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You be the judge l Chuck's World


April 25, 2018

I read an article last week in which the writer used the word “alas,” which I realized is sort of a canary in my personal mineshaft. I tend to roll my eyes and make assumptions when I see someone “alas”-ing me.

Because it's archaic and old-fashioned, a relic of Middle English, seized upon by Shakespeare, perfectly acceptable in Victorian usage, and then out the window, onto the heap where we put our ice boxes and those cranks that used to start cars. It was not a 20th-century word, according to me, and hasn't redeemed itself.

It's just a word. It has a fine etymology, and I'd certainly use “lassitude” if I felt like it, written or spoken. But not “alas,” and when I see it I become judgmental. I take off points. I think the writer is trying to impress me, somehow, but really it's more of a goof, an amateur act. In my opinion.

Although it was fun to watch my friends who were on the receiving end of my wisdom regarding this, as they figuratively (and frantically, I imagined) scoured their memories, trying to cover their alasses.

It's just a taste thing, and honestly I never thought about it until the other day. It seemed funny, this little shorthand I use to determine whether I need to take someone seriously or not. It certainly wasn't a reference to anyone I read on a regular basis.

Maybe they've used the word, maybe not. With them, I've already moved on and become part of their audience. My opinions have been formed and I still read, so we're all good here.

And this is really about Facebook.

We all make judgments online; we have to. There’s too much information in the wild, too many things to snatch our eyeballs and raise our blood pressure. We have to know which ones to take seriously, and so we judge away.

This is actually just discernment, although we approach it differently, being different people. I assume most of us have caught on by now, understand that we are the product, names and data for hungry advertisers to pick on. We get it. We’re a country of consumers, and we’ll eventually see through your tricks.

But not all of us, and not all of the tricks. I logged on to Facebook the other day to see a friend casually handing out very personal information to a very impersonal entity, supposedly a radio station or a trivia site, but you know.

Maybe Russians. Maybe something else.

Weeks after the news of Cambridge Analytica kicked off screaming headlines, here was an adult, knowledgeable person giving away data for free. And here’s the thing: Some of it was my data.

This baffled me. I don’t blame anyone for being fooled by a shiny object; we’ve all been fooled online, at one time or another. I just thought the time was pretty much over.

I suspect we all have some level of situational gullibility; we’re alert, suspicious, skeptical, and then suddenly charmed by a cartoon dog and we start listing the names of our grandparents. They might be my grandparents, too, and your name might be the same as mine, and so on.

I can’t help but worry. There’s not much I can do about it except be vigilant. It still baffles me.

But we won't ditch Facebook, not most of us, which is where the vigilance part comes in. I feel fairly safe on social media in general, but I make dumb mistakes. I've clicked on a bad link a friend sent me, because he's a smart guy and couldn't possibly be one of those who was lazy with common passwords, etc. I've done other things. I worry about this all the time and I've done them.

And figuring out the problem has never been all that hard. The solution is trickier, and I suspect it's because we're not addressing the roots here. It's just too easy to call others stupid.

We are inundated with trees. They come at us too fast. There’s no way we're seeing the forest, not without a lot of work.

You know what the big picture is telling me? What's the common link between the election of Donald Trump, the #metoo movement, the #neveragain movement? The teacher strikes? The marches, the organizing, the slates of new candidates for thankless elected positions?

People want to be heard. People need to be heard. People read about others being heard, and want in.

But who wouldn't? If someone asked for your take on anything, wouldn't you be thrilled? To be able to talk about your life, your feelings, your important stuff?

So if a stranger asks you to tell them about your favorite aunt or uncle, why wouldn't you write a paragraph about Aunt Thelma? I mean, what's the harm? It's not someone you know who's asking. But you want to share, because they asked.

That's what I think, anyway.

I'm not sure if this is a basic human thing, amplified by the fact that we can all broadcast now, or something about life in this time and on this planet. I don't have any ideas about that.

But I think this need to share is driving all of this, and the bad guys know it, and we need to be the good guys, and I'm not sure how we do that when they ask questions about grandma, whom we loved, and who is now gone, alas.


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