start a pity party. That’s a new resolution. That’s a promise to myself.

And now, I’ll post those pictures of me and my sister and David Cook, since I invited you in.

Enjoy the weekend. xoxo

 

 

On steak and eggs.

Published October 15, 2012 by mandileighbean

The other day, when I was running, I noticed the road kill had been removed and had been removed quite thoroughly.  Macabre as it may be, I looked intently at the previously gory scene for any kind of remnants, for any kind of tangible proof that the dead possum had been there in the first place.  There was no evidence – the pavement was stained, no organs had been absent-mindedly neglected, and there was absolutely nothing disturbed or out of place.  Admittedly, I was relieved that my eyes did not take in anything that would upset my stomach, but I was also somewhat saddened.  That poor creature had been wiped from existence.  It was no longer living and as far as I know, I am the only who knows and cares enough to write about it.  I understand that the possum was not a sentient being and was not a pet and that to some factions of thought its death is not a tragedy but a mere continuation of the pattern of existence we are all traveling along.  I can understand, acknowledge, and accept all of that and still be upset because I worry and fear that the same fate belongs to some human beings, some that I may even know.  I have already discussed how a wasted life is my greatest fear.

“Looper,” the new science fiction film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis tackles that same theme, in a manner of speaking.  It is about time travel and while that may set off some alarms, the story does not become mired down in hypotheticals and impossibilities and trivial aspects.  Rather, the story focuses on the passage of time as humans grow and age and learn and live.  Time spent on Earth means different things to different people and it even means different things to the same person at different times.  It also reviews and challenges the cyclical nature of time and goes so far as to hint, in my always humble opinion, that it is our responsibility to be cognizant of this cycle, and to sacrifice our own cycle of time to break a cycle in which a neighbor is suffering.  “Looper” was a remarkable film and without a doubt, it is a new favorite.

In the movie, both male leads order steak and eggs for breakfast at a diner.  I did the same today.  Yes, I ordered steak and eggs because I saw it in a movie once.  The eggs and hash browns and toast and coffee were great; the steak was okay.  It wasn’t the best cut as it was very fatty, so I’m going to try the order again at a different diner.  The diner experience was not ruined, however.  I talked with an older man about football and his father’s military service.  I thanked a table of enlisted men for their service.  I chatted with an elderly couple about the economy, employment and the weather.  When the female half of the couple observed me hunched over many sheets of lined paper with a pen clutched in my hand, she correctly assumed that I was an English teacher with papers to grade.  However, I was not grading papers; I was working – or trying to work – on my second novel.  Why didn’t I tell her that?  Why didn’t I explain that I was a young, up and coming author?  Why did I falter?

Maybe it’s because I do not have a physical copy of the book and as such, my dream has not truly been realized.  Maybe I’m afraid that if I say it out loud, it won’t come true because it is still only a wish, a desperate fantasy, a silly girl’s imagination running away.

Who knows?

On worry.

Published September 18, 2012 by mandileighbean

“Yeah, it’s all alright.  I guess it’s all alright.  I got nothing left inside of my chest, but it’s all alright.”

–          fun.

I care about people more than I should.  The well-being of others immediately and intensely affects my own well-being.  If someone I know and only mildly care about is upset or aggravated or what have you, then I am terribly anxious and overwhelmed and stressed.  I just want everyone around me to feel loved and to be happy.  I know that sounds ridiculous and like it is too good to be true, but it is true.  I genuinely want nothing but the utmost joy for those that I know and love.

A lot of the time, I worry that I am not as integral to peoples’ lives as I thought.  I am terrified that I do not have friends and that I am alone.  My birthday is tomorrow and I have no plans.  My mom travelled to Virginia to see her grandchildren and I have home instruction.  I’ll be done for the day at 4:00PM.  That is the extent of my birthday plans.  I know that my twin sister is going out on the town with all of her friends.

I can blame my lack of birthday debauchery on work; it is a school night and I do have to be up early the next day.  That is a lame excuse and I know it.

Maybe I just need to be more proactive in planning.  If I held a party, I’m sure people would show up.  Well, I’m not sure and that’s the point of this particular entry.  I give people everything that I have, always.  And no matter how many times I am hurt, neglected, ignored or wronged, I still believe everyone will give me everything they have.  Does that make me foolish?  Perhaps, but I like to believe it makes me special.

And I realize that there are times when I do close myself off and become decidedly anti-social.  I also realize it’s hypocritical for me to fault this trait in others.  I’m just trying to make sense of how I feel, I guess.

“I’ve given everyone I know a good reason to go, but I came back with the belief that everyone I love is gonna leave me.”

– fun.

PROMPT: A writer’s computer begins to flash messages on its screen, as if trying to communicate.

 

PIECE: Alexa gingerly sipped on her steaming mug of coffee, but despite her carefulness, she still burned the shit out of the roof of her mouth.  She pulled the mug from her mouth and held it away from her, as if it were suddenly going to lunge and do more harm, and ran her tongue along the seared section of her mouth.  She had left the computer desk and the uncomfortable chair to grab a cup of coffee and to get the neurons firing.  As of late, Alexa had felt decidedly uninspired.  Hoping that moving would get the creative juices flowing, she had ventured to the kitchen and now she had returned with nothing to show for the effort but a lame injury.  She rolled her eyes at her own misfortune and was not in the least bit surprised when those eyes landed on the glowing monitor.  It seemed as if she had been staring at the monitor for days and her eyes were dry from the effort.  Freeing one hand from the porcelain mug, she meant to wipe at her irritated eyes when she suddenly halted.

