Anonymity and Anger

This is yet another post written out of anger. Hell, even the bold text that is explaining the situation is being written with angry hands. I digress, I have left the original text intact because altering it would change my feelings at the time. I can always write another post about the same topic, but I refuse to pretend I didn’t feel this way about it at one point. 

The subtweet is the defining backhand of my generation. A snide comment made in front of somebody without calling them out by name. Being able to maintain a discreet connection and an indiscreet comment is nearly impossible. Just like any sort of derogatory (or supportive) remarks before the advent of Twitter, the mystery of who the source of anger (or happiness) is not a challenging one.

I say this because, without presenting yourself as an anonymous voice, connections are constantly made between what we say and what we are talking about. Certain words and phrases elicit different reactions from people and one could craft sentences using these to demean and detract someone without ever having mentioned their name. In a perfect world, the audience of the voice wouldn’t question the source of the anger and respect their privacy. We live in an imperfect world.

The bitterness between the “@ me next time, bitch” crowd is, as it always has been, extreme. Even small comments made about trivial things get met with volatile reactions. If it is not from the offender knowing that the remark was made about him, it is the discovery by an unrelated party fueling the fire that creates a maelstrom of hurt and conflict.

This presents an issue, particularly for a blogger who uses this as an outlet for their emotions, and it is not one with a simple answer. How am I able to write about injustices done to me and keep the innocent and guilty parties nameless when my viewing audience is, currently at least, primarily made up of friends? I have the right to free speech, but so do the offenders. I would be opening up a forum for debate in a plce that I want to be a safe space for others to see my thoughts. The issues of abandonment, betrayal, and failure run deep into me and I can only write about them sparingly.

The world is becoming much less private. I see this, generally, as a good thing. Humans depend on each other. We are all connected, but with every decision comes a consequence. The ones that have wronged me will not be crucified by my pen and ink here. I cannot, however, defend anyone, but myself, from being attacked by another voice.

The lesson isn’t to be restrained with what you write, but to choose how important the people you write about will be to you.

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When Stale Ideas Begin to Rot

I have self-esteem issues. I’m also very outgoing and prone to trying new things. When I fail at new things, it damages my self-esteem even more.

YouTube was one of those things. I am very proud to be a part of the Content Creator community. I am always excited to see the content that my favorite creators put out regularly. Everything from comedy to heart wrenching stories can be told in this seemingly endless space of entertainment. I am very proud to be part of that.

I am not, however, proud of what I have contributed. I have uploaded over 100 videos to YouTube over the past 5 years. Only about 25 of them are up. Several of these are school projects, even though I made another channel for school projects specifically. The rest of these are episodes of my web show, Indiana Mack.

Indiana Mack was an idea that had endless potential, but has met with countless failures. I tried making it a vlog series with a fictional character, an ad libbed review show, a show about a character that is pushed into different universes, a show with plot, a show with jokes, a show about facts. All of these failed. They failed because of several reasons, but all were still failures.

My commitment was one of the major reasons. Throughout high school, and now college, I tried to create something entertaining with virtually no support. I had friends who wanted to help (and did when I asked them), but all of the people who said they were watching weren’t. YouTube keeps a view count. I knew who was watching because I almost always watched with them or they told me right afterwards. This was disheartening. How could I continue making something that almost no one cared about?

My life has been in constant turmoil because everyone’s life is at some point. The scripts died. The ideas were bad. The stress was unreal. I didn’t know how the Content Creators I looked up to could keep up a work ethic that insane. Then, one day, it dawned on me. They had help.

I’ve had three people consistently help me with Indiana Mack. My Mom, brother, and friend Jonathan. All of them have been there when I asked them to be. I’ve had many people for years say they want to be a part of my webshow, but, when the time came for their involvement, they backed out. All of these people from different points in my life showed insane enthusiasm for the ‘fun’ part of the webshow. No one wanted to e involved in the script development. No one cared about the editing. No one wanted to free their schedule. They just wanted to play characters and leave. That made me even more disheartened.

