Stick It To Me [guest]

Matt Hershey was born in New Jersey, which may explain some things.  His creative breakthrough came when he was asked to sing The Star-Spangled Banner at a Chicago White Sox game.  Unfortunately, that went horribly wrong when by the time the first pitch was thrown he had sung our national anthem one and a half times.  Currently he is a pastor in Lebanon, PA with aspirations of becoming a boat captain at Walt Disney World’s Jungle Cruise.  His kids are honor students at their elementary school. 

* * * * * * *

I’m 37 years old. From what I can gather my age puts me into a demographic category that demands I understand and participate in specific cultural activities. Problem is, I am realizing that my life more closely resembles that of my 90 year-old grandparents, prior to their passing.

This is my first blog post. Please don’t shame me for taking so long to get to this point in my life. I understand the general concept of Twitter, but I have never tweeted (am I supposed to capitalize “Tweet?” I’m lost.), and I don’t follow anybody who does t(T)weet. Until a few weeks ago I didn’t understand the concept of a hashtag (#). Fortunately, somebody explained it to me, but now I forget what they told me. Most family members and coworkers in my age category have an iPhone. I have never downloaded an app in my life. Is it true that there is an app that turns your phone into an air freshener by sending out a fragrance plume from the headphone jack? Do smart phones* still have headphone jacks? [*During the editing process I was informed that “smartphone” is actually one word, as is “craigslist,” with no apostrophe.]

I’m not a total loser. I am typing this post on a MacBook—using Word for Mac 2004.  It’s the kind of MacBook that still has a place to insert CDs and DVDs. I understand the world has now moved away from discs.  You’re really going to like this one. I have an operational Juno email account. Yep, Juno still exists in case you were wondering. I check it daily.

Oh, and then there’s Facebook. I never had a Facebook account but it feels like I do. Seems like I can’t go a day without being part of a conversation centered around Facebook content. From what I’ve been told lots of people use Facebook to tell lots of other people about their lives—the absolutely most amazing details of their lives at all times! “My spouse is amazing.” “My kids are spectacular.” “The cupcakes I baked for my child’s class at school look like Martha Stewart beamed into my kitchen.” “You should have seen Johnny win the game.  DI scholarship here we come.” “Check out the floral centerpiece I designed for our dining room table—which by the way is made out of Brazilian nutwood.” And then, I guess, everyone who reads these Facebook posts and looks at the pictures writes back and says how absolutely amazing your spouse, kids, cupcakes, centerpiece, and dining room table live and look. It’s a huge cyber hug fest.  Ugh.

Cool. It’s the age we live in. I guess I just haven’t caught up yet.  People who love me a lot have offered to help me get up to speed. Did I mention that I bought a VCR off of Craig’s List* two years ago to replace my broken VCR, that I purchased after the VCR I won at my post-prom party broke (had that one for 13 years)? Well, I did.

I get technology for the most part.  It’s fun, it’s helpful, it saves lives, it lets us brag on our perfect family—even if that is only part of the picture hanging above the mantel.

This article isn’t about technology. It’s about missing the cultural tsunami that overwhelms me. Technology is a huge part of that storm, but I also don’t know what movies are out there, what’s popular on TV, or even if it is culturally acceptable to end a sentence in a preposition. It would have been cool to end that last sentence with a preposition but I physically couldn’t bring myself to do it.

However, as I swirl around in a sea of cultural programs/fads/advances—call them what you will—I am most confused by one in particular.

FAMILY CAR STICKERS

You’ve seen them, and if you haven’t you probably aren’t paying attention when you drive and should have your licensed revoked. They are typically found on mini-vans, but can be seen on almost any car on the road. They are an advertisement for the family that travels in that particular vehicle. Simple displays show a generic stick man, his stick wife, and their stick kids. But, it gets much more complicated. You can represent your family in full color, as zombies, or customized to show each individual’s favorite activity or hobby. You can even let people know what kind of pets (w/sweaters if you want) you have. I’ve seen some vehicles with fishbowls posted so everyone knows that the family has fish—glad to know.

