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Social Media Jabberwocky

There is hardly a moment in Crabby Old Lady's online life when she is not being exhorted to tweet, Digg, Facebook, Yahoo Buzz, etc. everything she reads, hears, eats, believes and thinks.

It's not just blogs anymore, it's newspapers big and small, political sites, health sites, commercial sites - pretty much any website: They all post a bunch of little links at the bottom of their stories begging people to spread the word of their brilliant prose or to “follow me on Twitter.”

Crabby joined Facebook and Twitter a couple of years ago to see what they are and how they work. She wasn't impressed then and still is not impressed. As to Twitter, there isn't much that can be conveyed in 140 characters and there is not a person on earth about whose moment-to-moment lunch and travel arrangements or emotional temperature Crabby cares to know.

Mavens of social media extol the virtues of Twitter and boast that when news happens, it's reported on Twitter first. The obvious problem for Crabby is that short of a missile pointed at her neighborhood, there isn't any news she needs to know immediately. Among her 25 daily news alerts and two or three dozen email subscriptions from varied news sources, RSS subscriptions and her paper subscriptions, she manages to keep up despite the fact that social media denizens think she is hopelessly behind the times.

Businesses, they tell us, can no longer succeed without Twitter so every corporation in the U.S. is now tweeting. Crabby doesn't care what Ajax cleanser workers have to say, nor Sony or FedEx, etc. She just wants their products to work properly and if she needs to know more, they all have websites that are likely to answer her question, especially when that answer requires more than 140 characters, which most do.

As soon as Crabby had determined that Facebook held no interest for her – it took about 30 minutes - people started “friending” her. She still doesn't know what that is supposed to mean to her life but because it seems churlish to not accept a friend invitation, she says yes to everyone - about of third of whom she has never heard of.

On the theory that some of those 100-plus “friends” Crabby as accepted use only Facebook, a few weeks ago, Crabby set up this blog to publish automatically to Facebook. Typepad makes it easy – about two clicks – so it's no skin off Crabby's nose, but there is no way to know whether or not it benefits anyone.

There is more to social media than Twitter and Facebook. For example, The New York Times, in one of the many kinds of attempts traditional newspapers are making to join the social media bandwagon, started a online “Conversation” on health care. There are 20-odd subtopics each with comments numbering in the hundreds, and one with more than 1700 comments.

That's not news or even social media and it is certainly not “conversation.” It's jabberwocky. Who is going read 1700 comments from people they never heard of who may or may not write anything worth knowing? Crabby believes it is a newspaper's job to edit the news. If they're not going to do that, Crabby may as well read the unfiltered wire services herself.

In addition to their journalistic responsibilities, the Times now forces their reporters to write blogs, as does CNN. Paul Krugman, for example, writes two well-thought out, op-ed columns a week. Given the intricacies of economics and the current state of the world's economies, that should be more than enough to earn his salary. But no. Now the poor man also writes blog posts two or three or more times a day.

Wolf Blitzer, of CNN, hosts three hours of live television a day, sometimes more. For years, Crabby produced daily, live television back in the days when individual stories lasted five to eight minutes. It was hard work keeping up then and nowadays, when stories rarely last more than two to three minutes, there is that much more to know. Say what you will about Blitzer, his job is not easy. But now CNN requires him to tweet all day and record podcasts too.

With all this output, the quality of all of it suffers.

The people who count such things say that use of social media is growing and while email is still growing, the rate has slowed. That may have something to do with the fact that 299 million Americans already use email, which pretty much accounts for everyone but infants (and makes the figure questionable).

Those same people say that social media is used mostly by young people, up to about age 44, and they imply that old people are somehow deficient in knowledge of technology or slow to adopt new trends. Crabby Old Lady doesn't think so.

Crabby thinks elders are long accustomed to thinking and writing in complete sentences and paragraphs and are able to carry on conversations for longer than 140 characters. That's an advantage when discussing anything more complex than the lunch menu or responding with the ubiquitous, “What she said.”

