Moving In Stereo

It’s happening. Sort of.

If I’ve been a little silent as of late it isn’t without good reason. I’ve been up to my neck in work on a new project closely related to my comic book series Mixtape.

I’ll be brief and to the point; I’ve partnered with Little Engine Entertainment to develop Mixtape as a half-hour comedy-drama TV series. That’s right, the further adventures of Jim, Noel, Siobhan, Lorelei, and Terry are (hopefully) coming to the small screen. We (Little Engine and I) are currently in the development phase of the sales pitch that we hope to start taking to broadcasters and production partners this fall, with an eye to rolling into production (again, hopefully) sometime in 2022.

Hope is not a business strategy, and we recognize that. But it seems the age of 80s nostalgia is moving off and the 90s are back “in” again (except to people like me, where the 90s apparently never left). But with some BIG musical anniversaries this year (Lollapalooza, Nevermind, Badmotorfinger, Ten, Use Your Illusion 1 & 2, Screamadelica, Out of Time, Blood Sugar Sex Magick, Trompe Le Monde, Bandwagonesque*) now is probably the best shot we have at grabbing the attention of the people we want to grab.

*Seriously, Google “1991 Albums” and prepare to drop your jaw. 1991 might have been THE year the 90s officially began, culturally anyway.

It’s a long road ahead, and one that might never reach its destination, but we all believe in the project and think it has a better chance of moving forward now than it ever did.

So, that’s where you’re going to find me over the coming months; here, working on Mixtape again. It feels good, if a little strange

To be clear this series is NOT an adaptation of the comic; think of it more as a companion piece to those stories. Each issue of Mixtape captures a small moment in the life of its particular main character, but there’s a lot more story to tell that until now has lurked largely in the margins. new characters, new situations, new music. It’s all there. The pictured title page is actually the first completely “new” Mixtape story I’ve written since completing Volume 1 of the series. My hope is that with a series moving forward I’ll be able to return to the comic book world of Mixtape and complete Volume/Side 2.

But that’s all some time from now. Until then I hope you all have a great summer and I’ll see you in September!

Mountains Beyond Mountains

To look at me, a 40-something Gen X-er with more salt in his beard than pepper, you would expect my musical tastes to have ended sometime around the year 2000. Sometimes I worry that’s been the case. Looking at my favorite albums and songs and bands, it’s easy to see why; my music choices have largely remained drawn from the 1970s through the 1990s, with some deep dives into the music of the sixties.

Despite being a 70s kid, the music of my early childhood was the music of the 60s. That was the music of my early years, those long drives with my family, the radio tuned to some oldies station (though back then these “oldies” were barely 20 years old), or an album on our station wagon’s 8-track cassette player.

It was the 70s, okay? Don’t laugh.

This was the pre-teenage, pre-music discovery years of my life. The music I listened to was the music my parents listened to. For most people I’m certain their childhoods were the same. The emotional connection I have to songs like ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Bring It On Home’, ‘Ruby Tuesday’ and ‘Sunny Afternoon’ are largely drawn from those younger years.

I didn’t really start discovering “my” own music until the mid-80s. I’d moved to a new city and state and as such did not integrate very well. After schools and weeknights and weekends were spent listening to the radio in my bedroom. This being the mid-1980s though, it was a fine time to be a music fan or to become one.

Live Aid was the first eye-opener. Queen, U2, and a new-wave band from Boston left the biggest impressions. In fact the first proper album I bought with my own dollars would have been this one:

And it’s still one of my favorites

The Cars were my gateway to modern music. They led to the discovery of bands like Depeche Mode, The Smiths, The Cure, The Jam, Billy Idol, Duran Duran, David Bowie, The Pixies, New Order and on and on and on. This was a golden era for music, as any Gen X-er will tell you, though we probably didn’t appreciate it at the time. 60s music still seemed cooler, and ‘classic’ and was still everywhere, thanks to the first baby Boomers hitting the big 4-0 and entering their midlife crisis years. We 80s kids didn’t yet realize that by the time we reached our parents’ age we’d be nostalgic for the music of our youth the way they were for theirs and would stop looking at new music in the same way we once looked at our older sounds.

