Does Facebook Make Life More Real or Does It Actually Take Away from the Realness of Life Instead?

And is it possible that the facebook world is more of the real world than the actual real world?  And why is facebook noticeably less interesting on the weekend and during holidays?


Editor’s note: Keep in mind that with any of my posts, if you see something underlined, you can click on it to read another one my writings specifically about that phrase, or it may even lead you to a Wikipedia entry, which is equally as exciting.

Like most tricky open-ended questions I propose to world-wide audiences, it depends on the perspective and lifestyle of the person being asked.  But since part of my job as a writer who strives to be unpredictably provocative is to choose a side and stick with it, I have a firm answer for this “there’s no wrong or right answer” kind of question.  Often, the side I choose is the least expected one:  I am typically wired to root for the underdog.  So of course, anyone who reads my writings regularly should correctly assume that every time I will be defending the less popular answer.

Obviously, the overtly “correct” answer is that facebook takes away from the realness of life.  It prevents us from actually going over to each other’s houses and playing Yahtzee like we should.  It keeps us from calling our family members on the phone when we can just read their status update or look at their newest pictures.  Facebook is single-handedly deconstructing what real relationships are all about.  Facebook ironically eliminates actual face time with the people we are close to.  Therefore, the people we are “close to” literally become distant from us.

And while I acknowledge the relative truth in the paragraph above, it’s not the school of thought I am compelled to believe as my own reality.  In my version of reality, facebook actually makes life more real.  If I really want to call a person, or invite myself to drive to their house, I will.  Facebook doesn’t stop me from doing that.  Maybe that makes me old-fashioned.  But for me, facebook actually enhances the relationships in my life.  I often actually have more to talk about with people on the phone or in real life, sometimes because of something that happened on facebook.

Admittedly, out of my nearly 800 facebook friends, it’s safe to say that I literally don’t know who a quarter of them are.  The majority of my facebook friends are not people who know me well enough to have programmed my number into their cell phone number.  But when I propose one of my deep questions like the title of this post, or “what makes a person normal?” it’s often these exact people who are the first to respond.  Interestingly, the people who typically respond to my randomness are not the people I see on a regular basis or even within the past year or two.  (And for the people who I actually do see and talk to on a regular basis, I’m asking these questions to their face and they are answering in person so there is no need to answer on facebook.)

So what does that say about how facebook enhances relationships?  For me, I’d say it completely sustains the friendships which would have likely disintegrated if not for the opportunity to casually engage in a brief, random conversation topic without the commitment ever having to say “hello” or “goodbye”.  But is there any possibility that facebook is actually more of a reality than actual reality? I say absolutely yes.  It just depends on your definition of “reality”.

I have written before about how the time we spend at work is not the real world, but instead a necessary Avatar world or Matrix or lucid dream (reference to Vanilla Sky) that we enter in order to fund the actual real world.  Therefore, the true real world is the “off the clock” reality where we spend time with friends and family, along pursuing our own interests and hobbies.  With that being said, if the real world is largely defined by the people who are who are important to us outside of work (though obviously everyone has some “real friends” at work who supersede both realities), then I have to acknowledge that the interactions I am involved with on facebook are in a sense more “real” than most of the other hours spent each day.

To me, when I jokingly harass my arch nemesis/friend Ben Wilder via a wall comment, or I “like” someone’s picture of them embarrassing themselves, or I send a message to a friend about weekend plans, that’s more real than the four collected hours I spent talking to clients on the phone at work that day.  It’s more real than the round-trip hour I spend in the car driving to and from work each weekday.  For me, true reality is all about the people who mean something to me, whether those people are literally in the room there with me, or 700 miles away but on facebook.

The proof in the pudding for me is when I check out readership trends on this site, Scenic Route Snapshots.  There are typically hundreds of more readers on normal weekdays, compared to weekends and holidays.  That’s because people escape the fake real world (their work life) by playing on the Internet, therefore entering the actual real world.  Ironically, this post was written and ready by Thanksgiving Day, but I had allow for the holiday fallout to settle before publishing it.  Otherwise, it could have gone unnoticed.

