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I don't do “social media”.
By that term, I mean Facebook, and LinkedIn, and Google+, and all the others like them: all of the sites that are supposed to connect us with those of like mind and common interests.
This essay was prompted by a recent spate of “invitations” to “connect” on a certain site intended to foster a community of technical professionals. Thanks, but no. There is a time and a place for standards in my industry: for style guidelines, for source code control, for testing, and for other tools and rules to help people working together to develop better products. However, I am not a piece of code, I am not a robot, I am not a “resource”, and I am not a product myself, to be standardized.
I prefer an ordinary web page. This site isn't fancy, it doesn't use databases or web development frameworks or even much script of any kind. It doesn't have dropdown menus or a lot of graphics. However, it's mine. This is me.
Certainly, there is a purpose and place for these so-called social media sites. I don't make my own clothes, I don't grow much of my own food, but I do know how to move bits around, even if web design isn't my specialty. So it seems absurd to express my individuality using cookie cutters. (Allusion intentional.)
I don't expect everyone to get out vi or emacs and craft their own outpost on the web by typing in raw html. Far from it. On the other hand, I don't understand why more people aren't at least a little more creative with what are supposed to be expressions of their personae. It wouldn't be so bad if those same people had spiked, dyed hair, or creative tatoos, or grew their own vegetables. The problem (for me, most everyone else seems happy with it) is that few people's lives have any measure of creativity. It's not merely a lack of thinking outside the box, it's extends to failure to play out of the box, eat out of the box, work out of the box, or just setting the box afire and roasting marshmallows.
I think the problem is too much fear. We were taught from an early age how to do this and how to do that and how to think and what was right or wrong or good or bad. Yes, there are good reasons not to do some things, but we don't avoid those things because of the reasons, we avoid them because we're trained, like so many pets and domesticated animals. There are pets who chew up the furniture and pets who don't, but they're all trained. We're afraid, because we were trained just like domestic animals, and obeyed because we learned the pain that failure to obey would bring. Animals are trained using whips and treats, humans are trained using beatings and social ostracism and doublespeak and denial of basic needs. You don't see those threats overtly used, because, like well-trained animals, we have internalized the sticks and carrots, just as dogs will come when commanded even though the training tools are long gone.
We're human, we're capable of rising above that. Or are we?
So, when we hear that we have to have a Facebook page, or we have to get this or that video game, or we can't be happy without this or that commodity or religion or activity, we fall in line and comply. Consumer culture is great for those who make and sell millions of things, all alike or almost so, but it's bad for the soul. It makes a few rich, but impoverishes most of our spirits.
No doubt, to some, I'm as boring as they get. I'm sure that my life is not very creative by some standards. But, damn it, I'm going to try. And, until I find some other outlet for my meager abilities to invent and explore and discover and make new things and places and ideas, I'm going to make my own web page. You can have a social media page, if you want, and I'll marvel at your novel ways of decorating a room or an automobile or a garden, if you like. Give me something to teach me, inspire me, cause me to think, blow my mind, or even to anger me. One way or another, though, leave the confines of the box, and maybe build a world without so many boxes.
A template web page is to a custom web page as a paint-by-numbers kit is to a blank canvas. Good for keeping bored people busy, and maybe a little educational, but we don't hang paint-by-numbers art in museums. (OK, somewhere, someone has such an exhibit, but you get the idea.)
A template web page is to a custom web page as a GUI is to a command line. Read Neal Stephenson's essay, In the Beginning Was the Command Line; he explains this better than I.
A template web page is to a custom web page as an expert's mind is to a beginner's mind. Yes, I meant to say this, I didn't get it backwards: in this context, “beginner” is better than “expert”. This is from Zen lore. Check out 101 Zen Stories, for a taste of this.
A template web page is to a custom web page as a military haircut is to a unique hairstyle. Hey, even those soldiers and sailors, with the same uniforms and haircuts, can break out and get sometimes awesome tatoos, or make great music, or compose unique poems and stories.
If you're afraid to look ridiculous or incompetent by making your own web page, or painting your shoes, or inventing your own ways to spice up a canned meal, go ahead and do it anyway. You have little to lose but fear. If your friends will ridicule you, then maybe you will need new friends. The drawings of little children can be every bit as beautiful as those of supposed professionals hanging in galleries. Be a kid again. Especially if you're a grown-up, who's going to stop you?
Copyright 2017 Michael Marking. All Rights Reserved.