To Cheat…or Tweet?

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 12.45.47 PMTo Cheat…or Tweet? Infidelity in the Age of Social Media, for Industry Feb 2015. I’m arrested by an online confession, a particularly pitiable example of a lonely woman’s sexless marriage. At first glance it’s a tempting glimpse of one road onto the highway of cheating and/or divorce.

 

 

A lot of the commenters telling her to leave seemed like obvious romantics at first, but they had one major thing in common—they were women who had for the most part experienced the same thing, and they had left and were happier. The other commenters were far more practical in their responses, especially the men; those ranged from the hard truth (he’s gay, or he’s cheating, catch him in the act) to somewhat defensively pointing out that asexuality is a thing.

I couldn’t decide on any particular judgment. All I knew (thanks, internet!) was that there were many like her, and that in her article she hadn’t bothered to come up with any of her own solutions, even theoretically. She hadn’t left him nor suggested it. So if she was not gearing up to leave her husband, getting some psyching up from the online chorus, why was this woman even writing? Maybe this confession was a temporary solution in itself, or maybe she wanted another suggestion of escape.

My first instinct, therefore, was to give her the out that she seemed to be courting, and comment—that she should get a lover, not least because divorce is so obvious…and high risk. Marriage is often not what we thought, but of course nothing is. I couldn’t help but think of a man (actually men) in a similar situation, just cheating, doing what he needs to do for himself, not railing on a blogging community site about it. So why shouldn’t she?

I started to wonder about the passivity beneath her anonymous advice-seeking. Was she just venting, or genuinely seeking help? Maybe she was asking permission to do something she wasn’t yet consciously considering? If so how does her “audience” help and/or hurt the process?

Read the rest on Industry’s site.Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 12.34.48 PM

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I just hit the send button on my next column. Writing feels belabored, with a million words coming out wrong and me trying to tease a thread that is at times obscure at best. It is especially so when I can’t find the joy. Then it’s just work, confusing work. I guess I could consider myself a professional, in light of the fact that a deadline and editor means I’m doing it, regardless of how it feels.

It’s just a bit painstaking, lately, which is uncomfortable. I feel as if I’m continually peeling back layers of received thought and language. I am unlearning. But it seems I’m writing variations on the same theme over and over—about autonomy in our relationship with the world, or the real and the counterfeit. I mean, how long can a relatively clueless person like myself write about relationships, trying to convince others of my idealistic notions? Who am I trying to persuade? Some things I will never know, and some things I can only describe to people who will never see things the way I do.

Emily Space Baby Pictures JPEG

This is me as a baby. I already had the penchant for staring off into space.

“What are you thinking about?” my family would ask when I was a little older. “Life!” I said.

Well, here’s to finding something to stare at this weekend aside from the TV.

The Magical World of Craigslist

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 3.48.56 PMI wrote this for my bro Matt Johnson’s online selling how-to site. We’ve had fascinating conversations about bookselling and general online sales, how the web is changing business, future needs and trends, and how to provide genuinely useful content. This business article is actually a lengthy diatribe against the “mania for the present” thinking that pervades the marketing philosophy engulfing the web.

How we use the web, how we’re supposed to use it, how we’re being guided to use it is changing fundamentally. As the whole field becomes more optimized and polished, we are being oriented more toward a passive experience online rather than one we create.

Craigslist, for the most part, has remained the same as it ever was. Its ultimate utility was in nimbly catering to whatever people used it for, as its audience expanded out of the tech community, and out of San Fran to other major cities, and then, out of the United States. Craigslist’s sticky user experience seems quaint in a world where stagnation equals death. And it’s possible to be too nostalgic, of course. But Craigslist’s continued existence and success questions the “inevitable” speeding up of technological progress, whether it’s necessary, and whom it serves.

So what, if anything, can a young entrepreneur in online selling, or business creation, learn from Craigslist?

Craigslist is one of the few for-profit online companies I can think of that seems to operate on the basis that, once it has a good user base and income stream, all a company needs to do is maintain an equilibrium and work out problems as they crop up. This is antithetical to the almost religious idea that everything must keep getting better, an ideation that conveniently supports a rat-race ethos, and keeps expensive software engineers busy.

Any company or website might be a fad, riding out a trend, and so successful websites start to do things almost immediately to diversify their income and to avoid stagnation. Update early and often, and figure out what you’re doing as you go.

