Tag Archives: internet

Lessons in Love and Life from Jonathan Franzen

“There is no such thing as a person whose real self you like every particle of. This is why a world of liking is ultimately a lie. But there is such a thing as a person whose real self you love every particle of.”

Once again, there I was on metafilter when I stumbled across something interesting.  Go figure.  This time, it was an excerpt from a commencement speech at Kenyon College (printed in the opinion page of the NYT) written by author Jonathan Franzen (Freedom) about technology and narcissism and love and life.

Franzen talks about the “liking” phenomenon sweeping the world, thanks to Facebook.  We all want to “like” things, and we want people to “like” us.  “If you dedicate your existence to being likable, however, and if you adopt whatever cool persona is necessary to make it happen, it suggests that you’ve despaired of being loved for who you really are.”

Perfect

Image by -= Bruce Berrien =- via Flickr

We want to be loved for who we are, and yet we rarely show our true selves to people, especially at the beginning of a romantic relationship.  We try to be perfect, to be who the person wants us to be, or who we think the person wants us to be.  We don’t lose our temper when someone cuts us off on the road.  We cook gourmet dinners.  We obviously don’t burp or fart or poop, because we don’t do any of those things. We don’t get upset or have a bad day and eat a pint of ice cream to ease the pain.  We exercise regularly and have a clean house.

The simple fact of the matter is that trying to be perfectly likable is incompatible with loving relationships. Sooner or later, for example, you’re going to find yourself in a hideous, screaming fight, and you’ll hear coming out of your mouth things that you yourself don’t like at all, things that shatter your self-image as a fair, kind, cool, attractive, in-control, funny, likable person. Something realer than likability has come out in you, and suddenly you’re having an actual life.

Suddenly there’s a real choice to be made, not a fake consumer choice between a BlackBerry and an iPhone, but a question: Do I love this person? And, for the other person, does this person love me?

There is no such thing as a person whose real self you like every particle of. This is why a world of liking is ultimately a lie. But there is such a thing as a person whose real self you love every particle of. And this is why love is such an existential threat to the techno-consumerist order: it exposes the lie.

This is not to say that love is only about fighting. Love is about bottomless empathy, born out of the heart’s revelation that another person is every bit as real as you are. And this is why love, as I understand it, is always specific. Trying to love all of humanity may be a worthy endeavor, but, in a funny way, it keeps the focus on the self, on the self’s own moral or spiritual well-being. Whereas, to love a specific person, and to identify with his or her struggles and joys as if they were your own, you have to surrender some of your self.

The big risk here, of course, is rejection. We can all handle being disliked now and then, because there’s such an infinitely big pool of potential likers. But to expose your whole self, not just the likable surface, and to have it rejected, can be catastrophically painful. The prospect of pain generally, the pain of loss, of breakup, of death, is what makes it so tempting to avoid love and stay safely in the world of liking.

And yet pain hurts but it doesn’t kill. When you consider the alternative — an anesthetized dream of self-sufficiency, abetted by technology — pain emerges as the natural product and natural indicator of being alive in a resistant world. To go through a life painlessly is to have not lived.

Read the rest of the opinion piece here.

Listen to the whole commencement speech here.

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Random Online Fun

I’ve mentioned my love for Metafilter before, and I’ll mention it again.  🙂

Here are some fun items I’ve run across in my catch-up from the last few weeks:

40 Things that will make you feel old.  No, really, this is a different list!  The Macarena is 16 years old!

Living in 258 square feet.  Pretty smart, actually, and I’m considering doing a dining table like his.  Also, I have one of those Carrefour bags that he pulls out 5:30 in!

Sci-Fi movies with Ikea instructions.  Gave me a good giggle.

And finally, for your viewing pleasure:  Pendulum waves.  Puts the Bellagio Fountain to shame:

The quality of men on OkCupid

After years of online dating, I have been regularly disappointed by about 90% of the men I’ve come across.  I have bitched about it more than a few times on this blog – horrible profiles, crappy pictures, awkward dates, boring men, awful emails, odd phone conversations, kinky sexting, discourteous men…I could go on and on.

As I discussed in my last post (or was it the post before that?), I have avoided free online dating sites.  I figured, if men who are paying for a site can’t put forth the effort to write a good profile or email, what can the free sites possibly hold?

