Meeting Someone You Only Know From the Internet

I know you probably shouldn’t get into cars with people you only know from the internet. I have read about every missing white girl in the past two decades, I’m well aware of how fucked strangers can be. But, I feel like having an internet presence is the new getting set up by a friend? Like, he has a following, that means he’s not crazy, right?

He tells me he likes my blog. I kind of die a little bit because then I don’t have to explain to him that I am crazy and overly serious and going to talk to him about my dumb theories like how I think the NFL is good for feminism. This is already the best dude I’ve met this month and we haven’t even left my street.

I ask him to write about whether Pink Floyd is the original chillwave band because I think so but I’m not into either Pink Floyd or chillwave enough to speak with authority.

“I used to take a lot of drugs and listen to pink floyd”
“Did it make you feel like you were one with god?”
“totally.”

I wrote a bunch of questions in my notebook, I say I’ll pull it out when the conversation dulls and it never does. We drive to his neighborhood on the other side of the city but don’t go to his house.

He tells me about Allaister Crowley. He had sex with men I guess not cause he was gay but it was some spiritual thing which sounded dumb but I guess it was about embracing things that make you uncomfortable, which is a truth seeker thing. It’s weird to meet another truth seeker. Like, I have met a million philosophy students and religious people and other’s who would self-identify as fitting into this category but don’t. What I mean is, it’s weird to meet someone who is so similarly detached from whatever they find they think might be true. He isn’t secretly rooting for it to be Christianity or Atheism or Non-Denominational Utilitarianism. He’s just putting one foot in front of another down a path until its block. Then he tries the adjacent one.

We stop at a gas station because we’ve been driving around all night. I try to catch up on my phone while he goes inside. No, I’m not murdered yet.

“Do you smoke?”
“No, do you?”
“No.”
“Damn.”

He tells me something is off the record and I think about this blog and how weird it is that he knows I’m going to write this.

I ask him what he thinks the meaning of life is. He thinks it might be drugs or something kind of boring. Maybe love. I look through his iPod, it is so good I actually feel a rush of affection for him just based on the summa mp3 player in my hands.

We go back to my house and sit on the couch. I’m actually not sure what I’m supposed to be feeling. This isn’t a romantic event but I get tripped up when someone has a good personality because if they have a good personality, what reason is there to not have romantic feelings? I have a hard time having male friends because of this: what is the difference between respecting someone and feeling attracted to them? Is that why you are supposed to fall in love with your eyes? To differentiate?

Anyways we sit inside talking for longer talking about what our friends are doing that night: hipster dance parties. I kind of want him to leave because I’ve had such a good time I am worried he is going to say something really gross and I’ll have wasted the night and all this emotional energy thinking about how great he is.

We stay in touch but now when we talk there’s other people around. It’s reverse progress. We might have to take it back to the internet, just to get some privacy.

How Not to Make The World Better

Raise awareness. Lots of it. Create a viral meme that points to an outrageous but oversimplified issue. Ask people to RT you and tell their friends. Don’t have a specific call to action. Continue to do this with a new cause each week until every person in your life zones when they see your name on their feeds.

Criticize. Spend your time reading about people trying to address causes important to you. Write about how they aren’t 100% respectful or ethical or inclusive. Propose only solutions that are completely unrealistic or no solutions at all.

Discourage people from asking questions. There’s a group of feminists that don’t want you to ask questions about feminism. For real though. If you want to know about feminism you should pick up a fucking book and stop wasting their precious time because it’s not their job to educate you. I don’t get this even a little bit. Write books and websites and lobby for change all you want to but the number one way to get someone on your side is to have a relationship with them. If you could explain to your friends and acquaintances why equality is so important to you, they’ll be swayed a lot sooner than staring at some edgy t-shirt you printed. Maybe you think they’re boneheads for not already understanding what you’re telling them, that’s okay. But people have to start somewhere. You did.

Splinter. You found a niche cause like solving cancer, cool! Start your own charity and name it after yourself. Make yourself executive director and put it on Facebook. Start a fundraising campaign to fund your new charity so that you can cover all your start up costs instead of asking people to donate to an established non-profit already in place, working, and with a lower operating cost. I’m sure you know better though!

