Like a New Religion

“‘Cause they need a new song like a new religion, music for the television. I can’t do the long division. Someone do the math.” ~Jason Mraz (Wordplay)

9e9ad8b7-77df-42a5-86a8-165ad969402cI don’t like Twitter. There’s just something counterproductive in finding something to say, then being forced to limit it to 140 letters, or characters, or whatever they want to call it these days. I like being brief, or concise, or whatever you want to call it, but I like to do it on my own, not because someone is making me do it. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t really make for a good journalist. It was writing, but it wasn’t writing what I wanted to write, in the way that I wanted to write it, on whatever subject I so deemed worthy.

There’s just something about Twitter that’s suspect. It’s kind of like an advanced form of gossip, except that everyone can read it everywhere. It’s not really for secrets then, and yet people expose those innermost thoughts utilizing the forum. I guess there’s something about making something public that gives people a heady rush, that is transformative in a way that most other things just can’t match. Or that’s what they tell themselves when they’re letting you (and everyone else in the Twitterverse) know the shape of their pain.

And I get the idea. I do. It’s supposed to be a big soup bowl where everyone contributes, a massive spider’s web where everything sticks and we are forced to stare at them every time we pass. Every time we pick up our phones. Every time we get retweeted by someone, BY ANYONE. Because a retweet is like getting a phone call direct from god, like we are suddenly famous and ready for our closeups. Especially when that retweet does indeed come from someone we placed after the almighty hashtag.

So tweets have to be worthy.

All hail the new usage for the number sign. A hashtag is a grand way of saying “Look AT me” because to everyone who searches for the particular hashtag you displayed it will come up. Your tweet will come up. They can read it, and love it, and yes indeed, retweet it to their heart’s content. @therealjaymohr just enjoyed my tweet so much he had to retweet it, and now everyone who subscribes to @therealjaymohr is now reading my tweet.

So tweets have to be worthy. They have to justify the time and effort we’ve spent on them. We have to make sure we are putting the absolutely best, the absolute most appropriate hashtag on each tweet. After all, we need the best coverage, the best chance that someone who is anyone will read and appreciate our pithy wordplay. A little birdy told me. A little birdy whispered in my ear, but it wasn’t a whisper. It was a shout, a sound heard round the world, but it wasn’t even a sound. It was the power of words multiplied by the power of the platform.

But yeah, I hate it. I use it, but I hate it. And I know what you’re thinking. Why use something that you hate? It’s a rather simple explanation too. Because everybody else is doing it. Well, not quite everybody else. But many of the people I appreciate for their artistic merit, literary skill, or sports acumen like to tweet. I’m not generally a fan of political tweets because we all know politicians always have an agenda, whether on or off social media. That of course doesn’t stop the zeitgeist that is Twitter from recommending politicians for me to subscribe to on a daily basis.

I delete those recommendations.

Then I’ll dig out a hashtag and get busy.

Seriously, though, I only tweet about once a month, when I remember that it is indeed an interactive platform. It’s kind of like when I’m playing golf on the Wii and I forget that I’m playing over a connection and those are real people walking the “course” with me, until a speech box shows up out of nowhere. I respond, and then I forget again. It’s the same way with Twitter. I catch a tweet once, and it moves me. So I either like it, or I retweet it (as if my retweeting something will make it more popular) and then I’m off again for another month. Or sometimes when something short comes to me that I feel like imparting on the universe. Then I’ll dig out a hashtag and get busy.

Then I’ll dig out a hashtag and get busy.

But Twitter and I will never be more than acquaintances. I just wasn’t built for the stamina and discipline it takes to perfectly construct hashtags, to cyber stalk celebrities’ tweets, or to just do pretty much anything on that type of social media. I just can’t quite wrap my brain around it for longer than a few minutes. In fact, this is probably the longest I’ve ever sat in front of any screen, without pause, and thought about Twitter.

_prayer2_400x400Twitter is like a new religion, a type of worship of social media itself, a grand attempt at brevity that somehow misses the mark when people feel the need to tweet every single second of every single day. #prayer #newreligion #tweetsrlife. I deleted the app once, and it was gone for a while before someone reminded me that they had sent me an @sammcmanus callout, and they were wondering why I hadn’t responded. I almost told them it wasn’t them. It was me. But I felt that would be too cliche a response. I wanted to craft something spectacular to tell them how I really felt.

