Will I Have Regrets?

The modern philosopher T.K. Coleman recently published a blog post that really struck me. The whole thing can be found here and it is really short (as his musing tend to be). It is this final paragraph get me thinking:

When your time on this earth runs out, you don’t want to be one of the ones who say “I wish I hadn’t spent so much time making nuanced arguments in the comments section of a Facebook post I didn’t really care that much about.”

It makes me wonder, is this what the new generation is going to regret in the future? Our parents and grandparents lament spending so much time at the office, but we seem to have traded the work office for social media. Instead of grinding away like a cog in a machine in order to make money to buy things we don’t need, we sit in a chair and scream at a screen in order to try and change minds that won’t listen.

The generation alive today has more access to leisure and a higher standard of living than has ever been seen in the history of humankind, and many of us (myself included) spend time and mental resources trying to change minds or surrounding ourselves in a like-minded online circle jerk where we feel superior to the dumb masses who won’t listen to our wisdom.

There are exceptions, of course, as there are with all things. Social media can be an amazing tool that makes our lives better. I have been exposed to incredible conversations, met some amazing people, and had my life expanded in uncountable ways because of the internet. I wouldn’t have the political and spiritual beliefs I have without the internet. I wouldn’t have found comfort when I was struggling with my bisexual feelings without the internet. I wouldn’t have found a partner who desires sexual variety that can include other people without the internet. I wouldn’t have discovered the healing power of MDMA and other drugs without the internet.

But, the internet (and the social media it includes) is a tool that can cut both ways. It is a chef’s knife that can cut vegetables to provide nurishment for the body or it can be used to slit the wrists of yourself and others. Dosage matters, intention matters, and how responsible and healthy we are when we use this tool matters.

I won’t be giving up Facebook, but I do know that it can be a drug for me that damages my life. It can make my life worse, so I put up blocks to prevent me from having future regrets. The app on my computer keeps my time on Facebook to less than 45 minutes and I’ve deleted Facebook from my phone. I know my areas of weakness. Maybe if I lived 50 years ago I would be a workaholic and my life would have been a shadow of what it could have been. Today, I could easily be a Facebookaholic and neglect my relationships and my own life for the short-term positive feedback of seeing  a new “like” or the feeling of superiority that comes from having people agree with you in an echo-chamber.

Recognition is half the battle. I know my areas of weakness and who I desire to be. I know that my life will be better off if I go for a walk on the beach, read some books on science or poetry or Buddhism or evolution or psychology, meditate, write, exercise, make new friends, flirt with new people, or try some new sex stuff. Life should be experienced with all the senses, our energy should go towards maximizing our potential, not staring at a work ledger or refreshing Facebook newsfeeds.

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Inspired by a comedian

A while back I heard about how Jeremy McLellan handles his Facebook feed. Jeremy is a comedian who is incredibly popular in Charleston and is beginning to break out across the country, he is also a master of using social media to get laughs and criticize those in power (which, to me, is the highest form of comedy). Well, in an interview he said that a while back he made the decision not to post anything to Facebook that wasn’t funny. Any links he shared had to include his own comedic view on the situation. They can still be serious and important issues, but he had to use his genius to point out the absurdity of the situation. As a result of this rule his comedy got better, his Facebook page became more engaged, and he didn’t waste as much time scrolling through that time-suck of a website.

Now, I am not a comedian. At all. In fact, I get weirdly uncomfortable when people laugh at my jokes or comments. I feel like they are just placating me or that I am the butt of some inside joke. I’ve kind of always had a little paranoia about me. For example, I’ve wondered if my friends really are my friends or if they are just being nice to someone they pity. Or what if I have a weird smell or laugh or speech impediment that I don’t know about and nobody is telling me and I’m making a fool out of myself? I sometimes feel like I am somehow “getting away” with things, because I am not that smart, talented, or lucky to have the amazing life I do. I guess it is tough to outgrow that low self-esteem from adolescence.

Shit… that go way off topic.

Anyway, I am not a comedian but I do post a lot on Facebook about subjects that matter to me. Subjects like sex, science, the War on (Some) Drugs, spirituality, and philosophy all fascinate me, but I rarely add any substance to what I share. I just share things without really reflecting on them or absorbing the information. I’d really like to try and take Jeremy’s approach and apply it to my own. Instead of just blindly sharing articles on the subjects I like I want to start asking myself “does this make me happy” and “what can I add to the conversation?” Hopefully, I will have results similar to Jeremy’s, my feed will improve, my writing skills will improve, and I will be happier because I won’t be sharing shit that just makes me sad or makes me feel helpless. Even when I share bad things that happen in the world that people should know about (police shootings, wars, etc) I want to add something to the conversation.

Facebook, Libertarianism, and Your Name

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As many of us in the queer community know there has been a lot of anger brewing in the last week about Facebook’s “true name” policy. Recently Facebook has cracked down on drag queens who violate their policy to only use your real name on the social network. While the policy has long been in place the recent crackdown has sparked outrage from many across the queer community because it puts them in the unenviable position of leaving Facebook or exposing their birth name, which could lead to serious harm from bigoted family members, employers, or neighbors.

