Essays in a social world

I have advice for people who feel overwhelmed by what seems to be an onslaught of information that comes our way from what I’ll call the social media platform.  My word, or words, of advice?  Read longer articles.

Readers of this blog know I’ve been a recent user of Twitter and I can safely conclude after a short 6 months that it is a very useful application.  I’m stunned at how it has replaced for me the daily thorough reading of various newspapers.  In a weird way it has saved me tons of time by allowing me to curate my own content.

However, nothing fires the core of my intellect as does a well-written essay.  I’m an enormous admirer of that writing form in the fashion of icons like Lewis Lapham and Mark Twain and so I look forward to the weekend essay in the Wall Street Journal.  Last Saturday’s was an exceptional capture of most of my life, or at least millions of peoples’ lives across North America.  Crafted exquisitely and building relentlessly towards a conclusion you know in advance but can’t wait to read, pieces like the essay on class divergence in America force your eyes to stay on the page and your brain to stay in the game.

Making the effort can be no effort at all

It doesn’t take much effort at all to show interest and make a friend feel a bit better. All you have to do is drop them an email or make a quick call.  Usually that does the trick unless they are having an especially bad day.  It requires a bit more conscious effort though when the other person is a complete stranger.

I live in downtown Toronto and while it’s fantastic that the city is upgrading its infrastructure (sewers, roads, lighting), the ongoing construction I’m sure is the source of a simmering tension people sense but find difficult to explain. Last weekend I was out walking the dog in the bitter cold in front of our condo building when I noticed a guy adjusting the construction fence that separated the sidewalk from an excavation for a new sewer system.  The fence had been toppled the night before by, presumably, a bunch of guys who’d had their collective spirits and courage raised by alcohol (our street is filled with higher-end bars and restaurants). He was clearly a member of the construction crew there on his day off and he had a big job ahead of him since there must have been about 80 feet of the fence laying on its side. As I walked past him I stopped and remarked that New Year’s Eve isn’t all fun and games. He replied in frustration that he viewed the owners of the establishments as being responsible since they make no effort to stop the vandalism. He wished people would understand that while he understands the frustration that owners have for the mess and noise of the work, ultimately the work is necessary if those owners want their toilets to flush. Good point.

I told him as a resident I appreciated the work and wished him the best for the new year.  He looked at me, smiled, and said, “Hey, thanks man.  That’s good. Same to you.”