A 1755 English/Irish proverb which suits my purposes here.
I have a friend; a really cool friend; an honorable friend; a supportive friend; an aware friend; an empathic friend; a scary smart friend who writes on a level so impressive I asked for her hand in marriage after reading only a thousand or so of her words. It was in jest, I think, and years ago now, but as I recall, she didn’t exactly say no. . .
Since that time, she has purchased, read, and favorably reviewed my book; an act which showed her to be good to her word; a person of substance; a person of character rising out of a sea of pretenders who made similar promises without delivering the goods. Such is life as an author. You become accustomed to it while paying close attention to the solid people you meet in your journey.
Today she made some noise about my book on twitter so I thought a little surprise reciprocity might be in order.
Her name is Shelby Kent-Stewart
a.k.a. The Sultaness of Snark
(I just made that up.)
and I’m proud to call her my friend.
So when a friend you admire, or perhaps adore—I’m still working that out—who you are slightly intimidated by as a writer asks you to write with her, you get butterflies in your stomach reminiscent of your first school dance. Your palms get clammy, your mouth goes dry, your respiration becomes quick and shallow, and you struggle with words that seem to want to form sentences written by a chimp.
I gathered myself as we discussed the possibilities and we settled on a starting point. A simple blog post from two points of view to see if our styles, philosophies, attitudes, and perspectives could somehow mesh into something worth reading without destroying our friendship.
We did it.
In my heavily biased opinion, our first collaboration is Blog of the Year material, if that’s a thing, and we hope you enjoy reading it this weekend as much as we enjoyed producing it for you.
I am still disappointed and even more disgusted than ever by the things I have discovered since we split up.
Long ago, at the beginning you said: ‘Sometimes I have trouble knowing right from wrong.’ I should have seen this for what it is; a common trait among sociopaths, but instead I intervened in what I now see as your karmic destiny.
In another conversation, you told of being called a succubus, yet you did not really mind this worst of all slurs of your person. In fact you seemed to like the idea of playing the part. As a so-called life-long “religious” person, this should have been the ultimate affront to you because of the morality your church has been preaching to you for years, apparently without success.
“A succubus is a demon in female form, or supernatural entity in folklore, that appears in dreams and takes the form of a woman in order to seduce men, usually through sexual activity. The male counterpart is the incubus. Religious traditions hold that repeated sexual activity with a succubus may result in the deterioration of health or mental state, or even death.”
The “shoe” fits, princess. My career was slowed by making you a priority in my life—dealing with your endless problems. My health suffered as a result of the concern, stress, and time you took away from making badly needed money. And wow, did you screw with my mental state. It took longer than the two weeks I joked about when we were “together” to get over you. It took two months.
I don’t care that you have not paid the outstanding amount owed to me. In my rage I was as cruel with my words as I was capable of, and you have obviously used this to rationalize stiffing me. HOWEVER, what is not acceptable is you have not paid at least one of our mutual friends, and perhaps others, now that you have a life which affords you the opportunity to repay those who fell for your bullshit.
Get your crap together and pay your debts before you do end up in hell.
(This one is really just for kicks, shits, and giggles because I needed to blog something here. I do not hold out any hope the party in question will suddenly develop a conscience. Peace out!)
Conservatively, I estimate I “invested” 1400 hours of my life into Facebook over the past four years which is 500 hours more than it took to produce my book. Let that sink in a moment. I have dwelled on this for some time now. It is because of this significant amount of time that I did not just delete my Facebook account when the final straw arrived. I was close though. For better or worse, there is a legacy we leave behind on Facebook for our “friends”, if not the general public. However, if you posted as I did in a willy-nilly devil-may-care sort of way, you will spend days trying to clean it all up in order to leave a “best of” collection of posts worth scrolling before saying your final farewell. Be prepared for Facebook to “limit” your profile and page(s), a.k.a. putting you in Facebook jail, when you attempt such radical changes.
1) Some people are not who they claim to be.
I am not talking about authors writing under pen names － which is absolutely necessary to avoid harassment － I am talking about people with multiple online personas. Don’t make the mistake of PROJECTING your level of integrity or values, a.k.a. honesty, discretion, and honour onto people you meet. It will bite you every time.
You can protect yourself by using a free deep web search at: pipl.com.
If aliases appear, search each one. If you know multiple locations where they have lived, search each city by each alias. It could take a while to compile all the data, and you should prepare yourself as the results can be nothing less than staggering. Look for, and even search, relatives, known associates, and phone numbers to confirm the site has not made an error. There are pay sites starting from $2.00 that generate a full report including criminal activities. You might want to consider one of these if you are in deep with someone you met online. May your god be kind with what you find.
