1. My New Year’s Resolution Fulfilled!
Above you’ll see the concluding image from my list of resolutions. I’ve planned this all year — to make my 10th anniversary of joining Facebook also my last day using the service. I began weaning myself from Facebook then, removing the app from my phone and iPad and only using it when on my computer, justifying it as a tool for work.
Turns out that November 27, 2004, was when the addiction began — I was a junior in college at the time. One of the many counterculture thinkers I discovered would influence my understanding of culture, technology, corporations, the Bible, media, my own career direction, and now this decision to abandon the internet’s Coca Cola. (On my counterculture books list from 2012 I included several of his titles; more will appear in the expanded, giant-size counterculture conservative canon of books that have shaped and influenced me.) The primary, strongest arguments for why everyone should leave Facebook come from media theorist Douglas Rushkoff, who bailed in 2013. He identifies the prime problems; my case is an expansion of his.
2. The Douglas Rushkoff Reason: The Newsfeed Cannot Be Trusted.
I read this article on CNN from Rushkoff back in February of 2013 when it came out and couldn’t really argue with his reasons for quitting. I tried to in an email to Doug to justify my continued Facebook usage but all I could say was that it was convenient for my work as an editor. Here are two problems with what Facebook does with your data without your knowledge or permission. First, the reality is that now when you send something out to all your “friends” on Facebook, chances are only a tiny portion of them are likely to see it:
More recently, users — particularly those with larger sets of friends, followers and likes — learned that their updates were no longer reaching all of the people who had signed up to get them. Now, we are supposed to pay to “promote” our posts to our friends and, if we pay even more, to their friends.
Yes, Facebook is entitled to be paid for promoting us and our interests — but this wasn’t the deal going in, particularly not for companies who paid Facebook for extra followers in the first place. Neither should users who “friend” my page automatically become the passive conduits for any of my messages to all their friends just because I paid for it.
And second, the new advertising strategy of using your image and your likes to market to your friends:
That brings me to Facebook’s most recent shift, and the one that pushed me over the edge.
Through a new variation of the Sponsored Stories feature called Related Posts, users who “like” something can be unwittingly associated with pretty much anything an advertiser pays for. Like e-mail spam with a spoofed identity, the Related Post shows up in a newsfeed right under the user’s name and picture. If you like me, you can be shown implicitly recommending me or something I like — something you’ve never heard of — to others without your consent.
The essence of the Facebook experience is pulling up one’s newsfeed and scrolling through it to find something that interests us. Since Rushkoff laid out his case, we now know even more: that Facebook has in the past intentionally manipulated users’ emotions as part of an experiment.
I put off writing this for as long as I could.
I told myself I still had the same headache I had yesterday.
And hey, there’s an Auction Hunter marathon on, and…
Then the irony hit me:
This had been my idea, to write a response to Hand to Mouth, author Linda Tirado’s viral internet “Why I’m poor” post-turned-book.
And that one of the reasons I’m not poor anymore is because I work even when I don’t feel like it, and it feels like a summer day even though it’s the end of September, and…
So here goes:
My wife and I flew back to Indiana last week to spend Christmas with the family. We had a ball! Among the highlights was when we all went to see The Hobbit part 2 on IMAX 3-D. The whole family is pretty religious about Tolkien, the movies especially. Dad is the expert, capable of explaining the changes from book to screen while assuring us that Peter Jackson’s changes still make for an extraordinary film without messing up anything major.
