Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday Fricassee

In an age in which it's possible to be connected to countless people across the globe almost simultaneously, we are, I think, as disconnected as ever.

Twitter's a great example.  I've got close to 4000 followers, which, on the surface, can certainly make a person feel pretty stinkin' connected.  Or even "popular".  Yet when I tweet something (which occurs several times daily, because it's so easy and quick and I LOVE WORDS), I almost never get responses from people.


If I do get responses, they are few.  As in, one or two.  Maybe three.  Usually, they're from folks whom I'd term "the always-responders".  These are people who make an effort to connect (through response) because it's important to them.  Or because they simply prefer a two-way conversation over a one-way one.

And anyway, there's no such thing as a one-way conversation.  There's no "conversing" going on.

Of course, not every tweet warrants a response.  Sometimes it's just a link to the day's blog post (sharing info--no response needed).  Sometimes it's some other sort of basic info-sharing.  Or a quick vent.

But sometimes my heart is full and I'll tweet a thankful tweet.  Or I'll ask a question (Twitter is a wealth of information, if only folks would take the time to answer).  Or I'll share happy news.  Or I'll say something funny.  (Well, okay.  Maybe I only think it's funny.)

And often I get no--or very little--response.  Almost 4000 people potentially see the tweet, but it's just one more blip in all the noise.

(Cue Grinch:  "All the noise, noise, noise, NOISE!")

Which I think is indicative of our tendency to allow ourselves to be inundated by the noise to the point at which it washes over us like silent waves, crashing down on our senses and rendering us unresponsive.  We click, we scroll, we read a little, we move on.  We don't CONNECT.  We don't even THINK very hard about what we're reading.

It's all just words on the screen.  Images.  Music.  Blip. Blip. Blip.

For someone who lives to express herself through the written word (I don't just mean stories--I mean EVERYTHING), this is disconcerting.  I don't want to be part of the noise.  I don't want to be a blip.  My words are imbued with my heart--my passion--my moment of crazy--whatever it is that makes me ME at the moment.  I want empathy, I want solidarity, I want laughter, I want some sort of visceral or emotional or SOME KIND OF HUMAN response.

I'm sure I'm not alone in this.

And yet, how can we remedy it without pulling away, ceasing to contribute to the noise?  Which will, of course, mean that we'll miss out on the potential to connect, no matter how low that potential may be.

A conundrum.

This blog is different, in that there is so much more interaction.  True connection.  Some of the thoughtful responses that show up in comment boxes blow me away.  Folks take time to share hearts and dreams and all sorts of grittily-human stuff here.  I love it.  THRIVE on it.

But even with all the wonderful we-are-family that goes on here, there's still a lot of clicking-scrolling-reading-moving-on that occurs.  The ratio of my daily hits to number of comments is way lopsided.  There are too many blogs, too many web sites, too many things for us to dabble in and nibble on.  Like a long buffet table and a small plate.  We can only fit so much on it (and we don't have time to go back for seconds--life beckons!).

Which means only one thing.  Connection--real, honest-to-goodness, person-to-person connection takes place face to face.  Real life.  (No, really.  It's that thing where you're in the same room with another person.)

Still.  I marvel at the ability of the internet to offer true connection.  Despite the noise factor, that ability still exists.  I wouldn't have met Jodi if it weren't for Twitter.  Or Holly or Julie or Adam or Christine or any of the other REALLY SPECIAL PEOPLE in my life.

So do yourself a favor.  Don't use social media to pass idle time or medicate or lurk incessantly.  Use it to CONNECT.  I'm pretty sure that's what the SOCIAL part means.

And that's my Friday rant.  You're welcome.

(Also?  In the spirit of being transparent online: if you haven't read this post by CJ Redwine, you're missing out.  I laughed so hard that I'm pretty sure I scared away the wildlife in my yard.  Seriously.  Only the cicadas remained, and that's because they were up so high in the trees.)


  1. I think part of the reluctance to connect back with things made online is similar to the impulse of people who read entries to your contests but don't post a critique.

    Because we 'don't think we have something insightful to say'.

    A lot of writers are introverts by nature, and don't do well with small talk. They put a lot of weight into their words, and if they don't feel like their interactions are witty, insightful, and amicable, they will only make a fool of themselves.

    This is combined with writers having it pounded into their head not to say something ridiculously stupid or offensive online, because it can actually hurt our book sales down the line.

    For example, if someone posts something even remotely political, and I respond to it, will I ostracize myself from everyone in a particular political party? Same thing for other taboo topics like religion.

