Trimming the Fat: Streamlining my Social Media Presence

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Trimming the Fat: Streamlining my Social Media Presence

Lieutenant Reginald Endicott “Reg” Barclay III is a recurring fictional character from both Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager. He is socially awkward, hilariously uncomfortable in his own skin, and is initially the butt of cruel jokes among his peers. He often retreats to the comfort of his imagination, which manifests itself in acute holodeck addiction (which lands him in hot water on more than one occasion). On the upside, he also frequently mines his own imaginative thought experiments, using innovative, unconventional solutions to resolve complex problems.

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Lt. “Broccoli”. (Image source: Google)

Lieutenant Barclay has his own Wikipedia entry if you want to learn more about him. I can’t imagine why you would want to. Just know that I hated this character intensely. I don’t anymore, but in the moment, he felt like a cruel slap in the face that I took personally.

 

I hated Barclay because he reminded me of myself.

This isn’t news for anyone close to me, or who has tried to become close to me, but I am an introvert who also frequently suffers from debilitating social anxiety and depression. Oh, I can function in goal-oriented social functions like work (where the goal is solving technical problems to get PC users back to work) or team sports (where the goal is to come together to defeat opponents), but the moment the focus switches to happy-hours, wine parties, or just hanging out, I struggle greatly and must rely on a series of complex coping mechanisms to get by.

Or I just flake-out and bail, or I spaz-out and make a jackass of myself before flaking-out and bailing.

Like Barclay, I have a rich, active imagination, but as a young adult, I slowly came to realize that living inside my own head wasn’t enough. Even a social weirdo like me craves social connection of some type. Social media filled that void handily.

I first discovered social media several years after its commercially embryotic phase in something called Yahoo! Chat. I tried it for about ten minutes, and was hooked instantly (Say what? Instead of focusing on improving the tragedy which was my life, I could escape to the internet and make fun of celebrities, kings, and sinners who dare to live in the real world? What a concept!) Before I knew it, I had lost count of how many chatrooms and message boards I frequented.

It wasn’t all escapism though. Occasionally, if I found a fellow chat-head compelling enough, I would sack-up and attend a real-live meet-n-greet to see if their reality matched their online persona (which, much like my own online duality, was almost never the case). Once, I was digging this female chatter and our chemistry was intense. We agreed to meet at the birthday party of a mutually-acquainted chatter to see where things might lead. We didn’t hit it off in person, but she introduced me to her friend, and four years later, her friend and I were married. By transitive property, I owe my twelve-year marriage to social media.

As social media evolved, I came along for the ride. GeoCities, Open Diary, LiveJournal, Friendster, OkayPlayer Freestyle Forum, MySpace, Google+ for some reason… and then onward to my current dopamine connection go-to’s; Facebook (my primary social surrogate – more on this later), Blogger, WordPress (well hello there!), Tumblr (where I do most of my fanboying), and two Twitter accounts (one for my back-of-the-bus mocking of all things pop-culture, and one for my poetry, which, I guess means that if I ever become famous, I’ll have to mock myself? Not sure how that would work.)

But something has changed within the past two or three years. Interacting on Facebook use to leave me with an improved outlook, but recently, I’ve found myself angrier, sadder, and even more depressed after perusing my newsfeed. Obviously, my country’s uglier aspects and the rise of toxic nationalism, leading us to this vile new administration manifested itself in Facebook, as did the Fake News Era. We all know of the many ways that Facebook and many other social media outlets have betrayed our trust, and I won’t be getting into any of that.

I decided to take a series of breaks from Facebook to see how I felt. My absence was probably unnoticed, as I continued posting via my Twitter link to Facebook (I call it “face-twat” for short because I exist simultaneously as a high school sophomore and a dirty old man.) My last break was during the month of April as I participated in NaPoWriMo for the tenth consecutive year. In each of my breaks, including the last one, I noticed that I wasn’t as down in the dumps as I normally am.

That’s when I decided that I would permanently deactivate my Facebook account.