2) Don’t be naïve.
If you look up naïve in the dictionary, I’m sure you will see my picture there. I viewed joining the author communities on social media as an opportunity to connect with bright, engaging, open-minded seekers of wisdom . . . kindred spirits who would share thoughts as pen pals would, only using modern technology. Overall, nothing could be farther from the truth. Yes, you will encounter a few worthwhile decent types, but in a game where we count followers in the thousands, they represent a minuscule percentage.
3) “Haste makes waste.”
I remember being excited about making “friends” on Facebook when I first started out. So excited in fact, I would send friend requests to anyone who had the words author or writer on their profile. Back then, the prevailing theory suggested the key to success was a numbers game; the one with the biggest following would get a publishing deal. People were actually buying followers 10,000 at a time. I didn’t buy into this. I viewed social media as a popularity contest which does not translate into book sales ─ the equivalent to putting flyers in your neighbor’s mailboxes. I have yet to see data which is convincing enough to see it any other way. If I knew better, I would have cultivated relationships with influencers, readers of my genre, publishers, publicists, agents, reviewers, and bloggers ─ all the people I did not have as “friends” but who might have made a difference to the success achieved by my book. Had I known then what I know now, my friends list would look very different than it does today.
4) Cocaine would have been a better choice.
If you are going to choose an addiction, social media is the worst possible choice. THERE IS NO HIGH, and the more time you spend on social media the less happy you become. Anyone who has read my book, knows I am anti-escapist regardless of whether the high is produced naturally or artificially. Regular cocaine users know the drug has a diminishing return. The high is never as good as the first time they tried it unless they increase the quantity used; and the more they use, the more frequent their cravings become until it affects their lives. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no hypocrite. I let my demons out for an occasional stroll, but I pick my poisons carefully to ensure that none take charge of my life. Social media hooks us on being connected and never being alone. It is dangerous because humans must be alone in order to think, learn, and grow. Social media stagnates the mind and, Facebook at least, seems bent on depressing the populace. Endless distractions thwart creativity and productivity. If you: feel obligated to post on social media; look in regularly for comments on posts; have never turned off Messenger or notifications or your device, then you should pick different poisons for a while until you get a handle on the monkey on your back.
5) I kept my promise.
I used my Facebook profile page as a playground where I could share multiple aspects of my personality. This allowed me a place to vent . . . and vent I did; or more correctly, am continuing to do here in what will become my last post to Facebook. Early on I promised the real me would be on display at all times to my “friends”. The people on my friends list did not get an artificial construct or watered down perfect illusion of who I am. Nope, they got the full Monte, or at least as much Monte as Facebook would allow. My inner bad boy posted what little nudity Facebook community standards would tolerate for two reasons: Firstly, I am a rebel who sees freedoms dying faster than the planet is losing species; and secondly, nothing in the world is more beautiful to me than the female form. I shared my sense of humour as well, even when I knew it might be crossing someone’s line every now and then. I also shared my philosophies, and those from others which resonated within me, in what I now see as a futile effort to awaken the sleeping oblivious sheeple. The proof is in the likes. There were next to none. Recently, I wanted to find out if I was out of Facebook jail so I posted: ‘Somebody, anybody, tell me if you can see me.’ This post got more attention than a year’s worth of meaningful posts, and at the same time, it made a sad statement on the superficiality of the average Facebook user.
6) “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
As an author, I should have divided my time equally between Goodreads, twitter, and Facebook because Goodreads has proven itself to put your books in front of readers, and unlike Facebook, you can reach out to everyone and anyone on twitter. Time is the one thing you can never get more of and it does not allow do-overs. Spend yours wisely.
7) Nazi hamsters! WTF?
Fuckerberg, and the Nazis in the shadows behind him, are using facebook for data collection on each and every one of us, as are most of the major corporations in Silicon Valley. The difference is Facebook knows far more about us than Google, and possibly even the makers of our devices and the companies that supply operating systems as long as they do not breach their published privacy policies which most have already been caught doing. Facebook considers EVERYTHING you share to be their property. This includes Messenger. Yup, your selfies and home-made porn videos are all sitting in a data farm somewhere and you can never truly delete them. They lured us away from My Space with the promise of something better. A promise which was never kept right from the beginning. Their endless adjustments to the algorithm, have severely limited our outreach to readers while they stayed busy categorizing and compartmentalizing us into something reminiscent of a box filled with hamsters where everyone is climbing all over each other. Good luck. I’m out.
8) Let’s see Facebook for what it is: a societal manipulation site.
