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Author: Steve

I live and work in the Philadelphia area. I am an ETL software tester by profession but I also enjoy writing, tabletop gaming, reading and thinking about history, binge-watching Netflix, and traveling with my BFF. We especially like going to the Big Apple to catch a show.
Gen Xers and their Podcasts

Gen Xers and their Podcasts

As I noted in my previous post, of all the generations, it’s mine – Generation X – that has most ardently embraced its generational identity online. Compared to other generations, whether older or younger, there are far more Gen X branded accounts, sites, blogs and channels on the Internet.

In particular, there are a slew of Gen X branded podcasts. Podcasts, if you aren’t aware, are an audio-only format of Internet content, with themed channels publishing periodic episodes of about an hour in length. Sometimes it’s just one person basically lecturing, sometimes a small number of people (typically two or three) chatting in a more or less free-form manner. Sometimes they are up on YouTube, so they are not necessarily audio-only. It’s a flexible term.

Why do Gen Xers love podcasts so much? Perhaps it’s connected to anxiety about being neglected, forgotten. We want our voices to be heard. We want to be remembered, like we’re all singing our famous theme song from the end of The Breakfast Club.


I’ve found that Gen X podcasts can be broadly categorized into two groups. The first is nostalgia-themed podcasts, looking back at the pop culture which Gen X grew up with. Now that we’re middle aged, we apparently want to get together and reminisce about all the great music and TV from our youth.

The Gen X-tra Podcast
Pop culture, movies, music, trivia
https://linktr.ee/GenXtraPodcast
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_AYn_1NH6E6PArpOmCLEqg/

Generation X Rewind
Music, films and TV
https://generationxrewind.com/

GenXGrownUp
Toys and games
http://genxgrownup.com/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC97DE3HBPcrf8mS0uzBFsnw

genXmixtape
Music
https://sites.google.com/view/genxmixtape/home

Project GenX Podcast
http://www.projectgenxpod.com/

The Riff Radio Show
https://linktr.ee/TheVintageX

The Untitled GenX Podcast
Pop culture
https://linktr.ee/UntitledGenXPodcast
https://www.theuntitledgenxpodcast.com/


The other kind of Gen X podcast has a theme of personal affirmation. They are about the Gen X experience or perspective.

Gen X Amplified
https://genxamplified.com/

GenX Stories
https://www.genxstories.com/

GenX Voice
https://www.genxvoice.com/

Gen X Woman
https://igenxwoman.com/


It really is astounding that there are so many Gen X branded podcasts, but none (that I know of) for other generations. I can understand how this format appeals to my generation – it’s suited for individuals who just want to work for themselves, and since video is optional, you can do it from the shadows, so to speak.

It’s not just that, though; it’s also that Gen X is so intent on being recognized as such. There are plenty of podcast-style video channels created by Millennials; it’s just that they don’t brand them as Millennial per se. They have broader scopes and subjects than the experience of one generation.

This phenomenon connects to an idea that I’ve expressed before, that in mid-life Gen Xers are using the Internet to fold the past back into their present experience. Maybe it’s because the future is so uncertain, so doubtful in this time of crisis. We need our past experience, the setting of our youth, as a bedrock on which to build the foundation of whatever we can make out of the rest our lives.

Generations on the Internet: 2022 Update

Generations on the Internet: 2022 Update

On this blog I often write about generations, and when I do I often find myself writing specifically about the generations online. For example, I have posts about social media, where I’ve observed how different generations experienced social media at different life stages, thus having a different relationship with the technology. It’s like what I really blog about is the Internet, and that’s not surprising given that I spend almost of all of my waking life there, whether at my paying job or working on personal projects like this blog.

It’s nothing new; on my old blog, I had a background section about the generations, and it emphasized their presence on the Internet. For example, I noted that the GI generation did not have much Internet presence, and that it was members of the Silent generation who were typically portrayed as the older people just learning how to get online. Meanwhile, Boomers and Gen-Xers were the Internet entrepreneurs, and the Millennials had their own unique online portals. I was writing all of this in the early to mid-2000s, so a lot has changed. If you go to my old site, you will find that some of the external links still work, but many, if not most of them, are dead now.

