Running From The Noise

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Earlier this week, the president declared war on Twitter over their new (some might say long overdue) policy of fact-checking his tweets for accuracy and content. Two nights ago, after Mr. Trump admonished those in the street protesting the murder of George Floyd, Twitter flagged his tweet because it violated the company’s rule against “glorifying violence.”

In spite of his bluster, I suspect the president accomplished what I assume was his primary goal: to divert attention away from the rising number of people dying from the coronavirus, which currently stands at some 110,000. You do have to give the man credit: he certainly knows how to pivot us away from things he’d rather not discuss.

Where this will go from here is anyone’s guess. Twitter is a private company, and the extent to which the government can actually regulate content on such a platform is limited. But for me, it’s yet another reason why I’ve to shied away from heavy social media usage in recent years. When the noise becomes so distracting that it overtakes any pleasure in participating, that’s when you know the party is mostly over.

Perhaps like a fair number of you out there, I engaged in social media before there was even a name for it.

Prior to the invention of the graphical browser, I was using dial-up internet access in the early nineties to log into Usenet discussion boards about music, baseball, literature, and even one on librarianship. The displays were all text-based with background hues of black and green. Each board was most often organized in a hierarchical “tree-structure” sort of topic and date. Instead of search engines, we used something called “Gopher.” It was all rudimentary and uncomplicated, which suited us novices just fine.

I remember there was all kinds of inflammatory rhetoric tossed around like grenades on the most inane of propositions, i.e.: Bill Wyman was forced out of the Rolling Stones (not true), Tony Gwynn secretly took steroids (not true), J.D. Salinger wrote while visiting a nudist retreat (not true), and the “SuDocs” classification of government materials will be replaced in the next revision of the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (just kill me now, please).

Not a former colleague of mine.

Abuse would fly on those boards back then; it was not a safe place for soft-hearted souls, but I eagerly engaged in those early online wars, holding my own against all various and sundry opponents. By the time the more modern web-based world of the Internet arrived, I decided enough was enough: I declared victory and handed in my boxing gloves. Or maybe I just turned 40. I don’t actually recall.

Like so many, I too joined Facebook in the 2000’s because it seemed like the fun thing to do. Who doesn’t love bright, shiny, new things?

I ended up suffering through the 2008, 2012, and 2016 presidential elections on that site, learning way too much about the political views of former classmates, friends, neighbors, and even family members. The last straw was the aftermath of Charlottesville in 2017, when I was horrified to read comments from people I knew well, who supported the proposition that there were “very fine people on both sides” protesting that day. The fat lady had sung, and I knew my time on Facebook had finally reached an end. I signed off for good shortly thereafter.

[Of course, I am remiss if I also didn’t mention that I reconnected with my lovely bride after 30+ years only after she found me on Facebook. So in spite of my misgivings, I will always be grateful for that little miracle. And for the record, she never trolled me once in our early interactions.]


I created a Twitter account after Trump took office. To paraphrase George Carlin, I wanted a front row seat to see civilization destroying itself. I don’t actually follow the president’s feed, but I end up seeing most of his tweets because so many people I do follow clap back at him. Just like the earlier Usenet boards, and just as I discovered with Facebook, Twitter is a endless cycle of reconstituted outrage, where last words are seemingly never achieved, and everyone is more clever than you’ll ever be. It’s high school all over again, except this time everyone gets to be the cool kid.

As I write this post, rioting and looting is taking place in several U.S. cities over the murder of Mr. Floyd. Although civic leaders and politicians are calling for calm, Mr. Trump himself parroted the words of a former Miami chief of police, who famously said about rioters in 1967: “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” The White House today offered the governor of Minnesota the use of active-duty soldiers and Pentagon intelligence to assist in quelling unrest there.

We seem to be at a tipping point here: we are still nervously fighting a pandemic, thousands are out of work, and racial tensions are boiling over in the streets. And if all of that wasn’t enough, we have 157 days till the next election. I’m no meteorologist, but I’m not predicting that rhetoric and vitriol will head into any kind of cooling trend soon. Things will only get hotter.

I don’t find this stuff amusing anymore. Words (and admittedly, deeds too at the moment) are tearing us apart.

As all of us have been saying to one another for the last few months: Be safe. It seems to fit in more than one context now.

Until next time…

37 thoughts on “Running From The Noise

  1. Lol. I’d long forgotten about gopher! But I weep for my former country. The lack of integrity in leadership is staggering, and that’s over and above lack of competence. It’s about nothing but money and votes. Has it really ALWAYS been like that and I just didn’t see it? No moral fibre at all?? 😥

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Afraid so, Jane. I’m always drawn back to the best selling book, “The Selling of the President” from 1968. But we have admittedly gotten more jaded and coarse.