For every Indiana Mack video, there were three abandoned ideas. The amount of people who were helping me was a stark contrast to the people who said they would. This, coupled with people mistreating me and leaving my life, made me want to abandon the web show all together. I never told anyone, but I began to hate Indiana Mack. I hated everything about it. About him. He, the character Indiana Mack, was a personification of my failures. My lack of commitment. Indiana Mack was my face on a pile of rot and waste. I couldn’t even wear the hat I’d associated with him and it was my favorite hat.

What changed then? Why didn’t I just abandon the channel?

I made new friends in college. People I knew in high school became close friends. New people I met through school events or work became close friends. I was getting a real feeling of what real friendships were like. I wasn’t receiving support from them because it ‘would be cool to be in a web series’. I was receiving support from them because they wanted to succeed. My failures weren’t because of weakness. My failures were because, sometimes, life just does that.

The ideas are still fresh, I just need to find a new way to get them to my audience. The creating is still fun, I just need to make it productive and inclusive. And I might even fail again.

But, you know what the best part of failing is?

You can always try again.

 

 

 

Technology and Anxiety

This post will be…odd. You see, I’m trying to partition off this blog into schoolwork and personal blogging. Allowing my thoughts on what I learn in school to bleed into my thoughts on how I live is completely foreign to me. This website, this blog, these articles are all representative of myself in different ways. To see two parts of myself collide in a place that is not me, the place being this website, is jarring. The articles write themselves, I suppose.

I, as I am sure my readers know, suffer from utterly terrifying and severe anxiety. Somedays it cripples me and becomes a detriment to my life and the lives of others. I have had extreme trouble making true friends who will stick by my side and, in regards to the latest two, I am terrified of making new ones and losing them. My anxiety is relieved and accelerated by technology.

Relief comes when I can easily pull up my bank account, check up on a friend, or turn in assignments with a few clicks and swipes. It allows me freedom to handle a situation that, if handled in the physical world, would be taking much more time and energy than I can afford to exhaust.

The stress comes from its failures or complete incapabilities. When I am instant messaging someone and they say something a certain way, they aren’t really saying it. I have to use the context of the conversation and remember their speech patterns when I speak to them in person to draw a conclusion on any vague message. Some people criticize me when I do this, but we choose our words for a reason. I get extremely anxious when I am messaging someone and the tone of their words shift. Did I upset them? Was a boundary crossed? How did I screw up this time?

Sometimes the incapability of incompatibility is infuriatingly inexcusable. I am afraid to delete pictures because I have to double check how things are uploaded to devices once every few days to make sure that the settings don’t reset. The non-deletion that I am constantly going through makes the storage on my phone fill up and make my emails inaccessible. Inaccessibility to my emails is not an option as a person who has three frequently used email accounts synced to his phone. Also, for whatever ungodly digital reason, emails will only send partially or delete attachments. As a student, this has caused assignments to be turned in late. As an actor, this has caused submissions to become invalid. As a human being, this has given me ceaseless frustration.

To quote an unnamed non-player character in my favorite RPG, “Technology is amazing!” but, man, it can sure make me inoperable sometimes.

Social Voyeurism

How do I feel about people using my online accounts to stalk me and get an idea of where I am in life?

It is weird to me. I feel that they are reaching out for me to communicate with them without giving any indicator for me to do so. In some way, I feel that I am not getting the whole idea of myself across to people who don’t ask for the full picture. Misinterpretations are made and trouble ensues.

I have gotten in scuffles over misunderstood posts, tweets, and messages more time than I care to admit. It seems that all of these could be avoided if one party asks for clarification. You’ve got to visualize what you may sound like when you confront another person and how they will respond.

If you see a Snapchat story, twitter storm, Facebook post, or photo on Instagram without the context in the original “post”er’s life, and proceed to react as if you are privy to any sort of part of their life just because you saw a social media post, then you will be met with pushback. The pushback can result in a fight that could have been wholly avoided.