Back then, I focused on “the web.” Web 2.0 was young, and social media was still evolving as a concept. You might note that in my background section, social media makes an appearance on the Millennial page, in scare quotes no less. Twenty years later, I think it’s natural to associate social media and the ubiquity of apps and crowdsharing with that generation; it goes hand in hand with their consensus-seeking peer personality. Now that social media apps, with their relatively closed platforms, are supplanting the more open world wide web, what has changed about the presence of the generations online?

Well, for one thing, everyone is on the Internet now. You can’t really talk about any particular”online generation” when the Internet is part of the background of everyday life. At best there’s the idea of “digital natives” to cover all the people so young that they can’t remember when there wasn’t an Internet. But I think all generations from Boomers on down are comfortable with life online.

I would say that, as a rule, different generations tend to congregate in different platforms. Facebook and Twitter, and what’s left of the old world wide web are where you find the older generations, while Instagram, YouTube, Reddit and TikTok are where the younger generations are. This assertion is based on no data at all; it’s just my impression. While all of the living generations are on the Internet, they have different reputations online and different presences as a generation. Let’s call the sum total of all that a generation’s Internet profile.

First, for the Boomer generation and older, I’d say their Internet profile doesn’t looks so great. There’s not much around specific to the Silent generation, except for pages that amount to encyclopedia entries. Boomers as a generation have a terrible social media presence, since they are mostly the butt of jokes. As I noted in an earlier blog post, there’s a Facebook group devoted to making fun of Boomers. And we all know about “OK boomer.” As individuals, plenty of Silents and Boomers are in command of their social media presence, particularly celebrities and prominent and powerful officials. I imagine that many elder leaders actually have teams of younger people managing their social media accounts.

The Millennial generation’s Internet profile is a bit of a muddle. For one thing, younger Millennials would prefer to disassociate themselves from their older generational peers and call themselves Generation Z. Articles about the gap between Millennials and Gen Z are generally silly fluff, but the real story here is that there is a reluctance among Millennials to embrace their generational moniker. Despite the fact that the term “Millennial” has become a commonplace and is ubiquitous in online discourse about the state of society, Millennial individuals are not keen on taking on their generational name as a brand.

This takes me to my generation, Generation X. Of all the generations, Gen X is the one which most willingly – eagerly, even – embraces its identity online. Gen X’s Internet profile is like a bold statement – don’t you forget about us! There are so many Gen X themed YouTube channels, podcasts, social media pages and accounts that I am not even going to list any here. Instead, I’ll pick that up in a future post. Suffice it to say that many Gen X individuals see themselves in terms of belonging to their generation, and a lot of what Gen Xers obsess on in their online content and sharing is nostalgia for their past. You know, that time before there was an Internet.

Mr. Pope, Meet Our Cat

Mr. Pope, Meet Our Cat

Here she is – the most precious creature on Earth. She is Princess Sashimi, the ruler of our house. The whole reason we exist is to support her needs and give her the highest possible quality of life.

It’s not too hard to do, because she spends most of her time sleeping. How can a creature sleep for so many hours in the day? It boggles my mind. But it’s her prerogative. She can sleep all day if she wants. It’s not my place to say otherwise.

The important thing for us humans is to be attentive, and notice if there is any problem that requires an adjustment to her routine. Once, when she was having trouble pooping, it completely discombobulated the household dynamic. There was no tranquility here while we dealt with the changes in her behavior and her obvious discomfort. We changed her litter and we changed her food, and only when she returned to her normal pooping habits was peace restored. Her wellbeing is central to the normal functioning of the household.

Is it so strange that humans, supposedly the most evolutionarily advanced beings on Earth, should devote themselves to pampering a creature from another species? I think it’s only proper. We humans have achieved unprecedented levels of comfort and security in our easy First World lives, and we should extend the possibility of that mode of existence to other beings.

Of course there is the question of the morality of pampering a cat when there are humans on Earth who don’t experience the same degree of affluence as our family. Not that we’re particularly affluent, just that there are masses of humans in poverty and precarity, even here in our own First World country. But of course, as an ordinary middle class American family, we don’t command the resources to uplift the teeming masses of the underprivileged, so what could be expected of us?

