“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

Here we are: December 31, 2013. Time to say goodbye to the old year, ring in the new, sing “Auld Lang Syne” and all that stuff. And time for me to reflect on the past year.

It’s been a busy year for me. I’ve written here about everything from Aboriginal issues, to why I don’t like school, to social justice issues and what it’s like to be a filmmaker. I started a second blog about my take on what it means to be a Christian in today’s society and I even had a chance to poke fun at the whole idea of social & personal branding, which ruffled some feathers with friends in the real world… which totally made my day!

So here I am, looking over the past year, and I realized that I have several articles for Shaneisms that never made it online. Whether they didn’t come together in the way I had hoped, didn’t make it past the outline stage or simply got put to the side and forgotten about (out of sight, out of mind), these poor, miswritten literary outputs are quietly awaiting their chance in the virtual sun.

It’s not that I haven’t wanted to finish them or that I read them over and thought “this is so bad I think it gave me cancer”. The truth is more that real life got in the way. For some of the partially written articles, I got called away to another project and had to devote my attention elsewhere. With some others, its that by the time I was happy with what I had written, the social relevancy, that small moment of time when they’d be current and hip, had passed and it would take extensive re-writes to get them into something that won’t make the reader say “wow, that’s yesterday’s news, man!”.

*Author’s note: say that last part in your best 70’s hippie voice for full dramatic effect.

I do hope to have some of those ideas finished and posted over the coming year here on Shaneisms but I can’t make any promises. After working as both a writer and filmmaker for some time now I’ve learned far too well that even the best planned-out projects may not make it to fruition. As those fragmented articles in my My Documents folder attest, writing something that will (hopefully) capture a reader’s attention and leave them wanting more is an art unto itself.

There are days where the ideas come fast and furious, times when I can write an article from beginning to end in one sitting and post the final draft with very few edits. There are also days when trying to get a coherent idea down on paper is almost impossible, leaving me feeling like my mind as a giant “this space for rent” sign in the middle of it. I guess right there is the hit or miss nature of having a creative mind: some days you got it and other days you wonder why you don’t have it and where you’ve possibly left it.

As much as I call myself a writer I do find writing blog articles difficult. A blog can be an intensely personal thing. I don’t mind being open about who I am, and even talking about my failures and shortcomings, such as my being a university dropout and someone who lives everyday with ADHD, a very difficult to control learning disability. The difficult part is finding a balance between writing something and staying on topic as opposed to writing about something and making it nothing but a “look at me and how beautificent I am!” post. I’m not interested in writing (or reading) those types of blog entries. If I talk about myself it’s with the hope that it emphasizes or clarifies something else in the entry.

I like to think that being open and honest might help someone reading the blog articles I post deal with a similar situation in their life. For example, when I wrote about Idle No More, I was subsequently asked to speak about issues facing Aboriginals in Canada. After one such talk, one which I talked about the ongoing affect of the Residential Schools on Aboriginal families (including my own), I had a woman tell me that for the first time she felt the strength to publicly talk about her and her family’s experiences in Residential Schools. As I titled my first-ever Shaneism, “big things have small beginnings”.

I don’t expect this blog to set the world on fire. If it gets some notoriety, or a reputation as somewhere that is both informative and entertaining, I’d be perfectly all right with that. This is simply a small corner of the interweb to call my own, a place where I can comment on how I see the world around me, and what is affecting me at the moment.

As I look over what I’ve written about in the past year I can safely say that predicting what’s on tap for the 2014 version of Shaneisms isn’t something I can really predict. It’s really rather like trying to predict what 2014’s fads and memes will be (much twerking, many foxes, so doge… wow).

I will predict this though: as much as I know I’ll have days where my brain goes on vacation the moment I sit down to write something, I’m looking forward to writing about whatever it is I’ve gotten myself mixed up in next. And I hope you will join me for the ride.

For now, thanks for reading, and here’s wishing you and yours the very best for 2014.

Now… since I’ve gotten a good head of steam built up, I should probably go work on some of those unfinished Shaneisms. After all, one should always finish what one sta

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“We lived on farms, then we lived in cities, and now we’re going to live on the internet!” – Sean Parker, “The Social Network”

I am not a big fan of social media. If it was up to me, I would have no problem doing without the vast majority of it. I know what you’re thinking… “and yet you’re saying this via social media”. The irony is not lost on me. In fact, that irony, that realization, frustrates me to no end.

I’m old enough to remember when the tech du jour was an Apple II. I remember having a Commodore 64 in my room and learning to properly type using it. I remember the old brick cellphones and how cool it was when the phones got small enough to fit in your back pocket. I remember the hiss and buzz of dial-up internet and using a text based interface to navigate around the just emerging internet. I remembering using ICQ to chat to friends during my high school and college days.

