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Searching Low and High for the Who Behind The Who

Searching Low and High for the Who Behind The Who

A flurry of thinkpieces circulating at the moment about the dark side of identity politics—for reasons that should be fairly self-evident. Just before starting in on a contribution of my own, a guardian angel reminded me that I’d already spilled plenty of ink on that subject in The Who chapter of A Mess of Help, an earlier version of which appeared in the Identity Issue of The Mockingbird. Somehow that essay never made it onto the site. Well, no longer:

It was the mid-90s, and one of my older brother’s friends had decided to make our house a stop on…

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The Rising Tide of #selfharmmm

The Rising Tide of #selfharmmm

One of the clear refrains I’m hearing post-election has to do with the cost of virtual communication. We are only starting to come to terms with the degree to which our current climate of divisiveness has been amplified by the limitations of the Internet. Physical remove makes it (much) easier to dehumanize another person and (much) harder to empathize with them. Or, as we put it in the tech issue of The Mockingbird:

At its best, the disembodiment [of the web] engenders safety, the permission to engage with someone or something you otherwise find threatening, e.g., a Gospel that seems too…

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When Your Popularity Arc Takes a “Nosedive”

When Your Popularity Arc Takes a “Nosedive”

Last year’s Technology Issue published a list of TV Techno-Fables, the first show on the list being Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker’s exceedingly bleak anthology series, which just released its third season on Netflix this month. In the list we discussed that, despite The Twilight Zone comparison often thrown at Black Mirror, the show “does not contain a whiff of Rod Serling’s compassionate humanism.” In other words, if the show is as prophetic as it often feels, Brooker sees no hope entering the equation.

That was all before Season 3, though! Most things have not changed. As with all Black Mirror episodes,…

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Gchat Apologies and the Lonesome Cockpit

Gchat Apologies and the Lonesome Cockpit

In her new book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, Sherry Turkle invests a lot of ink in the distinction between connection and conversation. This is a distinction already rife with commentary, on this site and others, that while connection is the term of choice for LinkedIn partnerships and Facebook “friends,” it is bankrupt when it comes to the real subjectivity present in a conversation between two breathing people. Turkle argues that this transition away from conversation is, in turn, bankrupting us of the real meaning of connection. With the growth of internet communities, relationships are…

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A Confession About Children and Technology

A Confession About Children and Technology

I’ve tried to hold back from writing about screen time for kids. I’ve shied away from the topic because almost everyone I know allows their children to spend time on an iPad. I do not want people to feel guilty about their parenting choices. And I do not want to feel righteous about mine.

Recently, the all-knowing American Academy of Pediatrics said that children are spending 7 hours a day in front of a screen. Seven hours. That is more time than I spend in front of screen. And I write for a living. Worse than that, there is some discussion…

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Lay Down Your Smartphone and Follow Me? (Just a Second…)

Lay Down Your Smartphone and Follow Me? (Just a Second…)

I owe you an apology. Or at least a confession. Nine months after switching to a flip phone, and about six months after making a big stink about it, I went back to a smart one. I’m not proud.

What got me in the end wasn’t Internet itself. I stand by what I wrote about the cost, both personal and communal, of non-stop web access. I probably undersold it. What made me, er, flip back was two things: music and texts. They were the rationalization, in any case.

I realized about a month into the experiment that I wasn’t willing to live…

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The Postmodern Community: A Magnifying Mirror of Me

One of the most interesting books (if you are a nerd like me) I’ve read in the last couple of months is Babel, a book co-authored by Ezio Mauro, an Italian writer, and Zygmunt Bauman, a Polish sociologist. Himself a secular Jew, Bauman seems to always offer profound insight into our Western cultural climate, and if you manage to read Babel, it will likely leave you with more questions than answers. Here’s just one quote that is ripe for reflection and is good fodder on the self’s bent-inwardness (incurvatus in se):