While the easy position for libertarians to take is to say they are a private business and they can do what they want, I find this approach to be heartless and lazy. Many libertarians take the stance on marriage equality that the government shouldn’t be involved in marriage at all, therefore they don’t support marriage equality. While that might be philosophically pure it is again, heartless and lazy (and in a few cases a way for bigots to cloak their hatred behind a noble cause). But, if that is your stance you should be encouraging non-government agencies to see identity, relationships, and names as something owned by the individual and not the state. Those companies that view people as individuals instead of looking only at their government issue IDs, accreditation, or marriage certificates should be praised. Libertarians should be standing next to the queer community and fighting Facebook on this policy, your name and identity belong to you. It is not the property of the state (or your parents who named you), it is your personnel property to define and use as you wish.

It is particularly sad that the liberty community is being so silent on this issue when many people use fake names like “Freeman”, “Rothbard”, “Liberty”, etc as their online identity. Facebook says that they are not targeting members of the queer community, that it is a computer algorithm that identified them. I don’t know if this is true, given Facebook’s very progressive stance on gender identity I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on this, but it is still a bad policy and libertarians should fight it. I don’t think the state should be involved but we should put pressure on them by writing to Facebook, boycotting those that advertise with them, and doing everything we can to stand in solidarity with those currently targeted, who face a very real fear of harm by this policy change.

Many have said that you can always have a “page” instead of a “profile” if you don’t want to use your name. While this might seem to be a solution on paper, the truth is separate but equal (and this would be far from equal) is not a solution. Facebook treating people differently because of their identity is discrimination, pure and simple. They are looking to the government as the only legitimate source of identity, something libertarians should be furious about. This policy, if left unchecked, encourages Facebook to require government verification for marriages, hometowns, and every other factor of our existence. We should draw a line in the sand here and vocally oppose it. There is nothing un-libertarian about encouraging private companies to change their discriminatory policies, but there is something heartless and lazy about remaining silent.

“Un-Memorizing the ‘Silence is Sexy’ Date Script” – Some Thoughts

One of the things I love about Facebook is it has allowed a diverse group of people to stay more intimately in my life than would otherwise be possible. People who I’ve met only superficially are able to passively share their interests and passions with me and from those interests valuable conversations can form. Yesterday this article was posted by someone who I have only met once or twice (in fact, I think I met her at a party to help send her to Burning Man in 2010 but I was embarrassingly drunk and hope she doesn’t really remember that). The article was then posted today by someone who I have a much stronger internet relationship with than I ever had with her in real life.

Well, I posted that article today after reading it and for once didn’t really know what I thought. I am pleased that a conversation developed on my wall among my diverse network and with it came links and resources for those interested in what was being discussed (it truly is a wonderful time to be alive). Anyway, here are some of the thoughts from my perspective. I am not far enough removed from my ego to clearly see this from another person’s perspective but maybe some day.

As an introvert it has always been a nerve-racking experience to navigate intimate interactions. I like explicit consent in all things but much of society tells us that men  need to be the aggressor and try to interpret puzzling (to me) signals that women give off. To be honest, I have no idea if eye-contact and a smile is really an invitation to say hi… or if a touch on the arm is flirting or something else… I already suck at it and the INTJ part of me fears making someone else uncomfortable way more than my own rejection. I am very comfortable alone and don’t mind going home from a bar or party by myself.

The internet has provided me with a way around that though. I can passively share my thoughts online which will attract those people who might be interested in similar things. While I don’t use my blog and FB to call out specific people, when I post polyamorous views, comfort with BDSM, and a sex-positive outlook it opens up dialogue between me and other people  (though bangwithfriends is still an awesome concept in my mind). But, in some ways I kind of view this as a cop out.

I still don’t approach women often or initiate any type of relationship. I often use my online openness as an excuse to be passive in real life by telling myself “they must not be interested or else they would say something”. There are still signals to navigate and games to play, but this article provide me with some good dialogue once intimacy has started and has also started online conversations around the issue of pressure placed on women to be the gatekeepers of sex and the social norm of men pushing the boundaries.

I love the idea of very explicit consent and I am glad these things are being talked about. I think more women would be open to expressing their sexuality if they knew that they wouldn’t be harshly judged by their partner(s) or friends. In the same vein, men (or at least I) would be more likely to approach women if we didn’t feel like every expression of interest was a huge inconvenience or would be interpreted as an attempt to use and abuse. Basically, I don’t want women to interpret my attraction or interest in intimacy as pressure or something chauvinistic.

