Friday, May 21, 2010

An embarrassing start

Boy, I hope this Rand Paul idiot wins the Kentucky Senate race. So far he is tripping on his own feet, and stepping on his own.... anyway. He's flubbing up on no-brainers like the 1964 Civil Rights Act just to preserve his libertarian street cred. And what will that buy him at a desegregated lunch counter? And then he gripes "where's my honeymoon" to George Stephanopoulos. Embarrassing.

Rand Paul is living in the same fantasy land inhabited by paleoconservatives and other troglodytes―the grad student late night bullshit session. Like Pat Buchanan the Brilliant who never won a single election. You are running for a powerful political office, buddy. Better get your game face on. The victim card is not attractive and neither is the image of you being eaten in November because you refuse to shed your inane libertarian purity.

Unhappy Friendings

There has been much ink, electronic and otherwise, spilled on the problems caused by social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, et al. Some points made are insightful and relevant in my opinion, hence my Living Out Loud posts. Others verge on Reefer Madness-like hysteria. So I try to limit how much I opine about social media. If you use these things in accord with their nature then I believe they cannot be very harmful. But it is possible that for many people, understanding the true nature of "social media" may be extremely difficult.

I think one of the problems with Facebook is the use of the word "friend". To become someone's friend on Facebook means that you're willing to share information on your Facebook page with that person. That's all. It doesn't mean anything more or less than that, and there is no alternate meaning. There might be a strong correlation between those who constitute one's real friends and one's Facebook friends, just like there is a strong correlation between religious people and people who protest against abortion. But to be religious and to protest abortion have two separate meanings. Likewise, a "Facebook friend" and a real friend are two very different things, and when the definition of "Facebook friend" is explained as I did above, it is not difficult for the reasonable person to see the difference.

By the way, this is why I prefer the site to Facebook. On LinkedIn, you "invite people to connect", you don't make a "friend request". Thus the terminology is much closer to the actual process which is one of granting access privileges.

Most people intuitively realize that posting things on the internet and letting certain people see what you posted has very little to do with friendship. So some might argue that I'm belaboring the point here. Really, isn't this obvious? But I think we need to go beyond intuition about this, especially if we are raising kids and have to explain to them, for example, why we don't publish family secrets or personally criticize someone on a Facebook page. As we know, what is obvious to adults is not necessarily obvious to children. And since social media was not around when we were growing up, our first impression of it will definitely be very different than that of our children.

To further clarify the difference between friendship and friending―that's the shorthand I'll use: an actual English noun for real-world friends and a stupid made-up verb for Facebook friendeds―is that there are many types of friendships between people in the world and yet really only one type of friending on Facebook. You are either friended with someone or you are not. Furthermore most of my friends are people whose friendship was never formally requested. For the most part, the question "Would you be my friend?" ceases to be cute around age 10 and begins to sound awkward and strained, to put it mildly. But this request is formally made in the friending process. And a friended person can see all of the friended's friendeds. This assuredly leads to problems among highschoolers. Imagine when Charlene finds out you're friends with Brittany. I mean... no one likes her. But the problem may be worse for older people. To take one aspect, I'll give you one word: photos. "Wow, she did not age well, did she?" Need I say more.

Thinking about the different kinds of friends one may have is what led me to write this post, along with thoughts about how someone with a propensity for "intelligence-gathering" (i.e., gossip) could glean quite a bit from your other friends' posts on your Facebook page. And those thoughts were initiated by a Facebook friend request from someone I know from long ago whose friend request I've decided to ignore. The ironic thing is that I wouldn't mind sitting down with this person―who happens to be female, not an ex-girlfriend―and drinking a cup of coffee and chatting with her. This would be a way to live charity, and I could fill up an hour or even two with innocuous conversation, although most of it would be listening to her run her mouth.

However it would be a disservice to myself and to everyone connected to me on Facebook were I to accept her request. When I knew her, she was an unrepentant gossip with a strong tendency toward exhibitionism, and the contents of the personalized invitation which she sent me demonstrates that she has most likely not changed. So it would probably be a disservice to her as well. Drinking a cup of coffee and making small talk with her would involve less sharing and be far less intimate than friending on Facebook, even though I barely use the service. I don't think I have to cite examples of the kind of stuff she was known for; everyone here knows her type.

I think that most mature users of social media realize these things. Let's not forget that it's up to us to point them out to the younger generation.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ho hum....


Two Moroccan students who attended a university in the central Italian city of Perugia were expelled from the country last month after it was discovered that they were conspiring to kill Pope Benedict. One of them allegedly said he wished to “earn a place in Paradise.”

According to Italian weekly newspaper Panorama, conversations intercepted by Italian authorities led to the arrest and deportation of the two suspects.

The order for expulsion reportedly included the transcript of a conversation in which one of the students, Mohammed Hlal, said that he wished “death to the head of the Vatican City State” and was "ready to assassinate him to earn a place in Paradise."

The 26-year-old Hlal was speaking over the phone with 22-year-old Ahmed Errahmouni when he made the statements which earned them the attention of the local police and a trip back to Morocco.

They were deemed a “threat to national security” in the document signed by the Italian Minister of the Interior and expelled on April 29, Panorama reports.

According to an investigation begun last October by the Italian anti-mafia police, the two were known to have a radical vision of Islam and had expressed a desire to obtain explosive materials. It was reported that no material used to construct explosives was found in their residence hall rooms.

But all religions are the same, right? I mean, those two Mormon kids walking down the street could be preparing to go whack some Baptist televangelist. And the two Hasids coming out of that bank―I'll be awfully surprised if another sundown passes without seeing them stabbing a Quaker.

Hlal studied international communications, while Errahmouni was a student of math and physics at the University of Perugia.

Wait... not poor and down-trodden? Not ignorant and uneducated? What?