Intolerance and the Fall of Civilization

“In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.” ~Dalai Lama

i_love_being_tolerant_coffee_mug-r1c1865b42be2465584e09e35da0ac1b7_x7jgr_8byvr_324Have we become less tolerant of others or is it just more apparent because of the ubiquity of social media, connecting us to more people than ever, whether we want to be or not? I’ve wondered this more so lately.

“It’s my opinion, so it can’t be wrong,” someone posted the other day on Facebook, in response to someone else saying they were wrong. This seems to be the prevailing argument these days when someone judges another, for whatever reasons. It’s this idea that everyone is entitled to share their opinions, even if those opinions are sweeping statements about entire groups, when they are hateful and hurtful, when their only intent is to emotionally maim someone else.

“If you have nothing good to say, then don’t say anything at all,” my mother taught me growing up, and I think it’s even more relevant now. At least when I was growing up there wasn’t the access to what everyone else was thinking. Back then we kept our thoughts to ourselves, if only because there was no internet as a megaphone. We were dislikefaketaught to be… what was the word again… oh yeah, NICE to everyone else, even if it meant putting on a face and pretending. Just to keep the peace.

But “the peace” has gone out the window. Too many people aren’t tolerant of others. The second we hear that someone else has something different from us we try and find ways of tearing them down. Either we’re jealous, we just don’t understand it, or it matters not to us, but instead of ignoring whatever it is, instead of moving on with our lives, we make a snarky comment on some sort of social media, and things escalate. What happened to our sense of tolerance?

More and more I see these posts, I see these memes, I watch these intolerant comments fill up space that used to be for pictures of cats and monkeys getting along together. More and more often I can’t help but shake my head at the ignorance, at the brazenness, of these intolerant souls who just can’t seem to help themselves. But they can help themselves. I do it all the time. Do I agree with every single thing everyone else says? No. But I understand that we are all individuals, that we all have our own ways of seeing the world.

Because, see, that’s how tolerance works. We need more of it in our world today. Or at the very least, we don’t need to say everything that comes into our minds. We really don’t.



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.


Kid A

ignoremeIn this age of immediacy, we crave constant feedback. We send a text message, then we stare at our phones, readily expecting them to vibrate, to ding, to acknowledge a response of some sort from the person we swear must be on the other end of the tenuous connection. We post a tweet, then we hold our breaths waiting for that first person to retweet it, for that spark of communication that tells us we have been accepted.

Because it really is all about acceptance, isn’t it?

When I was in elementary school, at gym time there was always this anxiety. That’s because the gym teacher would put us in a long, thin line, and pick two kids who were suddenly team captains. Then they, in turn, would pick each kid one by one that they wanted on their team. Inevitably I was last, or second to last (thank god for that kid with the inhaler), and my self-esteem would take a massive hit. Each and every time.

Just for once I wanted to be Kid A. I wanted to look up in surprise as my name was called before anyone else’s, to raise my hands in triumph. But it never happened. So I began to hate gym class. I began to get acid in the pit of my stomach when I thought about it. That was no way to live. And yet, here and now, there is a new kind of acid we get in our stomachs, and this new social revolution is to blame. Or maybe it is we who are to blame.

Because we all want to be Kid A. How many likes did our latest Facebook post get? Who else is sharing our Spotify playlists? Why haven’t our friends texted us back within five seconds? Is something wrong? Is their house on fire? Have they *gasp* left their phone behind to melt in the flames?! We finally exhale when our phones eventually vibrate, telling us everything is still right with the world. Telling us we aren’t last to be picked for a kickball team.

Patience is a thing of the past. Why can’t it happen now? Why can’t we be loved now? Now, now, now! If it doesn’t happen now then it’s irrelevant. If we can’t get instant feedback it means our lives are meaningless. Maybe it’s time we take a breath without holding it, just to feel it go through us, to feel how calm we can be when we’re not living between moments. We don’t have to be the top dog, the best in class, the one with the most likes. We can be our original selves and be okay.


Friend Requests

facebook_friend_requestIn this age of Facebook it’s all about numbers. Who has the most “friends?” How many friends are mutual between you and somebody else — and anybody else? How many likes do your friends have on their posts? And my favorite — how many friend requests are pending, how long have they been in stasis, and why?

I have no problem having “friends” I’ve never met in person before. I call them my acquaintances. I am acquainted with their names, and sometimes other things about them too, before I accept them into my world. I’ve noticed that often times these friends become even more dear to me than the ones I actually know in the flesh. I wonder why that is. But anyway…

There are four general types of friend requests I encounter:

  1. Friends of friends. I may post a witty comment in response to something one of my friends said, and before I know it I have a few of their friends requesting the pleasure of my friendship. Depending on my mood I might accept them, but more often than not, unless it is one of my close friends who is the mutual, I let it sit in limbo.
  2. Forgotten friends. These are the folks whose names I don’t recall off-hand, either because it’s been so long, or they were such a small part of my life even when I did know them. I don’t feel particularly bad about having to dredge my memory for a fragment of them, but if it’s been that long I don’t really know what they bring to the table now. I usually accept them out of a sense of obligation.
  3. Prior generations. I’m always on the fence about whether or not to accept these people as “friends” because I knew them when I was young and they were adults then. Now they’re all on social media, they think they’re hip, and somehow I showed up as “people they might know.” They care about the numbers so they send out a request… that I usually ignore.
  4. “Not-even” friends. Every so often I get friend requests from people who don’t fit either of the categories above. We share no mutual friends. Their names don’t ring any sort of bells. The only reason I would accept them is if I care about the above numbers, if I’m concerned enough about them to warrant a bit of randomness in my world. I’m usually not.