We do have the resources to take good care of a cat, which is what we do. And as we’ve approached the empty nest phase of life, with one son out of the house already and the other one growing up too fast, I’ve noticed that Sashimi the cat is getting more attention lately. It’s like we’re transferring our nurturing urges to her, the one creature who won’t grow up any more or ever leave us.

Now I heard that the Pope was chiding people for putting pets ahead of children. I can’t believe he would really begrudge us the joy we take in loving and caring for our precious cat. Just look at how adorable she is!

I think the Pope is naturally concerning himself with his spiritual duties, in the light of his traditional religion. Possibly he has in mind the first commandment in the Bible, Genesis 1:28. But what does that command us to do? To be fruitful and multiply, but also to have dominion over every living thing – which I take to mean to care for them lovingly, even if they are just a cat.

It’s a well known fact that as income increases in a country, fertility declines. Perhaps this reflects different reproductive strategies for the wealthy versus the poor. Perhaps when a certain level of affluence is reached, life can be about more than reproduction, despite what the Pope says. What it means to be human can take on more possibilities that what tradition has dictated in the past. Naturally, some people who are childless are going to want companionship, and domesticated pets are there to fulfill that need.

These days I spend most of my time at home, and as I go through my rarely changing routine I am grateful for the opportunity to serve sweet Princess Sashimi. What does it matter in the long run what I am doing with my time? All human effort is in vain. All my aspirations and accomplishments will amount to nothing in the end, but if in the meantime I have the energy to make a cat’s life perfect, then I should. What matters in life is the joy and love in immediate existence, and to embrace the nonhuman creatures of the world with that love is only righteous. Surely the Pope can understand that.

2021: Current Ages of the Living Generations

2021: Current Ages of the Living Generations

I have a New Year’s Eve tradition of posting the current age ranges of the living generations, strictly using the birth year boundaries defined by Strauss & Howe generational theory, which follow.

  • Greatest: 1901-1924
  • Silent: 1925-1942
  • Boomer: 1943-1960
  • Generation X: 1961-1981
  • Millennial: 1982-2004
  • Homelander: 2005-2021

Note that your birth year strictly defines your generation, but your age does not if you are on the cusp. What I mean is that, if you know someone is 39 years old but it’s the middle of 2021, you can’t be sure if they are a Gen Xer born in 1981 whose birthday is later in the year, or a Millennial born in 1982 whose birthday has already passed. But on December 31st, since everyone has had their 2021 birthday at that point (let’s ignore birth time for the sake of this argument), then age and generation correlate perfectly.

So now that it’s December 31st, 2021, these are the age ranges of the living generations:

Greatest: 97-115*
Silent: 79-96
Boomer: 61-78
Generation X: 40-60
Millennial: 17-39
Homelander: 0-16

*Based on this web site of the oldest living people.

Life in the Purple Zone

Life in the Purple Zone

I live in Pennsylvania’s 6th congressional district. It’s a safely blue zone district, but I don’t really live in the blue zone. It definitely feels like MAGA-land here. How can this be?

The answer can be found by taking a look at the map of my district. It consists of one blue zone county, Chester county, which is like a huge exurb of Philadelphia, and also the southern corner of Berks county, including the city of Reading.

Clubbing together urban Reading and the West Philly exurbs makes this a blue zone district, even though there are swaths of rural and semi-rural country throughout which are solidly red zone. It’s not even that it’s gerrymandered. This district used to be and was dependably Republican, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court redrew the districts in 2018. If you look at the old map, you can see how bad the gerrymandering was.

Still, though this may be a sensibly drawn district, which will almost certainly have a Democratic representative in Congress, from where I sit, it feels like a Republican part of the country. I live about where the two highways meet, at the bottom of Berks county. It’s much closer to Reading than to Philadelphia, in an agricultural region known as Twin Valley. You just have to drive this way or that for a couple of minutes, and suddenly you are in beautiful rural country.

