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Remember the '60s? Neither Do I, But I Can "Imagine..."

Ironically, the easiest way for me to experience a taste of life before the internet is to go on the internet. I can stream music, watch videos, read poems, look at fashion designs, and research news events about time periods like the late 1960s, when everything seemed terrible and hopeful kind of like it is now, minus social media. Also ironically, I find that the best way to appreciate the age of the internet is to spend more time offline.

The other day, I was streaming a family-friendly radio station (children were playing at the house, OK), and John Lennon's "Imagine" came on. My husband and I immediately started singing along but with different words that went something like this:

Imagine there's no Facebook.
It's easy if you try.
No Twitter for our POTUS
Or views for PewDiePie.

Imagine all the people living in real life, ah-ah-ahhh!
Imagine there's no Snapchat.
It isn't hard to do.
Nothing to 'shop or filter
And no hashtags too.

Imagine all the people leaving Instagram, you...

You may say I'm a Luddite,
But I'm not the only one.
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be more fun!

Imagine no Pinterest.
I wonder if you can.
No need for links or screenshots
Or Tumblr blogs or Reddit rants.

Imagine all the people safely crossing streets, you...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But it isn't all that hard.
I hope someday you'll join us
And play Pokemon with decks of cards.

Don't get me wrong. I love YouTube. It has endless documentaries on it, and travelogues, and tutorials about how to dance like a poor imitation of Shakira and old analog-to-digital recordings of performances like Jimi Hendrix covering "Wild Thing," from those raw days before auto-tuning or high-def or digital editing.

Just like everybody else, I'm trying to strike a healthy balance between honoring the gifts of the internet and honoring the gifts of real life. I'm writing a book set in the Dark Ages using a laptop and (partially) internet research, and I'm sitting at this same laptop once a week blogging about it on a feed optimized for mobile.

I use Facebook for my day job, and I understand that I'll need some kind of social media presence as a published author. I also use Facebook for direct communication with (actual) friends and family, to coordinate social-fun and social justice events, and to collaborate with other writers.

I have a few accounts on other platforms, and I visit them once a week or so, on my trusty old laptop, to make sure I still know how to do stuff. I have no social media or email apps on my phone. None. (This may change someday, but only if and when I have a professional need.) When I pull up my phone browser, quick links to reputable news sources appear. That's where I get my news, y'all. Not Twitter or Facebook or Reddit or Tumblr or anything else filled with content chosen and/or created by people who are not trained and accredited journalists. That's like asking Dr. Google for medical advice. You can, but you'll want to confirm with someone who knows more than what you can read off Wikipedia.

Staying in the know about both real news and what people think is kind of like dealing with a Hogwarts-type basilisk: You want to know what's out there, but staring into the eyes of the beast will only turn you to stone. I am often reminded of Margaret Atwood's 1968 poem "It Is Dangerous to Read Newspapers."

Spending lots of time online just isn't fun anymore. (Unless your idea of "fun" is watching other people play video games, which is one of the least fun memories of my childhood, but to each their own!) A good-sized number of my favorite people to follow online have gone cold turkey and deleted their blogs and social media accounts. Other denizens of the 'net have whinged thoroughly about the fall of virtual fun, so I'll stop here.

But I've pared down my online activities to focus on those that feed real-life interactions--the kinds of posts and even invitations that tend to lead to in-person conversations, gatherings, and collaborations. The content of stuff I put online mostly comes from my personal life, and I am trying to make sure it works both ways so that the stuff I do online is enhancing, not competing with, the rest of my life. I try to stay focused when I do research for my book. And if I simply want to fall into an entertainment hole without obvious educational value, I have to take some initiative and spend time actively seeking out music, film, writing, graphic art, or other entertainment that both holds my attention and inspires me. Or comedy that makes me laugh [actually] out loud, which is healthier than a multivitamin. (But don't take my word for that just because I put it online!)

So anyway, if you'd like to talk about anything I've written here, either leave a comment or meet me at the carnival I posted about on Facebook. Either one is fine, but the latter will be more fun, and I'll prove it by posting selfies with carnies, elephant ears, and goats like I do every year.


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