You are Not a Profile.

August 17, 2011

I am so close to dropping off Facebook. Someone push me. Please.

I have no real illusions about anonymity. While I’ve had this blog–in some incarnation–for seven years now, I launched a website for myself as a musician barely a year ago. It didn’t take me long to start considering combining the two, but as soon as I began planning to do so, I ran into a host of problems. Many of these are a result of own laziness (I struggle to update my gig calendar or promote my shows, unless it’s on Facebook), but there are greater identity and self-image concerns as well. Do I want to unify the guy who writes stuff like this and this, with the guy who wrote this?

The funny thing is, show promotion and a couple groups (ok, one actually) are the only reasons I’m still on Facebook. The most common reason I’m so disdainful of Facebook is because there are so few things that I want to say to my family, lifelong friends, recent friends, grad school friends, and musician peers. It’s an opt-out system where unless I take the time to categorize my friendeds, everything I post goes to everyone. After silently saying “I don’t care” to myself with every status update, I realized that I just didn’t want to add to the information pollution. Granted, I still check Facebook semi-regularly just to read status updates with the same casual interest that I read celebrity gossip blogs.

Courtesy of geekandpoke.com

Perhaps I’m subscribed to the idea that in your virtual life, if you don’t establish a strong identity, one will be established for you. I realize that doesn’t really differentiate it from real (analog) life, but I harbored this illusion for a while that if I didn’t do anything online, I wouldn’t be there. Being an actively performing musician and a member of at least a few geek social circles, pictures of me just kept popping up on Facebook. To this date I personally have uploaded one picture (nearly a decade old) of myself to Facebook, and yet there are 318 tagged photos of me currently uploaded on their network.

I’ve in the past been dubbed a “contrarian” by some of my peers. I can’t really argue, since I do seem to have an inherent suspicion of social trends (Facebook, Twitter, Portland, etc.). I don’t necessarily believe that all social trends are inherently brainless and driven by mob mentality (or worse, marketing). I am just a big believer in the adage “Don’t let anything be automatic.” I believe that regular assessment of our routines is important to promote our intellectual, social, and technological development. That said, I agree with Jaron Lanier that social networks encourage users to dilute their individuality humanity, allowing it to be quantized into what essentially amounts to census figures and voluntary market research data.

Or, maybe I’m just tired of being a product.

Tiffany Carlson performing at Singer Hill cafe.

Tiffany Carlson and company, with a toddler cuttin' a rug.

There’s nothing quite like being in the zone and falling out of it. I’m speaking rhetorically arbitrarily, of course, since I don’t harbor any illusions of being in a blogging “zone.” It’s actually been slightly over a month since my last post, and I’ve spent most of that time writing and re-writing a post about something that happened nearly three months ago.

As Indigo Montoya said, “When a job goes wrong, you go back to the beginning.”

So here I am, back where this blog was last seen: Singer Hill Café in Oregon City before a show with Laura Ivancie at the 505 Tavern. I’m blogging to the sweet sounds of Tiffany Carlson…again. I’ve got my Mushroom Swiss Quiche with a side of fruit, which bears a casual resemblance to the lime tart I had last time. I’ve got my decaf coffee (it’s almost 8pm, give me a break) which has no real relation to anything I had last time, and bread pudding that…

Empty plate, empy glass, and half-eaten bread pudding.

Forgot to take a picture before I ate. I really am off my game.

Ok, ok. That “back-to-the-beginning” thing doesn’t really work at all, but if it did it would have been awesome. If I were really going back to the beginning I’d be twenty-two years old and working night-crew at a grocery store. Hell, I haven’t really gone back to the beginning as much as I just went back to where I was a month ago.

It’s still a pretty nice place though.

So, I’ve reached Friday of my first week at my brand spanking new job. I’ve got a head full of new names, places, and procedures, and I’ve got a new, daunting morning and afternoon commute to tackle. A whole new community of faculty and staff to integrate into, and welcome new morning and afternoon routine to carve out. So I found myself churning my way through a lynda.com Adobe InDesign tutorial (played at double speed) and reflecting on my experience at the William Deresiewicz  book reading and Q&A when suddenly it hits me:

The title of my blog sucks.

