Going Galt With Social Media

Recently I made one of the most consequential decisions of my life, right up there with my career change and moving out of New York: I quit social media, for good.

Once upon a time it used to be a novelty, a new way for me to communicate online, which had always been the medium I was most comfortable using when connecting with other people.

But what was once a novelty became a perpetuation of mental illness and a cesspool of virtue signaling and mindless memes. You could literally see the breakdown of cognitive function as Facebook became little more than echo chambers for people to morally preen and bloviate on how their political ideology made them better than everyone else, or constantly bombarding their Facebook “friends” with carefully curated content that had little to no resemblance to reality so everyone could see HOW AWESOME AND PERFECT THEIR LIVES WERE.

F&^%K OFF.

The Chinavirus made it all worse as it converted an already insufferable class of social media users into the Keyboard Stasi, tut-tutting or reporting on anyone who dared to go outside without a mask, while virtue signaling what an excellent specimen of humanity they were by putting a stupid badge over their personal photo, Hashtag “STAY HOME, IT SAVES LIVES!”

F&*^K OFF.

And while the desire to leave social media kept festering in my mind, it wasn’t till the Wo Fuk Mai Lungs virus came around that I finally stopped to reflect on what actual tangible value I was deriving from social networking to justify its continued use.

Was there any example in the last 10 YEARS I could name where social media had a positive benefit on my life? Did it help me form new sustainable relationships? Did it help my career? Did it help me to feel connected? Did it help me stay informed about the world so I didn’t feel like I was missing out?

If there was ever a point when it did any of those things, that time was long gone now.

So I ended it all: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, anywhere I had an account, even Reddit and Disqus. Done.

I had enough.

Interestingly, I don’t miss it, nor did I experience any withdrawal symptoms when I deleted my accounts. I had been going on social less and less over the years, so in a way I was putting the final nail in the coffin of what was already dying a slow death.

So what now?

The internet is still my preferred choice of communicating, but one of the reasons why I’ve been quieter over the years is that I seem to be a magnet for the crazy. People who are just plain WEIRD kept flocking to me online, and I either had to keep them at arm’s length or block them altogether. Eventually I got sick of it. Why is everybody on the internet such a f^&ing basketcase anyway? Where are the normies?

It reminded me of the online dating of old, back when it was a novelty everyone was NORMAL, which made them all the more attractive. Nowadays it’s like somebody dragged the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and dumped the contents on Tinder and TikTok. There’s only so much you can take of that before you finally decide F all to this nonsense and go Galt.

At the same time though, I still enjoy writing and expressing myself with the written word. With social media cut out of my life, I no longer have to deal with this parasite seaping my creative energy and fragmenting my attention. And since my website is now the only outlet I have left to express myself, maybe my muse will finally experience a rennaisance of sorts. (Or at the very least fulfill an overdue promise to a friend that I would finally write a new post).

Maybe.

Here’s my first post of 2015, just to get it out of the way

Honestly, I really didn’t want to kick things off here airing grievances about what happened to me in 2014, which is what I was tempted to do.  It just feels like a bad way to start a brand new year full of hope and possibilities.

I’ll save that for my next post.

Anyhoo, because work has been sapping all my energy and strength lately, I can’t come up with anything insightful other than to say that 2015 also caps my 2 year blog anniversary for A Geek in the Wilderness.

2 years already, can ya believe it?  Out of all the blogs I’ve started in the past, this is probably my favorite and totes a keeper, even if I do barely write on it.  I’ve had more content gone viral here than with anything else I’ve published in the past, and the technology has finally caught up where I can enjoy seamless integration with Instagram and other social media channels too.  Snap a pic on my iPhone and BOOM, shows up on my blog automagically with some sprinkles and sunshine tossed in.

As this new year in blogging takes off, January seems to have morphed into one long, endless Groundhog Day, while I await decisions at my new job that will finally determine how soon I can leave NY, or if I even leave it at all.  One final piece of the puzzle that needs to fall into place, so of course it also happens to be the piece that decides to disappear off into the Bahamas on an extended vacation on which it may never return.

Of course.  Of course.

