MOP April 17: A Few Things I Dislike about the Internet

Internet

Complaining about technology/the internet/smartphones seems to be the latest trend.

Of course there’s irony in the fact that most of these complaints happen ON the internet. Also, most of the complaints center on the way that virtual communication is destroying real, face-to-face communication. Or the way that people project fake versions of themselves online in a way to gain affirmation. Or the way that something you post can live on forever and prevent you from getting hired someday.

In my opinion, it’s kind of dumb to blame technology for these things. It’s not technology’s fault that you decide to get online instead of hanging out with your friends.

For the most part, I love technology. Especially the ease at which I can now research virtually anything I want to know more about. For free. It is mind-boggling.

BUT. There are some things I really do not like about technology, and they’re things I don’t hear people talk about very often. Here are five of them.

1. Accidentally friending people.

This needs no explanation, does it? It happened to me just yesterday. “Oh, this person looks interesting.”

*click*

“Why isn’t the page loading? What’s wrong with my computer?”

*click* *click* *click*

“Woah, why does it say ‘friend request sent’? When did I send a friend request? Just now, in my clicking war? Or long ago, and I had no idea?”

THEY’RE GONNA KNOW I WAS STALKING THEM!

Even though I kind-of was. But…

THEY WEREN’T SUPPOSED TO FIND OUT.

2. Loss of tactile beauty

I am a very tactile person. I like to feel things. I like to flip the pages of books and magazines, cut things out, and paste things in notebooks. Now, I have an unlimited supply of beautiful things to SEE and HEAR on the internet, but nothing to feel.

Even technological devices themselves are being re-structured to eliminate the tactile experience. Keyboards have gotten flatter, and lost that satisfying click-ey feel they used to have. I tried using a smart-phone for about a year an a half, but eventually pretty much stopped using it, despite its convenience, because touch-screen technology drives me nuts.

There’s nothing to feel.

And also, I kept accidentally friending people.

3. Loss of EVERYTHING

There is a myth that once you put something online, it lives forever.

WRONG

It has the potential to live forever, but it’s really out of your control.

Websites change at such an unprecedented rate. Xanga, where I began blogging, has since completely shut down. They saved my old blog posts for me, but so much is gone. The messages I sent people. The comments we made on each other’s posts. There was a whole community going on, and now, all evidence of that community is wiped from the face of the earth.

4. Disposable content

The other day I wrote about the unwinnable contest to create disposable content. Perhaps the internet is so full of disposable content because in ten years, our favorite websites will shut down and it will all be lost.

I don’t know.

I find the disposability sad. In the real tactile world, if I enjoy a piece of writing I put it on my bookshelf to read again later. There’s not really an equivalent for this in the internet world.

5. Advertisement driven content

I have a constant cognitive dissonance warring in my brain over this. On one hand, I love the way that advertising has allowed me to get so much cool stuff for free, and get a wee bit of money from blogging.

On the other hand, I don’t like consumer culture, and I hate that the free stuff and the blogging money only comes from the propagation of consumer culture.

Oh my. There’s only like, three minutes left in the day. Better post this.

MOP April 15: Emily and Jenny Review a Book

“Hey Jenny, I have an idea!” I said.

“Yes?” she asked, warily.

“Let’s do a video book review of…” I scanned the stack of books she had recently borrowed from me. “Once On a Time!”

“Hmm…well…”

“Come on, we’ll make a really short video that doesn’t need to be edited. And we’ll take turns talking so we don’t interrupt each other.”

“Okay,” she agreed.

We sat in front of her door, and I balanced my tiny pink laptop on my knees and turned on the webcam. It gave an excellent view of our chins, a not-so-excellent sound quality, and it shook when we laughed.

Oh well. We strive only to entertain, and to have fun whilst doing so.

Enjoy.

P.S. I just realized that I insinuated that only pretty chins are worthy to be shown off. Oops. I respect the rights of all people to show off their chins, no matter what their chins may happen to look like :-)

P.P.S. Once on a Time can be found for free here.

MOP April 13: The Unwinnable Contest

I was the one who came up with the idea to do a Month of Posting. Me, Emily Sara Smucker, the Girl in the Red Rubber Boots. But it wasn’t long before I was merely riding the coattails of my mother’s and sister’s successes.

First, Mom posted about discrimination and religion.

Then, Jenny posted about Disney-inspired clothing.

Then, Mom posted about how to raise perfect children.

Suddenly they were getting thousands of hits and I was just getting, well, significantly less.

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Fortunately for me, I have a life outside of blogging. One in which I do really cool stuff like stand in front of artsy walls.

Sometimes I think that if I just put more effort into blogging I could really make something of myself. I could learn to take pictures, and post the rants in my head that would be shared over and over by people who agreed with me, and write click-bait headlines.

But I don’t. It’s an unwinnable contest to create disposable content. I’ve decided it’s not worth the effort.

Also, everyone says that successful social media is all about creating a “brand,” which is not appealing to me at all. Too much stuff is branded already.

Instead of posting “THE TOP 10 REASONS MENNONITE GIRLS SHOULD STAY SINGLE UNTIL THEY’RE 25,” I’ll post about stuff like this:

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I had a beautiful dream this winter.

