2014: I’ve got two new social media pieces in the works right now, one a serious, business-reader audience focus think piece on how to filter what your public relations/social media “expert” people are trying to feed you and one a more candid and personal look at how social media experts are ruining my experience of social media–probably for here, for the fall. In the interm, Nothing By The Book continues its old school un-social media-style rerun summer, please enjoy this oldie, originally published in May 2013.
I’ve been filling an unusual role the last few days: holder of the Facebook password for a friend who needed a bit of a detox/distance from the social media platform… but neither want to complete total Facebook seppuku nor felt she had the self-discipline required to just stay off—if she knew she could go on.
I give her access back today, and we’ll debrief afterwards to see what she learned from the experience… if anything. Thus far, all she’s learned is that I’m a “fucking hard-ass bitch,” who won’t give her access early, no matter how much she joneses for it. Ha. I’m mildly shocked she didn’t know that about me before. But. The experiment wasn’t supposed to be about the strength of our relationship—I’m pretty much it will survive the name-calling of the last few days—but about her bumpy relationship with Facebook.
Ironically, as my friend has been struggling to figure out how to make that relationship functional, I’ve been crafting a post about how much I love Facebook. Because I really do. And it massively ticks me off when people dis it—and the social connections people make, have, and preserve on it. It particularly ticks me off when people are contemptuous about how stay-at-home moms and parents of young children use Facebook—and how much time they spend on Facebook.
Time that the detractors believe would be more productively spent—oh, any other way. Cleaning, cooking. Hyper-focused on the children. Knitting. Reading. Canning. Blogging? Maybe not so much blogging…
Now, I won’t deny that some folks run into trouble with the role social media in general, and Facebook in particular, plays in their lives. Others have documented that up the wazoo; my friend’s recent decision to detox is a specific example from my own bubble.
But I find it quite disturbing that much of the dialogue and criticism around mothers and women on Facebook—in the blog world—in social media and cyber-space generally—has this undercurrent:
Be alone. Be isolated. Don’t talk to others.
It’s there. Ponder it the next time some expert, Luddite or just run-of-the-mill jack ass takes you—or someone else—to task for Facebooking, texting, tweeting or blogging.
This, really is the subtext, almost always:
Be alone. Be isolated. Don’t connect with others.
Oh, they might fake it by saying “Instead of Facebooking, foster real life relationships.” They don’t mean it.
See, they—you know who ‘they’ are, right? ‘They’; it’s always ‘them’ who do this sort of stuff—have always done this to women, to mothers.
Before Facebook et al.—they took exception to the amount of time women spent on the telephone. Flip through any cartoon collection from the 1940s-1980s, and you’ll see images of women gabbing on the telephone—wasting time—neglecting their duties.
Not connecting, communicating, building community.
No. Always negatively depicted. (Think Sybil on Fawlty Towers. “Oh, I know…”)
Before the telephone… women wrote too many letters. ‘tis true. The novels of the 18th and 19th century—many of them epistolary novels, which is such a beautiful irony—are filled with slags at lady letter writers. Even my beloved Jane Austen, letter writer extraordinaire, engages in this slag-fest (I hope, unconsciously), mocking Lady Bertram’s letters in Mansfield Park even as she describes what a critical lifeline to the people she loves these letters are for Portsmouth-stuck Fanny Price.
Before letters—gossiping in the town square, the market. Getting together to wash clothes in the river—and talking, sharing. Talking while gathering nuts, roots, berries together.
‘They’ have always come down on women talking. Sharing. Communicating.
Think about it.
Be alone. Be isolated. Don’t connect with others.
A medium without its problems it isn’t, for sure. And because it’s so new—as is so much that we have deal with these days in the communication world—many people will struggle with it, abuse it, suffer as a result. And we have to figure out how to control it and make it work for us, instead of having it control us and make us miserable.
And we ought to be critical of it, absolutely, if we think its effect on our lives and the lives of those we love is negative.
But for me, as the primary care giver for my children and someone who works from home, Facebook is, very often, a critical antidote to this:
Be alone. Be isolated. Don’t connect with others.
It keeps me connected to people I love who are in different cities, different countries, different continents.
It continues to nurture important friendships when people get busy, get into incompatible phases that make getting together difficult.
It lets me answer an SOS when a friend needs—a meal delivered, a child chauffeured, a pair of size 7 rain boots. Or, just a brief sanity break or a cyber-hug.
It lets me send out an SOS when I’m out of eggs, milk or salt, and stuck at home with a sick toddler. Invariably, there’s neighbour who’s en route to the grocery store who can help.