I’m being hyperbolic, (I hope), but still, it looks like people are right when they say the hardest part of the wait is when you’re in the final hour.  Then suddenly, it’s like time completely freezes and I’m stuck in a permanent holding pattern.  Ugh.

But if not today, then perhaps tomorrow.  And if not then, then the tomorrow after.  Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow….

2014: A Year in Review

If one word could describe 2014, TRANSITION would be it.

2014 was a year of transition and upheaval, laying the groundwork for what I cautiously believe is going to be the most transformative years of my life: 2015.

A year in which everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING will change.  For a guy who has worked in the same job, lived in the same place, and lived the same life for 15 long years, to finally see the road swerve in a new direction is both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.

There’s so much that weighs heavily on me.  Will I be able to manage life outside of New York, a stranger in a strange land?  Will I be able to take care of a dog I will soon get, something I’ve never done before?  Will I be able to thrive in the private sector after having worked in government for so many years?  Will a change of scenery give me a chance to meet new people and make new friends, and perhaps finally meet that special someone who has eluded me my whole life?

After 15 years, I finally have a chance now to spread my wings and soar.  At the same time though, I’ve also become weary and older.  That spark of energy and hope I used to have after I graduated college has long since fizzled.  Sometimes I wonder if there really is a life left for me to live, now that so much of it is already behind me.  Like a man freed from prison after so many years inside, in a warped way I’ve come to appreciate the comfort of the “prison” walls that have kept me here, rather than risk entering the life that goes on outside it.

But the wheels have been put in motion, and what God has set in motion no man can stop.  All I can do now is wait and see where the road will soon take me.

Railroad near Berkshires during Winter

HOLD ON!

I’m starting to feel a bit guilty for not blogging anything of length for what seems to be eons now, despite getting more traffic than ever.  (Yay!)  I’d like to change that, but I’m still resisting the urge to rant on some of the incredibly disturbing news and topics chronicling humanity’s decline in the past year, because once I start going down that rabbit hole, it’s really hard to stay positive after that.

I’m amazed at how some bloggers can perpetually churn out posts on the same depressing subjects nearly every day of the week, always existing it seems in a perpetual state of rage.  There’s no lack of things to be angry about, especially with the world being the way it is, but while it makes for great fodder to keep a blog going, I’m not sure it’s worth what it must do to one’s health.

Right now my life is still in a state of limbo, so there hasn’t been much to say until the wheels start turning again, but thankfully I think things will get moving soon, and before I know it, the life I’ve lived for nearly 15 years is going to come to a dramatic end.  Everything will change… hopefully for the better… FAR better.

When that time comes, I don’t wish to blog anymore: I wish to WRITE.  What’s the difference between the two, you ask?  Blogging to me seems too detached, too disruptive and incoherent as I stumble from one topic to another, trying to find my muse or something that will get my creative juices flowing.  But writing?  That’s about telling a story.  Maybe a story others can relate to.  Perhaps a tale that could some day be turned into a book.  The kind of writing I’ve always wanted to do, but never really found my way in.

An idea is starting to form in my head: taking the incidents of everyday living and turning it into compelling stories.  There’s something therapeutic about being able to express in words what previously only existed as turbulent thoughts knocking about my head.  I found if I don’t provide myself an outlet for what I continually think about, I start to get anxious and a bit frustrated about life.  I think writing will help that.

So, HOLD ON.  It may not be long before I start blogg– *ahem* writing again with far more frequency.

Why I hate Long Island with all my heart and soul

Those people who talk about cities like Detroit being the worst places to live have clearly never been to Long Island.  Having been a lifelong native here, I can say without any shadow of doubt that this fish-shaped extension of sewage material, located due east of Manhattan, is one of the most intolerable, despicable, grimy, disgusting, vile, evil, filthy, overpopulated mounds of fecal matter to ever bedevil the history of man.

Map of Long Island and NYC boroughs
WELCOME TO HELL

After traveling to over 30 states in the past few years, I’ve come to believe that Long Island uniquely exemplifies everything that’s wrong with this country.  The exorbitant costs of living, the utterly corrupt police departments, the pothole riddled streets, a populace with disturbingly schizophrenic leanings, the high taxation, the list goes on and on.  In a way, you could say Long Island is the kind of place that offers all the downsides of New York City, with none of the upside.

