If We Shadows Have Offended…

So I lost another friend on Facebook.

He’s a writer, and a fellow pulp fan, and I’d enjoyed knowing and occasionally interacting with him. I liked seeing what he had to say, and what he had going on.

I knew he was a conservative, while I am not. The fact that he holds to certain ideas didn’t make me think less of him as a person, it just made me wonder how he could reconcile those ideas with observable reality. But we all have our filters and our failings and our blindnesses, and I hoped that he, and the many other right-wing friends I have, wouldn’t allow disagreement with ideas to lead to discord between us as people. That has happened, of course, and people have fled my friends list over such issues, and even issues more trivial. The game writer S. John Ross unfriended me and actually blocked me on Facebook for a single polite comment disagreeing with his opinion of Johnny Cash. Talk about the courage of your convictions.

My attitude is usually that a friend lost in this way is no friend worth having, and I tend to operate on the principle of “If I offend you, that probably just makes us even.”

But anyway, I hadn’t seen anything from this friend for a while, and I grew concerned that maybe he was having health problems or something. So I visited his page, where I found that we were no longer friends. I naturally suspected the reasons for this, but I sent him a message and asked why he’d unfriended me, telling him that if I had offended him it hadn’t been because I intended to.

This was his response: Continue reading

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Putting Twitter & Facebook In Their Proper Places

I wrote a while back about the way social media is bringing us closer together (The New Telepathy of Social Networking), but of late I’ve been also pondering the ways that technology is boxing us in. And I’m not even talking about how World of Warcraft has reduced the actual world of thousands of people to an area about the size of their butt, with an orbiting satellite the size of the fridge.

When I went to see Bruce Springsteen a few months ago, people in the crowd were standing there texting while the sheer experience was roaring around them. Type type type…”At Bruce Springsteen show. Great stuff. Photos to follow…” Then they look up only to look at Springsteen through the device. The gadget is now a lens they need to even look at the world.

I always had that problem even with a camera, well before the advent of all these cool toys. I lived in Europe for three years, bought a pretty good SLR 35mm camera, took three or four rolls of film worth of pictures the whole time I was there. I just don’t like having a camera with me, urging me to use it, making me look for good shots rather than just seeing the world all around me.

Now, my cell phone is a great little camera, and if I use it twice in a year, call Guinness Book. But at least I’ll have it with me if I see Bigfoot.

And check out this poor soul:

These people just trekked for five days to reach the summit of Mount Toubkal in Morocco, the highest mountain in North Africa. Three of them are exhilarated, taking in the splendor. The other is playing her Nintendo DS. Maybe this’ll count as a high score.

Since getting into social media like Facebook and Twitter, I’ve had surges of activity broken up by periods I just didn’t want to bother to get online, and felt like I was failing to get to something I needed to do. Not in an addictive sense, but in the sense that I was letting folks down by not being “there” for them, wherever “there” is. And that I was losing ground in the professional sense because those inactive days I wasn’t working to increase my web presence and thus, hopefully, make more people aware of my book.

No more. I’m going to ease up on myself. I may not be one of the pithy geniuses who stitch their whole day together with witty tweets that are very engaging to read, but I’m not one of the folks who tells you I need a good shampooing and am eating a Nilla Wafer, either.

I’ll tweet when I have something to say. Which, really, is what everyone should do. I won’t go through my day looking for things to tweet about, or trying to figure out how to condense everything I do into 140 character summaries.

I’ll continue to blog as I’m inspired to do so, which has been my actual approach anyway, in spite of vague plans to blog on some kind of regular schedule.

And Facebook will be a place I check in a couple of times a day to see what my friends are up to, not a place I hang out in to make sure to catch the occasional status update that may tell me something useful or make me laugh.

I have books to write. Vistas to see. A splinter of a social life, a real social life, I desperately need to nurture back into something vital and whole. The social networking can help me with these things, but I have to make sure it doesn’t replace those things.

The New Telepathy of Social Networking

telepathy

In his excellent book On Writing, Stephen King sets out to define “What Writing Is.” His answer?

Telepathy.

It’s a mode of transmitting thoughts from one brain to another, through space, through time. As King writes in Maine in 1997:

We’ll have to perform our mentalist routine not just over distance but over time as well, yet that presents no real problem; if we can still read Dickens, Shakespeare, and (with the help of a footnote or two) Herodotus, I think we can manage the gap between 1997 and 2000.

As well as the gap between Georgia and Maine, as I read those words now, and 1997 and 2009. And whatever spacetime gap there is between him, there in 1997, me here in 2009, and you where and when you’re reading this now. We’ve got a telepathic chain goin’ on. That’s pretty wonderful.

I’ve been thinking about this lately as I’ve tried to grok the whole social networking thing. I was one of the cynics, originally, proud and determined not to get caught up in MySpace or Facebook or Twitter, not to hoard countless “friends” I didn’t know like I might collect marbles, not to sublimate my social life (such as it is) to the virtual gulfs of skinless cyberspace. Continue reading