I was at the swimming pool with my family last week and we parked next to a minivan with family stickers. The father was sporting a cross necklace and holding a Bible high above his head. It seemed in that instant that he wanted to hit somebody with it? The mother was holding a shopping bag (or perhaps it was a large purse…same thing). Each of the kids was obviously a successful athlete. Truly, a blessed family. I can’t compete with that!

These stickers are almost always placed on the lower left-hand corner of the rear window. I’ve surmised that the further they stretch across the glass the more status the family has achieved.

This makes far less sense to me than Facebook. With Facebook I am not forced to acknowledge your greatness. I don’t have to have an account, or if I do I can pretend I didn’t read about your awesomeness. However, with these stickers, I have no choice. If I am driving behind you I have to stare at your stickers and ponder why your family is better than mine. If the road I am traveling on has a passing lane I can move around you.  But that can be dangerous (especially if you have three kids, two soccer balls, uneven parallel bars, and a bowl of fish in your vehicle). If I am on a two-lane road with no options, I am stuck.

All of the technology that I talked about earlier helps us access information that we need or desire. We can put any information out there we want and allow anybody to access it.  But, I still have a choice to give or receive in that place. These stickers leave me with no choice. I have to receive what they are telling me about your successful family. There is no doubt this is first generation technology that will come to fruition when we are injecting robotic bugs into people’s brains that will tell them what to think, say, and do. Heed my warning because it is the only one you are going to get. The cultural tsunami has you in tow.

CaptureMay I suggest a compromise? If this is the direction that communicative technologies are taking us, let’s at least step into it progressively. I can’t handle it all at once. What if on the right side of the rear window we start adding stickers that speak to the imperfection of our lives. How about one with dad at the doctor’s office getting a colonoscopy? To his left mom is crying because dad works too much and she never sees him (but worse, he never sees her, even when he is home). The kids have their soccer balls but they lost the game. The fish water is dirty because dad is the only one who changes it and he didn’t have time this month. Now, we can hang out.

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8 thoughts on “Stick It To Me [guest]

  1. There is probably no point in commenting on this post because the likelihood that you will actually read it is minimal. However, just in case you do…this is great stuff and you are awesome. If you joined facebook you could post this and then have even more people tell you how awesome you are so that when you are feeling like junk because you just drove for 20 miles behind an SUV with a rear windshield covered in family stickers you can go back and read all of the above mentioned comments 🙂

    On the flip side, maybe facebook should consider dedicating an entire 24 hours to only having people post the worst part of their day instead of the best. Perhaps you should get together with someone and create an app that provides images that represent the other side of the “happy, perfect family” sticker. Just a thought…

  2. Steff and I have had a number of conversations recently on just about all the topics you covered in your inaugural (though possibly final) blog post — which is to say: you’re not alone.

    While I don’t have a particular aversion to the happy family stickers you mentioned, I hate bumper stickers altogether, and it occurred to me earlier this week that Facebook/Twitter and bumper stickers serve the same purpose: they are superficial media in which to convey to another person (to “the world”) the way in which they prefer to be viewed. THIS is what I want you to know about me. THIS is how I want you to see me. THIS is what I think about this or that social/political/religious issue, and YOU should KNOW me through my position on said issue.

    While it purports to be detailed ‘knowledge’ of a person (their family life, their religious affiliations, their innermost thoughts), there is no intimacy because there is no vulnerability. It’s knowledge rendered through a self-determined lens, and is therefore protective.

  3. Matt, I’m having Steffeny post this for me because I don’t do that. In fact, I only read this so she wouldn’t feel bad for sending it to me. Still, I feel compelled to respond (through someone else) that the article was ok and I want you to know that if there was a bumper sticker, “Vote for Matt” (aka Pedro) I might put it on my car (or I might not).
    PS – what do you call stickers on bikes?
    Paul D.

  4. Great first post ever, Matt. I laughed really hard (not that that was necessarily what you were trying to achieve but it’s an added bonus, I’m sure). I felt a little guilty because we have the car stickers but disclaimer: my mom got them for us and “made” us put them on our van. The back windshield is tinted and you can’t really see them. And they are the normal ones–no sports, Bibles, goldfish bowls. We’re boring. Maybe that’s what we’re communicating (better than perfect, right?). So I hope that means I’m in the clear. 🙂 Well written, Matt. You should write more.

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