Just there – on the screen – she had seen it.  On the monitor, which had been blank because she had nothing interesting whatsoever to say, were words.  Those words, not coming from her mind nor her typing fingers, came from somewhere and had clearly said, “Not coffee.  Tea.”  Alexa, not breathing, looked all about her to confirm her suspicion that she was alone, dreadfully alone.  She wasn’t sure if the thought that some invisible or incredibly tiny creature had typed the message was more comforting than the possibility that she was simply imagining things.  Gulping hard, she moved closer to the computer.

“You can come back and sit. I won’t bite.”  Another message flashed.  It was there, and then it was gone.

The porcelain mug crashed to the floor.  Hot liquid splashed against her ankles and dampened her socks to the point where they were decidedly uncomfortable.  Alexa was deaf and dumb to how she had disturbed her own universe as she nearly collapsed into the uncomfortable chair.  Her tiny, human brain couldn’t truly comprehend the magnitude of the events unfolding before her, but she did know that she didn’t want the messages to end before she had a chance to write back.  Alexa took a deep breath, her wide eyes sweeping back and forth, and then typed, “Who’s there?”

There was no response.  She sat still for ten minutes, waiting and waiting and waiting.  She had given up, chalking the phenomena up to exhaustion and desperation and nothing more.  Alexa gripped the handles of the chair and made ready to lift herself to her feet when another message appeared.

“Please; like it’s really going to be that easy to figure this out.”

On Hollywood and the dying standard.

Published July 29, 2012 by mandileighbean

Tonight, I watched “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” with my sister.  It’s a remarkably entertaining and creepy movie that stays with you long after the credits roll.  However, you don’t realize the movie got under your skin until you’re unprepared for it, like if you’re washing the dishes and letting your mind wander, and you have a sudden compulsion to shout, “But you are, Blanche! You are in the chair!”  Maybe that’s just me.

Either way, the film stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, two titans of old Hollywood.  According to Tinsel Town lore, Davis and Crawford DID NOT like each other.  After filming “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?,” Davis was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. Crawford was FURIOUS, and took it upon herself to call all of the other nominees, offering to accept the award on their behalf if they won and could not be present for the award ceremony.  The other actresses agreed so when Anne Bancroft was announced as winner, Crawford made the long trek to the stage, making sure to pause just long enough to give Davis a dirty, dirty look.

 

 

 

 

 

Society changes and irrevocably, popular culture changes with it.  As a species, we must adapt or die.  That can be taken figuratively or literally – biological reasons aside, if one does not grow and evolve with society, one becomes an outcast and endures a social death which may proceed the physical one.  I get that – but I think it’s unfortunate when inevitable change alters the better aspects of society.  I’m too young to sound this old, but I miss when a lady was a lady.  It’s trendy now to be trashy; females would not recognize the pictures included about and would most likely recognize J-Woww or Snooki.  It’s unfair of me to become philosophical when really, all I’m saying is that I miss old-fashioned, bitchy Hollywood when glamour covered the more base qualities of human nature.

I promised to become totally honest with you, and I have done my best to do so in the following prompt.  Enjoy.

PROMPT: “I knew it was a mistake the moment it was over.”

PIECE: “I knew it was a mistake the moment it was over,” I sobbed to Alyssa in the, thankfully, empty girl’s bathroom across the hall from the library.  I was taking in deep, shuddering breaths and releasing great, broken sobs.  Passing Steve a note and then throwing my arms carelessly around his neck when Kylie, his girlfriend, was only feet away had been a mistake.  What’s worse was that the whole lunchroom had seen the embrace, and that same audience witnessed the inevitable confrontation just a few days later.

All of my secret hopes, desires and scheming had been exposed via an online journal, which I was naïve enough to believe I kept secret.  Word got out that not only did I like Steve, but was trying to break him up with Kylie not so he would go out with me – no, that would be too obvious and logical for me – but so he could go out with my friend Tara.  There had been angry instant messages, brutal anonymous comments on the online journal entries and sordid e-mails.  I thought that was the worst of it and being so young, I believed I was invincible, that the slings and arrows would bounce off this armor I had crafted from misinformation and romantic wishes, and nothing more.

All that changed when I arrived at school.  The very atmosphere of the building had changed.  I could feel the eyes burning holes into my skin, wondering and judging and assuming.  I could hear the tongues wagging, condemning and poking fun at my fall from grace.  At the point, I was narcissistic enough to believe that yes, EVERYONE was talking about and that yes, EVERYONE did know what was going on and that yes, EVERYONE did care.  I was also young and dumb enough to believe that NO ONE understood what that was like.

So when I walked into the lunch room, it became immediately obvious that I could not sit across from Steve and Kylie as I had since September.  I relocated to the end of the same table, but figured the length was enough of a buffer.  Opting not to eat, I made awkward conversation with the acquaintances I had made out of necessity and emergency.  I tried to blend it and start over, put the social blunder behind me as if it had never even happened.  Kylie would not have it that way.

She marched down to my end of the table and screamed at me, leveling completely accurate accusations at me.  She called me names loud enough for all surrounding students to hear.  I didn’t rise to my feet; I only made dismissive facial gestures and loudly called out generic insults.  A few of my friends stood to my defense and it quieted down.  But the next day at lunch, Kylie recited my journal aloud, dramatically reading all of my feelings for Steve, and reading all about how unfair it was that he wasn’t with me.  I looked down the table at him, anxious for a reaction, but I got nothing.  He never, ever gave me anything.

It was all a mistake, and I should have known that right away.

P.S. – The above prompt is a memoir; it’s true, but I changed names and altered details to protect those involved, and absolve those whom I wronged.

 

 

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