Eccentric Flower:201109/What I Have Come To Realize

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What I Have Come To Realize

This entry is not really for you. Why don't you skip down to the horizontal rule?

What I expect from social media is for it to place me in constant contact with the sort of people I can exchange observations with all day long with familiarity and ease. I don't expect it to provide actual friends, because I'm not sure any of my definitions of "friend" are valid anymore. But the constant contact is the important part. I expect that when I post a link or an observation about something, someone else will read it and maybe comment on it and we'll have a brief discussion about it and then go back to whatever we were doing. All day long.

The problem is, I use my preferred social media channel - Twitter - far, far more than you do. I keep Twitter open all the time and check it constantly except when I am 1) playing a computer game 2) sleeping or eating 3) writing code. Oh, sure, I suppose there are rare times when I'm out taking a walk or cutting the grass or something. But, folks, really, you need to get this: I spend three-fourths of my waking time sitting in front of a computer. I work on computers. I play on computers. And when I'm in front of a computer, odds are very good Twitter is open. Odds are also good that I'm disappointed in it.

Because apparently you all don't work that way. You do other things. You don't look at Twitter constantly; sometimes you don't look at it for days. I'm sitting here, keeping this channel open, desperate for the only continual signal I can get, and because you're out being far more useful or purposeful members of society, you're not there.

It's okay. I understand. I forgive you. I'm just saying why it makes me sad sometimes.

I don't want a lot of in-person friends. This is what a couple of people have failed to understand, sometimes catastrophically. Real live people friends take work, they take maintenance, they take energy that I don't usually have. I realize I am a shallow, bad person, but I'm not going to lie to you about it. I really don't do well with people face-to-face at all. And since I apparently have no idea what a "friend" is, I don't claim to be looking for friendship. I'm just looking for conversation.

Some people think it is selfish to want to control the nature of the contact all the time, to always place it on my terms. I was giving someone the spiel once about why I don't use instant-message clients because they, like the telephone, are too invasive - they demand you stop what you're doing and give them your attention right there and then - and he said, "So, what you're saying is, you're desperate for conversation, but only when it's convenient for you."

Well, yes. But here's the thing: While it may be selfish, I also don't think it's especially demanding, nor do I think it's especially unusual. Because it strikes me there are a whole lot of my peers who do the same thing - who are always shuttling between ten thousand things wanting their attention and prefer media - pictures, web pages, news, and, yes, conversations - that they can get on demand, that they can have only when they want it and as soon as they want it, and never any other time. I'm just being more honest than some people are about admitting it.

If that sounds to you like I'm trying to justify this selfishness by saying, "Well, everyone else does it" ... maybe so. But I feel like, this is the brave new world, and I wish it would hurry up and get here.

What I want is a room full of people I know and like and get along with, and I can do the verbal equivalent of drop in for a break, come in and say hi to everyone and ask how the Sox are doing and maybe have a drink or a sandwich, and then go about my business - just like everyone else who frequents that room does. And there are enough of us who go there that there's always someone around, there's always a conversation to be had there in ten-minute doses, people come and go but the chatter is constant, the convivial atmosphere never vanishes. But it also asks nothing of any of us; it doesn't insist that we stay for hours, it doesn't have a cover charge, it never fusses about protocol or who's buying the next round.

In-person friendships require maintenance and they require politics. And while I don't mind either maintenance or politics, usually, I'm just too tired to do that on an optional basis. For a long time now, the non-work portions of my life have been determined by the simple rule of "Just so long as it's not more of the same thing I do every day for pay." So - all day long I deal with maintenance and politics that I have to do, that I don't get a choice in. Why would I want more of that when I get home?

This extends into other realms, like recreation. Why would I want to play a frustratingly hard computer game? I get enough frustration all day long. Why would I want to labor for hours on a project on my own time? Why would I want to read a depressing novel about how unfair and cruel life is? I can find that out for myself, thanks.

Oh, sure, there are plenty of you I love to see whenever possible, and usually I don't get to see you more than once every handful of years and that's not nearly enough. I don't want you to think that's not genuine. My joy at seeing you is quite real; my regret at not being able to see you more often is quite sincere. But you also require effort and concentration - two things in very short supply - and if you don't believe I can be eagerly expectant at the prospect of seeing you and yet at the same time grumpy about the demands and requirements and stresses of doing so, I don't think you realize quite how daunting face-to-face contact is to me, nor quite how many multitudes I'm capable of containing without paradox. Ask my wife. She knows.

