Constantly Seeking Approval

“Please like me.”

“Please like what I have to say.”

“Please love me.”

“Why do you only like what I have to say, why didn’t you love it?”

“I think you suck for not liking me.”

Looks sort of mental doesn’t it?   Did some emotional crippled person write this before going into a manic episode?    Didn’t Glenn Close say this in Fatal Attraction?

This is what humans are saying over three billion times a day on Facebook alone, according to marketland.com, a website that covers the digital marketing industry.   Every single day we’re receiving feedback from other humans via social media, on whether or not they approve of our posts, comments and views.    We’re being constantly told when people think we’re really cool, sorta cool or not cool at all.    Since humans are biologically social creatures, this kind of interaction is pretty amazing to our brains, and of course, can be quite addictive.    But is it also turning everyone into incredibly needy people whom now constantly crave approval?  No doubt you’ve posted something you feel is pretty thought provoking on social media and wondered why more people didn’t “love” it… maybe it even bothered you to the point where you thought something might be wrong with your internet connection….surely there should be more notifications by now?    And yes, I’m speaking from experience.

Social media has given us the ability to participate in thousands of popularity contests a day, some of which we’re competing in ourselves.    One would be lying if they didn’t admit their personal sense of satisfaction when a blurb they post receives positive responses in the form of thumbs up or hearts, validations from human kind that you’re on the right track… to something or another.    This goes the other way too, especially when you post something you feel so powerful, only to be knocked down by so many, crushing your hopes for acknowledgement, sending you into a downward spiral of more angry faces, or the inappropriately placed laughing emoji, utterly mocking your contribution as completely useless.   Now you’re in an approval deficit and must recover… you need more hearts… quick post something funny ASAP!     And yes, I’m speaking from experience again.

Does this happen to everyone though?    Are there some people out there that haven’t turned into little digital crack monkeys, obsessively banging on the lever for more?  Are these the ones that “don’t give a fuck” anyway?    Are these the people that throw trash out of their car windows… and… and… it’s hard to even type… don’t recycle?   Do these people post on social media and don’t even care about the likes or those beautiful little hearts?  They must be assholes for sure, because if they cared about anything, they would care how many people think cow cuddling is awesome.   I would imagine these people probably also spend very little time on social media, after all why would they even bother?    They’re clearly not social to begin with.

I’m new to a lot of this Facebook stuff.    I’ve been a member less than a year and I’ve connected with some amazing and wonderful people, embarked on new adventures and even learned a lot about myself, so I’m not knocking it.    I’m just wondering if all these little doses of digital crack is healthy for humans as a whole…distracting us from the real work that needs to be done, whether it be knocking on doors, talking to our neighbors or doing the dishes.   Three billion times a day we’re communicating with others, sharing our ideas, but is it for the sake of sharing or the little buzz we get when someone likes it?    Are our intentions really to make the world a smaller place, or are we just seeking approval, trying to make us feel better about ourselves?    Do we really want to save our planet or does it just make us feel less lonely that others feel the same way?  So many questions.

Perhaps you can separate the ones that are just getting “high” on approval from those with other intentions, by looking at their actions and lives outside of social media.   For example, if someone feels the need to constantly post about saving alien beings from Mars, but never takes the time to even look up at the red planet at night, perhaps they’re just hopping on a bandwagon because it’s popular, and it feels great to get those little thumbs and beautiful hearts.  But take a person that has invested their time, energy and money into a cause, then it’s likely they’re not a digital crack monkey, and their position deserves more attention.  Maybe those folks are too busy with really changing the world, and not how many likes they have.   They haven’t been seduced by the noise of social media or the allure of acceptance… they are out there effecting change before it’s too late, before the opportunity passes and scrolls off their feed.

If you liked this article please like it, or even better love it and share it with your friends.   Please?   Pretty please?  I need a fix like now.