Be as unlikeable as possible. Get a blog and twitter account you use mainly to shame people for being less knowledgeable than you. Be a generally negative bitch who plays into the worst kinds of stereotypes people have about “progressives” and scare a lot of people away.

Things to Do While the Internet is Down at Work

Use your cell phone to Google your antidepressant and find out how many people of your age and demographic killed themselves while on it.

Consult your mobile web browser history and read the bottom tier blogs you only read when extremely bored, like when waiting for an oil change: your high school friends’ mommy blogs, that recipe blog by that lady who calls herself The Skinniest Cook, the one with long, miserable, Livejournal style essays by your old histrionic coworker, the travelog of your missionary cousin.

Try to manually pluck your eyebrows in the reflection of your blacked out computer screen.

Give yourself your first ever self-generated, full-head French braid. Retreat to bathroom to look at it from all possible angles, glancing furtively at your iPhone every 90 seconds to make sure it’s not back on Wi-Fi.

Absentmindedly navigate to People.com. Feel embarrassed when the page won’t load and you realize and that this means you literally have a celebrity gossip tic.

Drink coffee. Drinkcoffeedrinkcoffeedrinkcoffee. Feel ill. Tell jokes to entertain your coworkers because you are basically the equivalent of workplace high.

Blatantly flirt with the one coworker who, though not objectively hot, is definitely like an 8.5 by comparison to the rest of the nerds you spend 9 to 5 with all week.

Congratulations, Dick

I have a dream about a new social networking site that’s as big as Twitter and Facebook where when someone wrongs you you put it on their profile. It has their picture and personal information on it and you can say like “this person cheated on me” and they have to be accountable for their actions in front of everyone. Shady people can’t hang out in the dark in the age of the internet!

So like, what I would like to blog about is about this guy I know and it is really killing me not to post his name because I really think he needs to answer to the kind of person he is and face reality, but I won’t. He just got married over the weekend and my newsfeed is all these people talking about how happy he is going to be with his wife. He’s not going to be happy with her though? It’s really fucking annoying.

He met this girl in February one year, about a month after we started hanging out. As of August of that year he was still hanging out with me, this girl, and because it’s his wedding weekend another acquaintance of mine just told me he was trying to date her as well this month.

The thing is, dude is slippery as fuck. I met him right after college where I was super sheltered from shady characters so I had no idea how to judge people in the real world. He talked about being close to his family and bragged about what a nice guy he was and how many times he had bought flowers or done sweet things for his ex girlfriends so I appropriated the nice guy title on to him. I even think he genuinely thinks he is a nice guy.

But, being insecure doesn’t make you nice. Needing attention so badly you regularly carry on somewhat serious relationships with two or more people definitely doesn’t make you nice, it makes you panicked and really fucking un-self aware. It bugs me that this is masquerading as his happy ending, like this girl made an honest man out of him. It’s a show. He can’t keep his nice guy image up if he is a 35 year old bachelor, people will know how damaged he is. I know he’s going to cheat on her again, because he hasn’t fixed the things about him that make him so dependent on affirmation.

I don’t want to be a person that is cynical about the goodness of people. I don’t want to think guys are naturally predatory or shady and I’m kind of pissed off that he is making me do this. But I just want some kind of public record about this real guy that everyone thinks is so nice. He’s using you too.

Embarrassing Moments: 1991-2012

1991: Getting ready for church I picked out my usual six year old outfit: a bright colored skirt and neon shorts underneath. I would throw a tantrum if my mom wouldn’t let me wear a skirt but I also ran around and climbed on things way too much for her to not insist on shorts underneath. They probably shouldn’t have been neon because I went in front of church for kids story time and the entire congregation laughed at me when I sat down and they saw the neon shorts. Rude.

1994: Upon seeing my general disinterest in the cute new boy in class, my friends wrote him a note asking if he liked me too and he wrote “hell no” and threw it away.

1995: While I was rollerblading past the baseball practice of the boys in my class (on purpose) and they started yelling at me about how Marcus wanted to be my boyfriend. Awkward.