When I look at the way the internet and social networking have evolved, I honestly feel like we’ve taken a step back as a society. There’s something disconcerting about knowing that I can call, email, text and yell off of my balcony trying to get hold of someone to no avail, but send them a Facebook message and *boom* less than five minutes later I’ve got a reply.

I have a Facebook account and I post almost every day. Usually I try to post something that is so absurd that when you read it will make you laugh and forget all the drama going on around you. I’ve wanted to leave Facebook several times but every time I want to I get flooded with messages saying “I’ll miss you!”, “Don’t go, you make me laugh!” and “If you leave, where will I get my daily reminder of how important my sanity is to me when I see you’ve clearly lost yours?”… and then my wife chimes in telling me she likes to have me on Facebook as a balance against all the drama people post.

It’s that drama that makes me want to leave and why I don’t like social media to begin with. I’m all for wanting to stay in touch, checking up on how my friends and family are doing, and finding out about what’s going on in the community. But that makes up maybe 20% of what comes across my Facebook page. The rest is usually a weird mixture of baby photos (or statuses about how little Timmy or Janie learned to use the potty or discovered the cat doesn’t taste as good as it looks), Instagram photos (I don’t understand how over-saturating the colors makes a photo 72% more awesome), and drama about how your boyfriend or girlfriend is the greatest person since Albert Schweitzer, or something about how you can’t believe your “best” friend would do whatever it is they did. This time.

It is true that I’ve found long lost friends using social media. It’s fun to reconnect and see that I’m the only one not going bald and that their hopes and dreams are still, like mine, hopes and dreams. I like being able to support friends doing fundraisers (when I can afford it) and cheer them on when they have a big event like a wedding, birth of a child or when they finally finish grad school. Yet, for all these good things I find myself feeling strangely more disconnected than ever in terms of having actual one on one face-time with people.

When I was growing up, if I wanted to see what my friends down the street were doing, I’d put on my shoes and go ring their doorbell. Most of the time that was the extent of planning out the afternoon. We’d run home and get our bikes and baseball gloves and go to the nearest diamond, or ride over the mall and see what was new at the comic book store. It seems that walking down the street has been replaced with texting and while it’s more efficient, I don’t find it anywhere near as fun.

I understand the allure of texting… you can have a conversation with someone without having to actually have a conversation with them. It’s also handy in an emergency, since you can get the word out quickly no matter where everybody happens to be at that moment. Unfortunately, I see our society dumbing down because of it. I’ve seen entire Facebook posts written in just “netspeak”. A friend of mine who is a university psychology professor has told me he’s had papers written almost entirely in that same netspeak shorthand. I can’t shake this feeling that if we continue this way that a few centuries from now we will have thumbs that rival Superman’s but will end up saying “oh… so that’s what you actually look like” when we finally meet up with each other. Assuming we can make that coherent of a sentence and not just “u look funy. lol. :)”

Maybe I’m too old fashioned for my own good, but I hate texting. No, not “hate”. Maybe “loathe to the very core of my being” is better. Seriously, if you want to tell me something, take the two minutes to call me. The usual complaint is “but it costs more”. Congratulations… you’ve just shown how valuable you consider your time and conversation to be. If the cost is really that big of a deal, next time I see you I will give you a dollar to cover the immense expense of calling me.

There are two other aspects of social media that really bother me. The first is this sense that the world needs to be informed of your every decision. Do I really need to know that you went to Wal-Mart? Or what you had for dinner? Or that you like it when your socks don’t match? As riveting as all this information flowing about is, I’m pretty sure I can live without it. It might be difficult to shoulder on in a world without knowing that your cat likes to be called “snookums” as opposed to “fluffy” but, somehow, I’ll manage to go on.

The second aspect ties into the first aspect of over-estimating one’s importance to society. It’s that the anonymity of the internet puffs people up into making “tough guy” statements they have no chance of backing up in real life. From calling someone out for any slight, real or otherwise, to making racial, ethnic and religious slurs, there’s a sense that because you’re not face to face with the person, there’s no real consequence. You’ve all read comments to this effect. I really wonder how many tough guys there would be if they had to say it face to face, knowing the other person can instantly retaliate in a way you can’t avoid simply by disconnecting from the internet.

Perhaps what I’m really missing is the feeling of community and good, engaging conversations. Social media seems to have put us on the path to be trained to limit our thoughts to 140 characters and whittle away our feelings to whatever fits in a soundbite. Social media consultants will tell you that the explosion of personal media outlets is the greatest transformation of the past 100 years. I don’t buy it. And not just because they’re paid to hype social media. For all the chances we have for reaching out, we squander them on mindlessness. I fear that many truly brilliant ideas have been missed because of the never-ending cacophony of all our social media outlets.

