The Digital Curtain and the New Iron Cage

You may have read a few thoughts here about the problem with social media as what Infinity Gauntlet calls “universal input,” the immediate awareness of all life and matter.  I’ve talked about taking a break from Facebook and about not really missing it and not realizing how long I’d been gone.

It also occurs to me that not participating in social media may have unintended, isolating effects.  But I think the remedy there remains in the real world of in-person interaction, something that’s increasingly easier to withdraw from given an expended digital presence.  It’s a not-altogether-surprising idea.

Another tech analogy seems apropos here: the need to reboot.  Reconsidering the social graph has helped reboot my neural pathways away from the reward system some forms of social media train us to crave.  100 years ago, Max Weber talked about labor rights, economic issues and social anxieties in terms of an “iron cage.”  The Cold War brought us the Iron Curtain.  Billy Joel gave us the Nylon Curtain (and we’re living here in Allentown), language for a social and economic barrier that seems far more permeable than it really is.  In the digital age, we have to consider the digitization of our curtains and cages.  Their existence isn’t as obvious, and we’re often hemmed in without knowing.

I don’t have any pat answers, but I can say who and what I understand myself to be.

I am a child of God, a follower of Jesus.

I am a pastor, a progressive Christian.

I’m a graduate of Yale Divinity School (MDiv) and the New School (MFA, creative writing) and Ursinus College (political philosophy).

I participate in my family business.

I am an advocate for people living in poverty and people experiencing homelessness.

I am working on projects that synthesize these settings and experiences, some of which are obvious and public, some of which are quietly rejected by literary journals, and some of which are works in progress with varying degrees of promise.

I feel very, very free.  I know that many people don’t.

I find this video therapeutic.

I miss Prince and Tom Petty and Leonard Cohen.

I have more to do.

I believe in forgiveness.   I need it and I need to give it.

I believe in sharing grace and giving people a break.

I believe baseball is the Beautiful Game.

I believe in local farms and local food.

I believe kids grow up fast, and I don’t believe life should ever be what happens while you’re busy making other plans.








The Oppressive Metrics of Being Dug

I have been in the midst of a Facebreak. I didn’t delete or hide my account.  I just took the app off my phone.

It wasn’t a Lenten practice, but a bid to rediscover my own personal, emotional, political, and spiritual baselines.  These are easy to lose in an echo chamber, and hard to recover without stepping away.


Something I read right after the Cambridge Analytica story has stuck with me: what if our species is not meant to be connected in this way?  We’re certainly meant to share connections, but what if social media, along with the good it can do, also amplifies our anxieties and passive aggression?  What if it really does take us out of our everyday moments?  What if it really does affect our moods? Our habits? Our appetites?

I have been listening to “When Doves Cry” an awful lot.  That’s probably not germane, but it might be.  Dig, if you will, this picture:  in 2018, the lyrics are about the metrics of not being dug.  No likes on your latest clever status?  How could your friends leave you standing/alone in a world so cold?  Maybe you’re just too demanding, maybe you’re just like your @Father/ too bold?  Maybe you’re just like your @Mother/she’s never satisfied…

We now know that there’s never really such a thing as enough likes. We know the feeling of validation and the primal act of gathering approval are both psychologically addictive. We fret about who liked a post instead of loving it.  We vow to do better next time.

“It’s just exhausting,” Melvin Udall said, “talking like this.”  He was referring to inane conversation in person.  I can’t even image what he’d do with Facebook.

Knowing Jack: Square Solutions to Dorsey’s Twitter Problem?

Mobile payment is huge in the food truck business, and Square is a huge player not only in mobile payment, but in point-of-sales in general.  It was co-founded a 7 years ago by CEO Jack Dorsey.

If you’ve wrapped your truck in the last few years, you probably have a Twitter icon on it somewhere, maybe even some hashtags.  Twitter was co-founded 10 years ago by CEO Jack Dorsey.

Square and Twitter have absolutely no formal connection.  One isn’t a subsidiary of the other, nor are they divisions of a shared corporate parent.  Jack Dorsey is the CEO of both. He runs two completely separate publicly traded San Fransisco tech firms.

One is doing very, very well.  The other is Twitter.

This is the fascinating story of Dorsey’s return to Twitter, and something of an expose on the company’s internal struggles. It’s also a good read for any entrepreneur, and that includes all food truckers.

Writer Nick Bilton notes that Twitter suffers from identity issues.  What kind of tech firm is it, really? Does it specialize in something?  Does it specialize in anything?  To use a foodservice metaphor, does it have a focus, like Dorsey’s favorite taco trucks do, or is it Silicon Valley’s ultimate grab-joint?

Twitter’s feed is kind of clunky, and engagement is easy in theory but also hard-won. Food truckers benefit, of course, from the standard “here’s a picture of what I’m eating for lunch” way of using the service, but even there, Instagram is, well…eating Twitter’s lunch. It might be more accurate to say it’s eating Twitter.  Other competitors are doing the same in other areas.

Then there’s Square.  That’s a service I use everyday.  So do hundreds of thousands of other small business owners.  We don’t always have time for even the most intuitive and gratifying social platforms, but we need to process credit cards efficiently and often on-the-go.  We must use Square or something like it.  We should and do use social, but when we do, Twitter if often an afterthought. It’s hard to crack. It can be rewarding, and it’s often fun. But it’s also work.  Work is time. Time is money. Square facilitates the flow of money, and that’s why Square prints money.

That’s what Twitter needs to crack.  It’s not an essential tool.  Neither are most other forms of social, but platforms like Facebook and Instagram seem to scratch our more persistance social itches.

I like Twitter, but very few of my IRL friends are even on it.  On the business side, I use other means to schedule my tweets, track my interactions, and build my audience.

What do others think?