Friday, May 29

30 Days Notice.



Everybody talks a big game when it comes to kicking the Social Networking addiction. Nearly every week, I see status updates and tweets from folks who are on the verge of swearing away Facebook, Twitter and MySpace forever. They claim it’s taking up too much of their time. It’s hindering their creativity. It’s monopolizing their conversations and becoming their sole purpose for possessing an Internet connection. Where they used to look up information online and attempt to seek knowledge, they now spend their evenings keeping tabs on people they stopped speaking to nine years ago.

Amongst the relatively few arguments against Social Networking on a mass scale, the merits are unarguably limitless. The voyeurism is universally appealing; the split-second communication and instant gratification almost too good to be true. Never before have we been so easily capable of maintaining contact with anyone and everyone we want. Furthermore, it’s an easy way to keep an eye on your outer circle of friends without actually having to speak to them in person or, you know, put forth an excessive effort typically reserved for your handful of inner circle acquaintances.

I had been anti-Social Networking- some would say unnecessarily so- for years. I didn’t like the gaudy, popularity contest-mentality of MySpace, shunned the one-page Life Story of Facebook and the short attention span-rewarding micro updates of Twitter. However, when my first book was published in 2007, I knew that these communication avenues could possibly help me reach a broader audience for my writing, so I hopped on board. Since then, I’ve been on Facebook for a little over two years, and my Twitter feed can currently be seen over on the sidebar of this very page. I got hooked, and in a big way.

I remember having a conversation with Cargirl several months ago about Twitter, specifically if the enormous amount of bite-sized information we take in a on a daily basis is shortening our attention spans to the point of not being able to read (or even write) anything remotely lengthy or worthwhile. Essentially, we were speculating as to if Social Networking was killing creativity in favor of easily-digestible and 24/7 communication. She told me that since she joined the likes of Twitter and Tumblr, she had no desire to sit down and put time into an essay; all while trying to explain to me why I should join the very networks that had admittedly ruined her passion for writing. Her point was that this was to become the future of text communication, which admittedly scared the poop out of me.

My (slightly more optimistic) theory was that Social Networking was the test between whether or not one was a Creator or a Networker. Creators will always find a specific way to create, and Networkers will dabble in anything as long as they continue to meet and communicate with others. Or, to put it in more confusing terms: Creators network to create, and Networkers create to network. You could certainly do both (and they’re both equally respectable), but everyone does one in favor of the other, subconsciously or willingly. For me, everything I’ve ever done on the Social Networking front was to drive attention to my work here on the CDP, or at least that’s what I told myself for the first few weeks.

In recent months, my creativity has been hopelessly clouded by a steady stream of status updates and tweets from celebrities that have no idea I exist (Save Lisa Loeb, who is following me for some unfathomable reason). I take my iPhone into restaurants, cars and even bathrooms so I can stay constantly on top of the lives of other people who are similarly tweeting in restaurants, cars and bathrooms, and so on and soforth, forever and ever until the end of time.

Finally and with a blindsiding force, I realized something last week that made me feel equal parts embarrassed and scared. About 99.9% of that shit doesn’t matter…whatsoever. My day wouldn’t be effected in the least had I not read or participated in any of this stuff. In fact, the only thing that vigorous Social Networking has done for me is take my focus completely away from my primary objective for networking in the first place.

Also, somewhere along the way, I completely forgot how reclusive and turned off by maintaining contact with people I was. My essays used to be the buffer zone between myself and my readers; a chance for us to communicate without direct conversation. A chance for people to find out where I was coming from while being (hopefully) entertained, yet-distanced from me personally. I miss that; not because I don’t love every conversation I’ve ever had and everyone I’ve ever met, but mainly because I seem to be neglecting the one thing I’m even slightly good at. Through my writing I've been able to meet some wonderful people, so it stands to reason that I continue to write so wonderful people will want to continue meeting me.

So let’s get back to the very first sentence of this essay. ‘Everybody talks a big game when it comes to kicking the Social Networking addiction.’ Well, I’m doing it, yo.

When I made the decision, I thought I’d back out of it. Chicken out. Make an excuse as to why it was mandatory in my day-to-day life. However, it’s three days later and I cannot freaking wait to pull the plug on my Twitter/Facebook pages and get back to nothing but writing essays for the Communist Dance Party. I’m going to go back to what I do, erm...best?

Besides, I’ve got things to do. I have a wife of five years, a job that’s teetering on the verge of layoff with each passing day, a house that needs vacuuming and a mortgage to pay. I have books that need to be read, a city block that needs to be jogged and a checkbook that needs constant balancing. The fact that when I have friends over- actual, real, skin-and-bone friends- I spent most of my time gawking at Twitter than speaking to them, is embarrassing at best, utterly classless at worst. When my wife is sleeping alone in the bedroom while I sit in the office and look at photographs of people that I’ve been willingly ignoring for the better part of a decade…it almost feels like we should be taking medication for that kind of personality disorder. It’s a pure and simple addiction; we don’t need an angstrom of it, but it’s hard to see the forest from the trees when we're already immersed.

Here’s what caused my own personal Tipping Point. I posted a Twitter update about something relating to the parallel between current Internet memes and the rise of Dadaism in the 1920’s. The point I was trying to make is that the 4Chan kids, LOLcat enthusiasts and even Hamster Dance fans aren’t breaking any new ground that hadn’t already been broken almost a century ago. The only thing that’s changed is the medium. I included a quote by Carl Jung; it was some pretty highbrow shit crammed into those 140 personality-sucking characters.