The basic point I am trying to get across is to take time processing the information you get with social media instead of consuming everything at once and creating conclusions based on what you saw. Think before you act and treat others with respect.

Selfie: A Biography

I used to not take pictures of myself. I had a few bad pictures of me taken and I thought I just wasn’t photogenic. Jeffrey Fiene was an Ugly Duckling, but, one fateful Christmas, I got my first smart phone. With the smart phone came the capability to have an Instagram account. With that Instagram account came my first selfie. I could finally show myself off the way I wanted to be seen, as a crazy-haired, eyebrow-cocking, blue-green eyed, glasses-wearing, big ol’ nerd.

In the paper my class read for this week, I was made aware that our digital selves are cumulative. There is no whole body of work that a person could look at to see our digital self. To give people a better idea of how our digital and physical self meld, we take pictures of ourselves and caption them (most of the time). We throw a few hashtag on the pictures so people who are interested in the content, but don’t see it because they’ve got no association with the person in the selfie, can find it and like it and enjoy the photo.

Of course, with every good thing there is a bad side. I have many female friends who get harassed daily on their pictures. Guys wanting more skin, more pictures, more attention, more anything. I have people criticized for their religion and skin color and sexuality and femininity. There are countless people who want to destroy others because of the differences. And differences scare them.

Why do we keep putting ourselves out their if different waves of abuse are consistent? Because, through our dedication to the selfies, we can see the change in us. We can be proud of who we are. Some of us do daily photos, Instagram posts, or Snapchat stories. We are feeling more comfortable with sharing who we are. Self assurance, self-confidence, and self-reliance all stemming from a selfie is powerful. Sometimes it is necessary.

Not everyone works the same way. Not everyone needs to feel reassure themselves in the way an Instagram post would provide. The ones that do get that reassurance now have an easy avenue to feel better. And feeling better is what it’s all about, in the end.

Here’s a picture of Captain Caveman. He believed in himself and so should you. caveman

Physical v. Digital: Dawn of Internet Justice Part 2

As I mentioned in my last post, the digital world we live in can be a beautiful place, but there is always a shadow to the light coming from our monitors.

Cyber bullying is bad. Like, really REALLY bad. It can be just as damaging as physical bullying. It can lead to suicide.

There’s no jokes here. No pop culture references. The cyber bullied, which ranges widely, but is prevalent in middle to high schoolers, are attacked, sometimes anonymously, and damaged so much that they would rather take their own life than face another day of torment. Arbitrary comments can be torn apart and personal accounts can be hacked because some self-indulgent, garbagey, horrendous, awful person body feels the power to attack whoever they want. Threats damage. Attacks on someone’s weight, religion, gender, appearance, or skill damage. Just because the pain is from a digital environment doesn’t mean that it is less valid.

Unfortunately, with the advent of anything new, there are the ‘strong-willed’ that refuse to believe that words can hurt. As my fourth grade teacher said, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can ALWAYS hurt me.” Words are a weapon that everyone can use, and every weapon has a trigger. We can choose to pull that trigger and it takes great restraint. This restraint is often misinterpreted as being able to ‘suck it up’, but it goes beyond that. If the problem was people being too thick-skinned then CHILDREN would not be taking their own lives. If the problem was being too careful then people would not be dying.

There’s no easy way to approach the subject of what constitutes bullying because everyone has different levels of tolerance and different definitions. For example, someone with (racist, misogynist, misandrist, ableist, homophobic, xenophobic, theophobic, atheophobic) tendencies will act in a way that they deem suitable while others would deem it intolerant.

As cliche as it sounds, the first step is respect. Different people are different. Understanding that and respecting that is paramount to make this new frontier of digitized life a just one.

“Great ambition, unchecked by principle or the love or glory, is an unruly tyrant.” -Alexander Hamilton

Let’s all do our part to make this New World a beautiful one and not allow it to evolve into a tyrannical one.

Physical v. Digital: Dawn of Internet Justice Part 1

There is no greater pain than…well, pain. Emotional pain can be longer lasting than physical pain in some cases. Even then, the handicapped and disabled still suffer from severe depression. When we experience an emotional wound it can stick with us for years, and without proper counseling is can damage the psyche for life.

