A couple of recent inquiries as to why I haven’t been posting on social media lately gave me cause to give it some thought…and I don’t really have a short answer.
(…and yeah, it could be said that I never have a short answer for anything, and you’d be right – but I digress…)
I was a classic over-sharer on Facebook for a long time…I cultivated my friends list, made sure that I didn’t let too many crazies into the fold to avoid inter-list bickering, and the truth is – I was a fan. I loved it.
For some time, it was like having a party with every conceivable corner of my life represented in the same room.
Old Navy buddies, bandmates…even the folks I could count on the fingers from one hand that I went to school with that I’d kept any interest in remaining in touch with – I could carry on a conversation with ALL of them, instantaneously, in one place. It made certain things easier – when something happened in my life that I wanted to share with folks, I could post it in a single forum and know that (at least a majority percentage of them, up until recently) would see the post and I wouldn’t have to repeat myself via phone or email until I’d told enough folks for word to trickle out. AND – even BETTER – they could all participate in whatever conversation came of it…not just with me, but with each other. Several folks I can think of became friends with one another through having gotten to know each other from my friends’ list, and – I mean, how cool is that?
When the alternator in my old Isuzu Trooper started dying on my way from Nashville back to Philadelphia in the mid-2000’s, I posted about it on Facebook and got great advice from folks who wouldn’t have otherwise had any input whatsoever into my situation, and I would’ve been forced to rely on AAA or whoever they towed me to. Instead, I got a ridiculously accurate diagnosis from a buddy in Kennett Square, coordinated a ride from the airport in Nashville from my old buddy Opie, and managed to find a mechanic in Christiansburg, VA who’d come to me on the road and replaced the part in the parking lot of an Advance Auto Parts store.
When Wendy was pregnant with Danny and things went off the rails, I was able to keep everyone in the loop via Facebook, including my buddy Jon and his wife Georgina who were vacationing at Disney in Florida at the time.
It’s helped foster countless musical friendships and helped me gain a significant chunk of new fans, as well as keep in touch with old ones.
So no, I can’t quit you, Facebook. You’ve made yourself indispensable.
But Goddamnit, you suck.
And if we’re being honest here, a lot of the benefits of “social media” have been either innovated into irrelevance or watered down to the point of being unusable.
As I’ve said a hundred times in the past, I just cannot believe that no one has MySpaced this outfit into oblivion, but no one seems willing to create a platform that allows the users to moderate their own feeds, manage their own advertising views (if I see one more goddamned Keytruda ad, I’m gonna find a kitten to punch) and let us decide if we want to see our friends’ posts or not. I mean, seriously – that’s beyond the realm of possibility?
But, listen – I know I’m tilting at windmills, and there are words I use to describe that little weasel that runs the operation that even I won’t write tonight, as you’ve listened to enough of this already.
What I’m beginning to realize, though, is that there’s a larger effect that’s at work from where I’m sitting, and I need to figure out what to do about that.
At my day gig, we recently had to set a minimum of three “goals” for our evaluation process, that fell into specific categories…my company puts a high premium on interpersonal interaction, and they love creating these “team building” opportunities for people to socialize outside of work: softball leagues, Sounds games, happy hours – and I fucking HATE it. HATE IT.
Forced revelry is bullshit, and I don’t have the patience for it.
Conversely, there’s a daily Zoom call that I participate in consisting of the folks in the Southeast region who all have the same job titles and responsibilities I do, and I’ve grown to enjoy interacting with them, and would consider all of them friends, to varying degrees – but that’s a result that’s happened organically, without feeling forced, and it feels genuine.
That said, I submitted a “goal” for my review that stated that I would actually attend one non-mandatory after-hours work event by the end of the calendar year, so I’m gonna have to pick one and bite the bullet and leave my house to do something to accomplish this goal…
…and that has become work in and of itself.
