The Gudgel Family Advent Calendar, Day 23 — “Reconsidering Social Media”

PLEASE COMMENT ON THIS POST!

In inviting your comments, I’m not attempting to be ironic, though I would understand entirely if it comes off that way. Rather, I’m genuinely reconsidering a rather significant line in the sands of my life and where I’ve drawn it, and I want the opinions of my readers. Seriously I would be honored if you’d post a comment and let me know what you think of all this when I’m done. Thank you in advance.

Yesterday was a great day in a lot of ways, but one moment vexed me to the point of high blood pressure. Shortly after taking this photograph, I showed it to Sonja and told her “This, without words, is everything that’s wrong with the world today.”  Wanna see it?

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I don’t know this kid or what he’s doing on his phone. I do know that if a full choir of people just started singing in front of a bajillion foot Christmas tree in your general vicinity, you should at least take note of it.

I had thousands of Facebook friends when I closed my account some five or six years ago now. Many of those people I lost touch with, and I find that regrettable. I also lost contact with people who would bait me for political debates, if I may be so candid, cowards who wouldn’t say things to my face but from the safety of a screen and distance would post outlandish things. I’m no longer in touch, for example, with the person from my hometown who, on my Facebook wall, referred to our then-president using an atrocious racial epithet. At the time I attacked him with words, but I wanted to do it in person. I found that Facebook, and the manner in which people used it, made me angry. *

Similarly, I got rid of my Twitter account a little over a year ago when I realized that more or less all I was using it to do was to troll the POTUS.  I think more than anything, what I dislike about social media, however, is the amount of time it seems to steal from the lives of my students. They are far more easily distractible than they once were and, far worse, they are often bullied on social media. I’ve seen horrible things that have been posted about wonderful young people, and I’ve seen them sit and stew in what I thought was an otherwise interesting class, unable to put their phones down because they had to monitor and curate their online image and respond to whatever was going on in the moment.

And through all of this, I have come to view social media as a plague on our world, as a form of evil. Facebook has been famously used to coordinate genocide in Burma, and manipulated as a political tool by foreign powers to undermine American democracy. As a result, I no longer have social media accounts that I monitor, though I do maintain a Linked In profile and I do post reviews of wine on Vivino, to be fair.  Now, I understand that blaming social media for the harm it does in the hands of individuals isn’t quite fair, and that people should be responsible for the choices they make with their social media. You can have social media without letting it control you, you can have it without being a bully or getting bullied. In this way, I suppose it’s quite similar to the argument often made about guns, and while I’ve never fully bought into the “guns don’t kill people” argument, I think I can see both sides of it. Remove social media, all of this goes away. That said if we’re going to remove everything that kills people, we can’t stop with guns. We also have to remove prescription medicine, cars, and bacon (and I am not giving up my right to pop bacon-wrapped-vicodin on a road trip, thankyouverymuch).

As the year draws to a close, I find myself thinking about these things. Cliché though it surely seems, at the advent of a new year I do often attempt to tweak my worst habits. In 2019, I hope to stop swearing (if you know me, that would be a hell… damn it… heck of an adjustment). And so as 2019 approaches, I’m giving a bit of thought to social media. I lost touch with thousands of people around the globe when I exited Facebook, and I’m wondering if perhaps I might do well to attempt to reestablish those connections. But could I survive in a world in which the appearance of a little red number one became again an omnipresent distraction from the real world? More importantly, would it effect my parenting? My teaching? Already tech sucks precious time from my ever-shortening life. Again, I beseech you, weigh in on this.

And now we’ve come to the part of the blog that is served with copious quantities of hypocrisy, the part where I post a bunch of pictures of my cute kids and the food we ate yesterday and then pretend that because it’s a blog and not Instagram that it’s somehow better. Hypocrisy noted, most of you probably don’t read this thing because you can’t do without my philosophy. Here come the pictures from the really amazing day that was yesterday:

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It began with a trip to iHop for Grinch pancakes (as seen on TV!) because, as has been well-established and well-documented already, Titus loves him some Grinch this time of year. When we got there, they were out of Grinch pancakes (I threatened to walk out) but then later the Grinch appeared at the table and scared the bejeezus out of both of our kids so on the whole we considered our overpriced non-Grinch-themed breakfast a win. Here are some more pictures of my stinkin’ cute kids at breakfast:

After breakfast, we swung by the chiropractor, where the line was, for a while, literally out the door. Zooey, still a bit out of sorts for being sick and not sleeping well, needed entertained. She and I went into the building’s larger lobby and invented a game called “over here” wherein one of us would shout “over here” and run to a spot and the other would join them there. It wore her out until she had to stop and stare up at the ceiling to catch her breath.

