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April 29, 2010


great photo!

You're right on about social networking (esp. Twitter) requiring a constant focus to stay engaged. It moves too fast for those of us who can only drop in once or twice a day. It's bewildering to me and, like you, I keep a hand in by using it creatively, but I've rarely used it for conversation or real connection. FB is more complicated for me as well. I resisted it, but eventually succumbed. My blog posts cross post there as well and many people now read my blog on FB sometimes creating comment threads in both forums, which kind of annoys me because I care about my site, but wouldn't lose a bit of sleep if FB disappeared tomorrow. I couldn't agree more about that feeling of dissatisfaction and unfulfillment that comes with a lot of time spent on the social sites.

With my "professional" head on, I recognise Facebook's potential as a networking tool for all the reasons you describe above. I use it on behalf of several clients and there's no doubt that it's the default platform for online visibility these days, even if you have a "proper" website running alongside it.

However, I think your description of "striving to be noticed while basically swimming in a sea of superficiality" encapsulates pretty much why I don't find much use for it on a personal level. There's something about it that seems to encourage breadth rather than depth of interaction.

If you haven't seen it already, this is worth a read. Like you, I don't mean to be dismissive of something that is clearly enjoyed by, and useful to, a significant number of people. I just can't work up much enthusiasm for it myself.

and very astute & wise observations on social media and human interaction!

and thank you for sharing yourself with us on this blog Beth.

my SD said to me last night that one needs to learn to distinguish between "an empty" silence and "a silence that is fulfilling". In Christian terms, I would take the latter to be a silence where we give place to the Holy Spirit to dwell with us.

In my solitary existence, my silence is not always centered nor 'fulfilling". The "noon day devil" stirs its head far too easily and I get distracted far too easily by stuff like FB for example.....

There's so much I sympathize with in this post. Some days I'd like to just secede from the whole thing.

Thanks, Krish, for the compliment on the photo and what you said about silence. (BTW, for those not used to AngloCatholic shorthand, "SD" is spiritual director!)

James, thanks for the comment. I wouldn't miss FB one bit either, but I'd miss blogs hugely. You'll appreciate the article Hg links to in his comment.

Hg - thanks, I'm glad someone else feels this separation between the "professional" and "personal" on FB and uses it that way. And thank you so much for the link to Anna's article, she definitely hits the nail on the head.

Kurt: maybe we should. While it's nice to have readers and colleagues, in many ways it seems like the antithesis of everything haiku represents. I'd happily read yours on your blog instead. It's just as Anna says, there is pressure to be "everywhere" now, and it's exhausting on a time-level as well as spirit-draining. One has to stop and ask "why?"

I can't write blog posts from the office, so Facebook is a welcome diversion from my endless writing work. I never think about how many FB "friends" I have - I'm happy to see occasional bits or comments from people I know. It's like water cooler stuff. I resisted getting on for a year or so, but now I wish more of my friends/acquaintances were on so I could keep up with their lives and travels on a more day-to-day basis. I do appreciate the depth and thoughtfulness of blogging, but there's a social need for everyday small talk as well.

I also resisted Twitter for a long time, until I figured out its usefulness as a creative medium. The constraints of the 140 characters make it perfect for short poetry.

Anyway, it's the end of another trying day at the office. What I really should be doing is unchaining myself from the desk and going outside walking...

I guess I'm in agreement with Leslee as far as my own approach to FB and Twitter goes, but I can definitely see where you're coming from, too. As you know, Facebook has helped me enormously in sizing up potential qarrtsiluni issue editors, as well as in spreading the word about the magazine. And from time to time I hear from IRL friends that they've been enjoying my Via Neg or Morning Porch stuff, and one part of me wants to ask why the heck they don't use a feed reader, but unfortunately as web publishers we have to meet people where they are.