[Part of this is actually science. The teenage brain reaches its peak development around the age of 16 and continues on that path until the early 20s. That’s why the music you loved at that age and the five or so year span following remains with you your entire life. While you certainly can and should continue discovering new music, it will never be the same. ]

I, of course, dove deep into music over the next fifteen years or so. I was there for the birth of “Alternative Rock” and Grunge and Hip-Hop and the rise of Generation X. I bought the albums, I went to the shows. I lived the life.

And then … it sort of ended. By 1995 I was parting ways with music. It wasn’t as important to me. The bands I kept up with dropped off, broke up, committed suicide (literal and career). Life got more complicated, the workload more intense. I was in this weird, nebulous place where I wasn’t quite old enough to be nostalgic for my still too-recent childhood and teenage years, but hadn’t yet ‘arrived” in my adult ones. Life felt like it was on pause while I sorted my shit out. Music was paused as well.

So what does all the above have to do with Arcade Fire’s 2010 album “The Suburbs”?

EVERYTHING.

Hypnotic, melodic, complex – The Suburbs was and remains everything a great album should be and does what any great album should do; transport you. Because of the music, obviously, and because of that mood and tone, but mostly because of the subject and title; it’s exactly the album I would have loved when I was a teenager. I can easily picture throwing the cassette into the deck of my Toyota and cruising the streets of my town, and being utterly surrounded by it.

The Suburbs remains my “New York Soundtrack” – the album I’ll put on anytime I want to remember what those Big Apple years were like. Me, essentially starting my career and life over again after some pretty disastrous decisions in the mid-2000s nearly killed my career. It, along with The Dead Weather’s Horehound, Metric’s Fantasies, Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ It’s Blitz! and Coldplay’s Viva La Vida, take me back to a time that seriously does feel like yesterday and a million years ago at the same time. But I’m not here to talk about those great albums (yes, even the Coldplay one). I’m here to talk about The Suburbs.

But not the album. Not exactly.

The Suburbs. The ‘Burbs. The Sprawl. Maligned and scorned by the hip, the self-conscious, the self-absorbed, and the “hip urban elite” who (until Covid-19 anyway) lived comfortably in their lofts and apartments and townhomes of whatever metropolis they call home. The ‘burbs are where you go where the dream dies. When marriage and children enter the picture you feel its pull; abandoning the excitement, the energy, the vibe of the city for the house, the fence, the cul-de-sacs and crescents and tree-lined streets, the strip-malls and shopping centers, bisected by roads and freeways, survivable only by automobile.

Call them “sub-urban.” Beneath contempt.

Well, I’ve come to praise the suburbs, not bury them. The suburbs made me who I am. And in this COVID-era, the suburbs seem to be drawing more people into their orbit. The appeal of the big bad city becomes somewhat limited when you can’t go anywhere or do anything.

Unless you’re wearing a mask, that is.

My first true memory of the suburbs involved me chasing a blimp. I was four years old, happily being four years old in the subdivision I lived in with my parents and sister. One summer evening (childhood memories of these suburbs seem always to be summer) I’m in the backyard of our bungalow and what do I see in the sky but a blimp, much like the Goodyear Blimp, only with red and white colors. I run and tell my dad and tell him we have to follow it. Why he agreed I’ll never know but what resulted was a family outing with me and my mom and my sister in her stroller wandering the tangled network of streets looking for wherever this damn blimp is, just hanging there in the sky. We eventually found it at the edge of our subdivision, among the skeletal structures of the coming expansion of houses yet to be built, yet to be occupied. The “blimp” was really just an oversized helium balloon, with the logo for the construction company on it. I was disappointed that it wasn’t real (and that rides weren’t in the offering), but as we walked back home, I realized that the world existed beyond the limits of my own realm; the front yard and backyard of our house, and wherever my parents would take me. That there was more out there than just my home and street. That there were mountains beyond mountains.

Looking at a map of that neighborhood now I am amazed at how much of my memory of that period is confined to a tiny grid of streets among many. Really my world extended from my street to a block south to my school, and maybe a block or two east and west. My world was comprised of wherever my bike or feet could take me. Venturing a block south of my school was considered a Big Journey, and if we wanted to go to one of the shopping malls in the vicinity we had to ask a parent to drive us and save a quarter to call when we wanted to be picked up. Our experience of the city at large was made in increments and always entailed some sort of voyage.