I have selected a target date of Labor Day to finally and completely rid myself of this oddity that has oddly become a sad, compulsory element in my life. That gives me time to ensure that I find other ways of keeping in touch with online friends dear to me; friends who make me laugh, who make me think, and who make me want to become a better person – but not necessarily friends who I wish to see every day, as I still lack the social ability to make that a comfortable experience for me.

Also, I suspect that this won’t be the only social media that I give up on. In fact, the only social apps I’m certain that I’ll keep are my WordPress site and my poetic Twitter feed that links to it. All other apps are open to further evaluation.

It may seem trivial to some who read this, and I totally get it, but seeing how Facebook was (and in a way, still is) my social surrogate for the past decade, this is a big deal for me. The fact that it should not be a big deal is one of the main reasons why I must make this change. Lieutenant Barclay was compelled to severely curtail his holodeck usage as it was impacting his ability to exist in the real world. Those peers who initially mocked his oddities made a good faith effort to accept him, and he did the same for both them and himself. It was far from perfect, but Barclay formed lasting friendships.

I’m no fictional character, but I am compelled similarly, for vaguely similar reasons. As always, thanks for putting up with me.
***

Solemn Solstice

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Photo by Anish Nair on Unsplash

Solemn Solstice

The sun lingers longest today.

The weather-guessers were wrong
about the heat wave.

In fact, there was light precipitation.

Preferring the rain, I am relieved.

I don’t even know why I wrote
“precipitation” instead of “rain”.

I’m no meteorologist.

I guess the unscheduled rainfall
wasn’t up to my lofty standards.

It was a halfhearted rainfall,
followed by an indifferent sunbreak.

Felt more like angel’s spit
than the weeping we’ve earned
for this crapsack existence.

My hemisphere turned
fully into the true glare
of sunlight, and everywhere I turn,
I glare at two shadows
of the Four Noble Truths.

I see only suffering and
man’s indifference to it.

I see children crying in pain,
fear, hunger, and terror;
if they’re lucky, they’ll just receive
the mercy of ignorance
in the form of being ignored,
or perhaps they’ll only languish
as the butt of cruel jokes
they’re mostly ignorant to.

I see indignant adults
viciously targeting them
for exploitation
or other vile indignities.

I see servers and protectors
silencing them permanently
in brass precipitation
because that’s the way
it’s always been and apparently,
that’s the way it needs to be.

The days grow shorter now.

It is the nature of our earth’s tilt
in reference to our position on it
as we continue our
inevitable journey around the sun.

Our share of daylight
will gradually be transferred
to our antipodean brothers and sisters,
in the way it’s always been.

We are powerless to stop
this natural phenomenon.

I am relieved.
***

A Contemporary Fiction

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Photo by Steve Roe on Unsplash

A Contemporary Fiction

I wanna be able to
walk away from folks
like anime characters do,
ya know? Like, not even

wasting energy
on words like
“I love you,” or
“Goodbye forever,” or, or,

or, “I never wanna see you again.”

Somewhere within that spectrum, ya know?

Because regardless of where
you fit on that scale,
you should already know it,
ya know? Where you stand…

Without me needing to spell it out to ya.

Yeah, I’d leave the scene
with an unhurried gait and
a stoic, hardboiled heroic
Hemmingway protag expression

poker-facing what lies beneath the surface
where it’s clear that I’ll cherish the bones of you
till it causes my own bones to perish,

aching at your absence
or reluctance to stare into the heart
of this shared melody with me.

But just glimpsing my
flatlined visage spin on its heel,
about-facing into
the shadow of what was

would reveal to you a context
not easily decoded by layman outsiders
who cannot hear the song
that splits me to the bone

as I am undone by the truth
that offers no solace in the fact that
sometimes love isn’t enough.

We could really lean into the cliché
and have it be a twilight summer rain
sound-tracking our final parting,

as if nature herself weeps on behalf of
eyes too composed to cry for our own loss
as our last sliver of daylight
gets doused in westward skies,

the wind billowing, blowing
long flowing garments,
disturbing locks of hair
in wild contrast to personal stillness
and economy of movement,

slowly creating distance between us
until we could scarcely hear parting words
even if we wanted to
breathe them into existence.

