At the brink of a new year, it’s that time again to make resolutions. My routine is to resolve things while in a state of quiet reflection; thus, I rarely make any proclamations out loud. But about six weeks ago, I took a break from Facebook, and it has left me feeling so measurably happier with my relationships on the Internet that I thought it worthy to share with you. A positive way to state my resolution is:
I will strive for deep, rewarding connections in 2015.
I was addicted to Facebook’s variable interval reinforcement pattern for years (AP Psych nerd alert!). I kept telling myself that occasional adorable baby photos outweighed negative posts. However, over time I realized those brief happy moments weren’t making up for the barbed wire of snark I encountered there. Sometimes Facebook is the drunk cousin at your wedding who corners and ropes you into a long conversation; meanwhile, the friends you desperately want to interact with are in another room.
Maybe you’ve never been in Facebook’s addictive clutches, or maybe you are on Facebook and like it. Good for you! Actually, if you’re a user of any form of Internet—email, chat rooms, etc.—you might identify with my addiction. Here’s a quote I like about relationships on the Internet from a New Yorker article (emphasis is mine):
“The Internet invites you to count your followers and your friends; it privileges the breadth of your social network as opposed to the depth of those connections. Intimacies can be found in the anonymous corners of chat rooms, but those exchanges are colored by the fact that you might be pouring out your heart to a twelve-year-old or a robot.”
Or here are some of the brilliant Elan Morgan’s thoughts on Internet shaming (emphasis is again mine):
It’s a real mess out there, and moral vitriol comes with a delicious adrenaline rush, so it’s not likely to sort itself out any time soon or at all reasonably. Oh, internets. What are we to do with you?
Unmanageable breadth coupled with shallow connections and moral vitriol are what I miss least about Facebook. But I’ll admit there are things I do miss. I’m turning to Instagram and Twitter these days for my streams of photos and information, respectively.
Instagram’s draw is self-explanatory, but on first glance, Twitter might seem superficial. I agree with Elan that, if cultivated well, Twitter can become your digital home to a cadre of smart and polite folks. Just the fact that I converse with people like Elan there keeps me coming back (and Cheryl Strayed retweeted me recently, so…). Side note: If you’re going to use Twitter, it’s best to follow these two rules: 1) keep lists, and 2) use a third-party app like TweetDeck to view it. See Nina Badzin’s Twitter tutorial for more excellent tips (thanks to Dana for providing the connection!).
To take the place of sites I used to “like” to receive updates, I’ve created a list of sites I like to read, my own happy reading place on the interwebs. My kid self is shaking her head at me that one of the sites in my “news feed” is the New Yorker. Yes indeed, twelve-year-old me, the New Yorker is now my favorite magazine. My aunt has subscribed to the New Yorker since probably before I was born. When I was young, the whole thing drove me crazy from the seemingly nonsensical cartoons to the back section of fun things we couldn’t go do because they were in NYC.
What I love about the New Yorker now is it refuses to stoop to the incessant click-bait babble of Slate, Salon, etc. Even The Atlantic is drawn into that sludge, bless their hearts (the January ’15 cover got the hubs riled up over its unnecessary drama). The New Yorker’s unremitting weekly pace makes my palms sweat a little; for now, I’m content to read articles online.
Here’s a thing I like about writers at The New Yorker. They are modern soothsayers, analyzing and reporting trends I didn’t see coming. One of my favorite writers from the magazine is Maria Konnikova. This chick can write and knows her pop-psych science, my favorite kind. Her piece on Internet addiction is full of truthiness.
What are your favorite Internet safe havens? Do you use Facebook without encountering the problems I mentioned? I’d love to hear more about your experiences, and feel free to share favorite reading sources in the comments!
In other New Year’s related interests, I’m making our annual hoppin’ John, which is a traditional Southern dish to make on NYD. There’s something about peas that represents prosperity for the coming year. I make hoppin’ John because it’s easy, I love the taste, and now is as good a time as any; plus, I usually have a ham bone left over from Christmas day (the leftover ham itself goes here and into a breakfast casserole. I may post that recipe next week). I’m posting this recipe because I realized today when getting ready to make it that I had never posted it before.
For the recipe below, I combined aspects of this Cooking Light article I’ve had for a decade with Emeril’s nice touches and a bit of new flare from the LA Times. I’m not fussy about a single method; it’s a good one-pot, use-what-ya-got meal. This year I even have leftover cooked rice from our Christmas morning fried rice, so I’m adding it later instead of adding uncooked grains earlier on.
1 lb. bag of black eyed peas, soaked overnight, rinsed, and drained
2 tsp. bacon fat or oil
1 c. onion, chopped (about 1 medium)
1/2 c. celery, chopped
1/2 c. green or red bell pepper, chopped (optional; I rarely have these on hand in winter)
1 Tbs. garlic, minced (about 3 cloves)
1 large smoked ham hock (or leftover ham bone)
2 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme
4 c. chicken stock
hot sauce, fresh hot peppers, or ground cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
1 c. long-grain white rice (or 3 c. steamed)
salt & pepper to taste
1. In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, saute onion, celery, and bell pepper (if using) in the bacon fat for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 additional minute.
2. Add ham hock, bay leaves, thyme, chicken stock, peas, hot sauce, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes to 1 hour or until peas are tender and creamy but not a mushy mess.
3. Shred meat off hock and add to the pot, or if using fresh cooked and diced ham, add it now. If you’re using uncooked rice, add it now too. Adding additional liquid if needed, cook 20 more minutes, covered and without stirring. If serving with cooked rice, you can stir it in once cooking is complete and leave it covered, with no heat, for 10 minutes to get hot.
If you’ve made it this far, bravissimo! As a last note, I’ll direct you to read the lyrics from David Bowie’s song I borrowed for my title; it’s lovely when read as a poem.