Entries in social networking (10)

Sunday
Jan292012

It’s Good to Write

I don’t post here as easily as I used to, but I have quietly committed to a monthly From the Living Room post, so I’ve been recently thinking about how to go about that. How did I pick my topics when I was posting regularly? Did writing a blog back then interfere with my writing? (Yes!)

The dilemma was answered (this month, anyway) by a little procrastination time on Twitter, when I sought out a childhood friend. We’ve been back in email-contact since, and are planning to meet next month.

It’s definitely true that some of the people you reconnect with on social networking sites are people that you would have lost contact with for good reason: maybe you didn’t have much in common; maybe there was an uncomfortable parting somewhere in the past; maybe you disagree on something vital... but sometimes, it can be great.

I had well and truly lost contact with this woman. Before the internet, we would most likely never have spoken again.  But now it’s so easy to get back in touch that you can skip the awkwardness of potentially running into someone you haven’t seen in however-many years by reuniting slowly through the written word.

As someone who’s appallingly bad at conversation when I’m not comfortable (ask anyone who’s tried to speak to me on the telephone!) this is a perfect.

Image from Gflores



Wednesday
Sep012010

A World of Writers

Sometimes I’m a little scared by how many writers there are in the world. And I’m not talking about successful writers either: they’re scary in a completely different way. I’m scared by the number of writers who are like me: writers who work around a day job and long to have more to their publication record than the occasional poem in a niche magazine.

Let me put this in context. You may remember how dubious I was about becoming a Twitter user when I rediscovered my account a few months ago. Well, unsurprisingly, I’m a total addict now: a story for a different post, perhaps. The point is that I follow quite a lot of writers. In fact, most of the people I follow are writers. Which is what scares me.

I’m quite competitive about work, so when I read that someone is working really hard on a writing project, it pushes me forward and makes me want to work harder on my own projects. It’s a very good thing for me and my wavering motivation. And it’s not that I’m resentful of the other writers. The problem is that I’m very pessimistic about the proportion of us that can become successful. Sometimes when I read something about how much a writer just wants to be able to write full time; about the submissions people are making and the competitions they’re entering, I’m struck by just how many of us want to be Writers: writers who get paid for what they do; writers whose work is read.

I don’t know what the statistics are for this kind of thing, but I do know that it’s highly unlikely that many of us will ever be able to make a living from our writing. And while I love the network of writers that I’m able to connect with through Twitter, I find this very disconcerting.

Image by OrbiliusMagister



Friday
Jan222010

Good to Talk

A friend and I were talking the other day about how we’re both considerably worse at keeping in touch with people than we imagined we would be. She and I were very close friends as teenagers and would spend far more time on the phone to each other than is rational for two people who have just spent the day together. Yet now we both find ourselves shying away from phone calls. Phone calls, for us, have become a way of arranging things or finding each other when we’ve failed to meet where we should have. Gone are the days when we would ring friends for long chats with no particular purpose other than the joy of the conversation itself.

This is something I’ve been conscious of in myself for a while. Finding she’d experienced the same thing made me feel a little better about it. Somewhere along the line I became reluctant to ring friends I know I’d have a wonderful conversation with, and now that I’ve been so bad at it for so long, it’s hard to start up again.

My friend’s theory on this is that it’s due to the communication technologies available to us now. In the days of our endless phone calls, the telephone was the only sensible way to speak to someone. Now, between instant messaging, social networking and email, the possibilities are endless… and often take much less commitment than a phone call. An email or a facebook message is generally my first port of call if I want to get in touch with someone now. I can choose when I send it and how much time it’s going to take. I can choose not to reply straight away if I’m busy with something else. And I don’t have to plan for an hour or two be factored into my evening.

But however reluctant I am to have them, I do miss phone calls. I have a few friends who are marginally better at this side of things than I am and call occasionally; when they do, I always love our chats. But the thought of ringing one of them can be daunting. I do not have the time for the hours of conversation I enjoyed as a teenager and I seem to have developed a strange lack of confidence about phoning people. It doesn’t matter how close a friend it is, a little part of me will always worry that they don’t actually want to speak to me. Sometimes I won’t have seen them for months and a part of me will need reassurance that I’m still important to them. I’m quite aware that this is an irrational paranoia. But that’s not helpful.