When I published the tweet, I took a look at the product, sighed, and thought to myself, ‘Man, I could write an entire essay about this theory.’ In reality, the thought of writing an essay about it didn’t even enter my headspace when I started brainstorming the idea, and that made me want to punch myself in the ballbag. What had happened to me? I took an idea that had decent potential as an entertaining exploration of current trends reinventing historical art movements, and instead distilled into a nearly incomprehensible blip on the radar. This is the very definition of ‘hindering creativity,’ and I need to get out while I still have a prayer. This is getting ridiculous.

I know that most of you can balance both. I respect that immensely, because I clearly cannot. If you know anything about me through my writing, you know that I’m all-in or cashing out. There’s no grey area; I have OCD-fueled tunnel-vision, eliminate deadwood by the truckload and burn clutter for kindling. This love affair with Social Networking is over for me, because it has to be for the sake of my creative evolution. I’m not better than it; it is better than me.

So, here’s the deal; pay attention, because it’s going to be pretty awesome:

1. The entire month of June on the CDP will be devoted to counting down the Top 100 Simpsons Episodes of All-Time. It’s pretty neat; I’ve worked hard on it. Also, it gives me a chance to spend June working on my next big writing project. I don't want to drop any hints, but I may or may not have something new for you to purchase by Christmas...again.

2. On Friday, June 26 at 11:59pm, I’m pulling the plug on my Facebook and Twitter pages. Not that I think it’ll effect your lives too much, but you should know if you ever need to contact me for anything. My main online focus will be the CDP and CDP alone; you’ll know where to find me. I'm toying with the idea of leaving my Twitter account active for the sole purpose of instant sidebar updates to the CDP, but that would be it. After all, not every one-liner about poop and monkeys deserves 2,500 words. 1,250, maybe.

3. I want to see if this essay has inspired anyone to do the same, so I’m posing a challenge to all the CDP fans and alumni. If there is anyone out there that is willing to follow my lead and pull the plug on any or all of their major Social Networking ties (MySpace, Facebook or Twitter), I will send the first 3 people to bring it to my attention a free CDP button or sticker of their choosing.

I’ll keep the rules brief and loose (it’s not a huge prize, after all), but it breaks down like this. Just be honest with me, send me some sort of proof that you’ve dropped one (or all) of your Social Networking addictions and shoot me an e-mail (communistdance@yahoo.com). Something along the lines of, “Hey, I deleted myself from Twitter, and here’s proof.” We’ll work it out from there, and no fair falling back off the wagon once you get your free swag. If you’ve been flirting with the notion of finally pulling the plug, now’s your tiny bit of motivation to just up and do it already.

Thanks much. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your weekend. June is Simpsons Month on the CDP.

Wednesday, May 27

CDP Wayback Machine - Obsolete Electronics Attack!



"Survivors Will Be Shot Again."

(Originally Published May 16, 2008.)

The move into our new house has been going splendidly, thanks in part to proper planning and a lot of hard work by the Missus and yours truly. So far, the biggest casualty of the move was when I dropped a photo scanner on my ankle and gashed it open pretty good. This scanner is at least 14 years old, one of the first home photo scanners ever made, if you believe what the Missus has to say. All I know is that it's a good 15 pounds and needed to be stuffed in the basement, under a pile of Bobby Vinton records and a red microwave we no longer need.

Personally, I wanted to just throw the irrelevant relic away (the scanner, not Chevy Chase), but the Missus assured me that it was cool and valuable enough to warrant a temporary stay in the basement. I decided (quite poorly, in retrospect) to set said scanner atop a pile of lighter cardboard boxes and carry everything down the steps in one fell swoop. True to form, it was no less than 20 seconds later that I found myself rolling around on the basement floor, quite convinced that my ankle was now in three smaller pieces.

Approximately five steps from the basement floor, I pivoted my heel, sending my oversized load off-balance. The scanner started to shift off of the cardboard boxes, causing me to rotate hard and promptly toss every piece of merchandise I had been holding onto. For a fraction of a second, everything was cartwheeling through the air in slow-motion, and I knew that I only had the reaction time to save one of them.

Furthermore, I was also out of shape enough to know that I probably wouldn't have the reaction time to save anything.

For sure, I knew that if the scanner hit the basement floor and exploded in a fireworks display of microchips, wires and failure, the Missus would think I did it on purpose as a way to dispose of it forever. I couldn't give her the satisfaction of having something unnecessary and wrong to hold over my head, so at the last second, I stuck my leg out to break the scanner's fall. My theory was that the scanner would bounce off of my shoe and gently rest at the foot of the stairs. Pure damage control; wing-and-a-prayer stuff.

In reality, this massive piece of recent nostalgia dropped five feet through the air, hit its terminal velocity, struck me corner-first in the ankle, and then shattered into a million pieces on the basement floor. I took a stumble-step and dropped to one knee, due in part to survey the damage and mostly because it hurt like hell and I was crying. The scanner, remarkably, was fixable. My ankle, however, is a current shade of yellow, blue and green that forms an unnatural bulge in my left sock.

So goes the moving process. If there's anything positive to come of this, it's that it has been a long time since I got to write an essay about injuring myself.

Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.

Tuesday, May 26

05/25/09.