Well, evidently they can hold a lot, or at least OkCupid does.  I received a few emails (not winks!), and I was immediately impressed by the length and depth (and good grammar and spelling!) of the emails I received.  Upon visiting the profiles, I was again impressed, for the same reasons.  Long, detailed, well-written profiles.  Who woulda thunk it?!  In all, I would say about 90% of the profiles I viewed (both men who emailed me and men I found with a search) were awesome.  Complete opposite of what I was used to, and a complete surprise.

Were all of them what I was looking for?  No, of course not.  But I didn’t get any of the creepy emails I was expecting, no propositions for illicit meetings, no scams or freaks.  The site wasn’t full of trolls.  I was…speechless.  I really couldn’t believe it.  You mean this free site was actually better than a pay site?  How much money have I spent over the years?!

A variety of questions on OkCupid

As I mentioned in my last post, I joined OkCupid, mostly because I was impressed by the algorithms and correlations they came up with on their blog.  They’re not afraid of being politically incorrect or offending people, because all they’re doing is running the numbers, so to speak, on information that users provide (their latest blog post is titled, “What if there weren’t so many white people?”).  They aren’t drawing conclusions, just pointing out trends.  And some of the trends are interesting.  I highly recommend following the OKTrends blog, whether you’re single or not.  I guarantee you’ll find it fascinating, especially if you’re scientifically minded.

So, yes, I signed up for OkCupid, loaded a couple of pictures, filled out the profile, which includes fun pieces like, “I’m really good at…” “The six thing I could never do without…” and “The most private thing I’m willing to admit…(I shower naked).”  You give your details, obviously – height, body type (which is far more varied than match, which I appreciate), education level, etc.

Then they have these questions.  They’re all user submitted, so the list is growing all the time, and I have no idea how many there are in total.  The question is presented, you are given several answers to choose from (you can only choose one), you can choose which answers you’ll accept from your match (you can choose multiple), and then you rate how relevant or important it is that they answer the question the way you want them to.  You can also add an explanation.

Example:

Q: Are you a vegetarian or a vegan?

A: Yes/No (you can only choose one)

Answers I’ll accept: Yes/No (you can choose one or both)

This question is: Irrelevant/A little important/Somewhat important/Very important/Mandatory (choose one)

Explanation: I tend to eat primarily vegetarian at home, but it’s not a conscious effort.

The questions can be really fun.  There are political questions (Is contraception morally wrong?  Which is more offensive, book burning or flag burning?  To you, is abortion an option in case of an unwanted or accidental pregnancy?), religious questions (How important is religion/God in your life?  Would you date an atheist? How do you feel about Scientology?), drug-related questions (Would you date someone if you knew they were a current drug user?  Do you think drug use with your partner can be a romantic activity?  Would you consider dating someone who grows marijuana for their own personal use?), drinking-related questions (Do you ever feel the need to get really drunk?  On average, which best describes how often you GET DRUNK?), dating questions (How much can intelligence turn you on?  What’s worse on a first date, no physical attraction or nothing to talk about?  Would you ideally like to be married in the next 3 years?), intelligence questions (Which is bigger, the earth or the sun?  If the price of an apple was raised 50% and then decreased 50%, making it cost $0.75, how much was the original price?  What is next in the series 1, 4, 10, 19, 31…), lifestyle related questions (Are you happy with your life?  How often do you tweet?  Are you an aspiring actor/artist/writer or other creative type?).

And sex questions.  Lots of sex questions.  Do you enjoy meaningless sex?  Would you consider performing anilingus on a partner who asked you to?  Would you consider meeting 2 people online, then arranging a threesome?  Do you enjoy giving oral sex?  Would you be disappointed if your significant other doesn’t want to receive oral sex ever?  Would you allow your partner to kiss you after performing oral sex on you?  Is your ideal sex rough or gentle?

And my all-time favorite question:  Do you know what sperm tastes like?

