Mitchell Richards [Words]

Month: June, 2012

Life, Not “Like” [or] People, Not Pixels

Years ago, I had this knack for making my own shirts. I would buy that special paper you could print and iron on to a shirt and make them myself. I had, what I thought, were some pretty great ones. Keep in my, I was young and was still into sophomoric humor, but I made a ton of shirts that said, “Poop on Satan” and sold them to my friends.

A few prints later, I made one for myself that simply said, “Shut Down Your Xanga.”

Before Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace, there was Xanga. A little blog sharing and social media website that apparently I was pretty obsessed with. I remember shutting it down because of what people were using it for, as a soapbox for their problems and frustrations.

Now, this is all sort of awkward to talk about because chances are you ended up here by way of social media, probably not Xanga, but maybe somewhere else.

The more and more I immerse myself in social media, I find myself wanting to get out of it. I see a lot of people using these tools meant to bring people together and keep them connected, to destroy that very purpose. I see gossip and fighting, I see people complaining and whining about mundane things. It really drives me nuts.

I use social media as an expression outlet, usually for jokes and creative projects such as my writings and things. Others use it for…well…I don’t know really.

And probably the worst problem of all is that people constantly use social media. We all have our phones set up to notify us when something happens in that world.

To me, there is a definitive line between our social media connections and what is actually happening in real life, and those things should be separated as much as possible. You shouldn’t be updating your status as life is happening around you. You shouldn’t be eating a wonderful meal with friends and telling people about it, you should be enjoying that moment…right then…with those people…right there…and not be worried about the people who aren’t there.

It is okay to share these memories and moments on social media outlets, but it is not okay to miss these moments because of social media outlets or your desire to use them while thriving in real life.

You shouldn’t be watching the sunset and talking about it, you should be watching the sunset and shutting up about it.

We can’t live life with our heads down, looking at the screens in the palms of our hands as life continues to move around us.

If the Bible is right when it says that this life is a vapor evaporating, how are we spending it? How are we sharing and separating the vapor life that is real from the digital life that is not?

I don’t know how much time you spend on social media, but chances are you’re missing out on the things happening all around you.

You cannot click a “like” or “retweet” button when things in life are beautiful, but you can still share them with the people around you. You shouldn’t be complaining about your mundane life writing from the glow of a screen.

I don’t remember a time I looked out to the ocean, or watched a sunrise and ever thought my life was going nowhere, that it was all meaningless. But I can show you some backlogs of some writings that would suggest otherwise.

Life is to be lived, not “liked.” It is to be shared with the few around you. Because this life is (get ready for a cliché) the only one we have, and we can’t just let it go by as we waste our time away complaining and looking at other people’s baby pictures.

[Insert paragraph about how no one cares about your cats.]

I’m not saying you should go out and shut down all of your social media sites and blogs and things, but I would like to issue you a challenge: delete the apps from your phone, just for a week or so, and realize how often you go to you phone just to check it. Delete your bookmarks and quick links on your computer, so you have to realize every time you start typing http://www.facebo…

You might surprise yourself how often you check these things.

But what is happening here usually is that your aren’t going to Facebook to check what your friends are saying as often as you are going to Facebook to see what your friends have said about something you said earlier or to see how many people “liked” it.

Maybe as you go through a couple days without social media, maybe you call in to a friend and see how they are doing. Hell, write a letter to someone just to tell them, as a person and not as a group of pixels on a screen, they mean something to you.

Watch a sunrise and don’t tweet about it.

Enjoy a meal and don’t take a picture of it.

Play with your 50 cats and don’t brag about it.

Share time with someone; connect with someone in a real way.

Get off the grid.

Live, don’t “like.”


To Make God Laugh

I told my friend the other day that I wish I could write about God more humorously. I told him that I love writing about God and I love making people laugh, but see those qualities and exclusively separate. Since I was kid, the being of God and the following train of religion was always something I took pretty seriously.

Maybe it was the way the old organ and piano played on Sunday morning when I walked in to my church. I always just sort of felt a reverence for God and worshipping him and it was never to be taken lightly.

I think of myself as a pretty humorous person, I like writing jokes and have fun in witty banter with people, but I very rarely joke about God, and if I do it is so veiled most people don’t even catch it.

What this all boils down to is that I am not myself around God, a God I claim as an important part of my life.

For example, when I was younger I used to want to work on cartoons and be a voice actor. I loved doing accents and making noises with my mouth. Every once in a while, these accents will sneak out in every day life. I switched into what I call my Godfather voice to one of the girls on the soccer team I coach and she responded in her own mafia style voice. It was great.

But all this made me think of how rarely I communicate with God, and even when I do, I would never do a voice or an accent in his presence. I don’t do this because there are no jokes in the Bible, and no parts where it says “And then Peter responded to Jesus as if he were British and said ‘that’s what Mary said.’”

I hate the idea of God as friend, so this goes beyond that to a place where I am not even myself around my creator.

I can’t even be the person he made me to be around the person who made me be the way that I am. (That was a fun sentence to write)

I am giving God a cheapened version of his creation, of myself, and that is really sad to think about. Obviously, I don’t think I could ever pray to God in an accent, but I really don’t even feel like I am myself around him or by the way I talk about him. How often do I joke around with him? How often to I joke about him?

When people first meet me, they get the impression that I am quiet and reserved. This is sort of true, but I really just take a little time to warm up to you, to get a feel for you. When I start to get comfortable around people, I start to joke with them, I start to converse more, and so on. But early on, my shyness and quietness scare people off because they think I’m homeschooled or a postal worker or something.

Some days I feel like God and I never really had the chance to talk, like maybe I am just still awkward and shy around him because he hasn’t revealed himself to me, he’s never told me about his true nature. And so I’m scared when I see God be quiet because I’m afraid he hates me or something, I’m afraid he is no nonsense and not in the mood to joke around, and that even if he were, he wouldn’t get my jokes.

I don’t want to be this way with him, I don’t want to be shy because I know he isn’t shy either.

Sometimes I do random and stupid things with my life and think that God is up there crying because I’m an idiot. But I also think that more often than not, he’s crying tears from laughing his ass off because I’m an idiot too.

I believe that the way I am, cheerful and happy, easy going and joking, is truly the way God made me and the way God wants me to be for everyone else. I really feel that I have a gift to make others laugh.

Now, if I could only act that way around God. Am I taking him too seriously? I would like to make God laugh and I want to feel comfortable around him. I want my Godfather voice to slip out one of these days, only to have God respond with his mock-Okie accent, never missing a beat.