Is Social Media Good or Bad?

I’ve grown more concerned about the adverse effects of social media over the past year, resulting in my disengagement from Facebook and LinkedIn. And I’m flirting with the idea of disengaging from Twitter, too. I’ve opined on how I’d keep distance between social media and young children if I were of the age to have youngsters at home. And I worry about the online world you, Vera (my granddaughter), may encounter and all the ways others will try to manipulate you and sap you of your individuality and independent thought. And make your life worse. Which led me to Jaron Lanier’s new book, Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now.

Lanier isn’t someone I can dismiss lightly. He’s a deep thinker. Highly intelligent. And concerned.

I won’t attempt to summarize Lanier’s arguments here. The book is a short, easy read for anyone who’s interested in the topic. But perhaps I can whet your appetite by listing Lanier’s 10 chapter headings:

  1. You are losing your free will
  2. Quitting social media is the most finely targeted way to resist the insanity of our times
  3. Social media is making you into an asshole
  4. Social media is undermining truth
  5. Social media is making what you say meaningless
  6. Social media is destroying your capacity for empathy
  7. Social media is making you unhappy
  8. Social media doesn’t want you to have economic dignity
  9. Social media is making politics impossible
  10. Social media hates your soul

Even a Bozo President Can’t Ruin Everything

After today’s performance in Helsinki, it’s hard not to think that Putin has something on Trump. Something that, if released to the public, not only would embarrass Trump but also would destroy him politically, and perhaps result in his impeachment and imprisonment.

Might there be some other possible explanation for Mr. Trump’s bizarre and arguably treasonous behavior? I suppose so, but it wouldn’t make Donald look any better — although perhaps less treasonous.

Meanwhile, Vera, your grandmother and I just completed a nine mile hike in the Rockies outside of Crested Butte, Colorado, up to 11,200 feet. The wildflowers are in bloom at that elevation, painting the sides of the hills with vibrant colors. When you’re alone on a trail surrounded by magnificent peaks and glorious skies, all seems right with the world.

But all is not right, of course. Today’s shameful performance by our president was a stark reminder of that fact.

I have no idea how bad it will get before this clown leaves the stage. I have no idea how much damage he’ll do. But the Rockies will always be here. And sometimes the best thing to do is to leave the problems behind and walk the earth. Among the aspens. One step at a time.

Give an Ass the World Stage and This Is What You Get

The president of the U.S. was invited to Great Britain. I suppose the Brits thought they had no choice given the U.S.’s place in the world. In any event, the visit is turning out to be their worst nightmare.

Upon arriving in London, President Trump royally criticized the Prime Minister and lauded her chief adversary, saying Boris Johnson would make a great prime minister. In other words, Trump is trying to topple the British government.

If a foreign leader came to America and acted this way, we’d show him the door in short order and rightly so. But, of course, the U.S. is the world’s military and economic power so other nations have to put up with this embarrassment of a president and bite their tongues. For now.

I can’t help but think the day will come when the U.S. will have to pay the price for its outlandish, bullying, disrespectful behavior. And, if so, no one can say we don’t deserve it.

Take a Walk

“It is only ideas gained from walking that have any worth,” wrote Nietzsche. Well, perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the point is well taken: walks seem to have the capacity to foster the generation of sound ideas.

Seneca agreed. He advised us to “take wandering outdoor walks, so that the mind might be nourished and refreshed by the open air and deep breathing.” (On Tranquility of Mind, 17.8)

Ryan Holiday added these thoughts in his The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living: Continue reading

Keep Shining

You turn three today, Vera. We’re going to celebrate. Your other grandparents will be here, too. As will your Aunt Elaine and Uncle Matt. I hope you have a good time.

We’re going to have water balloons, and I’ve been informed by your grandmother that I’m going to be the target. We’ll see how your arm has developed. We’ll also see if your grandmother can manage to stay dry!

You are the light of the world, Vera. There is nothing quite like you. Not in our corner of the world. You are interesting, amazing, and astonishing. Love dances with joy when your world encompasses ours.

It was that way with your dad and uncle when they were your age. I suppose there is something about little kids. Their innocence. Purity. Zest for life.

And then the world beats you up. And the flame doesn’t burn as bright. And sometimes it’s but a flicker. And the light grows dim.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Not entirely. And it isn’t always. But often.

Sometimes I think our sole purpose in life is to keep the flame alive. And to be the light of the world.

It doesn’t sound like much. But the older I get, it seems like a lot. It might be enough. More than enough. Continue reading

The Parade and Patriotism

The last parade I watched (in person) was the Rose Bowl parade in Pasadena, California, a year and a half ago. It’s unique. And quite impressive. But too long. And I doubt I’d ever have the urge to see it again.

Not that there’s anything wrong with parades. But I can think of better things to do with my time. Unless, of course, you want to watch the parade, Vera, in which case I can’t think of anything better to do.

The Fourth of July parade in Carmel, Indiana, where we now live, is apparently a big deal. People staked out their places last week. 

Chairs appeared along the parade route five days before the actual event. And people literally roped off areas to ward against encroachers.

I’ve never seen this kind of behavior in connection with a parade before. I strikes me as a bit weird, but if it works for them, I’m fine with it. The main thing I like about this unusual practice is the confirmation it provides that Carmel is a safe community. In many other communities, all those chairs would be stolen long before the parade got underway.

Far more interesting to me is the whole patriotism thing that surrounds this holiday. We have some neighbors who decorated their properties with patriotic banners, etc. One has a sign in their yard that reads, “God Bless America.” I can’t help but think what is sometimes (not always) implied by this, namely, “God, please give America preference.” Or “put America first.”

Is that anything to wish a parent to do? Apparently, it is. That strikes me as a bit weird.

Patriotism makes me nervous, mainly because history teaches us that people have done a lot of bad things — really bad things — motivated by patriotism. To be fair, however, they’ve done some good things — really good things — too. But the bad things shouldn’t be ignored. At the very least, they’re a reminder we need to be cautious about being swept up by patriotic fervor. It’s important to keep our wits about us. And not allow ourselves to be used by rich, powerful people who are motivated by greed and lust for power. And to take more seriously the taking of human life, no matter the cause.

I’m also a bit wary of flags. Continue reading