This anti-phone thing I’ve developed is, on the one hand, quite annoying. But on the other, it’s an interesting phenomenon, due largely (I think) to the types of communication available to us in the modern world. Sometimes it seems that the more ways there are to keep in touch, the more distant we become.

Image by Holger Ellgaard

Monday
Jan182010

Tweet!

So. I have a Twitter account. I’ve had one for a while, it would seem, but I’d forgotten about it until I had an email informing me that someone I’d never heard of was following me on Twitter. Then I realised I’d had a couple of visitors on the blog who’d been referred from Twitter… then today I had a sick day, during which I couldn’t concentrate on anything constructive… so I curled up on the sofa and glammed up my Twitter page (a little).

And then one thing led to another and suddenly I’d hooked up my blogs to Twitter and was searching people to follow. It seemed like it might be a good idea at the time but maybe I can plead insanity on the grounds of illness. The fact that my Twitter account will update when there’s a new post on one of my sites is certainly very useful, but only if people follow me… and I have no idea how one gets followers.

I find myself running in circles with communications technology… one day I’m definitely never going to get that particular medium, the next day I’ve got it and the day after that I want to get rid of it again. I find it difficult not to be cynical about all these tools we have to hone our self-indulgence but I also find them very difficult to resist. A corner of me thinks I’m just an average writer and don’t deserve the readership I crave and another corner of me is aware of the need to network, to seek an audience. The end result is that I do these things and then get twitchy about them. It’s my own special brand of neurotic.

Anyway, neurosis aside, if you have a Twitter account and would like to follow me, you’ll get little tweety updates telling you when I have a new post… and I’ll be very grateful to have a few more followers. There’s a button in the sidebar, or you can follow the link at the beginning of the post. Thanks! (And I promise I’ll stop asking you for favours now!)

Image by Jerry Friedman

Friday
Jan082010

Black

Yesterday morning I started to notice people updating their facebook statuses with a colour. I tried to find out why on yahoo answers – which is just about my least favourite place to find anything out – and eventually concluded that there was some sort of joke going on in which women were posting the colour of the bra they were wearing. This seemed odd, but it kind of made sense. A quick check on facebook told me that it was indeed only women who were posting colour updates and that all the colours seemed suitably bra-ish.

A few hours later, I got a copy-and-paste message from a friend telling me that women were being urged to update their statuses with their bra colour to raise awareness for breast cancer… only we weren’t supposed to be telling the men-folk what we were doing. This definitely made more sense. I ummed and ahhed about it for a while, then decided it couldn’t be a bad thing and posted my own colour update, dutifully forwarding the message to as many women as I could fit into one facebook message.

The umming and ahhing was mostly to do with the question of what good it would actually do. Do we really need to raise awareness of breast cancer over any other cause? And does raising awareness of something like cancer, an illness most of us are familiar with, actually do all that much good? I suppose it could raise money for research in a round-about kind of way, but it was hard to believe that girls declaring the colour of their bras was going to raise much money. Don’t misinterpret me here: cancer is a very nasty disease and I do think cancer research is important. In terms of breast cancer in particular, screening can really help people to find out that they have it in time to stop it spreading… but was everyone advertising the colour of their underwear on facebook really going to see an increase in the number of people going for breast screening? Particularly when breast screening is only widely available to women over fifty.

In the end, I decided that all awareness is good awareness, but it did leave me feeling a little hollow. Why is it that whole-world issues don’t get the same kind of viral support as these very-close-to-home issues that can’t actually be solved by people standing up and doing something? Shouldn’t we be trying to raise awareness about human rights infringements or rainforest protection, things that mass protest really can make a difference to, things that really don’t receive as much support as they should?

As far as raising awareness goes, this system did it pretty effectively. Many of my female friends posted their bra colour yesterday, and it really was intriguing before you knew what was going on. That men weren’t supposed to be told what it meant only added to the intrigue in the hours before they worked it out. Initially I thought that it was a bit of a flaw in the raising awareness argument if men didn’t know what was going on, but actually I think that making it an enigma probably made everyone take a bit more notice of it.

And from my own perspective, it created a unifying kind of effect which I would not have anticipated. By the time I had sent my message and received a few thumbs up from women on my own status, each new colour that arrived on my homepage felt like a new recruit. It felt like this band of women united by secretly shouting their bra colours across facebook was growing into a powerful force. Which was a pleasant, almost euphoric feeling… it just feels a little sad that we didn’t do something with it that could truly make a difference to the world.

Image from Vineyard