This has led to a culture of updating. Many, many companies offer very little in the way of actual services, they’re really just platforms, but they get into the wealth-creation mindset, leaving users cold with incessant upgrades, tweaks, ominously vague terms of use changes, and unintelligible licensing agreements. Forcing users to relearn how to use something every few months that was only ever supposed to be a cool or useful tool is not a clever business strategy. At least, not outside of the small echo chamber of those for whom tech is the end, and not a means.

But the point is that a lot of tricks used by people to make money online are now eroding confidence and ease of use to such an extent that people are wrestling with them and their impact on all of our lives. Being a profitable company is not itself a winning strategy for a product. Our nativity online was in connecting people, and helping people do what they wanted to do, making things easier, rather than bleeding people dry. Many companies are missing the forest for the trees.

Read the rest on How to Be an Online Seller.

I can’t wait to write about eBay next! As the Paypal/eBay split attests, much is in play in that company right now. It’s unlikely to be a love letter.

Road Rules: Traveling over the holidays

My latest for Industry’s Nov/Dec issue. Road Rules: Or, how to holiday travel together without driving each other crazy.

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It’s the time of year when opportunities to travel together come up for both new and more seasoned couples. From Thanksgiving through December, Hannukkah, Ramadan, and Christmas come in fast succession. The whole yawning month of frenzied activity ramps up as the year comes to a close. For new couples this can be a trial by fire, as it can involve not just travel (a natural stressor for some) but also possibly meeting family, seeing childhood homes and friends, exes, etc. Here are a few things to think about when making your first trip as a couple.

Keep reading on Industry’s website here.

I had some real burnout this year writing about relationships, and, let’s be honest, even being involved in relationships. Is it a relief, a comfort, that we feel so perpetually renewed by the feeling of love, that we open our hearts again and again, that we build someone up, that we’re completely fascinated and want everything? I don’t know. I thought it was about time I just grew up and got over my romantic notions and got with reality. Relationships will disappoint you if you let them remain part of some watery province of melodrama. This year’s writing largely reflects my attempts to be more hard-nosed about it, but I can’t pretend I didn’t cross over into cynicism and bitterness occasionally. The more reality you let in, though, the more of a case is made for it, and the less it makes sense to cherry-pick experiences, feelings, people, moods. Suddenly it doesn’t matter what (or who) you do, but how you do it, how you respond.

See you in the new year, and thanks for everyone’s support. In 2014, I bought a house, started to feel truly autonomous and savvy, then got really busy, and now I’m back. I’m looking forward to much more content going up here, meaning more yoga, more publishing, and in general, more quirky, serious fun in 2015.

Happy holidays!

The Dark Side

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 3.14.18 PMIn Industry’s summer issue, I take a walk through the bar scene and ask if the experiences of sexual contest and conquest are really worth the bother (especially for women), or if our jollies are mostly in our mind anyway.

The Dark Side | Tales from late-night hookups, near misses, and the end of night wildlife in action.

Summer is upon us, and with it endless opportunities to drink in the hot sun and watch our potential attractive mate scenarios get both more fluid and plentiful. With greater potential for getting caught up in potentially embarrassing morning situations, maybe we can pick apart the anatomy of the sexual conquest and see if it’s worth the trouble.

Keep reading on Industry’s site here.

I know, I know, this is summer piece is right on time for winter. Will re-post next summer, but maybe the clash will make it interesting to read in a different way. This piece came out better than I thought it would, though my editor thought that it wasn’t really a “relationship” article. I had to defend it a bit. Some times you have to take the roundabout way of inquiry when something doesn’t really want to be looked at. Still, I think it’s one of my most accomplished in terms of delicacy of thought. When I satisfy myself, things start to look heaps brighter!

Happy holidays!

Truth and Consequences

Truth and Consequences header

In the March/April 2014 issue of Industry I look at some of the effects that social media has on our social lives. Truth and Consequences: How to find a balance between honing a productive social media identity, and attention-hungry cyber lurking

Social media does alter our experience of ourselves as social beings, especially when it replaces part or all of our social life. Sometimes I use it mostly logistically, i.e. to see what’s going on with friends in town. But occasionally it gets more distant, going into browsing, as when I check out the page of someone I just met, wondering if they’re doing the same. I feel sudden self-conscious doing this. Usually people aren’t up on the latest privacy snafu of facebook’s, and so even if you’re not friends you can just watch people as they live. Right there online. Or at least, get a flavor of their life, leaving room for doubt, obviously.