Granted, I’m old-fashioned in that I still believe it’s rude to answer your phone or reply to a text message while in the physical presence of friends or family, especially during the middle of a conversation.  It’s a matter of prioritizing your reality.  Your top priority is those who are literally in the room with you.  It bugs me so much when I am making an effort to physically be in the same room as a person but I am second rate to another person they are talking to via text message or smart phone, who is just as real as I am, but isn’t actually there like I am.

So despite making an argument that facebook enhances reality and is actually more real than reality in some cases, I still acknowledge that respect for physical presence should not be forsaken.  Of course I completely understand who so many people feel that facebook takes away from real life, because honestly, the invention of the Internet and facebook is a lot like a modern rebuilding of the Tower of Babel- which is something I’ve noticed and written about before.

Ultimately, facebook is an enhancer of the life that already exists- like the way salt magnifies the flavor of food.  If you are already a social person who has healthy relationships with people in real life, facebook probably adds to the quality of these relationships.  If you are already a person who is not good at corresponding with people who are outside of your immediate circle, there’s a good chance you either ignore those “outsider” facebook friends even more or find them to be the most annoying (though you still haven’t gone through the trouble to delete them).  And if you’re a person who loves Farmville… I’m amazed you broke away long enough from tending to your goats to read this.

Statistical Bonus!

Below, notice the typical drop in the number of views on Saturdays and Sundays, the major drop on Thanksgiving Day (November 26), and the overall drop during the entire week  of Thanksgiving as compared to every other week.  That’s why my catch phrase for this site is “a great way to get distracted from life”- because more people visit here when they want to be distracted, not when they are actually hanging with people in their  true “real world”.

Daily Views on Scenic Route Snapshots

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Total Average Change
Oct 25 

676

Oct 26 

747

Oct 27 

885

Oct 28 

695

Oct 29 

749

Oct 30 

809

Oct 31 

701

5,262 752
Nov 1 

652

Nov 2 

823

Nov 3 

910

Nov 4 

927

Nov 5 

835

Nov 6 

612

Nov 7 

588

5,347 764 +1.62%
Nov 8 

817

Nov 9 

766

Nov 10 

889

Nov 11 

741

Nov 12 

642

Nov 13 

552

Nov 14 

621

5,028 718 -5.97%
Nov 15 

732

Nov 16 

1,044

Nov 17 

935

Nov 18 

1,031

Nov 19 

984

Nov 20 

657

Nov 21 

891

6,274 896 +24.78%
Nov 22 

715

Nov 23 

701

Nov 24 

665

Nov 25 

617

Nov 26 

497

Nov 27 

538

Nov 28 

628

4,361 623 -30.49%
Nov 29 

655

Nov 30 

779

Dec 1 

776

2,292 737 +18.25%


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The Art and Irony of Trendsetting: Featuring Crocs, Hawaiian Shirts, Voss Water, and WWJD Bracelets

Trends are only truly cool when they’re not quite cool yet.  And by the time they are in style, they’re pretty much going out of style.

Recognizing the hilariousness of how in many offices in America, it is standard that everyone dresses professionally Monday through Thursday, but on Friday, everyone goes casual with jeans and often t-shirts, at the beginning of the summer I decided to start making Thursday a “buffer” day for how I dress in the office, encouraging everyone else to participate.  How do you transition from khakis and dress shirts to jeans and t-shirts?  Hawaiian shirts.

They are button-down shirts with collars.  Perfect, tacky transition.  At first, only one other coworker would join me in Hawaiian Shirt Thursday.  But then, if for no other reason they felt like they were missing out on something cool, one by one, others began joining us.  By the end of the summer, I had half of the office on my side.  Some people dug through their closets to find the shirt; some actually went out and bought one.  And now, even in autumn, many of us are keeping the tradition going.

Of course, this isn’t the first trend I’ve started at work.  In an effort to make sure I was drinking enough water everyday, I went to Whole Foods and bought a glass Voss water bottle that I refill several times throughout the day.  At first, coworkers joked with me, “Isn’t it a little early in the day for vodka?”  By now though, several of them have privately approached me to ask where they could get a water bottle like that.  And sure enough, the glass Voss water bottle is no longer weird in my office, but instead it’s the norm.

But the irony with trendsetting is that by successfully coming up with an original and unpopular idea, it eventually becomes unoriginal and popular.  Prime example: Crocs.  For the last couple of years, I’ve looked on from a distance at the weird plastic rainbow colored Birkenstock rip-offs.  They were so trendy.  You’d see moms and their kids out at the mall, all wearing Crocs.  Even though I wanted some, I refused to buy them.  Because they were too cool at the time.

However, this week I came to a realization.  The Birkenstocks I have been wearing were given to me by my parents Christmas 1999.  I had already paid $35 five years ago to have them resoled.  It was time for me to either have them repaired again, or pay $110 for new ones.  Or… pay $30 for some brown Crocs.

To entertain the idea of buying Crocs, I checked around Cool Springs during my lunch breaks while riding my mountain bike instead of driving (another office trend I’ve been trying to start since April), but sure enough, I had trouble finding any Crocs for sale.  Eventually, some girls behind the counter at a Hallmark told me to check out the Croc stand across from Fossil in the mall.

Needless to say, with yesterday being Thursday, I wore my Hawaiian shirt, with Crocs, while drinking water from a Voss water bottle.  And boy was I cool.  Yet I wouldn’t have been caught wearing Crocs if they were still trendy.  The trend of wearing Crocs is over; which is why it was more difficult than I had imagined to find them.  I’m not saying that Crocs aren’t cool anymore; they’re just no longer a fad.

And so an important rule for a trendsetter is to not get involved in a trend that is overly popular.  But once a trend is over, then it’s “game on” to participate.  Some fads, after their prime, become an outdated, yet timeless classic.  Like Hawaiian shirts.  And Chuck Taylor’s.  And the wondrous Rubik’s Cube.  WWWD bracelets?  Not so much.


The Blog Sniper (or, The Classic Case of the Compliment Intertwined with Condescending Criticism)

Um… thanks?

I’m convinced there are certain people in the world who truly can not (or will not) simply compliment another person- they feel they are doing the person a favor by also incorporating some sort of condescending criticism which picks at a minor detail to negate the positive vibes of the compliment itself.  Sort of like the way certain people can not (or will not) truly apologize, by saying something lame like this: “Well if I did something to hurt your feelings I’m sorry…”  That kind of apology translates as “I’m sorry you’re such a baby and sorry that you’re trying to make me look like the bad guy.”

Just last week when I published What Not to Say If You Want People to Like You 101, one of the points I touched on was “Knowing How to Actually Compliment Someone”.  Then ironically yesterday a random stranger acted out exactly what I had just mocked a few days before.  Click here (healthnutshell: Ketchup Vs. Mustard) to read a post I wrote which contrasts the types of food that ketchup and mustard are generally paired with.

In case you didn’t click on the link and haven’t read the comment I’m referring to, here it is again: Bahaha… you make a good point, but I doubt that by avoiding ketchup, you have succeeded in eating healthily. XD This is good stuff to know, but I also feel that it is a little fanatical. Thanks for the information, though!”

Here’s a breakdown of that comment:

“Bahaha”- A condescending laugh which translates as “that’s ridiculous”.

“You make a good point.”- An honest compliment.

“But I doubt that by avoiding ketchup, you have succeeded in eating healthily.” – A correction of my quirky lifestyle.  Totally missing the point, since I didn’t write the post in a tone of absolutes: “Because ketchup, in most cases, is paired with unhealthy foods that are either processed or fried.” Throughout the post I downgrade ketchup, yes, but I never say I refuse to eat it or that I don’t ever eat it.  Nor did I say that I am trying to eat healthy by simply avoiding ketchup.  Instead, I said: “So my general rule of thumb is, I stay away from foods that are enhanced by ketchup.”

“XD”- A slang symbol meaning “big smile”, an attempt to lighten the mood back.

“This is good stuff to know…” Another compliment.

“But I also feel it is a little fanatical.” – A call to put me on the defense.  Really?  I’m a fanatic just because I made an observation that typically ketchup is a condiment for less healthy foods, namely processed and fried?

“Thanks for the information…”– A expression of gratefulness.

“…though.”- In other words, “Thanks for the info, despite how laughable most of it was.”

Looking through each line of the comment, it is interesting the way this reader used the pattern “negative, positive, negative, positive…”  In fact, this may be the most perfect example I’ve ever seen of the classic case of the compliment intertwined with criticism.  That takes talent.

I literally laughed out loud when I read the comment.  Because it’s so tacky.  I think, “Make up your mind, either insult me, or compliment me, but don’t do both at the same time.  Commit.”  I totally respect someone’s opinion if they truly disagree with mine and don’t have a subtle motive to undermine my efforts.  But they have to be cool about it.  Etiquette still exists.

Otherwise, like in this case, it just becomes a joke to me.

But it’s evident from that comment that the person probably makes a daily habit of correcting everyone else, likely with a sarcastic tone, in an subconscious effort to feel in control.  Similar to the case of Some People Like Being Offended and/or Taking Advantage…

Be excellent to each other.

This event also reminds me of an excerpt of Christian Lander’s book, Stuff White People Like.  He is explaining that some white people let a little bit of positive feedback go to their heads too easily and that it eventually can get out of hand.  Therefore, he gives this advice to prevent that from happening:

“Do not dole out your praise like pinata candy… it is best to tease them with little bits of praise, balanced with a few barbs: ‘I have to hand it to you for putting KRS-One on that party mix.  I mean, you went with a pretty well-known song, but still, good job'”.

It’s just funny that in the Internet world it’s somehow more acceptable to go around criticizing people for the sake of trying to sound smarter than someone else who was creative enough to invent.  But I guess with the wave of online writers come just as many online critics.  And my guess is that the critics aren’t themselves inventing any original content- just looking to start a sophisticated food fight about ketchup and mustard.

I say let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no”.  And when possible, find ways to truly compliment people, not find perceived fault in their creativity.  There’s not enough of sincere complimenting going on in the world.  Especially when “compliments intertwined with condescending criticism” are so popular.

Sammy sings praises, not pious put-downs.

dad from day one: The Gender of the Baby

“Sadie, Chloe, Sammy, or Max, chillin’ in a baby sack.  Tristan, Evan, Lily, Zoey, or Jack…” -Candy Butchers, “Let’s Have a Baby”

Nineteen weeks.

After my grandmother’s dream and my wife’s co-worker’s psychic’s prediction of it being a girl, it was pretty obvious to us what the gender of our baby would be.  I drove down to the appointment yesterday full of excitement, knowing that I could finally tell everyone that our intuition was correct once I would get the official confirmation.

Several anxious moments passed as the nurse showed us pictures our  our baby, then finally she asked us, “Do you want to know what it is?”

Laughing, full of confidence, we told her that we were quite sure already, but yes, tell us for sure.

“You’re having a boy.”

I wish I had a YouTube clip of our reaction.  “WHAT?!  NO WAY!  ARE YOU SERIOUS?!”  Etc., etc.  All exclaimed while hysterically laughing.

Not that it mattered either way to us.  I just don’t think I’ve ever been more surprised in my life.  I wish there was a way to type in a “laughing font” to better show my tone here.  I’m so happy!  We’re having a boy!

This is an "under the scrotum" shot.

Of course now it’s time to answer the other question: What are you naming him?

First name: Jack

Middle name: William

Last name: Shell

Here’s how we came up with the name:

He will go by “Jack”, which is my dad’s name.

Which is an alternate version of John, which is Hebrew (Jewish) for “God’s grace”.  Which just sounds like a cool name.  It’s simple, not too popular, and easy to spell and say.  And Jack also happens to be the name of the lead character of the best show ever made, LOST (played by Matthew Fox, who is also part Italian.)

Jack is the size of a mango.

Plus, my wife’s name is Jill… so it’ll be “Jack and Jill”.

His middle name, William, (my wife’s dad’s name) is German and loosely translates as “protector”.

His last name, Shell, (originally spelled “Schel” at some point in American history) is German and loosely translates to “loud and noisy”.

That being said, Jack William Shell is a Jewish-German-German name which fully translates as “God’s gracious gift of loud and noisy protection.”  I’m already picturing a little boy wearing a pot on top of his head, running around the house, banging a pan with a wooden spoon, being “loud and noisy”.

Most importantly, Baby Jack is healthy, thank God!

Jack, the boy.  Who knew?

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

Hey Jealousy (A Retrospective Look Back at Grunge and Alternative Rock Music)

I’m gonna say it.  Despite the cliché, because it’s true: Music today just ain’t what it used to be.

I was born in 1981.  Junior high for me was 1993 to 1995.  High school was from 1995 to 1999.  And I say in all confidence that compared to the current generic decency of Nickelback and the outright douchebaggery of bands like Godsmack and Buckcherry, my generation of rock music was far superior.

Not that I have anything against the stuff they play on Jack FM (Phil Collins, Eddie Money, The Police, etc.) or my parents’ music (The Beatles, The Eagles, The Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, etc.) because I’m a huge classic music fan.  Just as I’m a Movie Guy, I’m absolutely a Music Guy as well.

I get it.  Every music lover out there seems to hold a warm place in their heart for the music that was popular when they were a teenager.  Here I am doing the same thing; I’m no different.  Those bands and songs are all attached to places, people, and stories from a time where I was “discovering who I was”.  Grunge and alternative rock makes up the soundtrack of my teenage years.

I clearly remember in 8th grade, after school getting off the bus several blocks too soon to visit the local music store (that coincidently was only open that year and the following year, when alternative music ruled the music scene) to purchase the groundbreaking Green Day album, Dookie (at the time, I was still buying cassettes, not CD’s).  From Janis Joplin to Santana to Dinosaur Jr. to Blind Melon, they had it all in stock.  Along with several racks of appropriate signs-of-the-times jewelry including, but not limited to, clay “shroom” necklaces.

What I remember most about that music store isn’t the name, being that I have no clue what it was called, but the smell.  Incense.  A sweeter smell than patchouli.  I can’t help but assume that the constantly burning incense had something to do with the store owners covering up a different smoke smell of their own.

When I hear “Ironic” or “Hand in My Pocket” or “You Learn” by Alanis Morissette, or “Today” by The Smashing Pumpkins (which I would have to declare as the official song of my teenage years), an emotional spark ignites in my brain, causing me to simultaneously travel back to 1995 and feel a rush of euphoria.

So maybe what exactly constitutes as grunge or alternative is a bit blurry.  Typically, the lyrics are abstract, weird, and sometimes bit creepy.  The guitars are layered with both “staticky” and “crystallized” effects.  Whatever it was and is, it makes me happy.  Long live grunge and alternative!

Since I released my top 25 favorite movies this week (Movie Guy, at Your Service: My Top Ten Favorites), I might as well attempt to release my top twenty favorite bands of the grunge and alternative rock era.  Yes, it is controversial, but on my list, Nirvana is not present.  Like Soundgarden, they were too depressing for me.  I’m judging these by their relevance of grunge and alternative music in my personal life.  This is not a list of my favorite bands of all time- that’s a different list altogether.

My Top Twenty Favorite Bands of the Grunge and Alternative Rock Era

1)     Smashing Pumpkins

2)     Oasis

3)     Green Day

4)     Third Eye Blind

5)     Live

6)     The Wallflowers

7)     Alanis Morissette

8)     R.E.M.

9)     Bush

10) Gin Blossoms

11) Counting Crows

12) The Cranberries

13) Matchbox Twenty

14) Weezer

15) Collective Soul

16) Red Hot Chili Peppers

17) Foo Fighters

18) Everclear

19) Pearl Jam

20) Better Than Ezra

Do you want to share your list with me?  Then do it!

Me in 1995, AKA "The Grunge Days"

My Categories: Nostalgia, People, Storytelling, Spirituality, Writing, and Recaps

What’s my writing style?  Spumoni.


If I was smart, I would listen to the authors of “how to be a writer” and “how to have a popular website” books when they clearly tell me, “Find your niche and just focus on it alone.”  Then I could be like the fortunate clever-minded writers who all now have book deals simply because of the popularity of their WordPress websites:

http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/

http://stuffchristianslike.net/

http://1000awesomethings.com/

Here’s the problem though- I’m not attracting just one type of reader.  I’m luring in several different types of people who are both completely unrelated to each other and yet at other times couldn’t be more alike.  It sort of reminds me of the way that MSN’s home page (http://www.msn.com/) is set up.  Their main categories are news, entertainment, sports, money, and lifestyle.

