Month: March 2014

Shallow Pockets

All right, congratulations. You’ve got a cause you believe in. And oh, aren’t you just being so sensitive to your online community by swearing up and down that this is the only cause for which you will be advocating this year.

“Really! Just this one! I’ll never ask you for money on That Certain Social Media Site again this year! I just really really believe in this cause, and I’m only three pledges away from my goal, so won’t you please put me over the top? Oh! Now I’m only two pledges away! I won’t bother you for money again this year!”

Just calm down, please. Because from the point of view of the rest of us, the fact that this is the One and Truly Only Fundraising Cause you’re espousing this year is obscured by you bringing up your One and Truly Only Fundraising Cause every day for a month. Accompanied by photos of you. And your team. And your child, if you are doing the online equivalent of selling Girl Scout cookies at the office for your precious little one, who’s supposed to be out there ringing doorbells all by herself so she can learn about salesmanship and rejection and following through and all those things she definitely won’t be learning because Mommy posted her little efforts out on social media.

And it just never ends. If you are “friends” (and I use the term loosely) with 180 people on That Certain Social Media Site, and only twelve of them like to go trolling for your gold online, that does mean that at every given look at the newsfeed, you’re hearing all about someone’s wonderful, wonderful cause. And how you should give your money to it.

Call me overly-sensitive if you like, and plenty do, but I find it galling to be solicited for cash by people who don’t invite me to their parties, never ever see me in person, and would never even take two minutes to send me a private message asking me how I am.

But golly, do they like my money. They just can’t wait to become better acquainted with my credit card.

I guess people do this because it works. All these nice, nice people are just so eager to applaud your investment of time and effort in your worthwhile little fundraising cause. And they are so, so falling all over themselves to tell everyone else how look! they came through to get you closer to your fundraising goal! So everyone can look generous and thoughtful and invested in the community! Win-win-win!

Except those of us who are rolling our eyes and wishing with all our hearts that That Certain Social Media Site still had that nice obvious “unsubscribe” option on the menu, which could contribute with one little click to make our online social experience less shrill and more pleasant.

People who are just so glowing with enthusiasm for their fundraising causes that they just can’t bear to keep them to themselves? Too precious for words.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Just Do It

Oh, the joy of forcing myself to write a new blog entry when I don’t have anything to say. It’s tough to feel that I’m putting my worst self out there for everyone to see some days, you know? I can’t escape the feeling that it’s my worst self revealed when I’m forcing myself to keep to the discipline of updating a blog.

It’s probably why I write under a pseudonym. Don’t you think?

Oh, wait, I just thought of something that doesn’t make me sound like a misanthropic, sarcastic little termagant (and yes, I did look on an online thesaurus for a better noun to describe myself than the one that first came to mind, based on the conviction that profanity is lazy and unimaginative. “Termagant” is much better, is it not?)

Today at church was the Laetare Sunday service, described on the back of the order of service in this way: “The time between the Vernal Equinox and April 1st was frequently a time when the normal ways of doing things were turned upside down. It is a time that honors the place of humor and laughter in human living–especially in our religious lives. Laetare Sunday celebrates this time on the fourth Sunday in Lent, traditionally a Sunday that provides some relief from the overly serious Lenten oeuvre.”

(Oh, look. I used up some space in this blog entry by quoting someone else. It inspires me to keep going!)

Well, it turns out that our minister really let his goofy side have free rein during this morning’s service. After we sang the children out to Sunday school, off came the dignified black robes to reveal a crazy tie-dyed shirt, beads, and a sparkling stole. And the whole service was done in this spirit of levity and general nuttiness. Plenty of talk about God and the human condition, in a completely April-foolish way.

But then, at the end there, it was back to the black robes and dignity. And a more serious spiritual message about how laughter and recognition of our own foolish limitations bring us near to God. Except he probably didn’t say God, because we don’t always at my church. I think, during the prayer, God is called “Nameless One of Many Names.” Which seems about right to me.

Well, let me tell you, I’m pretty sure it takes a pretty talented minister to slam laughter and solemnity together like that, all in the same service.

I’m full of gratitude for my minister and my congregation today. And for the human connections that enrich our lives.