Self-consciousness is something I used to think I outgrew in my 20s, but its reemergence in the context of my online persona is fitting, as I’m literally allowing people to spectate at me, to know about, instead of know. Can we help creating a strange publicized hybrids of ourselves? One day maybe we’ll all know what celebrities must feel like, even down to having your (not to mention other people’s) livelihood depend solely on your online popularity.

From the article:

I’ve never really thought of myself as a private person. Ask me a question, the more personal the better. I’ve always erred on the side of too much information. Over the years, though, I’ve learned that many times people prefer to be lied to sweetly, to be let down gently than told the ugly truth. I’m more discerning now about what I share, not only to preserve my privacy but also, the mystery. This goes against the tide of social media and on-line dating–realms in which we are compelled to give more and more information and about ourselves to a more general audience.

Read more here: Truth and Consequences

 

the fucking mystery, right?

After writing this I realized that now, when I share something with someone in person, or even on the phone in a one-on-one conversation, it feels very intimate. It’s only in contrast to social media, where everything feels flatter and less risky in a real way. But that’s kind of cool as an unexpected outcome.

The Long Mile: How did a car come to mean so much?

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 10.47.28 AMFor the Jan/Feb 2014 issue of Industry, I contrast two moments in my life: buying my first car and, years later, my potential second.  The Long Mile: What our shifting desires can tell us about where we are on our own journey.

 

 

Recently, I drove a big, smooth, sleek, insulated ride–a Ford crossover called the Edge. My reliable little Corolla was in the shop. Whenever anything happened to it (this time a hit-and-run while it was parked) I thought back to the good old days when I had just three things total to worry about…days when I opened my mail monthly.

…I had to admit that despite its size, its gas mileage, its flashiness, I liked living in the Edge. It was comfortably a level up–sleek, self-announcing, not remotely soccer mommy. It seemed made for me, and it made me want to fill in its promise, whether with children or camping gear and a dog.

Read more here: The Long Mile

How about you? Have you had an experience with a purchase that gained an outsize significance in your life?

Games Worth Playing

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My latest column for Industry is up! Games Worth Playing: How a ritual based upon the I Ching can change the way we think about life and love

 

Perhaps readers are aware of the concept of the filter bubble: that with more and more tools to personalize online offerings, we are more in danger of seeing only the news we want to see. The term, while a nice coinage for the internet and indebted age, is not new. In relationships, too, we see what we want to see.

The bubble first grows in our heads, a fact I learned from a 3,000-year-old book
of divination called the I Ching, or the “Book of Changes.”

I’ll risk my reputation as a serious individual here to admit that, when it comes to relationship deciphering, I’m addicted to what could be considered a tool for magical thinking.

Read more here.

Motion & Heart

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I wrote about dancing—why I stopped, why I started again, how it was different—in my latest column for Industry.

This is dedicated to an ex with whom I rediscovered dancing. To my aunt who’s from the 80s. And to Late Bar, where I’ve had lots of fun escapades.

I’m still serious. I have to check in with myself sometimes. Maybe I’m feeling more “library” than “club” tonight. Did I just let my friends drag me out because I don’t want to be that silly loser alone on a Saturday night?

Or am I feeling circumspect? Maybe someone here will engage in a good, fleshy philosophical debate with me. About parties, pickups, or hookups, or hookahs, or high-tops, or highballs.

I still notice how others react to me. Maybe it’s a foible of being a girl, or maybe it’s just human. I’ve never been a particularly fine dancer, but it turns out that it doesn’t matter. It only matters that you mean it. The attitude is already half a put-on, winking, oversold to sell–to be appreciated but not awed.

Read the rest here.

Inside Game of Thrones

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Yes I know everyone’s obsessed with Breaking Bad right now, what can I say? Print waits for no show. In my latest article for Industry, I look at the themes of Game of Thrones, which offers a case study of personal politics and the rules of cause and effect, if we are paying attention. HBO shows do not kowtow to our hero myths, and one could argue that they’ve influenced mainstream entertainment away from the old watered down, picture-postcard universe of blockbuster fantasy (we won’t talk about Sex and the City right now). That’s why we love them (Sopranos, Enlightened, GoT) and why they are better than most TV, even most really good TV.  Plus, GoT has a lot of awesome female characters (looking at you, Breaking Bad, but I love you anyway!).

It is always interesting to think of why a certain trend happens at a certain time. And as little as I want to overstretch some tenuous pop cultural connection, it does seem strange that we are lapping up HBO’s Game of Thrones series’ political intrigue, lax morality, and wanton disregard for others’ personal freedom with an almost sociopathic appetite.

Read more here.