The Great Deactivate

*Apologies to those subscribers who got an early version of this that accidentally got sent out this afternoon. That's the last time I try editing something on my phone. The surgeon general, with his useful occupation of slapping labels on things generally addictive, cancerous, and harmful to your health, should have warned us about this.

It starts out humbly, innocently.

You indulge initially because of the insistence of your friends. They promise it will make you look cooler. They assure you that you'll meet more people because of it. They guarantee it's fun. You oblige, log on, and immediately sense the overwhelming universe you have just stepped into. It's over your head at first; you suppress the initial resistance to its probing, intrusive questions about the intimate details of your life. You experience the rush of your first internet connection and from that moment are hooked.

Because of its overwhelming nature, for the first few weeks you are fine limiting yourself to getting on only after dinner or before you go to sleep. You haven't yet established a network or strong emotional ties. The color scheme hasn't yet engrained itself in your subconscious. You haven't yet learned to turn off the "chat" feature because people don't really use it yet. You are fine breathing deep the complex web of connectivity and letting it settle in your lungs because it doesn't yet pose a threat to you.

Pretty soon you are at work or at school and a moment approaches you subtly on your lunch break where an email pops into your inbox telling you that so and so has offered to expand your social network by one. Not yet by instinct but by choice, you click the link and are awed by the simplicity of accepting his request. There is a sleek redirect to the home page where your neighbor is inviting all who care to view it a series of pictures of their new living room layout. Or their dog jumping through a sprinkler. You chuckle at the innocence and go about your day.

Soon, however, the occasional lunch break check-in turned into the habitual lunch break check-in. You find yourself keeping a tab open on the home page to wait for the chiming notification of somebody appreciating your wit while you write a paper about something you don't care about. You get text messages sent to your phone every time somebody pokes you. You download the free Android app. Sure, you wouldn't twitch if you were ever disconnected from the constant stream of information about people's personal lives... but you are never disconnected. You can quit whenever you want.

Facebook becomes your standard for communication. There's no need to talk to somebody that you meet because you can just friend request them and then read all about the things they want you to read. You can prepare your face to meet the faces you will meet.

We confuse who we are with who we project that we are, making it quite difficult to cope with the flaws we so blatantly try to hide... which is even more disturbing than the idea that we are addicted to a website or can literally sit and look at the same page with anxious expectation of the smallest little change. Or that we know open gossip better than ourselves.

Sure, I believe that, like just about everything else in this world, there is a time and a place for things like Facebook. I have gotten in touch with some long-lost friends (and I use "gotten in touch with" very loosely), saved myself some effort in relaying mass messages, even promoted this blog. However, is it worth those good things to lose myself for hours clicking through page after page of people I don't like to read things I don't enjoy about topics I don't care for?

I weighed my options, considered the fact that, in all honesty, Facebook just doesn't matter, and clicked the "deactivate" button (It's amazing the guilt trip they get you to go through upon clicking that button, by the way).

Perhaps the lovely, inspiring Reagan Nolen said it better than I could: "I am tired of having Facebook tell me who a person is and what they are all about. It’s time to actually get to know the world."

 

If you heartily disagree, decide to cut the cord yourself, or think I'm just a crazy, delusional kid blabbing on the internet, feel free to discuss. I would love to hear from people, no matter what you have to say :)

Hamilton Barber

The subject of this page is an introverted writer/musician/lunatic from Chattanooga, TN who dabbles in lexical dexterity, unorthodox thoughts on prosperity, and being overwhelmingly undeserving of the privilege of waking up every day. He hopes that everybody who reads these words takes them to heart and leaps higher than he ever could. He reads, thinks, and speaks too much; he listens, works, and loves too little; and he says “I” entirely too often. The words on these pages are not his: they are the words that were given to him.

>A Clever Title Like The Title Of A FallOut Boy Song That Has Nothing To Do With The Content Presented Below With The First Letter Of Every Word Capitalized

>I have noticed a disturbing pattern since the beginning of the year... I have been doing an exorbitantly little amount of writing.