Long Island natives have an unusual proclivity for bipolar behavior, a reality that made my time growing up here a less than pleasant one.  Hot one day, cold the next.  Nice one day, a stone of rudeness the next.  There was no consistency to the way people acted.  I thought it was just me, but my mother told me her experience had been the same when she was a child, having been a former NYC native before moving further out east to Suffolk County, and recalling how utterly bewildered she was as well by Long Islanders’ neurotic behavior.

I should mention, while Brooklyn and Queens is technically a part of Long Island, they are actually boroughs of New York City, retaining a distinctive difference in culture that remains separate from the suburban sprawls of Nassau and Suffolk County.  It is these two specific counties that make Long Island what it is, and to which I reserve my unrepentant, vitriolic hatred for.

It wasn’t just my mother and me who noticed the peculiar behavior of the natives.  Anyone I spoke to that was from out of town made the same observations:  “Man, people are crazy here.  Must be something in the water.”  It didn’t matter where they came from either.  I’ve met foreign exchange students, people from Europe, people from out of state, even people from nearby Manhattan, and their reactions were nearly always the same.  They ALL blamed the water too.

One of the things that clued me in to why Long Island natives were such a mentally unstable, psychotic bunch was a little factoid I learned back when I was taking Psychology 101 in college.  My professor had mentioned in passing that Long Island had the largest percentage of mental institutions per square mile than anywhere else in the country.  Literally.

Well, that certainly answered a few questions.

Over time I had to learn not to take the natives’ rude and unstable attitudes personally, but it was one of the reasons my introverted personality became even more introverted as I grew up.  I had very few friends during my childhood, filtering out the typical crazies, and holding on to the rare few whose minds were still sound for as long as I could.  The only thing crazier than Long Islanders are Long Islanders who are teenagers, and indeed, I met some of the strangest and most bizarre people I have ever met in my life during my high school years.  I remember one in particular during my junior year, a friend of my then best friend, who once got funky with his girlfriend’s mom in the backseat of her car… while her father filmed the whole thing from the front seat.

Chris Hansen Peaks In
Why don’t you take a seat right over there…

When I discovered that (from the news no less) I decided then that I had more than enough exposure to the human race, and it was time to close ranks and isolate myself before The Crazy got me too.  Being a recluse was a small price to pay in order to preserve my sanity in an insane place.

This craziness also spills over into the roads too.  The irrational and inconsistent behavior of the motorists has led me to endlessly deal with traffic split up between drivers who like to go 40MPH (usually in the left lane) and those who like to go 80MPH, with nothing in between.  This is why people who drive in front of me are always going too slow while those behind me are always going too fast.  I get sandwiched these two extremes during my daily commute, such that I can never use cruise control even when the traffic is moving.  I’m not even dealing with the worst of it either due to working odd hours, so I’m able to commute without enduring LI’s infamous rush hour traffic.  Rush hour here is a whole ‘nother fresh set of hell that only drivers in Los Angeles could begin to understand.

Tank bulldozing on highway
I wish I could drive to work this way.

The overwhelming population and volume of traffic on Long island is so bad that most locals (including me) plan our outings based on traffic patterns.  Timing is everything, and if you miss your chance, be prepared to spend three times as much time on the roads as you originally planned to, dealing with every crazy with (and without) a driver’s license under heaven.  Only those who venture out at the crack of dawn or at 3AM will be spared the worst of the agony.

It’s even more unbearable in the summer, when school lets out and unleashes a horde of terrifying teenagers flooring mommy and daddy’s car into the red zone, along with a plague of old fogies arriving here from Florida to spend the summer and clog the roads with their Cadillacs, driving just as uber-slow as the teens drive uber-fast.

Until I started traveling to other states, I was always left with the impression that Long Island traffic wasn’t really unique, that it was just a fact of life for any area of the country with a heavy population density.  But now, having driven on roads in over 30 odd states, I can truthfully say traffic on Long Island is in a class of its own.