But it would have been over 140 letters, or characters, or whatever they want to call it these days. So I didn’t.



It’s April, Fool

I woke up this morning, determined not to fall victim to any of the lies I knew would be posted to Facebook today. No, I don’t believe anyone got pregnant overnight. No, I don’t think Kobe Bryant is the next Dr. Who. No, I cannot even fathom why anyone would post that they had the shingles and think it would be funny. But I did see this funny meme featuring Mr. T.


And when I finally stopped laughing, I realized just why all of those other posts about April Fool’s were so awful. It’s because there are pranks and hoaxes all the time that come through my Facebook news feed, from “celebrities you’ll never believe aren’t dead,” to “real photos from inside the casket,” to those people who friend request me who have 1 other friend and no profile picture. Uh, yeah. You’re legit.

We live in a world where everyone can be heard, but not everyone needs to be heard. Anyone can post anything anytime, and that makes for a lot of clutter. It used to be that we needed to sort through the clutter on this day, not on any others. We could trust people the other days of the year to tell us the truth, because our circle of friends was small. Now we live in a world where our “circle” of “friends” is routinely over 1000 strong, and therefore the “friends of friends” who show up on our news feeds are monumental.

No wonder quite a few of these pranks and hoaxes show up so often in our news feeds. When Robin Williams died I thought at first that it was another one of those pranks. It took me a few hours, and enough people saying it was true, for me to ultimately send my virtual condolences into the abyss, for me to finally contemplate life without Robin Williams. It’s just such a sad world when something like that is doubted because there have been too many hoaxes.

People must have nothing better to do. I scroll faster these days, and particularly today, but there weren’t any more than usual really. The only difference was that some people who I know never post these things got in on the action today. I saw no fake pregnancy posts, so maybe people are taking it to heart, at long last. That’s just not a joking matter. Take it from someone who had to go through extraordinary methods to have children.

Anyway, so that’s another April 1st down. If only every day didn’t suddenly feel like April 1st. Fools.


The Apologist, Part 3

“I live a simple life. Unfettered by complex sweets. You think this isn’t me? Don’t be weak. There I go. I’m so sorry.” ~R.E.M.

im-sorry-quotes-i-m-not-perfect-i-make-mistakesI say sorry all the time, but I hardly ever actually mean it. It’s become a reflex, a placeholder that fills the space when I feel judged and I want the feeling to pass. There’s nothing quite like saying sorry and watching the other person’s face soften. It’s a rush, I guess I would say, even if I have no idea what I should even feel sorry for.

Please, and thank you. Remember those? I learned them early on too, and they too became reflexes. Someone did something for me, and if I didn’t say thank you I would hear it from my mother. It would be later, and in private, but I would still hear it, so I said thank you. If I wanted something and I didn’t say please it was going to be a cold day in my house when my mom lit into me.

And sorry was the same, except that it wasn’t. At least for please and thank you I knew the behavioral expectation was legitimate. I knew that please went along with wanting something, and thank you went along with getting something, but sorry was a conundrum because there were no measurable signals that I could count on to alert me when one was necessary.

Sorry pretty quickly became all about reading people. If my mother gave me the “look” I knew a sorry was in order, and pretty quickly. And it had to sound sincere or the question would follow: “What are you sorry for?” To which I would have to find an answer or the sorry became irrelevant. And the answer to that question could never be “I’m sorry for whatever you think I should be sorry for,” or a spanking was in order. I worked hard to avoid the spanking at all costs.

Now, though, while sorry is still about reading people, it’s become even more about reading situations. Sometimes a sorry can go a long way if the situation calls for one, regardless of the person who expects the apology. And a sorry when someone isn’t expecting one can be like Christmas — for them, and for me. A written sorry is better than a spoken one, but only if it’s handwritten, not typed or texted. Handwritten sorrys are the equivalent of candy and roses these days.

But that’s not how it should be, is it? A sorry should go a long way because of the actual emotion behind it. A sorry would mean more if I took time to ask what it was that I really did wrong because saying sorry once and thinking the situation’s over is being naive. We all have patterns of behavior, and the only way to break those patterns is to understand that we’re caught in them, to recognize them for what they are and to kill them dead. So before I say sorry the next time I feel the situation coming on I’m going to ask what I did wrong so I can fix it.

