Stalking Your Quarry

11spyingA couple of times this week I got attacked on Facebook, once by a stranger who accused me of being a coward for not getting up in people’s faces with my political opinions and the other time by a woman on my friends list whom I’ve never met.  The “friend” misunderstood something I posted, and jumped down my throat under the mistaken impression that I was attacking her for some reason.

It’s true that I don’t like drama in my life. It’s also true that my attempts at humor are not always easily understood. I brooded over that a little bit while I went through the list and unfollowed every Facebook friend I had with whom I had never personally interacted, figuring better safe than sorry in these volatile times, with everyone on a short fuse. Farewell ladies, gents, I’ll see you all after the election.

For the record, as those of you who actually know me know, I am a cradle Democrat, thought the Party disappoints me from time to time. Before I would vote for a Republican, I would stick my head in a fiery furnace, even if their candidate were someone other than a tiny-fingered, Cheeto-faced proto-Nazi in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Yes, Hillary is something of a bitch, but that only makes us sisters under the skin, all the more reason for me to vote for her.

I trust that my position is now clear.

Still I was asking myself today, was I not a coward for declining to re-post the most amusing of the Trump memes I came across? They’re all good for a laugh. And then I was thinking about what to take with me to New Brunswick to wear to the Deadly Ink mystery conference, which is this weekend. The baggy green linen dress, so appropriate for the bohemian atmosphere of Lambertville? The pin-striped suit that makes me look like a trial lawyer? No. Something clean, attractive, and unobtrusive. But why unobtrusive? Can it be that I really am guilty of cowardice?

No. I’m a writer.

The first rule of being a writer is to keep your eyes and ears open, not to get up in people’s faces. I think that means we must seek not to obtrude. We are here to observe and analyze the human condition. Dorothea Brande said in Becoming a Writer, “keep still about your intentions, or you will startle your quarry.” So that’s what I’m doing. I’m keeping still about my intentions.

And I’m watching you.

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Attracting Eyeballs

What do you look at when you look at the internet?

which_dog_breed_do_you_look_like_featured_largeI asked myself this question the other day after blowing an hour or so on Facebook when I was supposed to be working. Why was I looking at all that? Mindlessly. Why did I take those stupid quizzes? We all know they’re worthless. If I don’t know by now, at my age,  whether I have an adequate grasp of English grammar or what country I should be living in, I’m afraid it’s way too late.

And yet we are drawn to this stuff, this clickbait. If only we knew why, we could use the knowledge to write irresistible blog posts.

WarningSignsofSociopathThe Knowing Ones give me tips from time to time on how to get people to read my blog posts. You know who they are. They write articles for the internet on how to improve yourself and your work, articles which you are irresistibly compelled to view. Mentioning a number in the title is effective, they say. Seventeen Terms Only Jersey Girls Understand. Ten Celebrities Who Have Big Bottoms. Anybody would click on that. I think about trying that ploy—Eight Ways to Cheat Death, Five Unpleasant People I Have Known. I dunno, it seems to me that anybody I would want to write for would be too smart to fall for it.

kittenI don’t really know for sure how to attract eyeballs. My own eyeballs go to ladies’ fashions from the olden days, notes about the state of health of my various Facebook friends, may they all be well, pictures of cityscapes from times gone by, and other folks’ political posts, sometimes. And cats. Cute cats. And babies. Cute cats with babies.

Also videos of Donald J. Trump. I hate myself for watching them but I can’t look away. With a sick fascination I watch him aggrandize himself, bluster, repeat himself while saying nothing, and when challenged on his policy positions, change the subject with practiced incoherence. What a showman. Watching him is like picking a scab.

TrumpBut one has to be so careful. Out there in Internet Land relentless bots collect information about everything we do on our computers. I go to Nordstrom.com and look at an interesting dress or pair of shoes and the next time I’m on Facebook there it is again, the same item, offered to me in an ad. Little does Zuckerberg know or care that I can’t afford the shoes, and the dress isn’t available above a size two. Maybe it’s cookies. It feels like some kind of conspiracy. Five Ways Your Computer Works to Destroy You.

I just had a horrible thought. The Internet knows that I watch Trump videos. What if they think I’m a fan and give my email and home address to the Trump campaign? What if they come after me for money and support?

Here I go to erase all my cookies. Or toss them.