Drivers can be jerkwads no matter where you go, but what I learned from driving outside of Long Island was how more predictable and consistent motorists were.  Even more intriguing, if they saw you coming, especially in the left lane, they almost always moved out of the way.  On Long Island, I have to laugh at people who flashed their lights at cars ahead of them because it proved they were obviously from out of town.  The net result from flashing your lights is that the guy in front of you either blithely ignores you or slows down even more out of pure spite.  We have no fast lanes here, even when traffic is light, because there are always slow pokes cluttering up the roads and threatening the safety of everyone by literally driving BELOW the minimum speeds on parkways.  It results in a lot of frustrated drivers cutting in and out of lanes just to get around these virtual roadblocks, and it’s also why a pleasant cruise to nowhere in particular is always an impossibility.

Austin Powers in a Tight Spot
No room for cruise control here…

And even if Long Island wasn’t a traffic nightmare, there’s really no place for me to go.  Long Island is just… ugly.  The myriad number of towns here belie the reality that it’s all one big indiscriminate suburban sprawl of cement and congested roads.  There’s very little to distinguish one town/village from the next,  and because of that there’s very little sense of community too.   Instead, we have micro-cliques that either have their roots in childhood or are borne out of living in the same neighborhood for many years.  It’s very unlike the small towns and even cities that I’ve traveled to, many of which tend to have this “Cheers” like atmosphere, where everyone knows your name (and they’re always glad you came).  Social circles outside of Long Island seem less rigid and more open-ended, at least in my experience.  Rather than constantly being treated as an outsider (or where your existence isn’t even acknowledged), it’s relatively easy to seek out and become a part of new social groups, even as a newcomer.  There’s no drive to maintain a caste system in the way that I’ve seen here, and I think that may be partly due to Long Island’s proclivity for being indifferent and even hostile to strangers, no matter who they are, whereas I find there’s a higher sense of civility and overt friendliness nearly everywhere else, even in New York City.  It’s actually stunning to experience the sea change in behavior once you drive or take the train a mere 50 miles or so from the suburbs to downtown Manhattan, where some sense of normalcy and civility is restored.

Some people may disagree that Long island is ugly, citing its beaches, seaports and numerous parks.  The problem is whatever natural beauty it does offer is ruined by swarms of humanity who pollute the scenery everywhere they go.  There is no place in which you can truly feel like you can get away from it all (the traffic, the noise, the populace), except possibly the Hamptons, the seat of the uber-rich and ultra-privileged.  Even then, it’s telling that it requires a roughly 100 mile drive to the near edge of Long Island just to “get away” for the weekend.

And even if you COULD find a quiet place in the woods or a park to camp out, relax or otherwise take in the scenery, there’s still the matter of the ticks.  And more ticks.  And, my Lord in heaven, even MORE ticks.  Long island has in fact one of the highest incidents of lyme disease and tick infestation than anywhere else in the country.

THE TICK!
How YOU doin’?

Long Island’s economic climate is also a veritable cesspool of fail.  It follows the national trajectory of undermining and destroying the middle class (although in many respects it’s far ahead of the game than the rest of the country), making it true to its bipolar roots (either hot or cold, fast or slow) and economically, either rich or poor, with nothing in between.  Despite heavy taxation, the counties remain in massive debt, while the population density have pushed the astounding real estate market prices well beyond the reach of many first time home buyers.  I recently read a statistic that more than 55% of people ages 20-34 on Long Island STILL live with their parents.  There are not enough apartments to go around, and many are actually illegal dwellings due to not being up to code.  The irony is that most illegal apartments are actually habitable, but coding ordinances are designed more to bilk residents out of more money than for valid safety reasons.  As a result, apartments up to code often have exorbitant leasing costs.  A studio near where I work for example is currently going for $2,400 to $2,800 a month.  For a studio.  What it would typically cost to rent a four bedroom home in nearly any state would barely cover the expenses of living in someone’s basement here.  Outside of possibly San Francisco, Long Island has the most expensive real estate market in the country.

DiCaprio Smashes Glass Over Head
My polite response to my landlord’s decision to raise my rent by $400 a month.