      Gopher. 🙂 I wanted to add “telnet” and “FTP” but couldn’t find a graceful way to do so!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Good post. This is a painful time for people who kinda sorta like our government even though we question it, freedom we have for only as long as we remain a democracy. I think we need to understand that Russia;’s intervention was more than meddling. Meddling suggests something rather benign and annoying. We suffered a massive psychological attack that convinced a quarter of the population that its worst enemy is liberal democracy. It’s surreal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Robert, and I’m sorry for not noticing your comment earlier — it unfortunately went into my SPAM folder! Absolutely Russian interference is responsible for the 2016 debacle. I pray that somehow they, or any other country, won’t ever have that kind of influence again in our electoral process.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I often find legit comments in my spam folder and have to remind myself to check it. Thank you for your reply. Right now, the Russian Federation is launching a massive psychological attack on the people of the United States, as are China and Iran. The only way these strategies can work is if citizens look at the worst about our country without remembering the best. Info warriors trick us by sprinkling their lies with a bit of truth and promoting a cynical whataboutist view of the world. The best protection is faith in human nature and our ability to evolve and learn.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I have pretty much culled my Facebook “friends” of MAGA-types and don’t subscribe to twitter. It’s the only thing I can do to keep myself sane. I am tightrope walking between knowing too little and knowing too much. I did, though, “adopt” a state (Arizona) that could be flipped, if we get enough votes. I’m not sure what all is involved, but I imagine I’ll be making a lot of phone calls to potential voters. It seemed like a well-organized effort that I could get behind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good on you, Janis, for getting involved. Behind me right now sits a small stack of papers that contain blue voters who I’m to call starting next week about vote-by-mail requests. It’s one small part in a bigger movement. And, yes, let’s change AZ.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have a Twitter account but haven’t been on it in so many years, I couldn’t count them. I’m on Facebook because I have some family and a few friends I stay in touch with. I don’t read or comment on anything political. I watch about an hour of local and national news in the morning and pick up things during the day, but my mental and physical health can’t take more than that. As a society, I think we have lost tolerance, respect for our fellow citizens, and just plain common sense. I’ll leave it there and continue to pray and hope that this ship can be righted before we all sink to a level we could have never imagined. Stay safe on all fronts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed, Judy. I’m getting close to reading Tom Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation” because I missed it when it came out, and I think it’s a point of reference for the kind of sacrifice that’s missing today. We all must protect ourselves from what’s within now, and that’s not normal. Ship-righted indeed. You be safe, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am prime for the Facebook content on several local non-profits, so I must show up. Lately, I really hate that part of my volunteer gigs. The bad most certainly outweighs the good.

    Beautifully written post that I can relate to completely.

    Be safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Marty, I have only dabbled in Twitter in the past. Not sure how to retweet and hashtag and all of the ins and outs. I have used it to access the latest info such as traffic situations around our community. You make a good point, when the noise overtakes the pleasure.

    I am sorry to hear how “Things will only get hotter.” I have no true words to help on this one.

    Change of subject, since half glass of wine in hand and it is a Saturday night and trying to salvage your weekend, Marty:
    You are (sort of?) a music buff in my era? My husband and I were blown away with the Jethro Tull flute segment with the astronaut when watching the SpaceX launch today. I don’t know whether you saw it. Retro, fun, interesting and the hair?!? .

    Hang in there, Marty. Challenging times. There are many good people still out there. Hopefully, we have each other’s backs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To be somewhat fair, Erica, I do enjoy lots of diversions on Twitter such as comedians and late night hosts. Conan O’Brien’s tweets in particular I always think are funny. And my wife’s Twitter account is for the most part nothing but her cooking creations. So if you want to look for something other than political, it is there.

      I missed that Jetthro Tull with the space launch! That is very cool, especially since I’m such a prog rock freak (especially British prog). I’ll make sure to check it out online somewhere.

      Indeed, we in this community do have each other’s backs, which is comforting.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If okay with you and Gorgeous, can you send me your wife’s Twitter account even via my contact email? I need all the help I can get with my cooking. I still have the canned pumpkin hanging around. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Courtesy of my graduate degree I was online before anyone knew what the heck it was. People would look at me like I was nuts when I’d mention things I’d read, people I’d ‘spoken’ with while surfing the web. I was an early adopter of FB but left after 3 weeks, came back a few years later for 6 months, left again, came back a few years later for 3 months, THEN WALKED AWAY FROM IT FOREVER. My rallying cry is: Delete Facebook. In fact that is one of the best ways to Stay Safe I’ve found.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those were pioneer days on the Internet for sure, Ally. As I recall, nearly everything available was predominantly academic in nature — it took years for government agencies to start loading their documents.

