Tag Archives: identity

Disappear here

It’s been quite a summer. I’ve moved across the country with my wife to start a PhD. I’ve quit my job. I’ve taken on a new identity- doctoral student. Progress.

Before I delve into the maelstrom of academics that is a doctoral program I decided to catch up on some pleasure reading. I wanted to remind myself that people do read for pleasure.  I read three books within the last 3 weeks:

The Catcher in the Rye– J.D. Salinger

Less than Zero– Bret Easton Ellis

Lunar Park– Bret Easton Ellis

If you know anything about the above books/authors then you know I am probably in a weird head-space right about now.

I picked the above books at near random- The Catcher in the Rye was given to me for free by a friend in Athens just before I moved, and I have the two Ellis novels as leftover Christmas gifts that I never read. Despite the lack of purpose in my choosing to read them they are all connected by a similar theme: Identity. In each of these books the main character is trying to identify himself. And, in all three, the main character is at some point of transition- either flunking out of school, returning home, or trying to transition into fatherhood.

The Catcher in the Rye and Less than Zero are the most similar. Being lost. Lonliness. Self isolation. It’s clear that, reading through these novels, Ellis has taken his cues from Salinger. Similar styles, stream of consciousness at times. Colloquial language. They both write in a way that draws you in. However, they both have a tendency to come off as entitled. Scenes of private prep schools, private liberal arts schools, excessive materialism, lack of value for relationships. Where Salinger is whiny, forever searching for some deeper meaning from a highschool dropout, Ellis is loquacious, often giving erroneous descriptions of a luxury car, household décor, names of people at parties.

Lunar Park, while tackling some similar themes, is different. It’s quite a strange novel, to say the least. I’m not even sure if it is a novel, or if it is a memoir, or some kind of horror filled yet hopeful wish.  Whatever label it should fit under is irrelevant as I’m sure the real purpose is to help Ellis work out his own inner demons (no pun intended) with his deceased father. It was a good novel to end the trio.

It’s poignant that my life, my identity, is also changing, is changed. In a way, I identify with all the characters here, I am these characters. Yet, I am not. In Less than Zero the antagonist, Clay, says all that matters “ . . . is I want to see the worst.” I don’t. Okay, I do, but that’s another blog post. Right now I want to see the best. I want to see the best in myself.

Where the characters of the aforementioned novels are filled with hopelessness, I am filled with hope. I am ready for this next stage of life. I am ready to achieve my best.

I appreciate all the readers who follow my blog. This was a heavy post, but a needed post. My writing may diminish in the coming months as much of my energy will go back into school. But I will be sure to post, I am trying to adhere to a once a month minimum, even if that once a month is just a photography post.

I hope you are achieving your best. If not, I hope you are on your way to it.

Thanks for the read.

-ASG

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Give Google+ the finger?

I recently read an article on TechCrunch about Google+ censoring pics uploaded by users. I love TechCrunch, so it pains me to write this post. But only a little.

Let me first state that I think it is stupid that Google+ censored some pictures of people giving the middle finger. Of all things to try to censor, flipping a bird seems like weak sauce. But, Google+ has the right. There, I said it.

Everyday millions (maybe billions?) of people upload tons of user content to websites like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and WordPress. Once that user content is uploaded, who owns it? I confess I have no training in internet-ethics (if that is even the right terminology) and I have no concrete facts about how these websites work on a legal level. But why should anyone expect that Google+ can’t touch their data? There, I said it.

I think of it like this- I go to my local university and post copied pictures of myself flipping a bird on the university owned bulletin boards. Then the university takes them down. Can I get pissed at the university because they took down my pictures off of their public boards, which they pay for, supply, and moderate? Is it even my property anymore once I place it in that public forum, especially if it is only a copy? Probably not.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not pro-censorship. However, I also believe that Google+ (or any other social networking company) has the right to create whatever web environment they want (even if that includes hypocritically allowing some porn-ish pictures, as the original author Alexa Tsotsis points out).

Minus the finger.

I think the larger problem here isn’t censorship but rather identity.

When something happens to our social network profiles it feels like something has happened to us. We tend to forget/overlook the fact that our online profiles are just that- profiles. They are not us. When Facebook changes their interface it feels like it has changed something about you. It feels like an intrusion. It feels like a personal violation. However, it is far from personal. It is only digital.

If we had the same stuff posted about ourselves on a public bulletin board (that we didn’t own) as we do on our social networks, and that stuff got removed by the owner, would we feel as angry? Maybe, but I doubt it. A bulletin board doesn’t feel like me. And if you just had the thought “I would never put the stuff I have on Facebook/Google+ on a public bulletin board” then you should probably reevaluate what you are putting out there in general.

And as far as Google+ goes, is it really that shocking that they would monitor your profile pics? I mean, these are the same guys who track your location, track your browsing habits, and auto-read your mail so you get those creepy targeted ads. When I think about how much Google knows about me my profile pic becomes the least of my data worries.

Thanks for reading.

-ASG