The human moment and working collaboratively online

I keep hearing people say things like this, including myself lately:

“We do our best work when we’re physically connected,” says Roy Hirshland, CEO of T3 Advisors, a commercial real estate advisor. Dialing in on Skype will work in a pinch, but it’s not a substitute, he says. “When you’re in the same room, you can see facial expressions, you can feel energy in a room.”

The idea is based on Media Richness Theory, which posits that some tasks require face-to-face interaction. Skype doesn’t fit the bill. “Skype is a great, free way to communicate with sound and picture, but with glitchy connections, awkward camera angles, the limitations of webcams and cheap microphones, etc.,” says Dr. Matthew Lombard, a professor at Temple University and president of the International Society for Presence Research. “It’s far from the same experience as talking to someone in person. Face-Time and other tablet and phone methods have the advantage of mobility, but they suffer in terms of the vividness of the experience.”

This is a quote from this article about telecommuting, a word I never even use despite being apparently one of the only 2.6% of people in the US who consider themselves full-time at-home workers.

I think it’s true to an extent, and the cutoff of whether it’s true for you is literally how much of your life has been lived online so far. How could someone who didn’t even have desktop computers as a reality when they were growing up imagine people only using them to have the same experiences they’re so used to being defined as in-person only? Of course these people don’t believe internet experiences are real enough, because they simply can’t conceive of it.

If you’re reading my blog though, I bet you’ve been interacting online with people from such a young age that you don’t even realize the extent to which you’re getting valuable human contact online that you’re dismissing as self-centered or useless simply because you’re staring at your phone or tablet to receive it.

Real things happen online. Really real things between really real people. You totally need in-person time to make new experiences that simply can’t happen online (and yes, I do believe there are some obviously, just not quite at the level discussed above), but dismissing online-only experiences as somehow less valuable or less productive or less human is something that can only be done by someone who can’t have those experiences to that level because their own growth and development as a human didn’t include this kind of communication transfer as a way of interacting with humanity. Computers are “other” and humans are “real” and for some people, this can never be made untrue.

My grandfather, a man. Some reminders for myself.

A man shows his love without restraint.

A man remembers the joy of childhood so well that he plays with his kids with wild abandon.

A man’s wife is his equal.

A man’s wife is the only visible part of his soul.

A man gardens.

A man creates, he builds, and he produces. Anything at all.

A man allows children to explore expensive technology, because it is an inevitability and because it is important.

When a man’s grandchildren break his computer, he simply asks them what they had been doing so he can fix it. A man sometimes allows his grandson to fix the computer when he’s broken it.

A man provides his family with the experiences needed to become whole humans. A man does his best to be a whole human himself.

A man provides for his family but his work is in service of that, never the opposite.

A man does work he is proud of and changes the world for the better.

A man travels.

A man does his duty for his country when he’s called upon, and when the best skills he’s got for it are cooking meals for soldiers on the front lines, he uses them.

A man is thoughtful in his pursuits and rarely disparages the good-hearted efforts of others.

A man is kind to children, respectful to all, and his actions ensure he can stand tall with his integrity never in doubt.

A man doesn’t care much for what other people define as “masculinity”.

A man gives his all for his family because only then can he grow to become larger than himself.

A man has ambitions and achievements so astounding, his children and grandchildren can’t help but be inspired by him.

A man builds rockets that put satellites into space, cementing a 10-year old’s interest in science and space.

A man is loyal to the team he is leading and never treats them as if they are any less capable than he is.

A man of this caliber lives forever and continues to guide his grandson’s daily life, nearly 15 years after his passing.

There is a light that never goes out

I’ve got two sets of skin. There’s the one I wear most of the time, the one that fits my recently-a-little-wider-but-overall-much-narrower waistline; it’s the one I take with me on a warm day when I can turn up the stereo in my car, open the sunroof and drive a little too fast. It’s the skin I’m comfortable in and lucky enough to have around and available to me most of the time. I like this skin, I feel good when I’m wearing it and I’m a better man with it on.

But there is this other skin. It’s bigger and heavier and I think my hair is probably longer with this one but the truth is that I don’t really look in the mirror when I’m wearing it so I’m not super familiar with what it looks like. I don’t need to know what this skin looks like because I immediately know and can’t fucking stand it when it arrives. It descends like a fog; sometimes I can stave it off, sometimes I can’t. The idea of looking at myself during the time I’m wearing it makes me all kinds of uncomfortable.

What’s worse though is that this heavier, uglier, much more despondent skin of mine is actually a bit more comfortable, like those clichéd jeans you’ve owned for a decade that feel nice but have no support and are not suitable for public wearing and should definitely be thrown out. I mean after all, I’ve spent more time in this skin than any other over the course of my life, and while I tend to beat myself up pretty well while I’m wearing it, at least the scars end up being mostly invisible because they’re on the inside.

This other skin, this heavy, dull, self-despairing skin keeps me from doing simple things like brushing my teeth, sleeping more than two hours at a time at night while tempting me to sleep 4+ hours at a time during the day. It gums up the gears of useful tools like responding to stress in a reasonable manner and being able to stay away from intrusive and self-demeaning thought spirals. I hate this other skin. I hate it so much. The hate feeds it, I think.

My mental illnesses seems to be a miasma of anxiety and depression and while I feel like I live without them often enough, lately I’m noticing the cold comfort of my old, heavy skin more and more, and what’s worse is that I’m affecting the people I love when I have it on.

This post is a sort of letter to myself, a reminder that when this oppressive, gray blanket of awful descends, that there is a way out from under it. I’ve found it before and it’s not a colossal failure of mine to have lost sight of the way out for a while. As long as I can remember that there is a light and it will never go out, I’ll be fine.

(Thanks to Morrissey and Irvine Welsh for the title idea.)


Thankful for being born a white man with the twin pillars of privilege and opportunity invisibly supporting me each step of the way.

Thankful that the prevailing wisdom that defines many of my life choices as mistakes hasn’t kept me from trying harder after every one. Thankful I have a wife who’s never quite been done with me.

Thankful for the luxury of finally fighting for others to have access to health care while mine doesn’t cost me a dime.

Thankful for having access to a plant that has changed my life in so many ways yet presents no jail time as a result.

Thankful for having three children who are alive and thrive and exist, despite attending a school system more and more wracked by inexcusable violence.

Thankful for the prescience with which I was able to combine my childhood loves of art and computers into a fulfilling career that didn’t even exist when I was a child.

Thankful and ashamed for the historical bloodshed and suffering that has led to life being as enjoyable as it’s been for me.

Thankful I continue to wake up every morning a functional adult without the kind of debilitating mental illness as to leave you a shell of a human. Thankful that the meds help with this.

Thankful for having heat and electricity because there have been winters without both.

Thankful for the time and occasion to even self-reflect enough to see what there is to be thankful for, and thankful I routinely find there is a well of contentment from which to draw.

Spider Jerusalem on voting

You want to know about voting. I’m here to tell you about voting. Imagine you’re locked in a huge underground nightclub filled with sinners, whores, freaks and unnameable things that rape pit bulls for fun. And you ain’t allowed out until you all vote on what you’re going to do tonight. You like to put your feet up and watch “Republican Party Reservation”. They like to have sex with normal people using knives, guns and brand-new sexual organs that you did not know existed. So you vote for television, and everyone else, as far as the eye can see, votes to fuck you with switchblades. That’s voting. You’re welcome.

– Spider Jerusalem, Transmetropolitan