1998: I ask a boy to dance and he says no.

2001: I start running around the indoor track after school to have run-ins with a really hot fellow soccer player who lifted weights after practice. He approached me at the drinking fountain and I fell off the table I was sitting at, dropped my CD player (lol) on the floor and just left it there so I could run away.

2002: I was running really fast through a narrow but what I assumed to be empty hallway in the arena after hours and ran full force into my crush and fell backwards. Ugh.

2003: In the always human traffic-jammed mail corridor at my college I again ran full face into someone coming out of a stairwell. Both our arms happened to be extended and we gave each other and awkward hug since we were already there?

2004: Jeans tear in the crotch on an ice-skating date. :(

2004: I threw up on my friends floor after a WOP-filled college party.

2005: On a backpacking trip I thought you could drink lake water. After laughing his ass off my friend clued me in and helped me sanitize my Nalgene for the rest of the trip.

2007: My roommate and I went to Target to pick up some things for our house. In the garbage can aisle she began picking out a new garbage can when I told her I thought she already had one in her room and she replied, “yeah but I threw up in it.” A thirty year old man I hadn’t noticed in the aisle burst into laughter. This is being in your twenties people.

2011: After hooking up with the hot friend of a friend I had my eye on at my birthday party, my good friend told me she had *also* somehow made out with him that night? So gross.

2012: Attempt to run across train tracks down town in heels. Fall in front of tons of people waiting in lines outside of clubs. Eh.

Why Does Everyone Have an Opinion about Everything?

I’m really thankful for postmodernism. If you grew up in the 50’s there was a hierarchy to society and you just followed it. You didn’t get to have an opinion, you weren’t encouraged to think outside the box you were supposed to be a preidentified set of characteristics. Postmodernism squashed that hierarchy into a flat line and I’m happy we’re free to be you and me and etc but it also has the annoying side effect of giving people the impression that their opinion is “just as valid” as anyone elses. No.

The major fault with almost everything before postmodernism is that it succombed to traditionalism and the is/ought problem. The wisdom was that if something was a certain way already, that must be the right way of thinking. But just because we are past that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a way to differentiate good thinking from bad thinking. Think about conversations you have about politics and religion. Most of the time people repeat pop sophistry when they talk about these and insist that they are allowed to have their opinion. This is true but having an opinion doesn’t make it good. Your opinion is good if the conclusion follows from the premises.

For instance, saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to gay marry because it’s “against the Bible” is not a very good opinion because not everything that’s against he bible is illegal in the first place and you aren’t asking it to be in the second place. It’s a cherry picking opinion that isn’t true to what you claim your values to be. Next.

I’m reading a nutrition book right now, because I am trying to learn about nutrition and it’s something every person on the planet has an opinion about but no one seems to actually know what they are talking about. So I am suffering through 700 pages of American nutritional history so I can actually learn something real. It’s just, really weird to learn about how many things in our culture are based on misinformation, not science. I guess its just like any other field- religion, gender studies, etc but the standard American diet (the “old” food pyramid with grains at the bottom) are based on a hypothesis that a high fat diet led to heart disease. But in the 30 years of adopting the low fat, high grain diet, heart disease has just gotten more prominent. So we went 30 years without questioning that the first thing people thought of doing when heart disease started being a problem was going to work? I had more faith in scientists than that before.

When is popular wisdom going to stop being based on magical thinking and repetition and start being based on what we really see? Are we really that blinded by predisposition and fear of change? Seems bleak.

BTW the book I am reading is called Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes if you’re interested

Things to Do While the Internet is Down at Work

Use your cell phone to Google your antidepressant and find out how many people of your age and demographic killed themselves while on it.

Consult your mobile web browser history and read the bottom tier blogs you only read when extremely bored, like when waiting for an oil change: your high school friends’ mommy blogs, that recipe blog by that lady who calls herself The Skinniest Cook, the one with long, miserable, Livejournal style essays by your old histrionic coworker, the travelog of your missionary cousin.

Try to manually pluck your eyebrows in the reflection of your blacked out computer screen.