Here’s the interesting part.  As I said, you can answer what you want, when you want.  But, based on your answers, they do a personality profile, measured against the average of your demographic.  “You might be…more/less conventionally moral.  More/less old-fashioned.  More/less compassionate.  More/less kind.  More/less independent.  More/less spiritual.  More/less sex driven.  More/less kinky.”  And, as you might imagine, if you don’t answer the sex questions, they rank you as less kinky and less sex-driven.  But what if that’s not the case?

You can answer the questions privately.  Although, some of those questions I’m still not going to answer…

Then there are the tests.  Over 43,000 tests, actually.  Your Sesame Street Persona Test.  The Director Who Films Your Life Test.  The Which LOLCat Are You Test.  The How Low Are Your Sex Standards Test.  The If You Were a Beer Test (I’m a Guinness – as if there were any doubt).

It’s fun.  It keeps things fresh (says the girl who’s been on there for less than 3 weeks).  It’s different.  It’s free.

So, what is the quality of men on there?

Stay tuned.  😉

Algorithmic Dating

I’ve done plenty of online dating.  I’ve paid for match.com three times (twice using the 6-month guarantee, for a total of 30 months), for eHarmony once (for a six month period), and for chemistry.com once (for only a month).  In case you can’t do the math on your own, I’ve been on an online dating site for a total of over three years of the past six.  Out of that, I’ve had two major relationships, two minor ones, and a bunch of “three dates, you’re out” flings.

My last match subscription ended at the end of February, and I vowed that I was giving up.  On online dating, on dating, on life.  I thought, You know what?  I’m just going to be alone for the rest of my life, that’s just how it’s gonna be, and there’s nothing I can do about it. (Yes, I was in a fairly depressed state.)

But then, the next day, I got my optimism back and started thinking that I needed a fresh start.  (This is one of the reasons I sometimes wonder, half-jokingly, if I’m bipolar.)  I’ve been on match for far too long, and I’m giving up on it.  I was not impressed with Chemistry.com.  I had liked my time on eHarmony, though, so figured I’d give that a go.  Except, do you know how expensive it is?  And did I mention I don’t have a job?

I’ve always been against free dating sites, my thought being that you get what you pay for.  Also, I had pretty much assumed that sites like Plenty of Fish and OkCupid were mainly “hook up” sites, and that’s not what I was in the market for.  But one day in early February I stumbled across an interesting blog post over at the OKCupid Blog:  The Best Questions for a First Date. The people over at OKC wanted to know, “What questions are easy to bring up [on a first date], yet correlate to the deeper, unspeakable, issues people actually care about?”  Turns out, if you want to know if you’re date puts out on the first date, ask her if she likes the taste of beer.  If you want to know what they’re political leanings are, ask if they like simple or complex people.  And if you want to know how religious your date is, ask how much spelling and grammar mistakes annoy them.

I laughed when I first read the article, but I was impressed with the vast amount of statistics and algorithms OKC used to come up with the correlations.  I started reading some other blog posts that they did, and became fascinated.  The Mathematics of Beauty looked at the messages received by women vs. measured attractiveness.  They found that iPhone users have more sex, and that generally the more attractive a picture is, the more likely it is to be out of date. They found that “the MySpace shot is the single most effective photo type for women,” and that man should flaunt their chest and abs if they’ve got them.

You see, OKC gets all this information from a vast collection of questions that users are encouraged (but not required) to answer.  You can answer all of them, or ten of them, or none of them, it’s up to the user.  But, the more answers you provide, the more OKC will know about you as they try to match you with someone.  And, as you’re looking at people’s profiles, you can compare their answers to yours, getting a good feel for the person’s politics, outlook on life, intelligence, and sexual attitude.  You can see what they’re looking for out of life and in a partner.

So it’s kind of like a mesh between eHarmony (with the questions and the matching), and match.com (with the ability to search).

And I know this because I joined.

Stay tuned for a run down on some of the more interesting questions, and for my experience so far.

They like me! They really like me!

A couple of weeks ago, I was approached to do a guest blog.

Yes, me.

I was honored.  Surprised.  Amazed.  Stunned.  Excited.

And scared.

Actually, I wasn’t scared until I suddenly couldn’t form any coherent thoughts on the subject of choice (dating).  I could not come up with any words.

But I finally did it.  Two hours in a mechanic’s waiting room was all I needed.  Must have been the oil fumes.

