Thursday, November 3, 2011

Blogs, and Twitter, and Facebook, Oh My!

Written by Kelly Unsworth, the Head of Children's Services at the Morrill Memorial Library
I have never been the life of the party, but I have always been reasonably adept at socializing. A few good friends, hiking partners for sporadic weekend activities, and the occasional running partner kept me busy. When my daughter was born, my socializing shifted to her circle of friends and interests, and I found myself hanging out with horsewomen and barn mothers, and spending long weekends in tents at 4-H shows.

My daughter is older now, and prefers to get together with her friends without her mother’s interference. This shift in position has led me to take a look at my social life and upon quick inspection, I have realized that much has changed in 15 years.
To begin with, I am quite possibly the only person I know who doesn’t belong to a book group. I know of book groups that have been meeting for 15 years, book groups for young moms, empty nesters, widowers, and my personal favorite, a wine and chocolate book group. But I have never found the time, or allowed myself the time to join one. I am a book group wanna be, and as I took stock of my social status, it only got worse…much…much…worse.

According to anyone younger than I, social status is defined by the number of followers on ones’ choice of social networking sites. I decided to jump on board, and tried twitter first. My username had the word “book” in it, and my first post mentioned both the library and laundry in the scant 140 words. It was my first, and last, tweet.

Next up were blogs. I know of a woman who met her best friend on one of the first chat rooms 14 years ago. They were comparing their symptoms and stories of pregnancy, as both were expecting their first child around the same time. They had much in common, including the day that they went into labor and had their first child. Every year since, they have gotten together for a birthday celebration, not the kids, just the 2 of them, reminiscing about one of the most important days of their lives.

So I tried blogging, and encountered 2 substantial roadblocks. The first is; I don’t have much to say. Ever. I prefer to speak when I have something reasonably important to say, and felt the same about blogging. I wasn’t interested in sharing small details about a topic, and found that I really didn’t care what “Debbie in Scituate” felt about the topic, or what loveybear2 had to add. I know it sounds harsh, but I just...didn’t…care…

On to Facebook. Everyone who is anyone uses Facebook, right? Wrong. Although I have seen wonderful use of the technology, mostly keeping in touch with family members that are in far corners of the earth, or simply out of weekly visiting range. Seeing the immediate picture of the most recent grandchild, priceless. But to post the live birth online, tacky. My new motto: just because you can share it doesn’t mean you should.

My daughter has most recently begun to use Tumblr and had a quick suggestion for me: forget it, it’s too complicated. All of this is not to suggest that I am computer illiterate; I use computers all day at work, I download eBooks, cook from recipes off my iPhone, voraciously text and email, shop and bank online, plan my vacations, found my pets online, search for medical information, and have been saved by the maps app on my phone too many times to mention. I have even made it to the second level of Angry Birds! But socially, I am an online misfit; awkward and confused.

Driving home the other day, I heard an ad on the radio for an online dating site. The ad stated that 1 in 6 married couples met their spouse using an online dating service. As a recent divorcee, I was horrified. Let me try to explain it this way, when some dogs see a TV, they will bark at the image of another animal. But most dogs do not recognize the image as a real dog; there is no scent, no physical social cues, no meet and greet. If I were a dog, I would be in the second group, for me a photo of a person with text just isn’t the same as a real meeting, or a real date. Besides, we all know that the photo was taken 15 years ago when the person was in much better physical shape and still had hair. For now, I will stick with the supermarket on Friday nights, the bookstore on Saturdays, and museums on Sundays and I’ll see if the statistics are as good as online dating.

If you are interested in finding out more about social networking sites, I recommend the following books, all of which can be found at the library.
  • I Love You, Let's Meet: Adventures in Online Dating by Virginia Vitzthum
  • Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob by Lee Siegel.
  • Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each Other by Sherry Turkle.
  • Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder by David Weinberger.
  • What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly.
  • You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier.
  • Facebook for Dummies by Carolyn Abram and Leah Pearlman.
  • Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser.
  • The Digital Mom Handbook: How to Blog, Vlog, Tweet, and Facebook Your Way to a Dream Career at Home by Audrey McClelland and Colleen Padilla.
  • How To Find a Job on Linkedin, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Other Social Networks by Brad and Debra Schepp.
  • I'm on Facebook, Now What???: How to Get Personal, Business and Professional Value from Facebook by Jason Alba and Jesse Stay.
  • Infinite Reality: Avatars, Eternal Life, Universal Consciousness and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution by Jim Blascovich and Jeremy Bailenson.