I’m working hard to understand this phenomenon of “social media”. The media part I get, mostly, though some of the technology is frustrating at the moment. The “social” is just astounding to me. In the words of my dear friend Steph Sheridan “With all this tweeting and texting, it’s as if the written and spoken word have become an inconvenience.”
Starting with FaceBook. I dutifully signed up thinking this was a great way to stay in touch with my daughters who had chosen lives on the other side of the country. We shared photos and slowly my circle of “friends” grew. It was great to find folks I had previously only communicated with through annual Christmas cards and see what they were up to in daily life. I started noticing that many people who “friended” me lived their lives on the site. They posted constantly, obviously enamored with the fact that they could document their child’s potty training exploits on an hourly basis. Others started home businesses selling cosmetics, candles or other pyramid schemes, using their posts to harangue me into attending a party or purchasing the latest gadget.
This is the Internet folks! Do you really think little Suzy wants to look back in 10 years and see her mistakes in the bathroom department living on for all to witness? Seriously, what value are you adding to life and literature?
Then I moved on to blogging. I started slowly, feeling my way ahead in new territory. I set up my little site and then spent hours exploring the “professional” blog sites. First of all, when did spelling and grammar become obsolete? Does anyone ever do a first, second or third draft of a post before putting it out there for the world to see? Do you not have a spouse or friend who might take a moment to read and edit this for you before you publish it? I am appalled not only at the content – still more “navel gazing”, but by the lack of polish and pride at the written word.
The excuses I see for bad or boring content usually sound something like this, “Oh, I write for me, if it is a snooze for others I really don’t care.” Honestly? Then why put it on the Internet and not just in a notebook somewhere? We have empowered a huge part of society to take up cyber space with their self-acknowledged drivel. Where are the Hemingways, the Henry David Thoreaus of the world?
A Christmas gift this past year from my sister was a subscription to The Sun, from it’s home page: The Sun is an independent, ad-free monthly magazine that for more than thirty years has used words and photographs to invoke the splendor and heartache of being human. The Sun celebrates life, but not in a way that ignores its complexity. The personal essays, short stories, interviews, poetry, and photographs that appear in its pages explore the challenges we face and the moments when we rise to meet those challenges. I recommend it highly and believe the writing and photos in this journal should also set the standard for writing on the Internet.
I was thinking the other day about my childhood and the world’s first blogger, even before the Internet. My mom, like so many in the ’60s, was hooked on Erma Bombeck. A copy of “The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank” was her bible. Erma started with a newspaper column in Ohio and wrote about life in the suburbs, motherhood, marriage and women. I went back to read about her and while thinking of content and writing on the Internet today, this quote stuck with me: “Don’t confuse fame with success. Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other.”
― Erma Bombeck