It means I get to see and share my nephews and nieces’ milestones as soon as they happen.
It allows me to get a hit of sociability when circumstances force me to, physically, be trapped at home alone.
It helps me build community.
It helps me break isolation—be connected. It’s a tool. It’s powerful.
It helps me ask for help when I need it. Be it a real, physical “do this for me” need–or a more intangible “I’m going crazy here and I need to vent!” kind of crisis.
And it ticks me off when ‘they’ dis it—because I think they dis it because they want me—us, women, mothers, parents—to be alone. Isolated. Disconnected.
They always do that, you know. They always have.
Don’t let them.
I’m tempted to end with a list of 10 ways to make Facebook (and social media generally) be a positive and not soul-sucking experience. But I’m sure scores of these already exist out there. So let’s just end on this note:
Washing clothes on the riverbank together. Chatting in the market. Telephone conversations. Facebook exchanges.
All examples of women—mothers—striving to make connections, build and maintain community. Break out of solitary confinement.
Which these days, too often, is a perfectly comfortable, beautiful suburban home.
“Wow, what’s with the heavy? I come here to laugh!” OK, babe. Then go read House Rule #713, or why we don’t hold a lot of dinner parties or He’s not evil, he’s a toddler. Or last Friday’s post about penises.
I supported my friend during her detox by staying off Facebook, Twitter and Gmail and Google+ through the long weekend, so I have no idea what cool and fascinating things the blogosphere put forth this weekend. But I’d like to introduce you to my blogging friend Deb at the Urban Moo Cow (awesome blog name, awesome mama, awesome writer) whose last post, The Asshole Brigade Coming Soon, is sort of about building community. The challenges of building and maintaining community. Anyway, that’s the spin I’m putting on it to make it fit with my Facebook rant.
P.S. Was it hard staying off social media for a mere 72 hours? Yes and no. No pain, no shakes, no jonesing… but it made a few things harder. Had to walk around the neighbourhood looking for someone for the three-year-old to play with on Sunday, with not much success, instead of posting a Facebook SOS/play invite… Couldn’t invite random people to share a meal with us Monday night… couldn’t share this awesome link from BrainPickings.org on Good Writing versus Talented Writing even though I really wanted to… didn’t find out that my neighbour had a washing machine meltdown and needed to use someone else’s washing machine in time to help her… and I’m sure there’s a new puking cat video out there that I need to see to make my life complete.
P.S. Miss me? I am keeping up with Instagram—NothingByTheBook—and occasionally throwing stuff up on Twitter—Follow @nothingbtbook or/and Follow @paddleink.
For some of us living away from our point of origin, fb can become even more isolating but for a different reason. My intention in using fb was to update long distant relatives on the status of our family and provide pictures (mostly of grandkids) in a one shot deal. This would provide them access into our lives in almost real time. It would give them information to “know” their grandkids and be one step ahead in having something to talk about with them. Problem is they rarely choose to talk to them. I have watched my intentions contort into this weird communication where by they communicate TO my children (6 and9) by writing comments ON my fb. So they will direct their comments as if they were talking to my kids who obviously aren’t on fb thereby making me the mediator. Huh? So I ditched fb for a while to see if they might revert to the old fashioned route in picking up the phone. You know. So that those of us not so near might actually hear a human voice😱 Just thought I’d share a different perspective.
1. “Serious, business reader audience focus think piece” “LALALALALALA fingers in my ears I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”
2. Social media experts? There are such creature’s ma’am? Interesting…sort of like lice or ticks that feed off the creativity of others and that offer up their critique, usually uncalled for, and that put strict parameters on the boundaries of other people’s creative urges? “LALALALALALALA fingers in my ears I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”
Facebook eh? Yup, doing it. Due to the quarantine I find myself indirectly insinuated in (Tasmania…anyone?) I fall back on social media in order to keep up with my family and relatives in other countries. I made a new friend the other day and we share online baton passing to shame our government. We are obviously going to bring them down with our political shaming. Social media has made the world so much smaller, and so much more interesting. Who gave a stuff about Uzbekistan prior to social media eh? Now I can chat with a goat herder about vegan pasties whenever I damned well please. Awareness comes from being present. I am present and aware and enjoying my social presence. Fuck off to anyone telling me to moderate myself, to limit my “exposure”, to reduce my communal possibilities. It’s my life and I will live it how I choose. Have fun twittering Ms Jane. See you on the flip side.