Online Friends

Haven’t been doing much besides socializing online and sleeping this week.  Been having odd sleep patterns too.  I’ll usually go to bed shortly after midnight and sleep for a few hours.  Then I’ll wake in the middle of the night and usually spend some time reading online articles or chatting with facebook friends in different time zones as when it’s middle of the night in America it’s usually middle of the day in places like Japan and China or mid morning in England.

Been quite active socially, at least online anyway.  Participating mostly in science, tech, and futurism groups on facebook and leaving a few comments on tech sites on youtube.  Often on youtube I’ll delete a post after several minutes because I wrote the post primarily to get it off my mind.  It’s my post, so why can’t I?  It’s not community property unless I allow it to be.  As far as dealing with rude people online, if someone is rude to me the first time they talk to me, I block them.  I don’t give second chances in this regard.  I’m mentally taxed as is.  Besides, the first rule of internet ettiequte is “Do Not Feed The Trolls.”  I have better uses of my time and I’m just not in the mood anymore.

Made some pretty decent acquaintances in my interests groups.  Too bad many of them live overseas and I’ll never get to meet them in person.  I probably would be on friendly terms with many of these people if we lived in the same town or worked for the same company.  Been making friends with friends of friends some too.  We find common ground in similar interests and mutual friends.  Once again, these friends are spread all over.  But, if it’s not possible to build physical towns and settlements based around similar interests rather than single industries like farming, mining, manufacturing, finance, etc., I suppose the online friends and communities I’m part of will have to suffice.

The internet is a good thing.  Social media is a good thing, certainly for people like me who have difficulty socializing in person and who live in isolated areas.  Sure many people abuse these wonders of modern tech, but every tool and invention humans have ever come up with has been abused many times already.  But that doesn’t make those tools evil.  I am one of the few science enthusiasts I personally know where I live now and where I grew up.  I didn’t have many friends growing up because I didn’t have the same interests and priorities that most of the people in my town and school.  It was quite lonely at times.  Occasionally I’d meet like minded people at speech meets and summer camps.  I wrote to a few of these people and they wrote back during my high school years (before social media mind you).  College was more bearable as there were many people with similar interests.  Even at a small Christian college there were people with almost every interest imaginable.  I never got that back once I graduated and moved on, at least not in the physical world.

Once I figured out how to sort through the clutter and effectively deal with online rudeness, social media became fun again.  It was a dark ages cesspool for me from the years 2015 to 2017.  But this year, after figuring out how to tailor the online experience to my likes and strengths and personality, it has become an important means of socializing for me.  I guess one of the ironic things about my online interactions is that I have found that I have far more in common with strangers in places like Japan, England, Philippines, Canada, etc. than I do even people I have known my entire life.  Interests and personalities are not evenly distributed among populations.  Makes me wonder, in past generations, how many potential geniuses and difference makers our civilization lost because they had no way to channel their creativity or anyone to encourage them along.  I imagine millions of people over the centuries live sad, quiet lives of desperation and despondency because they had no one to share their interests with.  As lonely as I sometimes feel being a science enthusiast living in farming country in the 21st century, I can’t imagine how bad I would have gotten it living in medieval Europe, feudalist China, or the Stone Age.

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Socializing In Person and Online

Even though I haven’t been socializing much in person lately, I still make a point of calling friends and family often.  I visited my parents in person a couple times already this summer.  I saw my nephews and niece on my birthday last month.  I call home at least twice a week.  And I try to contact old college friends a couple times a month.  Even though the last time I saw some of my college friends was three years ago, I still pick up with them like I never left off.  And I’m getting better about dropping in on friends on facebook more often.  I had been avoiding socializing over facebook for a year or two because of how contentious things could get even among friends.  But I think people are starting to adapt and use more caution and tactfulness when online now.  But two or three years ago, it was practically a nasty free for all that I wanted little to do with.  I wound up unfollowing most of my friends and family (and unwisely ended a few friendships too) just because I was tired of all the divisions and fighting.

Originally facebook was a godsend for someone like me who wanted to stay in contact with people but wasn’t exactly sure how to do it.  I readily admit I don’t have great social skills.  I never really have.  But I do get lonely at times, even when I don’t show it.  Sometimes the best thing a person can do with someone who struggles with mental illness and socializing is to make the first move and just ask us how are things going.  I am convinced that much of the stress of modern living is due to us not having as strong as personal social bonds as even our grandparents had.  Life may have been shorter and more physically demanding during the Depression, the World Wars, and definitely during the frontier days, but they were made bearable because people had living and breathing friends they could count on for things as mundane as playing a game of cards or having dinner together after a long day in the fields.  I think if we ever rediscovered the joy of having nearby friends in our neighborhoods and communities, we would see fewer cases of suicide, violent crimes, and drug addictions.  I am convinced that much of these happen because some people don’t have that sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves.