(And by dream I mean normal night-time dream.)

In the dream, many people I knew worked or went to school in Eugene, and every morning we’d all gather in a coffee shop for 10 minutes or an hour or however long we had. And we’d just chat and drink coffee and hang out before starting our day.It wasn’t very profound. As far as dreams go it sounds quite boring. But to the lonely girl of Eugene this seemed like an exceedingly wonderful thing.

After I began going to school in Corvallis this spring, I told my friend Sarah Beth about the dream. She actually lives near Corvallis, and she immediately said, “hey, that sounds like fun! We should do that!”

So Wednesday morning she and I and our friend Ashley met at a coffee shop in Corvallis called “The Beanery.” We’re making this a weekly thing, so if you live in the Corvallis area and want to hang out with us please feel free!

The shop is on the corner of 2’nd ST and Washington Ave. and we meet at 8:15 am. Approximately.

I’ll be the one in the yellow coat.
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MOP April 9: Switching Colleges (Again)

colleges

There’s something that I’ve been avoiding writing about on my blog: I quit going to the University of Oregon and started going to Oregon State instead.

It’s not a big deal, but I don’t like to talk about it because when I tell someone I switched, their first question is, “why?”

And I never quite know how to answer.

I wish I could just give one blanket reason that I disliked the University of Oregon so much, but it really was just a bunch of smaller things that became insurmountable when all piled together. For example, I began to get the eerie feeling that campus was populated with clones of the same girl: A skinny, athletic Californian who wore hoodies and yoga pants and began every sentence with “I feel like.”

And she was much too cool to hang out with me.

The competitive atmosphere also really got to me. I have a hypothesis that people in majors with limited career options feel the need to begin clawing their way to the top while still in college, whereas people in fields with more career opportunities are much more chill and kind to each other.

I kept thinking that if I could only find a niche I’d be fine, but nothing worked out, and all the campus events happened after I’d already taken the bus home. I just felt really, really lonely and isolated.

Honestly, I was upset with myself for letting it get to me like that. When I had West Nile I used to get really annoyed at people who complained on Facebook about their horrible life, when their life was pretty awesome, compared to mine. Ever since then I’ve had a tendency to view pain as a hierarchy, with only the people in the upper levels granted the right to complain.

But when I thought back to my life with West Nile, I realized that what made it so horrible wasn’t the physical pain. What made it so horrible was the loneliness and isolation, which I couldn’t make go away, no matter how hard I tried.

Now, I was feeling the same loneliness and isolation, and it was just as painful. But there was one giant difference. Now, I had the power to change my circumstance.

So I moved to OSU.

Anyway, like I said, it’s not that big of a deal. I still live at home, and the commute is about the same. I’m still getting basically the same degree, at the same time. I’m just surrounded by nicer people, in an environment that’s much more geared towards commuters and older students and people who like to think about things that matter.

MOP April 7: An Illustrated Childhood story

Me: I don’t know what to post about. Tell me a random story from our childhood.

Jenny: Do you remember the time that I made an oven out of cardboard, and you decided to help me make something in it?

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So we took those pie pans–not the smallest ones, but the small-ish old and rusty ones.

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And we mixed together sugar, and flour, and water, and we put it in the pie pans.

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Then we put them in the oven, and we left them there to dry. Only it took like, two weeks for them to dry.

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And then when they finally dried they stank REALLY bad.

(Squiggly lines indicate smelliness. Not heat. Not hair, either.)

(Squiggly lines indicate smelliness. Not heat. Not hair, either.)

I mean, seriously. Like, the whole playhouse stank for two weeks.

(More squiggly lines = more smelliness.)

(More squiggly lines = more smelliness.)

Me: Wow, interesting.

(Personally, I have no memory of this, but whatever.)

Read yesterday’s MOP post, written by Mom, HERE.

Tomorrow, Jenny will write the April 8 MOP post HERE.

MOP April 3: A Rant about Culture and Humanity

Amy food Blast, the evening is running out and there is a continuous rant about culture that is buzzing through my brain. It’s difficult to turn brain rants into coherent blog posts. But I shall try.

This term I’m taking a class on African anthropology. The teacher has a great grasp on culture, and I enjoy the class. With the students, though, it’s a different story.

The first day, the teacher asked us to write down the stereotypes that we associate with Africa. Then she asked us, “were those stereotypes mostly good or bad?”

“Bad,” we said. I mean, we’d all written down stuff like “poverty” and “danger.”

“Why do you think the stereotype of Africa is this way?” she asked.

In my mind, this negative view of Africa comes primarily from well-intentioned people who see something bad going on in Africa and think that Americans should be informed of this to help out in some way. And it works in a sense–aid money is earned for Africa–but people don’t always realize the huge negative effects of perpetually seeing another place in such a negative light.

I expressed this, but to my surprise, I was the only one in the class thinking along those lines. Everyone else who spoke seemed to say some variation of the sentiment, “oh, it’s racism.”

