[Editor’s note: This is an especially long article. Some of you do not seem to mind indulging the author with this on occasion. For the rest, it is recommended you wait until a pretty lengthy dump is brewing down there.]
Greetings virtual friends and acquaintances!
I racked up another internet fight recently, this time about sport hunting. Instead of doing the prudent thing, and leaving it the hell alone, I ended up with a sourpuss face, staring at my computer screen. Again. Like an idiot. This was even after I pledged to avoid politics for the summer.
My views regarding sport hunting never seem to be addressed, so I easily slid into troll-slaying mode to feverishly offer my position on American dunderheads that travel to foreign lands in order to murder things for fun. Foreign soil sport hunting is basically one step short of a Hostel movie for me, so I was readily chomping at the bit to add my two cents.
Now, plenty of people despise hunting for a number of reasons. The death of innocent animals, the animal cruelty aspect itself, sad memories of watching Bambi as a kid—I get that. Not my biggest problem with all of this though. Some fear that the hunters themselves represent an immediate threat to other humans in the area and in the community. Campers, wildlife enthusiasts, Harry Whittington. Sure, again, not the beef I have.
My beef? I don’t like people that enjoy killing things.
At the very least, sport hunting is a shitty, shitty hobby. I understand the cultural significance, I understand the bonding experience in certain rural subsets of our culture, and I get the historical significance of hunter-gatherers, and the importance of being able to be self-sufficient. I certainly know, and have met people that I like immensely, that are thoughtful people, that also happen to hunt. Not many, as I will address later, but they are out there. I just don’t get sport hunting in the context of modern, western life. Certainly not in its most mundane, indefensible, lowest common denominator iteration.
Of all the fucking things to do with your time, that you could do, that we now have the ability to do, you want to what?
“Get up real early in the morning, dress up in camouflage gear, sneak around in the bushes and crawl through the mud, bugs, and elk shit for most of the day.”
Okay, that’s fine, I guess. Seems a little pointless, and unpleasant.
“The shittier the weather, the better.”
“Also, if any sizeable wildlife meanders by, or Harry Whittington, I need to shoot it in the face.”
Oh, I see…
Here’s the thing, the act itself, the act of stalking, and killing animals—while I find it abhorrent—does not bother me nearly as much as the fact that people enjoy doing it. They go out of their way, planning for weeks, out of their way to be able to enjoy murdering an animal.
Now, I know that many sport hunters consider themselves libertarians, or at least fall somewhere along the conservative end of the political spectrum. I don’t like that either, but combined with the joy of murdering, and what you get is a human recipe for my sourpuss face. I typically fucking loathe these kinds of people, in the way that makes my eye twitch and my delicate anus clench in defiant reflex.
And I am not even talking about the backwoods Billy-Joe-Bobs spending the entire day drinking a case or two of Miller High Life in a crow’s nest. That is just ignorant rednecks having some bro-time in a tree shanty. Probably wishing they lived in a state where it was okay to fuck each other. I am not talking about the Trump supporters.
I am talking about all the responsible hunters that sport hunting apologists are always on about. Always using the whole carcass, always responsible to the environment, very safety conscious—yeah I get it. They are careful, methodical killers. That is so much better.
What prompted this communiqué was yet another Facebook friend-of-a-friend, should’ve been a tête-à-tête, ended up being a public squabble—kind of social media experience. Basically another meaningless exchange that needlessly put me in a bad mood. Which, considering the political climate, seems to happen all too often as of late. Even when I have strip-mined my friends list almost bare of conservative ideological ore. My row with virtual acquaintances on my own page regarding the election recently is solid evidence I am in need of another lifestyle adjustment.
This cat fight (meow) was prompted by yet another American exceptionalist, traveling to a foreign country (this time Canada) to kill a wild animal. Maybe you saw it in the news. I am not going to include one of the many articles, just google “Fuckface American Bear Murderer” to get the latest. He had some choice, American things to say about said bear too, as he was crouching over its dead body, which pissed me off. Also, as it turns out, the bear suffered terribly for a day before it died. He didn’t bother tracking it until the next day to get his photo opportunity.
I mentioned on my internet acquaintance’s feed that I thought it would be a good idea if sport hunters were required to publicly show their tiny penises before being issued a hunting license for excursions like these. It would make it easier for the rest of us to understand. Someone took exception to that. He also didn’t like my use of the word ‘murder’ in respect to hunting. I suggested ‘reverse bioengineering’ to appease.
In my opinion, the bear got off easy. The bear only had to endure one day with this human dental visit. This walking root canal. Granted, that day ended in death—and not the good kind, the “trips and accidentally shoots himself in the face” kind—but the “grr, at least let me finish my morning bear shit” kind.