As we grew older and gained the freedom that comes with age, trips into the city itself involved a lengthy bus to subway ride and consumed the better part of the day. Downtown represented freedom, record stores, comic shops, the best burger joints, and girls (especially girls). On those trips your world expanded to areas accessible by public transit.  Of course when we got our licenses and access to a car, that world grew exponentially.  There was literally no place we couldn’t go and as we explored, as our sphere of influence expanded, the world we grew up in seemed all the more tiny and insignificant. Cruising through neighborhoods only a mile or two west of ours presented homes and schools and kids our age who lived in worlds that were as foreign and unknown to us as ours were to theirs.  We would never experience their lives, the halls of their schools, and maybe we’d pass each other at a mall, we were ships in the night. Maybe we’d learn later, at college, that a new friend lived in a neighborhood that was a stone’s throw away geographically, but a lifetime down the road.

Not to mention that to the creative mind, monsters could be lurking ANYWHERE, even the burbs.

But to understand the allure of the suburbs is to understand their relationship to the city they orbit. To glimpse the glittering skyscrapers of New York or Los Angeles as you pass them on the freeway to your home enclave, is to see a light seductively drawing you in. You want to escape, you want to find your place in that light; you want to find home. I’ve come to realize that dream, that search for your place in the world is a recurring theme in a lot of my work.

When I first experienced The Suburbs I was living in NYC. Prior to that I lived in another large city. All told “Urban” living has occupied 25 years of my life. Big cities, sprawling megalopolis. Places I thought would be my forever home but ended up being just a blip of memory. Places where I thought I’d find a path through life, a career, a happiness that eluded me for much of my life. There’s something to be said for a reinvention. I reinvented myself when I moved off to go to college; again when I threw it all away and made my way to another part of the world. Chasing that dream only to realize it wasn’t the one I really wanted.

And now it’s all over.

In 2018 my family and I decamped to the suburbs; actually to a town founded in 1630 that’s part of a greater metropolitan area (this is no tract house subdivision; it’s older than the danged country). But we’re close enough to the big city that we don’t feel quite so isolated. Our lives are back on those quiet suburban streets, where our child has learned to ride his scooter and now his bike. Where the playgrounds ruing out with the sounds pf playtime and laughter. Where the local baseball diamond hosts little league games all summer long and the ice cream trucks prowl.

It’s certainly a different place from the one I pictured when I began my professional career. Ending up as a work-from-home/stay-at-home dad in a suburb is now where I expected to wind up. It’s a different life than the one I envisioned for myself. In many ways it’s much, much better.

In this pandemic year of 2021 the suburbs are experiencing a rebirth of sorts. They have a much greater draw then they did a decade before. The cities still draw the hopeful in, and I will proselytize that at least a few years of urban life is good for the soul. The cities are where you make your name, where you forge the person you hope to become some day. But stand atop the Empire State Building, Mulholland Drive, the CN Tower or the Prudential Tower, and you’ll see the lines radiating out like spokes on a bicycle wheel, connecting villages to towns and cities and the suburbs in between. At night, the streets and roads and highways gleam, headlights and taillights rushing through like red blood cells through veins and arteries.

The suburbs are about longing. They’re about being on the outside and looking in and dreaming about what was or what could be someday. Not many urban kids rebel against their parents to move to the ‘burbs; it’s always the reverse. The promise of that excitement, that constant search for a place in the world is forged in a suburban setting, not an urban one. In a city like New York you look for an escape from it; the heat, the noise, the people and can find it within a relatively short drive but you always feel the city’s pull on you whether you live there or glimpse it from a hilltop or a highway.

But that longing is part of the romance of the suburbs. You always feel that pull that a better life could lie around the next corner, or the next subdivision over. You can waste your life looking for that place, only to realize that what you’re looking for is right beside you all along.

Together In Electric Dreams

I got my first email address in 1995.

It was one assigned to every student at my college. We were told about these newfangled “emails” during orientation, and encouraged to use them because “the internet” was “the wayof the future”.