Once upon a time I wanted challenges in my life. I can't remember now what that felt like. These days I go to work, and I attempt to do my job well. Apart from odd periods like this July and August just past, I don't think my job is especially difficult or demanding - and yet doing it uses up pretty much all my stock of energy for the day. Then I go home, and I wonder how I can muster the energy even to play a computer game or read a book, and I feel worthless because of all the things I could do, in a world of possibilities, that I know either cannot be done or feel I have sound reasons not to do.

I have blocked many, many things from happening because I don't believe there is a point to their happening, and I can make a solid case for not doing each and every one of them - so why do I feel so unfulfilled and unfulfilling? Is the secret to fulfillment the conduct of useless gestures? Sometimes it seems to me like it is. "I could write a book and it would be an utter waste of my time and energy, but it would be fulfilling" - bah. It would be fulfilling for about five minutes. Then I'd realize I was still in a vacuum.

I happen to think I am a person of many abilities. A lot of them are unpolished because I've never seen a point in refining them. But I think I can do many things competently and some things well. The problem is, I depend on everyone else to be my mirror, because I know that my own opinions of myself don't matter. It doesn't matter how I think I look or present myself, it matters what other people think. It doesn't matter how well I write; it matters what other people think of what I write.

No, actually, wait, part of that paragraph is a lie. It does matter what I think, but in the reverse way.

See, I look in the mirror every morning and hate what I see - for a lot of complex reasons which could be summarized by saying, "I wasn't born female." Even if I thought I was aging well and not turning into Jeremy Clarkson, it wouldn't matter, because I am aging male, and the older I get, the further I get from ever being able to pass as female, not that it was easy when I was a callow youth. If I were to go and suddenly get a sex change today, right this instant, if all the psychological and medical (and fiscal) barriers to that were suddenly removed, I would look like Jeremy Clarkson in drag. I would look like the Monty Python people did when they played female characters. I don't want to look like that; I am a big enough joke already. Better to stay with being male and hate my face every day than to risk that. The window has closed. I have to comfort myself with fantasies now.

It pains me to never be able to truly know what other people think of me - my appearance, my demeanor, the way I walk and talk and present myself. Since my own opinions of myself in that department are never good, I tend to assume the worst. I assume my co-workers think I am a ridiculousness, a sort of tolerated inside joke that is whispered about when I'm not around, to the extent that I cross their mental horizons at all.

The reason I am so desperate for feedback, however slight, is that it's only by the feedback that I can take away the idea that I am producing anything of value to anyone. Some people have innate confidence that they are doing something worthwhile. I don't. My default opinion of my own self and my own output is always negative. I depend on others to countermand that.

Every time I write a long entry here it is a failure, because it looks into a place that I think is unhealthy and I don't want anyone else to see. I know you all wish I could be a better person; I hate when I get so weak I have to write here and remind people of that - it's best forgotten. It also makes you think I am sad all the time, and I'm not. If I were sad all the time, the circumstances of my adolescence would have beaten me to death long before now. I can't be a survivor and be sad all the time. What I am is tired and world-weary all the time, which is not the same thing.

But every time I post short content somewhere else - the links and the photos - those are also a failure ... because I post them with the theory, "Oh look, good stuff, maybe someone else will be interested in this," and for a number of reasons, I never get the proof that it was. This leads me to conclude, four-fifths of the time, that no one was interested.

Some of these reasons are technical. I knew when I started using Tumblr that it was going to have overhead/adaptation problems for most of you who might read this. I knew it was going to be a stretch. But I was hoping, among other things, that Tumblr's features might solve one of the big feedback issues - a way to say "I liked this" when you don't have much else to say besides that. Unfortunately, the design of Tumblr is quite strange in many ways. Tumblr is an oddly inward-looking community; it tends to play its own games mostly with itself, and the features of Tumblr are almost designed to lock out anyone else who isn't fully invested in Tumblr themselves. It's incestuous.

What that means is if you don't have a Tumblr account of your own, following the thread of what's going on is nearly impossible; navigation is far more difficult; the information-accretion and follow-the-thread-of-who-reposted-what aspects of Tumblr don't work nearly as well for you; and you can't use the "like" feature. On the other hand, why would someone get a Tumblr account just to be a reader, just to be able to use that "like" feature now and again? That's a little ridiculous. So, in practice, the only people who ever respond to Tumblr posts are people who have their own Tumblr accounts where they actually post things, and the whole place becomes a little nest of people reposting each others' pictures over and over.