Ya know? Just like anime characters.
***

Day 30 – Spring Chant/Prayer to Persephone

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By Antonio Canova (Italian, 1757–1822) – Eric Pouhier (May 2007), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2129759

Spring Chant/Prayer to Persephone

Centerline keeper
Breath my air
Inhale, share
Mutual dreamer

Centerline keeper
Move in close
Feel repose
Outer gate-sweeper, brace you

Centerline keeper
Closer still
Overfill
Tender will-seeker

And you want this?
I know I do

Centerline keeper
Nose to ear
Hush your fear
Uncommitted leaner

Centerline keeper
Concentric girds
Say the words
Sensitive feeler, face you

And do you want this?
I know I do

Limerence
Is it
Limerence?

Is it
Only
Limerence?

Is it
Only
Opening us to
Loss of contact?

Ignorance

Was it
Lonely
Opening to
Mutual attract?

Limerence
Do you want this?
Can we will this?

I can feel the sun
In the curve of your smile
And I want the day to grow longer

And I can see the fun
In the swerve of your style
And all I want to say,
You know, is to conjure

Cupid, Aphrodite, Eros,
Frigga, Hathor, Juno,
Flora, Sabine, Persephone,
And the whole damn team

And the whole damn team
Just to make you say
You share the same space
And feel the same way

Are you inspired by the way
I admire your existence?

Do you require further sway
Towards desire or assistance?

Are we both liars who display
A misfire of consistence?

Renewed, I aspire to today
Rising higher, void of distance

Limerence
Is it
Limerence?

Is it
Only
Limerence?

Is it
Only
Opening us to
Loss of contact?

Is it ignorance?

Was it
Lonely
Opening to
Mutual attract?

Limerence
Do you want this?
Can we will this?

The path beyond the garden
Beyond what I thought I knew
Beyond a life filled with
Dewdrops alive with you
When I relied on a new
Love supplied by you

Beg your pardon
Beg your smile to rise higher still
A spring rain brings a tap
On my windowsill
It brings pain and sappy need
To say the words with a greater will

The season of renewal
Where the flowers grow
And the lovebirds sing
Where my heart didn’t know
What our world would bring
And the sun didn’t show
The clouds gathering

Fate may be cruel
But I’ll face it with a truth
That belies the fear
Can’t replace what a
Youthful heart supplies to steer
Our airspace closed with
A soothing baptized revere

It would be foolish to build a life
On a starry night shared in the throes
Of what we know is obsession

Is it?

And it would be a sin against nature
To win you on surface-level physics,
Playing Loki to discretion

Only
Is it?

When did this spin out of our control
And grow, filling its own chasm?

When did we spin and invent
Our enlightening phantasm?

Lonely
Was it

Formed when we were born
At the event horizon of an orgasm?

When did we spin out of control
And grow into this unwieldly thing?

When did we begin? Was it
The beginning of spring?
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 30 prompt:

…write a poem that engages with a strange and fascinating fact. It could be an odd piece of history, an unusual bit of art trivia, or something just plain weird. While I cannot vouch for the actual accuracy of any of the facts presented at the links above (or any other facts you might use as inspiration!), I can tell you that there are definitely some poetic ideas here, just waiting for someone to use them.

The strange and fascinating fact I used is that the fighting style Wing Chun literally translates to Spring Chant or Eternal Spring.

Sorry for the late ending. I’ve been really busting my hump at work and haven’t had much time to write. But I’ve been tinkering with this one off and on for a while.

