Friday, July 12, 2013

Maximum Utility: Interesting Articles + a Dash of Thought

(The economic unit for measuring preferences or satisfaction is utility.  Each person's preferences are different, but here are a few things that have been impacting my utility lately.)

A few weeks ago, I lamented to Jason that I no longer recognize most of the names in the lineup at the 9:30 club, likely DC’s best-known music venue.  I’m just not the music fan I used to be.  Back in the day, I’d have concerts on the calendar, knew a lot of the obscure bands, and had the perfect song for every moment playing on my first generation iPod.  Over the past few years though, music has taken a back seat.  It could be that I’m not full of angst or crying over boys or doing anything else that requires having the same emo song on repeat.  Instead of hanging out with musicians, I’m married to a guy whose last music purchase was over a year ago.  It was classical music.  I rarely drive now, so I never hear new music on the radio, and contrary to my college-years, I can’t think with too much noise in the background, so often go days without signing into Pandora or iTunes. Now I’m so out of the music loop, and I’m ok with that. 

So that’s why this article was interesting to me: "Are Foodies Quietly Killing Rock-and-Roll" by Chris Richards in May 10’s Washington Post.  An excerpt: 

"Over the past decade, we’ve seen the rise of the foodie class and decline of the record industry. Are the two related? When did we start talking about new food trucks instead of new bands? When did the line outside El Centro D.F. taqueria get longer than the line outside the Black Cat? Is $8 a reasonable price for an order of duck fat french fries just because we can stream our music for free on Spotify?... [F]ood culture isn’t linking arms with rock-and-roll so much as replacing it."

I wouldn’t consider myself a “foodie,” but we definitely love food.  And the article sure provided some “food” for thought.  (Groan!)

The next two articles also came out a while ago, and I've been stewing on them both lately because they both have to do with two of the affects social media can have on us. The first article is “Instagram's Envy Effect” by Karen Russell for Relevant magazine:

"I’m not anti-technology or anti-Internet, certainly, but I do think it’s important for us to remind ourselves from time to time that watching other peoples’ post-worthy moments on Facebook is always going to yield a prettier version of life than the one you’re living right now. That’s how it works."

It seems like her point is that prettied-up versions of what we see of people's lives can often make us envious and erodes community. I know I've seen a lot of other blog posts that are almost "confession-like" as writers try to connect with readers by admitting their lives are not just a slew of one perfectly curated images after another. It's a good reminder. It doesn't take more than a few minutes of scrolling through my blog reader before I start envying someone else's job or house or wardrobe or whatever. Throw in more pretty things I don't have or places I haven't been showing up on pinterest and instagram and I-need-to-have-it-too-and-it-doesn't-matter-that-I-already-had-x-y-or-z! No matter how many blogs or magazines I purposely don't read, it's so easy to compare myself and feel dissatisfied when I don't measure up, however realistic that comparison is.

And here's the thing, oh Internet readers, I don't want to do that to you. I think to some extent, Jason and I are aware that God blesses us in ways we don't deserve, and we truly try to be thankful for that. We also know that a lot of the traveling we do fits into this period of our lives, but won't be like this for long. I don't want to create “instagram-envy” or glamorize our lives or turn this into a brag. 

On the other hand, if I'm keeping it real, a lot in our life right now is really awesome. Blogging about trips or fun things we do is my way of remembering it for myself, sharing with friends who really want to know, and sharing the knowledge I've gained on the way. I'm a nerd, so it really helps me to plan when I hear a lot of detail about someone else's experience, which is my motivation to do the same.

This article, “Please Continue Instagramming Your Amazing Life,” kind of described the positive effects of hearing about other people's amazing adventures: it can inspire you to do the same, resulting in actually building community based on shared interest:

"Are we really comparing our lives to those of our 'friends' online? Do we do the same thing in person? Do you hang up the phone after catching up with a friend and say 'I hate her. Her life is so perfect.'? Well. I’m a big fan of social media. I like to know when friends find places that make them feel awesome, or do things they’re excited to share, or find joy anywhere."

I like this perspective, because it reminds me that sometimes others actually do want to hear about the stuff I'm excited about too. Recently, a friend asked why I hadn't instagrammed more pictures of a trip we just got back from. It made me realize that I often assume friends don't want to know when they actually do.

So with that, enjoy your weekend enjoying music or food and instagram it.. or don't cause I'll get jealous!

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