Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Being Social

Giving my first post in four months a title that mentions anything to do with my social behavior is a joke. I admit I prefer solitary activities. Although I have many complaints and opinionated views on technology and it's potential to harm developing social skills in our youth and encourage outright rudeness, I embrace technology as a valuable tool. Particularly for social outreach. I can remain happy in my isolation while connecting with individuals who share my passions, but also learn from others with no limit on mileage (or demands on my sleep schedule). I can't call myself a paper-pushing traditionalist or jump on every social network or techie bandwagon that comes down the pike, though. I love blogging. I love reading your blogs. I particularly love blogs that share thoughtful commentary, observation, reviews, encourage conversation, and / or formulate their posts like documentary essays on topics (OK, particularly those on fiber- or book-related topics). I love when bloggers take time to make links so that I can follow bread crumbs from the stories that whet my appetite, allowing me to tumble down the slippery and delightful slope of the Internet's potential. It can always lead me to a paper book. Or a real place. Or a person. And I love photographs. I love when bloggers share what they love in images, but also aren't afraid to limit their photos to the "pretty". It is tempting to leave out the reality and focus only on the pretty. But we have glossy magazines for that.

I will come back to this blog. I've been away for various reasons this summer. The best reasons are ones that I'll share with you on this site very soon::
-June's Fiber Feel Day and the Appalachian Lifestyle Festival
-spinning wheels and my progress as a spinner (including making a new friend and visits to Julie's farm)
-my sad knitting progress and recent recovery (almost a shawl in one week!)
-plans to learn weaving on a rigid heddle loom
Plus I want to share my upcoming fiber-related travel plans, knitting and spinning project plans, book reviews and reading interests, including new blogs and podcasts.
The worst reason I've been absent is that I'm down with the worst kind of head cold: the summer head cold.

So, I will continue this blog. I will continue to post irregularly to FaceBook, although I hate it. To my mind, it is nothing but a genius ploy to mine data for commercial marketers (read this in The Guardian, but you have to admit it is true, and creepy, when you purchase New Balance shoes from one website and then later log into FaceBook only to see New Balance ads for the first time ever on the side bars). I try to use it as a means to spread good cheer, so I'm one of those folks who only forwards along either "good news" or things that encourage critical thinking. I have no time for haters. I am looking forward to no longer acting in an official capacity for my knitting guild so that I can enjoy it as a member without needing to update the group's FaceBook page. (Which reminds me...)

I do have a Kindle (quite an old [read "heavy"] one) and I do read books on it. I prefer a paper copy of a book. I like libraries and used book stores. I like to read. I feel there's a better chance for clear communication with something beyond a 140-character limit (see Twitter). I don't Tweet. Words are too fabulous to be given such short shrift. Even FaceBook allows up to 5,000 characters, but most folks don't bother clicking on links to read beyond the first paragraph that is usually displayed. Laziness? Passive training? Who knows. Now there's this thing called Periscope, similar to Meerkat, both of which allow live streaming video. Apparently Periscope (released by the thrifty geniuses behind Twitter) only archives uploaded videos for up to 24 hours (and Meerkat less than that). I'm assuming the social interaction aspect is completely dependent upon immediate feedback. Really? I purposefully "lose" my phone in various quiet corners of the house so I can get things done in my "real" world. I like photography enough that I joined Instagram and browse uploads maybe (not always) once a day. I only make a point of checking my email every day when I'm expecting packages and check for delivery updates. I don't have smartphone updates activated on my gmail. Obviously downloading Periscope, Meerkat, or Twitter apps to my phone would be a waste of my phone's little grey bytes (Poirot allusion there, and if you don't know Poirot, read Agatha Christie).

Do you remember when you'd leave your phone indoors when you spent time outside, even if you were't mowing the lawn, even if the dang phone didn't actually have a cord attaching it to the wall? Maybe you're just having a glass of sweet tea and reading a book while smacking mosquitoes on your legs.

Do you remember screaming the lyrics to your favorite songs while driving, with or without the windows open, and never having to stop because the song died just to let you know so-and-so was calling? (Did you ever roll down the windows just because you loved the wind in your hair, and you could sing louder, even though you really did have fully-functioning air conditioning?)

The smartphone is a tool. I try to use it like one. Just because I have a hammer does not mean I try to use it in every single job I tackle. If I need to fix something to eat, it is nice to continue speaking to my brother, especially since he'll talk with his hands-fee set for his entire home-bound commute to help mitigate his road rage. See? It works for me and saves countless lives on I-40. I keep the appointment schedules for at least three family members (sometimes more) on my phone. Priceless. My phone is a better digital camera (than my old one) and takes up far less space than one "dumb" phone and one digital camera would.

On the other hand, if I find myself able to converse with someone via text for more than 2 lines, I just dial their number. I prefer those great digital photos in large format for editing family photos, so sharing them is still problematic and slow, unless I do a hard-line download to a large hard drive on a regular basis. (By they way, doesn't anyone else feel the need to edit or be selective with their photographs, or am I the only one that takes a bazillion of any one subject? Out of ten pictures of my mother and her mother taken on Mother's Day, two were absolutely fantastic and captured them laughing together or genuinely smiling without reserve. That's how I want to remember them. The real way. Not frozen in fear because someone yelled "picture time!")

Have you ever discovered that a loved one has died via a social network? One of my younger brothers did. Over a month after the fact. I can still remember the anguish in his wail from his basement bedroom that brought my mother and I scrambling downstairs in the middle of the night to find him staring dumbly at the wifi HD television that he'd set up as his computer monitor.

Using technological tools to take the place of social interaction is pushing the limits of our humanity, the very fabric and boundaries that we use to define what it means to be humane, generous, kind, sincere. Perhaps generations before felt the same about the telephone and the telegraph and their potential to supplant the handwritten correspondence. Sally Mann, famous photographer, talks about how the photograph, in its way, has begun to kill our memories (check out her fantastic memoir Hold Still: A Memoir with Pictures). It's worth a thought.

I write this because I am a member of a human race that is far larger than the small community in which I grew up, and to which I would have been bound by all traditional means only a couple of generations back. I share my little slice of the world with the larger world. In turn, I read your blogs and learn what your communities are like. I will remain a fan of handwritten letters, long blog entries, well-researched web articles, multimedia and multifaceted hyperlinked and carefully curated projects, visual journaling, paper books, paper magazines, email and paper newsletters, postcards, rock collections, manuscripts written on legal pads, Moleskin notebooks, Pilot Precise V7 ink pens, libraries with local archives collections, Friends of the Library annual book sales, collections of library cards, and online databases and pathfinders.

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