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February 28, 2012


It all comes down to time for me. I fritter on social media.

People in the arts need enough time to "waste," but a lot of that dream time is broken up by social media.

But I have met interesting people and been asked to do interesting projects or to contribute to interesting magazine and anthologies on social media.

I was writing this last night in response to your question last week.... (the fourth of the five regrets) but it's relevant here also...

The thing about the internet is it gives us control over whether to reply or not because we aren’t there in the same room. so something vital is missing from the conversation: the inexorability of being tongue tied or of evading the question, which is more evident in person by the averted gaze or the numb look on the face whereas by email (and even on skype) it’s a bit more elusive. I must confess that just yesterday a friend "commented" on one of my facebook posts so obiquely that I didn't even know whether I was being insulted or not (which is, if possible, worse than simply being insulted since one also feels stupid & insensitive). I was actually considering un-friending the friend, something I have never done, simply to avoid the scene of the discomfort. Of course, we can have little spats and tiffs in person also but there's more data to go on. We already know that emails are dangerously thin on nuance, but the other digital media are, too.

You accomplish so much, Beth, and you do it with high quality work. I think the most damning part of the Internet for me is that feeling of not living up to what other people "appear" to be accomplishing. OTOH, the most inspiring part of the Internet is seeing what other people are accomplishing. There is no solution except self-imposed time limitations and boundaries. Thanks for adding your viewpoint to the discussion.

Marly, yes, it's a matter of time (and frittering) for me too.

Vivian, I hope you'll eventually share your other responses to the "regrets." Any kind of writing is dangerous and open to misinterpretation. Isn't it interesting that in spite of all our technology and all our language skills, we humans have evolved to be sensitive to the slightest nuances in body language and vocal shading? Sounds like a critical survival skill to me, and here we are, constantly circumventing it. It's probably amazing we don't get into more trouble online than we do!

Loretta, thank you, and thanks for making me think about all of this in a new way. I sure wish I had your gift for writing with humor!

I have looked at this from both sides.I keep in touch with two of my kids who are on FB and nephews and extended family and people who really are friends that i have gotten to know better through FB and they have hopefully learned things about me through my posts.Most of my "friends" of course really aren't friends.Some use FB to sell stuff(Realtors) and some to promote themselves(politicans).Some just want to tell me they are having a crummy/good day.I have had fun on FB and through regular posts by a diverse set of online magazines,bookstores institutions etc i have learned things.I have also spent and continue to spend a lot of time on it.I once defriended someone because her comments upset me.I fixed that later and said i wouldn't do that again.I am also uneasy about FB.There is a feeling its driving me rather than the other way around.I would have a extraordinarily difficult time unplugging my laptop which to me is in itself telling.I don't watch TV anymore. Maybe this has replaced that.Your graphic reminded me of that old saying that only small fish swim in schools.Maybe time to crank up that self discipline and become that red fish and unplug and buckle down for something more focused and maybe even more satisfying.

You see, I am far too involved with the criminal side of the internet and far too aware of the risks inherent in the whole feeding frenzy/flocking behaviour of social networks to go anywhere near the likes of Facebook.

I am reminded of something someone once said regarding the speed of mainframe computers, how rapidly one programming error could spread before being spotted and corrected. In the 'connected' world of the internet one piece of malware can cause havoc before being detected and blocked.

I am also rather averse to folk making fortunes from my personal information, likes and dislikes and friendships, which is what has happened with these social networks. Facebook is worth billions only because it has wormed its way into the lives of its users and exploited them.

I like not the way the internet is changing us...

Just remember who is in the driver's seat. And remember you own it. Yes, we users own the Internet! A blog is a piece of property. That's why I prefer blogging to Twitter and Facebook. And I have had many "real world" experiences with real people as a result of blogging, too, people I could not have met any other way than through blogging. I love that moment when someone I've never laid eyes on in person is just about to walk through the door. This happened to me with a blogger friend the other day, who turned out to be far more charming and animated than I could have anticipated from her writing and photos.
The evil swarming Internet hive mind is a paranoid fantasy, because the Internet is us. You do have to be careful about personal information, but that's always true in every context.