But most of all, keeping up Twitter, Facebook, Digg, StumbleUpon, etc. accounts is way too much like work, too time-consuming and anyway, Crabby doesn't have that much to say. She can turn out a blog post and wrangle the 150-200 emails that arrive each day, but that's her limit. And anyway, all that social media is mostly just noise.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: TAHW?


I couldn't agree with you more on most of what you say! I can't, however, imagine "friending" someone whose name I did not recognize, nor "friending" someone just because they knew someone I knew, went to the same school I did, or we encountered each other ever so briefly making little more than a name exchange.

I probably would not "friend" someone I worked with unless we had become close personal friends socializing a lot outside of work. Perhaps if I had a lot of direct interaction with other friends in another tech manner none of us would want to bother with the Facebook "friending," or maybe there would even be exceptions to that.

The primary plus I've heard from some I know with Facebook accounts is they say they restrict "friending" to family, close personal friends, and may include old school chums with whom they've renewed contact long ago lost. They write little, but like to post pictures, especially enjoying watching the changing appearance of young children as they mature and keeping up with the activities of young adults. One friend says it allows her to keep more up to date with a large extended family that may only see one another once a year at best even though they're all primarily here in Southern California. There can be great pleasure for an unofficial family member intimately familiar with many of them to be included in their number, especially if that person has little family of their own.

There might be other individuals they include as "friends" if both parties welcome such an arrangement. People need not feel offended if they're not "friended," since it certainly doesn't necessarily mean they are thought of any less. Those Facebookers I know are selective and not desirous of accumulating as many "friends" as they can for the sheer numbers of it. Just as some people have private blogs, some maintain private Facebook accounts.

I don't know how you undo a Facebook account that has "gotten out of hand" but, perhaps, it can be closed out and a new one opened at some future time.

I love Facebook for two simple reasons: it allows me to connect with family not geographically close to me and see their pictures and more; and, to reconnect with old friends I have not seen in years.

I don't accept friends I don't know nor do I get alot of that anyway. My blog goes to Facebook also.

For healthcare reform, Facebook and yes, even Twitter allow me to post my opinions and more. On Twitter, you can search health care reform and see the thousands of people posting and promoting this. Also, you can now connect with Congress and make your views heard.

I also get job alerts which have been great. Though I still don't have a job.

For me, these prevent social isolation.

I resisted Facebook until we started a new business which needs to reach customers globally. Then I did a page for the business and we did personal pages which we limit to people we want to keep in touch with. It's surprising the people who show up. For me it has been fun to keep in touch with a niece I don't get to see. My 78 year old mother is quite adept at it and networks with her friends around the country. It fits in with my theory that we are evolving into bees and becoming a hive where we all know instantly what is happening to the other side of the colony. Whether or not that is good for the human race remains to be seen.
Your post yesterday helped my in-laws make a decision on their Medicare insurance. Thank you!

Facebook serves the same purpose for me as it does for Joared and NancyB, enabling me to keep track of a large extended family spread around the world as well as umpteen distant friends and acquaintances with whom I don't exchange personal correspondence. But I don't spend more than a few minutes a day on there. And I've zapped all the silly applications so nobody can send me teddy bears or virtual roses or any of that mindless crap any more.
Plus as an author I find it another useful publicity tool.Twitter likewise.
In the last couple of years I've created (using the 'white label' platform) five other social networks, each for a particular special interest group. These, I enjoy much more. All are password-protected and for four out of the five, membership is by invitation only. This type of private, custom-built network enables much deeper-level,ongoing discussions between groups of like-minded people, enhanced by the sharing of photos, videos, music and files.
I think there is a place for all of these communication tools - blogs, email, social networks of all kinds. It's a question of adapting them to one's own particular needs. And the great thing about all of them is that - unlike the telephone, which I loathe - none of them can disturb the peacefulness of my life except at my own instigation. Perfect for an introverted control freak like me!

Same, here, Crabby. No interest. Don't feel like being hound dogged all day by one line twits, twerps, twaddle.

Life shoots by when heads are gawking at stamp size screens.

Thermal underwear. We'll be needing those soon. It's getting cold up here.

We should be dancing in our thermal underwear, not staring at tiny screens.

Dancing to Jerry Lee Lewis..

"Whole Lotta Shaking Going on."