This is farm land (you can smell it periodically), and in fact is near Amish communities, and we see them driving by in their horse-drawn buggies all the time. So it’s kind of rural Pennsylvania, which accounts for the high preponderance of red zoners here. In 2020 there must have been four or five Trump signs to every Biden sign (mind you, there were a total of four houses in town, including ours, displaying Biden signs). Another sure sign that we’re red zone here is the very small percentage of people wearing face masks in public.

Nonetheless, to some degree this area is aligned with Philadelphia. There are people living here who work in the Philly area; if not in the city itself then in one of the nearby towns. It’s kind of a bedroom community for commuters to Philly. Possibly this commuter demographic is a little more blue zone.

In addition, where we live is right off of the Pennsylvania turnpike, and also on a state route that is a major travel artery, so we get a lot of through traffic. There’s even a place that truckers use as a depot to keep their trucks stored temporarily, sometimes camping out in them. So this place kind of has a trucker/biker Motorway City vibe. I’m sure those folks are all red zoners.

On top of all this, a casino just opened here a few days before Christmas, so who knows what will happen to the vibe here because of that. We’ve buzzed by the casino recently and its parking lot tends to be full, and I think the clientele is mostly older folks from the surrounding area.

The house we live in was built in the nineteenth century, no later than 1876. Meaning that we know it existed then, but aren’t sure of exactly what year it was built – probably just a few years before that. It’s been modified since then but still has an “old bones” feel to it. There are places where it leans a bit, and the doors don’t all fit snugly in the frames. It doesn’t have a central air system, so we put air conditioners in the window in the summer and rely on baseboard heating in the winter. At least it’s got insulation in the walls.

All around, there’s a fair amount of old construction here, but also new development, meaning people are looking to this place for opportunity and growth. The infrastructure is old compared to what I got used to when I lived in North Carolina, where the oldest development was from the 1970s. Here there are still telephone poles carrying power lines! There are a lot of old churches and graveyards, as well as this interesting kind of historic site – iron furnaces from the heyday of Pennsylvania’s regional iron-smelting industry. There are at least three such sites a short drive from our house.

In summary, life here in the purple zone is like being in a strange borderland, where the old and new coexist on the same roads, and almost everyone is travelling through, though many come back time and again. There aren’t quite enough likeminded people around to feel like I fit in, but not so very few that I feel completely isolated. Maybe that makes this place a perfect microcosm of the United States of America.

Rights vs. Responsibilities in the COVID Era

Rights vs. Responsibilities in the COVID Era

Take a look at the remarkable chart below, which shows death rates from COVID-19 for six different groups of United States counties. What distinguishes the groups of counties is the partisan voting rate, and what is remarkable is how much higher death rates are in Republican leaning counties than they are in Democratic leaning counties, after the first big wave, which hit primarily coastal megacities.

It’s not hard to draw the conclusion that this reflects the politicization of the pandemic, and how, in Republican-leaning parts of the country, there are lower vaccination rates and lower levels of compliance with mitigation rules such as wearing face masks and avoiding indoor gatherings. I’ve complained before about how insane this is, but here I want to give a little more thought as to why people might be motivated so differently in their behavior that they experience such disparate outcomes.

Here, I want to comment on how data like the above relates to two different ways of looking at the world. One is to see it from the standpoint of the individual, and their unique perspective. And the other is to see it from the standpoint of the collective of all people, which is what graphs like the above are doing. Graphs like the above are created by aggregating data – each week, a certain number of people die from COVID-19. Each individual death is a tragedy, and some deaths are unavoidable no matter how much we as a society try to mitigate against the spread of the virus. But looking at the aggregate data makes it plain how mitigation efforts do reduce overall suffering and death. That’s why we ask, as a society, for everyone to participate collectively in this effort.