So much in this post resonates with me, dear Beth. I too spend time on FB and twitter and what-have-you, and sometimes I feel grand about it (when I get a lovely piece of news, or encounter a link to something wonderful) and sometimes I come away feeling as though I've just binged on junk food. And I'm conscious that the difference is entirely within me; it's a matter of my own internal state, my level of creative energy maybe. Sometimes I come away from the maelstrom of social networking energized, and other times I come away feeling depleted.

I've been considering a new discipline for a while -- what if, every time I felt the urge to click over to FB and see what other people are saying, I instead opened a new text editor window and wrote one line of a poem first? Would that change my experience of FB? Would it help me get more poetry written? I don't know.

The Cassandra Pages is a place that does not leave me feeling as though I've wasted time, but spent a nice enriching moment. Thank you for what you do here.

I just posted the following at Loretta’s blog. Seems worth repeating here.

No, there is no going back and nostalgia just weighs us down. That said I’ve been thinking more and more about the effectiveness of what I do online. I’m quite lucky stats-wise in that my blog is currently getting in excess of 8500 hits a month and, as I only post six times a month, that’s not a bad number. Then I look a little closer at Google Analytics and see that 90% of my visitors spend enough time on my site to read about forty words. I sympathise because I scan more than I read these days. There’s no time to read everything and even the things I do read I don’t read properly because I don’t retain what I read. Hell, I don’t retain most of what I write. I wonder why I do it. Oh, I do it to keep up my online profile, to be seen, to attract new readers in the vague hope that one of them might actually buy one of my books without trying to be too obvious that I have ulterior motives for being there.

I have a post coming up in a couple of weeks on the subject of boredom. When was the last time you had the time to be bored? I haven’t been bored in years. Tired, scunnered, weary, fed up, but never actually bored not the kind of bored we creative types need to be to encourage us to create something to fill the boredom. I’m always fighting the tidal wave of data that keeps mounting up: read me! read me! read me! It’s easy to lose our enthusiasm but strangely enough what I find pulls me down more than anything is the constant enthusiasm I encounter online. All these youngsters are so excited that they’ve just published their first ebook and can’t understand for the life of them why everyone out there is not just as excited and desperate to read and review said ebook. It wears me down.

If I don’t play the game—blog, tweet, like things on Facebook, comment on people’s posts—then what am I going to do to get noticed? There’s not much else. This is where it’s at. It’s just unfortunate that we’re living in a time when everyone and his dog is clamouring for their fifteen seconds of fame. (I know it used to be minutes but, seriously, what can keep anyone’s attention for fifteen minutes these days? Clearly not me.)

That's really kind of you to say, Andrea! Thank you. I'm honored and pleased that you feel that way.

Jim, yes, you've expressed a lot of the pressure I think many of us feel, just to keep up our "presence" because it feels like without it, we're going to vanish into obscurity. The enthusiasm wears me down too; I've just seen too much, I guess, to be that naive anymore. On the other hand, people I've met on the internet, and the work they're doing, continues to inspire and encourage me. When I throw up my hands, sometimes, at this Babel of voices that I find depressing in its human neediness and hopelessness, since few of us can possibly find satisfaction there, I try to think about how much blogging and these friendships have enriched my life. Having a global network of like-minded people may not be as perfect as face-to-face relationships where you can feel the other person's emotions and read their expressions, but it's made a huge difference in my life, and encouraged me to stretch and expand as well as simply keep going. I try to remind myself that being noticed isn't as important as doing the work for its own sake, and for what it teaches me. And that the words I offer to others can help them a lot too. I've often read your astute comments on poetry over at Dick's blog, for instance - I'm sure they matter, as does this one here. Thanks.

Oh, Beth, thank you so much for pointing me in Loretta's direction, or re-pointing me. I've 'known' her for seven years. In the first years of blogging, one could keep up with one's friends and interests. It IS hard to keep your head above water, with all the competing undertows. As I told Loretta, some days I manage it. Now then. If it weren't for my spending some time daily on the internet, I wouldn't know YOU and your admirable, gifted voice and your courageous path.
I wouldn't know Marly as well as I do. And I wouldn't know Lucy Kempton, either, and have had the great good fortune of spending time with her in Brittany. And on and on. You and they add to my life, feed my work and my (I'll go ahead and say it)... my soul. So, on we go, struggling, in our parallel ways, to be balanced and productive and connected in (mostly) meaningful ways.

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