I’ve been telling my students for years “don’t let anything be automatic.” Everything you do should be a conscious choice, which takes into account your objective and desired outcomes. Make a deliberate decision, and resist becoming a backseat driver in your own car. Well, I’ve failed. Not only is it silly that the domain name, blog title, and blog subject matter have absolutely nothing to do with each other, it’s a tad hypocritical to bemoan nonsensical marketing slogans when I haven’t the slightest idea what “Extroverted Introversion” is supposed to mean. Actually, I whimsically came up with that title when I was a bright-eyed twenty-two year old college graduate musician working night crew at a grocery store. Now I’m a twenty-eight year old pseudo-intellectual techie musician with a coffee shop fetish. It’s definitely time for a change.

Welcome to “Caffeinated Counterculture”

Picture of a coffee cup.

It's, like, I'm the cup, ya' know? And society is, like, the table. And I'm, like, "counter" that.

It’s not perfect, but it feels right. Not only does it return few Google search results (when typed in quotes), it has a glorious hint of pretension, which sells like hotcakes in my neck of the woods. Besides, I’ve done some market research (read: asked a few friends, my mom, and my wife) and it’s tested well.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not changing the domain name. I’m far too vain for that. Besides, why type thirty characters when you can type eight?

If you haven’t noticed, there has been a subtle addition to the right sidebar. It’s true. I’ve been baptized into the world of micro-blogging. This blogger is now also a twit…er…er. I realize that this may come as somewhat of a surprise to some of you, particularly since I’ve in the past taken great delight in skewering and belittling everyone’s favorite micro-blogging service, even to it’s face. What could have changed my mind? Well, a number of things. I shall conveniently list them.

  1. I realized I had more reasons to hate Facebook, and I was already on that. On Twitter, people subscribe if they’re interested in what you have to say. How wonderful it is to have quantified self-worth! On Facebook, we’re all just subscribed to each other by impulses of “friendedness.”
  2. At it’s best, Twitter is largely what blogging originally was designed to be, a way of sharing links to cool stuff we’ve come across. Twitter gives us a chance to fly on ahead and shout back to the flock. Also, it gives me something to do when I have something to say but I’m too lazy to blog. I guess that explains this.
  3. I just turned twenty-eight and I realized that I’m simply too young to be technologically jaded. Besides, I work as a educational tech consultant. What kind of example would I be setting by ignoring the hottest craze in social networking (circa 2007-08)?
  4. In my head, I disliked Twitter users more than than Twitter itself. For a while I really only regarded Twitter as a knock-off of Facebook status updates. The users were the ones that really grinded (ground?) my gears. You know, the folks that I had branded a collective of hive-minded, self-glorifying windbags? Okay, that’s not exactly what I said (the “windbags” part is new), but yes, I was thinking it. Well, I don’t believe that’s true anymore, because I am one now and I am not a self-glorifying windbag, I’m a blogger. There’s a subtle difference.
  5. Twitter is “catware, and I’m a cat person. Dogs would love Facebook, which rewards even the most passive user (*ahem*) with constant companionship, praise, and attention—even if it’s undeserved. Twitter, in contrast, is reactionary, self-serving, and independent. Also, “friendship” on Twitter can be a one-sided agreement in which the follower (cat owner) says “I’ll pay attention to you even if you don’t give two s**ts about me.” Heck, even if I am following someone else, it’s about as passive as watching traffic, or a washing machine.

So, yes. That’s it. That’s my conversion statement. I’ll take no questions, but you can “tweet” at me if you feel like it.

“Douglas Coupland has no Facebook or MySpace page”
-Douglas Coupland’s website

Ugly Mug at the Counter

Have I seen this place before?