Even more infuriating is witnessing the endless line of “Section 8” tenants who are able to live in luxury apartments for a third of the rent, and yet bringing down the quality of living for everyone by engaging in criminal behavior and refusing to clean up after themselves.  It’s one thing to live on the government dole as a result of falling on hard times, but it’s quite another to pick up a tax funded paycheck while running a drug cartel out of your living room.

And yes, I also blame Long Island for dampening my dating life as well.  Having given up on the local prospects, who range from the snooty, to the bizarre, to the outright insane, I tend to look for romantic prospects outside New York, yet the cultural/economic differences have often been difficult or even impossible to overcome.  Those who live in areas with costs of living at normal rates can’t seem to understand why most Long Islanders don’t already own their first homes by say, age 21.  It’s especially grating when so many rely on their parents’ wealth for their quality of living (something I never had the benefit of enjoying, and whose parents had to rely on me for financial support), and hence have no concept of what it’s like to endure true financial hardship.  I can’t relate to people who’s had it too easy or too good, whose concept of suffering is a barista mistakenly pouring soy milk instead of almond milk into her latte.   It creates a divide that makes it difficult for any girl residing outside the Long Island bubble to understand the life I’ve lived.  I might as well be living in a third world country.  Actually, given what a smelly landfill Long Island is, calling it a third world country probably wouldn’t be too far off the mark.

Demon Temptress
A typical Long Island girl.

I would have escaped this rock a long time ago, but circumstances have prevented me from doing so, year after agonizing year.  But… I think a door is finally starting to open.  I have assets and opportunities now that I didn’t have before, and I’ve been making the routine effort to apply for jobs in all the places and states I’d like to move to.  Whereas before finances were a major issue, now it’s just a question of securing a new job out of state, which unfortunately has gotten more difficult considering the economic climate we live in, but I’m hopeful.  I see major changes in the year ahead, and hope it will soon bring the day when I am finally released from the prison that is this hateful island.

UPDATE:  I HAVE BEEN “PAROLED!”  After years of plague and darkness, I have finally left Long Island once and for all!  Please feel free to continue reading my blog for updates as I make the long overdue transition to a NEW life and a NEW home beyond “Wrong” Island!

Millennium Falcon Hyperdrive
I’m outta here…

How living the same day over and over could lead to new things

Groundhog Day was one of my favorite movies of all time, so it was with interest that I read this particular article where the author attempts to calculate how much time Phil (Bill Murray) spent stuck in Groundhog Day, and concludes that it was roughly the equivalent of about 34 years.

Harold Ramis (the director) indicated that it was at least 10 years, so this probably isn’t a stretch.  34 years reliving the same day.  Whew.

And yet, as much as Phil may have seen that as a living hell, I see it really as an act of remarkable grace and fortune.  No matter how much he screwed up, the day was reset and he could start over with a blank slate, yet still remember the lessons he learned from the previous day.  It took years, but over that time he began to gradually morph into a different kind of person, one who looked outward instead of inward, and used the ample time he was given not only to become a better man, but a man who significantly expanded his horizon of knowledge and skills that often takes years to master (such as learning the piano and becoming an ice sculptor).

Those of us in the real world though only have a finite amount of time from which to spend our existence, and some of us do indeed experience our own version of Groundhog Day, living the same lives, doing the same things, day after day after day…

Except in our cases, by the time we wise up and start to realize how precious life is, 30+ years will have gone by that we will never get back again.  Once it’s gone, that’s it.  Unlike Phil, we get no do-over.

When I reflect on my own life, I realize, startlingly, that nothing has really changed for me in over 14 years.  I have the same job, same routine, same habits, same gripes, same complaints, same problems.  I’m a dog zipping around the same well worn tracks in a small backyard.  Is this really healthy?  Are we meant to become creatures of habit and stasis?

I do believe that we have a deep-seated need towards learning, creating, advancing and other things that give us a sense of achievement and accomplishment.  When we’re locked into a holding pattern though, each day the same as the one before, our minds begin to stagnate, becoming fat, lethargic and lazy.

There is something utterly fulfilling about forward motion, and likewise equally as depressing about remaining in stasis.

