More Fun With Strangers

Yesterday I wrote about going to a stranger’s house for a house party where I was the weirdo that no one knew. Today I will bore you with the story of a more extreme case of meeting strangers, this time strangers I met online.

A long, long time ago in a jail not too far away I needed a way to connect with others while spending my days alone. This was so long ago that the best option to communicate with others with similar interests(or at least the best one I knew about) were listservs. I joined a few listservs about libraries and books. One particular book-related listserv rules about going off-topic. There were some people on the listserv who enjoyed going off-topic. These people were told they were no longer welcome on the listserv. These people were my favorite people on the listserv, so when they started a splinter group on another listserv, I followed them over. Thus was born the Book Barn and the legend of The Great Ignored(me).

We spent years talking to each other on the Book Barn. They weren’t just people on the Internet. They were my friends. Eventually, a plan was made for some barners to meet in person. The meeting place was a barner’s house in Pittsburgh. I was going to drive up from Maryland. Two others were driving over from Cleveland. Yes, my Internet friends lived in the home cities of terrible football teams. I was able to overlook that.

I will admit that I was a little nervous about driving to a strange city to meet people I had met online. They make Lifetime movies about people who do this. I told my wife that if  I got there and the people were really weird I was going to call her from the bathroom and tell her to call me in a few minutes to pretend I had an emergency and had to leave. It didn’t come to that. I’m not saying they weren’t weird. Just that they were no weirder than me. So, I spent the weekend hanging out with people I met online. We had a good time. We toured part of Pittsburgh. No one murdered me.

The Book Barn has gone away, but I’m still friends with several of the barners on Facebook. Maybe some day it will be time to meet up in person again.

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My Observation of the Internet After Notre Dame

I was at work Monday when Notre Dame was on fire. I texted my daughter to tell her and we texted back and forth a little about the fire and how sad she was about it. Her graduation gift this past summer was to go to London and Paris. She loves history and museums and was excited to see all of the history in the cities. Notre Dame, of course, was one of our stops. I was happy to be able to share the experience with her and her brother. I posted the picture I took of them to remember the happy times and to reflect on how glad I was that they got to see it before the fire. Many other people I know posted their picture from Notre Dame. It was their personal connection to the story, same as me posting my picture.

Of course, others didn’t see it that way It didn’t take long for the cesspool of Twitter to jump in to post about how posting a picture of yourself at Notre Dame was making the tragedy about you and what a terrible person that makes you. Or to post about how it was really just bragging about the fact that you went to Notre Dame. Or to post about how going to Notre Dame isn’t impressive because everyone’s been to Notre Dame. How dare people post their pictures of Notre Dame on the day Notre Dame was burning! I feel like this is just as much, if not more, yelling look at me! look at me! I’m better than everyone else because I respect Notre Dame too much to post a picture. Do I think some people posted a picture to get likes on social media? Yes. Enough so that it’s worth constant Twitter posts about it? No.

Now, we’ve reached the point on social media with constant posts shaming people who might be planning to donate money for Notre Dame restoration. Posts imploring people to donate to who they think is more worthy and that the Catholics have enough money. Valid? Probably. But aren’t people allowed to donate their money where they choose? Do you really need to go on Twitter to tell people how you think they should donate their money? Is this just another way to make sure people know you are better than them? Look at me! I give my money to more worthy causes than you. I’m so special.

Is this entire blog post me saying look at me, I’m better than all these people shaming people on the Internet? Probably. I just think we could all be better and not spend so much time judging others about how they process bad news. That includes people writing blog posts like this one. And now I end the post with the aforementioned picture so people can judge me.

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Tater Takes on the Internet

I spend a lot of tie on the internet. That’s probably one reason why the number of books I’ve read this year is lower than normal. Looking at Twitter, Facebook, Deadspin, etc. is mindless and easier than reading an actual book. I can do it while watching TV. I can’t read a book and watch TV at the same time. I also watch a lot of TV, so this works out well for me. As I spend time on he internet I sometimes run across things that I think I should write about, so here it is – my “what irritates me online” post.

First Name Basis: This one just came p again this morning. I am trying really hard not to read comments online, but I make an exception for some posts on TV Line. I like to see how others have reacted to a show or to casting news. I’ve noticed in the comments people have a tendency to call the actors by their first name like they know them personally. I don’t care how much time you have spent watching this person on TV. You are not on a first name basis with them. It’s just weird and you should stop.