You can read my post, What’s in a match.com username, on Life in 3D.  Stick around to read some great posts from Charlotte J.

And thank you, Life in 3D people, for choosing me!

Aries! Pisces? Both! Neither?

Astrological signs

Image via Wikipedia

Facebook was “abuzz” with the news that the zodiac sign we’ve been living with our whole lives is not correct, because the earth’s axis has rotated since the zodiac signs were named.  Friends claimed “I’m a Leo all the way” and “I’ll never be anything but a Virgo.”

I’ve always been an Aries.  Many of the Aries traits apply to me, but I’ve never felt like I was a true Aries.  I’m not as fiery, not as Out There as the Aries sign has always seemed.  So maybe I really am a Pisces.  Let’s take a look, shall we?  (All sun sign description came from about.com.)

Aries

  • courageous (yeah), pioneering (eh), brilliant (well of course!), adventurous (sure), dynamic (hmm), straight-forward (sometimes)
  • willful (can be), dominating (not so much), selfish (yes and no), ruthless (definitely not), insensitive (I suppose I can be, sometimes), impatient (Hell Yes)
  • Aries are gifted with a direct, fiery nature that makes them one step ahead of the crowd. (?) They take charge of a situation, and their sense of certainty usually makes others fall in line. (??) This makes the Sun in Aries a born leader. (???)
  • Often larger-than-life, they can light up a room with their charisma. (Really, not so much)  If a gathering is dull, they’ll quickly move on – and they’re among the ones with the stamina to party ‘til dawn. (Rarely) Aries craves excitement and their restless spirits seek out the next big thing. (Yeah, kind of)
  • Aries can rise to the challenge of any battle. Sometimes they go too far and scorch those they love with hurtful words said in the heat of the moment.  (It’s been known to happen)  They quickly forgive and forget (Big Fat No), but often deal with the fall out of their brusque demeanor.
  • Aries wants to achieve great things, and is propelled by an inner drive that is a force to be reckoned with.  (Not so much)  Their bright minds and ability to initiate can make them trailblazers in their careers. (eh)
  • At times, the rush to action can cause them to take unnecessary risks, or forge ahead without planning out crucial details.  (no, I’m kind of a planner) Some say the Sun in Aries learns the hard way, by leaping before looking. But being an active sign, the Aries learns best through experience.  (That’s VERY true)

Pisces

  • compassionate (I can be, sometimes), creative (I’d like to think so), mystical (not so much), sensitive (yes), romantic (mmhmm), dreamy (sure)
  • escapist (oh yeah), lazy (yep), self-indulgent (often), overwhelmed (occasionally), impressionable (not really)
  • As the last of the twelve Zodiac signs, Pisces is said to contain aspects of them all. This makes the Pisces Sun so changeable as to appear not to have one singular identity. It’s as if they’re just touching down in this human reality, and light enough to try on a few personas.  (Is this saying I have multiple personalities?)
  • Pisces can be so dreamy as to seem “somewhere else” half the time. They’re tuned into the spiritual side of things, and this gives them an otherworldly air. It can seem that they’re always sensing the emotional currents that run between people, as well as those connecting us to the great beyond.  (No, no, not so much)
  • The Pisces Sun leads with a compassionate heart, which can be both a blessing and a curse. Many are remarkably wise and self-sacrificing when it comes to helping the vulnerable or those down on their luck. (Not me)  But this noble trait can take them down a path of being used and abused before they learn to set strong boundaries.
  • This is the sign of the mystic poet, and a creative pursuit gives Pisces the motivation to be disciplined. And bringing structure to the vast imagination and shades of emotion flowing within the Pisces nature is a great achievement. Through art, they can bring a bit of heaven down to Earth for the benefit of everyone.  (I can hope!)
  • It’s important for Pisces Sun to find a sense of purpose to avoid just drifting. Their sensitivity makes them also a tad more vulnerable to escapism through addictions or personal dramas. (I don’t have an addictive personality at all)  Finding a sense of worth, self-definition and purpose seem to be some of their life lessons.  (Big Mm-Hm)

So, maybe I’m a little of both.  Heck, I’m probably a little of every sign.  I think we all are.  Does it matter if our signs have changed, if they’re not what we thought they were?

