Sunday, February 21, 2010

Observations on Soldier Life

The life of an Israeli soldier is...

Sleeping on the floor of a public intercity bus while 50 cozy civilians enjoy their seats;

Discovering that hobos are smart, in that cardboard really feels like a mattress when trying to sleep on a concrete slab;

A 101.2 temperature is no reason you can't pull guard duty;

Having a runny nose and no tissues - well, they're combat pants, aren't they?;

Discovering a new use for mil-spec night vision goggles: stargazing;

Realizing that no matter how much you dream for weeks while on base about the simple pleasures of civilian life, like dipping cookies in milk, or drinking a Corona with lime, your imagination will always be infinitely more potent than reality;

Scanning the newspapers for your exploits, only to find misinformation and truncation;

Not being embarrassed about foot fungus - you try not taking off boots, at all, for two weeks straight;

Finding that scientific rules do not pertain to the army, like the pack-a-day smoker who is the best runner in the platoon;

Waking up exhausted in the middle of the night to falling Kassam rockets but not giving a damn, and certainly not enough to run to a bunker;

Watching red tracers light up the night sky but thinking about fireworks with your family on the Fourth of July;

Experiencing unrivaled joy when having to eat kosher Spam plain but miraculously finding ketchup;

Being called a 'hero' by a stranger on the street when all you really did that week was work in the kitchen;

Finding that you hate your enemy most not when they attack, but rather when they take away from valuable sleeping time;

Ignoring all the cool weapons and tanks and APC's you dreamed about seeing before the army because all you really want to do is be at home, in bed, watching an action movie;

Wondering what real girls look like, since the ones that work around infantry bases resemble armored Humvees more than anything else;

Conversely, chatting with pretty Arab girls at checkpoints because, eh, that's the real challenge;

Looking in the mirror in full uniform and feeling ten feet tall and bulletproof.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Facebook Knows Jewish Guilt

I, like many people, often have the desire to eliminate the ever-intruding Facebook from my life. My most recent urge to remove myself from the network is really a component of my frustration with technology in the form of smartphones. Specifically, I purchased a cool Nokia phone 3 weeks ago. Last night, however, during a routine update from Nokia, it decided to die and go to Nokia's overcrowded heaven. Just the mess of trying to figure out international warranty between America, Israel, and Nokia Asia has caused me to hate all technological contraptions, from cool phones to useful social networking tools.

Facebook has met my wrath before. In the summer of 2008, "The Great Purge" was executed. In an attempt to trim away the fat, I went through my "friends" list with a hatchet, hacking away all those who I couldn't really identify without looking at their picture, or seeing where they went to high school. "Oh, she graduated three years after me from high school? That would mean that... I have no clue who she is." Hack. Out of my 500 some friends, I think I purged around 100 to 150 people that I truly couldn't remember. Stalin would have been proud, and The Great Purge was successful.

Within days, however, many of those people 're-friended' me. How they figured out that I had pushed them away I do not know. Maybe they really follow my comments, and after they noticed my disappearance they were worried and fretted over my metaphysical Internet existence. I don't know. It was pretty creepy, though. Since then, I have been careful what I say on Facebook. You never know who is stalking.

Well anyway, my extreme frustration with yet another smartphone breaking on me led me to a desire to get back to the basics: email. I can do email. Seriously, I'd prefer snail-mail, since I like to write, but email is also fine. Between Facebook wall posts, comments, status updates, and private messages, I get lost on where to start, on which messages to reply to first, and who said what and when. Email just sticks around until you get to it. Facebook, as I've experienced it in the past year and a half with a 3G high-speed Internet phone, demands my constant attention just to keep up with who said what. So, no more smartphone, no more Facebook relevancy.

That was my logic. So, I went onto Facebook to check to see if there was anything interesting. Nope, just the same old events I can't go to, group invites I don't even read, and status updates about something I don't care about (I realize the irony, if you'd read my current status). I went to send two private messages. "Oops, there was an error sending your message! Try later." Ok, I guess Facebook wants to get cute when their service doesn't even work. I suppose the final straw before wanting to just junk the whole mess was when I went to respond to a wall post, only to find that the sender DEFRIENDED me! Ah, the rejection was too much to bear.

