Keeping up with the Greens

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I remember the first time I heard the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” in high school. Strangely enough, it came out of the mouth of one of the most judgmental, “high and mighty” teachers I’ve ever encountered. But, I digress. This KUWTJ mentality has followed me throughout life, whether I knew what it was called or not. I think, as Americans, we can all relate to this aspect of our society. You have to be a very strong-willed, independent person to not buy into it.

And I’m not that strong. One of my biggest challenges in life is trying to find the balance – of being content with who I am, how I live my life, and simply not caring what others think. I suck at it. You know who’s really, really quite good at it? My husband. I admire him SO much that he’s his own man. Whether we know where our future leads us or not, he’s confident in his own abilities and in the fact that happiness will find us no matter what. It’s something that I admire in him and, at times, it’s all I have to keep my head above water. That’s a good thing about our marriage – somehow, when one of us gets to the point of desperation (be it from any frustrations that may find us), the other one is buoyant enough to pick the other up.

Admittedly, we’re not a KUWTJ type of household. We live in a sort of protective bubble. It may be a slightly crooked, grass-too-long, cat toys everywhere sort of bubble, but it’s our escape and happiness from regular stresses. I don’t care what the neighbors do to their home; if I make a change, it’s for my OWN enjoyment. If I want to paint my shutters, sobeit, it’s because I think they’re shabby and am prouder of my house than to allow it to wear shabby shutters. (That’d be a good company name. “Shabby Shutters.” Hee hee.) But, when out of the house and in the “real world”, it’s easy to see what friends and co-workers have or do and feel a twinge of “I’m not good enough.” It’s not even that I want what they have; I’m not possession-bound. I’m more concerned about being judged for NOT wanting what they have. So…I’m quiet.

But, these days, there’s a new form of KUWTJ. It’s called KUWTG – Keeping Up With the Greens (or Greenies), and I’m not sure if it’s an actual term used out there, but I honestly just pulled it out of my you-know-what, so maybe thousands of other bloggers have discussed this already. Who knows? 😉

Regardless, thanks to the popularity of the green movement (which I fondly like to think of as a popularization of liberalism and hippiedom – perhaps it’s the only way to force issues without getting political or needing to back a particular politician?), any yuppie who can afford organic is all over it like that silly Juicy sweatpant trend from a few years back. I hate to be judgmental, but I can’t help but think that they’ll follow it until the next big thing comes in.

And, hey, maybe I shouldn’t be judgmental. Over the last year, I’ve made some life changes that, I’ve found, tend to bring everything from polite jabs to full-blown eye rolls. I have yet to get a true argument, but I’m ready when it comes. I tend to face the whole “going organic” thing (although we’ve by no means gotten to this stage yet — hey, we’re newlyweds, and have some debt we’re dealing with — all natural and hormone free is as important to us, right now, as organic) with some humor, mostly because that’s how I’ve learned how to deflect rudeness over the years. I think it’s amusing when my students catch me eating a slice of delicious non-organic pizza, and am ready to joke with them, mostly because they do it in a non-vindictive, “we understand that it’s how you are” sort of way. If only adults could be more understanding. Or, at least, all of our family. Some are very kind about it; others…well, they’re family, and we love them, even if they think we’re nuts.

So, there are two sides of the coin here: the judgmental, non-organic (or at least less understanding) side, and the “you’re not doing enough” side.

While I have yet to be TOLD that I’m not doing enough to live a healthy, sustainable lifestyle, the more research and reading I do, the more the Green Guilt sets in. I create garbage. In moments of weakness, I consume not only non-organic foods, but *gasp* high fructose corn syrup (although my body reacts noticeably to it and I feel completely sluggish and strange from that, and artificial preservatives; trying to finish off a 2-liter of cream soda my sister kindly bought for me has got me napping after school lately). I buy new rather than used. I. Fail. Miserably.

I’ve come to terms that it takes work to build up to a green lifestyle. As with all things in life, it’s about the journey and the learning process moreso than an end to a means. I mean, I don’t want to be Ed Begley about things, after all. I just want to do my part, live healthily and responsibly, and teach the same to my children. I’m not out to convert anyone (which is why I’d at least appreciate some understanding from loved ones); this may be part of our religion, but it’s not everyone’s, and I’m not out to make it so. I’d like to become more of an advocate one day, but I’m simply not confident enough a person to do so. Like I said, I just care too much what other people think.

So, I turn to my wonderful husband and remember that we’re a team here. It’s just us. Our life is ours to live, and if we inspire others, GREAT! But we’re not out to compete. We’re running a race together, slow and steady, and there’s no finish line to worry about. We’re proud of what we accomplish and shaking off the stumbles we encounter.

Overcoming Facebook Addiction…Hopefully

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I recently posted on my Facebook page that I’d be using it less frequently, eventually (maybe) becoming Facebook Free. Casually, my husband and I have discussed the fact that FB seems only to birth annoyances and frustrations, and finds a way to actually delete people, in the literal sense, from our lives. I can recognize all the good that it creates for us — probably the most important, for me, is the fact that I can very quickly tell how my friends and family are doing (the only time that I communicate with some is through their status updates), and somehow it’s become another form of email. For others, it creates entertainment and fun. For still others, it helps with business, sometimes without needing a professional web site of one’s own, which I get. I see it. I really do.