That doesn’t have the same innocuous ring to it as social media site, does it. In my time on Facebook, I have been appalled by posts in my News Feed ranging from animal cruelty to the shooting of an unarmed man by police, with a far too great number of others in between. Were they fake news as with the Trumpeter’s election campaigners who mysteriously showed up only to disappear shortly after the election? We can never know. What is clear however, is we are affected, influenced, and manipulated by what we see and hear in all forms of media. Worst of all, we become desensitized to atrocious human behavior and I believe this is NO ACCIDENT; but where they are intentionally herding the minds of the sheeple. When three billion users worldwide have been programmed to no longer give a shit about life, the world can easily fall into anarchy. On that day, the frightened sheeple will willingly turn over the last of their freedoms for safety. The single biggest difference between other forms of media and Facebook is there are no restrictions placed on what Facebook is allowed to broadcast. Facebook can do what they want with the get-out-of-jail-free-card of being a social media platform not responsible for the content created by users. There is no Editor In Chief to hold accountable for what is thrust before our eyes. Facebook’s new take on morality is not for me. It shouldn’t be for you either.
9) Some people make it bearable.
If I look at my years on Facebook as I would my life, there are some parallels. I have a few regrets but there was also a great deal of laughter. There were a handful of people who made the time spent on Facebook almost seem worthwhile. I hope they keep in touch. There were also some standouts who stepped up when it really mattered, and they have my deepest gratitude.
10) Facebook is what you make of it.
If you are just an individual who wants to keep tabs on people you already know in the real world, or if you want to find people you have lost touch with, then have at it while being VERY cautious of what you post or message to people. Keep your circle small and be wary of people you have not met in person when they send you a friend request. If you have the misfortune of being a writer who is following conventional wisdom, a.k.a. forced kicking and screaming into the social media spotlight as I was, then things will be tougher. Absorb and retain the previous 1800 words and I will leave you with the immortal words of my favorite Zen master: ‘Mind what you have learned; save you it can.’ – Yoda.
First thing this morning my neighbor sent a text to inform me the Internet is still down, but they claim to be working on it. Apparently a major cable was cut last evening leaving our entire area without service.
Thanks for the update., I thought to myself as I ran my morning self-diagnostics to see if I was fully functional before getting out of bed. I worked out yesterday so you never know. Out of HABIT I turned on my computer anyway and headed to the coffee-maker.
Coffee in hand, I sat down on the couch and drank the entire over-sized first mug while staring blankly at the Windows start up screen. The only thought I can recall during this semi-conscious period was: They chose a nice shade of blue.
What will I do this morning? Maybe go for a walk? Too cold. Read? Eyes still too sleepy and brain not receptive to input. Write something? There it is. But what? We’ll wing it.
Anyone who reads my crap knows of my contempt for the Internet and my fervent belief that it is a mind control weapon employed against the oblivious masses in the final stages of our enslavement. Yet, it has also become a part of my ROUTINE to have my coffee while scrolling twitter and chatting with online friends.
It was not always this way. I remember having a satisfying life before all this book writing nonsense took over.
Here is an example of RATIONALIZATIONS running wild:
I RATIONALIZED this CHANGE IN MY BEHAVIOR by TELLING MYSELF this was necessary to launch and promote my book. I further RATIONALIZED I should continue promoting my work beyond the one year period I had originally planned for as there were still occasional requests for interviews and the like coming in. I continued my RATIONALIZATION to stay on social media because we were entering the peak selling season. That’s no time to quit. My latest RATIONALIZATION, after almost four years since I first appeared on social media, is I now have a handful of people whose words and thoughts I enjoy. It would be wrong to abandon them.
Or would it?
A flaw in my thinking just made itself known on mug three. I am PROJECTING my character traits onto them; people I have never met.I ass-u-me they share my values: morality; ethics; scruples; sense of decency etc., when in truth, I really have little hard evidence to support the mental picture of them I have created in my mind. It is hard enough to discover the TRUE NATURE of people we meet in real life, without compounding the problem by believing what we see or are told through an electronic medium.
Recent─all too public events─began with provocative hurtful posts which I could have been spared from seeing. I retaliated. That was wrong. The enraged are not in touch with rational thought. Things escalated from there into a tangled mess of unimagined proportions. If you witnessed any of it, my apologies. I now have first-hand knowledge of the gossips, spies, stalkers, trolls, and double agents we have all heard about when chatting about facebook dramas.
Unchecked RATIONALIZATIONS can lead to DEMONIZATION or even DELUSION.