At any given time I have several friend requests pending, and I try to check on them every now and then. Of course the longer they sit there, collecting dust, the more I’m sure the sender is deciding that I just won’t accept them. Maybe I would be better served just going with my gut on each one as they come in instead of letting them sit around. I can always unfriend someone later if I’m not pleased with the things they post.

Right now, at this very moment, I have three friend requests floating out there, all of which have been hanging out for a while, waiting for some kind of acceptance from me. I’m sure at some point I’ll get back to them.


Dear Journal: Technology

woman-staring-at-cell-phone-waiting“It turns girls on that I’m mysterious. I tell ’em I don’t want nothing serious. ‘Cause even on a slow day I can have a three-way chat with two woman at one time. I’m so much cooler online.” ~Brad Paisley

Do you think all this technology — all this social media — has made us more physically anti-social?

There are six of us sitting in a relatively small room but there is no conversation going on. Instead we are all nose-deep in our screens, wrapped up in the small lives and exorbitant lies of people tweeting, or Facebooking, or Instagramming, or pinning deep, insightful memes on their Pinterest walls. Or if it’s not that it’s texting other people who are in the same room.

But too many of us are afraid of public speaking. Or even going up to someone and introducing ourselves. Give us their names, though, and we will friend them, or follow their blog, or however else we can make a connection. JUST DON’T MAKE US TALK TO THEM IN PERSON. That’s just cruel and unusual punishment.

I mean, who dances in the clubs anymore? Who has real-life conversations with real people in restaurants instead of texting them because it’s more convenient? We don’t even have the somewhat social aspect of the internet cafe anymore because our phones have made them obsolete. The phones are smart, but by having them does that make us stupid?

And I’ll admit it — I like all this technology when it works like it’s supposed to, and when it’s in moderation. I find myself checking my phone even when it hasn’t vibrated yet, and I worry that someday I’ll need a 12-step group to wean myself from so much constant reliance on it. I worry that if I don’t have the latest version with the most recent updates I am falling behind the times and others are moving far past me. Technologically speaking.

Hi. My name is Sam. And I like to actually talk to people. Is there something wrong with that?


P.S. – Yes, I recognize the irony of saying that via a blog.

Hmph! That’s YOUR Opinion!

These private lives we live must be kept private at all costs, to maintain our sanity.” – Theodicus

The court of public opinion is so much more persuasive than any lawyer could ever hope to be. Every Tom, Dick and Leroy has an opinion about everything, and unlike days gone by, they will all share those opinions with anyone who has two ears. Whether we want to hear it or not. And just stand there, nodding my head in pantomime fashion, hoping it comes off as noncommittal as it was meant.

But, unlike so many others, I don’t blame Facebook, or Twitter,or Google+, or any other of the social media sites. All they do is give people a forum for sharing those opinions with the masses instead of just in their own little worlds (of which they are kings), and while that is interesting, it doesn’t change the fact that people will be people. Which means sharing their opinions, however backwards, self-serving, and ignorant those opinions are.

It used to be that we would research everything before saying anything in public. The truly ironic thing about today’s society is that, even though we have all the tools to help us research and find out the facts, we either don’t use them, or we look in the wrong places to find the information. TMZ is not the foremost authority on what’s going onĀ  in the world. Believe me. Plus, because anyone and everyone can post their opinions for consumption, we should be wary of each and every one, but instead we are taking them as a god’s honest truth, simply because they said it.

Most notably, in my Facebook “news” feed, there are two distinct opinions emerging on the Boston situation. On the one side are the legions of people advocating for killing this “suspect,” no questions asked. They claim that he could have explosives strapped to him and the sooner “we” take him out the better. I love how they insert themselves right into the thick of it. Then there are those on the opposite end who claim “we” need to do all “we” can to capture the “suspect” safely, so “we” can interrogate him and see what he has to say for himself. The whole “innocent until proven guilty” contingent. And both groups are incredibly vocalĀ  because they KNOW they’re right, and the other side is wrong. They don’t see any middle ground because they see in black and white. And that’s OKAY because that’s what opinions are. But when we try to foist our opinions on other people, that’s the problem.

Everyone has become an expert, and everyone’s opinion has gained the same weight as everyone else’s. It’s scary, actually, that people who actually know what’s going on, who have the facts, are being herded into the same lifeboat as every Tom, Dick and Leroy who throws up a blog and vilifies or glorifies whatever he will, regardless of facts. And we will fight to the death to assure everyone that we are indeed correct, that our opinion should indeed hold the kind of weight it seems to hold even though we know nothing.

So, no, I don’t blame social media for the problem, but I do think we should take what we read with a grain of salt (hmmm, wonder where this phrase came from? I must research it). Then, we should throw that salt right over our (left) shoulder, and keep moving on with our day. So we can watch more goat videos on youTube.


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