As foretold to us by Perry and Aniston …

I don’t recall ever using my college email. I’m sure few of us college age kids nearing graduation gave email or the internet much thought. We were children of the 70s and 80s and in some cases the 60s. We’d grown up without an internet and that analog life was our life. We lined up at Ticketmaster for concert tickets, we drove, walked, or subwayed to the record store on new release day of our favorite band’s new album. We listened to the radio. We stood in line at the movies. TV was whatever was on the dial. TVs had dials, before graduating to huge bulky converter boxes, and from there to sleek handheld remotes.

We had VCRs to record the shows we didn’t want to miss, and loaned out tapes to friends. We had tapes dedicated to full series runs of The Simpsons, The Kids In The Hall, Saturday Night Live, Twin Peaks. Commercials and all.

Whenever a favorite band was dropping a new music video, we had to watch MTV or Much Music at the appointed time for the premiere.

We made mixtapes to compile our favorite songs, for road-trips, for cruising, for our walkmans. For friends.

We learned the value of being bored. Of not having the world at our fingertips. That boredom forced us to go out and seek adventure rather than expecting it to be delivered to us.

When we graduated from high school, from college, we truly lost touch with old friends, old enemies. Our lives intersected then moved quickly away from one another.

And all the while The Internet was lurking. Waiting to change our lives.

As pictured …

Much has been written about the negative effects of the internet as it has entwined its coils around our daily lives. And entwine it has. When was the last time you went completely internet-free? For how long? Every hotel, restaurant, museum has free public wi-fi. You’re never really internet-free or free of the internet.

Walk through any museum, gallery, aquarium and more often than not you’ll find people hyper-focused on their phones while Degas, the Mysteries of Egypt, and giant sea turtles linger in the background of our digital lives. I gave up my cell-phone when the pandemic began. I didn’t need to be in constant contact for one, but also because I wanted to be more available, more present in my life and my family’s life. I still feel like I’m the only parent at the playground not scrolling through their phone while their child plays.

The internet is here and it’s not going away. From QR codes to text messaging, it’s a part of our lives, good and bad.

But the internet hasn’t all been bad, and this is NOT a “boo internet bad Hulk smash” post.

No, this is:

FIVE THINGS THE INTERNET HAS BEEN GOOD FOR (PLUS ONE BONUS THING)

Spotify has been a good thing. No, a great thing. Possibly my favorite thing. Music journalist/friend of Mixtape Alan Cross had long pontificated on the concept of “The Celestial Jukebox”; a wondrous device that contains every song ever recorded, there at your fingertips. Basically, Spotify which, while falling short of every song ever recorded, has been a godsend to music fans such as myself. Especially duringthe writing of Mixtape, Spotify has allowed me to plunge down the rabbit hole of music, deep diving myself into the back catalogues of David Bowie, Alice Cooper, the Everly Brothers, The Rolling Stones, Disco, Punk, Pop, Rockabilly … on and on and on. Thanks to Spotify I’ve discovered newer artists and songs I never even knew existed.

Oh, and thanks to Spotify I actually have been spending more money on music, putting to bed the lie – to me anyway – that Spotify is killing music sales. I would never have delved into the extraordinary back catalogue of current favorite classic rock band The Kinks had Spotify not been there. I would have killed for something like Spotify when I was a teenager, back when it was easier to hear about a band or a song then to actually hear it.

Wait for it …

Yes, YouTube. I know the horror stories; the out-of-control algorithms, the fascist reich-wing content pushed on unsuspecting child viewers, the horrible, horrible comment sections*.

[*ProTip: all comment sections, be they on Youtube, your local newspaper’s website, or social media are all terrible in their own ways. The concept of comment sections are terrible too, because who really wants to be subjected to the brain-farts of random blowhards on the world wide web? Internet comenting and social media have killed boredom; they’ve required our cups to constantly be filled. Comments are why I have comment blockers installed on my web browsers – I recommend the “Shut Up” browser extension.]