Even some of them from That Certain Social Media Site.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Late to the party

Is it even too late to be making fun of That Certain Social Media Site on this blog? Is it simply not enough of a topic anymore, because it’s become too commercial and too boring and people are leaving in droves?

I’ve read at least a couple of articles about how young people are not following their parents, and in some cases their grandparents, onto That Certain Social Media Site. Well, I don’t blame them. This winter my entire newsfeed was taken up by parents moaning about weather-related school closings (deal, guys) and vacation photos and baby pictures (control yourselves, please. Your vacation and your baby are not fascinating enough for daily photo updates). Something that used to be fun and a way to connect to friends has somehow evolved into an online version of the most boring family reunion ever. Young people are fully justified in choosing other social media.

I’m starting to wonder why I am still there myself (if you’ve been following this blog, you’ve probably wondered this too. Admit it.). I don’t know, I have a small group of friends who use the private messaging to plan going out to dinner as a group. And if I have a random question I want to ask of someone who lives in my community but whose paths never cross with mine, it’s handy that way as well.

Still, more and more, I’m just not interested. And honestly, I’m starting to wonder about the mental make-up of the people who still seem to be really invested in it.

Why do some people post every couple of hours? They might as well be telling the world that they are lonely and they need to spend time with actual people in real life. Why do some people only post memes? Do they not see that this is the equivalent of  Uncle Joe forwarding that list of Ten Best Lawyer Jokes out to his entire email list? Why do some people keep posting photos that only serve to illustrate that they have never figured out how to frame a shot?

Horrified fascination with a deluge of dullness is about what I’m experiencing. I don’t think anyone could create an algorithm that would bring back the shiny allure of 2007. The site has become so boring that it’s starting to prickle.

I guess it’s just turned into something I do. Check my hotmail (yes, I’m old and stodgy) and my gmail (still trying for a degree of cool, I guess) and my account on That Certain Social Media Site.

Sometimes old habits are hard to break.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

The Disciplined Blogger

Even though I, at times, very much dislike That Certain Social Media Site, I’m finding that it’s much easier to toss off a one-liner on social media than it is to keep on blogging. I’m having a day when it is undoubtedly all about the process. This is my third attempt at a blog entry this morning. Yes, everything I’m thinking is dull and everything I’m writing is ponderous and I have mentally committed to the process of updating this blog a couple of times a week.

Here we are.

“Here We Are,” by the way, is the title of one of my favorite stories by Dorothy Parker. Parker conveys social awkwardness better than any other writer I can think of. And she describes the pathos and humor of social awkwardness during the time between the wedding ceremony and the wedding night in a way that makes me wince and smile at the same time. You should read “Here We Are.” Really, you should.

I do wonder, sometimes, would Dorothy Parker keep a blog if she were alive now? She was very much a woman of her time, mastering the art of the short story and the art of reviewing during a time when new magazines were the mass media and it was possible to make a living writing for them. Would she now be sharing her epigrams on That Certain Social Media Site? Or would she save them for her colleagues at the lunch table?

I am in every way confident that Dorothy Parker would have kept a blog going, even if she would have driven online editors crazy by not updating it often enough because she was trying to get every darn post so darn perfect. Of course, her blog would be linked to the website of a famous magazine, not some solo spin-off like this.

I wonder, though, whether she would have felt the appeal of an online blog with an online pseudonym where she could feel free to vent about the irksomeness of her society while hiding in plain sight.

Oh, look. Here I am, drifting into a comparison of myself with Dorothy Parker. Unspeakable arrogance. And undoubtedly a strong signal that I should stop now.

Here’s my blog entry for the day, everyone. Isn’t she a beauty?

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Meditating On the Different Sorts of Friendship

It’s a truth widely acknowledged, that social media friendships are shallow and meaningless.

This truth is illustrated by the person who is friendly to you online, but never in the actual world. The person who repeatedly “likes” your status updates, who comments on your posts, and seems to allow you a latitude to be witty online that is not permitted when she actually sees you for real. The person who makes you wonder what goes wrong when you happen to see each other at school pick-up, or at a soccer game, or whatever. I mean, if she enjoys what you say online, why wouldn’t she want to talk to you in person? But evidently she doesn’t. That is, if you interpret the fact that every time you sit down next to her, she gets up and moves away, as a sign that she doesn’t want to talk to you. And I do.