Give yourself your first ever self-generated, full-head French braid. Retreat to bathroom to look at it from all possible angles, glancing furtively at your iPhone every 90 seconds to make sure it’s not back on Wi-Fi.

Absentmindedly navigate to People.com. Feel embarrassed when the page won’t load and you realize and that this means you literally have a celebrity gossip tic.

Drink coffee. Drinkcoffeedrinkcoffeedrinkcoffee. Feel ill. Tell jokes to entertain your coworkers because you are basically the equivalent of workplace high.

Blatantly flirt with the one coworker who, though not objectively hot, is definitely like an 8.5 by comparison to the rest of the nerds you spend 9 to 5 with all week.

Philosoph-Off: Jeremy Bentham vs. Fear of Missing Out

Blame it on the bucket list or any number of pinterest-y quotes about how awful it is to have things in your life that you regret not doing. It’s so much easier to make a mistake, hit the ground, and move on than it is to wonder how differently (better?) your life could have been had you gone option B. Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a ubiquitous 20something disease.

Jeremy Bentham developed an awesome decision making tool called hedonic calculus. Basically you just rate every potential course of action according to a static set of conditions:

  • the intensity of happiness it will bring you
  • the duration of the happiness
  • the certainty or uncertainty that the action will make you happy
  • whether the gratification will be immediate or delayed
  • fecundity
  • whether the action will have negative consequences
  • how many people will it bring happiness to?

I’m not trying to tell Jeremy how to philosophize but it really seems like this algorithm needs an eighth consideration: whether the absence of the action will induce FOMO. You could go through this whole list and determine that an action doesn’t sound like a really great investment. Things like moving to Brooklyn because you really want to make it as a writer, switching careers or getting back together with an ex have actually a negative guarantee of happiness. They are highly risky situations in which it’s realistic that you may end up broke, unhappy and living with your parents.

Adding potential for FOMO to Bentham’s hedonic calculus acknowledge that learning life lessons or benefiting from uncalculated risks are just as valuable than a safe bet. We have more options than people in Bentham’s time did. We also live longer and know that well have a long time to stew about a missed opportunity when we’re kept artificially alive in a nursing home. Act accordingly.

I’m Post-Philosophy Now K?

I got a little crazy about philosophy because it was so helpful with all the things I was going through in my real life (has anyone ever said this before?). I was really religious when I started college and the second I was thinking critically about it I had all this damage to the metaphysical structure of my life.

At first what I was doing was putting out fires here and there. Pascal told me how human nature begged the question of god, Anselm gave his shitty ontological argument that nevertheless was logical (in the logical/philosophical sense of the word look it up dummies) and I resonated a lot with confessional Augustine. So you could be a thinking Christian, it is possible. It didn’t happen for me but it happened to a lot of people I read and respect.

The biggest things that happened was all the drama about the gays. I mean I had a gay friend in college who cried because he went to christian school hoping it would fix him and I was like “please reconcile this for me god, okay thanks bye.” And then I read The Sacred Canopy by sociologist Peter Berger which talked about how all metaphysics (religions, science, ~atheism~, whatever) are flawed because they are stories, not truth. Because of this we try to cover ourselves up with it (to protect from unknowing, anxiety, fear of the unknown) but parts of ourselves/reality peak out or there’s holes in the umbrella. Preach. I also read John Caputo’s Against Ethics where he argues that ethics don’t work as a branch of philosophy because any universal you give is too big to fit into particular situations and we’re using it as a big front to ease our guilt over not helping when in the situation in front of us, we know what the right thing to do is. Like, probably we know that we should live below our means and send all our extra money to Oxfam but we create all these fancy ethical arguments to get out of it.

Finally an unphilosophical but super interesting philosophy book called God and The Philosophers was super helpful. It cataloged a bunch of professional philosopher’s and their religious life. The book happened to be about religion but don’t mistake this for a religious book, it was using religion as an example of all our unscientific thought. How do you be a philosopher when almost everything in your life is lived outside of the adversary method? Hume for example argued that the cause and effect relationship does not exist, yet he played billards all the time and presumably left all that talk in his study every day of his life. To some extent being a philosopher is a profession and you set it down at the end of the day and go home. So what I knew how to evaluate a good argument, does that really mean that I’m now a robot and everything in my life must be evaluated through this lens? We don’t expect this of any other profession! A mathematician isn’t asked how her faith is questioned by her many advanced degrees.

