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cagneyI’ve been feeling a bit embarrassed lately. I have said one thing and rather done another. If you don’t know, and there is no reason you should, I’ve made quite a thing of of bashing Twitter.

It seemed simplistic and self indulgent somehow. I was watching The View, the other day, actually listening to it as I computered. Elizabeth H. was talking about how she twittered, and Joy and Whoopie were pretty sarcastic. “Why would I care what you’re watching on TV?” And I was forced to agree.

Much of Twitter is just that, mundane, silly crap about our personal lives that are of no interest to anyone, not even our loved ones half of the time. So why am I there? Well, let’s say I have some reasons that make sense to me at least. And that is not the point of this post, so I’ll move on.

What came to mind from the discussion at least, was a question of just how narcissistic are we? Is this an American trait, or a human one? I frankly don’t know the answers but I have some observations.

One would have to conclude that we are narcissistic. You cannot blame it solely on those that dream up the devices and programs. We are the ones using them after all. And the more they dream up, the more we buy.

Whether it be Iphones, Twitter, Facebook, blogging, or any of the myriad of keeping in  touch programs such as IM, we are all thinking that somehow, we must keep in touch, and others must have instant access to us. That suggests a serious belief in self-importance. We can’t afford to miss anything, and people will wilt should they not have the ability to get our wisdom instantly. We must be able to be found!

I am old enough to remember when there were no portable phones at all, (gasp), and hours, yes hours might go by where someone might not reach me. Horror of horrors, I remember when there was no answering machine!

The need to be available 24/7 is hardly the worst of it of course. We are also quite sure that what we think and feel are so important that a significant number of people wait every day for us to “publish.” We (at least I) worry about who is visiting, how often, how many, and what they find interesting. I’ll deliver more of that! Some of us are addicted to it, some of us search for ways to grow our readership, some of us spend real money to do so.

I’m not sure what all this means. It certainly speaks to a need on our part to be heard, to be relevant and to be thought significant. We all blog for various reasons. Some of us do so as therapy, some for making friendships, some of us to display and offer our creative talents, some of us just because we are opinionated in the extreme. No reason is wrong, or trivial I would suggest.

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Does it suggest that we feel that we are special or that we want to feel special? Is the world so interconnected and thus so large that we feel insignificant and this is our way of crying out, “pay attention to me. I’m somebody.” Like James Cagney, do we stand upon the tower, about to die, but at least dying in the knowledge that we are the center of attention at last–“look at me Ma, I’m on top of the world.”

Part of this is no doubt tied to our Americanization of the terms “pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps,” and “work ethic.” We are told, and have been since this country’s inception, that anybody with the will to work can make it. Thus, we began to define self worth on just that standard. Were we making it? Were we successful in comparison with X?

That became the rub, and I think caused the development of what I think is thoroughly American, the idea that the worst thing in the world is to be at the bottom of any category. We need to point to someone, anyone, (group really) as less than we are. We cannot be failures as long as we aren’t at the bottom of the heap.

It has resulted in some of the ugliest racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, and other isms known to humanity. We seem to move from one to another as needed. Since it is no longer acceptable to exhibit our racism against African Americans, we now turn to Mexicans, and Muslims. We no doubt will turn to another group when those become socially unacceptable.

Perhaps them, the opportunities offered on the Internet for anyone to express themselves works to end these “ism” methods of feeling okay about oneself, in favor of the opportunity, no matter how silly, to feel that somebody cares what we think.

I think these devices also serve another purpose as well, and one that makes them very valuable indeed.

We need travel little to see all manner of nut cases. Of course, to a degree, that is subjective. Your nut case might not be mine. But you’re reading this, so I can assume that to some extent we share philosophies. I’m talking about the wacko religious right, the Limbaughs, the Hannitys, the border patrol vigilantes, the creationists, and young earth proponents, the homophobes, the Palin backers. The list is long.

There are times, when we can conclude that, given these folks, the planet is doomed, society is dying, hope is gone. How can we overcome this much dry rot? Human genetics must be on a downward slide turning back to the slime pond.

Yet, the Internet, blogging especially has proven to show us something quite different as well. An amazingly huge number of people who deliver mail, make cars, nurse in hospitals, troubleshoot electronics, edit books, raise hogs, and otherwise do all the mundane or not so mundane things in life, have another whole side to them.

They are artists, writers, poets, painters, quilters, knitters, theologians, and shocking of all things, just deep thinkers! They do this for fun, not money for the most part. They do it to express themselves, and to express often a deep and abiding care for the planet and those who live upon her. They are our salvation and the repository of our hope. And mostly we wouldn’t know about them, but for the Internet and its wondrous means of communication.

Are we narcissists? Most assuredly I would say yes. Is it bad? Partly yes, and partly no. Like most things, it’s uncertain. Hey, don’t look to me for answers, I just ask questions, and offer my two cents. And that said, I’m off to my twitter and see who new has just started following me! I must be somebody!

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