I am a walking paradox. To understand who I am is to come to an intimate grasp of cognitive dissonance. My poor wife is a captive audience to my regular contradictions. She is forced to make the following face on a regular basis when trying to comprehend how she ended up marrying someone as confounding as me.
The starkest example of this can be seen in my dichotomous relationship with contemporary, data-mined, digital technologies. I have a preoccupation with digital technologies and social media that is beyond the parameters of good health, yet I wring my hands about it in an almost joyful fashion. That’s one of the reasons I am a massive fan of Manoush Zomorodi and her Note to Self podcast. Listening to Zomorodi’s stories helps me work through a lot of thinking and struggle I have around, as they say, “being a human that uses technology.” The podcast’s goal is not to give you neat and tidy answers to complex problems. Rather, it helps you to go deeper into the complexity.
The Privacy Paradox series was a great example of this. Listen to the episodes and see my accompanying sketchnotes below.
I wish somebody had told me that it’s OK to be anxious. That you don’t have to fight it. That fighting it is what makes it worse. – Mara Wilson
If you’re like me, you probably never heard anyone talk about struggling with mental health growing up. And, if you’re also like me, you realize now that it may, ironically, be one of the reasons you saw so much mental health struggle manifest itself on a day to day basis around you.
Since learning so much more about what it means to struggle with mental health, I’ve been reflecting on the experience of family and friends throughout my life. It occurs to me that so many people I’ve known (particularly my own self) have shown clear evidence of emotional, social, or psychological stress at some, or constant, times in their lives. I used to think that it was a blemish on someone’s character, a sign of depleted masculinity, or analogous to a temporary cold virus, but I realize now that this cultural conditioning only makes anxiety, in particular, worse.
This point has been driven home to me of late as I’ve noticed one of my own children showing signs of anxiety. I always thought the best way I could help a loved one through this was to convince them that what they were thinking and feeling was irrational (which, to anyone other than the sufferer, it inevitably appears to be) and to assist them in “don’t-worry-be-happying” it away. But, guess what? That wasn’t helping.
Instead, I’ve noticed the power of talking about anxiety the way Mara Wilson encourages us to do so below. Name it, look at it, acknowledge its existence and hold over you, then practice strategies and seek support to be resilient in its presence.
I grew up in a time when most people told you not to worry, to be happy. I want my kids to know that I’ll be there to listen to their worries and do my best to support them in overcoming or, perhaps… even leveraging them?
Have you seen The OA on Netflix? (Oh man, I just realized my blogposts are sounding a lot like water cooler conversations these days.) My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed it, warts and all. But, in truth, one of the main things which compelled me about the show were its opening and closing credits:
Written by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij
Starring Brit Marling
Directed by Zal Batmanglij
When was the last time you saw a film, let alone a series, written by, directed by, and starring the same people? This used to be far more common in the days of low-budget auteur cinema, but almost unheard of in the mass scale production of most Hollywood-centric film and media.
So, after completing the series, I fell into a bit of a YouTube rabbit hole of interviews with Marling and Batmanglij to find out how people can possibly co-create a complex Netflix series to this extent, especially as it interrupts my own assumption that writing is a solitary act. I’ve been learning a lot about collaboration from listening to them.
We write together. That’s a beautiful, collaborative phase. It’s fun because we all know each other so well. We come to the writing part with all the stories that we’re just living in our lives. We talk and we share, and eventually, somewhere in the centre of that hurricane, an eye comes that is the story for right now. Then we spend some time writing it together…
We have a very formal writing process. We set up four-hour chunks in the day. OK, you have to turn off your cell phone, you have to shut down your email, and, for these four hours, we have to focus on writing. That was a really good way to begin. That sense of discipline. Otherwise, it’s really hard to create something out of nothing…
But once we’re finished, it’s actually a great part, too. We really draw a line in the sand. Zal goes away and directs, and I go away and act. It’s actually really nice; how close we get in the writing, and then how we have to separate, then come back together again in the editing. It’s a beautiful process.
You can view the complete interview below. It’s obvious to me that great storytellers even describe the process of creation as a compelling story in and of itself.
If you listen to people who still have lukewarm, or even adverse, responses to social media, a common complaint you’ll hear is that it’s not like real life.
I get it. There is, indeed, a load of fakery and contrivance in the world of followers and likes. Analogies to the worst aspects of high school social life are often apt, and to say that marketing doesn’t rule the current social media landscape is to be naively or selectively blind. We always need to respect a skeptical or critical view of all of these spaces because there will definitely be countless reasons for such stances. But there’s one thing I no longer understand.
Why do we keep expecting social media to be a window into real life?
I think one word we often forget in “social media” is the word media. We would never complain about television, newspapers, or movies for bending the parameters of reality. Why do apply this standard to the social kind?
Social media is not real life. It’s something else. Who knows – perhaps that is its strength?
I don’t feel right when I’m not blogging. It makes my head feel like it’s a messy room where I can’t find my stuff. I feel like I’m not connecting with friends, because blogging is one of my weird ways of saying, like Stevie Wonder, that I just called to say I love you. When I’m not blogging, I’ve noticed that the guy on my shoulder called Are You Sure About That is dominating the talk, while the other dude, Your Voice Matters, is being bullied by the former.
Have you stopped blogging? Have you walked away from that need? Did it go away? Why? What happened? Stop saying it’s about a lack of time. It’s not about that and you know it. Just write about the breakfast you had or something. It wasn’t about the content, for crying out loud.
Why do you need to blog?