So far, Facebook has been a better generator of traffic to my sites than Twitter -- it's hard to compare since I route feeds automatically to the former and not to the latter. But when I do post links to Twitter, stats show almost no click-throughs despite the fact that I have over 700 followers (an even creepier term than FB's "friends"). I don't really have a good handle on how people are using Twitter; much about the service still doesn't make sense to me.

I notice that the 6-year-old family-like social network you and I belong to, a private Yahoo group, has grown pretty quiet in recent months as most of its members have joined FB. It used to be pretty active, which may be why I guess I don't see my Facebooking as stealing from my blogging time. The level of interaction on FB might be shallower for some, but in my case I think I've always preferred a fairly superficial level of social interaction, being otherwise a private person. I like to enthuse about things and share information, and Facebook is really good for that.

I am still in the throes of serious resistance as far as Facebook is concerned. I just can't make myself be "there" for any reason, even to keep in touch with friends. Twitter has been more my style, perhaps because it is so "verbal," that is, still relying on simple writing to communicate, rather than other distractions such as photos, games, like, and complicated networks created through links to other people. It surprises me that I resist Facebook, since I have always been ready and willing to experiment and be at the forefront of social networks.

I totally understand the experiment with the daily poetry writing this month. I, too, will be glad when the month is over. Having set myself the strict limit of a syllable-based type of "haiku" every day, I struggled some days to come up with something. But the struggle has been good for me, even if I may never write another haiku of this type ever again after this month is over.

I don't know if this is odd or not, but what I have found with Facebook is that I have reconnected with many old friends, mostly people from my hometown. Because I am not so far from where I grew up, some of those people are local to me and I didn't even know it. I've had tons of fun having interactions with them and have extended those interactions into lunches, phone calls, and dinners. I also keep in touch with far-flung family that way, which is lovely. Since I've joined Facebook, there is more interaction with my cousins in Kansas and Texas than we've had in years. I also follow my daughter's activities since she's gone off to college, which was my original reason for joining Facebook. Oddly enough, that activity has been much less than I anticipated with her and much more with a few of her friends. There are also some blogging friends like you. All in all, I enjoy it, though I find that I sometimes spend too much time there. And I do love it, Beth, when you post your lovely micro poems, and I follow Phoenicia and quarrtsiluni as well. I am glad you're there, but here is where I really enjoy you.

The ideas in your last two paragraphs reflect exactly how I feel about Facebook. I find that focusing on my own work and spending a considerable amount of time in solitude to be immensely fulfilling. It's not for everybody but neither is Facebook. In future years, after I leave my very social day job, I'll have to revisit my needs.

I really appreciate the honesty of these comments and hope some other readers will weigh in. Clearly, another factor is that I'm not "alone" during the day, or hardly ever, for that matter. J. and I may not talk much, during work hours, but there's someone here. If I lived alone I'm quite sure my needs and online talking patterns would be different. I think what I'm questioning is the unseen pressure - "you have to be on Facebook" - where does that come from? Why do I "have to meet readers where they are?" Is it true that my potential readers are hanging out on Facebook? And if they are, how much effort would it take to build up a "personality" there that would attract them? Is it worth it? What would I get out of it that I don't get out of my blog and real-life friendships? I've always been quite happy with my blog readers and the relationships formed through the comment threads. Have they deserted my blog because of Facebook? Maybe a few, but in general, I don't think so. What I do see, as Dave noted above, is less social activity by email and a breakdown of other former online groups. I don't want to be "forced" into ever-shorter, often public, interactions on FB, which plenty of my friends don't even use, and which don't satisfy my own desire for real connection. But is this the default trend?

For more active publishing projects and book sales, yes, I think a Facebook presence is very helpful, but even that requires considerable time and effort, as all "marketing" does. So, for me, it's a question of priorities. I still want to put the most energy and time, out of a finite supply, into my blog and other potentially larger writing projects, but have come to appreciate FB as an important networking tool.

Interesting discussion here, and I really enjoyed the link that Hg sent!