Settings > Deactivate account

Mark Zuckerberg, an AEPi Jewish fraternity alum, is the founder of Facebook. As you could guess from his name and choice of frats, he is a Jew. Though he is an atheist, he is obviously schooled in Jewish culture. Nothing is more overwhelmingly Jewish, in my experience, than the oft-mentioned "Jewish Guilt." In the Israeli Army, I felt guilt over whether or not to be a combat soldier ("Ben Gurion wanted you to be combat, and the country needs you"). With my cell phone provider I was guilted over my choice of phone ("Why do you want to buy a phone overseas? Don't you like our models?"). But Facebook, and Mark Zuckerberg's scheming ways, top them all. Here's the page that came up when I wanted to remove myself from their service. (Click on it for a close-up).

I don't curse on Israeli by Day, in general. But this one deserves a "holy sh*t." Let's take a closer look and examine. According to Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, if I disconnect, my "friends will no longer be able to keep in touch with [me]." If you're not on Facebook, that's it! You don't exist! No email, no cell phone, no address - no Facebook, no existence. That's pretty intense.

Not wasting precious time, Facebook throws five friends in my face, and actually include a line saying that they will miss me. Name by name, they say that "Dave will miss you; Stephanie will miss you." Five times they say that. Normally that wouldn't get to me, and I don't know what kind of genius algorithms they are using, but they somehow picked five good friends out of 560 acquaintances to guilt me with. You might be thinking that they simply picked the five that I talk to the most, but that is not hardly the case. I haven't communicated for a long time with a few of those people on Facebook, but I'd be very sad to lose touch with them completely. I fear that would be the case if it weren't for Facebook.

But look closer. Not only did they pick those five good friends, and not only did they include the line that they would miss me, but they included pictures of that friend. Again, take another look. Notice the real guilt trick? All of the pictures are of us together! I'm not even sure what to say, other than that their guilt trip took me a long way. Those pictures happen to all be of very cool experiences in my life. They are meaningful as hell. One is of the Jerusalem Winter Ball in 2009, which I attended during my 10-day vacation from the army for finishing basic training - a great excuse to drink bathtub-quality vodka. Another picture is of my graduation from college, with all of our friends around. Yet another is in the coolest pool ever, in the nicest hotel ever, during one of the greatest weekends I've ever had in Israel. Just look at those pictures: buddies.

I can't delete those guys. Facebook gives me the option right beneath those pictures to message my friends. What do they want you to say? "Hey friend, I'm going off the grid. I won't see any of your pictures, read what you're up to through your status updates, or remember where you work. Talk to you later - not sure how though..." Guilt. How could you remove them from your life? They really drive home the message that Facebook is a necessary part of your life, and with an invaluable smartphone, you're never separated from your friends.

The scary part of it all is that I believe them. How would I ever remember all those acquaintances that I like to keep tabs on? I do like to see what kind of jobs they have. And my real friends, how will I see what they look like if not for the photos they post? And wow, birthdays. Considering I have forgotten my own birthday once, if Facebook didn't alert me to anyone else's it'd be a sealed matter; no happy bday from Danny!

In conclusion, I have lost yet another Nokia phone for no good reason. My days in the army of constant Internet use, an addiction most likely, are therefore temporarily suspended. My Facebook connection is severed. Checking that site once every two weeks is just about worthless. Despite that setback, and my refusal to get another good phone for awhile, I cannot purge Facebook itself. Mark Zuckerberg and his creation have implemented 5,000 years of Jewish history's greatest weapon, and I've fallen prey to it just as if it's one and the same as my grandmother ("Hey, I drove all morning in the rain to buy you two pounds of high-quality deli meat for the weekend, aren't you hungry for a sandwich?").

I guess I'll link to this blog post on my Facebook home page.