In my current love/hate relationship with social media its easy to forget why I liked it in the first place.

Facebook was a great solace during the three years when my office was isolated and I could go entire days not speaking to anyone except by email. Have I mentioned I’m an extrovert?

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Insta linked me to the outside world. And Pandora.

One big benefit of working alone in an almost empty building was that I could play music as loud as I liked – electronica & jazz for writing workshops, grants or  PowerPoints,  classic rock & funk for collating binders.

Social media connected me with folks I’d never meet in person (friends of friends, journalists, activists etc.) and more importantly created a much larger circle of information. I know we all live in our bubble of self-selected media, but having FB friends outside of my regular friend group continues to introduce information I might otherwise ignore or miss.

For instance, a Native artist I follow  introduced me to Indian Country Media so I learned of the DAPL protest actions long before it surfaced in the New York Times. Social media introduced me to, among other things, emergencies and issues affecting women of color, the LGBTQ community, Black Americans and native peoples.

I’ve read perspectives that I agreed and disagreed with from Libertarians, Bernie progressives, Christians, Jews, Muslims, and international citizens, activists and journalists.

So it’s not all bad.

However.

Since the election I have decided that social media and journalism has to be balanced with conversations In Real Life (IRL).

I’ve started reaching out to old friends and acquaintances to schedule chats over coffee, phone, or Skype. I’ve started reaching out to make new acquaintances and friends to meet and chat. Did I mention I’m a shy extrovert who doesn’t make friends easily?

It’s hard to be the initiator all the time (no one likes rejection), and time is as limited as ever, but committing to In Real Life is helping me feel hopeful in a way that liking folks social media posts isn’t.

Hearing opinions and updates accompanied by voice and body language puts me back in the “I – Thou” that I know I need.

So hit me up for a coffee date or drink.

Meanwhile, this brilliant animation my inspire you to join me IRL.

 

I don’t know how I get sucked into the Pinterest DIY boards. Its pathological. I don’t have a crafty or creative bone in my body, but they draw me in to the land of Pin where I invariably stay for an average of 45 minutes.

I start by thinking “These people are all so clever and creative! Look what they did with that old dresser/door/crib/hunk of trash! Its amazing. Why didn’t I think of that?” This deeply appreciative phase lasts for about 15 minutes. 

Continue reading

I made a mistake the other day of responding to a Tweet about the Sandy Hook school shooting. Got a flurry of replies and personal messages from folks saying things like “quit living in fantasy land”, “gun laws don’t work” and “I protect my children with a Glock”. Continue reading

The news from Syria is hard to follow. Not that its difficult to track what is going on, who the players are or the international stakeholders, but the very real, very specific civilian death, injury and destruction. I know some people in our local Syrian community and it’s very hard not to see their faces in the images on Al Jazeera English.

I am starting think that Syria may help decide the fundamental direction of our global society for the next thirty years. Here’s why.

The Arab Spring was possible in part because of the information stream going in and out freed people of their isolation. The world was watching. So even if the government shot them down in the street someone would find out about it, someone would be accountable. Cold comfort if you are the one dead in the street, but if what you are fighting for is worth dying, for at least you will not be invisible.

Now the Chinese are using weibo to protest. And getting away with it if they are taking on the provincial or municipal government. Not quite Twitter, the Chinese micro-blogging has more than 300 million users. That’s a lot of messages to filter for “human rights”, “democracy” and “Tienanmen”. I was reminded how many layers there can be in Chinese communication when I heard last month that the Chinese government blocked Ai Weiwei’s “Gangnam Style” video because the homophones he uses in the parody are roughly “F**k your Mother” (the Communist Govt). And its got a good beat.

So what does this have to do with Syria? In the midst of the Internet and cell phone black out the Syrian government has imposed across the country, the UN is working on an International Internet Treaty. Who owns the Internet. The answer to this question will be our future.

Formerly the Age of Information, in the new Age of Participation when we are all citizen journalists and a Twitter alert can cause a riot, who controls the flow of information controls the world. If the UN decides that each Government has to have the right to shut down Internet and cell phone usage (like Syria is doing) at their discretion, then we are headed for a Sci-Fi future that is anyone guess. The pressure is coming from (surprise) China, Russia, Iran and other Arab countries.

The UN should focus on creating some treaty that calls for checks and balances in times of turmoil (like Google & Twitter providing dial-up numbers to Syrian activists) so every member nation has to adhere to information protocols like the Geneva Conventions. Hell lets just add it to the Geneva Conventions since these situations will always come up in times of war/coup.

This is really the final frontier for free speech. If we do not make a global commitment to ensure globally diversified Internet access we have chosen our future. The fewer telecommunications providers the easier it is to flip a switch.

Decisions are being made. Attention must be paid.

I am starting to seriously worry that we are about to lose our daily newspaper.

Another long-time reporter had a farewell column today and just last week the publisher announced that he was retiring (at age 55) to “start a new chapter in his life.” With roughly another 30 years to live he could probably squeeze out two chapters if he tries hard. Who retires at 55 anymore in this economy? It sounds suspiciously like gettin’ out while the gettin’ is good.

I don’t blame him for making choices that suit his life. The paper’s online edition has dozens of comments about this announcement, half of them blaming him for the paper’s decline. It would be nice if there was someone to blame, but I doubt it is the publisher who has only been in residence for 6 years.

The thing that worries me is that we may actually lose our daily. If you have read this blog in the past you know I am serious about my local daily. I think we may be on a path to go to a three day a week paper like the Times-Picayune and I think that would be tragic. I need written words for news in order to process and review, to check the byline and have some semblance of trust that actual journalism is taking place. I don’t want to watch TV for my news and I don’t want to have to get everything off the Internet either. I want a newspaper dammit!

And you can’t have any good lunatic letters to the editor online, because then every yahoo in the world can comment on them. I want to comment on the letters out loud, to my husband, over coffee, not read someones inarticulate name calling. Spoils the whole thing.

I am also concerned that “citizen journalism” will devolve into something that only barely resembles reporting. Like lots of folks I rely on Twitter and other formats for up to the second information but social media also makes Snopes a necessary bookmark. When I was a kid there was a morning and afternoon paper and we all thought it was the death of news when we became a one newspaper town. And that was when we still had two independent entertainment weeklies and a couple of art mags. We though we were so deprived.

I know we have the internet and I can watch BBC and read the Washington Post and all the syndicated columnists I can digest, but its not the same as my grubby city newspaper with its county council antics and state house news.

 I sure hope I am wrong about our daily.