I've had many invitations to join Facebook but have resisted mostly because I just don't feel I have the time for it. My blog is still important to me and takes time and effort but satisfies some need to be 'connected' but in a deeper, more creative way (usually I hope), not that I'm putting down Twitter, etc. for others who are more into writing little poems for instance. I guess I'm just not into chatter and small talk, being a bit of a loner anyway. I have noticed that many bloggers have slowed down or stopped, and some have stopped visiting as well and I do feel sad about that. Yet there are new readers that come by now and then and I enjoy meeting others that way.

Once, an old school friend found me via our alma mater's connection service. If she'd searched for me online, she could have found me instantly, go figure! Beyond a couple of initial emails to catch up, then the odd circulated jokes, I've not had little contact because she only 'Facebooks' and doesn't read blogs. Ah well.

Your comment, Beth, about not being "alone" during the day is interesting, for I am alone at home many days and do like and need the solitude, only because I know I won't usually be alone in the evening. I wonder how it would be if/when I truly was alone. I still doubt Facebook or other social networking would be fulfilling for me. Geesh, I don't even like phones which makes me sound quite anti-social! I'm just very selective about who I like to spend time with and in what way.

I joined FB reluctantly during my pregnancy. I hated it at first -- it is so unlike the forms of online communication & community which I have chosen for myself! I prefer substantive conversation to the kind of water cooler chat which FB facilitates.

That said, I've enjoyed it more than I expected to, of late. I've tried to keep my FB friends list somewhat limited, and I find that I'm able to check FB on my phone while Drew naps on my lap...which means it allows me to feel slightly less isolated during these months of being home alone with the baby. I'm doing my best to read blogs, too, but I need my laptop in order to do that, and Drew is increasingly discontent when I direct attention away from him during his waking hours.

But FB isn't my natural online home, and I look forward to being able to return to more substantive conversations at some point.

this is a great post. i always enjoy the thoughtful posts of you and dave and dale and so many others. blogging is still my preferred online activity (my twitter is withered; my identi.ca is lost). i play on facebook a lot, and some of it is enjoyable, but it's not fulfilling in the same way blogging is. it's a quick fix is all.

you said, "I'm sad, actually, that social networking has replaced blogging for so many of us." and i was going to agree with you -- but then i realized, the people that *still* blog, despite FB, are the people i want to read. so it doesn't worry me so much. most of the people on FB (at least my FB) aren't people inclined to blog much. so it's different. and i'm glad.

as consumers and creators, we can choose the media best suited for the job in the moment. :)

I think your comment about how alone one is, is important and shouldn't be overlooked. I spend a LOT of my day by myself, and while for the most part I enjoy it, it's also true that my ability to connect with like minds during a typical day is fairly limited. My local friends are simply too busy - they work during the day - and I'm too phone-phobic to connect with my more distant friends and family. So I appreciate the way that FB and Twitter allow me to hear the "hum" of their lives in the background - I liken it to sitting in one room of the house while my friends and family are hanging out in other rooms. Sometimes I hear the conversation and get up to join them, but sometimes I just like the sensation of knowing that there are other live things around in my world - an awareness of presence, if you will.

That said, I do find that my ability to concentrate on complex thoughts has declined - it's not so much that I can't think long, complex things, but that I have always had a fairly short attention span for things that are challenging, and FB and Twitter encourage that behavior. It doesn't help, either, that blogging now feels like a chore, with little concrete reward.

I've also come to appreciate being able to communicate with friends on FB under my own name; my blog is still pseudonymous, and I have no intentions of changing it, so that limits my audience and my online interactions with some categories of people (family, for example). If I weren't on FB, I wouldn't "see" them except in the form of holiday letters, and I like the more regular encounters, even as I bemoan the way my overly-social and easily distracted mind turns into a pellet-pusher who checks for updates just a bit too often for comfort. I'm going to try to wean myself off the 'net more generally this summer, though I'm sceptical that it will happen.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.