Even though I haven’t been to church services regularly or been part of civic organizations for a few years, I understand why things like church, local sports teams, neighborhood associations, and civic clubs like the Elks Lodge or the Masonic Lodge are popular among those who participate; they give a sense of belonging and community.  I guess I get my sense of community from shared interests in a few of the science groups I’m part of via facebook and through my blog.  I used to be a member of a local writers’ guild.  It’s too bad that group kind of faded away after a few of our members moved away.  A sense of community is important for people.  We are by nature social animals, have been long before recored history.  Even the most introverted humans are more social than many animals in the wild.

Changes Over One Lifetime

I’m going off subject for this post.  Today, June 28 2018 would have been my grandmother’s 100th birthday.  She died of a stroke in 2015 at the age of 97.  Fortunately for our family, she was very sharp mentally right up until her stroke.  She would often talk about the things she saw and experienced in her lifetime.  Grandma Foster could just as easily recall events from her teenage years during the Great Depression as she could events that happened within the last week.  In some ways, she was like having a local historian in our family.

Today I would like to talk about some of the changes that occurred since my grandmother’s birth that early summer day in 1918.  One hundred years isn’t really a long time in terms of our recorded civilizations, let alone on the time frame of the cosmos.  But we have seen many changes.  And I would like to mention some of these.

In 1918, when my Grandma Foster was born, World War I was still going on.  The Spanish Flu Pandemic was at it’s hight.  The old Ottoman Empire was still in existence.  The Russian Revolution was going on.  China was still a very poor country.  India was still a possession of the British Empire.  Much of Africa was divided into European colonies.  Automobiles had been available to the working and middle classes for only a handful of years.  Industrial magnates like John Rockefeller, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Nikola Tesla, etc. were still alive.  It was mostly urban areas in America and Europe that had electricity.  Coal and steam powered almost all industrial processes.

Technologies that my Grandma Foster saw rise during her lifetime included regular radio broadcasts, anti biotic medications, hybrid crops, nitrogen based chemical fertilizers, radar, reliable rockets, nuclear weapons and energy, jet propulsion, reliable airline travel, television, computers, more fuel efficient automobiles, plastics, reliable contraceptive pills, super highway systems, easily available credit cards, lasers, the beginnings of space exploration, organ transplants, test tube children, cellular phones, active searches for alien intelligences beyond our solar system,  high speed railways (granted not so much in America as in Europe and East Asia), the internet, near free information via wikipedia, near free self broadcasting via youtube and podcasting, social media, the beginnings of inexpensive renewable power, the rise of automated drone technology, the rise of robotics, the human genome project, the beginnings of affordable electric automobiles, the discovery of anti matter, and the early research into fusion power, genetic engineering, 3D printing, and artificial intelligence.

Cultural changes my Grandma Foster saw witness to involved women’s suffrage, the beginning and end of Prohibition, the rise and fall of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Communist Russia, World War II, the decline of children in the work force, the increase of women in the work force, the assassination of Gandhi, the Civil Rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s, the rise of rock and roll music, the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Pearl Harbor, the assassination of John Kennedy, the turmoil of the 1960s, the rise of cable and satellite television, the first people on the moon, the fears of nuclear war and it’s after effects, the popularization of hip hop music and urban culture, the launch of space probes to almost all of our solar system, the Hubble Telescope, the popularization of science fiction and futurism, the rise of awareness of industrial pollution and the beginnings of the efforts to undo the effects thereof, the AIDS epidemic, the end of colonialization, the rise of China as an industrial and scientific power, the rise of the United Nations and globalization, the beginnings of the decline of nationalist furvor that was the norm for most of civilization, the rise of the European Union, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the War on Terrorism, the first black man to be U.S. president, the first women Supreme Court justices, the beginnings of the declines in the marganializations of religious, sexual, cultural, etc. minorities, the beginnings of plans to colonize space, the realizations of the potential benefits and drawbacks of artificial intelligence, and the rise of better treatment for the disabled, mentally ill, and pretty much anyone who didn’t conform to the average norm.

All of this I mentioned was just in the lifetime of someone I was blood relation to.  As you could see, the rate of changes only accelerated as time went forward.  I’m sure there are changes I forgot to mention.  My grandmother was old enough to remember people who were Civil War veterans and probably met people who were born into slavery or at least their children.  I write all of this to state that yes, the world changes over time.  People change over time, and not just because older generations die off and younger ones take their places.  I think of some of the changes I’ve seen just in my 38 years living as a human.  I really don’t recognize much of what I saw in the mid 1980s now and some of the attitudes and practices of even my childhood has me wondering “what were we thinking” and even “what was I thinking.”  Change is constant.  Change is inevitable even if not predictable or even in coming.  Or as one science fiction writer put “The future is already here.  It just isn’t evenly distributed.”

