Sunday, June 26, 2011

Whereever You Go, There You Are

So I've been thinking a lot lately about FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, supposedly a psychological anxiety increasingly endemic to our society of Facebook posts, photo texts, and, even, blogs like this one. Everyone, it seems, is going around telling everyone, "OMIGOSH, I'M HAVING THE BEST TIME EVER!!!!" and this is making us look around and think, "I thought I was happy, but maybe I could be even happier."

"Rebekah Nathan" discovered in My Freshman Year that young people posted pictures of them having THE BEST TIME EVER!!! on their dorm walls and kept trying to one-up each other. Picture of you kayaking? Well, here's a picture of me skydiving. A picture of you fishing down by the lake? Check out my picture fishing for Cuba...on a handmade boat...with George Clooney. Facebook encourages this kind of thing even more, consciously or unconsciously, because we need to defend out own way of life, especially those of us who are still in transition about what kind of life we're living.

Say someone posts about an AWESOME experience that they have and we don't. What do we do? Well, we stew and then we counter-attack with our own cheery coolness out on the web. Mothers counter-attack single women posting Venice pictures with pictures of their adorable children. Is snowboarding THE MOST FUN EVER or is surfing? Or giant lawn darts? Or alligator wrestling? Whatever it is, it's probably not the thing you're doing. And in the place where you use to live/go to college/work? They're having a blast without you--in fact, they keep sending you evites to events that you can't go to but are probably going to be SO FUN!!!

But you know what? Nothing is capslock fun all the time. Even the things you really, really want, they come with their own attendant difficulties. A. and her family wanted a baby and tried in vitro and really struggled, and the family fasted and prayed and put her name on the temple roll--and she got morning sickness. But she got pregnant. She's miserable, but it's the miserable that she long desired. I really wanted it to rain and prayed and fasted, and it rained and I got a lot of mosquito bites. And a staph infection. But, then, that's kind of the way it is with THE MOST FUN EVER...snowboarding takes time, skydiving takes money, being single is lonely, having kids is frustrating, lawn darts induce allergies. This isn't to be pessimistic. On the contrary, I feel a pretty big burden lifting knowing I don't have to have obscene amounts of fun, all the time.

Sidenote: although, don't you think blogs are often, if anything, a little more melancholy than real life? all that musing, I suppose

Thursday, June 16, 2011


So according to a recent study out of Northwestern, minority kids use media 4 1/2 hours more than white kids. Turns out that they're also early adapters--using iPhones' new features--and listen to more music. Is that such a bad thing? I mean, this isn't 1970 when listen to music meant sitting down with LPs. I may be pulling up the average a little, but here was my day when I read about this study:

7:30-9:00 morning weight training, listening to music 1/2 hours, listening to Planet Money and Get Fit Guy podcasts, some shimmying
9:00-9:30 Showering, eating breakfast, reading the news on iPhone, 20 minutes
9:30- 10:30 Bus ride, 1 hr reading
10:30-12:00 Library, 1 1/2 hr reading
12:00-12:30 Lunch break. Also, walking around campus listening to music, 15 minutes
12:30-1:30 Internet--answering email, checking Facebook, looking up a Wikipedia article about Lizzie Borden
1:30-2:30 Library reading
2:30-3:30 Bus ride, on iPhone reading news, getting health tips from Jullian Michaels, flashcards, reading this article on PsycExplorer app
3:30-4:30 Pushing Daisies 1 hr TV
4:30-5:30 Reading in the pool
5:30-6:30 Dinner, cleaning while listening to music. After dinner stroll, listening to Chesteron mysteries from Librivox
7:00-7:30 Driving to activity, listening to podcast

Look at that--nearly 12 hours of the mediated life! I'm not saying that all of the kids are going around listening to Stuff You Should Know and checking the BBC app for news updates, but media use is relatively neutral.

Relatively. You may notice the dirth of social interaction (Facebook excepting) in that stretch of day. Sometimes I feel like I know Michael Brit or BJ Harrison or the Planet Money guys better than the people sitting next to me on the bus. Not that I'd be certain get all chatty with them, but maybe without so much media, I might. I'm glad to listen to other smart, rich people like me in my books and apps and podcasts, but I should learn something about the people around me.

