Closeup of a large dandelion head

Glowing Boxes vs. Real Reality

Published 2016-06-01

So for three weeks now I’ve mostly been off social media. Originally this was to focus more on work while I am in the office. But in the long run it turns out I lack this amount of discipline. I just replaced “social media” with “obsessively refreshing the same five news sites.”

So that was a wash.

But what drove me off Twitter and Facebook was all the complaining and whining.

About 90% of Twitter is complaining and whining. Yes even my own tweets. I wouldn’t spend all day IRL with so much complaining and whining, why am I doing so virtually?

Facebook is better. Maybe only about 50% complaining and whining. Most of the other half is bragging.

I am OK with the bragging. I like the bragging. I like seeing my friends win.

But still: this is a lot of complaining and whining.

A looooong essay has been brewing in my head for at least a decade. It is about how Americans have ceased to live in reality. Both metaphorically (climate change denial, creationism, anti-vaxxers etc.) and literally (I spend most of my waking hours manipulating abstractions in a glowing box, or observing the abstractions others have manipulated in their glowing boxes.)

We all live now in glowing boxes inhabited mostly by our own minds. Plus the select things we choose to allow into the box. The few times we step outside the glowing boxes we are usually in (soundproof, climate-controlled) metal boxes. And even there we can’t help but look occasionally into the glowing boxes while idling at stop lights. Our minds receive only things that reinforce our own desires, pretty much all our waking hours.

Real Reality OTOH is all about Shit I Never Anticipated and No One Consulted Me On. People on the bus are weird. It is kind of hot and it smells like garbage. They don’t have my favorite bottled water here. No one told me this road would be closed today just because a power line is down! The barista misspelled my name again. Ugh why does the Uber driver keep talking to me? I can’t wait to Tweet about this hilariously shitty moment.

The glowing boxes are ever more seductive, and Real Reality seems increasingly optional. We have no tolerance for even small deviations from our desires, but we damn sure have wee soapboxes for expressing our discontent.

If you want a diagnosis of the shitty rage moment America finds itself in, it’s somewhere in that half-brewed essay.