For extra man points, he was hunting with a spear, so I guess he couldn’t have shot himself in the face. Maybe next time he will really man-up, and go hunting Canadian bear completely naked, covered in honey, with a lobster fork duct-taped to his limp dick. Go stab the bear with a tiny dinner utensil attached to your flaccid micro-wiener, Josh Bowmar. I’ll bring the hoisin sauce for that one.
I feel surrounded by these assholes 365 days a year, and their apologists in America. Even in a major metropolitan area, I still feel their presence locally and in the news. No matter where I live in the states, I can’t turn my head without catching sight or sound of some sort of demonstration of conservative, gun-loving dumb-fuckery, or some sort of distortion of the reality involving the second amendment. Not a day goes by without a defender in the rotation, on with the talking heads, every damn day espousing the virtues of one passage in the constitution, towing the line for the NRA. And I can’t turn on the news for one solid fucking week without some American somewhere, murdering a bunch of people.
As far as the recent online hunting exchange is concerned, it was tame, as these things go, and it ended shortly after he asserted, with absolute confidence, that not a single hunter—not a single sport hunter in North America mind you—not a single one hunts because they love to kill. So I realized I was again, wasting my time, and I packed up my virtual soap box, and left.
And that got me thinking again, along with a lengthy chat with my dearest friend, Peter Athans:
What the fuck is social media even doing for me these days?
[Before I continue, I just want to state that this is not an epically long rage-quit of Facebook. Nor an indictment of my friends or their online contributions. So, onward then…]
Do I need my Facebook feed to get my news? No. I read a good 100-150 articles a week. I would guess that, on average, less than a handful are from my Facebook feed.
Did Facebook ever get me a job? Nope. Hell, I stopped writing creatively, right about the same time I joined. (My poor, abandoned blog!) Although I do write a great deal, from time to time on Facebook, probably because no one read my blog.
Did I really need to reconnect with that kid from third period gym class? Alternately, did I really need to know that the popular girl from high school still doesn’t want to bone me? (But I’m better-looking now, Christie! Sorta.) No, and definitely not, respectively.
What about all the people I lost touch with in Chicago from the nineties? Okay, that was literally last century. It was also effectively another lifetime. Another person. Has anything other than a casual window dressing view of each other’s current lives come from this? No. Albuquerque in the oughts? The same. Nice for sure, nice to have the window, but hardly substantive.
What about all the people I never would have met outside of social media? What about all those people I met over the last decade, that share some of the same political, social, scientific, and secular sensibilities, that share some of the same struggles and ambitions? Can any one of them signify the importance of our virtual friendship? I mean, beyond the illusion of living in a larger world? I don’t think so.
Finally, and most importantly, what can I say about what I have brought to the table for anyone via social media? A couple of funny articles? A well-written line here and there? This long-ass, winded, gas-bag of a post? A heartfelt condolence. A birthday wish.
My birthday wishes are the bomb.
I am quite fond of my Love Letter to Great Britain as well. I wouldn’t have written that had it not been for my Facebook friends across the pond. But these are few, and far between.
Hardly enough to justify the huge block of time I used to spend, and still spend scrolling through a motherfucking Facebook feed. Every fucking day, I lose some time, some sizable track of time, just lazily scrolling through a motherfucking feed of mostly mundane thought-barf and news fodder. Then I reload and do it again! It is an endless stream of baby pictures and political memes. World events and food images. Momentary frustrations and joys of daily life. And gun nuts. Let’s not forget the fucking gun nuts.
And that’s cool. There is nothing inherently wrong here. It just doesn’t merit the time I have given it. The question is, why am I still devoting so much time to something that now brings me so little pleasure? That’s easy, I think. Facebook is a drug.
Facebook is like any other drug. The early years are mostly positives with few negatives. As anyone that has experienced addiction will know, towards the end, it is almost all lows with the highs long ago left behind. Facebook, sans all the niceties, sans the initial new car smell, is a vehicle for short-lived (ultimately meaningless) outrage, and immediate social gratification. It is the cocaine lever in the rat cage of insulated interaction. And it is a recipe for an afternoon malaise that can turn into a monumental, decade-long time-suck. It already has.
This is no revelation here, as folks have been talking about adjusting their online presence, since there have been online presences.
Let me jump back a second, because there is a funny angle to this—there is also my neediness.
I like feeling like I know some people that I probably wouldn’t know otherwise, some that are successful and famous. This is fine, if you are fifteen. I am going on fifty, and I still get a little rush when Todd Stashwick tells me about something going on in Hollywood land. That’s why I stopped calling him. I felt like a fawning fanboy.
I recently friended Don Hall (and this is the funny part), who is well-known in the Chicago improv community, and friends with both Stashwick and my close friend Peter Athans. Now I friend-requested him from an honest feeling of kinship, but I was also demonstrating my neediness that Facebook is happy to facilitate.
