I Stink at Small Talk

I’m dressed to four 9’s in my spiffing, starched white tennis regalia…But I feel like a poser. Cause every time that tennis ball comes my way, I swat that thing like it’s a bat out of Halifax, sending that sucker back across the court with the vengeance of Pickett & Co.

This is how I feel when it comes to making small talk. I absolutely stink at it. My preferred game is watching other people conduct small talk. Sometime I feel like a societal leech. Sometimes I feel like a boring person. But as soon as someone asks me, “What’s new?” I think hmm, well I’m going to Europe in three weeks, then I say, “Nothing.”

I can talk about how to make Chinese egg tarts; I feel comfortable discuss the significance of the printing press; I can sit and talk about linguistics until the proverbial cows make their way to their proverbial home. But it takes me about two hours to settle into those conversations. Small talk? Sorry, that’s a game I just can’t play. I just end up sweating through my polo short and pulling a muscle while swinging my racket at that frightening green ball, as if it’s a live grenade and I’m porcelain teapot wearing white.

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Why I Don’t Like Likes

Suzy XYZ and ten other people like your status.”

We’ve all seen the notification, after hitting the globe with the red rectangle that tells us someone thought of us today. For me, finding out that that red flag only means someone “liked” something I wrote is only mildly satisfying. And then I realize that I’m the problem, I’m the ghost in the machine.

When I started regularly Facebooking a year ago (“No Facebook, ever!” I had always firmly held, but my resolutions melted when I found it was the only way of keeping up to speed with our swiftly tilting planet), it didn’t take me too long to realize that the majority of users don’t actually produce regular content. Perhaps I was just spoiled as an internet babe, cutting my teeth on the blogosphere as my first form of web discourse. When I joined Facebook, I knew that it wasn’t going to be greatly satisfying, but I joined anyway. Scanning the news feed, looking for actual information about my friends, I found that the more popular pastime is reposting news articles and memes.

I’m a high-content guy. I recently sent a writing partner my share of ideation on a piece of work we’re doing, and she responded, basically, “Nope. I can’t do this. To much information. Break it down.” She suggested crumbling the (very big) project into smaller chunks…the sizes she cited left me with a sense of impatient disappointment.

Perhaps Facebook isn’t the problem. And I’m willing to accept this as a major possibility, because I know I’m a major social anomaly. Maybe I’m the problem. Facebook isn’t a social catch-all; it’s tailored to a certain set of efficient people. So, while I may enjoy taking two minutes to craft a comment for someone’s post, others will just hit “like.” A binary love note will appear on my dashboard…like getting a signed Hallmark card from a long-lost friend.

This speaks to the infrastructure of the website, though. It is, in many ways, a depersonalized social machine. I suppose that, since the average Facebooker has approximately 500 friends, it needs to be depersonalized for it to work at all. If each of those 500 friends posted regular content daily, one would never get through one’s timeline. And if you commented on the daily statuses of 500 people, it would take an eternity to catch up. Hence, it is much quicker just to hit the thumbs-up button. Liking and sharing, rather than leaving text, is a pragmatic shift in interactions, designed to cope with how fast users must consume “content” in order to get up to speed.

If the majority of Facebook users spent more time crafting content and responding thoughtfully to statuses, we would spend a lot more time on Facebook. As a result, people would have to start rethinking how many people with whom we are willing to keep in touch. 500 would become 50, and perhaps 50 would even become 5.

However, once again I realize most of this is me. Not everyone likes high-volume text–Some people would rather eat candy than cake. Ultimately, Facebook is an exercise in mass-production, and as with all manufacturing operations, processes must be streamlined and optimized to work efficiently.

Kachunk. Kachunk. Whirr.

Archives: Pirates, Atlantis, Islomaniacs, and Mania-In-General

 

 

Hey everyone!

As you have probably deduced, free time is not my strong suit these days. But, I didn’t want to let my blog sit here and “Languish” all week (Mondays are usually when I have some free time to write).

So, I’m reposting a popular blog post I wrote a while ago…July 12, 2010 to be precise…called Pirates, Atlantis, Islomaniacs, and Mania-In-General.

Enjoy!

So this week I’ve started a new story…and it’s got an island in it.

Right now, I’m going to remain rather secretive about it. But let’s just say that it involves airplanes, danger, pirates, slaves, gravestones, rich people, and clues. It’s gonna be fun!

In honor of my obsession, this weeks theme is islands and everything islandy!

An Islomaniac is defined (on Wikipedia, of course, the web-surfer’s #1 source for truth!!!) as someone who is obsessed with islands. It was once speculated that this was because an islomane (or islomaniac) was a direct descendant of the Atlanteans, from Atlantis. Because of the Atlantean’s irrevocable connection to The Island, descendants of Atlanteans have a draw to islands as well. Now, this is just a little weird, but I thought it was interesting.

Are you an Islomaniac? Or some other sort of maniac? Perhaps you’re a Pyromaniac, or a Food-maniac, or a Coffee-maniac?

Mania can be good in controlled doses. It adds personality. For instance, Harriet, a character in my Grand Novel, has a slight mania with desk references. But when mania leads to antisocial behavior, lack of interest in general, or social rejection, then there may be a problem.

…Oh wait, that’s a writer!!! :-D

Let’s Talk About Elephants

How many times has this happened to you?

You’re sitting at the dinner table, and in the midst of the conversation, somebody pipes up and says, “Yeah, George used to do stuff like that.”

A silence fills the room, and you can hear the dishwasher running in the house a couple blocks down. You silently push the potatoes around your plate, pretending to enjoy the meal, and the company, and the conversation, which for some reason has become even more unpleasant than being trampled by a million horse-sized ants carrying buckets of lead.

