Monday, December 27, 2010

Sheeple and the Hoax

One of the greatest things about Social Networking, (Facebook) is the ability to spread a message quickly through the network. Even TV has to struggle to keep up with the speed of this amazing conglomeration of friends, fans, family and assorted hangers-on. Raising awareness, raising money, and simply raising spirits are all easily accomplished with the amazing thing that is Facebook. It is a powerful tool, made even more powerful by the very people who use it.

Power comes with a certain amount of responsibility. The people behind Facebook do their part trying to keep the users safe from the Loonies out there in the cybersphere trying to cause problems. Mischief Makers, and hackers, those that would create malicious viruses, and those who would steal our data and identities. Yet there is another responsibility that we can't depend on anyone but ourselves to exercise, and we must get better at wielding this responsibility.

The reason that we can spread a message so quickly is because we have easily grasped the "copy & paste" method of status updates. In many cases this has been a boon, spreading Amber Alerts across the world in a matter of hours. Getting out the message that Dragons are dangerous, (or that they like you with ketchup!) thanking our mothers and step-mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters and every other family member that we want to butter up. We can raise awareness of anything and everything that we think needs the awareness of raised. Sometimes we get carried away and forget that not everything we read is the truth, and before we know it we have become part of a problem rather than a cure.

There are far too many people who get their kicks by starting and spreading misinformation and trying to scare society in general, and far too often they do it so sneakily that nobody bothers to check the facts. The facts are the biggest thing that most people forget. They can read a post that includes the words "on the news" or "from a reliable source" and never bother to check for themselves whether something is true or just some knucklehead trying to start a panic. When we are sitting at our computers we literally have the WORLD at our fingertips., Facebook security, and at least a dozen other websites specialize in finding the facts of any crazy "news" story that crops up online and spreads like wildfire because people copy & paste without ever looking for backing facts. No matter how outlandish something seems, if people read the words that their friends post and "saw on the news", they will copy & paste into their own status with all urgency and never look back. They feel that they have done a great service to society and never bother to see if any of it is true. Sometimes it's harmless, but other times, it throws a giant monkey wrench into something that was going so well, and doing some good.

The best example of this happened in the first weeks of December. According to a story on ABC News a group of friends in Greece ( the Mediterranean country not the town or city) decided that it would be fun to try and subvert their Facebook profiles and replace their usual pics with cartoon characters. This morphed into something with people trying to raise awareness of child abuse. So by putting a cartoon character in your profile picture, and copying and pasting the status one would be "joining" the cause. Even for those who did no more than read the status updates and see why suddenly, all of their friends had cartoon profiles, there was a little good being done. In the follow-up stories there was a notable spike in donations to child welfare causes over the second week of December, over and above the normal rise associated with the holiday season. Cut to the second Monday of December and suddenly there appears in the statuses the message that The cartoon characters are "a ploy by pedophiles" to snare children with their friend requests. It was "on the news" and "seen on TV". But it was nothing of the sort.

In fact what DID make the news was that the campaign had actually had the effect it had intended, raised awareness of child abuse and neglect. As cited above there was a spike in charitable donations world wide towards child welfare charities, yet all it took to dry this thing up, was the mere mention that it was a ploy by pedophiles. Within hours, in fact probably 5 times faster than the original "Change to a cartoon" Status, there came the wave after wave of the warning, all caps and screaming that it was "ploy by pedophiles". The hoaxsters know the buttons to push. In a matter of a day, all the good that was done in two weekends of cartoon characters was washed away.

18 hours after I first saw the "pedophile" update, I finally found the debunking of the hoax on Snopes. But it was too late, too many people had already seen the hoax and jumped on the band wagon, without ever doing their own research to verify the source of this "TV News Show" where this story supposedly broke. The Sheeple had fallen for the Hoax, again.

I can't blame people for being cautious, but what I do blame them for is being cautious in the wrong way. These days of 24 hour news channels have made people live in fear. What once upon a time would have been a regional story at best, lost hikers, parental kidnap, high speed pursuit, or anything that might make the local TV news is now blasted nationwide in a matter of minutes, especially on a slow national news day. Every story gets it's own graphic and trumpeting lead in. Teasers into the commercials, and shots from every angle, inside and out, up and down. Society has become the lookouts for "the next big story." Cellphone video makes the 6 o'clock news and gets picked up by CNN and MSNBC and FOX News. The stories are picked apart and analyzed by any expert who wants to make a few bucks and a little screen time. We are NOT the better for it. We panic at the slightest provocation, looking for a bogeyman behind every bush, and if we can do our part we feel that we have done right.

But our part is to be responsible with the power that we have, taking a few minutes to look for a few facts to be sure that we are sharing the truth with our friends and family. THAT is doing Right.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Where did the year go?