I myself am not capable of this sort of double-dealing. Either I like a person or I don’t, whether it’s in person or online. I think I’ve mentioned before that I sometimes wonder whether I’m unsubscribed from more people than I’m subscribed to (oh, look at that awful preposition at the end of a sentence. But I can’t seem to frame this sentence in any other way without it sounding even weirder and more clunky than it already does.). This is because I find them intolerably boring online (Do you ever post an original thought? Have you ever posted anything that’s not a meme created by someone else, and oh, by the way, the ones you post really aren’t really that amusing?) but I don’t have the courage to unfriend them because what if I see this person at the school concert? What if I see that person at a party? What if I am way too anxious and invested in the interaction between social media and actual social life? And how closely are the two melded together?

I don’t know, I’m starting to view That Certain Social Media site as the online context for those of us who aren’t digital natives, who remember how counter-intuitive desktop technology used to be, who remember rotary dial phones and the first time we heard about call-waiting (sixth grade) and the first fax we ever saw (sophomore year of college). For our generation, perhaps we’re not comfortable navigating two worlds of friendship, the online world and the real one. Social media isn’t as casual for us as it is for our daughters who hold snapchat conversations with six friends at a time and our sons who are constantly shouting into their headsets when they play video games online with school friends. We worry if another mom on the PTA will be mad at us for unfriending her on social media.

Or, maybe I’m just an over-anxious, socially awkward mess of a person. That could be true, as well.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Un-understandable

It’s distinctly possible that there are many, many people out there who are a lot nicer than I am.

I marvel at them every day.

On That Certain Social Media Site, I marvel. All those nice, nice people who “like” that photo of that delicious dinner. Who are willing to comment in praise of those pretty veggies topped with the perfectly-cooked meat. Who don’t automatically think “God, get over yourself” when shown somebody else’s chef-worthy plate of yum.

Who are these people and why don’t these posts annoy them? I mean, there is only one polite way to deal with annoying posts on social media: namely, ignore them. Don’t post snide comments. Don’t talk about how jealous you are. Just keep scrolling right along until you find something that actually is funny, or interesting, or thought-provoking. Wait, this is social media. You might just have to log off and hope for something better tomorrow.

I just can’t fathom what is going through the minds of people who respond in a positive way to other people’s conspicuous brag posts that unashamedly beg for praise and affirmation. I suppose they have achieved a level of “I’m so happy for you” that I can’t quite manage.

I think the problem is that there is no subtlety on social media. It’s all “Look what I made!” or “God, this sucks…” or “Hooray, aren’t you wonderful!” There is no weak smile and glancing away on the social media.

I find that level of directness to be  exhausting. Exhaustion makes me mean-spirited and unable to rejoice in other people’s oh-so-yummy dinners and oh-so-adorable children and oh-so-meaningful reunions.

Or maybe I just was never that nice to begin with. That’s completely possible.

All those nice, nice people who give their self-centered self-aggrandizing friends the praise they are begging for? Too, too precious.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Vacation Pics: Yesterday and Today

Social Media + iPhone Camera = Many, many vacation photos.

Oh, so very many.

If you’d like to walk back in time with me into a fictional setting, let us visit together Dorothy Parker’s short story, “But the One on the Right.” It’s an interior monologue from poor Mrs. Parker, who is attending a dinner party. She has the misfortune to be sitting next to a gentleman who has no idea of putting himself out there to make pleasant social conversation with his neighbor. She is bored out of her mind and wracking her brains for possible openers:

“Really, I suppose out of obligation to my hostess, I ought to do something about saying a few words to this macaw on my left. What shall I try? Have you been reading anything good lately, do you go much to the play, have you ever been to the Riviera? I wonder if he would like to hear about my Summer on the Riviera; hell, no, that’s no good without lantern slides.” —Dorothy Parker, “But the One on the Right”

Just think. Back in Mrs. Parker’s day, a person had to put real planning and effort into getting people to sit still and look at vacation pictures. She would have to invite them over, set up the slide lantern and possibly some folding chairs in the living room, and probably offer her guests refreshment. She would have to Make An Effort in exchange for boring her friends silly with her slides from her Summer on the Riviera.