Day 28 – Postcard in Praise of My One-Time Online Secret Girlfriend

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Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

Postcard in Praise of My One-Time Online Secret Girlfriend

Why are you here? Why am I? Why are we? Even though we’re both evenly among our peers in our late twenties, this feels… odd. Oddly uncomfortable and weirdly familiar in keeping welcome company. You seem to be enjoying this bass-boosted noise even less than me, if that were ever a possibility. You say nothing as you gallantly support the nightclub wall with your back, your face screwed into a question mark. You’re puzzled by how different I am IRL than online. You’re with your girls and I’m with my homie, but I spot in your eyes, a symmetry. Or is it synergy? It’s a mystery, but I can see that you too wish it were just you and me. I have poor self-esteem, so I don’t take these vibes lightly when they come to be. You speak softly, drowned-out by the club cacophony, yet I feel your words settle next to me. I won’t forget how you let me hold your hand gratefully, us both grateful no one else could see.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 28 prompt: “draft a prose poem in the form/style of a postcard.”

OK, so perhaps I would need two postcards.

Day 25 – Important Read-Me File: Caring for Your Barry

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Photo by Samuel Scrimshaw on Unsplash

Important Read-Me File: Caring for Your Barry

You’ve decided
to care for a Barry!

You’ve made a unique
and challenging choice,
for not all Barrys are alike,
and this Barry in particular
has some particularly odd bugs,

or as Barry likes to call them,
“features”.

Here are some helpful guidelines
to keep your Barry operational
while minimizing withering glares,
mopey brooding,

and angry muttering
of rude things
under his breath.

Caution: depressed
and highly flammable.

Do not enjoy around
children or pets.

Or other people.

Do not mix with bourbon,
unless you’re eager to learn
the unvarnished truth about him,
yourself, and
that girl he’s secretly crushing on.

Can be rendered inert,
philosophical,
deeply meta,
and rather giggly
if combined with marijuana.

He may also refer to marijuana
as “jazz cigarettes” because
he just heard that squares
called them that in the 60’s
and he can’t stop giggling about it.

It is highly likely that your Barry
is under the influence of
jazz cigarettes at the moment of
creating this third-person,
self-referential missive.

If your Barry wants to tell you
about the path beyond his garden,
do not interrupt him
or tell him you heard this story before.

This can lead to resentful muttering.

But the most important warning:
just be kind – not just to Barry,
but to everyone you encounter
–  because none of this matters
if I’m right and we only live once,

but if I’m right and we only live once,
nothing could be more important than
leading and leaving with kindness.

Thank you for caring for your Barry
no back-sies!
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 25 prompt: “write a poem that takes the form of a warning label . . . for yourself!”

(Full-disclosure: My new job and surviving on three hours of sleep per night had me shuttering the doors early on NaPoWriMo, but one of my most respected poetry friends kicked me in the butt. She said I have poems to write, and so I guess I have a few back-payments to make.)

Day 22 – Myth of Stillness

Myth of Stillness

The path beyond my garden
belies the lies unlearned in time

as if the stars cannot
rearrange themselves in the sky
for us; as if

they, you and I,
all known things
aren’t in constant states of motion,
learning and unlearning.

Stars coalesce, are born,
then die and scatter,
its matter mingling with matter
from other dead stars,
coalescing into newer,
denser stars,

the cycle renewed in timelines
beyond our real-time observation.

Our sun is at least
a second-generation star
in this manner,
and the world of me and you
thrives on its energy.

This is how you and I came to be,

and yes, we are
but sentient star remnants
in constant motion.

That’s how you and I
came to coalesce.

It takes four years
for the light of the next
nearest star to reach
the solar system of
me and you.

The twinkle we shared when we first met
began its journey way back when
you and I were still clinging to
dying systems separately, orbiting
resentment and dysfunctionality
until implosion.

And yet for that random twinkle to mingle
with the twinkle in our locked eyes that night

as we danced to Earth, Wind & Fire,
the elements conspiring us to groove together,
shifting constellations of past lives,

don’t you dare tell me that me and you
didn’t move the stars themselves to
make this fusion happen.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 22 prompt:

I’ve found this one rather useful in trying to ‘surprise’ myself into writing something I wouldn’t have come up with otherwise. Today, I’d like you to take one of the following statements of something impossible, and then write a poem in which the impossible thing happens:

The sun can’t rise in the west.