I chilled in the cleverly named Ugly Mug before a lax Wednesday night gig at Burdigala Wines. In spite of their following the PDX coffee shop paradigm to a tee (chalkboard menu, Stumptown coffee, secondhand furniture, local artwork, microbrew, kooky color scheme, free Wi-Fi, vegan menu, *yaaaaaaawwwwn*), I had a pleasant stay. I was there for nearly two hours and didn’t see one Mac (well, except mine). They are nice enough to provide power strips for laptop users, which, in my experience, is a sign of cafempathy. They did get into the spirit of the season with a community diorama auction, with proceeds going to a local charity. In this season, and particularly in this day and age, it’s nice to little snatches of humanity as we gradually lose touch with physical community. Of course, it’s also difficult to build a diorama as a Facebook group.

Diaramas on the wall.

Dioramas: because anything that ends in "o rama" must be awesome.

As I sit back and proofread my latest stroll through blogsville, I realize two things. First, I need to stop making up words and use a thesaurus. Secondly, it doesn’t take a college level of critical analysis to realize that my “reviews” are short on criticism and long on complain-ism. This would trouble me more if it weren’t for the fact that this is a blog, which is essentially a web surfer’s license to rant. I recently read William Deresiewicz’ article “Faux Friendship,” which examines the new phenomenon of the social network “friend.” While I do not necessarily fall in line with Deresiewicz’ nostalgia for old world friendship, his article confronts one of the most common misconceptions about the world of Web 2.0. Web 2.0 does not foster collaboration, it fosters self-obsession with collaboration and correspondence as mere byproducts.

Douglas Coupland's new book: Generation A

Hm, I think I think this post got derailed a bit. Look, a new Coupland book!

As a Facebook “user” with my privacy settings set to ultra-paranoid, it’s been some time since I’ve actually logged in and participated in any real facility. The heyday of my Facebook activity was when I was actually having face-to-face contact with most of the people I was “friended” with (to differentiate from “friends with”). I’ve found that my Facebook interactions merely reflect my actual interactions, in the sense that the only people I send messages to are people I would otherwise be communicating with personally. What is sad is that if it weren’t for the convenience of Facebook, email, or text messages, I might actually be calling them.

Coffee & cake at the Ugly Mug

Coffee & cake at the Ugly Mug

Unfortunately, the issue of self-obsession goes far beyond our social networking habits. Now Google and Yahoo are returning Twitter and MySpace feeds as search results, under the guise of “real-time” search. I’m reminded of an in-class exercise in which students dissected the Google privacy policy, uncovering the not-so-subtle way that the information age  erodes privacy standards under the guise of “improving service.” I don’t believe search engines are out to get us, we’re out to get ourselves, literally. Real-time search gives our information age data-diet what it’s been craving the most—a healthy dose of “us.”

Of course, I could make the same excuse for self-obsession that I made for friendship. As the world changes, it’s no stretch that the words that describe it would change along with it. Perhaps “selfishness” needs redefinition. How about selffriendness?

“…instead of just waiting for their turn to speak.”

Hm? Has it been a week or two? I hadn’t noticed…

I admit, I’m a creature of habit & routine. Unfortunately that habit and routine regularly consists of wasting time and procrastination, which I’ve noticed complicates the addition of other items to the routine. Despite sloth coming in a close second to gluttony as my most routine deadly sin (narrowly edging out blogging), it is undeniably the most damaging to some of my more ambitious plans of writing a novel, practicing music more, and developing a metric time system.

I’ve been thinking about routine a lot lately since I caught wind of a rather famous routine practiced by none other than the man himself, Benjamin Franklin. If his list of accomplishments is any indication, the man certainly kept busy, and this list provides a little glimpse of how he could be so on top of things. The dude was a machine:

benjamin1

"The precept of Order requiring that every part of my business should have its allotted time, one page in my little book contained the following scheme of employment for the twenty-four hours of a natural day."

So, for the record: yes I have gotten up this morning with three hours to spare before I need to leave for work. Yes, it hurts. I’m at the moment on the “rise, wash, and address Powerful Goodness” step. I haven’t figured out how to address powerful goodness yet, but I’ll do something. Actually, my teenage brother let me know a couple days ago that after running out of things to do one evening, he decided to “put things in their places.” When I asked how that went, he replied that it was “pretty fun.” I didn’t question any further.