I don't have time for all that I want to do in the real world and find that I have to be selective in the amount of time that I spend in the virtual world. I have participated for years in an on-line discussion board, I have limited friends on Facebook, & I have several blogging friends. That's all--I can't imagine that anyone would be interested in my Twittering.

I'm going to read a good book! Dee

I've setup my Facebook account as 'Private' and my 'friends' are family. Works for me.

I've tried Twitter and don't care for it...but I do add my Tweet to political causes I am for.

I finally got sucked into facebook because most of my family and a couple of old friends are on it. For the most part I restrict who I am friends with and am considering setting up different categories of friends. There are only two people I haven't met face-to-face who are on my friends list: you, whose blog I read religiously, and an author whose books I read religiously. And I thank you for 'friending' me back.

This is the only blog I read regularly, and the main reason is that you're a good writer, who is also writing about things that interest me, from a viewpoint I mostly share, and your posts aren't too long.

I like Facebook for the reasons others have said.

Working FT, I don't have as much time to spend online, and I do have daily social interaction. I'm a little baffled by how people find time for all they do online - even you, Ronni!

Twitter has no appeal for me at all. I would not even read twitters from others, let alone want to write one; but I did finally go into Facebook because of my kids. I limit it very carefully who I add there (to family, friends, or people I know I can trust) because it's where I can share family photos, something I don't do in the blog.

I don't link Facebook in anyway to my blog as for me it's about family. I don't do anything there that I don't want to do and when I began turned down a lot of invitations (something that leads to guilt for a Libra) but it's working for me so far. Now, without sounding like a worried mom, I can read my son got home from a business trip or that my grandson is reading at 5 before I would hear it from them by phone. Since I don't do anything there beyond a note sometimes and sharing photos, and once I learned I could hide from my wall all the games some people play there (or people if I need to do so), I am satisfied with it. I liked it that my favorite political candidate for governor is posting there where he will be, his issues; so politically it can be a good tool although too many of those would swamp my system; so I don't add causes, and will probably delete him when he (hopefully) gets elected.

Ah, you leave me laughing. For me, going to my water aerobics class is more important than the news. If I can't move, what good is the news. I still get my local paper....about 1/3 the size of itself a year ago. Ditto Newsweek. I should get two or three things on the arts, but have given up. Just walking has become more important than anything else even Facebook where all my grandkids are. :)

I think you are awesome! with all that you write, organize, disseminate, etc... I am ever amazed at your ability and productivity. I just bowed to Facebook, though I intend to keep it in check. I do not have any interest in twitter and the rest of it. I certainly don't want to be a slave to the virtual world.

Your point that "it is a newspaper's job to edit the news" hits the problem head on. Twitter and Facebook, and all these other "social media" services provide a forum for the incessant chatter that often helps build relationships through the emphasis on the social -- at least that is where I see their value. It's sad that newspapers think of news as streams of consciousness these days and have given up on their editorial mandates. Luckily, there are still books out there written by authors whose discipline and skill with words and thoughts, be it in fiction or nonfiction, can still point us to "news" in this world.

I enjoy Twitter. I'll admit it. But one interesting thing about getting the news as it happens is that you get non news that turns out to be wrong too. By not following the news minute by minute I was able to read about the balloon boy story after it was over and it was shown to be a hoax.
I think that even if I never posted anything to Twitter or Facebook I would enjoy reading them and seeing what my friend and family are up to.
One thing I enjoy using Twitter for is updating where I am when I travel. I post my twitter updates in the side bar of my blog. Since I don't pay for internet on my phone I can send a text message to Twitter and I have it set up to post to my blog automatically. It provides short updates between posts.

"What she said."

I would be super-crabby if my cleansers were talking me too:).

I have a telephone and I am listed in the book...anyone wants me just call...I couldn't be bothered with all that stuff, Crabby...maybe I am getting that way, too. My piano and book are calling me...thanks, Crabby.

So Crabby, it's Luddite time.
I don't really mean that; I just love the sound of the word Luddite and use it whenever possible.
Great column!



Let's see -- I loathe Facebook as I've never been able to figure out what it is for. Many of my friends clearly find it just right for them, but I can't be bothered.