I’ve heard it said that social media is a necessary evil. I disagree. “Evil” is only “necessary” when we refuse to live without it, despite a better choice possibly existing. I’ve heard people say “I can’t live without my smartphone”. Really? Try leaving it at home sometime and see just how quickly you die, probably by falling over-dramatically, in slow-motion, with choral music playing.

We can say more than ever, in more ways than ever, but do we really have anything to say? Now… stop reading this, leave your computer and go outside without any communication device on you except your own vocal chords. Get reconnected.

“Listen, everyone is entitled to my opinion.” – Madonna

Maybe the most fitting quotation for asking “why blog” is the comment above from Madonna because, really, why spend all the time crafting something that could end up only finding a niche audience? Like anything worth doing it takes time and effort, but there’s no assurance of any pay-off. But is pay-off the reason for doing it in the first place?

We could do it for promoting something we’re involved in or something that interests us. We could do it to build community. We could do it simply for vanity. There’s a dangerous trend in our society to over-value our self-worth and the importance of our point of view. This shouldn’t be surprising.

More and more studies are appearing from a variety of sources looking at the increase in narcissistic behaviour in accordance with the rise of social media. Where it used to be that only a select few had the ability to broadcast ideas and opinions, now anyone can do it anywhere. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, podcasting and blogging make it so anyone can say “here I am”. For the attention seekers, all you need to do to stroke your own ego is to record you doing a stunt, write something purposely saying something infuriating, or post a picture of yourself that garners attention for all the wrong reasons.

I’m not saying posting stuff is only done out of wanting attention for attention’s sake. I have friends who’ve fostered rewarding online communities through their social media efforts. I’ve seen friends raise money for charities, bring attention to worthy causes and help people realize “you matter” when it seems the world is saying “no, you don’t”.

The rise of social media presents us with a double-edged sword. For all the intelligent debates social media can foster, it can give as much rise to ignorant ranting. For all the educational value it can have, there can be as many areas that will leave you feeling like you’ve willfully given yourself a lobotomy.

In 1958, Edward R. Murrow gave a speech to the Radio-Television News Directors Association. He talked about the then new medium of television, but the words, I think, can be equally applied to the new medium of social networking: “This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful.”

So here is my battle cry: This blog will be dedicated to trying to make you think, even as opposed as you might be to that idea. That’s not to say we can’t have some fun and some laughs along the way. All I ask is that you keep an open mind. I give you my word I’ll endeavor to do the same. Think of this as an area of “edutainment”.

In the upcoming weeks there will be more activity on Shaneisms, but here’s where I need your help. I want suggestions of what to write about. It can be anything, from current events to a random question that’s been on your mind. Think of it as putting the “social” in “social media”. For now, dear reader, I leave you with a final parting quote about the responsibility inherent in social media, again courtesy of Edward R. Murrow:

“You will forgive me for not telling you that instruments with which you work are miraculous, that your responsibility is unprecedented or that your aspirations are frequently frustrated. It is not necessary to remind you that the fact that your voice is amplified to the degree where it reaches from one end of the country to the other does not confer upon you greater wisdom or understanding than you possessed when your voice reached only from one end of the bar to the other.”

“Big things have small beginnings” – David, “Prometheus”

So here we are. A corner of the interweb to call my own. A place where I can share with the world any thought that pops into my head before it dies of loneliness.

The title of the blog, “Shaneisms” comes from a term that has become used by my friends to describe my… unique… way of handling the ins and outs of everyday life. “I would try to explain his rationale for that but, well, it’s Shane.” “Ah. Well then, enough said” has been said on more than one occasion in response to me doing whatever it is I do.

As of writing this there is no specific direction or purpose to this blog. From what few plans I have made I’ll be posting about anything from movies to theology and philosophy to why I won’t give up on the Toronto Maple Leafs even if they’ve given up on themselves. Again. And once in a while I’ll write about past Shaneisms such as having a little old lady try to buy me in the toilet paper section of the grocery store or the time when randomly seeing if hockey tickets were available led me to being in a private box and meeting the head of Canadian Armed Forces.

So here’s where you, dear reader, come in. Apart from taking time to read my musings, feel free to make suggestions about what you’d like to see a post about. Any suggestion about anything will be evaluated and (most likely) promptly tossed aside. Those that make it through this rigorous vetting process will be treated to gloriously witty expository wonderment.

I hope.

Let the Shaneisms begin!