The problem is, large numbers of people don’t want to see the world from this collective perspective. Their preference is to focus on the individual, and the rights of the individual. It’s like they see the dots on the graph, but not the curve. But one dot alone doesn’t give you any information, when you are trying to determine good policy. The curve, the collection of dots, is what lets you make an informed choice. The dots themselves just give you individual stories, what we call “anecdotal evidence,” which could be used to justify any policy. For example, as the graph above clearly indicates, some people in the counties with the lowest death rates do die from COVID-19. No place has a 0% rate. You’ll always be able to point to a case of a breakthrough infection in someone who was vaxxed and boosted and still got sick and died. But that one case alone is not enough to justify giving up on vaccination. To decide what overall policy is the most sensible based on one case and not the entirety of cases is foolish.

The same applies in other areas, like gun control. Simply put, firearms are a hazard and making them easier to access and carry around increases the risk to everyone of injury or death from firearms. It’s why we have this idea of sensible gun laws to regulate the use of firearms, making everyone safer, just as we regulate so much else in life. But a sizeable minority is obsessed with the individual right to bear arms, stymying lawmakers’ efforts to enact such legislation. This minority probably thinks that their arsenals will make a difference in upcoming political struggles. But however violently future political conflicts are resolved, what easy access to firearms will mostly do is increase the rates of suicide and homicide by firearm. I’m not even talking about mass shootings, I mean just ordinary incidents involving firearms.

Gun rights advocates will argue that it is unfair to deny them their individual rights just because of the negative consequences of other people’s choices. They are looking at the dots – you can’t take what’s mine based on someone else’s actions. For gun control advocates, the argument is that restricting gun rights will benefit the public in the aggregate. They are looking at the curve – overall suffering and death will go down if you change the rules. This is the same logic that goes into determining rules for the mitigating against the spread of the coronavirus. Restricting some rights, like the right to congregate indoors in large groups, will benefit public health, in the context of a highly transmissible and potentially fatal virus in circulation.

The zealous prioritizing of individual rights over collective good is what leads to memes like the one on the right, found on Twitter. It’s what leads to freedom derisively being called “freedumb,” when taken to the point of needlessly endangering lives. But those who won’t comply with mandates for the collective good aren’t really dumb, they are just prioritizing their rights as individuals over what is best for society as a whole. To them, compliance with authority smacks of submission to tyranny. They even have narratives based on historical occurrences to justify their resistance, even though the context is completely different now.

Maybe it would help for people to think in terms of both individual rights and individual responsibilities. Then you can keep your personal autonomy, but also recognize that your personal choices have consequences. Then you can see how you as a dot fits into the bigger picture of everyone else as a curve. Look again at the graph. It’s clear that for any one given individual, your chances of dying from COVID-19 are small. Not even half a percent of the country has. But if you are careless about transmitting the virus, you will help to kill some people. And that’s on you.

My War on Christmas Commentary

My War on Christmas Commentary

I joyfully celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday. I love the spirit of it, and decorating the house, and making beautiful Christmas trees (we have multiple trees this year), and getting presents for everybody and wrapping them in colorful paper, and indulging in traditional holiday food like spiked eggnog and three different pies, and watching the same old Christmas movies, and having Christmas Day off of work and pretending that Santa came the night before and ate his cookies and left the presents. I thoroughly enjoy all these chintzy, goofy, American ways of celebrating Christmas, because that is how I have celebrated it since childhood. It is the tradition that has been passed down to me, and I uphold it for the same reason anyone upholds a tradition: it provides a sense of stability, an anchor to the past that relieves the uncertainty of the future.

Our main Christmas tree this year. Ain’t she a beaut?

I celebrate Christmas in this way, even though I am not a Christian, fully aware that originally Christmas comes from the Christian religion. I realize that “Christmas” essentially means “Christ’s Mass” and that it is part of an ancient liturgical tradition of celebratory days (“holy days” – i.e., “holidays”) and that it is the day that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. If it’s important to you to remember this about Christmas (“the reason for the season”), then by all means do so, as is your right in this land of religious freedom. But don’t expect me to care. I don’t think much of Christianity, which strikes me as a personality cult with an absurd theology. I say this as someone who believes in a spiritual dimension to reality, but doesn’t believe that Christianity quite gets it right. I especially don’t like the idea that you *have* to worship Jesus or you’ll go to Hell, which in my mind is the signature belief of Christianity.