Ever since I was a kid first encountering The Hobbit as a cartoon and as my Dad read it during bedtime I loved the scene of Bilbo talking with the dragon Smaug, buried amidst the endless piles of pilfered Dwarven gold. That fantasy of limitless wealth to swim in seems a recurring one from childhood. I loved how Scrooge McDuck had a money bin that he’d dive into and pass through as though it were water:
I kind of imagine myself doing that these past few years editing PJ Lifestyle except instead of gold coins it’s the amazing writing of the PJ columnists, freelancers, and the authors in the books I’m researching. From family advice to tech news to TV and family commentaries to history/religion/ideology debates PJ Lifestyle has been accumulating a diverse range of exciting ideas and cultural challenges. Here was my attempt to organize this some last year via an ever-evolving self-improvement routine inspired by Charlie Martin’s 13 Weeks program:
December 31, 2012: 7 New Year’s Resolutions I Invite Others to Steal
February 1, 2013: The Plan So I Don’t Waste the Last Year of My 20s
April 10: The 13 Weeks Radical Reading Regimen
May 8: Every American Needs to Read Books to Understand Islam
July 6: We Must Read Tons of Books With A Clear Purpose
October 5: 13 Weeks of Wild Man Writing and Radical Reading
November 17: Half Through 13 Weeks For Radical Readers and Madman Writers, Turning Up the Heat
To give Lifestyle some degree of structure I’ve sought to organize some of the themes each week by day — when the story isn’t a timely, breaking news piece. I’ve applied this also to my daily reading plan, drawing from a different pile of books and shifting subjects to try and make fresh connections for stories to assign to PJ’s writers and work on myself. Here’s my reading plan for the next 13 weeks cycle — join us starting the week of Sunday, January 5 for week 1 — and then how they’re inspiring me to make changes in my own life.
Every Saturday morning at PJ Lifestyle, join parenting writer Rhonda Robinson as she documents her strategies for getting her family’s finances back into shape. Check out the previous installments in her ongoing series:
Week 3: Keeping Afloat With A Budget
This week was rough.
I had to remind myself of a conversation I had a couple years ago with a young man from Kenya.
He had a basketball scholarship at Vanderbilt University. His girlfriend was a good friend of my daughter. The couple came to our home to visit for the first time. He was extremely tall, a mild mannered guy with a huge smile. Teasingly I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.
He explained he was getting his degree in social work. “Not a lot of money in that,” I chuckled.
He just flashed a blindingly bright smile and looked down shaking his head. “That’s ok,” he said. “I’m not really in it for the money. I just really want to help people.”
At that moment I realized something and asked, “Poor in Kenya is a lot different than poor in America, isn’t it?”
He laughed, then said with a more somber tone, “Poor in Kenya means you have a dirt floor if you’re lucky enough to have a house.” He described the conditions that people in his home town live in.
It was then I realized that my idea of poor meant I don’t get to have what I want when I want it. I have to wait, maybe even save for it. That’s not really poor. I have a lot to be thankful for.
Even when we were our “poorest,” we still owned a home. I’ve never looked into my children’s eyes and saw hunger that I couldn’t feed. During that time, we also owned and maintained a vehicle. My family had everything we needed, but not everything we wanted.
By most standards around the world, I’m rich. In fact, I’m so rich that I can drive my car into a separate room of my house. Clean water is at my fingertips, and fresh food grows in my yard.
For most of us, being poor in America is more a frame of mind than real poverty.
While serving time for whatever he supposedly did, newspaper baron Conrad Black taught history classes for his fellow prisoners.
Naturally, this prompted predictable “Geneva Convention” jokes among Black’s many detractors.
Even some of the prisoners were probably thinking, “This sure ain’t New Year’s Eve at Folsom.”
But ending up with Lord Black instead of “the Man in Black” isn’t the worst “punishment” I can imagine, although I can’t fathom how inmates without even GEDs coped with the former’s formidable vocabulary.
As I’ve stated before when talking about his latest book, Flight of the Eagle: The Grand Strategies That Brought America From Colonial Dependence to World Leadership, most of us could do far worse than have Conrad Black as a history teacher.
His enthusiasm is contagious, his erudition bracing, and his breadth of knowledge impressive.
(Maybe too impressive: While it purports to be a history of the United States, Flight… actually covers plenty of European ground, especially the continent’s martial and monarchical history from the eighteenth century onward. This isn’t a bonus if, like me, the very words “Habsburg” and “Crimea” can knock you into REM sleep faster than any hypnotist.)
image courtesy shutterstock / Stu Porter