Greetings, Many of you have been wondering about my recent online absence. The sudden and unexpected closure of all my social media accounts. (Facebook, twitter, etc). The short version is that I simply wanted to limit my distractions for the time being. I think the whole “being active in social media” thing needs a reboot. Seriously.
There's a long version with much more to it, but I wouldn't want to bore you with the details. I'll just say that I honestly believe we've all developed a unique sickness. One that is difficult to detect, because we all accept and even encourage it.
Actually, fuck it. I’ll bore you with the details.
"Is he dead?". "Did he retire?". "I hope he's okay." These are a few of the sentiments that have been relayed to me by close friends who are still active online. Since I've had no social media accounts, there was no way for me to be aware of these comments, except for good old-fashioned word of mouth.
I am both touched and bewildered by these comments. It's heart warming to hear them, yet the subtext is strange. At what point did we equate going offline with death? Like me, do you find it odd that we automatically assume something is wrong when a person closes their Facebook account? It's as if we've become so dependent on social networking that we view it as a literal lifeline. That "tether to the net" we all used to joke about when smartphones first came out isn't even figurative anymore. It's very real.
The irony of course is that the opposite is true. When I closed my accounts, nothing was wrong. Everything was right. I began living my life the way I used to, without the tether to the virtual "world". It's truly astounding to realize how much time we spend on Facebook and twitter. Let me say this: when I closed my accounts, the battery on my phone lasted three times as long! Amazing.
It's todays youth that I really feel for. The teenagers who are already struggling with their identities are growing up in a world that records their every move. A landscape where every action is public record. Every growing pain, slumber party, first date, first kiss, drivers exam....it's all tweeted, facebooked and instagramed. One kid's awkward growing pains can be entertainment for thousands. A high school kid who has some embarrassing moment can easily be forced to accept daily ridicule as their misdeed circles the social network.
A friend told me that a group of high school kids she knows got into a car accident. The passengers were unharmed, but the driver was hurt badly. Before the ambulance even arrived, the kids had tweeted photos of the bloody driver to all their friends and classmates.
What is it about social media that turns everyone into a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter? We act as if some huge tragedy will occur if we aren't the first to snap that picture and share it with the world. As if it's some big fucking scoop. The reality is that our collective ego has gotten so inflated and out of proportion, it's becoming impossible for many to make the distinction between online self and genuine self. (I read a recent news article where a teen used the term “the evaporation of the genuine self” to describe growing up in our current world. I found it the smartest thing anyone has said in years.)
What ever happened to just being a kid? Being able to make mistakes without fear of public ridicule. Kids do stupid shit all the time. Always have, always will. It's a part of growing up. My fear is that we've allowed their psyches (and indeed ours) to be molded by the online collective. The club that we demand that everyone belongs to. Kids are growing up not only in the most homogenous time in real culture, but the most homogenous time in online culture as well. And we wonder why some of them end up with a severe identity crisis? We never gave em the chance to have a real identity in the first place. Everything is about making the perfect "profile". Is it any wonder why people spend so much time on their avatars?
It's funny. We all think of Facebook as a form of connection. A society that on paper, seems like a good idea. It mimics real life. It takes full advantage of our ever-accelerating technology and lulls us into submission with wonderful and mindless stimuli. But the dirty truth is that Facebook is not about connection at all. It's about isolation. And we all know it. We've always known it, but we let it slide.
It's like that fable about the King and the poisoned water. (I think it was told in the movie Serpico). One day, all the water in the kingdom was poisoned and all the kings subjects went mad. Except for the king, who was drinking from a private fountain. Everyone in the kingdom thought it was the king who had gone mad and were on the verge of rioting when finally the king decides to drink from the public fountain. The whole kingdom rejoiced because the king had regained his sanity. I guess an easier way to say it is: if ya can't beat em, join em.
But I digress...!
I apologize for the armchair psychology, truly. I can be long winded, I know.
If you've read this far, clearly you realize that I'm back online. There are certain realities of the business that I'm in that require social media. Can't be avoided. I have to drink the water, so to speak. I have been advised that suddenly disconnecting social media accounts can seem alienating to fans and friends. Some may even take it personal. (of course, this is exactly the philosophical basis of my dilemma.)
To be clear though, my intention was not to alienate or upset anyone. I simply became aware of my own social media addiction and decided to take a break. Just for my own personal sanity while I'm working on my new album. (I would highly recommend you do the same sometime and see how good it feels!) So, no hard feelings right?
As for the kids -- I highly recommend going outside sometime. Build a tree fort. I recommend "borrowing" dads hammers, nails and scrounging up whatever rope, netting and boards you can find. Instead of spending Saturday on Facebook, build something awesome. Then post it to your page. You'll be the envy of all the boys at your school. (and quite possibly some of the adults!)
For the teens - quit worrying about making the "perfect profile" to attract friends and dates. The amount of facebook friends you have will have little to do with what your life will actually become. Boys, go out and chase girls the old fashioned way. Ask your dad. He'll know what to do. If there's a girl you like, ask her out in person. Show her you've got a pair.
Girls, be yourselves. Kim Kardashian isn't really all that cool. Remember that "popular" just means popular. It doesn't mean good, true, smart or even beautiful. Let the boys talk to you. Challenge them to be funny and interesting in real life, not on Facebook.
Adults - encourage your kids to develop their own true identities! It's important for the next generation of art and culture. Personality, individual ideas and creative thinking are necessary elements in making art and music.
Okay, that's my rant. I didn't retire. I'm not dead and I am not planning to be anytime soon.
Hope to see y'all in the real world. It's a wonderful place.