Category Archives: News

How did we manage to live before….

For a couple of years now it’s been my habit to wind down the working day by logging onto all my social media sites at the same time and catching up on everything as I finish my work day.

Online social media has made itself ubiquitous and to some degree almost inescapable in the last 3 or 4 years.  You can log into your social media accounts in so many ways that it almost seems that you can’t get away from it.

If you have some sort of event or some sort of business that is in any way related to the internet it is almost compulsory for you to become involved in social media.  Even if you’re just an individual you are almost obliged to get on and find out what all your friends are doing else you risk falling behind in the latest events and not knowing what is happening in your little social domain.

Lately however it has been become overwhelming.  Disasters, news events, the elections, gossip, they all get bandied about by one contact or another on social media sites.  You see the same piece regurgitated in a seemingly endless stream of story overload.  Then of course comes the incisive commentary from your contact list.  People on the left, on the right, people from one group and another.  Lastly comes all the fighting and bickering.

And of course a friend of a friend (and possibly of a friend) posts about some tragedy in their life.  I want to empathize with their plight but when you have so many people on your news feed demanding your attention it all becomes too much to process and I feel that it actually drains my emotional batteries to the point that I just don’t want to know any more.

I feel like these social media sites aren’t so much communicating with me as they are yelling at me.

So I just left.  At first it was for nothing more than just to get away from it all and take an online vacation.  To let all the cyber babble die down and give my mind a break.

Surprisingly it was easy.  I thought I would want to constantly check and get updates but I found that the first day went off pretty much without any hassle at all.  I can’t say that I found a ton of “extra time” or made great personal discoveries by being by myself.  I didn’t even take time to wonder how easy it had been to not log in. It was just, quiet.

Instead of logging in I read, I watched a couple of movies on Netflix, “The big short”, a highly entertaining and thoughtful movie.  I just went about my daily life without the nagging feeling that I was missing out on something by not checking in.

By day 3 however something curious happened.  Social media missed me.  Not the individual people mind you.  I don’t think they even noticed I was gone honestly.  No, the social media websites themselves started sending me emails and telling me how many new notices and notifications had happened since I had last logged in.  Another website sent me suggestions for new people to follow that I might enjoy reading about.

By day 4 I had accumulated 99 notifications and then the spam emails kept repeating themselves.  Apparently 99 notifications is the upper limit the programmers set.  Perhaps they couldn’t believe that someone would let more than 99 notifications go by without checking in.

The only time I was somewhat tempted to log in and post something was when I went to a cafe on the east side of Houston and I wanted to post a picture of the cafe.  But as I sat in the cafe I began to think about this and wonder.  Does posting about the cafe experience make the experience any better?  Why share everything?

Andes Cafe

Andes Cafe

I had decided somewhere at the beginning of the “experiment” to come back in a week.  A week passed and I found I had absolutely no desire to log back in.  I was somewhat apprehensive to tell the truth.  I finally relented about ten days in and logged back in.

Like someone coming back from vacation that has a mailbox stuffed with letters, I had to wade through all my old notifications and messages.  After about 2 minutes I just hit the “read” button on everything.  Nothing had changed.  I honestly don’t know what I expected to have changed.

Perhaps one thing that has changed is that I no longer feel that having an online presence is as de rigueur as I once thought that it was.  A world without social media is not unimaginable.

I will continue to log in but I no longer feel as invested into the whole social media experience.  I don’t feel that I have to share every moment in my life or react to everyone’s news anymore.

You can live your life off the net quite well and find a satisfying life.  You can leave.

alternate sources of news and information

[Author’s note:  This is part of a writing challenge that Leslie Farnsworth issued.  We will both write about the same subject and compare notes later on.  She wrote her version on the 3rd of September, 2014.  If you get a chance head on over to her blog at and read not just her version of this topic but all of her postings.  They are thought-provoking and well written articles and she loves to discuss the topics with her readers.]


I heard about 9/11 online.  I was in an online chat room at the time when someone typed in that a plane had struck the first tower.  I guess that make’s me a bit of a cultural cliché.  Part of a generation that matured alongside with the internet.  If I had not had internet access I might have not found out till I drove home in the afternoon.

My experience with alternate news sources isn’t just confined to this one example.  I have been searching out unconventional news sources since my college days.

But why turn to alternate sources of news if we have such a robust news industry out there?  Firstly, precisely for that reason.  It is in fact an industry.  The days that news reporting was strictly just about presenting facts are long past.  News agencies and newspapers are owned entities.  They have their owner’s slant stamped on everything that they produce.  Even if they don’t have a particular slant, they have an obligation to be a money-making organization and that means entertaining their subscribers.  Just as much entertainment as it is information and this tends to tinge news.

Another reason to check alternate news sources is embodied in a quote from the character Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse.  When asked how he knew so much about communism Jeeves replied “It’s good to know what tune the devil is playing.”  Meaning of course that if you don’t know what arguments that someone with an opposing view holds that you would not be able to counter them.  If you stick to main line news sources then you will find that your world view is going to be somewhat narrow and that you’re going to be missing out on a lot of things.

So where to find those alternate sources of news?

Well the first and best place is going to be with those people around you that you know.  Not necessarily your best friends but maybe your casual acquaintances.  Those folks that have radically different life experiences.  They can view the same event as you do in a different light and can guide you to resources that you might not know about.  I know people from all shades of the political spectrum, from different religions, and economic groups.  They all have opinions and valuable input to provide.

Next would be to step out of your comfort zone and actively seek out publications and websites you would not normally look over.  I usually don’t have interest in things like fitness or fashion magazines but through them I’ve read articles on politics, technology, and social issues covered from new perspectives.  Sometimes they reinforce my beliefs, sometimes they make me question them.

The last source of information is to be your own reporter.  You may have a unique question that no one else has ever asked and maybe no one knows who or what to ask.  It’s up to you to dig out the truth.  Talk to people who normally don’t talk to strangers.  Request information that isn’t normally requested.  Your own patience and will to find the real story is your only limitation.

I find that going the extra mile and finding things out for myself rather than relying on the word of others usually leads to getting a much more precise and detailed picture of what’s happening in the world.