The Joys of Owning Less “Stuff”

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Bought a couple new computer games a few days ago.  So I have been spending my time trying to figure those out.  I bought those games as online downloads.  So I don’t need actual CDs for the games anymore.  With as fast as new Windows programs come out anymore, I’ve been burned a few times when my old games wouldn’t run on my newer programs.  I’ve decided I’m just going to subscribe to online gaming forums and just buy my games as downloads and let the forums do the dirty work.  Seems to me that eventually I may not have to own much of anything besides some furniture, some clothes, a couple computers, a smart phone, etc.  I am definitely looking forward to when driverless cars go mainstream and I don’t even need to own a car anymore.  Seems to me that by the time I get to be in my late 60s (my parents age) I just won’t have to own much of anything if everything keeps getting digitized.  I can dream, can’t I?

I’m still trying to simplify my life.  I have pretty well adapted to minimalism.  But sometimes I still hold onto books even though 80 percent of what I read anymore is online articles and audiobooks.  Even these I’ll probably give away if I end up moving. Ideally I’d like to get down to where I could throw everything I own into my car and be on the move within an afternoon if need be.  As far as a bed or shelves are concerned, I can pick up different ones for cheap at Wal Mart or Salvation Army.  I have never been nostalgic about furniture or most of my possessions.

I really don’t mind not owning much.  I could never be a hoarder.  And from what I’ve seen, more and more people my age and younger are becoming like this all the time.  I imagine some people are worried about the Millennial generations being chronic renters and that it might be bad for the economy.  But, who wants to sign a 30 year mortgage on a house when a job could be outsourced or automated at a moment’s notice?  My brother owns a cool house in a good neighborhood, but he’d be in trouble if he got laid off from his company and had to sell his house, take his four kids out of school, and drag the entire family across country to find a similar job.  Even my friends and relatives that have kids have fewer kids than their parents and grandparents had.  My generation may not be putting down physical community roots as much as previous generations.  But humans have traditionally been a nomadic species, going wherever there was better hunting or farmland.  I don’t expect this to change.  But thanks to the boom in communications tech, it is so much easier to stay in touch even if you are on the other side of the planet.

It’s amazing just in my own life how much “stuff” I don’t have to own now compared to fifteen years ago.  I used to own over one hundred music CDs, dozens of DVDs, several shelves of books, etc.  Now I have access to a much larger stash of music for 10 dollars a month through Spotify.  I have a larger book collection now even though over 90 percent of my books are now e files that I got for free.  I have access to pretty much every movie I could ever want through Netflix, amazon, youtube, etc.  I don’t need an address book as long as I have a Facebook account.  I buy most of my clothing online anymore.  Even though it costs a little more this way, I can find exactly what I want as long as I’m willing to look.  I’m no longer at the mercy of Wal Mart, K Mart, JC Penney, etc.  I literally haven’t been to Wal Mart since last fall because I can shop from home on my computer anymore.  And I love it.  About the only things I don’t buy online now are groceries, gas for my car, and my prescription medications.  Even with my medications, the only time I actually deal with a human is when I go to physically pick my stuff up.  Who knows what the next fifteen years will bring?  I can hardly wait to find out.

Settling Into Mental Stability and Winter Routines

Now that the holidays have come and passed, I am settling into my winter routines.  I find that I am spending much of my day reading online articles and reading books.  I don’t play as many computer games as I used to.  I’m finding myself dining out less as I’ve had fast food only once in the last week.  I’ve been eating less than normal the last week.  I can tell I feel less sluggish because I’m not eating so much unhealthy fast food.  I do sleep more than I did during the summer.  But it does help pass the time when so much of the day is dark and cold.  I don’t just go out and drive my car much anymore.  While I have conquered my fear of driving I just see no need to do much of it anymore.  I fuel my car probably only once a month now.  I just see no need to really go anywhere unless it’s necessary.  I can do most of my socializing online and via cell phone now.

I’ve been reading on some of the books I bought over the last couple months.  I’m reading a lot of online articles too.  Just because I don’t have many guests in my apartment doesn’t mean that I don’t socialize.  I’m slowly starting to socialize more over Facebook and even in the hallways of my apartment complex. It has been a slow process getting over my paranoia and fear of socializing.  And it’s one that’s not completed by any means.

I haven’t seen any regular tv in the last several weeks besides live sports.  For a couple weeks around Christmas there were college football bowl games on every night it seemed.  I would have a game on in the background most days while I was working online but I wasn’t really paying attention to the games.  I guess I just feel guilty about watching young men maim themselves for my enjoyment the older I get.  I probably should watch more soccer or basketball until baseball starts again. I just don’t watch a lot of tv.  I avoid the news channels as they are mostly negative news that doesn’t effect me.  Bad things have been happening all over the world throughout history, it’s just now that we know about it instantly with our communication tech.  The world isn’t more violent than in the past, it’s just better informed.

I’m starting to settle into winter routines.  Been reading a lot of online articles, been reading my amazon books, been listening to free podcasts through youtube, and I’m generally feeling stable and content since the weather started turning colder.  I’m ready to face the winter.