However, an issue with Facebook, as with most Web 2.0 tools, is the anonymity factor, and the hurt that is sometimes brought by it. I’m not referencing any recent experience or anything; in the distant past, I found myself getting chest pains and literally red in the face over arguments I’d had with complete strangers on a friend’s status update — ridiculous! If I’m so sensitive to people and the way that they treat others behind the concealing black screen of the Internet, why was I made to live in the Information Age?!

But, I digress (as I often do on this blog ;-)). Also, as I often do on this blog, I create lists. So, I feel that’s the best way to let you know my reasons behind this decision.

– This is #1, and I give credit to my mother for saying it (and, undoubtedly, thinking that I wasn’t listening. I’m 28 now, and I do listen to my mother.) Living life. Living life and knowing that you’re living it. Looking at what’s around you and not immediately thinking, “I’ve gotta take a picture of this to post.” (Mind you, I occasionally do this for the blog, but it’s also because I want to remember the moment.) Just loving it, in that moment. FB is a pretty big hindrance to life living, for me.

Forcing myself to make separate connections to friends and family. It’s easy, REALLY easy, to comment on someone’s post or shoot them well-researched suggestions when they put it out there in their status update. But, what communication are we truly achieving? There’s a back-and-forth, sure. Do I really know that this person is my dear friend now because they left a kind word on my FB page? Wait, do I even know who that person IS? The human’s intrinsic need to find friends is being exploited by the FB company. You can pick out the people who are simply using FB to “get more friends,” regardless of the true connections they share. The more people who use FB, the more jump on the band wagon. The more users FB has, the more income. I don’t care about these stats! I want to figure out who my real friends are, and see them face-to-face or talk to them over the phone! (I will accept email and snail mail correspondence, of course, as well.) It’s time-consuming, but there’s a reason that it worked just fine for our parents, grandparents, and so on. I’ve gotta relearn how to do this.

Simplifying; sifting through the crap to leave behind only what I need to focus on and attend to. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by life. While I’ve been under the misconception that FB seems to make life easier — get home from work, hop on, waste lots of time — those dishes are still sitting there, the cats look bored, the house could use some sprucing up, and I’m feeling L-A-Z-Y. Then, when the guy gets home, after working overtime (yet again), how do I feel inside that he heads straight to the dishes? Pretty crappy. I’ve got a good 3+ hours of free time at home before he gets home, and FB can’t be an excuse anymore. I’ve got to be doing more of the stuff I need to attend to around this place in order to analyze what want out of life — which, in essence, is more simplicity.

– Something about the status update has an addictive quality. Scroll, scroll, scroll. Oh, so-and-so’s kid is sick, bummer. Apparently the Jets won, as is evidenced by at least 23 updates. Someone needs help harvesting their farm; actually, several people do — if only those were real farms and they were feeding real people. This is such a sublime waste of time, and I’ve become excellent at it. I gave up all the games when I was planning the wedding, and haven’t looked back. I don’t like feeling like I NEED to do something, but I go ahead and do it anyway. This is the FB addiction. I must retrain my fingers not to send me there.

Answering questions:
Would I use FB in the future? (That is, if it hasn’t gone the way of MySpace. Can you imagine THAT happening? …You can’t? We used to think the same thing about MySpace.) I would consider using it, actually, and probably still will — in limited capacity (at least, at first). I will post my new blog entries on FB. I will continue to update Ilion Little Theatre Club’s Facebook page. I will use it to advertise any future projects (creating a new profile for those companies/endeavors) – commercially.

As a library media specialist, how can you turn your back on 21st century tools? You may not know it, but this actually would be a pretty big deal in some library circles I’m a part of. But, I don’t think I’d be embarrassed to announce: “I’ve given up Facebook” to students and fellow teachers. I’m incredibly familiar with the site. I know that it’s not something that I need to make a part of my future. While I do my best at my job, I don’t find my career to define me – it’s what I do, not who I am. If anything, the fact that students are finding me online is as much of a reason to quit FB as any.

Aren’t you being condescending to all of your friends who use FB and enjoy it? (This question is a case of self-reflection and over-criticizing myself, more than anything. ;-)) Touche, if you’re thinking this. By no means do I intend to be the person standing on her soap box telling you about the evils of ANYTHING. And, no, I don’t think FB is evil. I just think that it’s one of the lesser-positives of our current society. Also, I do apologize if anyone reading this is taking offense or finding me to be too self-aggrandizing or even too complaint-driven (I truly dislike when blogs are used to rant about things, seriously). So, you may think I’m a hypocrite. But, I’m just trying to, in essence, make some sense of my life and what I’m doing with it, to simplify it all down to the things that I a) HAVE to do (ie work, cleaning the house, etc) and b) WANT to do (ie the theater, drawing, writing, etc). I’ve found that FB has, simply, kept me from too much.

Do you have thoughts on the FB subject? Please feel free to leave comments – but I do ask that, particularly if you disagree, please keep them respectful. 🙂 Oh, and if you see me responding to anyone who’s commenting on my latest post (or posting at all), please be kind — this is definitely an addiction, and it’s hard to break. As I said, I will be posting a link to the blog when I update.