All these things made it okay to reject my faith as it was. Faith in God, faith in higher education, faith in anything that came labeled as Truth with a capital T.

I graduated with a lot of skepticism, a stalking relationship with Peter Singer and no idea what I was going to do with my degree. I was nursing a religious hangover and a hair of the dog was not about to work. I couldn’t think, read or talk about religious or spiritual topics for a few years after college. I was so sick to death of all of it. I was a little scared I would die in that time which is a gross reason to pressure yourself to think about religion but I’m superstitious and if I had my own religion the tenants would be free puppies and infant baptism for everyone. I’m not done with religion. I didn’t disprove it to myself just to leave it lying there. I had to go back for the parts that might be valuable. I guess philosophy is also like beating someone to death and then robbing their grave.

I had to remake what my life was going to be about. So I started doing what most twenty somethings do: I worked on my career slowly and went out almost every night. I think I told one of my christian friends I was trying to achieve physical proximity to god by dancing on top of tables. I kissed a boy on a dancefloor (and I let him call me baby).  I still had some purtan in me, but Rilke says you can trust your soul to guide you, so I did and I am better for it.

I’m not sure where philosophy fits in my life anymore. The questions I have to answer aren’t as big. Is there a god? Well maybe but I’m not interested in arguing about it knowing that arguing is only arguing, through sheer force we can create a spark which may illuminate the shadows in the cave. But even then, they are only shadows. Sure, its great mental exercise to toss an argument back and forth, but I’m a retired athlete, how much exercise do I really need as a civilian?

I still like philosophy, but I have no reason to dive into it looking for an answer to some structural damage in my life. I won’t find it now that I’m pleading agnosticism on all counts. I think it’s taken me as far as it can go and it’s time for me to get out and find something new.

Who You Are in Bed is Who You Are in Life

I once slept with a guy who “didn’t have a lot of money” because he recently punched a man in the face and had to pay him $9,000. He made similarly short-term minded decisions in bed, I’m just less litigious.

But seriously, unlike all the trite Carrie Bradshawisms Sex and the City put out there, this assertion made by Samantha on the show might actually be true. For instance, there is a lot you can tell about a man’s character by how he treats you. Is it all about him? Does he make you feel comfortable? What about the really creepy ones that hijack your birth control or suddenly do things you haven’t consented to? Those are definitely indicative of a pretty bad person. This isn’t the only place in their life they behave like this.

Similarly, have you ever noticed how flawless the transition is for someone you are dating that is on the lazy side to what kinds of positions they like? Or how willing they are to address and improve relationship problems? A guy who’s secure in his life doesn’t have a problem being vulnerable enough to confront a problem, and can try new things and be open in bed as well.

Once a guy kissed my neck as he told me he was really emotionally unavailable. The gargantuan split between our two realities never got any smaller from that moment.

Another time I hooked up with someone while I was blacked out. He told me his favorite night of us together was that night. When I…. had no personality? Outside of the bedroom he constantly talked about things he liked about me and I was like wait, what are you talking about? That’s not a part of my personality at all? For instance, he said he really enjoyed our “witty banter.” There’s probably nothing more annoying to me than people who think banter is cool? I am not playing a game when I am talking to you, it’s actually really important to me that people communicate sincerely and it’s really embarrassing and ostentatious and pretentious to talk about how witty you are.

I dated the most selfish baby on the face of the planet and he was so self-absorbed that he actually believed he was treating me with respect/reciprocity and that we had a good sex life. Like, he would bring up all the time how great we were in bed together. And all the time I would be like umm are you on glue? Are you present to this because if you stopped looking at your own reflection for one second you’d realize that this is not how a happy or sexually satisfied person behaves?

Maybe I am advocating jumping into bed with people faster, or maybe just paying more attention and using clear eyes when you do. Our personalities are present even when our brains aren’t.