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From our adjustments we drove downtown to Union Station and the Durham Museum to see the massive Christmas tree.

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Then, and while I know that this is not the place to air public grievances with one’s spouse, we had a brief tiff about Santa Claus. At one point in the history of our relationship, we agreed that we didn’t believe in Santa Claus and would simply tell our children the truth. Then one of us, which one it really doesn’t matter, decided that she, er, they, rather, wanted to lie to our kids, and now it has become a thing. That party attempted to take our kids to see Santa while I, er, the other partner, unwilling to be party to this grand manipulative lie, sat at a distance and enjoyed watching Zooey refuse to sit with Santa while Titus refused even to get near him and instead decided to sit with me… er… the parent who doesn’t want to lie to his…er…their, kids about Christmas.

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After all that we checked out the new Nebraska in WWI exhibit together, which is very worth seeing, and sat in a streetcar for a while.

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Home again, home again, we had lunch and the kids took naps. I watched the Husker basketball game on TV while Sonja did some work upstairs. Then I went grocery shopping and made dinner. And here comes the Insta-gramy part of the post where you get to see the food I ate as if most of us don’t get three squares a day.

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Channeling my inner-childhood for a meal I used to enjoy, I made pasta with cheese and put hamburger in it. It was really pretty good. I’ve been using these huge noodles lately which have a really satisfying density and a ton of surface area for things like cheese or pesto to cling to. I recommend them. At the grocery store, I had lamented that I always make the same dozen vegetable dishes with little variation, so I decided to try something different. I sautéed button mushrooms in a bath of butter and herbs with garlic and parmesan cheese and felt like that turned out well, and I also chopped up a ton of bell peppers of various colors and tossed them in the wok with a little olive oil and some sea salt and was satisfied with that result as well. Afterwards, Sonja kissed me and thanked me for a yummy dinner. In all, it went quite well.

Maybe better than the food, however, was the wine we paired with dinner (oh yeah, this is a wine blog, I nearly forgot). But take heed of this recommendation, my vinophile friends, because it’s a good one: La Storia is a series of wines made by the Trentadue Winery in northern Sonoma County, near Geyserville, where winemaker Miro Tcholakov makes some of the most fantastic wines I’ve ever had. Old world style with new-world terroir, his wines are creative, age-worthy, and expressive. Last night we shared the 2015 vintage of Cuvee 32, a red blend that is made up of 40% Merlot, 30% Sangiovese, 23% Montepulciano, 3% Zinfandel, 3% Cab Sauv, and 1% Petite Sirah. Gorgeous floral and purple fruit aromatics give way to a palate of subtlety that features spice box, cinnamon, a little dark chocolate, all on a bed of raspberry, cranberry, and bing cherry. Brilliantly smooth, the wine has an elegant structure and would surely be as good in a decade as it was last night. Widely available in Omaha or on the Trentadue web page, these wines cost in the $28-$40 range, and for the quality you’re getting that is a heck of a deal. I strongly recommend you check out La Storia.

We ended the night letting Titus stay up late to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas for the ten-thousandth time this December. Then after I put Titus to bed one of us cornered the other one on the living room sofa to ask how letting him believe in the Grinch was any different than letting him believe in Santa Claus, to which the other admittedly couldn’t come up with a good reply and attempted to change the subject.

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Thinking back on my new friend from Union Station, the one whose very posture indicates almost unbearable boredom in the face of spectacular beauty, I remain torn. I miss the people I lost when I got off Facebook, and I’m not all that convinced that spending an our writing this blog post this morning (and every other morning) is somehow a more noble cause than reading the posts of friends and family on social media. That said, I am well aware of how much additional time I have in life now that I don’t spend as much time on my tech, and I’m grateful for that time.  I’m sure there’s a balance to be struck, though like any addict — and I was once in no uncertain terms a social media addict, I think that sometimes removing the temptation is the best approach. I’m uncertain, less convicted that I once felt, in some ways unsure of myself when it comes to the topic of social media. I’d value your thoughts.

Cheers to reconsidering our positions, to introspection, and to whole days spent with loved ones!

Mark

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*I suppose it is worth pointing out that there is a Facebook account and a Twitter account associated with this blog. They are for marketing purposes only, and are not curated. The blog just auto-posts to them each day. Nevertheless, you are free to point out the hypocrisy if you like. I’m not unaware of it.

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2 responses to “The Gudgel Family Advent Calendar, Day 23 — “Reconsidering Social Media”

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