 

 

Being A Leader, A Follower, Or Both

I have a friend that sometimes annoys the hell out of me when she says:

“That person is such a follower, they’re not a leader, they just do what ever that other guy wants.  They can’t think for themselves.”   

The names have been removed to protect the innocent.

I’m sure you’ve heard this before and sometimes I even question myself and wonder where I fall in this scenario.    Am I a leader?  Or a follower?   Do I just take orders and advice blindly, or do I put some thought into it first?   Most recently, while pondering the cracks in my ceiling before falling asleep, (okay there are none, but it sets a mood) I realized it’s beneficial to be a little bit of both.  We should know when it’s best for us to let our inner leader shine and take command, and know when to let someone else do the driving, be the follower we need to be, and learn a thing or two.  Sometimes we might even realize that we’re following to a point that we’ve stopped thinking for ourselves, and that’s not a good thing.   When we do that, we give up a part of who we are, a slice of our identity, a hand it over to someone that may or may not know what’s in our best interest.  That sort of following can be seen in many areas of society, most notably in religious organizations and political affiliations.

Critical thinking and free thought has turned into a scarce commodity in our country.   From the time we wake up, to the time we go to sleep, we are bombarded with information that attempts, in most cases, to make us think a certain way in regards to what we buy, who we give money to, who we vote for and what we should  have for dinner… or not.  This relentless feed of choices and decisions that must be made results in feeling overwhelmed, and we willingly, and quite gratefully, hand those decisions to others to be made on our behalf.   Look no further than a restaurant which offers meals by numbers to see this in action.    Many customers, if not most, feel a certain sense of relief when a meal is neatly combined with other options, leaving the guess work to someone else.    It’s often masked as being “convenient” but in fact we’re just giving up control… and it’s okay.

Here’s where it can get rather tricky.  After you’ve ordered enough value meals, and clicked “I Agree.”  on hundreds of terms and conditions and privacy notices, your brain becomes hard wired for “following,” and trusting others with all sorts of rights and privileges, which you have no clue what they actually do or don’t include.  As a nation we have been trained to “click” and move on, without reason to believe otherwise.  Pretty scary shit if you ask me.  Not only because of the obvious ramifications, which we’re currently seeing played out on the global stage, but this sort of willingness to give up control can bleed into our personal lives as well, and with equally devastating consequences.

Apple’s never ending license agreement which everyone seems to agree to or they can’t use their phones.

Balance is critical in our lives, now more than ever before.    In every aspect of our society we are being pushed in one direction, or being pulled in another.    Choosing when to lead and when to follow is no different.   Finding that sweet spot of knowing is the key.    For some people, especially supreme independent thinkers (and we’re not all independent thinkers trust you me,) this is an easier task since decisions are made with the utmost objectivity.   For others, it can’t be daunting and arduous, as many don’t feel comfortable making decisions on their own.    So when do we know when to step in and take the lead?   By listening to our gut, our primal instincts… otherwise known as our stomachs.

When you trust someone to make decisions for you, it should feel fluid and relaxing, without fear or prejudice.   You should be able to down a greasy pork sandwich with ease at the same time you’re allowing this individual, or organization, to take the reins and lead you cross-country across the Oregon Trail.   However, when you get that sick to your stomach feeling, or you find yourself becoming agitated or resented, it’s time to take a step back and figure out if this is what you signed up for.   Perhaps this isn’t the right church, political party, person to date, pretty girl to marry or value meal to order.   Listening to your heart, or rather your stomach, will give you a clear indication when something just isn’t right and it’s time to move on. Or in some cases, do more research.  Humans have an incredible innate ability to sense deception and danger if they would only learn to trust it, not ignore the signs or not turn it off intentionally and follow blindly.  Alternatively, this can be a clear indication that you’ve reached a point in your life when you’re ready to spread your own wings, and become a leader yourself.