I certainly would love it if we could send clear and concise signals in all situations. It would be absolutely fantastic to have a woman who was attracted to me to send me a FB message like “hey, you’re cute and I’d like to cuddle and kiss for a bit at some point” (or a more kinky couple to come up and say “hey, you and you’re girlfriend are cute, how about you two curl up with us and see how things go”) and know that all actions would be communicated clearly. As was pointed out by my friend, people into kink (particularly BDSM and polys) do have a more established culture of explicit consent and open communication, I can only hope that the internet age will usher this in for all intimate relationships because sex and love is awesome when all parties are open and satisfied.

Bang With Friends

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As many people know a new website was launched last week called bangwithfriends.com. The purpose of the website is to allow an anonymous way to see if any of your facebook friends would be interested in hooking up. The format is simple, you simply go to the website and allow it to connect to your Facebook, the website then brings up all your friends with their names and photos. You click the ones you’d like to “bang” and if they pick you also you both get a notice. Pretty simple and straightforward.

Unfortunately, the website is incredibly crass, sexist, and obviously targeted at college age heterosexual men, a demographic that is already comfortable with the one-night stand scenario. In order for this website to work it needs to appeal to a wider audience with a focus on safety, anonymity, and removal of the borderline pornographic images that flood the site.

I think there is a huge market for a website like this that would allow friends to add a sexual element to their relationship without the risk of rejection. After talking to two female friends they also mentioned it would provide women of that age an opportunity to experiment sexually beyond heterosexuality in a way that won’t risk their social standing. I also see a market for things beyond sex… like options for “go on a date”, “cuddle with while watching a movie”, “make out with”, or whatever. Intimacy is much more than “banging”.

I have used the website a bit (though I don’t think any of my connections would be shocked if I picked them given my views on sex and intimacy) and I think it may signify a new market. With the world increasingly becoming entertainment, relationship, and information economies there will be increased demand for experimentation in our social habits. While the website is juvenile I think it shows a market demand that can be filled by something more professional done that actually empowers people to have new experiences and reach their potential.

Poly Facebook

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A recent news article on Facebook has me thinking about it’s value for me at this time and how it is effecting my poly life. The news article argued that many people are less happy because they are often bombarded with an endless news feed of other people on vacations, in love, partying, celebrating, and basically having a good time. It isn’t that other people are really having more fun but it seems that way when you have hundreds (or thousands of friends). With 1900 “friends” every day is bound to be awesome for many of them and this distorts our perceptions of our own life, we start to compare it to every person combined and not just one person. Comparison is always dangerous but this feels like a particularly harmful version.

So, how does this relate to my polyamorous relationships? First, basic information is necessary. I have two partners; one local and one long distance. One is on Facebook and the other is not. I am also open and honest with both of them about everything but communication varies for each because communication between two individuals will always vary. Even with open communication though tension can arise in the relationship when photos and statuses often appear that one partner is not part of. These updates are not an accurate representation of the love or quality of any relationship but they do put into stark light the differences that exist.

Now I have to decide what I want my Facebook presence to really be. I am torn, for the longest time my FB presence was almost purely liberty-based. My posts were news articles and updates about the fight for freedom, peace, and equality. It had very little to do with me as a person, but all that is changing now that I have left DC and am much more focused on my personal development and happiness. With that shift comes a focus on my relationships, and the tension social networking creates. I don’t really know what I’m going to do, giving up Facebook seems very difficult given it is my prime news source, the way I connect with friends, keep in touch with family, and really just feel a part of a community of lovely people who I don’t see as often as I’d like. I don’t think I will do anything as drastic as cancel my account but I think I will start to take a tighter control over what is posted by me and what others are allowed to post on my behalf.

The Great Facebook Purge

 

fbunfriendWith the new year upon us and my life in full transition I feel the need to cut things out of my life that are not conducive to happiness. This means that I’ll be slowly “unfriending” people on Facebook who I became friends with due to my political ties. I am a libertarian, I love libertarians, but I no longer feel like it is necessary to keep people in my network simply because they are libertarian. This is particularly true for the brand of libertarian who thinks we are a faction of conservativism. If someone is going to ruthlessly put down someone for their sexual choices or their personal lifestyle then they are a negative influence on my life and I don’t want them. I don’t mind reasoned discussions about the pros and cons of lifestyle choices for individuals or society as a whole but blanket attacks on a group of individuals based on who they interact with sexually is childish, intellectually dishonest, and bigoted (basically, it is a reflection of the status quo of DC and not my life).

At the party last weekend I had two interesting run-ins that sort of relate to this. One person, whom I greatly respect and always enjoy talking to, mentioned that he enjoyed my Facebook posts and hoped to talk to me about them. I don’t know what in particular he wanted to discuss but if someone as positive as him enjoyed them then I feel I am doing something right and want to keep my page going in that direction. Secondly, I was part of a conversation where I heard about a couple who very logically sat down regularly and figured out what “friends” in their life where making things better, had the potential to make things better, or were a drain on them. They then acted appropriately to remove people who were a drain and to focus on those who were a blessing.

So I guess this is part of my focus for 2013… cut the fat, remove negative influences, and focus on those people who I enjoy and those people who I think I could enjoy.