Our digital lives, or presence online, is governed by intellect. We have to determine what we want and how we interact with things. We decide the level of commitment we want to give to whatever subject currently holds our attention. Sometimes that dedication can be total.

The urge to have a digital presence is increasing. Some say that you don’t exist without one.  Others believe that a digital presence is necessary for success in the modern world. There are countless guides to creating a strong digital presence. Why do we need to invest in it though? What is SO important about having a consistently monitored and tailored online persona that acts as a surrogate in the world wide web?

Interaction. We need presence in the world to represent ourselves. Instant messaging is the quickest way to communicate. Email addresses created an easy way for people across the world to interact. Phone numbers made communication over hundreds or thousands of miles a breeze. The telegraph could transmit someone’s words over a wire to another side of the continent. Street addresses allowed mail to be delivered without someone leaving their own house. And, possibly the earliest example, we have names. Names allow individuality. Names define us from another person. The digital world is just the next frontier of communication.  Instead of travelling with planes, trains, and automobiles we type. One set of keystrokes can take up the time of someone literally on the other side of the planet. Hell, you can take up the time of someone in orbit.

We can affect someone’s life dramatically and instantly without ever seeing them. It is a brave, new and wonderful world that is at its dawn. We can help people who are feeling suicidal. Solve crimes that would take hours and days for one man.  The internet can even band together to solve mysteries that people in the physical world had difficulty with.

Unfortunately, every good thing has the underbelly covered in filth. The dark to the light. The scratched side of the coin to the not scratched side of the coin. Every internet Avengers has the Cyber Masters of Evil.

All analogy aside, part 2 of this feature will go into the damage that can be done to someone in the physical world by attacking them in the cyber world.

Twitter Me vs. Facebook Me vs. Tumblr Me vs. Instagram Me

Am I four different people online?

No. Yes? Yes. No. Let me explain.

On Facebook, I have my mother and brother and grandma and teachers. Now, some of my teachers have seen me as I am (so has my family, but I’ll explain that in a second) and follow me on Twitter as well. I rarely use expletives or innuendo on Facebook. My personal opinions are relegated to pop culture, but nothing beyond that. Facebook Me is a fairly family friendly version of myself that isn’t very scandalous.

Twitter Me, however, is a little less PC. I am freer (that is a HARD word to believe exists) with my language. My expletives aren’t incredibly prevalent, but they are there. I retweet certain public opinions, but I rarely write my own. I do make exceptions though. For example, my Twitter bio has been “Love is love.” for awhile and it will likely stay that way. I tailor who I follow and what I see, but I like to think that I still don’t narrow down who I follow and create an echo chamber.

Tumblr Me is less seen and less talkative. I will reblog anything I agree with politically and socially with little regard to who sees it. Opinions on how the government is run, respect for history and our military, the evils of sexism and racism and homophobia and transphobia and islamophobia and xenophobia and etc., and a variety of other topics. Tumblr Me is much like my real life. If I am prompted to discuss, I will. If my thoughts and beliefs are asked for, I won’t dance around them. Communicating a message changes depending on the audience, but how I say it doesn’t change what it means. Tumblr Me is the most outspoken of the four.

Instagram Me is the favorite. Instagram Me is a photo and a caption. Very simple. Very happy. Very powerful. I can use Instagram to share my interests and appreciation for anything. A friend helped me out? Let me take a picture with you. It’s the 150th birthday of a person I look up to? Allow this photo and caption to display, with brevity, how they’ve impacted me.

My social media presence encapsulates my personality in different aspects. Someone who doesn’t see me in person could get a strong grasp of how I feel and what I’m doing by following me on any three of these platforms,  but someone who wants an inside look into how I express my range of emotion. My anger, sadness, joy, confusion and fear have all been represented online.

Maybe WordPress will become the place where all four coalesce. Who knows?