The next time that friend of mine criticizes someone for not being a leader, they might not being seeing the entire picture.   Perhaps this is by choice, and they’re choosing the right time for subservience, as a tactical advantage of sorts.   Or perhaps they’re stuck, fallen into the sticky trap that is constant noise coming from every possible information source imaginable, and they just need to disconnect and detox for a while.   What ever the reason, it all boils down to being aware that you actually have choices, and why you’re making them.  Knowing what’s for dinner wouldn’t hurt either.

 

 

The Need To Control

I was looking for parking the other day at the local grocery store and immediately located a middle aged man, with just a few groceries, loading his vehicle.    This was probably the most simple and mundane of tasks, not requiring much effort since the amount of plastic bags he had in his cart was probably fewer than twelve.   Yet he seemed to relish in the idea that I was anxiously waiting for him to finish and leave so I could park my car.    Clearly he was in control and he milked the opportunity… so much so that another person came, loaded their vehicle and left before this guy finished.    I ended up taking that spot instead, with some level of satisfaction that the guy with control issues never got to achieve a power-play orgasm.   Clearly he would have climaxed while backing out ever so slowly, suddenly stopping for traffic that wasn’t there.  Still, I was completely pissed off at this obvious and pathetic need to control.

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Why Are Gay Men So Damn Needy?

I’m sure it’s happened to you before.   You get home after a nice date with a handsome guy, he looked just like his pics online, so that’s a plus right out of the gate.    Sex was pretty much a slam dunk so he’s definitely getting a second try and you’re actually looking forward to it.   You get the usual text message accompanied by some cute emoji…

tonight was really great, thanks for being so cool.”   

 You smile and drift off to sleep as you contemplate how dating really isn’t that bad after all.

The next morning you wake to the familiar routine of shutting off the alarm on your phone, oversleeping, and suddenly realizing you’re late for work.    As you rush to get yourself together and out the door, you notice you have a text message on your phone which must be from the office reminding you of a meeting you’re late for.  In what has become a very automatic set of movements for your fingers, you navigate immediately to your texts and retrieve the poorly timed piece of information…

“thinking of you.”

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The Toxicity of Social Media

I’ve only been on Facebook for a short amount of time relative to most, a couple of months has gone by since I made the leap into this digital equivalent of humans in herds.  I administer content management systems at work (ECM), so the least thing I needed was a personalized version.   Then my blog came along and I gave into the temptation of having a platform to share my articles.   While during my first week on Facebook, I was amazed by this unified form of consciousness I seemed to be observing, I quickly became aware of a darker side to this mass method of communication.  Unlike social interactions in the flesh, people feel free to act or react in ways that they wouldn’t do so in public.  I used to teach an orientation class at work on cyber manners, back when this new thing called the Internet became a tool for business.   It was then that I was first introduced to the analogy of people acting the same way online, as they do in their cars, especially during incidents of road rage.  The comparison was made of someone getting in front of you in the movie line, to if they did the same action in their car while driving.   In the later example, you might scream and yell at the person, shoot them the bird and hold your hand down on the horn.    While if you acted the same way face to face, you’d probably scare the shit out of everyone around you and might even get arrested.

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Still Stronger Together

This past week it seemed like Americans took a huge leap backwards in time, and in human progress.  We saw scenes unfold on live television that we thought were only reserved for documentaries and high-school history class.    We heard angry words from the mouth of our elected leader, the President of The United States of America, refusing to condemn those representing a way of thinking which humanity attempted to extinguish in World War II.    So many lives lost on a global scale, so many families broken… all disgraced by someone that has proven to be the antithesis of leadership and what it means to hold the office.  Our nation is angry and justifiably so.    We are all witnessing the very destruction of American principles and freedoms we have come to cherish as citizens of this country.   In the processes, we’re also seeing that hate and vitriol is contagious, and we’re turning on our own friends and neighbors, accusing them of putting this monster in office, all too eager to pick up the first stone and cast it.  We’re also forgetting American values, like democracy and the freedom to choose, in an effort to assign blame.  Ironically, the words of Hillary Clinton are more relevant now than ever,    “We’re stronger together.”

