Friday, October 27, 2017

Cyber Space Monkeys

Social Media Disease #2

We are the 21st century's Cyber Space Monkeys. We have to understand and remember this. When social media first hit us a decade ago, there was no manual. No blueprint. No book of social media etiquette. Nothing to warn us of side effects and consequences. That’s because we are collectively writing it. Right now. They'll be studying us in 100-years but while our descendants will have the benefit of hindsight, we’ve been stumbling along blind making predictably ignorant mistakes along the way. God knows I was. And in some cases I was remedially slow, almost clinically retarded, in seeing it.

Facebook exhumes skeletons from the friendship boneyard and obliterates the natural order of things. Over the course of several thousand years, we instinctively figured out that everyone isn't entitled to accompany us thru every part of our lives. People change. We evolve. Grow apart. There's nothing wrong with that! Old friends and acquaintances would once silently fall out of our lives out of neglect. We'd lose touch. Why? It was no mystery. Friendship actually required effort to be maintained. And for many of life’s bit players the effort outweighed the reward. It was an inevitable bump in the road. We knew and accepted it.

Now every kid from fourth grade or our first job thinks that, beyond that fun and frisky first virtual reunion, they're on the same social footing as those who are actually relevant. “Hey! Facebook's declared we're still "friends” so we must be even though we haven't laid eyes on each other in years! What? It’s been decades? How cool!” And with it often comes an expired and presumptuous sense of familiarity. Bizarre.

For those who never left their hometown, the passage of time was linear. They'd occasionally see people over the years therefore the gradual changes were put into personally relative context. Not so for those of us who left! When Facebook suddenly reintroduced us the changes were dramatic! From both perspectives, the person in front of us was often only—sometimes barely—familiar in the now-wrinkled flesh. In most cases, there was a reason we weren't in touch before Facebook reanimated legions of these corpses. Suddenly hundreds of old memories once again had life and were wobbling down the path from Ol’ Pal Sematary. They walked thru the front door we unwittingly left open then plopped themselves onto our virtual couch. And, because of the nature of the medium, they just wouldn’t leave! Sometimes the horror of what Facebook resurrected was unbearable.

"It sorta looks like the guy life buried years ago…but…OH, MY FUCKING GOD!! What the hell IS that thing?” 

Sometimes dead IS better. #TheGosepelofJud

Of course there are the surprising instances of reconnecting with someone and learning you now have infinitely more in common than way back when. If they sustain themselves, I treasure these finds. And with some folks you can pick up where you left off. Because of my life track and the changes I’ve undergone, it’s rare. I’ve become a believer in what I call Friendship Capital. The balance shrinks steadily over time if we’ve not been in touch and more quickly if we have nothing left in common but the long-dead glory days. Whether it was you or your old friends who’ve changed, it doesn't matter. It's the fissure that’s important; classifying decades of interpersonal tectonics is mental masturbation. There’s a reason we lost touch. If there’s no fresh commonality, trust it. Don’t be afraid or feel bad about letting the baggage go. Have I mentioned the Useless Shit Epiphany in this piece yet? Silly me. Remind me before I finish, eh?

Youthful nostalgia is alluring. Temporarily turning back time can be tempting although it’s just an illusion. And it's funny—even frustrating—how our old schemas and roles take over. Even in middle age we often feel as though we’re still dealing with our 17-year old counterpart. It really is like traveling back thru time. But only for a moment. When we try to stay too long or maintain it, it's like reviving Our Gang using the same old scripts for adult Spanky and Alfalfas. Familiar? Sure. Ridiculous and ultimately awkward? Absolutely.

For some, like me, it can be downright toxic. I spent a month at a friend's house back home during both the summer of 2012 and 2013. Brian always had a couple of kegs on tap as well as all varieties of liquor stashed inside his glorious man cave and I literally (proper use!) couldn't stay sober. I had to drink as soon as I woke up and literally thought I was going insane, especially in 2013. Far from it. My new programming was conflicting with the old; the operating systems' scripts were incompatible and when they attempting to interact it created an incredible amount of psychological friction; unbearable anxiety. Ultimately I realized that I'd already reconciled my distant past and learned that in almost no way was it reconcilable with who I’ve grown to be. Specifically in that town. With a few notable personal exceptions, the two can't coexist. I'm a completely different person than I was even 15-years ago. 30? Ha! I'm a different goddamn species.