With YouTube the experience is what you make of it. Keep clicking on political content, on controversy and outrage, don’t be surprised when political content you disagree with gets shoved into your timeline (and certainly don’t complain about it either because you did this to yourself). My YouTube experience is dominated largely by film criticism; long-form videos analyzing a film a TV show, a movie trailer. there’s a lot of excellent film criticism on YouTube; much more so than in mainstream media, where the emphasis is on money and how much of it a movie is making or losing. But there’s a lot more on YouTube I gravitate towards. Old Rankin-Bass cartoons, old toy commercials, original broadcasts of Top of the Pops. All the weird pop-cultural ephemera from the 70s and 80s. The obscure TV and movies and more that seem to fallen through the mainstream cracks have found a safe home on YouTube. Even watching a video of 80s mall culture has been extremely beneficial for a book I’m working on. I’m sure I’m missing a lot of them but to go down my YouTube rabbit hole, give Lindsay Ellis, Patrick Willems, Layton Eversaul, Matt Draper, Like Stories of Old, Lady Knight The Brave and Oliver Harper a whirl.

If you buy my book, buy it from Bookshop

One of the great challenges of 21st century publishing is the dominance of a company whose name begins with A and ends with N. Amazon has dominated shopping and retail for the last decade plus, more so since the pandemic started. Amazon has torn a swatch through the retail experience, and the publishing world. Your success or failure as an author depends on the first week’s numbers on Amazon. You’re encouraged to bludgeon readers to pre-order your book on Amazon, to leave reviews on Amazon, to create an Amazon Author Page, to surrender, Dorothy, to AZ the Great and Powerful. Short version: Amazon has become too big, too powerful, and the publishers have basically climbed into bed with an entity determined to destroy them. Amazon is the toxic boyfriend/girlfriend you know is bad for you but can’t quite escape. They own everything and are trying to own everything else. Publishers affixing themselves to the Amazon train will ride it for a while, but over time will discover the landscape they travel through has become more barren, more lifeless as Amazon consumes everything, even those same publishers I’m sure.

Why am I ranting against Amazon? Because for books, there’s a much better option if you must shop online but don’t want to contribute to the fall of culture and civilization by shopping at Amazon.

Bookshop.org is an online book-seller, competitive enough with Amazon, that you’re paying close to the same price for books, by a website that kicks up to 30% of its sales to a local bookstore of your choice. During the pandemic I ordered a lot of books through Bookshop.org because my local bookseller had been forced to shutter temporarily while still needing to pay rent and suppliers and electricity and so on. Even now, I still order my books through Bookshop because I know every dollar they send to my local bookshop is a dollar Amazon doesn’t get their mitts on. Choosing Bookshop over Amazon might not win the war, but it will show you’re not ready to capitulate to the big guys just yet. And maybe you’ll do some good for your local bookshop and local community. After all, if you’re an author you need to hold those events and signings somewhere, right?

Streaming Video (in general). Kind of connected to YouTube, but I feel like 2020-2021 became the year when streaming video finally became what it was meant to be. Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, Disney +, yes … but also Kanopy, Shudder, Mubi, Criterion. Like Alan Cross’s Celestial Jukebox, we have a Celestial Idiot Box. We have more TV and movies and documentaries and docuseries than we can shake a remote at. We also have PBS.org, PBS Kids (my son’s favorite) and a slew of other options. With a click of a button I can watch The Mandalorian, Wild Strawberries, The Haunting of Hill House, What We Do In The Shadows (movie and series), Seven Samurai, Piranha, the complete runs of The Kids In The Hall, Twin Peaks, Cheers, Battlestar Galactica, The Greatest American Hero … endless and onward.

I still buy physical media – I’ve invested too much money in my DVD and Blu-Ray collection to stop – but I do rely on streaming more than I used to. Streaming isn’t perfect – selections vary, titles disappear without notice, picture and sound quality are terrible compared to a high-def video disc, but the sheer volume of content out there is legion. And perhaps the best thing about streaming video is you’re not fixed to a set day and time to watch. Any show at any time? The future has arrived.

This Website. Yes you read that right; www.bradabraham.com is a reason the internet isn’t all bad. For one, the fact you’re reading this proves that there’s something compelling enough about my website and me to keep you coming back. There are millions of web pages like mine out there. Whatever your interest, whatever your want, it’s waiting to be discovered and bookmarked and re-visited. For me, my website fulfils what social media never has; furnished me a small corner of the world wide interwebz that’s mine and mine alone.