Well, I guess if he can do it, there are no excuses for me. This week I’ll be making a special effort to fallow the Benjamin Routine to the best of my ability and see where it gets me. I had actually planned this a few days ago, intending not to blog again until I took some action to on this matter. It took a few days, but I made it. I’ll check back in from time to time this week (either during “prosecute the present study” or “examination of the day”) and let you know how things are going.

“I have all the money I’ll need for the rest of my life, provided I die tomorrow at 4:37 PM.”

-Jack, the Knave of Hearts

The Boondocks: Public Enemy #2

The Boondocks: Public Enemy #2

The Boondocks begins by chronicling the adventures of Riley and Huey, two African American boys who live with their grandfather in the suburban community of Woodcrest. Where Huey represents the ignorant, pop-culture brainwashed side of contemporary black youth, Huey represents the informed, radical antithesis. As the comic progresses and McGruder finds his voice, the plot and supporting characters fall to the wayside in favor of McGruder’s message. This shift coincides with the comic’s Doonesbury-esque shift from the funnies to the op-ed section, and this seemed to only fan McGruder’s flames and he took blatant shots at everything from the Bush and Regan administrations, to Kobe Bryant, O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson, to Star Wars, Vivica A. Fox, and Anna Kournikova.

McGruder–like another author whom I admire but have mentioned waaaaay too much–likes to play with extremes. He uses caricatures, rather than characters. He’s rarely subtle and when he is, it goes over my head. More so than most comics, The Boondocks give you near-unfiltered access to the mind of the author. Reading a Boondocks anthology can be compared to getting to know a highly functioning sociopath: initially the quirkiness is funny, but eventually you read their interviews and realize they’re actually bat s**t crazy. In this case, however, it’s still funny to me and I’m not sure why. What perplexes me most is that in most cases, listening to artists/writers/directors rant through their characters makes me want to set things on fire. For some odd reason, Aaron McGruder’s blatant rants entertain me. The possible reasons why can only be troubling:

Possible Reason 1) Rather than the comic, I’m actually taking delight in the frustrated dissatisfaction the radical left.

Possible Reason 2) I find the decline of our society–and particularly black culture–side-splittingly amusing.

The Boondocks: A Right to be Hostile

The Boondocks: A Right to be Hostile

Possible Reason 3) I’m entertained merely by the fact that this “anti-comic” of sorts sticks it to mainstream media.

Perhaps I don’t mind because when it’s all said and done, I don’t really disagree with him. In a spirited interview with Hard Knock TV, McGruder admits that in regards to the problems with our country and particularly our government, awareness of the issues is no longer the problem. I’d agree with him. If you’re an activist today (which I’m not), you aren’t fighting ignorance, you’re fighting apathy. Apathy fueled by information over-saturation brought on by conduits like mainstream news media, the entertainment industry, and self-important wannabe muckrakers who regurgitate their dissatisfaction into blogs, tweets, and…

Whoops! This was supposed to be classified as a “review” and not a “rant.” Scratch that last part from the record.

I don’t think Aaron McGruder is bat s**t crazy, he’s passionate. He’s also living proof that when given direct line to the masses such as a nationally syndicated comic (or a blog…) if you’ve really got something to say and try to sugar coat it, it will sooner or later come out in a way that ain’t always pretty. If the syndicated run of The Boondocks comic and the movie Me, Myself, and Irene have taught me anything, it’s that you either let it out or shut yourself away before you hurt someone. In the spirit of that idea:

National Blog Posting Month is an ill-conceived idea that can have nothing but adverse effects our quest to build collective knowledge. Encouraging individuals with an over-inflated sense of self-worth (bloggers, tweeters, etc.) to make a special effort to increase the frequency of their spewing into electronic vomit bags known as blogs only contributes to general epidemic of information apathy that continues to plague our society.

Aaahhhh. That felt good. I’ll see you tomorrow!