Sharing Without Thinking: Fake news and conspiracy theories are big news right now, especially after a moron who believed a fake news story showed up at Comet Ping Pong with a gun. It would be nice to think that the people who believe these stories are a fringe element and not a large-scale problem, but I’ve seen otherwise. I have seen several instances of people who I know to be relatively smart, normal people share stories on Facebook and Twitter that come from suspect sources. They share them with confidence that they are true without ever doing due diligence to check the veracity of the story. Regular, non-crazy people sharing this crap gives it the look of legitimacy and helps it to spread further. Of course, it doesn’t help that we have a president-elect who is trying to erode trust in legitimate news sources while selecting advisers who believe and share the fake news. This means the rest if us need to be better about checking the facts and calling out those who are helping spread the lies.

Weather Hype: I follow a certain local weather guy on Facebook, as do a lot of my friends, who loves snow so much that he can’t be trusted once winter weather arrives. He looks at all of the models and chooses the one that calls for the most snow and runs with that forecast because he has “faith in the flakes”. TV weather people hype storms because they want ratings and weather will get people to tune in to watch the forecast. They care less about accuracy and more about clicks, sales of FITF merchandise and ratings. I prefer a simple, no hype approach to the weather that focuses on the science and not what’s in it for you.

Keyboard Warriors: Finally, the worst thing about the internet. People who have “keyboard courage” who feel the anonymity of the internet gives them the power to attack others online. The people out there posting racist, misogynist, anti-Semitic stuff at people who don’t agree with them because they feel there will be no repercussions. The online bullies who make others’ lives miserable, sometimes to the point that they take their own lives.   The worst of humanity made worse and given a platform to spread misery, anger and hate. People who delight in being trolls and probably feel like the suicides above are “mission accomplished” The internet can be a dark place.

Maybe I should go read a book.

We Only Want the New

I am approaching the end of my original Verizon FIOS contract. I called today to see if I could lock in a new contract at a decent price so I won’t have to deal with a $40 a month increase in my bill. I was told the have nothing to offer me at this time. New customers, however, can lock in a two year contract for less than I am currently paying. I’m not asking for that deal, though it would be nice. I just don’t want to pay over $400 a year more for my service. Unfortunately, they don’t care enough about existing customers to do anything. I guess they think I will think it is worth the money to not switch services. I love Verizon FIOS until I have to call the customer service department about things like this.

They are not alone. I had Directv for years. I would consistently see new services being offered to new customers for free, but that I as an existing customer had to pay quite a bit to get. Finally, when my box died, I used that as an excuse to move in to Verizon only to discover the same apathy towards their existing customers. All they care about are the shiny new customers. Perhaps I should see what other companies are offering if I switch.

Lemming Nation

The current craze on Facebook is changing your profile picture to a cartoon character because somehow that will draw attention to the problem of child abuse.  Actually, the new trend might be people reposting a rumor that the cartoon picture thing is a scam by pedophiles to somehow lure kids in with pictures of cartoons.

This is nothing unusual. My feed is usually filled with reposts of status updates about sisters, brothers, moms, 3rd cousins twice removed or whatever random relative someone has decided to “honor” that week.  These are then reposted by half the people on their friends list.  Possibly more active are the status updates that basically tell you that you are not a true Christian if you don’t copy and repost a status update about your belief in God.

Away from Facebook, there are the fun emails forwarded from friends and family about scary, untrue news stories easily debunked by a trip to snopes.  Unfortunately, no one takes this time because they must follow the command to forward this to all of your friends.

I don’t get any of this.  Why copy and paste these status updates or forward the emails?  Why change your profile picture for some random internet meme?  Are we all just lemmings now who follow along because it’s easier than actually having a distinct personality or thinking for ourselves? Do we think people will think less of us if we don’t do it? Do people think I hate kids because my profile picture is not a cartoon character?  Do people question my faith because I don’t repost religious statuses? Do I care(I don’t)?

But seriously folks…

All day today I have read posts on friendfeed decrying April Fool’s Day and the fake stories posted on the internet. I guess we have all finally lost our sense of humor. We now take our internet so seriously that one day with a little fun is seen as an annoyance and not something to enjoy? I wish we had more days like this. People need to lighten up and have a little fun.

There are people in your internet

Passing along this post I found on FriendFeed.

http://blogs.squidoo.com/squidblog/?p=276#

One of the things I have always hated about the Internet is the way people use the anonymity to be meaner and more negative in their interactions with others. Social networking turns into anti-social networking quickly. Trolls abound on message boards and blogs. This election season has been particularly bad with everyone picking their “team” and treating everyone on the other side poorly. Everyone needs to do as the blog above says and remember that there are people on the other side of those words on the internet.