But what does forward motion mean?  Does it require a drastic life change such as quitting a job and moving to places unknown, or getting married?  Sooner or later the drudgery of life still tends to catch up, and even in new jobs and new families we can still find ourselves in constant stasis.

For Christians, one of the tenets of Scripture that so few can abide by is the persistent admonishment to STAND STILL (and see the salvation of the LORD).  To purposely cease from action and rely on God for dramatic changes of course in one’s life is probably one of the hardest acts of faith to follow through on.  Instead, I find many dismiss these commandments out of hand and move forward on their own, scheming, plotting, manipulating, and presumptuously believing every decision they make is sanctioned by God, without seeking His counsel, without praying, without any willingness to cede to His will.  To remain in one place, one spot, one boring moment in our lives that never seems to end is a thought that terrifies both Christians and non-Christians alike.

But what happens when that moment we live in, or more specifically, that day (as we see in Groundhog Day) is literally frozen in time beyond our control?  Are we forever doomed to stasis and a lack of forward momentum forever?

I believe that’s a question the film answers: ultimately, no, we’re not.  Even reliving the same day and trapped in the same mundane rituals of daily routine, we can still learn new things, forge new bonds, and continuously improve ourselves, our knowledge, and our skills, even if some of them might take years to master.  My mistake had been focusing on the routine, and using that to justify my complacency.  “Oh, my life isn’t going anywhere, so there’s no point in me trying to make the most of the time I have here on earth.”

It’s easy, too easy, for me to sit down and watch Netflix and just let my mind rot away, or endlessly check my emails every 5 minutes to see if the people I’ve emailed finally remember to stop being as rude as sin and get back to me.

I live next to one of the greatest cities in the world, and yet I look for every excuse not to visit.  I don’t take up a new hobby or visit new places.  I wallow in misery and depression because I’ve become so focused on wanting my Groundhog Day to END that I’ve lost interest in everything else.  I’m sick of the same old thing, the same old story, the same old problems, the same old day.  I fight, I rebel, and I look for ways out, often to my own detriment, and in the end I realize I’m fighting something I have no control over.  Only God can end my Groundhog Day, and if He chooses not to, then accepting that He is also a benevolent God, I must learn to understand why.  Is the monotony of life really the catalyst to my demise, or is there a lesson He wants me to learn from this (just as Phil had to learn), that would lead to my salvation instead?  By stressing over the things I have no control over, I am in essence telling God that I do not trust Him, that I do not believe His promises, that I in fact have doubts that He even cares or desires to change the circumstances of life in my favor.  And in all that despair I realized I was missing the forest for the trees.

While I must relive my own Groundhog Day for a season, that is time given to me to improve my life, get healthier, and prepare myself accordingly for when a new day finally arrives.  But above all, it is time needed to learn faith, by learning to let go of the things I cannot change and the doors I cannot open on my own.  If the life of living Groundhog Day should teach me anything, it is that I should learn to live in the moment, rather than worry about what will come tomorrow.  And even if that moment happens to be trapped in a day that endlessly repeats itself, it is still a moment worth living.

Taking stock of one’s life

Someone close to me recently endured a horrible and tragic loss.  I try to find the words, something, anything that could help mitigate the pain he must feel.  I don’t know what to do except to continue being a friend, to show through thick and thin that I’ll be there for any support and comfort he needs.  For it to come during this time of year too, there are just…  no words.  I feel helpless, like watching a horrific accident happen and knowing there’s nothing that can be done to stop it, except to pray mightily and believe God will hear and answer it, even if it may not be the answer I’m hoping for.

Life is too short and precious and something I take for granted.  I’ve wasted it obsessing over the small things, ignoring the big things, ignoring moments I should have seized, and letting fear, uncertainty and doubt rule my world.  If I were to die today I would have virtually nothing to show for it.  And how could I die really, if I never lived?

I hope in the new year to come, I learn to value and be a good steward of the life God has given me, to face my fears, and finally break down the walls I’ve erected that have hindered my capacity to love and care for the well-being of others.

So whereas I face this Christmas with a great deal of sadness, I hope from that will come a wellspring of renewed hope, and joy in knowing death for those of us who believe is only the beginning, not the end.