No, that is not right. I've been writing more than ever. I have taken up a feverish sort of journaling as of late, scribbling with fury almost in a stream-of-consciousness sort of way about things I have been reading. I have collected around fifteen pages shy of a composition book's worth of thoughts on Genesis and Exodus alone.

I think that I have started about 15 new posts in the past week. I'll get ten words in and then lose motivation, focus, realize that I have nothing I feel like sharing
click "exit"
"don't save"
"command+q".

Move on with my day.

So I was trying to read today, on my single most unproductive "Study Day Saturday" in recent memory, including the ones over break when it consisted of me sitting on the couch staring generally at nothing for extended periods of time and feeling the build-up from school draining out of the pores of my skin, and I successfully read NOTHING.

Allow me to clarify: when I say "nothing," what I mean is that I did not finish a page of anything. I tried reading my grammar textbook and instead ended up thinking about why LED lights don't burn out. I tried reading The Turn of the Screw and instead thought of a list of things I needed and then thought about how I didn't really need "candles" and "books of matches" and "leather," I really just needed to read this story. But then I tried reading it again and realized I had lost myself in the story and was going to have to start back at the beginning.

And the thing is, I knew why. Because this is how we have become wired. I don't think that we were born this way: unable to focus on anything that isn't graphically engineered and flashy and moving and telling us how pretty we are and how socially relevant we think our thoughts. But alas, I have become assimilated into the culture of the have-now's and I JUST CHECKED FACEBOOK 5 TIMES IN THE PAST MINUTE.

I have developed a small rant/rhetorical analysis of Facebook in my time staring at pages full of knowledge, which is surely coming soon, so don't you worry.

What I mean to say is that something has to change. Why am I surprised when I can't sit and formulate my own meaningful thoughts when I am used to Googling what other people are quoting from somebody else? Why am I surprised that all information seems a secondhand facade and is springing from some asymptotic nega-vacuum simply spitting unimportant, superfluous things out for me to know when I don't take the time to find the sources of what is important for myself?

It is less important to know what is going on than why it is, or what is its significance. The significance of my dwindling concentration is not that I can't sit and read like I have been able to or like I need to, it is that I have been tossing it away with this fabulous little button on my internet browser that takes me to a random page on the internet full of facts or games or cute little cartoons with witty proverbs. I am filling my down time rather than making it down time, which makes NOTHING downtime.

Information overload. The #1 killer of creativity since Al Gore invented the internet.

Since Google monetized it.

Since I abused it.

Hamilton Barber

The subject of this page is an introverted writer/musician/lunatic from Chattanooga, TN who dabbles in lexical dexterity, unorthodox thoughts on prosperity, and being overwhelmingly undeserving of the privilege of waking up every day. He hopes that everybody who reads these words takes them to heart and leaps higher than he ever could. He reads, thinks, and speaks too much; he listens, works, and loves too little; and he says “I” entirely too often. The words on these pages are not his: they are the words that were given to him.

>From Facebook to, well, Thoreau-Inspired Trains of Thought

>I think that I'm going to take a break from Facebook for a while, if not permanently.

This is in no way my assessment of Facebook on any intrinsic or moral or ethical set of values, all it is is me coming to this point of realization of what is necessary and what is not. I realize that by typing this on a macbook pro in my bed with a fan and air conditioning (and a very nice guitar still out of its case, the body probably warm from my body heat and my belly full from a meal that I ate not too long ago and 140 people following my twitter and fifty plus steady hits a week on a blog that is nothing but my thoughts) that statement can seem rather snobby, naive, even elitist in light of the definition of "necessary," but I ask you to bare with me for a moment.

I've found myself for the past week or so calling into question all of these things around me and wondering just exactly what I need. I drive a very nice car, when really something with wheels and an engine would do just fine, for example. As my day goes on and I interact with more and more of this stuff that is, at its core, totally made up, little things start to seem superflous.