It’s not ruled by an algorithm, it’s not dependent on Search Engine Optimization – though to be honest when you Google my name, this website is the first thing to pop up in the search results, take THAT Facebook! It’s not a top site, and it reaches a limited number of visitors, but it’s a consistent number, not the fluctuating one you get when using Twitter or Instagram or Facebook to get word out about yourself. In those cases you’re always going to be a Minnow in the Pacific unless you’re prepared to devote huge swaths of your day-to-day being Very Online and Feeding The Machine.

When I started this website eleven years ago I had no real idea what I was going to use it for. Back then I was just a semi-successful still-struggling screenwriter. Since then I’ve become an acclaimed comic book writer and novelist, I’ve had two movies and one webseries produced, and I’ve worked on multiple TV series. I’ve moved, grown, changed, aged. Looking back through the archive of posts here (a decade’s worth) I’m amazed not only by the volume of content but by the fact I kept at it, even at times when I really didn’t want to. I still have times when I feel like giving it up, or at least putting it on the backburner. I’m too bored, tired, distracted by real-life stuff that some months I just don’t feel like blogging anything anymore.

And yet, here I am, still doing it. While it does seem like the world and the people in it – friends current and former – are off in FB and Twitter land, I’m here and much happier for it.

For me writing and creating has never been about getting big views, big sales numbers. It’s never been about being a Bestseller, an Award-Winner. I’ve never wanted to be “a writer of note” – I just want to write. After 22 years “writing” remains the best part of being a writer and probably the only part of being a writer that I still enjoy. And this website is a part of it.

Back in the Long Ago and Far Away (i.e. “High School”), a 1500-2000 word essay was a major part of your History or English grade. It was a major achievement, all those words and thoughts organized and footnoted and sourced. This post, which I banged out over a couple hours one morning in early November is over 2000 words. What used to be a challenge and a major undertaking, I can now do before my coffee turns cold. And while a lot of that is on me, a lot of it is thanks to the internet and this web-page that, like a garden, requires fresh water, attention, and care.

So as I say goodbye to 2021, I leave you with this:

Thanks to the internet, everything is eternal. Even Emu’s Pink Windmill Kids.

(You thought I forgot the BONUS THING didn’t you? Well I didn’t.)

Bonus Thing: Online Banking

Specifically Online Check Deposits. Seems mundane, right? Well, as a writer your sporadic pay generally comes more likely than not through a good old-fashioned paper check. Royalties from books, royalties from movies and TV, checks from your agency with their 10-15% fee deducted. So when a check arrives I have two choices;

  1. Go to my bank to deposit direct through the ATM or front counter, which involves me hopping in my car and driving 15 minutes there, and 15 minutes back, or;
  2. Open the banking app on my tablet, take a photo of the front and back of the check, and deposit it digitally. Total time; less than it takes me to put on shoes, grab the keys, grab my coat.

Not terribly exciting, huh? Well, that depends on who the check is made out to 😉

  • This post was going to run last month but I decided to do the Christmas story instead. Did you read it? If not you should; I really like this one. You’ll find it here.

Delete Facebook

Let’s talk about online life, shall we? When the clock rolled forth on January 1st, 2000, none of us knew what was coming. As an avid Sci-Fi fan, creator, and reader, I can say that nobody in the genre ever predicted what Social Media would become. It didn’t even predict social media, let alone the internet. Seriously; in the grand scale and scope of speculative fiction, NOBODY ever predicted the world-wide-web accurately. William Gibson likely came closest with Neuromancer. While the internet was a thing in the 80s we just didn’t hear about it.

The Internet. It could have been beautiful. And had kung-fu.

We do everything online these days. Much of it we do through mobile technology. Through phones that carry more processing power than your standard-issue desktop computer circa 1998 did. The internet has changed our way of life, but it’s also changed the way people think and relate to one another.

It hasn’t been pretty. Especially, it seems, in the last five or so years. Reducing people to names and profile pictures on Facebook or Twitter has done more to dehumanize each other than was probably intended. Or maybe that was the point

Pictured: Twitter. Where the cruelty IS the point.

