“Happy birthday! Love, your favorite and only sister.” The closest most of us probably come to any handwritten confidence these days is signing a birthday card. Despite all the blank space inside enveloping a pithy sentiment, I don’t know many people who actually fill it up. Outside of Hallmark, parents don’t describe line by line how baby Tony tried to walk for the first time and biffed it on the coffee table. The photos are on Facebook. Friends don’t rehash last week’s party through long wine-stained scrawls. The rose got drank, and it was live tweeted.
Alone in a Crowd first looked at the piling on of social media and how that rapid but detached pace can contribute to loneliness. The responsibility falls heavier on us to reach below the harping statuses and Tweets to sustain meaningful connections with people. Malcolm Jones, a writer at Newsweek, observed, “The problem is not that there is not enough information about what we think or how we live. The problem is sifting through that sea of data. The most common complaint of our time is that we are overwhelmed by information, unmediated and unstoppable.”
For better or for worse, digitization will only become further integrated into our day-to-day life, so how can we embrace both the convenience and keep a grasp on mindfulness? How do we slow down? One reader, Naomi, tried something most of us probably haven’t done since grade school: pen pals. Jones also writes in Newsweek that “…if you do [write letters] enough, you begin to put your essential self on paper whether you mean to or not. No other form of communication yet invented seems to encourage or support that revelatory intimacy.” Below, Naomi describes why she decided to try pen palling and what she’s experienced as a 20-something exchanging letters around the globe.
Written by Amara Hartman. Part 1 of 2. Read part 2 here.
There are more ways than ever to connect with each other. It’s hard to imagine an era when people awaited the arrival of their correspondence strapped in saddle bags. Longhand letter writing is a charm of a bygone time, and any small sect of people who still try to keep it alive appreciate it for its purity. There aren’t any of the trappings of modern communication. No visible friend counts, gifs, or emojis. Nothing flashy driving the want to stay in touch except suspense and imagination. Even email’s been leveled to one-liners or co-opted by instant messengers like G-chat and Skype. Blogs are popularized by purveyors of trends who want to teach you a lifestyle: how to wrap an infinity scarf or create a refreshing grapefruit spritzer.
And in the middle of it all stands the behemoth social media. Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat have all morphed from handy tools to actual propellants of our culture. Tweets are regularly featured in the news. Emojis stand in for text within text. We get what the peach and eggplant mean–a far cry from actually having to woo someone into liking you in the first place, much less into your pants.
With this insane glut, like Augustus Gloop stuffing chocolate in his face, one of the last things anyone would describe an average American as is lonely. It’s a natural conclusion that the more interactions you have, the less you’re alone. In a society of likes, followers, and subscribers, it’s hard to imagine anyone feeling stranded in a hollow abyss of loneliness.
Fourteen girls disappeared in DC over 24 hours. At least that’s what recent a viral Instagram post claimed. A square of pixels shows young girls of color, a couple are smiling, but most have calm faces like any of us look on a regular day. Black faces. Latina faces. Human faces. Of course it caught like wildfire. Social media isn’t in the business of pacing itself. And under the assumption that these girls were abruptly abducted, it shouldn’t pace itself. One child gone missing is one too many.
“An Instagram post claiming 14 girls had disappeared in D.C. over a 24-hour period went viral across social media Thursday.” – NBC Washington
The number and time frame was insane, yet I wondered if there was a kernel of truth to it. Minority breaking news suffers from two extremes: there’s either not enough of it, or it’s sensationalized. And I don’t take soundbites seriously. American culture is driven by clickbait. The catchier or crazier the headline, the faster it spreads. “12 Ways to Save Money” versus “The Benefits of Spending Less Than You Earn.” Same topics, but the 12-step quickie is going to get the most clicks. A closer look at information is ignored because it can be long and tedious. Most people don’t read as it is–they’re not going to read a lengthy article online. But I try to.
Don’t get overwhelmed. Take sips of water. Go for a walk. Have some wine.
I am connecting points.
I am Kanye West.
I have leveled up from the mortal coil of humanity.
(Just kidding. I would never want to be Kanye West.)
Over drinks last night, a friend and I reflected a bit on the strange beast of internet outrage. It was prompted by the latest drama–that a Beauty and the Beast character in the new live-action remake, LaFou (Gaston’s sidekick), will be gay. An Alabama theater is banning a screening, and Russia is considering a ban as well, in line with their “homosexual propaganda” laws. (And, it’s Russia. What isn’t weird about that place?)
Note: the movie is not out yet. It releases March 17. March 17th is in 11 days. Prior to today, and I’m sure on each day leading up to the box office opening, people have found a way to misfire their attention on an acting choice. A quick Google search for “beauty and the beast outrage” brings up lines like, “Gay Character Sparks Outrage,” AFA Blasts Disney,” and “Josh Gad Addresses Gay LaFou.” In an article with USA Today, the actor (Josh Gad) explains his realization of the centuries old character. “What was most important to me was taking a character that is wonderful and so iconic, but is defined by cartoon conceits in the (original) movie… and expanding on that, giving him dimension, making him human.” A human. Imagine that.