Here in 2014, sharing vacation photos (pics! Sorry, of course I meant pics) has become all too easy. I’ve never done it myself, because doing so is just a little too close to smug for me. “Oh, look! Here we are traveling and having fun! Wish you were here!” The only exception I will allow is a proud parent who got a picture of multiple offspring together, looking happy, in an attractive setting. Such an occasion is so rare that it ought to be shared with one’s friends.

Yet another shot of palm trees against the sunset? Not so much. Ho-hum, Ms. Vacationer, it may surprise you to learn that that one’s been done before. A few times, even. At every souvenir stand that sells postcards anywhere. Oh, right, sorry, of course these are your palm trees against a sunset you are experiencing and kindly sharing with the rest of us. That makes it so much more riveting. Really.

Unfortunately, Ms. Vacationer jumps quickly over the line from Tedious to Just Obnoxious when she shares her pretty beach pictures with those of us back home who are continuing to grit our teeth to get through a particularly severe winter with lots of snow and slippery roads and cold temperatures. If you’re lucky enough to escape this kind of weather by jaunting off to warmer climes for a week, would you be kind enough not to point that out repeatedly? I mean, yes, we all know you are far away enough that we can’t actually slip poison into that nice tropical drink you’re enjoying. When you do come back, though, beware the wine at my next party. No doubt I will have a few willing conspirators who are as mean-spirited as I am about other people’s jolly fun times.

People on social media who want you to enjoy their vacation right along with them because they are just so excited to be there?

Simply Too Precious for Words.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

The Pseudonym

Acton Bell. Lemony Snicket. A Lady. Wondrous pseudonyms, all.

I wanted my own. I wanted it to be so quirky and weird that it could not possibly be anyone’s real name (Dan Handler, you are my hero!). Happily, I found inspiration in James Thurber’s book, The Thirteen Clocks. Mr. Thurber includes several very clever limericks in his tale of tears and laughter. This one is my favorite:

“A dehoy who was terribly hobble,

Cast only stones that were cobble

And bats that were ding,

From a shot that was sling,

But he never hit inks that were bobble.”     —James Thurber, The Thirteen Clocks

This, to my mind, simply has to be a strong contender for The World’s Most Witty Limerick. Imagine, Mr. Thurber could find two sets of words (the -obble words and the -ing words) and cut them in half and successfully rhyme the first halves of those words in a clever poem. This is a feat of imagination and skill that affirms my faith in human invention.

(Side road: I have never held the limericks of Mr. Edward Lear in very high esteem. Far too often, he merely repeats the first line in the last line of his limericks. Lazy. Dull. Lacking in imagination. I just feel so empty inside when I have to read the same line twice in a short poem like a limerick.)

Not only is Mr. Thurber’s little poem a lot of fun to read, it has inspired me to what I hope and pray is an entirely original pseudonym: Hobbie DeHoy.

This is possibly Too Precious For Words. However, I cannot resist taking a pseudonym that is inspired by the poetic invention of James Thurber. And anyway, this is my blog and I’m allowed to slip into being a little too precious sometimes, as long as it’s not accompanied by an iPhone selfie. That last, I can safely promise my readers.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Scrolling through the newsfeed

Oh, look! A meal I won’t get to eat! Oh, look! A party I wasn’t invited to! Oh, look! An adorable baby! My, he’s certainly grown in the past two hours! Oh! No, I did not really want to know about your young child’s progress in her personal habits. When I was at this stage with my children, I kept this topic strictly to myself. Really.

You all are simply Too Precious For Words.

Of course, the absolutely most annoying people on a certain social media site are the ones who like to point out what annoying things other people do.

That is why I started this blog. All that sarcasm needs someplace else to go, someplace that is removed from the context of that certain social media site. Here we are.

And no, this blog is not going to be unmitigated spitefulness and snark about social media. I will be posting about books I like and things that are fun to do in Cleveland, Ohio and possibly even more. However, this is the place where I give myself permission to anonymously vent about how annoying certain social media sites can be. I swear I’m getting to the point where I’m not following more people than I am following. This probably says something about me, which may not necessarily be good. But, you know, now I have a blog and a really good pseudonym to go with it.

Here we are.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy