Thursday, December 17, 2009

Alone together.

I was intrigued by today's Quote of the Day, from Robert Louis Stephenson:

"Books are good enough in their own way, but they are a poor substitute for life."

Right on, Bob. And I think the line applies in spades to today's Digital Generation. Facebooking, tweeting and the rest of it may be excellent adjuncts to daily life (or respites from it), when they're regarded as tools. But when they become daily life, or even a significant part of itwhen your social network* is your only networkI find that worrisome. And kind of tragic.

This, not incidentally, constitutes no small part of my objection to the SHAMsphere as well. If you haven't read the final passage of SHAM, I commend it to you now. It concerns a woman I know who uses self-help as a fantasy life, forever immersing herself in grandiose plans of what she's going to do, the life she's going to lead. Meanwhile, nothing in her real life ever changes.

* using the phrase in its more current cyber-meaning.


NormDPlume said...

I feel the same way about masturbation (fantasy) football leagues. Millions of men pretend they are actually the General Manager of an NFL team, trading players during the season and fielding a legitimate team. They get so wrapped up in the fantasy that they miss the actual competition on the field.

On-line, "virtual" (defined as "not really") relationships are a poor substitute for the real things.

Cal said...

I have thought myself of the consequences of the explosion of social networking. Does it lead to true friendship? I mean my primary example are Facebook pages with several hundred people on them. Most people are lucky if they have more than 5 true friends in their lives, in my opinion.

But that said, I am not against it myself. However, sociological studies of the phenomenon over the next 10-20 years will be interesting. I'm sure the results will not be clear-cut.

Cal said...

I agree with you, NDP, about fantasy sports leagues. That's why I have never gotten into them, save one year I was "coerced" into a fantasy football league. I finished the worst in the league, cause I didn't really care. I mean how can somebody root for players on both sides of the ball when they are on the field at the same time?

I'm also not into video sports games. Nothing beats the real thing to me.

Duff said...


I have yet to read your book, mostly because I thought I would totally disagree with the thesis of getting rid of the self-help industry. But so far, I keep agreeing wholeheartedly with everything you've written on your blog, so perhaps I should add it to my reading list after all.

I can vouch first-hand for setting many fantasy goals and never actually doing much of anything. And yes, it is not a particularly useful strategy for living well. :)

Sarsabu said...

"Books are good enough in their own way but they are a mighty bloodless substitute for life"

LizaJane said...

Hi. Regarding the "social network" question, I think a lot depends on whether you actually KNOW and LIKE your "Friends."

Of the couple hundred people I'm "friends" with on Facebook, there are only a few (less than 20)I've never met face-to-face, or who have never been to my home, or I to theirs, or I've never shared a meal with, or worked on a project with, etc.

Most are far-flung friends from different times in my life -- elementary school through the present day. From schools, camps, jobs, hobbies. People I'd want to see in person on a regular basis, if time, money (for travel), and family responsibilities allowed.

On FB I can catch glimpses of their lives I wouldn't otherwise be privy to, and get a clearer picture of who they are, what they think and believe, etc. Sure, a person's "posts" may offer a skewed or limited version of who they are, but not necessarily more so than what they reveal of themselves to others in person.

It's good seeing what's new, what's happening with their kids or parents or spouses, whatever crises (big or small) that may arise and being able to help or offer comfort. It's a good means of keeping in touch and feeling connected.

So, I think a lot depends on you -- are your friends REAL friends, or just a collection of people you don't really know and wouldn't care to know, outside of cyberspace?

Anonymous said...

Steve, you haven't seen anything yet, I'm afraid.

Cuz didya know that there is Twitter for toddlers? That's right, for little tykes, who have barely started to walk and no, do not know their ABCs, much less typing, but are never too young to be introduced to the newest useless techno-gadget.

The device is called Twoddler and you can see it here.

No words. Literally.

Steve Salerno said...

Twoddler? No, I hadn't heard. What a name; it actually sounds like a term that might've come up in our previous discussion.

Jenny said...

Well, your posting prompted me to sort through my Facebook network. Out of 145 total "friends," I have met 77 of these personally, face to face. But out of those 77 are people who I rarely if ever contact. They might be relatives or people I knew in school but who are not really actively involved in my life now except to exist in my "social network" on Facebook. On the other hand, of those 68 who I only know "virtually" (and in some cases, through the telephone also), there are some to whom I feel much closer than I feel to some of those others who I know in "real life." And, of course, the numbers and circumstances (contacts with active involvement versus those on the back burner, for instance) change over time. Another key thing here is that two of the most important people in my life, my husband and my mother, are not on Facebook at all.

And these blogs, too, are a form of social networking. I have come to value this one (yours), particularly, because I like the continuity and the familiar faces that always seem to resurface.

To quote you, in the passage from SHAM: "We all want so badly to believe in miracles."

So true, but reality is what it is and we get what we get, like it or not. And it's not "all good." Well, maybe it is (facetiously) "all good" but it's really not all good, as so many of the conversational threads here reveal.

Nice quote of the day. I also like the one by Socrates that goes, "The unexamined life is not worth living." I would actually like to add to that one so it includes: "... and is not worth writing about either."

Writing is a good way to examine life, especially here in the blogs where we can (usually) speak our uninterrupted little monologues then come back and see how they have been received, what new insights have arisen, and so forth. I like the way things take shape around here. There is always something new at SHAMblog to think about, or at least to consider in some new way.

Thank you, Steve, for the time and attention you devote to making this a pleasant and worthwhile place to visit!

Happy Holidays, all. :)

LizaJane said...

Elizabeth - that Twoddler thing REALLY rubs me the wrong way. Hate it. Still like Facebook, though, even if you won't be my friend ; ).

Steve Salerno said...

Jenny: "Pleasant"? I guess you haven't been reading along with the most recent threads... I feel so...unloved. But it's OK. I'm a big boy. I can take it. (Sniffle...)

LZJ & Eliz: Now, now. No catfights on SHAMblog! ;)

Steve Salerno said...

Norm: I am remiss in not addressing your point about fantasy earlier than this. I know several guys who are absolute fanatics about various fantasy leagues: they toggle seasonally through baseball, football, etc. They're avid "bracketologists" when the hoops tournaments roll around. In casual b.s. sessions about sports they'll go all macho on you, with the chest-thumping and trash-talking and the rest of it. But here's the kicker. I can't tell you how many times I've invited, cajoled, even begged these guys to sign up for my over-40 baseball league. Or flag football. Or something. And suddenly they go all quiet and have a million excuses why it's not a good fit for them. Then an hour later they start in again with the chest-thumping and bravado. I'm reminded of some of the guys I grew up with in Brooklyn, who'd talk real tough, taking every opportunity to instigate, while always looking over their shoulder for someone to hold them back, if you get my drift.

And hey, I understand that some would say I'm living out a fantasy existence, too, by playing my brand of ball. But it's the best I can do--the highest level at which I can still compete. And at this stage of life, I'm OK with that. I've made my peace with the fact that the Yankees aren't calling.

LizaJane said...

Wait! Elizabeth. Forgive me. I'm so embarrassed. Turns out, you ARE my "friend." D'oh! Well, I'm glad, anyway...

Anonymous said...

LizaJane, but I befriended you! Or so I thought, uh-oh. (What did I do wrong? I clicked the right button, I'm pretty sure.)

I am on FB, but generally avoid it. Signed up at first to (don't laugh) snoop on my child way back. (Had to; parental privilege -- or prudent vigilance, if you will. ;)

The medium is too fast and too noisy for me -- and the constant updates from people puzzling beyond belief. Old geezers like me do better on blogs.

BTW, you have a very nice picture on FB. :)

Anonymous said...

Oh, but we do luv ya, Steve. Why do you think we keep coming back and bickering with you all the time?

But, c'mon, admit it, you'd love to see a catfight on SHAMblog (LOL).

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz/LZJ: Only if you're lesbos and you send a make-up video later.

(Oh come on, you can take a joke...!)

a/good/lysstener said...

I lament this tendency of my generation and I sometimes wonder if it's partly what drives the whole hooking up thing. People are desperate for any kind of connection anywhere even if it's temporary and meaningless and just about pleasure. The irony is I think that leaves you feeling even more alone afterwards.

sassy sasha said...

LMAO lyss, you sound like such an old lady before you time!!

Dimension Skipper said...

Taking a break from plowing to catch up on things virtual...

PsychCentral's John Grohol is musing on whether or not internet addiction is a real condition or just a made-up pseudo-scientific thing (he seems to think the latter). Apparently a Slate article triggered thoughts, but I don't have time to read that myself right now (though I'll provide both links). Apparently sex addiction gets addressed too in re to Tiger's woods. Here are the articles...

World of Psychology (
Addicted to Sex? The Internet? Friendship?
By John M Grohol PsyD

The Addiction Habit
By Vaughan Bell

P.S. I HATE, HATE, HATE effin SNOW!!! Although it wouldn't be half as bad if only it didn't have to be so cold for there to even be snow!

Naturally, I'm "lucky" enough to be in the region for which the meteorologists are predicting the heaviest snowfall with this nor'easter. I've seen 12-18" forecast and even as high as 24" although that's probably gonna be a little more south of me.

I usually rely on the pro weather geeks to be overly enthusiastic the first one or two times they call for the first major snowfall of the season. I figure they usually overhype these things just to try to get everyone to rush out and buy snow shovels, blowers, plows, road salt, milk, bread, and eggs in preparation. And then we usually get just a dusting and it's no big deal.

It's times like this I'm not too fond of Mr. Irving I'm-dreaming-of-a-white-xmas Berlin either...

(Sorry, I'm always a little cranky when I can't feel my extremities.)

littleplanet said...

desperate for media-enhanced manipulations of replacements for face-to-face contact.
Legions of letters were written in bygone eras before the harnessing of electricity or the invention of the telephone.
I always wondered about the lonliness shrouding those writing desks...

Twoddlers speak volumes about nothing at all. Brilliant.

One good friend is all the wealth in the world.
How did we get greedy enough to desire entire solar systems?

Together alone....
alone is the grand wrestle with mortality. A game of life always lost, in the end.
lonliness is the grand dance with life's zillions of possibilities for sweet oblivion to that fact. Distraction from the obvious.
In the moment, it does not matter.

Our good listener doesn't sound so old to wise.

NormDPlume said...


You are still in the game; be it flag football, baseball or softball. You still have to execute - or fail - on each play; you still need to position yourself and implement your own strategy. And you still run the risk of injuries. The masturbation football league (MFL?) jokers are big hat, no cattle blowhards who risk nothing other than falling off a bar stool.

I respect people who can play a young man's game even though they have more yesterdays than tomorrows (if you get my drift). When I was in the best shape of my life, I played a lot of club-level volleyball. I was a sold B-level player, and occasional A-level substitute. On a business trip to Santa Monica, CA, I stopped by the beach volleyball courts one evening and played a pick-up game where I was the only guy under 70. These leather-skinned geezers ran me ragged, playing a game of strategic positioning: they pretty much stood in the same spot while I ran all over the court chasing down their soft shots. If my first power shot didn't blast by them, then they sent me running. And after my pulse hit 180, my power disappeared.

I hope to be able to do that one day.

Steve Salerno said...

DS: Shows you how different people can be. I understand the distress of not being able to feel one's extremities, but I'm sitting up here in the Allentown area bemoaning the fact that we're going to get "only" 6 or 8 inches...instead of the authentic (and not-at-all overhyped) blizzard they're getting whacked with in Philly.

Norm: Your volleyball scenario reminds me of when I dedicated myself to learning the angles and strategies of four-wall handball (a lost art these days, alas) during college. I would play for three or four straight hours after football practice daily. I was a monstrous specimen in those days, 6-4/240/34-inch-waist, with knees that actually functioned like joints, so I could apply ferocity and power to the task as well as a zen-like feel for The Game. Nobody could hang with me after a while. Not even close. The studs would come from around Flatbush to try me; they were lucky if they got 2 or 3 points. If I do say so myself, I was legendary.

I always regret that I didn't play in any organized sense. I think I would've been a force in national/ international competition. I really do.

Anonymous said...


Gasp, gulp, and giggle! DimSkip, is that really YOU?!

I'm stunned beyond belief! I didn't know you had it in ya. Now I've seen (or heard) everything...

The only thing that can possibly beat this is a wink and/or expletive from Roger. ;) Or Jenny (an expletive, not wink).


Seriously now, I so share your sentiment. Not only there is the effing shoveling, but one has to drive in this white, slippery crap.

What you said above, squared.

Anonymous said...

BTW, DimSkip (and all snow haters), here is something to warm and cheer you up -- a bunch of dudes who really like the white stuff and know how to use it.

Mardi said...

I finally gave up on Facebook and deactivated my account. Having amassed far too many connections, many of whom were only passing acquaintances, I decided to throw the towel in and reclaim my life, citing the recent privacy option changes as the reason. It's been two days and I've yet to suffer withdrawal symptoms and I am actually emailing/calling/seeing people rather than offering them little one liners and quaint ditties that are soon forgotten.

I'm not against Facebook per se, but I am now questioning the validity of sharing every part of my life. Especially troublesome is when you're dating and your date wants to add you as a friend. Gone is the mystery and excitement from the whole courtship in an instant. He'll know my friends, my family, see my baby snaps and goodness forbid, see his competition! Oh dear... No, it's goodbye and farewell FB and not a moment too soon.