A circle can’t have corners.

Pigs can’t fly.

The clock can’t strike thirteen.

The stars cannot rearrange themselves in the sky.

A mouse can’t eat an elephant.

Happy writing!

I feel like I cheated a bit, as the stars are in constant motion, but this motion is mostly beyond our limited powers of perception, but hey, it counts.

Day 20 – Two-Part Harmony

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Photo by yousef alfuhigi on Unsplash

Two-Part Harmony

The path beyond my garden leads
to worlds beneath blanket of sky
a verse of footfall’s lullaby
I walk the mist where breeze recedes

Her breath lifts wings of butterfly
the path beyond my garden leads
to shores where she heeds by her deeds
I add my verse as battle cry

Our voices foil and amplify
a duet on the winds and reeds
the path beyond my garden leads
to where our songs reunify

Melody sparks the Pleiades
starlight won’t sing a sad goodbye
she croons with me as we pass by
the path beyond my garden leads
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 20 prompt:

Our prompt for the day (optional as always) takes its cue from Notley’s rebelliousness, and asks you to write a poem that involves rebellion in some way. The speaker or subject of the poem could defy a rule or stricture that’s been placed on them, or the poem could begin by obeying a rule and then proceed to break it (for example, a poem that starts out in iambic pentameter, and then breaks into sprawling, unmetered lines). Or if you tend to write funny poems, you could rebel against yourself, and write something serious (or vice versa). Whatever approach you take, your poem hopefully will open a path beyond the standard, hum-drum ruts that every poet sometimes falls into.

Ironically, I’ve done so much free-verse in the past month that the most rebellious thing I could do right now is to actually stick with a form verbatim, and perhaps incorporate a rhyme scheme too. I used the quatern form and added an “abba-baab” rhyme scheme to enhance my little “rebellion”.

I first saw the quatern on Shannon’s blog post, located here. I told you I’d give it a shot, Shannon!

The Tough Terrain

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Image source: urban.org

The Tough Terrain

The path beyond my garden was once concrete, cinderblock, brick, asphalt, and dirt fields that were once meant to be green. On those dirt fields, we played a game called “Kill the Man”, where one kid would try to run with the football from one goal – marked by the faded “keep off the grass” signs – to the other without being tackled by the two-dozen other kids clamoring to clobber him. If the kid got tackled, he’d throw the ball up in the air, and we’d scratch, claw, and elbow each other for the right to possess the ball and be the next runner to be clobbered.

If you scored a goal, your reward was the privilege of trying to make it back through the masses to the other goal. We didn’t keep score. There was no winner. There was only your reputation to defend; your place etched in cinderblock by word of mouth.

I started out as The Professor. That’s what they called me because of my coke-bottle glasses, my nose usually being in a book, and my uncanny math-solving skills that had teachers asking me to participate in the academic Olympics – a request I declined, as I know when adults were gaming kids with more homework, and I wasn’t working overtime for free.

I entered the field as The Professor, but after a few weeks of earning my stripes on that dirt field, they started calling me something else. They marveled at my elusiveness as “The Man”, oooed and ahhed at my prowess in delivering bone-crushing tackles for someone so comically undersized, and they cheered me on as I never quit on a play, even when all others would. They began to call me Superman, which was rather hyperbolic, but I was only Superman on the field, so no big.

Off the field, I was still The Professor, but it was no longer a derisive term. I had friends, I had a best friend, and I even had a crush who I was emboldened enough to write love notes. I knew little of emoting in writing, but I knew enough to plagiarize and reconstruct whole sections of Judy Blume novels to get my point across; chopping and screwing words the way hip-hop DJ’s worked their magic with jazz, funk, and soul.

Her name was Charise Parker. I’m probably safe revealing her name, as this was some thirty-five years and 1,732.91 miles ago, and her fate and familiarity are now foreign to me. But I loved her as much as a ten-year-old could love a girl with his whole heart. She liked me as a friend, but she still blushed at reading my Judy Blume samples, and she let me play jump-rope with her homegirls, which befuddled the boys who played “Kill the Man”.