Everyone knows what happened. Everyone knows where George went, why he isn’t here anymore. Everyone knows. But nobody wants to say anything.

Your mother-in-law pipes up, breaking the silence and waking everyone up from their awkward slumber: “Who wants pie?”

The dinner continues, although everyone is more somber…And, for some reason, when the conversation turns to the Founding Fathers, and a book called 1984, people say either “Mr. Washington,” or “Mr. Orwell,” if only to avoid using that name that begins with a G.

G…G…

George.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, JP, what just happened here? Why was that so awkward? And what was with the dishwasher a couple blocks down?”

Well, it’s a little social phenomenon we call The Elephant In The Room.

Everyone loves elephants! Well, unless they're at a family dinner. Then they're pretty awkward.

How do we get rid of the elephant? Clearly, by ignoring it, we perpetuate the problem. The longer we ignore the elephant, the larger it gets! Pretty soon, there’s more elephant in the room than people. Very uncomfortable. There’s no room to move around…Every time you turn left, your staring down one of its huge ears, every time you turn right you’re surrounded by its trunk. Every now and then, the elephant bellows out of discomfort, and everyone in the room hears it. When you go to talk about Africa…Elephants come up. When you try to discuss Indian Economics…There are those stupid elephants again. But they everyone ignores it…again…

But if we talk about the elephant, then there are consequences. The elephant may feel uncomfortable with all the attention. Aunt Gertrude may be embarrassed by the fact that she’s keeping this huge elephant in her house (Incidentally, she’s saving it for cough cough, George, whenever HE decides to come back…). You will feel uncomfortable by bringing it up and embarrassing the elephant, embarrassing your aunt, and embarrassing George about the elephant he made Aunt Gertrude babysit while he’s “On Furlough.”

But that my friends, is another elephant.

“Wait, why was George in the room, JP?” He wasn’t in the room, but look at the illustration on the right, and you figure it out…

Bloggy friends: Look at the situation…Weigh the consequences…Talk about the elephant. How good it would feel to be free of the elephant! To finally say, “Hey, Aunt Gertrude, I know you’ve got this elephant obsession thing, but I’m sort of having a hard time breathing with all this elephant in the room. Why is it here? How can we help you with the situation?” Aunt Gertrude will start crying, and it will all come out at the dinner table that night…

Gertrude: “I’m saving it for George.”
Cousin Cassidy: “But Aunt G., George has been gone for years.” [Sounds apprehensive to say George’s name…nobody’s said it for quite a while…]
Gertrude: “I know, dear, but…but I really think he’s gonna come back soon.”
Sister Emily: “Aunt Gertrude, we all know George’s social habits. He’s not coming back. Never.”
Gertrude: “Well, I think he’s going to be back soon…On his last day here, he told me…”

The rest of the conversation I will leave to your powers of conclusion, and your experience with elephants in the room.

 

 

 

 

 

Rusty Me

Me squeaky right now. Me not working like me should. Me rusty.

Sigh. I’m following one of those cardinal writers’ rules, and I’m sharing my struggles publicly. Hopefully it will work. Hopefully it will do something. Hopefully, this rust will squeak its way right off of me and I can move on with life!!!! 😡

Okay, so here we go.

I am rusty. I don’t know what exactly is wrong with me, but I just can’t seem to get going on a story.

I revisit the same themes…a will, a letter, a lonely MC, a best friend…My own collection of personal clichés. Maybe that’s one of my problems.

When I write, it comes up feeling dry and soulless. It feels crunchy like a stale cracker…no, not crunchy…It feels empty. Like a cloudy clunker of a tupperware box. With an old, dry orange peel inside, and a fly buzzing around near-noiselessly.

Maybe I’ve just gotten out of the habit too much. I’ve been into poetry lately, and blogging, and Planty. I’ve also been juggling schoolwork as well as working-for-money. Although, I save some time on the socialization sector; I don’t have a very active social life. (Which can be sort of unpleasant, but somewhat of a blessing too…)

Maybe I haven’t written enough lately, and my muscles are weak. Maybe I just am not a “Writer” anymore, and I need to re-become one. I write, sure…but fiction comes hard these days. I haven’t gotten started on the novel I would love to be writing right now.

I am also out of my writers’-circle. I mean, online, I have you guys—a small group of writing friends. But in real life, I haven’t really been sharing my work much, I haven’t been chatting it up with my writer homies. Life takes precedence, of course. But writing should be part of my life.

Maybe I’m lazy.

Maybe me is just rusty.

Just sharin’.

Pirates, Atlantis, Islomaniacs, and Mania-In-General

So this week I’ve started a new story…and it’s got an island in it.

Right now, I’m going to remain rather secretive about it. But let’s just say that it involves airplanes, danger, pirates, slaves, gravestones, rich people, and clues. It’s gonna be fun!

In honor of my obsession, this weeks theme is islands and everything islandy!

An Islomaniac is defined (on Wikipedia, of course, the web-surfer’s #1 source for truth!!!) as someone who is obsessed with islands. It was once speculated that this was because an islomane (or islomaniac) was a direct descendant of the Atlanteans, from Atlantis. Because of the Atlantean’s irrevocable connection to The Island, descendants of Atlanteans have a draw to islands as well. Now, this is just a little weird, but I thought it was interesting.

Are you an Islomaniac? Or some other sort of maniac? Perhaps you’re a Pyromaniac, or a Food-maniac, or a Coffee-maniac?

Mania can be good in controlled doses. It adds personality. For instance, Harriet, a character in my Grand Novel, has a slight mania with desk references. But when mania leads to antisocial behavior, lack of interest in general, or social rejection, then there may be a problem.

…Oh wait, that’s a writer!!! 😀