Roxanne Tellier: Who’s Crying Now?

Roxanne DBAWISWhat a week! Everywhere you turn, people are commenting on Mayor Ford’s latest antics, marching against Monsanto, insisting that their petitions against some newly discovered outrage in the human or animal world be signed, and wondering what the heck is the deal with the weather.

bettiePageJust like last week. And last month.  And last year.  We’ve got instant access to information from all around the world, and a social media that allows us to tell everyone we know – and their friends – about something that happened just five minutes ago. Or five years ago, as happened this week, when suddenly Facebook was all aflutter with news that Bettie Page, pin up girl of the fifties, had passed away. Which she had, but in December 2008.

ray-manzarekjim-morrisonWe also had a flutter when it was reported that Ray Manzarek, keyboard player of The Doors, had died. Or had he?

“But, because there has been a long line of celebrity death hoaxes plaguing social media sites in recent months, some users have – quite understandably – suspected that posts about Mr. Manzarek’s death represented just one more such hoax. And one allegedly satirical website has added to the confusion by publishing an article claiming that the death rumours were indeed an Internet hoax. While satire is often confronting and perhaps needs to be in order to be effective, this particular article, at least in this writer’s opinion, plumbs the depths of poor taste and fails dismally as a satirical piece.”

tom-jonesDays later, another hoax made the rounds, pronouncing 72 year old Tom Jones as dead.

“Rumors of the singer’s alleged demise gained traction on Friday after a ‘R.I.P. Tom Jones’ Facebook page attracted nearly one million of ‘likes’. Those who read the ‘About’ page were given a believable account of the British singer’s passing.” (From http://en.mediamass.net/people/tom-jones/deathhoax.html)

It’s the Internet, the world of social media, full to bursting with untold wonders, real and unreal. It’s the Brave New World. But, just as in the maps of the Ancients, “here there be dragons.”

obama-socialmediaOn the positive side, online communities can offer users a chance to communicate with people they might never have met, or those they’ve lost touch with over the years. Students, teachers and researchers can get access to education and support beyond their wildest dreams. I can tell you all about my next gig, and find out when your event is happening and where. Heck, Obama used social media so wisely during the 2012 election that he changed the face of political campaigning forever.

The dark side of the coin cautions that websites encourage wasting time on games and nonsense, with a decreased productivity overall, whether in business or schools. Our brains are being altered, our fingers learning new ways to communicate, and most of us are now far more prone to ADHD symptoms, as we find it harder and harder to concentrate for less and less amounts of time. With the flick of a “share” button, we can spread false and/or potentially dangerous information to thousands of readers. Privacy, something we all assumed as a right, is now so tenuous as to be almost nonexistent.

Is there a cruel streak that runs through our DNA? I’d like to believe that mankind is basically kind and peaceful, but something more sinister raises its ugly head at the least provocation. We’re all bullies of some stripe, as we taunt those who dare to walk the earth and not be exactly like us. There’s no resisting the urge to pass on Internet memes that target the “others.” And who amongst us can keep from responding to even the idlest of comments about current events, politics, celebrities, religion – or the People of Wal-Mart.  (http://www.peopleofwalmart.com/)

new-bullyingNot only is our behaviour bullying, it’s lazy and sneaky. We’re on the attack, prepared to defend our positions, proselytize our own beliefs, and woe betide anyone who disagrees! And we didn’t even have to leave our homes to do so.

We’re all about being in constant contact with our friends and the world. I used to condemn the high school kids who seemed to spend more time on their phones than with their real live friends, until I realized that the practice is now so wide spread that actual face to face contact with anyone is almost impossible. Even shop salespeople have better things to do than serve a customer; they’ve just thought of something that they must immediately share on Twitter and Facebook.

Interacting with texts rather than people has its charms. You can project someone or something very different from your own reality. You can choose to seem happy, when in fact you’re terribly sad. You can pretend to agree with others, even if you don’t actually believe a word they’re saying. But this Facebook-friendsis opting for a two dimensional world, not the 3D world that really exists.

There’s a false sense of connection created when you are a Facebook Friend. You don’t have face-to-face communication. Your perception of that person is created by how and what they choose to show you of their lives. Younger people can be exposed to predators like pedophiles. More commonly, teenagers may open themselves to cyber bullying, often with tragic consequences.

The villains of cyberspace – the spammers, the virus spreaders, the malignant advertisers – seem almost harmless in the face of what those with whom we most interact can do. Our best friends and beloveds may disagree so strongly with what we believe that it can cause constant arguments and tension. This week, all of the interest and speculation about the alleged video of Mayor Ford, and his reluctance to confirm or deny either the contents of the video or the existence of the video itself, led to a virtual Civil War on the ‘net, with seemingly everyone prepared to defend their own views, by bare knuckle boxing if necessary.

informationoverloadBy Saturday night, I felt like my head would explode. My stomach was in knots, my brain was overloaded. I felt ill, exhausted, and terribly depressed. I felt this way last year, towards the end of the 2012 Presidential campaign. There is, apparently, a limit to how much information and opinion I can handle.

But this is our world. I may feel the need to run away and hide for a while, to stop consulting the Internet Oracle, and to quit refreshing the news feeds so as to keep up with “breaking news” which is in fact, generally just more speculation and opinion, but it’s the world we live in, and denying its existence would be ridiculous and foolish.

torontobeautifuldayIt’s a beautiful day in Toronto. The sun is shining, there’s a cheeky wind blowing the petals off fragrant flowers, and there’s a world beyond your monitor. There’s a lake, a beach, and music playing somewhere near you, all day and night. Shut down your computer, unplug everything, and get yourself out into society, not social media. Resist the urge to check your phone. That reality can and will wait for you to return.

“…reality, however utopian, is something from which people feel the need of taking pretty frequent holidays….” Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

= RT =

Roxanne’s column appears here every Sunday 

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonRoxanne Tellier has been singing since she was 10 months old … no, really. Not like she’s telling anyone else how to live their lives, because she’s not judgmental, and most 10 month olds need a little more time to figure out how to hold a microphone. After years of doing things she didn’t want to do, she’s found herself working with a bunch of crazy people who are as batshit crazy and devoted to music as she is, and so she can be found every Monday at Cherry Cola’s, completely unable to think of anything funny to say, as the co-host of Bob Segarini’s The Bobcast. Come and mock her. She’s good with that. And she laughs. A lot. But not at you.

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