I stay with it because I can post things there in a way that is visually pleasing to me without having to spend too much time or effort making a post. But it seems clear that my idea that one day other people within the Tumblr universe would find me and like what I was doing is doomed to fail - only one new stranger has ever followed me, other than spammers and other dubious folk - and she doesn't repost or "like" my stuff any more often than anyone else does, so it's not like anyone else is going to find me because she led them to me.

(Again, some of that is technical. I don't tag my stuff with recognizable tags, and often don't tag it at all. But that's partly deliberate. I don't want someone finding my Tumblr because they searched on a "photo" tag and found my stuff by accident. If people want to find my photos by accident they can use Flickr, where I do often try to tag photos usefully and descriptively. I want people to find me by word of mouth - "If you like this, tell your friends" - and that is a slow, slow process at best.

I know you think I always insist on doing everything the hard way, but the problem is, I live in a world where a personal recommendation is more valuable than any million web searches. It's okay for me to find you via a hunt for shiny objects, but it isn't okay for you to find me that way, because for me the shiny objects are just lures; I am, at heart, always looking for interesting people. Shiny objects are just indicators that there might be an interesting person behind them, and they are often poor ones.)

It might have become clear, if you have managed to make it this far down this thicket of prose - congratulations! - that I'm just spouting stream-of-anxiousness aloud (it's like stream-of-consciousness, but much more tightly wound), and that there is not really any sort of form to this mess. That's because this is an entry for me - technically, they're all entries for me, now - and I don't write those like I'd write entries for you. I write entries for you to tell you something. I write entries for me to get them out of my head so they'll go away for a while and stop shouting at me.

But if you've made it this far, you brave person, you deserve some news and weather, so here you go:

- The cats are showing themselves more and more often, but they still are very scared of us and won't let us touch them. They like the house, they like the food, they like the toys, they even like watching what we're doing sometimes. It's just us they don't like. We are both pretty unhappy with this slow pace, but we'll keep staying the course as long as we continue to see slow improvement.

- I survived August but am still pretty busy cleaning up the many, many substantial loose ends which have yet to be done. I'm working now on the "by end of September" tasks and then will begin working on the "by beginning of November" tasks. Somewhere around November it should all be tucked away, at which point we'll have about one month to breathe.

- After the first three-month interval the results on the anti-cholesterol medication were very good - no bad consequences and the bad cholesterol counts were significantly reduced. I should probably think about scheduling the six-month visit pretty soon, since it'll be early-to-mid-October and I often have to work as much as a month in advance to get an appointment with my doctor.

- I'm still playing Rift mostly because it's the only place I get to chat with Mel, whose "part-time" jobs are unexpectedly keeping her busy on a full-time basis. But the game itself has ceased to hold much interest for me and I really got pretty disgusted with recent "oh look, they've already begun dumbing down the questing/leveling process so people can speed to the level cap to provide new blood for all the people already sitting up there getting bored with the game" changes. I preordered a copy of SW:TOR mostly on the basis of a series of interviews with the devs which suggested strongly that they cared more about questing, immersion, and storyline than anything else, and one quote in particular which said (I paraphrase) "we are making the experience you get from grinding (trying to level just from fighting without doing any of the quests) deliberately bad so that the people who grind get bored and leave." Good. Screw them. (The game Mel and I really want is Guild Wars 2, but I am no longer convinced that will ever actually see the light of day.)

- I played Mass Effect and it was good; I am now playing Mass Effect II and it is good too, but much harder and I'm upset it has no cheats because I strongly suspect this will join the long, long string of games which I enjoyed immensely right up until I ran into the impossible, severely-out-of-difficulty-curve-with-rest-of-game final act. I also apparently qualify for the Diablo 3 beta, so I have reactivated my long, tempestuous relationship with Blizzard.

- I am so disgusted with the state of politics in this country that I have to check myself every single time I'm tempted to post a political link (which I never do on Tumblr, by the by, you want my personal Twitter feed for that), because I have to ask, "Will I be able to post this without ranting about it or letting it put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day?" Even with the built-in limitation of putting links in a medium where deep discussion is impossible because of the format, the answer is often no. We have now officially moved into the sort of nation that I'm deeply relieved I'm not bringing any children into. And no, that's not one-sided liberal disgust. I'm disgusted with every bit of it, most notably a national discourse which does not permit any nuance, compromise, modulation of tone, or substance whatsoever. Were we always a nation who knew how to do nothing except call each other names? If we were, history has concealed it well.

And that's about all I got. If you want me, I'm on Twitter. As always, until someone invents something better.

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The only comment I want to add here (since you got a few from me already on Twitter) is: the next time you're debating whether or not to post, stop debating. Post it.