    Even commenting that you like something can be cause for someone else to hate you with a passion.

    So it may be writers stay quiet because they are afraid of the consequences if they don't. They'll be judged more than your average twitter user, so they keep their mouths shut.

    Just a guess.

  2. I agree. It used to be you could talk to people but now everyone is so plugged into their phones, iPads etc. that you don't want to interrupt them. I love the Internet and have made many connections from it that I normally wouldn't have made but the key word there is CONNECTION, don't just scroll, connect, even if it's just a "thanks for tweeting this" remark. Uh, thanks for posting this. :)

  3. As a blogger, I've always seen a disconnect between the number of hits and the number of comments, but I'm also guilty of reading posts and not commenting, so I understand. As you said, there's just so much out there, but I do agree that the whole point of social media is to connect, so it's good to take the time to do so.

    On another note, I read that CJ Redwine post yesterday, and it is hysterical. :)

    Thanks for sharing this!

  4. I think of Twitter, in particular, as a huge cocktail party. If you squawk because you've just spilled your martini on your dress, heads will turn--but only your true friends will come rushing up to help.

    Also, to catch someone's tweet you kinda have to be there at the right time. Even with Lists--if you don't check and scroll every hour, you might miss something.

    I don't think people are ignoring you; I just think it's a huge melee. Quality over quantity, I say.

  5. Chro nails a lot of it for me. Usually I don't feel like I have anything to add, or I feel overwhelmed by all the social media posts that I check out.

    I pretty much stopped using twitter because the feed was too hard to keep up with. It's hard to find the meaningful tweets/posts in all the chatter.

    I do need to make a better effort to really connect. Thanks for the reminder. :)

  6. Interesting. For me, it is all of that very noise which has caused me to disconnect from almost all internet interaction.
    Want me to "Like you on Facebook? Don't hold your breath.
    Link up on LinkedIn? Yehhh, maybe not so much.
    Tweet you on Twitter? Don't count on it.
    Yes. I fully recognize that the world lives and dies by the internet and the 'wave of the future' is continually being made obsolete by it's own immediacy, But the outrageous overabundance of input into the brain creates a whole different kind of internal mental noise and, sometimes, you just need to realize that YOU CAN turn off the noise. Or at least turn down the volume!

  7. I agree with Chro, to a certain extent. I often won't post because I feel I don't have anything to add to the discussion. It's not necessarily out of fear of potentially losing readers down the road, but a genuine, "Everything I have to say has already been written."

    Of course, I could still write to say I agree, as I'm doing here. :)

    I'm also with Michael G-G in that with Twitter, yeah, it is a right time, right place type of deal. Unfortunately, I just don't have much time for Twitter, and it really seems like the "Twitter-time" of a lot of my favorite people is not my Twitter time, so I miss their tweets.

    The thing is, while connection is important, it also takes time. Even when focusing on a few quality social media connections, that still takes time and has to be balanced among the other obligations of life: family, in-person friends, day job, writing, sleep. At some point, something has to give. For me, the "something" is often social media connections. Yes, I know they're important--but so are the other things. I still haven't figured out a decent balance.

  8. I feel like this is one of those posts I have to comment on - because if I just click and scroll.... well, you can see my conundrum ;)

    but I totally understand what you mean. When we are bombarded on all sides by social media we really end up having to pick and choose where we engage. And I often find myself rotating. When I was blogging regularly I rarely used Facebook. When I started using Twitter like a drug, then my blog fell into a bit of misuse. Tumblr obsessed my life, but Twitter, Facebook and the Blog become stagnant. And now Tumblr waves at me occasionally and I'm much more connected on Facebook. It isn't that I don't love blogging and reading blogs or tweeting - I just don't have the time to do everything. But I don't want to get rid of the Twitter or the blog or the Tumblr because sometimes it's the only way I want to share something. And I don't know when I'll need a break from Facebook and crawl back to my blog begging it for forgiveness from months of only minor use :)

    But no matter where I am, I want to be there - connected, engaging, and CONVERSING with the people I am spending time with there.

  9. There is something to be said for rarity- I find I pay more attention to the tweets and posts of those who don't do it often-those posts seem to hold more meaningful info than the person who has to communicate constantly every day.

  10. The lack of connection online is one of the things that makes social media hard for me to engage with. I feel like with all the noise, anything I say will disappear into the roar.

  11. I am not much of a social media person. It's not uncommon for me to post on FB "Sorry I missed your birthday- last month", because I don't go on there very often. Being a people person, I like to talk to PEOPLE.

