social media

This is Your Brain on Meetings

Sartre said that Hell is other people. I’ve amended that statement to say that Hell is other people AND/OR meetings. That’s what I have decided and considering the number of meetings I’ve attended this week, I must be in hell. Which level of Dante’s hell do you think meetings would reside? Or do meetings comprise some sort of less tangible, existential hell?

The above musings are a nice way of saying that I have a fried brain from all the meetings I’ve attended this week. Plus, my mother and stepfather are arriving tomorrow for the day (and dinner at The Angus Barn!), so we are cleaning all the things, grumpily, because no one slept well last night. It’s a barrel of laughs here, folks. Really.

Since I have nothing original to contribute, I thought I’d share a few links I found interesting this week.

  • I’m an avid reader of Julie Shapiro’s blog Related Topics in which she tackles family law issues, many of which are pertinent for anyone undergoing ART or adopting.  I don’t always agree with her and her commenters can be…interesting…but she is always thought-provoking. Anyway, she has been tackling the idea of social infertility through a series of posts, and the most recent one is particularly worth reading.
  • Several of us had a series of Twitter conversations about parenting and the wounds of infertility after we read a specific post in which some of the comments were less than kind about those parenting.  Arch Mama did an amazing job of expressing her feelings and what I am sure are the feelings of many others on this topic. I wanted to write a supplemental post on the topic but couldn’t, so I leave you with Arch Mama’s words which address the issue far better than I could.
  • This post We Need to Change How We Talk About Rape blew my mind. It’s long and the all-caps format is difficult, but it is so worth the time investment. It truly changed how I perceived rape culture as well as some attitudes I held about personal accountability. I admit that some of my previously-held opinions were wrong. Please, please read.
  • Lastly, I (and many others) had 2 great bloggy & twitter friends feel they had to quit social media this week, and it makes me sad. These are wonderful people who need support, and I hate that they felt – for a variety of reasons – that these spaces weren’t going to be able to meet their needs.  For the haters who say that connections made over social media aren’t genuine, I beg to differ. I miss these ladies terribly, and I worry about them. Yes, there are other ways to get in touch with them, but it’s like voices have dropped out of the conversation.

That’s all I’ve got. How was your week? What’s on your mind?

Online and Offline Relationships

Maybe the blogosphere has spring fever and has the attention of a high school senior anticipating graduation because it seems that recently a lot of bloggers have noticed fewer comments and less interaction and have posted about it: here, here, here, and here (oh lookee there.  I just used the Oxford comma after I told Katie I didn’t any longer).  All the posts are interesting, so I urge you to read them.  The speculation ranges from whether there is a blog/social media malaise to whether blogging is dying and ultimately ponders why we blog.

I was interested in this cross-blog conversation because it reminded me of the accusations that flew during the PAIL brouhaha in the ALI community that some bloggers were blogging for the wrong reasons and interested in the quantity of their readers and comments instead of the quality of their writing or their interactions.  Months later, that sanctimonious, distorted interpretation of the PAIL situation is the one that still stings me.  Based on the comments in the above blogs, it appears that discussing stats and comment numbers – even innocently  – is taboo because many commenters expressed that they blog for themselves, stats be damned.

So I mention this conversation to collect a little data of my own:

In your neck of the woods, have you noticed decreased action in the blogosphere or in your other social media channels?  A feeling of ennui?

Some commenters attributed any drop-off in interaction to the season, and I think there is a little truth to that.  The days are longer and nicer; there are more opportunities to spend time outside.  I know I personally have been consumed with preparing for Daniel’s transition to daycare: analyzing his wardrobe, researching food ideas, agonizing over how to prepare him.  I’m also busy at work and prepping presentations for the two conferences I’m attending this month and attending more meetings than anyone would ever want to attend.

At the same time, I have so much I want to post that I almost feel paralyzed when I think about trying to organize my thoughts and spew something coherent.  I don’t aim for profundity, only coherence.  So often, an extra day will slip between the interval I had planned because the thought of sitting at my laptop exhausts me.  It’s almost as if I have too much to say, so I don’t say anything.  And then when that extra day slips in, I shrug and doubt anyone will notice anyway (and no, that’s not a cry for validation).  And that shrug puts everything into perspective about what I’m doing in this space and what it means in the larger scheme.   But I also hate that shrug because I’m one of those people who needs to purge her mind because otherwise it builds up on top of what thought came before and I can’t move on and it threatens to drown me.

I actually started this post on Friday, and I tried to move on when I didn’t have a chance to finish it, but I keep coming back to what I wanted to say here.

As I was thinking about blogging and social media and our online relationships, I read “In the Era of Online Networking, Offline Connections are More Powerful Than Ever.”  Nutter’s point is that while we are enraptured with connecting via social media, the relationships we make offline – that take time to nurture and grow – are the ones that matter and are even more important now.  That makes sense to me.  After all, in my friend project, I’ve made friends via Twitter and blogs, but when I want to build those relationships, I take them offline.  I have actual lunch or dinner with these ladies.  We meet face to face.  Hell, even exchanging email seems more personal these days.  And it’s been true for years.  The same thing happened in the message board I was a part of: local ladies met and connected online via journals but took it offline with dinners, wedding attendance, baby showers and cookie exchanges (shout out to Fight Club!).   There’s an element of condescension in Nutter’s piece (“oh these kids today and their new toys”) but hardly anything revolutionary.

