The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

ARE YOU NUTS? OR IS IT ME?

As I look back over my life I realize that I have had to make many decisions –choosing between two or even more alternative plans of action.  Some of those decisions worked out well – others, not so much.  I have always replayed the thinking that went into those poor decisions to see where I went wrong – not for the purpose of beating myself up in a frenzy of self-flagellation but to avoid repeating the mistake in the future.  But even after deciding on a path that didn’t work out well, I’ve never questioned the state of my mental health.  Until now.

As we have embarked on peeling back the onion which was the life of the mentally disturbed Navy Yard shooter, Aaron Alexis, as I suggested in an earlier post, more information would be uncovered and dissected by the media.  After all, they have space to fill.

One of the assertions that was made truly stunned me.  That was that, besides the obvious, Alexis’ several detentions for shooting a firearm in his apartment and shooting out someone’s tire; informing the police in Rhode Island that he had to move to three different motel rooms in one night because “the voices” were pursuing him, a message they apparently ignored; we should have seen his potential for being a violent person for one obvious reason, that being that he was a loner and didn’t have a Facebook account!

Perhaps not being a Facebook subscriber is an indication of mental illness.  I have read countless studies that suggest a majority of the homeless who live on the street have mental problems.  Obviously, when you’re living in a cardboard box you aren’t likely to have Wi-Fi up and running to allow you access to the internet on your laptop.  And while you might consider connecting at your local Starbucks, I wonder if you would be any more welcome there than those carrying weapons – or whether you could afford any of their beverages.

There are a number of people whom I know who feel that Facebook provides them with a valuable way to communicate with their families in an efficient manner.  That makes sense to me.  But I wonder how many of the subscribers utilize the platform in that manner.

My sense of the “social media,” mainly derived from anecdotal evidence and from the statements of those who are avid users, is that it they are a crutch which people who have difficulty communicating or relating to other people on a direct, interpersonal basis prefer to use to express themselves.  One of my acquaintances who is an active Facebook user, recently broke up with his girl friend by sending her a text message, announcing the end of their relationship.  Such is our modern, technological world.

It is always dangerous and probably inaccurate to make sweeping statements about any group of people, particularly when they number in the millions, and expect that we are categorizing them in an accurate manner.  Having made that disclaimer, I look at the social media with a certain amount of distrust – if only because they themselves admit that at least twenty percent of the profiles which are listed are either misleading or outright false.

As a child I was extremely shy – overly so.  I do not know if that was a result of a poor self-image or what other reason there might have been that caused me to be that way.  It was not because I was ugly and the kids made fun of me – I wasn’t.  It was not because I struggled in school – I excelled there.  It was not because I had no talents – I was musically gifted.  It was not because I was unpopular – my classmates generally liked me and sought me out as a friend.  Nevertheless, I was extremely reserved, introverted and uncomfortable when I met new people.

Fortunately, I overcame that.  But the way that I overcame that was that I had to overcome that to survive.  There was no anonymous platform called Facebook behind which I could hide.  My experiences and those of my contemporaries naturally forced me into associations with others on a direct, person to person basis.  That was the only basis that existed and I am grateful for that.  But I wonder if I had grown up today with the anonymity of the internet, whether I would ever have had to face dealing with people on a one on one basis and might still be that shy, introverted child.

If you were to take a poll of everyone with whom I have dealt during my life, I suspect there are a few of those who would check off the box marked “Dislike.”  But those would be very few in number.  (There’s no pleasing some people).  But I am confident that an overwhelming majority of the people who know me would be pleased at our association.  But the kind words or accolades of others doesn’t validate a person’s behavior.  That has to come from within the individual.

If I were to do something wildly outrageous, I suspect there are a sufficient number of moral heathens in our global society who would enjoy my performance and actively share that with others of their fellow degenerates.  My Facebook “Like” button might well get near being worn out.  So does that constitute an endorsement for my behavior?  I guess if you look at the raw numbers you might say that it would.  But if you consider the character of those who are the plebiscite, you might draw a different conclusion.  We all know that bad news sells.  So does bad behavior.

Several years ago I was playing poker and seated across from me was a fellow who claimed to be one of the people involved in the “Girls Gone Wild” tapes that were being sold on television.  He went on for some time about how much money he and his partners had made with this venture.  I believe that he was probably telling the truth.  Other than the ads, I never viewed the tapes, and based on what was presented in the ads would certainly not purchase an hour and a half’s worth of watching young women getting drunk and allowing their libidos to take over their actions.  But there are people who have different tastes and who found these tapes entertaining and titillating.  Would I feel proud if a large number of these went to my Facebook page and clicked the “Like” button?  I don’t think so.

If I saw a value in the social media I would have a presence there.  But I don’t.  I would rather have a sage person offer me good constructive criticism than a group of self-absorbed, self-adulating people tell me how wonderful I am and want to be my “friend”.  But that’s me.  I guess that makes me suspect in the minds of the madding crowd.  And that’s okay.

Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  What’s yours?

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Comments on: "ARE YOU NUTS? OR IS IT ME?" (12)

  1. Ah,well as they (whoever they is this week) say, “All generalities are false, including this one.”

    I’m much the same, except that while I do have Twitter, Facebook, +1, Linked in and maybe some others, I distrust them and use them very sparingly, they exist in my world because somebody important to me wanted to use that method, it doesn’t work well because I don’t pay much attention!

    I’m still not overly happy with dealing with people, at least in wholesale lots, like a lot of technical types, I prefer things that do what they are supposed to predictable (mostly). Still people are the most important part of our world, so we have to deal with them. But face to face is the only way I will do important business, once I know you we can use electronics, including the phone.

    • I have no problem if these, like any other tools are used intelligently. However, I have the feeling that people have gotten so dependent that, to use a mechanical analogy, they are taking a hammer to screw in a light bulb.

      • I know, and I think many are. It seems like they are using them to keep from real interpersonal relations, which, I think, bodes very badly for their life, as always it is very tough to convey much beyond data in written language, let alone 140 characters. They miss much of the beauty, I think.

      • And with no exposure to alternatives are probably pretty content. Alas.

      • Yeah, and if things go bad, they’re going to be in a world of hurt, and probably will be anyway. and alack!

  2. Nothing eclipses wonder better than certainty.

  3. How interesting! I can relate to your personality to some extent. I’ve been an administrator whose working history ranged the Asia Pacific including the US and have been innovative and successful in all my jobs. I can lecture to students, address professionals and manage large groups of people but at the end of the day I have had enough of all that and want my personal quiet space.

    • It’s funny that I’ve never had a problem standing up in front of an audience of 200 strangers and delivering a motivational seminar. But there was a time if I went to a party and didn’t know anyone other than the host or hostess I felt extremely awkward. Fortunately I outgrew the second of those conditions.

      Perhaps part of my “reservation” stems from the fact that I don’t think that I’m all that interesting. And yet I see people writing the most trivial nonsense on their Facebook pages – “I went to Starbucks and had a ….; then I went to the mall and looked at jeans; then I talked to Tommy – he’s sooooo kool; etc., etc., etc.” It amazes me that someone would have an interest in writing this sort of dithering, let alone read it. But as Daddy used to say, “That’s what makes horse races – difference of opinion.”

  4. When FB first became the flavour of the month I did indulge in trivia on retirement but soon became disenchanted with all those applications people invite you to join. I think its a good way to share my WordPress blogs to a wider audience of friends who are not on WP. I also enjoy seeing pictures of my friends travels etc. It’s a useful venue to keep in touch with those you know but it can be a time waster and that is not something I subscribe to.

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