    And I like to watch PEOPLE. I watch them step out in front of oncoming cars while they're texting, I watch them use their iphone as a babysitter and turn their babies into zombies, and I watch them pay more attention to their cell phone than their driving and get the hell out of their way.

    I look at social media kind of as an updated Darwin's Theory, and sometimes just flat-out entertainment, like when we saw the texting skateboarder slam right into the back of a large parked truck. (The skateboarder was fine. He blamed the truck.)

    Some of the reason I don't reply is time. It's not that I'm that busy, it's that I suck at time management, mainly due to sitting at my computer, wasting time.:)

    Social media is funny. The anonymity gives some a false feeling of power, enabling them to say hurtful things they would be too chicken to say in person (think "evil trolls"), while for me, an outgoing people person, I tend to hang back. I'm taking an online editing class right now, and if we were in a physical classroom, I'd know everyone and the names of their pets, ask questions, help others and be fully involved. But for some reason, the online class makes me want to sit at the back of the "room" in my spy suit -trench coat, Groucho glasses and mustache- and hide behind a newspaper. What gives?

    That said, if I were still traveling with work, I'd be all over social media and electronic toys. Why? Boredom and loneliness, simple as that.

    PS~ Great post, as always!

  12. I just watched a great Ted talk called, "Connected, but Alone" by Sherry Turkel. (I think that is her name) It is a great speech about this very idea. You should check it out!

  13. This was so interesting to me. As a Twitter baby, I'm coming up on 150 followers. I thought that my lack of responses was because I needed more followers. When I got to 1,000, I thought, THEN people would want to talk to me!

    But part of the reason I only have 150 followers is because I don't do follow-backs. I look at someone's tweets over the past few days and see if they're a real Twitter person, not a self-promoter exclusively. So I lose a lot of those kind of people. Maybe they stay following you because of your high-profileness?

    Anyway, I do talk to a handful of people, and for every new person I follow, I hope for a connection. I'm not going to unfollow the world because we don't talk, but I do follow people I could potentially connect with, given the right conditions.

  14. I think Chro is spot-on, and I also agree with Michael G-G's description of Twitter as a big cocktail party. Except here's the thing -- if you're at a "cocktail party" open to the world where everyone's jabbering away and having a great time, and yet you also think you might not have much to add, or might say something stupid that will hurt you down the line, wouldn't that make you *even less likely* to comment? It's a shame that the openness of Twitter can undo its openness.

    I often have the impulse to comment on someone's tweet, because it's funny or someone asks advice, or I agree with whatever's been said. But I usually don't, because I assume that the only people who actually exchange tweets are IRL friends or colleagues. And that if I chirp up, well, AWKWARD! So it's heartening to hear that you (Authoress!) wonders why people are so silent. Maybe I'll reply to more tweets after all.

  15. This is the most beautiful rant I've ever read. Truly lovely, inspiring, and thought-provoking.

    There are parts of me that are broken. "Social" and me, we don't happen too often. I have panic issues, agoraphobia, etc . . . so social networking is sometimes the sum total of my connection with the outside world. Or feels like it, anyway. And yet, I resist that urge to connect, to but myself out there, to be vulnerable. I used to blog daily about things that really mattered to me. Now, I blog sporadically about things that are moderately inane. I've seen in myself a systematic stripping away of true meaning and it terrifies me.

    Reading this hit home to me that I need to do something about this before my present problems become my future life. Bless your heart. Truly.

  16. I don't know if it's all that different from face-to-face in a way. We interact with a lot of people in 'the Real World'-there are people we work with, people we buy coffee from every day, the UPS guy, the mechanic, etc., etc. But most of those people, even the ones you might see every day and exchange pleasantries with--won't become *true* friends.

    The blessing and curse of the internet is that it gives us contact with hundreds, maybe thousands of people, on a daily basis, but most of those people will really never forge a closer connection with you than the guy who serves coffee at the bodega. For some reason, though, we really, really seem to want *everyone* to be our friends.

  17. You read my mind. I have thousands of blog readers and Facebook fans and often wonder why so so few actually comment. And then I stumble upon some of the popular outfit-of-the-day blogs and can't understand how one outfit on one day can literally receive hundreds of comments. Maybe I should buy a new wardrobe.