I am only guilty of the first two. I plead temporary insanity. I have and continue to work hard to be fully conscious and self-aware, and I pride myself on my ability to stay grounded in reality. This heightens your powers of perception so you can see things for what they are, and not how you would like them to be. However, this trait will not be considered endearing to anyone who lives in a fantasy world of imagined futures. Normally, I am so good at this people have called me a mind reader, or suggested I have them under surveillance, or even that I can predict the future. In truth, once you have really explored WHO YOU ARE and wrestled your demons into submission─with only occasional escape attempts─you are given a gift of heightened sensitivity which is composed mostly of sympathy, empathy, and compassion. Some call this being loving or caring; I just call them good people.
Humans like to think of themselves as complex creatures when in fact most human behavior is transparent and predictable to the few of us who bother to know ourselves. Once you know the best and worst you are capable of, and even though your self-control can slip at times, you can make shockingly accurate assessments of people as well as predictions of behavior and consequences.
To the superficial and narcissistic, life will always be a mysterious sequence of tragic events. They create petty RATIONALIZATIONS of their abhorrent behavior with statements like: “The heart wants what the heart wants.” or “We are only human.” or “They told me to do it.”. . .
Every single one of the seven billion souls on this planet are capable of moving beyond this most basic form of existence. I sincerely hope the readers of this will be some of those who do.
This was the second time I became embroiled in a facebook drama. There won’t be a third. Farewell facebook friends and followers. It was quite an experience which I can no longer RATIONALIZE.
I disagree. Not knowing fosters anxiety even in a guy like me who is wildly over self-examined. You receive a cryptic message about an emergency situation telling you they will get in touch as soon as more information is available. You wait; all the while consciously trying not to think the worst, but as the hours pass you inevitably let your guard down allowing the darkest possible outcomes to play out in your mind.
Times like these test your beliefs. As my handful of readers already know, I am not religiously inclined, and I have attempted to shed almost all beliefs—viewing them as traps which serve no other purpose than to allow us to be manipulated, usually through fear. I no longer fear for myself, but I do fear for others; especially those close to me. After ten hours of checking my phone, I did something that helped to ease my mind which could be labelled in a number of different ways depending on the beliefs of the person applying the label. I looked at the sky and thought:
‘Please, let them be okay.’
Most would call this praying. A far smaller number would say I was putting positive energy into the universe to create a desired outcome. For me, it was merely a mental exercise to firstly accept a situation that was outside of my control, and secondly, a way to master my anxiety once again. I never say there is no God or gods. Instead, I leave room for the possibility. While I would like to think we live in a deterministic universe where we each have free will and where, if we channel our collective energies in a particular direction, we can control destiny or fate. Sadly, thus far at least, there is no absolute proof of this one either. What I find fascinating at times like this is I am willing to give them a go without any belief in them. My “Leave no rock unturned.” approach may be the reason. If it can’t hurt and could help then why not?
Studies into prayer and meditation show the human brain behaves very differently when we partake in these activities, indicating there is “something to them”. Maybe we level up our consciousness, or maybe we just reduce our brain activity to a level where we find clarity; where we can accept that some things are outside of our control, and where we can let go of our irrational fears. After all, it is fear that spawns our worries, and it is the quantity of those worries we created in our head which can lead us into full-blown anxiety.
Some would say my “prayer” was answered.
I will not and cannot allow this label to be applied to my story, for if I do, I would become narrow or closed-minded with a singular viewpoint, and I like to think I have outgrown being that guy.
Why choose black or white when there is so much gray area to be explored?
It took two more hours of waiting, but the news I finally received was not terrible. Did God intervene at my request? Not likely. Did I use my incredible mind powers to have the universe alter our reality? I seriously doubt it. So what did happen then?
Things are not in our control. They never have been throughout recorded history. Everything is temporary, including each of us. The control freaks who rise to power and prominence do so by having a narrow focus. It serves them for a while, but historically, it inevitably leads to their demise because a time ALWAYS comes when they need to consider possibilities outside of their doctrine. We see maniacal despots in the media each day who are single-mindedly hell-bent on creating division and hatred everywhere they can. They only have power over the closed-minded, and this is why they work so hard at recruiting or creating the like-minded.
Avoid choosing a side because neither side can see the other possibilities.
It’s been a rough year, so why should December be any different? However, today’s news was not as bad as some of the outcomes from my anxiety based mental conjuring. For this I am grateful. As we enter the holiday season, I hope you and yours are safe, healthy, and happy. If you fall into this lucky group, please take a moment to realize how lucky you are. Not everyone is as lucky as you. Life really is about luck, and the funny thing about luck is it can change in the blink of an eye.
If you know someone who espouses the notion that we make our own luck, remind them that while hard work and focus can help them climb the ladder of success, only a healthy person can cling to the rungs.