41TCtCOvLTL…[C]ommunities came to be supplanted by ‘networks’—forms of association made to the measure of ‘self-communication’. In stark opposition to the old-style communities, a network is a grouping (more correctly, a list or a roll-call of names or addresses) meant to be selected/composed by the individual on his/her sole responsibility for the selection of links and nods. Its ‘membership’ and boundaries are not ‘given’; neither are they fixed—they are friable and eminently pliable; defined, drawn and endlessly redefined and re-drawn at will by the network’s composer placed firmly in its centre. By origin and by its mode of existence, it is but an extension of the self, or a carapace with which the ego surrounds itself for its own safety: cutting its own, hopefully secure, niche out of the dumbfounding, inhospitable, and perhaps—who knows?!—hostile offline world. A ‘network’ is not a space for challenges to the received ideas and preferences of its creator—it is rather an extended replica or magnifying mirror of its weaver, populated solely by like-minded people, saying what the person who admitted them is willing to hear, and ready to applaud whatever the person who admitted or appointed them says; dissenters, individuals holding to contrary—or just unfamiliar and thus uncomfortably puzzling—opinions are exiled (or, at least consolingly, amenable to being banished) at the first sign of their discordance.

Pokémon, Pharisees, and the Importance of Play

Pokémon, Pharisees, and the Importance of Play

Pokémon GO hit smartphones just over a week ago and it’s already an international phenomenon. In the American market, the game reached No. 1 on the downloads chart in just 13 hours, and according to some vendors, is pulling in $2 million a day. It is already more popular than Tinder and Instagram, and it’s nearly out in front of Twitter. By almost all projections, it’s going to be the most successful app in app history.

The media noticed, of course. Apparently, the game is both brilliant and the most dangerous game in the world. There was even an interesting piece on how…

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People wear Samsung Gear VR devices as they attend the launching ceremony of the new Samsung S7 and S7 edge smartphones during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 21, 2016. REUTERS/Albert Gea      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX27XXM

What Is News (And What Isn’t)

A lot of people were talking about Facebook last week. Besides Chewbacca Woman, its Trending News platform was, well, trending. Despite the fact that, in the epoch of FoxNews and HuffPo, news like this should never be news to anyone, the ‘news’ was leaked that Facebook uses hired editors over their algorithms to select which news articles are “Trending.” Now, I know, it may seem strange to you that human editors would be behind the scenes of a news organization instead of using what editors have always used—algorithms. (What is an algorithm?) Facebook, the world’s largest news distributor, was accused…

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Full Disclosure: I Did Not Understand the Chewbacca Mask Lady Video

Full Disclosure: I Did Not Understand the Chewbacca Mask Lady Video

I did not get the Chewbacca mask video. I realize this says nothing good about me.

The lady in the video was funny. And seemed happy. She made a joke about her weight, which always pains me for women.  But still, try as I might, I have not been able to wrap my brain around the why of it. Why we were all watching it and why did we all feel the need to share it? A day after it was released, there was one pervasive assessment:

We loved this video because it reminded us of joy! Everything on the internet is…

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Faith, The Future & The Frightening Reality Of Online Dating

Faith, The Future & The Frightening Reality Of Online Dating

Human being is storied being. We find meaning in our present according to where we’ve been and where we’re going. This is why a condition like PTSD is so devastating. By making the traumatic past ever present it robs a person of the ability to narrate their own story or even sometimes to have much of one.

A recent little piece by theologian Peter Leithart reminded me just how central the tug forward is for us if we’re to live anything like a meaningful life. Leithart points out the curious fact that, at the end of the book of Revelation, the heavenly city…

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How to Succeed Without (Looking Like You’re) Trying

How to Succeed Without (Looking Like You’re) Trying

On a road trip last week, I caught up with the new season of Gimlet Media’s fantastic Start-Up podcast, a series that does exactly what you might expect, chronicling the ups and downs of getting a new company off the ground. To open their third season, which debuted only a couple of weeks ago, they decided to depart from previous go-rounds and withhold the name of the company being profiled. In order, one presumes, to amplify the suspense and shortcircuit any bias the listener might have up-front.

Clever move. As soon as a company “makes it”–especially in Silicon Valley–there’s a tendency…

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