      Yes, I’m with you on FB. Never again. My wife is no longer on it, but she still kept her profile on it for safe keeping. Me? I happily deleted it and closed my account forever.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I remember using “listservs” when I was working on my graduate degree. That’s when I realized some people will say anything with an audience. I just read an article about FaceBook in the WSJ that might interest you….or not, it pretty much reinforces the negative aspects that you are aware of. I’m still on FB, in spite of it all. It’s been quite handy for high school reunion planning, promoting charity work and saved a lot of our hides during Harvey. I just hold my nose.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Listservs! I was on so many, I found it difficult to get my real work completed because all I did was contribute to them. 🙂 I will look for the WSJ article, Tracey. Many thanks for mentioning it. I do appreciate’s FB value, especially for those times such as Harvey when it helps to communicate.


  9. Internet, in general has provided us with tons of information. Gone is the time, we said “I don’t know”, as we can find answers immediately. Gone is the time that we had to wait for publications of new research.
    Gone, also seems to be the time we used to reserve to critically think about the consequences of our replies.
    Social media although not invented to use for evil (I hope) has condoned the spreading of harmful ”information”. Being silent, however, is no different than being a bystander in the face of bullying. When bystanders speak up and walk away, the platform is not longer powerful. We all have a responsibility.
    Thank you for a powerful post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right, Elizabeth. We all need to stand up to the bullying and harassing.

      ‘Tis true that we tend to hit that SEND button awfully quick. I’ve been going over a cache of letters and correspondence I’ve kept for decades, and it has dawned on me how deliberate and measured communication was at one time. Now it all seems, well, quite disposable.

      Many thanks, as always, for your helpful comments. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Never got into Twitter but I am on Facebook and Instagram. However, as I’ve followed more people and been added to groups, most of what I see anymore are posts related to my hobbies. Facebook especially has been helpful in keeping family and friends up to date on my parents’ situation. Fortunately, I seem to be spared from a lot of political stuff even though there are friends who have strong opinions. It’s easy to scroll past them. And I actually spend very little time these days checking it. Who cares if I miss something?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’ll only comment of ‘old’ surfing the ‘net stuff since 1968 heck all the 60s rapped up into one week last week was too exhausting to even touch on your other ‘spot on’ current event musings.
    I remember with fondness my list days (the 90s)…the days when bridges were easily crossed from seasoned and famous professionals to the ‘little people’ like me and even establishing solid collegue relationships as a result.
    As for the ‘anger’? I always selected ***moderated*** lists…where flames were called out as such and three strikes you’re off the list was strictly enforced!
    But also, I remember with intense frustration the line-by-line downloads of graphics/photos/music scores that were all the rage and cutting edge, but took forever to access!
    BTW: I’m a mask-wearer, so there!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah-ha! I always figured you for one of them liberal maskers. 😉

      OMG, yes,Laura, those l-o-n-g addresses to find documents were crazy. One single character off and you were sunk! It’s hard to fathom now that we had no hyperlinks back then.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. The world is a worryingly surreal place currently. I’m finding FBook harder & harder to be around. I strongly considered deleting it a while back, but I have to maintain a personal profile in order to have a business one, so I’m still there. But I use it less & less, largely due to too many a distressing and/or ignorant post or comment from friends. In a previous life, I would challenge them, but now I find myself stepping away, as I’m afraid the damn of emotions will break & I’ll say something friendships won’t be able to come back from.But I find that action (or non-action) to be depressing. I’m still trying to work it out. Thanks for the thought-provoking post Marty.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with you about the previous life part, Deb. I guess I’ve lost my ability to really try to break through with people online. Everyone becomes very brave behind a keyboard — more so, I think, than one might face-to-face — so that it becomes impossible to have reasoned dialogue. The older I get, the more wary I am now of interacting with such stridency. So I back away out of self-preservation, but indeed it is depressing. Many thanks for your comment and sharing of wisdom.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. We don’t have your president! We don’t have big numbers with COVID yet over here too people are disillusioned as so many have lost their jobs yet freedom of speech let thousands protested! And we are in a mess now. Our numbers are rising again. Second wave? No one knows. We are waiting to hear.

    Liked by 1 person

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