We have all of these protocols for things like driver's licenses and Bachelor's degrees and line cutting policies at theme parks and what to do if you're seated in an emergency exit row on an airplane and the baffling thing to think about is every one of these things is completely contrived. Were we, as humans, meant to be able to propel a piece of buffed, waxed, curvy machinery using a series of pistons and controlled explosions in order to get from one place to another? Were we meant to be able to store 120 GIGABYTES of music in one location to access at any time?

Then it moves to things like: Is it natural for this world that used to feel like everything that could exist to start to feel somewhat hokey and contrived? Why do I feel like we are missing the point of all of this ridiculous stuff that we have when it literally begins to control us? What in the world could I possibly gain by clicking over on the open Facebook tab I have sitting just to the left of this one out of compulsion to see what other people are up to?

Paul seems to have thought about some of these same things and felt similar feelings towards them (although they clearly were not iPods or cars, etc) and come to the conclusion that we are not of this world when we are found in Christ. I have read that part a million times in my life but when he says, "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body...." (Philippians 3:20) I HAVE to believe that he was questioning the legitimacy of his surroundings. He knows, beyond a doubt, that all this stuff that's here is all well and good, but it's not us. Our citizenship is not here, so there's a reason that this should not feel like home, because frankly this place isn't even worthy to think about the dwelling place of the Almighty, even though we do.

It is a strange feeling, indeed, when things appear to you as hollow alloys and plastics and items made by sweatshop labor. I'm not at all even starting to begin a political debate, and absolutely nothing about this is politically charged, because frankly politics makes less and less sense the more I think about it.

So to come full circle (somewhat), I'm kinda done with Facebook. Each time I had access to a computer I was checking it, most of the time several times each session and I'm just a little bit tired of it. Does all of the above mean that I'm going to sell all of my stuff and live as a sherpa wearing animal skins in the woods? Absolutely not. I love my music. I love my guitar and my pedalboard and my computer and air conditioning and fans and sleeping under tons of blankets in the winter. We humans were created with the spark of originality. We can construct computers from metal and electrical signals and I believe that God looks upon the way that these people He created use their God-given minds and smiles because creativity is part of Himself that He put in us, whether we believe in Him or not. This also must literally frustrate the hell out of Him because so many of us humans shake one fist at Him in anger or turn around and state that He does not exist, while we, with the other hand, demonstrate a small spark of Himself that was put into us. That separates us from the beasts.

Does He look at the depravity into which we have dug ourselves with the things we made using His gifts and shake His head and turn His back and whisper "be gone with them?"

No.

He looks at us with His arms spread, just waiting for us to take the hint.

Hamilton Barber

The subject of this page is an introverted writer/musician/lunatic from Chattanooga, TN who dabbles in lexical dexterity, unorthodox thoughts on prosperity, and being overwhelmingly undeserving of the privilege of waking up every day. He hopes that everybody who reads these words takes them to heart and leaps higher than he ever could. He reads, thinks, and speaks too much; he listens, works, and loves too little; and he says “I” entirely too often. The words on these pages are not his: they are the words that were given to him.

>Ok so perhaps my logic is flawed, along with a note to readers

>I was floating around the halls of Facebook the other day in the midst of one of these weekly fits of insomnia in hopes that the dull monotony of seeing the same pages over and over would lull my brain into a few hours of rest before rising for a busy day. It.was.so.hot. in my room, despite the fact that the AC had just been turned on after not having touched it hardly at all since Ryan moved out. I lay on top of this concoction of covers draped over my bed, my face still wet from my having doused it with freezing cold tap water, and I figured that the quickest way for me to lose all will to remain awake was this tactic of boring myself to tears. I would force my eyes to want to close.

