the problem with being relevant

“Towns turn into motels, people into nomadic surges from place to place.”
“The bigger the market, the less you handle controversy.”
“It didn’t come from the government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, we did it to ourselves.”

Those are some of the phrases that popped out of our Fahrenheit 451 passage today. I’m haunted by it – the notion of image over substance, of soundbyte (he predicts a nation mobilized not by a phrase but by a word “change.”) I’m not sure what to make of all of it. I sometimes feel that I’m rationalizing my entertainment addiction with the concept of being “relevant.”

In Jonestown, the people first volunteered. They gave up their freedom for a dizzying utopian dream. It didn’t start out with armed guards and poisoned Kool-Aid. It was the promise of convenience and happiness as long as someone else could think for them.

The cynic in me worries about the culture of mass media. I’m seriously considering ditching my digital identity. When I think of a tweet, I want it to be a real bird, not a one-hundred icon soundbyte on Twitter. When I think of my friends, I want it to be flesh and bones. When I want to connect, I want it to be over a pint or a Venti coffee. Yet, I also realize the need to live within the culture and participate in it – to be in a monastary without wall. I’m pulled toward the cloister of a non-digital identity but I’m also feeling the need to be relevant.

John Spencer

My goal is simple. I want to make something each day. Sometimes I make things. Sometimes I make a difference. On a good day, I get to do both.

More about John

4 responses

  1. I’m gonna be seriously pissed at you if you ditch your digital identity. What about jackasses like me who can’t just meet you for a coffee or a beer?

  2. I probably won’t ditch it altogether, but I’m seriously considering getting rid of Facebook and Twitter.

  3. Dear John,

    It’s an interesting dilemma, and one I’m wrestling with. There’s a wonderful book called “A Plain Life: Walking my Belief” by Scott Savage. []

    If you want to read it, let me know–I’ll send it out to you (though it may take a week or two for me to find it–I am buried in books).


  4. I am pushing seventy. I lived five years in Asia, three in Europe, and I have see a lot of changes in our culture. Every change brings some good and some not so good. The key is to spend enough time with your own thoughts to ground your “self.” Know who you are, then develop really solid friendships. From there you have a foundation of both identity and advisors to sort it all out as you live through all the changes you will see.
    I have been telling kids for forty years now to slow down because they are gong to live to be 120. What does that mean, really! Ninety years of being married, 100 years in the work force? How much smaller will the universe become in your lifetime? How much more impersonal will life become? Seems to me everyone needs to have a plan and vision. The only certainties who you are, real personal relationships, and change.

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