Here’s what happened. Don got sucker-punched by a Facebook debacle turned flame war, and had decided to leave Facebook for a while. I was unaware of the second part. Since we had just become virtual acquaintances, I thought he might have accidentally unfriended me. Or worse (gasp!) he did it on purpose. So I sent a new friend request, which he accepted after a few days.
So a few days go by and Don’s posts are back in with the rest of my feed. He posted about the book he wrote: Nam. I thought to myself, “Wow, improv actor, director, podcaster and war author, this guy is impressive.”
A few days later and he wrote a short blurb about how Obama is the worst president ever. I thought to myself, “Wow, Don is really laying on the sarcasm! It sure is cool to barely online-know Don today.”
By the time I got through the ultra-conservative frothy rant on white nationalism, I was scratching my head, because you know, I am so smart. This was at least a week after I had continued a private message chat with Don Hall, or who I thought was Don Hall, while he was on a hunting trip. This still hadn’t clued me in. I had friended Don Hall, American Nazi, not Don Hall, Chicago improv treasure.
This was my horse-blinded neediness. I was subconsciously ignoring pertinent information, because it didn’t fit the narrative I had adopted, and because I wanted him to be my friend. A very bland and innocuous neediness for sure, and one that probably would never have come to the surface otherwise.
This was Trump supporter level neediness though, exposed differently. This was a particular kind of neediness that is nurtured by the intellectual laziness and lack of accountability inherent in a virtual reality. And Facebook feeds that monkey like a stealth banana. And I feel like an idiot because of it. Well kind of, because once it dawned on me (finally), I laughed really, really hard. And that is always fun.
Okay, jumping forward.
I still see the value social media has for me. This isn’t me taking a giant dump on the virtues of Facebook time. This isn’t some sort of hatchet job on the lives and interests of the people I know, virtually or in meat space. I honestly enjoy reading about your wallpaper choices. I like seeing vacation pictures. I like being reminded that John Oliver is funny, or that Rick and Morty is coming back sooner than expected. I like the funny stories about jingoistic coworkers or hero pets saving grandma. And I like sharing my thoughts with you.
Just not at the expense of my every afternoon or evening. Or morning. Sifting through an endless stream of mostly meaningless fluff. And that is my fault of course; I choose what to do with my time. Unless of course, it is an addiction. I can guarantee I did not choose those last few years of drinking. Sick as death every third day. No one chooses that.
Most people I know have fairly busy lives, so online time management isn’t an issue. I was shitty with my time management even before I was crippled by avascular necrosis. Now I can’t do most of the things, almost all of the things physically, that I used to be able to do. If it involves the use of my legs, I am probably not doing it. As far as excuses go, excuses are excuses, but being disabled is still a pretty good one. From a predominantly prone position, my options are limited. I had a pretty heavy online presence beforehand; now it is my primary interaction with the world. So it is time for an adjustment.
Some folks I know have left social media entirely, others deactivate their accounts from time to time, coming back in a month or two. Many revel in the world of social media, feeling perfectly comfortable in their digital landscape. Whatever floats your boat. Again, this is not an indictment of social media.
Me? Well, I’m an addict. I have an addictive personality, so the smart call would be for cold-turkey abstinence. It may come to that, but I think I am going to give the plan I discussed with Peter a try first. Plan A called for a radical restructuring of our political process, and then a downsizing of my Facebook time. Plan B will have to do for now.
I am just going to wait. I am going to have nice, normal mornings, then I am going to get my day going, and then have a nice, normal evening, enjoying dinner, and maybe an episode or three of whatever we are bingeing that week. Later, when I am back in bed, possibly watching late-night television, I will check my Facebook feed. That’s the plan.
If I contribute, even something as long-winded as this that keeps me up writing late into the night, well that is fine. I have always done my best writing in the wee hours. Or at least I used to. And even if it amounts to pointless drivel, it is still a muscle that needs a workout. My editing skills alone have taken a beating from atrophy.
What I am not going to be doing, is spending an inordinate amount of my day in ideological echo chambers, lazily scrolling through my feed several times over the course of an afternoon, and getting into political or social dogfights with people I don’t know, just to knock somebody’s dumb dick in the dirt. All of which do nothing for me now but put a sourpuss on my face.
I am also going to try and wait before I post, or respond to something inflammatory. Give it a brisk re-read in the morning, post if deemed acceptable, then leave it alone until Charlie Rose is on.
So why the fuck am I still doing something in a way that has clearly become bad juju for me? Because on some level, many levels really, I need the connections. Even as an only child, with a healthy love of alone time, I am not an island. I need to connect with people.
And because Facebook is a drug, and I am an addict.
See you tonight.