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My First Week On Facebook

Many of you have never known a world without Facebook.   By the time you were old enough to read and use a computer, this revolutionary technology of communication and complex algorithms that identified friend or foe was already around.   You’ve never known a world without a friends list, a world without a wall or timeline, a world without this connection that spans continents, age, sex or sexuality.   You’ve been born into this arena of mass communication that I never knew.   Until now.

I decided to join Facebook only for selfish reasons, I was a frustrated writer and I wanted the world to see what I had to offer, wanted an audience that would appreciate what I had to say.    I wasn’t prepared for what I would find.  Initially it was much of the same, guys looking to hook up.  After all, I was fresh meat as my partner Eric put it, the new kid on the block people had somehow missed while looking for new friends to add to their ever growing list.

But what I found was humanity in it’s best and worst forms.   I found people bearing their souls, telling anyone that would listen about the darkest times in their lives.  I found people sharing stories of hope and love, and I found the in-between… people neither happy nor sad, just those content with telling others about the remains of their day.

In this first week of Facebook I’ve seen some pretty intense drama but I’ve also seen a global community seeking change.    I’ve seen a collective consciousness crying out to the Universe, wanting its voice to be heard, needing empathy and compassion, love and respect.    I’ve seen hearts broken and families reunited.   I’ve seen way too many puppies and kittens and other furry creatures that still manage to make me laugh.  I’ve seen what it is to be human.    The good, the bad and the not so certain.

While the technology is old in industry terms, and some would argue its time has come and gone, I think there’s a more important ideal it brings to those seeking truth.   It’s our message in the bottle, our representation of what the human race considers dear and precious, no matter how obscure the author is or was.

Perhaps in a millennia or so, the Earth might be a charred cinder, floating in space, the end result of occupants too intelligent for their own good.   But in the ash, perhaps a server or two will survive and provide some passerby a glimpse into what it was to be human.   That in itself is priceless.

Thank you Facebook.

Gay Men And Boundaries, Or Lack Therof

My coming out process as a gay man wasn’t an easy one.    I was suicidal, I didn’t want to be gay, I couldn’t imagine myself doing the “honey I’m home” thing with another guy, and there weren’t any positive role models in the media that showed what life as a gay man was really like.   My first exposure to gay relationships on the big screen was a movie called Partners with Ryan O’Neal and John Hurt and it terrified me.   One gay stereotype after another was exploited for laughs in this comedy of the early 80’s.   If this is what it meant to be gay, you could count me out.   Eventually, with lots of therapy and support from my family (turns out I was the only one who had a problem with me being gay), I learned to accept myself and went from experiencing constant anxiety and fear, to pride and self confidence.    I learned that the many gay stereotypes I feared growing up, were just that.    They lacked truth and I could discount them as hate fueled propaganda.    That is, all except one, and it continues to bother me to do this day.

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Having An NVE (Near Vegetarian Experience)

very chicken tasting chikin’ sandwhich

Everything in life is a journey, and I concluded a very positive and eye opening one this spring.   I spent almost four months as a quasi vegetarian, eating absolutely no beef, pork or chicken (not including eggs), in an effort to rid my body of toxins and a lot of guilt.   While home sick one winter day (technically speaking) in Miami, I decided to watch a documentary on NetFlix called Food Inc.    While not entirely about the low standards regarding animal welfare, the film really exposed what’s wrong with our food system in general.   I felt sick to my stomach after watching how processed our food is, how horrible many of the animals and people in the industry are treated, and how big business has done away with small farmers as we once knew them.  After the film was over I literally got up and proceeded to throw stuff away from my fridge.    I didn’t want anything to do with processed lunch meats or anything else that was “factory farmed”.  I instantly decided to become a vegetarian and set out to let everyone know what I just learned.

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