Because a sorry isn’t as good when it’s missing an explanation.  At least for me.


To Be Understood

“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.” ~Lucius Annaeus Seneca

smileyI’m used to qualifying what I say. You know: “What I meant was…” or “I hope you know… wasn’t what I meant.” That’s because too often I’ve been misunderstood. I think it has something to do with expectation. If the other person assumes I’m saying one thing when I’m really saying another it can be incredibly difficult to change their mind. This is especially true in writing, but it can happen anytime.

So it’s ridiculously rare to find those who understand what I mean without the qualifications. That’s why when I do locate them I hang on for dear life because it’s hard enough living day to day when everyone else doesn’t “get” me. Don’t get me wrong. I know I’m not the only one in the history of this world who feels misunderstood, who doesn’t live life in a zone-free bubble. But because it’s a recurring them with me I’m thinking maybe I should change how I interact with others.

My wife says I have a unique sense of sarcasm that is hard to spot because I do it so often that it can seem authentic. Maybe I’ve convinced myself that I’m really good at it, but saying something and then laughing at my own unique sense of sarcasm is a no-no. It’s like texting “I hate that color on you :)” The presence of the smiley, or of the laugh, means absolutely nothing, even though I think it means everything. I force myself to remember that the words are most important.

Perhaps the reason I’m often misunderstood is because half the time I can’t even understand myself, or at least understand my reasons for what I do and say. That’s where it really begins. If I want to be understood I need to analyze myself and my rationale. Before I paste a smiley on the end of a sarcastic statement maybe I need to think about whether or not the statement truly is sarcastic. I might just be saying what I mean, and hoping that others don’t take it seriously by tacking on a laugh.

But I’m not fooling anyone, not even myself, not anymore. And my wife is right, of course. She can understand what I really mean, and she wants me to understand it for myself. But she could never make me see it. She could only take the picture and turn the camera around to face me. I had to see it for myself, in my sad smile, and in my vacant eyes. Now they’re wide open, and I’m finally willing to second-guess myself. It’s a first step.


Chatting With Lexi: On Memory

funny memory quotesI don’t think I’ll ever understand it. My 9-year old can clearly recall what happened 7 years ago in startling detail, from the clothes we were wearing to the shows she watched on television. She can remember every single one of her birthdays, the names of people she met once 5 years ago, and when I said that swear word when I hit my thumb with the hammer 6 years ago. But if I ask her what happened 5 minutes ago she’s completely clueless.

It drives me crazy, and I’ve been trying to do these techniques with her that are supposed to help out short-term memory, but nothing’s worked to this point. Today just added to it…

Me: Lexi, let’s get your homework out and get started.

Lexi: Well, I knoooow I put my folders in my bookbag.

Me: So get them out and let’s move along.

Lexi: Well, I knooooow I put my folders in my bookbag but they’re not there now.

Me: What do you mean? If you know you put them in there then they should be there now, right?

Lexi: But they’re not there.

Me: So you didn’t put them in your bookbag.

Lexi: But I know I did!

Me: Okay, so you “know” you put them in there, but they’re not there now, so you were mistaken, right?

Lexi: I guess so, but I don’t know what happened.

Me: I know what happened. You forgot to put them in there. You were probably distracted.

Lexi: I really thought I put them in there.

Me: Where was the last place you saw them?

Lexi: Well… I know they were on my desk before I put my chair up.

Me: So they’re probably still sitting there right now.

Lexi: But I know I put them in my bookbag.

Me: Okay, we’re done with that. They’re not there, so you didn’t put them there. They must still be on your desk at school.

Lexi: So what are we going to do?

Me: I’m going to take you back to school and you’re going to hope someone’s there who can let us back into your classroom to get your folders and planner.

Lexi: I hope somebody’s there to let us in.

Me: And you’re going to lose screen time for tonight because you haven’t taken care of your responsibility.


Me: You’re 9 years old now, Lexi. At some point you have to learn some memory skills. If you need your homework at home, then you have to make sure you put it in your bookbag.

Lexi: But I was sure it was in my bookbag.

Me [after taking a long breath]: It’s called double checking. Memory is like riding a bike, Lex. Once you learn how to make it go you can’t unlearn it. But you have to learn how to do it first, and the more you complain about not being able to remember the more you won’t be able to remember. I know you can do it.

Lexi: How do you know I can do it?

Me: Because you’re smart, Lexi. I’ve seen you put your mind to something and you get it done. You just need a little help with this one.

Lexi: Uh, can we go to school already, though? You’ve been talking for FOREVER and the room’s probably not open now.

Me: It won’t be my fault if we get there and the room’s not open. This is the second time you’ve forgotten and I’m taking you back for what you’ve forgotten. It won’t happen again.

Lexi: But what if I forget again?

Me: Then you’ll just lose your playtime the next day for not getting your homework done. Maybe that will be what it takes to help your memory.

Lexi: Yeah, I’ll remember then. You know, if I lose my playtime. I love playtime!

Me: And I love you.

Lexi: Daaaaaaad. Let’s go!



They do this in Japan.

Most styles of greeting depend on the other person in the exchange. For instance, I see this one guy nearly every day, and each time we see each other for the first time he says, “What’s good?” To which I guess I’m supposed to say, “What’s good?” in return, but I always say, “Nothing new,” every single time. Another man greets me with, “How’s it hanging?” and I have absolutely no idea how to answer that one, so I just nod my head and say nothing. But there’s a woman I see every once in a while who tells me, “Nice smile,” by way of greeting, and I reply, “Nicer smile.”

These greetings aren’t like holiday greetings when we all get overly verbose (or the greeting cards do for us) because they happen often, but over time we’ve cultivated them until we know what we’re going to say depending on the person we come in contact with. The only troubles come when someone new enters our world, and we’re usually content to let them lead and we’ll follow, so if they’re doing the tango we’re doing the tango. At least until we feel comfortable enough with them over a period of time. Of course for some people it’s always awkward every time we greet them, but that’s life.

There are five distinct styles of greeting that I’ve noticed most people use when first spotting someone else…

  1. The Head Nod. Again, it depends, but generally anyone greeting me with a head nod is male. And usually if it’s anther black guy the nod will go up, while white guys tend to nod downward. I’m not sure what the difference really is in going up or down, but I usually let the other guy lead. If he juts his chin up, I do the same, like apes in the wild, and if he nods down I do the same, but I do feel like that way might as well have us bowing at each other, you know, like they do in Japan.
  2. The “‘Sup?” When I was coming of age the phrase was “What’s up?” but I guess these days we’re shortening everything else, so why not two words that were relatively short to begin with? And while this is technically a question it really isn’t, not when it is here in the form of a greeting. It means “Hi,” because, you know, “Hi” is a bit blase these days. I find that when I do answer the question all I get in return is confusion because they assumed I knew what the “‘Sup?” meant, and I’ve just disabused them of that notion. They don’t know how to handle it. The only correct response to a “‘Sup?” is a “‘Sup?” in return.
  3. The Bear Hug. The previous two greetings are generally for when I see someone often, but this one is usually reserved for people I haven’t seen in a month of Sundays. Oh yes, and this is usually a guy thing too. Not sure if it’s about the bone-crushing propensity of the bear hug or what, but it’s always been that way. The day a woman gives me a bear hug greeting is probably the day the world ends, but maybe that too will change. A bear hug signifies that maybe we weren’t friends when we knew each other back in the day, but the time in-between has made it so, at least for this one moment when we smush our bodies together in what passes for a greeting because we usually don’t know what to say to each other. Grunting should accompany the bear hug.
  4. The Choreographed Hug. While the bear hug is reserved for men, the choreographed hug is a female thing. I can see it coming a mile away. It starts somewhere in the eyes. Honestly. Then it spreads to the mouth — a brilliant smile that means something this way comes. Then the arms part and I know it’s unavoidable, whether I want to avoid it or not. Most times, though, the choreographed hug is a welcome one, either because my day has been going poorly or because the person offering the hug is a dear friend who understands that my day has been going poorly. Semantics, I know, but it’s good all the same.
  5. The “How are You?” Some people use this as interchangeable for “‘Sup?” where there is no response necessary, or even wanted. They don’t really want to know how I am, but they still can’t bring themselves to say “Hello.” It’s anathema these days, and I miss it. Sometimes I answer a “How are You?” with a “Hello,” and watch their faces squinch up, trying to make sense of it. But the “How are You?” is probably the most common greeting I get anymore, and it bores me to tears. I guess I like creativity in greetings, but as long as I’m the second person in the exchange I can’t say much about it.

So maybe I should lead the exchange sometime.


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