-- 18:05, 16 September 2011 (BST)


Re games: I also signed up for the Diablo III beta, despite the fact that I have never played any Diablo game before and have no idea what I'm letting myself in for. The reason I was hanging about on Blizzard's website was because (as you may already know from Twitter) I've been dabbling in World of Warcraft again. I started out playing around with lowbie characters again, since they're now free to play - then I figured out that there's a 10-day free trial window for Cataclysm, so I've also now gotten my old characters reactivated, for the moment, and am trying things out to see how much they've changed. (So far: small things have changed, yes. Overall, not all that different that I have seen yet.)

I haven't given up on Rift, entirely, but I was ready for something else to dabble in, so apparently WoW is it, for the moment.

-- 19:13, 16 September 2011 (BST)


I haven't talked up Diablo much with you because I'm pretty sure you won't like it. It's pretty much a pure dungeon crawl. Story is minimal.

-- 19:29, 16 September 2011 (BST)


What you can do, to decide if you would like Diablo, is to download/buy Torchlight, which is cheap, good, very Diablo-like, and runs even on modest systems. I still go back and play an hour of two of it every now and then, even though I've finished the main story once with one char and nearly finished it with two others.

-- 19:31, 16 September 2011 (BST)


I'll have to check that out (but not while I'm at work, darn). I don't have any objection to dungeons in general, necessarily, although I can't see doing nothing but dungeons as a long-term project - or a six-month subscription, probably.

The most interesting new thing I've found in WoW so far is that if you make a new gnome you pop up inside Gnomeregan now. (Didn't you just start the same way the dwarves do, before? Am I remembering that right?) But you don't stay in there long - they send you back outside very quickly. I didn't get far enough to see, but I bet the story intersects back with the one in the dwarf newbie area very shortly.

-- 00:10, 17 September 2011 (BST)


Regarding Twitter: I often read your posts but I feel like I have to ration my replies/posts on Twitter during a workday. I still have a few shreds of leftover anxiety about this dating from my previous job, when I finally realized that my boss's nasty comments about "I don't think you're thinking about work in here, I think you're thinking about movies" stemmed from her finding and reading my Twitter feed. I can't imagine my current boss gives two sticks, but it's hard to shake that feeling.

Also, a lot of your posts/observations are hard for me to answer in 140 characters or less.

I have a lot to say about your giving up the attempt to try to pass as female in public, but it probably needs to go in an email. If I can even work up the energy to write it. We are no strangers to the "go home after work and realize we have no energy for anything" syndrome in this house. I swear I am going to start banning any kind of serious talk after 8 pm.

-- 04:33, 18 September 2011 (BST)


I was just wondering how your end of the first crunch had gone, and here you are! (The end of my first crunch is still 2-3 weeks away. Just sent out stuff to my outside letter writers, but the paper I'm working on will catch up to it in early October. One nice side effect of having to write short "here is why this paper is important" descriptions is that I start to believe it myself and I get a nice ego boost!)

Do you know that you might be the one reason I finally get a Twitter account?

-- 14:50, 19 September 2011 (BST)


Is it indicative of how my life is going that I read that bit and went, "Oh, you'll have a month to breathe! That's awesome!"?

Anyway, I hope getting there isn't too painful.

-- 18:17, 20 September 2011 (BST)


I always like reading your posts. I don't comment enough because it keeps making me log in over and over, and I lose more comments that way.

But you did just inspire me to go clean out my Twitter feed so I am only reading stuff I actually care about. I don't check it often enough so I miss huge chunks of conversation. Also, I wish they would chronicle a conversation better, so I could more easily follow what two people are talking about. You and Stacey/Jayran/nonelvis always seem to be having cracking good chatter, but I can't always follow it back through the timeline.

-- 19:28, 21 September 2011 (BST)


The timeline gets nearly impossible to follow when some of the people in it have locked accounts, as both Nonelvis and Jayran do. Even if you're allowed to see their stuff, it won't show a locked post as part of a reply chain (nor will it show you when someone with a locked account retweets something of yours - it will say that they HAVE, but will not say who). It's something that has always annoyed me about Twitter, although I suppose I can see why they do it.

-- 16:57, 22 September 2011 (BST)


I don't have a Twitter account, either. As Joy has said, if I were tempted at all, it would be to follow your Twitter feed. But I don't understand enough about how it works, nor have I ever really cared much. Pity. I really miss your insights and, most of all, the comments you always seem to elicit here. I've noticed that you get very few actual comments on the Tumblr thing, even when you post something introspective and meaty. I'm sorry to hear it's not providing the forum you had in mind.

-- 11:09, 24 September 2011 (BST)


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