I don’t really get involved online anymore. Not with debates, not with “being in a community”. It just holds no interest for me. Because I used to get involved. In debates. In “community”. I used to spend much more time online in the morass of social media than was probably healthy. I told myself it was for work; as a writer, you need to engage with your audience, you need to promote, you have to hustle. But doing all those things felt empty. Like it was just work. And it was just work, only the kine that largely gave me back little in return. So, in 2019 I said goodbye to Twitter (I said goodbye to Facebook in 2013, though I do maintain an author page though another administrator runs it). I’m still on Instagram but I’m only really there to follow art and travel and photography accounts. Comments are generally closed on my posts, I don’t allow strangers to drop in and spam me with promo. It’s “anti-social-networking”.

This all began in earnest last spring, as I was in the early stages of outlining my next book. It takes place in the 1980s; a pre-internet era. And I decided to be method in my writing in that I wasn’t going to use social media at all while drafting. I could use the internet but only for research. If I needed to know for example what the Top 10 songs in the US were the third week of April 1985, I could do that.

Pictured: a scene from my next book

But the minutia of checking Twitter or Facebook or whatever went away. And after finishing my draft four months later, it kind of stayed that way. I got used to not having social media around, and I have to say I like it not being around. I like not knowing what everybody’s up in arms about, or arguing over. I like being out of the loop. In fact, in the process I rediscovered what we’ve all been missing; the fine art of Not Knowing.

If you’re of a certain age, you remember Not Knowing. You didn’t know what was going on the next town over, or the next suburb. Heck, even venturing to the other side of your small town was a trek. Here you encountered people you’d never seen before and never would again, unless you went back. You had friends, you made friends, and when you moved away, you lost touch with them. I can look at my old school photos, from Kindergarten to pretty much Eighth Grade and only recognize a couple names, and only few faces beyond those. When I got older I thought things would change; that I’d remain closer to people I knew in high school, and college. And for a time – the early, generally non-evil Facebook years of 2007-2010 – I did remain close; re-establishing contact with people I’d lost along the way.

Even then, by 2012 I was getting tired of keeping up. I realized that these people I knew once upon a time weren’t the same people. And the thing is I wanted them to be those same people, and knew that wasn’t possible. they’d changed, and I’d changed, and shortly thereafter – as in seven years ago today – I logged into Facebook one final time, to delete my profile.

Was losing touch better? I hate to say it, but yeah; it kind of was. Because knowing those places, those moments, those friendships were impermanent is what made them special. It’s what made me cherish those moments and my memories of them.

One other positive aspect of walking away from social media is I can enjoy things on their own merits now. It seems that in the last five years or so the culture wars have migrated over into entertainment in a big way, to the point where who you are as a person is judged by the art you consume. If you like X you’re a bad person. If you didn’t see XX you’re the reason XX failed and that makes you a bad person. There’s no middle ground anymore; you’re either with the mob or against it. It’s almost like you can’t be indifferent to anything anymore.

Because we ALL have opinions …

Being outside that bubble has been liberating. Not that I ever cared what people though of me because of the things I enjoyed, but being sidelined by choice has been an eye opener as to how people related to one another now. It’s no longer enough to watch X, listen to Y, read Z. You have to declare allegiance to your tribe, you have to wear the colors, you have to gather on the field of battle and face off against Those People.

My motto is simple: enjoy the stuff you enjoy, ignore the rest. Don’t let anyone dictate what you should/should not entertain yourself with. As long as it isn’t something horribly offensive you aren’t hurting anybody by watching or reading or listening to it. And if you truly love something, love it. Don’t let the naysayers tell you “it was crap, it was terrible”. And likewise don’t tell them the same with something you didn’t like. You have the power. The world won’t stop turning because you did or didn’t express your opinion or share a thought.

My advice? Find your happiness, embrace it, and never let it go. Likewise, anything that makes you miserable, sets you on edge, get rid of it. I know that’s not always possible. Your boss could be an asshole but you need that job. But there’s always another job, another town, another place.

My life has improved in many ways because of this. Just in the case of time. Because don’t realize how much of your life you can waste in a day by hitting “refresh”.