The other concern is that I'm such a good consumer of all this media that it can be kind of paralyzing in terms of being a contributor of it. I tried to read for Librivox, once, but my inadequacies made me so nervous that my track ended up tinny and over-produced. I notice that I blog less than I did two years ago. I write less, in general, I think. I'm not saying that all of that is because of paralyzing media overload, but it may be related.

I don't know--is the unmediated life more worth living?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Solo Austin Adventure

I must have texted a dozen people. Easily a dozen. No one, though, wanted to go to Roller Derby. This is partially my fault--I didn't let enough people know about it early enough and I didn't realize that this would be the last game I could go to this summer. But I had just met with M. nee M., who went to UT for her grad work and now is married with two wonderful daughters, and we discussed living the full life, so I decided I could go all by myself.

So I took myself on a Saturday date.

First I went to the library to return a book. Then I took a lovely long walk down to the convention center (read: was deceived by Google Maps as to its proximity). But on my way I ran into some British tourists, which reminded me to be a tourist in my own city. I witnessed a rally on the steps of the Capital. I read the historical markers. I wandered downtown to flat track derby.It was less like Whip It and more like a cute, minor-league baseball game. People chatted with their beers. Little kids ran around the bleachers. The husbands of the Hell Marys (punch-punch-punch-Hell, yeah!) all had "Widower" t-shirts, vuvuzelas, and homemade signs for their sweeties. The derby girls themselves we all having a good time. They were a physiognomically diverse group, but all seemed to have fairly respectable jobs. In fact, they were celebrating teachers that night and several of the players were elementary teachers themselves. For their tough names most of them behaved just like rec-level athletes--competitive, team-oriented, but rule-abiding and fun. Of course the best part of derby is choosing your name. I got to watch Smarty Pants (jersey number 4.0), Skank (jersey number C34), and Acute Angel (jersey number < 90*). And then I bought a t-shirt.

Of course they had a electronic musician in a bear suit. Also, free Soy Joys. So really, an Austin original. But I was getting kind of tired and I wanted to walk home before it got dark so, not having to wait for anyone else, I left when I felt like it.

Walking back down 6th street, I saw plenty of evidence as to the Republic of Texas biker rally. Turns out that 6th street bars appeal to biker clubs. For dinner I went to Pita Pit. Turns out Pita Pit doesn't appeal to biker clubs. The teenagers there said things had been kind of slow. "We're bringing a fly back to life," the older black kid said when I ask him about some excited comments he had made to the skinny little white kid with the faintly purple streaks in his hair. The purple-haired pierced kid explained to me that if you drowned a fly, you could bring it back to life by covering it in salt. "Makes you wonder," he said philosophically, "if they really drowned." They were such eager naturalists and made my black-bean whole-wheat pita with such relish that I couldn't help telling them that you can make a fly buzz around in circles if you tear off one of the very small halteres on the back. Perhaps it will lead only to further cruelty, but their enthusiasm for learning made up for any fouls to come.

So I took my pita and ate on my route back to the car. The light, by now, was truly lovely.
That was not the most magical thing of the day, though. The most magical was seeing a white squirrel.In UT lore, if you see a white squirrel on your way to take a test, you'll pass, even if you didn't study at all. It's the last resort of the indolent student. I don't have any tests, but I'm holding on to this picture for later.

I had an awful good time by myself. Could have been better with others, of course, but I wouldn't have given this evening up at all. One of the people I texted texted back that he had been on a date. I was almost hurt, but then I thought, "If I hadn't gone to the derby and just stayed home watching a movie, he would have gone on that date anyway." Hmm. cf previous post, I guess.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Going in and Getting Out

There are some books and movies that take you to a dark place. And there are other movies that can get you out again. Sometimes it's correcting a philosophy, sometimes it's just a different perspective. Often it has to be the same kind of story, or an alternative view on the same thing. For example...

In Out
The Call of the Wild White Fang
The Road Peace like a River
Night Man's Search for Meaning
Whip It An Education
Tess of the D'Urbervilles The Silent Partner
All My Sons The Moon is Down

Does anyone else have suggestions of books, movies, plays that counterbalance each other nicely?