Her older brother would play catch with me, always throwing the ball much harder than I could catch, always with a wry, crooked smirk on his face. I imagine that if his smile ever showed teeth, he’d disappear like the Cheshire Cat. It was like he knew I was just pretending to be hard, but he didn’t care. As long as his sister liked me, he treated me like a pesky kid brother. And with her, I was almost comfortable enough to show her the parts of me I hid from brick viewpoints.

Almost.

(Aside: My hard-fought place in the universe would eventually be upended by something terrible and completely unrelated to those kids who had given me a seat in the dirt, but that’s another story I won’t get into here.)

I would school hard and play hard, and then come home to momma and Phil and our afternoon/evening routine. In addition to watching cartoons, doing my homework, and helping Phil with his, I was keeping tabs on Baby Fae, the infant with a heart defect, who had her heart replaced with that of a baboon’s. It was supposed to be a miracle of modern medicine.

Medical stuff made me queasy, both then and now, but I voraciously ingested this story. I don’t know why it resonated so deeply with me, but someone so vulnerable and innocent just had to have a happy ending. We were poor and lucky enough to have the lights turned back on recently while Reagan hosted state dinners with the choicest cuts of meat, and J.R. Ewing got away with being a wealthy tyrant every Friday, but I just knew that fate wouldn’t be cruel enough to take away Baby Fae so young.

Obviously, I had a lot to learn about the cosmos not giving a damn about our pain and suffering.

When the news reported her death, I remember curling up in momma’s lap, just a ten-year-old crybaby. I don’t know how long I cried, nor how long momma tried to convince me that the infant was in heaven now, but I what I appreciate most was that eventually, she held me in absolute silence, allowing me my time to grieve for the child I never knew, allowing my vulnerability.

Tomorrow, I would again don the mask that earned my dusty seat at the neighborhood table, but that night, momma held me as I sobbed, and she just let me be me.

snowfall seasoned dirt
the earth beneath me hardened
it will melt in spring

Day 18 – She Still Sees

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Photo by Peter Forster on Unsplash

She Still Sees

You are the Truth
locked tight in my pocket;
promise kept by my fortuity.

You linger patiently,
meeting my frailties with loyalty
pouring into my cracks.
You stay,
voice soothing my raspy song,
facing, leaning into my calm.

Your will
driving intent to fill my silent plea.
I feel this,
your tacit strain
as you heal my wounds.

You’re afraid to leave
without securing my trust
where I live on abyss’s edge.
You steadily shatter delusions
trumpeting your presence
crossing my boundaries.

But I am not here
can’t be found in the light;
cocooned twilight.
You join our hips
expanding as I contract,
filling void with familiar
you still see me where I live.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 18 prompt:

Our prompt for the day (optional as always) isn’t exactly based in revision, but it’s not exactly not based in revision, either. It also sounds a bit more complicated than it is, so bear with me! First, find a poem in a book or magazine (ideally one you are not familiar with). Use a piece of paper to cover over everything but the last line. Now write a line of your own that completes the thought of that single line you can see, or otherwise responds to it. Now move your piece of paper up to uncover the second-to-last line of your source poem, and write the second line of your new poem to complete/respond to this second-to-last line. Keep going, uncovering and writing, until you get to the first line of your source poem, which you will complete/respond to as the last line of your new poem. It might not be a finished draft, but hopefully it at least contains the seeds of one.

I wasn’t too keen on this prompt, so I tweaked it a bit. Instead of finding an unfamiliar poem/poet, I found an extremely familiar one to me. I chose a poet I admire, a frequent collaborator, and a good friend, Tre. The poem I used as a reference is titled The One I Spared. I encourage you to head over and read her exquisite work.

Yesterday, me and Wifey traveled from Whistler back home, and today I had a talk therapy session, so I’m a day behind in my poetry. Perhaps I can squeeze out another one later.