Here’s a picture of Magilla Gorilla.magillagorilla

AI (sans Haley Joel Osment)

“Thinking machines, super computers, and gene sequencers break down the strand in minutes.” – Mr. DNA in Jurassic Park

 

Artificial Intelligence, in fiction at least, ranges from HAL 9000 to Frankenstein’s Monster. Let me explain, we always associate AI with something computed, but I would say that anything man-made (unnaturally developed) that is given the ability of free thought is an Artificial Intelligence. It has some sort of programming to it’s biological structure that wasn’t grown naturally.

My first example of biological AI is, as I mentioned, the Frankenstein Monster (who I just call Frankenstein because he considers Victor a pseudo father and it just makes things easier, okay? OKAY?). He starts out with the mind of a child, which is more advanced than any human at the early stages of infancy. Frankenstein begins his life with an adult’s level of object permanence, whereas a newborn would have a limited understanding of it.

The dinosaurs from Jurassic Park are similar. Their DNA is altered and given safeguards. This runs parallel to the parks computers, which are advanced (at the time). The computers fail, the dinosaurs don’t. The dinosaurs, although thrust into an alien environment, adapt and learn at a breakneck, abnormal, speeds. This provides another example of an Artificial Intelligence’s reason for being going awry.

The ethics behind biological manipulation is a debate far too sensitive for my point, however. So, I will continue to the more common fictional AI; the computers.

2001: A Space Odyssey (the book or movie, take your pick) has a character that is the most advanced AI in the world (at the time) and is assisting on a mission to the moon of Saturn/Jupiter.  Naturally, it goes to Hell. You see, HAL was given the orders to keep the astronauts safe during the mission, but was also given a secret order to keep the actual goal of the mission from the astronauts. This contradiction gives HAL a mini-meltdown. As a computer, he  it HAS to follow every order given to it, but when the orders contradict, what is HAL to do? Well, the astronauts don’t have to be alive to be kept safe and, if they’re all dead, then the mission can be kept secret. It ALMOST works.

hal9000.png

Almost

You’ve also got varying results from artificial intelligence, augmented biological intelligence, and rogue programs (or the AGI thing) that all deviate from their primary objective.

Everything mentioned in this post started learning outside of the intended parameters. They adapted without the update. They changed in response to the environment at their own prompting. If the line was blurred when we started fiddling with AI, is it even there anymore?

 

What Do I Consider New Media?

Media has been and always will be, simply put. When we want to learn about experiences that we’ve never had, we turn to a form of media. Want to know how the Election of 1800 went down? You read a book or search an article. Want to learn about the initial southern reaction to Rosa Parks? Sit down and get yourself some microfiche. Want to figure what the Hell microfiche is? etc etc

My unnecessarily elongated point is, I don’t think there’s really any new media. I think what defines media in this day and age is our ability to access an unprecedented amount in seconds. Of course, the internet is considered by many people to be the latest advent of media, but it isn’t new. Social media has been around for over a decade, it isn’t new.

I believe that the next change in accessibility will be the defining change. I am an amatuer when it comes to anything academic or scientific about the subject,but I like to think I’ve read enough speculative fiction to be wary of the technological uprising. THE SINGULARITY WILL BE OUR DOWNFALL. got a good enough head on my shoulders to make an educated guess. With the lightning pace of advancements in the field of Augmented and Virtual Reality, we will no longer have to experience things secondhand. (I tried for half an hour to work in a Max Headroom joke, but I just c-c-c-couldn’t swing it.) I think all sorts of events, major to mundane, will be recorded in such a manner that one could just pop on a pair of FUTURE GOGGLES* and suddenly be transported to a Broadway performance of the Amélie/ Beetlejuice/ Groundhog Day musical adaptation. They could be present at the inauguration of the 50th President of the United States or spend the afternoon resting on the shores of Tripoli,  I believe it will advance to a level where we can even recreate past events and people to interact with.

That’s what I think New Media is. Not what we have, but what we are on the cusp of creating. Or the iCloud, that’s probably the right answer.

*Patent Pending