  18. I think part of it is also the mindset you approach it with.

    This blog. I don't comment all the time, for certain. But I'm approaching your blog as a writer's resource. I often don't have much to say; I'm reading, and storing the information away for later. I'm not secure enough to comment on every contest, and I'm not ready to enter them, and everything's being said. I don't like jumping into the middle of things. But by lurking, I'm learning.

    There's a forum I've been a member of for years. Writer's forum. Every person has a 'word count thread' which includes every update about their life and current project they can think to include. There's a spot for serious discussion as well, and a 'common thread' where people can chat about anything. A specific spot for discussing contests and writing things we have online, another spot for beta-requests...
    There's also our own chat-room.

    The entire point there isn't to learn, though it happens. It's to connect with your fellow writers, moan about distractions, challenge each other to get 500 words in 15 minutes, discuss possible solutions to plot problems, and be friends. I post there five, six times a day.

    I'm not on twitter at all because I couldn't keep up with it.

    So, in part, it depends on what people are using the social media for.

  19. I agree w/ a lot that has been said here. I don't have a Twitter account or a Facebook account and I don't want one. I don't have that need to connect socially. I am a direct person and I am not good at small talk like CJ Redwine. I like to converse in person, on the phone or by e-mail. I don't know how people have time to keep up w/ all those accounts and still have time to write, work take care of kids, cats and do other everyday tasks. When I do have time to read this blog I am learning & storing info as Alaina said. I wish I had more time to critique contests, because I think that is very important, but sometimes it is so late when I read MSs and I'm too tired to condense what I want to say or too tired to get it out in words. But I appreciate all that you do for us!

  20. First of all, thanks for sharing the link! Laughed and laughed!

    Now, about the whole social media thing. I'm often guilty of reading and not responding. It's not that I don't want to connect, I guess I just still don't understand how to go about it. I respond when I'm moved or amused (or have some other strong emotion), but most of the time I'm not sure what to say--and so I don't respond.

    And more often than not my responses on Twitter don't get responses so I feel like I've bothered or annoyed someone or "butted" in where I didn't belong--which only makes me more hesitant to respond to the next Tweet.

    There are a few I respond to and get responses to my responses, but my own original posts get little to no responses so I don't post much to begin with. And I know there's that whole conundrum that if I don't post I won't get responses and I should post if I eventually do want to get responses, but most of the time I honestly don't have anything new or insightful or interesting to post.

    I guess for me (with a very few exceptions), I feel lost in the webiverse . . . like a Who--a tiny speck with a tiny voice that only a select few "Hortons" can hear. So I mostly avoid Twitter and Facebook and lately even my blog. I'm just not good at the whole social media thing, I guess.

  21. So much of what people post might be reading-worthy, but not posting-worthy. I have a lot of friends and people I follow that post things that are important to them. I can read it, smile, know where they are in their life, or opinions, and that makes it important to me in a sense, but I don't feel the need to contribute to the conversation. Most of the time I do comment, if compelled. As a poster, I think part of it is stepping back and looking at why you're posting. Sharing is one thing--you've share, it's out there, people can take it or leave it. Posting for attention is another. And certainly, if you are wanting a conversation, then you are wanting some kind of attention, or maybe, and don't take this the wrong way, but a little stroke of the ego? Your expectations might just be a little out of alignment on the time people have to respond, and whether you are actually compelling them to respond.

  22. Thank you, thank you! This is so true and you took what's been on my mind and put it clearly on the page. I've been on Twitter for years but I rarely tweet, precisely because I never get a response (and also, like Chro says, we don't do well with small talk - interestingly, also something mentioned by CJ). Blogging has brought me far more connections.

    But I think, as Michael G-G and some others have said here, it's a matter of the sheer quantity of tweets to plow through. Since I refuse to look at Twitter 24/7, I obviously miss millions of worthy tweets. And one can never catch up.

  23. Maybe it's just me, but I find I'm much more likely to reply to Facebook posts than to Tweets. I think it's because I know (or at least used to know) the people on Facebook, whereas I'm following a whole bunch of random people and celebrities on Twitter. I'm sure my friend Tamara wants to hear my opinion about her new shoes - less certain Nathan Fillion cares what I think about his photo :D

    But next time I happen to catch one of your tweets, Authoress, I'll try and reply back.

  24. I find myself in the same conundrum, wanting to connect, but deluged by waves of email and FB posts. (I haven't made it to Twitter or other Social Networking sites, just for this reason.) Connecting for me is as difficult as sitting in the woods, hearing all the woderful sounds but trying to single out one bird call so that I can see- connect with that one bird. Quite a daunting challenge, but so rewarding when I succeed.