By default, I have ended up emulating that concept, only mixing it up with my own alternative, off-beat main topics.  Instead of the mainstream-friendly Neapolitan (chocolate-strawberry-vanilla) topics, my twisted version is more like Spumoni (chocolate-pistachio-cherry). *Ironically, Spumoni came first (from Italy), but by the time it became popular in America, it evolved into Neapolitan.

I have come to the conclusion that there are ultimately six main categories I write about: nostalgia, people, storytelling, spirituality, writing, and recaps (of TV shows, mainly).  (“Uncategorized” is an additional generic title given to all my posts as well.)

Of course I struggled with making “Jewish references” and “humor” their own separate categories, but just like a few other “should I make these their own categories?” categories, certain topics aren’t simply things I write about; they’re a part of everything I write.  It would just simply be redundant; stating the obvious.

Being able to read through an entire one of my posts without coming across the words “Jew”, “Jews”, or “Jewish” somewhere in there is about as rare as biting all the way through a Chips Ahoy! chocolate chip cookie without eating a chocolate chip.  And I would hope that there is at least a little bit of irony that comes across as humorous in most of what I write as well.  I shouldn’ have to label it “funny”, otherwise I may be defeating the purpose.

This is just a cool picture. In reality, I do not actually offer newsletters (unless you subscribe to this site; that would count), competitions, free ice cream, or much more.

So who am I attracting on a daily basis?

Fans of LOST, Dexter, The Bachelor, and/or The Bachelorette.  Jewish people.  Christians.  People who grew up in the 1980’s.  People concerned with healthy living.   People who found my website by searching one of those things and then saved my website in their “Favorites” and forwarded the link on to their friends.

In other words, my readers are as random as I am.  Random Spumoni.  Takes one to know one.  Welcome to the club.

The Most Popular, All-American Summer Activities for Kids

Notice I left out the word “normal”.


Now that summer is here, I realize I keep having flashbacks of my summers as a kid. The ways we all spent our summers as kids were unique in their own weird ways. I don’t know what a normal summer for a kid is supposed to be like. All I know is the version of summer that my sister and I experienced between the summers of 1989 and 1999 to keep ourselves entertained in Fort Payne, Alabama.

 

Mmm... Sharkleberry Fin flavored!

 

In the summer of 1989 our mom was obsessed with making homemade popsicles. She bought blue and red plastic molds into which she poured a random substance and placed in the freezer. Four hours later when it was frozen, my sister and I indulged in the flavor of the day. It started out as an alternative to “all those sugary popsicles they sell in the stores”. So orange juice was the first flavor. Then chocolate milk. Then yogurt. By the end of summer it was Dr. Pepper and eventually my personal favorite flavor of homemade popsicles: sweet tea.

The next summer, in 1990, we discovered water balloons. My sister and I would fill up about 30 water balloons, place them in a bucket, and take them out to the trampoline. One person would jump as the other launched the balloons at them. One point for every hit. Then eventually flashbacks from all that fun with the homemade popsicles gave us a new idea. We put water balloons in the freezer.

Not to throw at each other, but to throw into the air and watch them fall onto the driveway. I think the point was to see how many times the balloon could hit the asphalt before the broken ice inside would cut through the balloon. At one point we ran out of balloons to play with so our mom let us use some medical gloves. We filled them up with water and stuck them in the freezer. The funny thing is, there’s still a frozen glove in our parents’ freezer as of today. One last survivor.

My favorite classic summertime activity would have to be the paper rafts. It all started one day in 1993 when I drew and colored a cartoon man about 4 inches tall. Then I was compelled to grab some scissors and cut him out like a paper doll. My sister liked mine and made one as well. Ultimately we had made our own action figures. So in order for them to live up to their name (“action” figures), we decided to make paper rafts for them. So we drew, colored, and cut out Tom Sawyer style rafts and taped our paper men onto them, folding the men’s backs so that they sit down comfortably on their vehicle.

 

Destined for greatness...

 

Now all we needed was a good river for our men on rafts. No need to looking any further than the nearest bathroom. We dropped the men into the toilet and flushed them away on an adventure. I clearly remember my sister waving and telling her paper man goodbye. Then we did the whole event over again later that day, only with improved, more detailed paper men. And again and again.

In fact, I really, really want to make a paper raft right now.