Then again, the story could be blown way out of proportion.  The media has a knack for doing things like that.

The corner of No and Where

STOP_End_of_Internet_by_delade

Image by delade via Flickr

Do you ever just catch yourself clicking on the same stuff over and over again while on the internet?

  • Let me check my email.
  • Now let me check facebook.
  • Let’s check the blog stats, see how many visitors I’ve had today.
  • Go over to Postsecret.  Sure, I was just there yesterday, and it only changes on Sunday, but I want to see that one postcard again, you know the one.  (For the record, I didn’t send it in, that’s not me, and I don’t know who sent it.  I am, however, taking it to heart.)
  • Check a couple friends’ blogs.  But not the ones I really need to catch up on, I need more time to devote to those.  And it’s been forever and I feel horrible and like a terrible blog friend.  Soon, I swear, but not right now.
  • Back over to Facebook.  Sure, it’s only been 5 minutes, but look, there’s two new posts for something!
  • I should check email again, too, just to make sure nothing’s come up.
  • Let’s check Freshly Pressed, just read the headlines, see if there’s anything that catches my interest.
  • Speaking of headlines, let’s check the latest on CNN….
  • …and on the local news site…
  • …did anyone say anything about that news story on Facebook?  Let’s go check…

Have you seen that one commercial?  It’s for internet service, I think.  The guy is clicking and clicking on all these websites, and he gets a warning that says, “You have reached the end of the internet.”  I feel like that sometimes.  I can remember surfing on the internet like crazy, back in the late 90’s, just going from site to site to site, didn’t matter what it was.  “Let’s learn about the jumping spider native to the Congo!”  Nowadays, I feel like there’s nothing I really want to look at.  My mind is racing a hundred miles an hour, and I can’t concentrate on any one webpage long enough to bother. I mean, the internet (as I’ve previously discussed) is this amazing thing, opening the world up to you, and somehow I end up in the same part of town, looking at the same street signs.  Not because I don’t want to go somewhere else, I just don’t seem to have the mental patience or drive to do it.

Does this sound familiar?  Does anybody else find themselves doing this, feeling this way?

Random Update

  • Well, a friend of mine did some work on my main computer, so I’m able to use it again.  Time to get caught up on my blog reading!  🙂  We’ll see how long it lasts.  He recommended I get more RAM, so it’s on order, and once it comes in…well, we’ll see if my 6 year old laptop can hold on a couple more years.  Meanwhile he loaded Firefox for web purposes, and…I’m not sold.  Anyone hate/love firefox?
  • I want to see Vampires Suck.  It looks entirely too funny to miss.  Of course, that will wait for redbox one boring night.
  • As much as I dislike Eminem (the guy has ISSUES), I’m loving his two new releases.  He’s catchy as hell.
  • Recent movies watched:  According to Greta (Ellen Burstyn helps elevate the movie, which stars Hilary Duff), Leap Year (eh), The Time Traveler’s Wife (eh – also, Rachel McAdams needs to eat a hamburger.  In the scene when they first have sex, and she gets out of bed and you can see her naked back, you can see each and every one of her ribs and vertebrae – to the point I thought it was part of the story line, it was so emphasized.)
  • Trying to decide if I want to go to the beach in November.  I figured it would be good to get away and write (doing NaNoWriMo again this year!).  But then, my friends said they might go to the Bahamas.  So, do I want to go to the Warm Bahamas and have fun with friends or the Cool Carolina Beach to “check out”?  Decisions, decisions…
  • Trying to decide what to do today. Have the day off, considering going to the zoo down the road, or becoming a tourist in my own city.  Hmm…
  • LoveLoveLove the song “Sometime Around Midnight” by Airborne Toxic Event.  I liked it when it originally came out, kind of forgot about it, and heard it again the other day at work and fell in love again.  (Geauxgirl, can you get that on Rock Band?)

Scars: A Followup (postsecret of the week)

courtesy of postsecret

 

This postcard jumped out at me today, as an odd, serendipitous followup to my post on scars (found here). 

With emotional scars, as with physical scars, they are evidence that we survived, even though, at times, we thought we wouldn’t.

We are stronger than we think we are.  The fact that we have scars, emotional and physical, is proof of that.

www.postsecret.com