I’ve been trying to write a piece recently that somehow incorporated Marge Piercy, Ta-Nehisi Coates, the American Dream, Cuddly Whiskers from Bojack Horseman, and Betty Friedan. Also, technology. Unsurprisingly, I have no realized that doing that in one blog post/article, even if the article was long form, is going to be impossible. The only way forward is piece by piece, so I’m going to start with the bit about technology.
I wrote a piece for the Mary Sue recently about how Bojack Horseman can help us during election years. Perhaps what I should have written was, Technology is Toxic During Election Years, because of the 260+, most of them missed the point (which, if you’re wondering, was simply that we should treat each other with kindness). I suppose that is the deal when you publish something online: it takes two seconds to write a comment, so anyone who has anything to say, says so. It’s not like print media, where you would have to email your comment to someone, or mail it by snail mail back in the day.
Anyways, I am not going to spend this blog post defending my article. I am going to use it to examine where I stand with technology.
I had a lot of different experiences with this, having student taught in one school in the fall last year, and been a long term sub in two other schools in the spring. It’s hard to sum everything up, but what I found most interesting was how my teaching changed once every student had a laptop. My teaching changed, and I don’t think it was for the better. Sure, I used Google Classroom and Google Forms and Google Drive and all the other start-with-caps brand names of platforms. My students used it, I used it, and on we went. But I felt the students less creative, less willing to say anything that might be wrong. When I asked them to talk about a chapter, then submit notes over Google Drive, they skipped the conversation part, and just went right to typing what they thought. I felt like we were all hiding behind our screens.
In my life
I recently aquired a twitter account. It was fun, for a few days, and it’s a nice platform for talking to people you might not otherwise have the chance to talk with. But it’s also just another form of self-assurance: people liking your tweets, following you, retweeting shit, etc. Facebook was another platform that I have grown more tired of in the past week. A recent article for Quartz told me what I feared to be true: posting political articles doesn’t change anyone’s opinion. We all just siphon off the people who disagree with us, either by unfriending or unfollowing; we get into heated arguments over the smallest of things, and this does nothing but stress us out. Or me, at least. It stresses me out. If I’m going to talk to someone, about anything important really, I want it to be face-to-face. I want us to remember what that feels like.
A lot of people go into online conversations with the mindset of “I want to convince this person of X,” instead of “I want to understand where this person is coming from.” And I think this is only exacerbated by the election year.
A note on privilege
I realize that I am treated a certain way because of my skin color, as well as my apparent gender and sexuality. I realize that if I was trans, perhaps some Trump supporters wouldn’t even talk to me. But do I know that? Have I talked to any?
The best example of this is my best friend’s dad. I’ve known him since I was 8, and my bff told me he was voting for Trump this year. Do I still talk to him? Of course. We don’t treat each other any differently because of our votes. Should I stop talking to him, in the name of Social Justice? I think a lot of people would say yes. “Yes, it’s a powerful thing to stop talking to someone because of their views.” I even wrote in a recent blog post that guys can use their privilege to stop being friends with abusers and other shitty people. But here is where I see the difference: If I stop being friends with a guy who abused someone, I am protecting my friend. If I stop talking to my best friend’s dad, who is kind and cooks for us and has never harmed me, who am I protecting? Who is he hurting?
I suppose some would argue he’ll be hurting a lot of people if he votes for Trump. That may be true. I may be hurting a lot of foreigners if I vote for Hillary. I don’t really know. But if we are to create a better world, we need to talk with people who disagree with us. How else will we work towards a better, more equal future?
Another post to think about, from Philadelphia Printwork’s blog: “Those who lose their jobs over racist comments will not feel less vitriol towards brown people, but more. In their minds we were already the cause of all white tears and the loss of employment is further evidence of our destructive power. But now all they have to do is waltz into their next job knowing what never to say publically no matter how angry they get. They become more crafty and only share their loathing with close friends, their hatred surfaces in microaggressions that go unnoticed by people who ain’t woke.”
If we fire everyone who is racist, will anyone stop being racist? If we shut them out, will they ever understand BLM’s needs?
All this to say:
Illustration by Jacky Sheridan
I am tired of shutting people out for different views. [Again, toxic relationships are different, and can and should be avoided. But those aren’t the type of relationships I am discussing]. I am tired, also, of how technology has become a habit for me. Another quote, this time from an article in Bitch Magazine by Felicia Montalvo: “‘Habit formation is the magic phrase in Silicon Valley…linking digital platform use to a user’s daily routine and emotions is the best way to ensure loyalty–and, by extension, profit. The habit-formation model argues that digital platforms should be designed as a response to particular emotional triggers, especially internalized ones. You’re anxious? Check Facebook. Bored? Hop on Twitter. Depressed? Scroll through Instagram…Once a platform is recognized as a balm for these triggered internal emotions, we don’t even need the triggers anymore, but simply return on our own. The habit formation model does not satisfy a need, it creates an incessant craving.”
I drove home from a bookshop today and it was the first time driving in the city that I didn’t look at my phone every red light or use it for a GPS. It was freeing. I deleted twitter and all other social media apps from my phone. Also freeing. Those facebook notifications can wait til I get home. It all can. We’re so conditioned to these habits, and I want to break them. I want to see what my life is like if I just do one thing at a time, if I stop multi-tasking, if I stop feeling good about myself based on the number of likes or retweets or whatever else we have to boost our egos on the internet. I want to see what I’m like without the habits I’ve been conditioned to enjoy.
I’m going to unplug, slowly. I might travel, I might teach, I don’t really know at this point what I’m ready for or not. But this blog will be my home for all my thoughts, as it has been. I’m excited to see where it goes.