Now, I’m not saying that the colonialist and racist attitudes of the past have no effect on how we operate today. But just saying “it’s racism” is problematic in my opinion. Primarily because it pins the blame on an intangible enemy, and gives people the idea that if they’re not racist they’re not contributing to the problem.

In the next class session, the teacher began to talk about the nuances of culture. She asked us, “If you’re driving to school one day, thinking about whatever you’re thinking about, and if someone in Africa is going to school and thinking about what they think about, do you think you’d be thinking about the same types of things?”

Personally, I think we would be thinking about the same types of things, and I expressed this to my class. I mean sure, the specific things we thought about might reflect our culture, but that diversity happens even in our own classroom. When I go to school I, as a Mennonite, might be thinking about the next church potluck, while someone else in the class might think about getting together with his friends and drinking beer. Still, we’re both thinking about hanging out with our friends.

So many of the things people think about are universal things. Worry about grades and money. Daydreaming about the guy you like. Frustration with family relationships. Jealousy. Fear. Happiness. Loneliness. Everyone thinks about these things.

However, I was the only person in the class who thought that we’d pretty much be thinking the same things. Everyone else who spoke said that we’d mostly be thinking different things. No one gave specifics as to why until, after I’d spoken, one guy countered it by saying that those people would probably mostly be thinking about where their next meal was coming from. Are you kidding me?

I didn’t say anything back, because I really don’t want to be that girl who’s like, “I went to Africa for a few months eleven years ago, I know all about culture, everyone should listen to me.” But seriously? Starving people do probably think about food more than you do, but to say they don’t think about anything else is stripping them of their humanity.

And also, not everyone in Africa is starving.

And also, if this hypothetical person is going to school they probably have at least somewhat of an income stream.

And also…. Dear class. In the first class meeting, you insinuated that the pervasive negative view of Africa is not your fault at all, because you’re not racist. In the second class meeting,  you showed that you view Africans as fundamentally different than you. How does that compute?

I know that this is somewhat of a pot and kettle situation, because I, too, struggle with ethnocentrism. I’ve studied a lot about culture, but I’ve never gotten to know another culture in-depth, and I’ve never learned another language.

Still, this lack of basic knowledge on how negative stereotypes are formed and how they can be combated–and the importance of viewing people as first of all, human–it really disturbed me.

Cultural understanding is HUGELY important. When it comes to wars, and poverty, and pretty much every pressing world problem, if people can’t understand and communicate across a culture there is a very large possibility of well-intentioned people making things worse.

Yesterday’s MOP post: https://jasmucker.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/mop-april-2-an-apology-and-a-poem/

Monday, Mom will post at: http://dorcassmucker.blogspot.com/

Photo stolen from my sister Amy’s facebook. It has nothing to do with Africa but it’s related to culture so that’s why I chose it.

MOP April 1: Meeting the Princess

Although last year I pulled off one of my best April Fools Day pranks ever, this year was kind of a dud in that department. My physics professor told us that Hillary Clinton was breaking up with Bill. That’s about as exciting as things got.

Honestly, I didn’t have time to think up a great prank, because I was desperately trying to spend as much time as possible with my Aunt Rebecca. She stopped in for a couple days, at the last minute, full of the most dramatic and interesting stories I’ve ever heard first-hand.

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Me: Oh Mom, can I use your camera to take pictures for my blog today?

Mom: Okay.

Me: Can you guys like, pose with your tea or something?

They posed with their tea.

Mom: Oh, make sure the tea pot is in the picture!

(The cute tea pot was a gift from Aunt Rebecca.)

We spent the afternoon sipping tea and making broccoli salad and eating supper, and then in the evening we went to Jefferson Baptist Church to see their production of Beauty and the Beast.

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Yes, the evenings are sunny. This winter I would leave for school in the dark, and by the time I came home it was dark again, and I find myself marveling at the sunny mornings and evenings, appreciating daylight like I never quite did in the past.

Me: Let’s take a selfie.

Jenny: Okay!!

Me: But I’m going to make my facial expression exactly like I feel right now, so it might be kinda weird.

(I was quite tired and zoned out.)

Jenny: Okay.

(And then she put her feelings into her facial expression too.)

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The play was brilliant. Just lovely. Afterword a pack of little girls took turns getting their picture taken with Belle.

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Some littler than others.

When I got home and sorted out the pictures, Jenny said, “so did you get any good ones?”

“I don’t know how to tell if it was a good picture or a bad picture,” I said. But when I looked closer, I’m pretty sure I did take a bad picture today.

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Blurry = bad, right? Can a cute face make up for that?

You may be thinking, “Wow, she really IS a bad photographer. Who would pose their models by a stove, of all things? Find a mural or a chain-link fence.”

Well.

There is a method to my madness. Our last stove broke while Sarah Beth was cleaning it, so of course we tease her about it, and today we showed her our much lovelier new white stove, and I just HAD to photograph them together. For the blog.

Which turned out blurry. But I mean, you can still see the girl, and the stove, so whatever.

That’s all for today. Since I am a typically late poster, I’m afraid east-coast readers might get these a day after they’re supposed to go up. If that bothers you terribly you may rectify the problem by moving to Hawaii.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Jenny’s post over at Dreaming of Dragonflies!