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OKLAHOMA CITY – It stands to reason that being immersed online and getting bounced around in the swirling eddies of social media would lead to existential questions about the nature of reality and who our friends may really be.

After all, with the advent and exponential expansion of the Internet, one would suspect that we would all feel more connected, right? Back in the 1980’s I had two pen pals. One was named Billy and he lived in Malaysia. I looked forward to the day when a letter with a Kuala Lumpur postmark would arrive in the mailbox, something that now reminds me of the Beatles song “Across the Universe,” where John Lennon sings, “Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box / They tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe.”

Billy’s letter would wait in my “letter box” on Fillmore Street in Little Rock until I got home from school and he would tell me about life in Malaysia. It helped that I was immensely interested in the broader world already and learning more about it was aided in these letters from a pen pal thousands of miles away.

But the “distance” between people has been drastically diminished with the Internet and social media. While “someone” is interacting with us, be it on Twitter or Facebook or whatever, rarely (I imagine) are we thinking about where that person actually is. I knew Billy was in Malaysia. While someone may tell us they live in Brazil or Egypt or Denmark, we just go on faith that where they say they are from (along with everything else) is true.

I am not here to complain and moan about the Internet. I’ll save that for another day. What I am saying is that multiple dreams this past week seemed to highlight the yearning I feel for true, human connections with people. I admit I have struggled with this all of my life. I’ve never felt like I quite fit in anywhere I’ve lived, worked or existed. And I mostly took my misfit status in stride. It is who I am.

So, why is everyone just sort of getting through the average day? Why is mass depression a thing? The blame is being increasingly laid at the feet of the Internet, the mass “connector” which seems accurate in light of a Psychology Today article highlighting how the Internet and social media have led to a “mental health crisis.” Kids staying indoors on devices.  Addictive nature of the technology. The “deindividuation” of communication often taking a dark turn. I would firmly agree with their findings.

HOOPER/LOOPER

I played basketball as a kid. I've helped coach a basketball team. And I do support the local NBA team. While I am not much for sports analogies, I think I have learned alertness and the importance of "intentions" from the game created by James Naismith, so long ago. 

In any event, my dream on the morning of Thursday, Dec. 26th was something I called a “friendship dream.” As is often the case in my twilit dreamworld, I am in a “communal” space with lots of people, many of whom I don’t know or don’t know well. In this dream it reminded me of a college dorm. Two of my “roomies” stood out. One was an older, mysterious character who “seemed to have a home outside Rome, Italy.” And then there was the tall, basketball-player-level guy (reminded me a bit of the Thunder’s Steven Adams) who was named “Jason.” That was a name that was common amongst boys of my generation. In the animated adventure sci-fi series Battle of the Planets (“G Force”), “Jason” was the hotheaded member of the “G Force.”  

Like Jason on Battle of the Planets (which I was obsessed with 40 years ago), I got the impression that my hoops-playing roomie Jason was a bit standoffish and a bit unpleasant. But I finally saw him in the room one day, on his bunk, and finally struck up a conversation. I found his presence intimidating, but I knew I had to try and be this guy's friend. Jason's young son was visiting him (which makes me wonder - was this place a prison?) and you know what? We became friends, me having stepped out of my comfort zone. Amazingly, when I woke up the 1967 Friend & Lover song "Reach Out Of The Darkness" was running on a loop in my head - and I had not even heard it in weeks. "I think it's so groovy now, that people are finally getting together"! In fact, a verse is of the male singer, Jim Post, sings of knowing a man he didn't want to know, but then decided to reach out to him - and, well, here are the lyrics (by Jim Post): 

"I knew a man that I did not care for
And then one day this man gave me a call
We sat and talked about things on our mind
And now this man he is a friend of mine
Don't be afraid of love.
"

I could not think of a song that fit more appropriately to the themes in this dream than that old Friend & Lover hit from psychedelic '67.

The following day, Friday, Dec. 27th, the theme of "friendship" took a darker turn, I felt. In the dream, a man named "Bernard" who had a link to basketball and was not a good person, as I understood. And yet, I was trying to befriend this guy, too, even though, as I wrote immediately after awaking, "the guy was a jerk and possibly a satanist." Not the greatest of qualities. 

And then there was a link to the Wendy's hamburger franchise, although it seemed to link to Shelley Duvall's character in The Shining, who was named "Wendy." Somehow this all intersected. Of course I had seen a new Wendy's restaurant a day or so earlier and I am taking notes for a book I want to write about The Shining, so there's that ...

Anyway, what I am getting from all of this is that in this social-media-connected world of ours, we all need to be more discerning about who are friends are. I think I have struggled in this area of my life. But life is a learning process. And with everything speeding up - by the day, it would seem - it can seem overwhelming, as I seemed to feel in my dream state. 

I do not know how much more I will be devoting to Dust Devil Dreams in 2020 and the new decade now upon us. I have a decidedly uneasy feeling, mixed with optimism, that seems incongruous. But that's life for ya!

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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