Saturday, September 15, 2012

Late News Hits Just As Hard

I know that relying on social media and parents is a flawed policy for finding out about news in a timely fashion, but how is it that today I find out that Brad Greenwood (a former boss and an important part of the indie book retailer scene in Western Canada) died on July 19? Really, this makes me question the value of FB and the like even more: I have friends (and family) in Edmonton who must have known about this, who surely can't have forgotten that I worked at Greenwoods' in the 1980s. So either some of them posted something but it went by so fast I never saw it, or they didn't post at all, but either way it's frustrating.

We shouldn't have to rely on something like FB or Twitter to update us on the news, good and bad, that hits our lives. We should, however, know that sometimes we need to pick up the phone, or even send along a direct email, for crying out loud. It may indeed be difficult to remember who is connected with each other, I understand this, but the inability to move forward when that lack of conviction hits you is a sad thing.

Or am I just spitting into the wind here? When a friend's father died not long ago, I made the effort to contact the mutual friends who I know would have wanted to hear the news. Some were contacted via phone, others by email, which while less personal is still at the very least direct.

Facebook and Twitter are useful, yes, but I believe they have demeaned the very meaning and value of contact in our lives. Nobody phones anymore (well, nobody phones me, and maybe it's because I'm turning into this crotchety old man who shakes his fist at kids these days. The data is inconclusive), and so if I want to talk with anyone it's me who almost always picks up the phone.

This saddens me, and the news of Brad's death coming so late just adds to the pile-on.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Making Changes In Consideration of My Mental Health

I am finding that certain aspects of social media (primarily Facebook, but some Twitter as well. Google+, not so much, since I barely go there) are really starting to get under my skin, to the extent that I'm having sleep problems and certain other issues, and so I thought I would lay out some thoughts about what I need to do to take care of myself. The end result will likely mean I am going to thin the herd, on Facebook at least, but such is life in the digital age.

But first, I need to lay out some ground rules:

1. If you and I disagree about politics or religion, but you post on your own wall, I have no problem with that, and hopefully you don't have one with me doing the same. If you choose to disagree with something I have posted on my own wall or Twitter feed and can manage to do so respectfully, then we can stay friends. If you can't, then I will pull the plug. No warning.

2. The exception to that is if you post something that is so over the top offensive that I can't find any justification for keeping you around. The most recent example is the putz who wished that Chris Brown would smack Rhianna back to where she was with her first album. Sorry, jokes about abusing women don't get a pass from me. Announcing you're sure a specific group of people are going to Hell for not behaving as you do is another way to lose me.

3. If you're a hypocrite, I may end up walking away as well, no muss, no fuss. I get to decide what makes a hypocrite in my mind. Which, ironically, could strike some as hypocritical. But there it is. Some hypocritical action (or rather, inaction) is going on on Twitter right this moment, actually, and I suspect if I don't see anybody step out and address the issue I'll say something and then stop following several people. Some of whom I know.

4. If you complain that I am posting too much about something to do with my life and/or my family, then obviously you've lost track of the "defriend" function, and therefore I will take care of that option for you. I am on social media partly because I am an author (see next point), but I am also largely here because of family and friends, and because we live far away from most of them, and they wish to know about what's happening with my family.

5. I'm a writer, and am therefore aware of the need for self promotion, but I tire of much of what passes for self promo on the web these days. When I have a book come out, I announce it. When good news comes regarding the book (big sales, great reviews, etc.), I announce that. If it's up for an award, or eligible for one, I may post a reminder about it. But here's what I won't do: I won't send a broadcast message asking you to buy my book; I won't do the same asking you to specifically nominate my book; I won't target you with a specific message asking any of those same favors; I won't expect you to buy my book just because I bought yours; and I won't by yours just because you bought mine.

Why? Because it all creates undue and unfair pressure. I know I could just choose to ignore any of these things, but it's not that easy. Human nature steps in and takes over in different ways for each of us, and while I can go a long time without getting uptight about any of these things, eventually I turn into a pressure cooker and feel like I'm about to explode. It's easier to just remove the problem at the beginning.

I also doubt that I will join groups that I am invited to become a part of. There may be exceptions, but it's just stuff to clutter up my email inbox, and again, it's a subtle pressure to belong, not to something that's about us, but more about you. Because it's you who posts, it's you who gives me the latest scoop. And I think, if we're friends, then I already get that elsewhere.

When I started thinking about this, I initially thought it would be easier to get rid of people who are FB friends or Twitterers and whom I only know online. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that wasn't the case. I have two FB friends who approached me because of something I said or because we had a mutual friend, Chris Kaboombee Winchester and Ed Otter, who both post interesting stuff that doesn't lay anything heavy on me (Chris was an extra for The Hobbit! How cool is that?). I enjoy reading their updates, and am happy when my other friends are also interesting instead of relentless.

I know, I know. Mea culpa and all that. I've often been relentless, and I am sure quite irritating. I'll still have things to say, but I do promise to not be so overbearing. I hope. But in the meantime, understand that if any of this happens online, it does not necessarily mean things are bad in real life. I still hang with people at conventions, even if I don't follow them online. Aside from the putzes, of course.

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