Sunday, March 11, 2018

Shootin Ya Shot.., As A Five Percenter

Customarily, when a brother within the Five Percent was interested in knowing the status of a sister he would simply ask, "Do you have a God?" This is appropriately done in a shared environment of Five Percenters such as a Rally, Parliament, Family Day, Show & Prove or other environments where we get together. This is done face to face. Nowadays with the growth of the Digital Age, particularly with SNSs [Social Network Sites], customs such as these become more difficult to express. Because of the nature of SNSs as a platform, appropriation of the English vocabulary and introduction of social media slang, a "Do you have a God?" Facebook inbox or Instagram DM can easily be filed under the folder of thirsty or jumping/sliding in somebody's DMs. Regardless who this brother or sister may be in real life, that brother or sister may not know how to appropriately engage one another using this platform, and social media vocabulary, from a Five Percenter perspective. Much can get lost in that translation. I've seen brothers naively poking brothers without knowing what the Facebook "poke" function implies or the digital reputation they're creating. I've also experienced one of my sisters "" a photo of me and another woman assume she was my Queen. It's a dilemma, like with some of our other customs of engaging one another, that have become challenging to express under these virtual conditions of technology often veiled as progress. I say "veiled" because many of us, especially Millennial social media natives who don't know of a world without the internet, are becoming more and more detached from certain customs that maintained our relationships.

Many Moons ago I had one of my first online experiences of a woman being interested in me who was once connected to a brother I didn't know but heard of. He was also a Five Percenter so I took the liberty of reaching out to him to find out the status of him and this sister. This is something we customarily do, yet the medium of the internet complicated it. He told me they were working on it, she said it was done and I found myself in the midst of an unresolved issue that I actually strived to investigate before getting involved in. The brother tried to accuse me of trying to get at God's Earths and if it wasn't for the printed screen copies of our online correspondences showing people the truth, people may have believed him. In this regard the internet saved my reputation but at the same time I could see how some of our customs began to be lost. A new technological language and social media etiquette was evolving and many of us were simply unprepared for what was on the horizon. Many of us are still unprepared and we find ourselves falling a victim to this every day.

The Online Dating Sites of the mid 90's were the morning star of the SNSs movement. At one point people frowned upon folks using dating sites because of their -social- awkwardness of meeting people. Nowadays maaaaaany people connect using social media, which are like dating sites on steroids. Even if they meet people in real-time, they still may defer to deal with them in a social media context. What we began to lose in the 90's when folks chose to use dating sites instead of meeting real people, is the same thing we're losing with people who choose to exist in a virtual reality today; human contact, intimacy, social etiquette, reading body language and the overall ability to effectively communicate. In fact, studies have show that only 7% of all communication is written or verbal while 93% is based on nonverbal body language. As I've shared, even as a Five Percenter, many of us aren't exempt from this either. 

So the logical question is, "What can we do about?" The first step is recognizing that our method of communication, and the etiquette that goes along with it, has changed. Twitter now allows people to use 140 characters text + image or gif or video or quote. Some of those characters can substituted with emojis; such as the secret emoji language many youth use. The good thing I've learned about using 140 characters to convey a thought is that it challenges you to be more concise and truncate our ideas. As a writer and public speaker this can help in the area of creating effective soundbites that Spin Doctors have a hard time remixing. On the other hand it does truncate our ideas and can have a negative impact on a person's attention span [because of excessive stimuli], ability to communicate, write, read and ultimately relate to others. As Author Paul L. Guthrie remarked about this technological paradigm shift in our Table Talks Interview, "Since the rise of the internet, literacy has been in decline. And even literacy itself, is changing. Reading words printed on paper (in books) is a different process than reading online. When I first began to read online I had to almost re-learn the kind of thought processes used while reading from books. It took me several months to re-learn how to mentally process online information. Computers throw the information at you at a different speed and with a different flavor. It's not the same; it comes at you from a different angle. I promote that people use paper printed books (while they’re still available), and maybe supplement their reading with online sources.

Cultural Catfishing
Realizing that this poses some serious psychological and social issues, especially for our youth, the next step is making sure we reinvest in real-time connections with one another as opposed to using the internet, particularly social media, as mental and emotional retreats from everyday society. Keep in mind that there is nothing inherently bad about using SNSs. When people primarily rely on them to "virtually" socialize instead of actually socialize, that's a problem, for humanity and the environment. In regards to Five Percenters specifically, this article highlights a larger ongoing discussion on SNSs protocols and cultural rules of engagement we need to have within our respective ciphers. Five Percenters need to learn appropriate ways to DM a potential Queen or Earth outside of the context of thirsty or jumping/sliding in her DMs. Sisters and Brothers need to learn appropriate standards to engage each other publicly and privately on social media that upholds the level of integrity we see in actual ciphers. Our Parliaments are a legislative body of Five Percenters that come together by consensus to enact and modify rules that help regulate our collective cipher. For example, any issues or activities going on in my region of Western New York and Southern Ontario that impact us and our communities, positively or negatively, is addressed at our Parliament. Even though a virtual Parliament model has not been established, I have been a part of closed, secret and open Facebook Groups that have been able and unable to serve a very limited parliamentary purpose -based upon the integrity and protocols of those maintaining these internet ciphers [Administrators]. These and many other customs we express offline, such as verifying a person's identity, length of study, lineage and cultural understanding, have been challenging to ascertain using SNSs as a platform. "Building" in person allows us to gather much more information about each other as opposed to corresponding in Messenger or replying to questions on a Facebook thread. In these and other instances it's hard to verify or even validate if people are who they say they are, especially if we've never met them in real life. In real life if I asked a person to quote a lesson or share their understanding of something I can see their response in real-time. If I inboxed that to someone or asked them on a social media post it's easy for them to copy and paste an answer, or get someone to respond for them, to appear genuine. Cultural Catfishing is much harder to pull off in real life. What many of us are growing to understand is that some of our customs are nontransferable, meaning, there are limits to what we can actually express using SNSs as a platform. The limit is the platform itself, not us as the Five Percent. People reach out to me from around the world all of the time that are interested in learning the culture of the Five Percent. Many ask for books, documents or even a desire to speak on the phone. In most instances it doesn't occur to them that they're asking to learn an entire "way of life"; everyday living that doesn't have a page count, that isn't a bunch of documents and is not something you just email or talk about over the phone. This misconception of culture and assumption [and presumption] of access is the direct result of SNSs and the shift into a Digital Age. Like I've said on many occasions, all of the services I share using the internet [articles, books, radio shows, music, videos and etc.] are routing devices to everyday reality. What I share online is virtual evidence of what I do offline.

As Five Percenters we're in a state of transition where learning to repurpose some of our customs in a virtual reality can successfully or unsuccessfully alter our cultural life expectancy, change our real-time sex ratios and set a socioemotional and economic trajectory for our future generations. It is not beneficial to entirely denounce the Digital Age as many of our Baby Boomers have, or be totally immersed in it as many Generation X and Millennials are; both are too extreme. We must strike a healthy balance. A balance that empowers us to engage each other with technology to continue building brick and mortar institutions, concrete relationships and solid communities where our families thrive.

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