On the other hand, twitter has become very useful to me. I "follow" journalists whose writings I would otherwise seek out. Once upon a time, I would have put a google alert on their names, but now I can trust they'll probably tweet their stuff and I can get a link that way. This has broadened what I read -- when I have time to utilize the system. But that goes for newspaper emails too -- often I just don't have time.

What Warren said about the word "Luddite" When ever I see the word "Luddite" I visualize a number 2 yellow pencil and grammar schoold where life was simple and serene.

I do adore the internet and keyboards that allow me to edit without erasing, remove or rearrange entire paragraphs and spellcheck at will.

But I do like the image the word "Luddite" brings to mind.

I joined Facebook about a year ago but only just started clicking on it a few months ago. I must say the primary reason I use it daily is to manage my "farm" on Farmville.

"What they said". FB is terrific for stalking grandchildren and young nieces and nephews. Twitter is too trivial.

With both Twitter and Facebook, I hit a wall... just do not see the relevance in my life. Tried connecting with people who are doing the same sort of work I'm doing, just to find out that they are plodding along like I am, no great miracles or blinding insights. The whole notion that Twitter offers better connection to information, as well as self-promotion, might be true, but reading blogs and online newspapers also do the trick. Ronnie, I do wonder how much of this is a generational sort of thing. Our days and concerns do not condense well into 140 letters.

I think both are, as my ex-sailor ax-husband would say, are about "as useful as a screen door on a submarine." I tried closing my Facebook and that didn't work. And yes, I will turn down people I don't know and no, I will not allow them to do into my address book. I'm not a complete fool.

Twitter? I refuse to indulge in it. I don't have any interest in it. Why? This video (which would be funny if it weren't so true) says it for me:

I don't think the world needs to know everything I do 24/7 nor I want to know what everyone is doing 24/7. I don't even know how to text -- all it's doing is contributing to the destruction of the language by people who weren't taught to spell properly in the first place but that's a rant for my blog.

If this were a revival meeting, I would have been flinging my hands into the air and shouting "Amen" every few sentences or so.

But I'm a gal that used to unplug my phone on weekends before answering machines came along.

The more people communicate, the less that is communicated that is worth knowing. I teach communication, by the way.

My son is the one who gets me to try things. First it was a blog, then it was Facebook. Since I moved to a new city it has been a way for me to keep up with my friends and my family which is scattered from Oregon to the UK. When I joined I did not let it use my address book to look for people I know. I did my own search for people I knew. I refuse requests if I don't have any connection.
I learned about my granddaughter's broken leg via a picture of her cast my son put up on Facebook. I now have regular contact with cousins I have not see face to face for years. There is a way for me to follow bills in Congress, I will be able to follow the Winter Olympics. So far I have resisted Twitter I am close to information overload at this point. I have a friend who uses Twitter to follow companies she hold stock in.
I'm glad I'll be able to follow your blog on Twitter.

Oh, Ronni! Amen!!
I've read through all the comments, and cannot find one task that cannot be done by way of e-mail, which, I find, is really, really, really easy. As for the commercial uses of FB, Twitter, and the like - that's fine. I'm glad I don't have to deal with them.

I agree: boring, boring, boring. Just a lot of noise. Equally annoying are those little boxes urging you to "rate" the article you just read. "So and so found this article interesting, informative funny, etc.." Who cares?

I'm in my 40s and many of my colleagues and friends (but no one in my family thank goodness) are on Facebook; I have absolutely no desire. I've seen some of their pages and frankly, they look idiotic. Being inundated by this stuff makes me want to spend less time online.

I probably spend too much time thinking of all these things and I have swung the distance from Luddite to enthusiast regarding technology. For me, it seems to all come down to being glad we have these options and that we are all free to try them and choose. What may bring joy at one time could easily be supplanted by another application later. If technology has a "nature" CHANGE is what it would be. It plays havoc with my static mind and my desire for grounding, fixture and focus...and, in trade, it brings me closer to those I love who I am separated from by circumstance and who live the lives these technologies where made to accommodate. Having said all of that, I am glad I have not had to tweet!

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