So I celebrate Christmas, but as a secular holiday (if that phrase even makes sense), and I have accepted that this is what Christmas has morphed into in our time. Christmas has become a secular holiday and I’m OK with that, because I know that Christianity’s own traditions have morphed over the centuries. As you probably know, many of the customs of Christmas have pagan origins, such as Christmas trees, and the actual date itself, which is the same as the Roman festival of Saturnalia. Some current Christmas customs were added fairly recently in time (for example, Santa Claus), and in this globalized age Christmas has been appropriated by other cultures. I’m sure you’ve heard that in Japan, it is now a tradition to celebrate Christmas with food from Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants.

If the Japanese can accept their weird, secular version of Christmas, then I can accept the weird, American version. Modern day American Christmas appropriates Christian elements, but in name only, and has become something non-Christian, and frankly that doesn’t bother me. I know this somehow bothers some people, and right-wing pundits claim there is a “war on Christmas,” but really all that these pundits are doing is stoking controversy in a politically-motivated culture war, and their complaints are absurd and pathetic. Nobody is stopping Christians from celebrating Christmas religiously, even though Christmas has transformed into a global, secular phenomenon.

Our neighbors are having a Jurassic Christmas this year!

What Christmas has become in our time is the season of maximum consumption so essential to the survival of America’s retail sector, when we all live our lives surrounded by cheesy holiday music and there are all these displays covering people’s houses and yards, some beautiful and impressive and others ridiculous and tacky, but all delightful. It has become part of a long stretch of time we call “the holiday season,” which culminates in New Year’s Day, and is a time of generosity and charity and reaffirming familial bonds; the modern version of the winter solstice celebrations that all society’s have, to see them through the darkest days of the year. We don’t face the same privations that preindustrial societies did in harsh winters, but we uphold the feasting tradition anyway, because having an annual period of gathering and sharing and respite from routine is how we cope as a species with the travail of our lives. Having an annual celebration of peace and goodwill towards others is how we affirm our deep potential for good and the value of our mysterious existence in the Universe, and that celebration can be called anything, it really doesn’t matter.

If you want Christmas to be more about Christian religious practice that’s your business, but don’t ask me to get involved.

And have a Merry Christmas!

Life and Death on Social Media

Life and Death on Social Media

I joined Facebook in 2008. In the thirteen years since, I’ve “friended” a few hundred people, many of them people I know from social circles, but also extended family and old schoolmates that I haven’t seen in years or decades. In some cases reuniting with old friends has caused a new friendship to blossom, and in others it’s simply been a chance to catch up on what has happened in our lives since we graduated from school, so long ago.

In addition, in the thirteen years since I joined Facebook, some of the people in my friends list have died. Almost certainly, you have experienced, as I posted recently, learning about a friend’s death online. When a Facebook user dies, their profile will still be there online. Facebook, in fact, has developed a protocol for memorializing accounts. Because of the nature of the platform and its long term success, this protocol, like death itself, became an inevitability.

At this point in time, about 1% of my Facebook friends are deceased. I don’t bring this up to be macabre, but to point out that with the pervasiveness of digital life, we are witnesses online to every stage of the lives of the people to whom we are connected in our social networks, and that includes the final stage.

With respect to the very youngest generation, we begin to learn about them starting at the earliest life stage. Today’s children are online even before birth, in the form of ultrasound images posted by their expectant mothers. In childhood, before they have their own social media accounts, they appear in their parents’ profiles. Traditions have developed like the annual back to school snapshot, or the family Halloween group picture.

Today’s childhood generation is the first generation to exist fully on the Internet. It will encompass their lives from cradle to grave, like some device in a Black Mirror episode. For older generations, even early wave Millennials, there is some period of their lives before everyone was online. People my age and older experienced the rise of personal computing and then the Internet only as adults.

For early wave Gen Xers such as myself, joining social media has been kind of an enfolding into our youth, like getting into a hot tub time machine that takes us back to our connections and experiences from the 1980s. It’s as though the Internet, in its mission to envelop the world, is reaching into the past and pulling the pre-Internet timeline into the metaverse of digital memory. I’ve posted already about how, for me (and probably for other Xers as well) this has been an opportunity for reflection on our past and reevaluation of our future.