So here it is, the first of December, and my birthday is fast approaching! 43 this year,sure don't feel like I'm that old. Somewhere in the back of m=y mind I guess I'm conscious of it, but the rest of the time I feel like I'm still in my 20's and just learning how to live. Then I see the kids in the fire hall or the bar, and I know that I have so much more experience. It's not really doing me that much good in general, but it does give me the smarts to stop drinking way before I get into hangover territory. Haven't drank myself unconscious in years. maybe that's what I need... nah. I can live the rest of my life and not miss being on my knees in front of a toilet bowl heaving the last bits of mucus out of my guts because that's all that's left!

SO, what have I done with my life this past year, let me see if I can take some stock. I have realized that I have a talent and I have decided that it is what I will pursue for the rest of my life. Looking for some satisfaction in the work I do. I am a photographer. I may not be the artist of Adams, or Freytag, but I know what I want to do, and I know how to get there. I have to learn how to conduct business. That';s something I have never really had a hand on, but it's something that I know I can learn. So the goal here is to learn how to make a living with my photography, whether it is selling prints or doing senior pics, family portraits or even school sports. There is a living to be made with it, I just have to figure out how to do it. As I learn the mechanics of taking consistently good pictures, I am also figuring out how to market my particular sill set. It can't happen overnight, but it will happen.

Still single. Haven't really had much luck in lady-land. Not really for lack of trying, but more for a lack of dedication. I have become so used to being alone and being rejected that I just don't seem to enjoy the search like I used to, and I don't follow the opportunities. There have been a couple of chances, at least I THINK they were chances, that I just walked away from. I may be just so far out of practice that I don't know how anymore. I did figure one really important thing out about myself though, when I meet someone who is single and I am aware of that fact, I do and say stupid things right away. I never get the chance to be the smart and witty guy that I really am. I put way too much pressure on myself, and I try to impress instantly and I screw it up in a big way. I realized it when I was introduced to a friend's wife recently. Because there was NO need to try and impress her to try and get her to see me a second time, I was my natural sweet self and I made a great first impression. so it's in my own head, I just have to learn to control the "stupid Impulse" a little better. Secondly, I am still single because I have no place that I would like to take a girl. Can't take her home, and don't want to hang out all night someplace stupid, like a bar or Tim Ho's.

Joined the Fire Dept. as a social member. That means that I don't run into burning buildings! I get to hang out and drink beer with the guys who do! I joined for the opportunity to take pictures of firefighters in action. I have been to one fire scene this year, and many training sessions. Not really that unhappy that peoples houses didn't burn down. In fact I can only thing of three structure fires that dept was involved in, and I was nearly first on the scene for one of them, and none were in our home district, all in neighboring areas. But I have been having fun getting to know new people and leaning new things. I have become a fixture at bingo, and the ladies there love me! I actually enjoy the time I spend there, because I get to talk to people and hear some gossip about the town. I have fun selling raffle tickets to the customers, and calling numbers. I get to make a few jokes here and there and get people to laugh, so all in all that's pretty cool.

Working again as a DJ. Still sitting with the decks. Well, not really! These days all my tunes are in the computer. I still have to run a mixing board, and pick and lay out the song list and keep people happy, but The pile of gear is a lot less these days! I'm not running all over hell and back to get gear and to do shows, I work one place with their gear and that's all I have to do. It doesn't pay as well as the other way, but I still get paid for doing a pretty easy job.

Debt. Man, I got myself into a hole over the last few years, and I had to make it bigger before I could make it smaller. Learned a WHOLE lot of shit about the credit card system this year, and if I knew in January what I know now, I would be SO much farther ahead in my pursuit of financial freedom. Live and learn I suppose, but at this moment I don't have a shred of credit. If I don't have money in the bank, I don't have any to spend. and sometimes that ain't easy. But I keep plugging away, and fingers crossed I may be ahead again in another year or so. Look at this post next year and see where I am!!

Health.... I don't know, the weight is back up, and I am not feeling as good about myself as I would like. I have been having the hardest time with controlling my eating. I have been binging something fierce, and I think I know why, but knowing the reason and stopping the behavior are 2 different things. Every day I wake up and start over and some days I do really good, and some days I do really bad. Sadly, the bad days are out numbering the good ones. I really believe that the biggest piece of the solution puzzle is going to be a place of my own. That's going to be at least another year, until I get my truck paid off so that I can put that money towards rent. I'm sure that by the time I have the truck paid off it will need something major and will take all my spare money again. Like my life always seems to go, but I am looking in that direction at least. I don't know if my waistline can wait another 10 months, but I'm gonna have to try. I just don't see any solutions sooner than that.

This year overall? I going to say that the positives seem to outweigh the negatives, but it's really a delicate balance. Something small could tip the scales. I hope things stay positive.