I am positive that you relate. Jumping straight to the point, I had visited the profiles of literally every one of the people dotting my friends list when some words caught my attention. One person I knew posted a lyric from this old hymn that is just timeless in its beauty. As a brief side note, do not for a second assume that I am one of these reckless youth who despise all things Organ and choir just because I happen to play the electric guitar and I appreciate music some people affectionately call "noise." I am a firm believer that at heart I was born in the wrong generation. People have forgotten how to be eloquent and all traces of civil talk have turned into what I admit is an appalling sort of vernacular. I prefer to read authors who are dead simply because I think that the language is far more powerful than what is published today (not to author's faults... it is simply that there is a diminishing appreciation for things that were once considered beautiful).

That said, I went on to read what some people had commented on this lyric. There was lament on the diminishing use of Organ in church music, and though it had a tinge of personal attack on my church, I could have let it slide in conversation. People are entitled to the things that they love and it is valid for them to be sad to see them leave. I know that if music turned entirely to synthesizers and drum loops I would certainly be sad to see guitar being used less and less, and so I have no problem with this particular person wanting to see it return. What came next, however, made me read it again, just to make sure that I had the entire message. I searched it for sarcasm or irony or tongue-in-cheek, but unfortunately there was none to be found. This is the part that caught me off guard: "So sad that the church is going the way of the world with its music. How can they justify it?"


Excuse me?


I couldn't help myself by chime in, because it was an opportunity too great to let my sarcasm rest. I have an enormous problem with calling music "worldly," because music itself is not a thing of this world. It transcends language and experience in a way that nothing of this earth possibly could. I have heard compositions in foreign tongues and immediately been of one mind with the writer, whereas had he written a book or made a speech all I would see is stagnant ink on a page and all I would hear is a series of repetitive but nonsensical consonants. If try you tell me that music is a worldly thing, I will submit that you know nothing of heaven. I have heard more beautiful sounds coming from two guys with sticks and buckets than I have in any elaborate and glorious building ever constructed by man. I guarantee you that David, the most famous worship leader ever, did not have an organ or a piano, but a harp (which had strings, by the way, and probably sounded a little like a guitar). He was all about joyful noises, drums, clanging cymbals, and even dancing naked, so do not even try to tell me that stoic, stuffy men in suits who mouth words printed on a yellowing page are more holy than a crowd of people literally losing their minds, being enveloped by "noise" so loud and a spirit so overpowering that there is no room for distraction from the focus of the night. I plan on spending the rest of my eternity in a pit of people throbbing, kneeling, bowing, dancing wildly and singing so loudly before the Throne of God that, were I in my earthly body, it would collapse from exhaustion.


I will repeat myself, which I do not do often. If you try to tell me that music is of this world, I will tell you that you know nothing of heaven.


I'm not sure what the point of this one was. I will save this pent-up rant on tradition worshippers for another day when it isn't quite so pretty outside. Perhaps I was just looking for an outlet for this small amount of frustration. But you should tell me what you think about all of this!


On another side note, there has been a significant jump in readers over the past month or so, and I am tired of just writing about these little rabbit trails in my head. I would be more than happy to explore submitted topics or questions or musings that you guys have, whether it be if Left 4 Dead 2 better or worse than the first, who would win in a battle between Chuck Norris and Himself, why Mary Shelley is awesome, why I can't wait to get Xbox live back, etc. I am an open book. You can email me (hjbarber@gmail.com), comment, text me, whatever. I'd like to hear from you! Ok. Go outside. It's far too pretty to be trapped within walls like I am today.

Hamilton Barber

The subject of this page is an introverted writer/musician/lunatic from Chattanooga, TN who dabbles in lexical dexterity, unorthodox thoughts on prosperity, and being overwhelmingly undeserving of the privilege of waking up every day. He hopes that everybody who reads these words takes them to heart and leaps higher than he ever could. He reads, thinks, and speaks too much; he listens, works, and loves too little; and he says “I” entirely too often. The words on these pages are not his: they are the words that were given to him.