The Internet gives us an amazing power to connect with others and share our personal experience. It’s only to be expected that this would reach all the way to the end of life. I’ve seen posts from the terminally ill, announcing their remaining life expectancy, and I’ve found this off-putting. But upon serious consideration, I must conclude that if we are willing to engage with our social media connections as a daily custom, we should engage with them even as their days come to an end. Death, after all, is an experience we all share.

Social Capital on the Internet

Social Capital on the Internet

One day when I checked my social media feed I was met with shocking news. Someone I recognized had been killed in a terrible car crash, along with his wife. He wasn’t someone I had ever met personally, wasn’t someone I had known for very long, but he was a mutual follower and he was a really friendly guy online. He was always supportive and only said nice things, which you probably know isn’t how everyone behaves on social media. I felt sincere grief that this man had tragically died, and donated to the crowdsourced fund for his orphaned children.

I bring this up not to showcase my charitable nature, but to point out that even though this person was only an acquaintance on social media, I felt connected enough to want to help his family in need. Arguably, by being supportive on social media, simply by liking my posts, this man had created enough of a bond between us that I felt a social obligation to him. One might cynically say that he had “bought” my support with a few clicks and some brief comments. But that’s just a way of saying that, by being a decent guy and following the etiquette of social media, he was building social capital.

“Social capital” is a concept from sociology that I have looked at before, when reviewing the work of Robert Putnam. This succinctly can be defined as “the value of social networks in providing generalized reciprocity.” I think the example I have just given is undeniably a case of this principle at work. I would say that all of cases of crowdfunding to help those in need, are examples of how social media is helping to reknit our society and forge the bonds of social capital. The loose associations of people on social networks are acting like the kinds of civic organizations that past generations joined, but that then fell off in membership, as Putnam has documented.

They might not form the progressive ideal of a social safety net, but at least they are something.

I Cleaned Up the Old Blog

I Cleaned Up the Old Blog

I started the In the Zeitgeist blog in 2017, and in one of the first posts I linked to an older blog I kept called Generation Watch. I started that one in 2002 and kept it up until, I think, 2007. Unfortunately I lost some of the content, so what I have up now stops abruptly in 2005. When I first referenced this older blog in that 2017 post, I had just moved it to a new domain, but the links were all broken so it was a mess and basically unusable. At long last, I have cleaned up all the internal links, so it is possible to navigate the site and access the content.

I only cleaned up the internal links, that is the links to other content I created on the blog, not the external links to other sites. I don’t plan to update those in any way, since my intention is to have an archived copy up. It’s the Wayback Machine version of my old blog. So you’ll have to pardon the occasional missing graphics and many dead links. Surprisingly, though, many of the external links still work, particularly the ones to major news sites that keep their articles up for a very long time.

One thing that’s interesting about the old site is how much of what I wrote looks like the same stuff I’m posting about today. The same old red zone vs. blue zone conflict is there, still unresolved today. Now the fault line is even deeper, even starker, as the generations have aged. Even though the post-elder Silent generation is still around and still in power, they aren’t so much the compromisers that they used to be (look at the last post on Generation Watch to see what I mean with that), as simply delayers of whatever final reckoning we are headed to as a society.

On the old blog you can see me struggling to understand what was going on around me in the 2000s. I was trying to wrap my mind around the changes happening and fit them into an understanding of cycles of history. I was also less partisan blue zone back then; you can even detect that 9/11 had brought out a bit of a patriotic red zoner in me. The train wreck that was the Bush administration put an end to that.

Back in the early 2000s blogging itself was relatively new. It was an exciting time when we bloggers felt like we were an army of Davids taking on the Goliaths of the old media. We linked to one another’s blogs in “blogrolls” and talked up the “blogosphere” like it was this groundbreaking new form of discourse. Now all the attention has moved on to social media platforms and blogging seems old-fashioned, like it belongs to an earlier phase in the history of the Internet. But either way you get that exciting sense of group participation – on the Internet everyone is a contributor as well as a consumer.