About 5 minutes after I finished reading Nutter’s piece, I came across Zeynep Tufekci’s piece Social Media’s Small, Positive Role in Human Relationships in the Atlantic.  [Side note: I just realized two seconds ago that she is a professor in former graduate program.  I think she came to UNC while I was on maternity leave or working on my Master’s Paper.  In other words, I am a moron for not realizing that earlier.]  Tufekcki argues that social media is in fact enabling more conversations between people and even deepening ties offline, something I found in my own research. I love that she has found that these online conversations save offline social lives and that online tools enable us to find kindred spirits by geography and interests in ways not available to us before.  I appreciate that Tufekci stands up for social media and the relationships we can build there. She says:

If anything, social media is a counterweight to the ongoing devaluation of human lives. Social media’s rapid rise is a loud, desperate, emerging attempt by people everywhere to connect with *each other* in the face of all the obstacles that modernity imposes on our lives: suburbanization that isolates us from each other, long working-hours and commutes that are required to make ends meet, the global migration that scatters families across the globe, the military-industrial-consumption machine that drives so many key decisions, and, last but not least, the television — the ultimate alienation machine — which remains the dominant form of media.

I certainly agree.  In addition to being able to connect to long-lost real-life friends, Twitter and the blogosphere has enabled me to connect with others suffering from infertility, coworkers, local bloggers, tech/social media thought leaders, bibliophiles and just overall cool people.  When I have insomnia, there is a conversation going in in which I can participate.  When bad weather threatens, I hear about it online before my weather radio squawks.  I am never alone and for someone who has felt alone most of her life, that feeling is priceless.

And it is powerful.  Check out her story.  Last Friday I reeled when I saw Diana’s tweet about her twin boys, and I was riveted by her story.  By riveted I don’t mean as if I were watching an accident or soap opera.  I was riveted because her story was happening to a real woman and as a mother and woman, I felt so sad and scared for her.  I don’t know Diana.  She is sort of a friend of several friends or acquaintances I know via Twitter and their blogs, but I’ve never interacted with her.  Yet I couldn’t stop thinking about her all weekend.  I was worrying for her and aching over what seemed to be the inevitable outcome.  Then on Monday she tweeted a few tweets about how badly a few doctors were treating her in the hospital and her decision not to induce her twins, and her situation went viral.  Calls and emails poured into the hospital and suddenly, Diana started to receive appropriate care. [Update: She tweeted that her boys were born this morning.  My thoughts are with her, and I hope the outpouring of love and grief she receives can somehow make her pain a little easier to bear.]

This post is not about women’s rights or whether Diana should or should not prolong what may be inevitable.  It is about the fact that online behavior and relationships can have positive offline benefits.  These relationships can be as real as those in the offline world.  They should not be minimized as Nutter attempted to do.  Those of us who spend time online should not be ashamed; we are cultivating real relationships.

These reasons are why if  there is a malaise or ennui with blogging or social media, we should resist it and press on.  We can build real relationships there, and we can impact real lives.

How do you feel about the relationships you have cultivated online?  Are they as real and strong as  your offline ones?

Vengeful Librarians

Stereotypical librarian

Don’t mess with librarians, ok?  Behind our messy buns, glasses on a chain and supernatural “shushing” abilities, we have real skillz. Mad skillz. We are so skilled, in fact, that the CIA has a team jokingly called “Vengeful Librarians” whose purpose is to scour  the Internet, Facebook posts, blogs, Tweets,  news sites, etc. in order to take the pulse of a region and build profiles used by the White House.  Important stuff.

While I was in library school, I often was asked what I learned.  How to shelve books? The Dewey Decimal System? Frumpy Dressing 101? Seminars in perfecting the librarian glare? I assumed the real question was more along the lines of wondering what was so hard about working in a library that it required a Master’s degree.  I’m cynical like that.

The article beautifully illustrates what librarians know how to do: find information.  Analyze it.  Disseminate it.  We are drowning in information, and we need librarians more than ever to cut through the noise and help us make sense of it all.

The article also notes that this team is analyzing mood and making predictions based on what they discover.  This is huge.  Professionally I’m very interested in text analytics and what it can reveal. Sentiment analysis is becoming a must-have part of text analytics for organizations monitoring and analyzing comments about their brand in social media.  It’s great that people are talking about you, but are they talking positively or negatively?  Overtly positive or negative comments are easy to interpret,  but overall, sentiment analysis is difficult.  I remember that when SAS’s social media monitoring suite came out a few years ago, it was a big deal because it included sentiment analysis.  I’m sure it also had a big price.

Predictive analytics is hot right now and is also something in which I am interested and researched in, yes, library school.  Much of data analysis is backwards-looking in order to answer “what happened?” You see this often in social media when a major event happens and tweets and posts are mined to put together a timeline of events as in this article on the genesis of the #OccupyWallStreet hashtag.   While that type of analysis is useful, imagine how much more powerful it would be to be able to figure out what’s going to happen next and be able to put together an action plan.   While such abilities may conjure up images of crystal balls and tarot cards, some companies have figured out how to do it.

My point is that what this group is doing is cutting edge.  Instead of being an obsolete profession, this group is demonstrating what modern librarianship is all about.  And all it requires is a Library Science degree and a smile.  Ok, ok, and knowledge of a few foreign languages. You get my point.

So give your librarian a hug today.  You never know how s/he might be saving the world.