(there’s a point, I promise, and it’s approaching quickly…)
What I’m realizing as I’m considering these things I’m bringing up here is that the slow, near-unnoticeable arc from the letters and phone calls of thirty years ago to the present day Meme-and-Emoji LOL-ness that’s enveloped most modern communications in nearly every circle has thrown up a layer of interpersonal insulation that maybe most of us don’t even notice.
IN my own case, there are multiple layers involved – it’s not just the platform for interaction, whether it be in person or on social media – it’s my place in it.
I’m a man in his mid-50’s who doesn’tt even really consider “socializing” the vast majority of the time, where it involves leaving my house and spending time in the physical presence of other people. With the exception of an abysmally small number of places within driving distance – I can probably count them on my fingers – there’s generally nowhere I want to go that isn’t my home studio or my living room. It just doesn’t appeal to me anymore, and that’s a complete reversal of who I was when I was in my thirties and still felt as though I was carving out my place in the world.
Facebook made me lazy, for sure – text messages have made it somewhat easier to feel like I’m not infringing on someones’ time with a phone call. But even with texting, I generally need to feel like there’s a legitimate need for a specific discourse or I don’t bother.
When Facebook was serving an actual social need, it certainly helped me to feel connected to folks I didn’t always have access to…but as that platform has swirled the toilet bowl in recent years, it’s unwittingly created an awareness of this growing layer of cellophane that I’ve created around myself.
I seldom initiate contact – I’d say “never”, but I’m not quite there. Yet.
I’ll opt for sitting at home with a refillable pint glass of George Dickel and Diet Dr. Pepper and watching old TV reruns or documentaries over going out a solid 985 times out of a thousand.
ESPECIALLY in this town.
I’ve actually tripped over a few places that I feel comfortable here – my favorite these days being Brown’s Diner – but I still generally have to talk myself into going…and unless there’s an occasion, I seldom do.
I’m not offering any of these observations up for pity, and I’m trying to avoid coming across as an old man yelling at clouds – but I do feel as though I’m probably not alone in this slowly eroding social shift. For me personally, the nagging notion of my own increasing irrelevance seems to bring it into a clearer focus, but – I don’t know. It feels bigger than that, and I don’t think it solely afflicts the get off my lawn demographic.
Things that I used to do out of kindness in public are off the table now, for fear of being perceived as “creepy”.
I don’t offer to take shopping carts from folks in the supermarket parking lot on my way into the store so they don’t have to return them, as I’ve gotten repulsed facial expressions as a result for the last time. Don’t need it.
I don’t compliment strangers on ANYTHING, ever.
(Funny story – was shopping at Wegmans’ in Philadelphia with a friend who offered up an endorsement of a vegan muffin/cake mix to someone who’d picked up the box and was reading the back…she had told him that she loved it for a particular recipe she’d used, and his response? “hmmm…well, thanks for that unsolicited advice.”)
I’m accepting my role in creating this distance, for sure – even going so far as to cultivate it in some cases…but like I said, there are a lot of layers.
I’m not sure what comes after this two year COVID exile, or whether I’ll bother to accept that it’s over – right now, that Warren Zevon song Splendid Isolation has become something of a signpost around here.
But it’s not the isolation – in and of itself – that has me pondering all this.
It’s the fact that I’ve not only accepted it, but EMBRACED it.
So if I go missing for a few days and you’re wondering what I’m up to, take some solace in the fact that I’m either tinkering on something down by the lake in the Overdub Nook, or sitting in front of the television – either rewatching Almost Famous or binging through a handful of old episodes of SOAP or Barney Miller or a Ken Burns series or an episode of a PBS serial with an adult beverage. And yeah, I know there’s life out there beyond these walls, but – there’s life in here, too. I’ve managed to shrink it to a manageable size, and – while I tend to waver on my stance at times, I’ve made a restless peace with my place in all of it.
“…when the shadows start to stretch outside my window
Across the photographs that cover these four walls
With the fading of the light
As the stillness settles into night
Right before I wander off to bed
Could be a song I heard or something someone said
Starts the old home movies playing in my head
Every sight and sound
When the sun goes down…”
When The Sun Goes Down, Tom Hampton 2022