Managing Your Social Media Experience

Previously published on Blogetary 1.0 June 2013.

This will be a meta-post since I’m using a form of social media to discuss social media, and I will use other forms of social media to promote this post, but such is life.

Social media is a form of communication, actually it’s many forms of communication all here on the interwebs, and it’s not going anywhere, though it may evolve into something completely different in a few years. Ten years ago I was using MySpace, Tribe.net and email. Ten years before that I was using postcards, stamps and the occasional phone call or letter to communicate. Now I use a WordPress blog, a Blogger blog, GoodReads, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and my websites and email. I sometimes find gigs and jobs through Monster.com and Guru.com. I advertise PuttPuttProductions.com not only in the classified section of a hardcopy newspaper (the Larchmont Chronicle) but also through Craigslist.com and Backpage.com. I have two (relatively inexpensive) websites: PuttPuttProductions.com for my proofreading and copyediting and RachelVOlivier.com for my published work.

In 1993 I printed out stories or poetry I worked on in long hand and then used either a typewriter or borrowed a friend’s computer to get them in typed form, and then mailed them with a submission letter to magazines and agents found in the back of the Writers Digest or Poetry magazines, which I picked up at the bookstore. In 2003, I was emailing at least half my submissions as electronic documents to magazines (hardcopy and online) I had researched online. Now, many places are online ‘zines only and have an upload program that will safely accept virus free electronic submissions of poetry, short stories and novels. And these are to markets discovered through several aggregate sites that track the submissions. Or, if I really want to go crazy, I can use Smashwords, CreateSpace, Lulu or other sites to publish my work all by my own self.

Who knows what this landscape will look like 10 years from now. And that’s just me. I’m relatively unsophisticated in the realm of social media, where people use SmartPhones with Bluetooth to check on everything from dinner plans to credit scores and FB status updates (I’m still on a prepaid T-Mobile clamshell phone). And that doesn’t count Flickr, InstaGram, HooteSuite, Google, or other social media sites. Nor does it count all the discussions that occur in threads on newspaper sites or other news and topical aggregate sites.

Social Media used to be something that people did when their bosses were not around, or after work and on weekends as something fun to do other than their “real life”. It was semi-clandestine and where people met to “hook up”. It was seen as semi-obscene. People would mumble quietly at parties, “Yeah, check out my MySpace page.” Or maybe they’d meet someone through Match.com before it was considered acceptable, so both parties who met would agree to tell others they “met through friends” rather than admit to meeting in an AOL chat room or on Match.com or Friendster. Back then, there was no social protocol for interacting online. People came up with emoticons to use to express feelings (though we are still waiting for an acceptable sarcasm font). Now you have to have a LinkedIn profile if you’re going to look for a job, as well as have your resume online at Monster, and companies work to make sure they have a good Facebook page and Twitter account.

Social Media has had a rocky journey, however. It was discovered fairly early on by regular users in the “bad old days” that in using a faceless social media profile, people could get really obnoxious and also rather creepy. While this facelessness created a freedom for people to be whoever or whatever they wanted to be and explore different aspects of themselves (important to many people still), this also meant that common rules of social etiquette and protocol were thrown out various internet windows and sent crashing to their doom. Stalkers, bullies, trolls, flamers also became part of this internet societal landscape.

Since then, many of the rules have been resuscitated, dusted off and reborn, updated for a 21st century group of communicators. Suggestions have been put in place for dealing with bullies, stalkers, trolls and flamers. Go anywhere online and you can find a list of these rules and suggestions for online social etiquette. They may vary from site to site, but the gist of it is (as was with in person etiquette) be kind, be considerate, and think before you speak/post/wade in.

I’m not going to go over that list. If you’re savvy enough to find this blog and skim through the above nodding your head in familiarity, then you’re savvy enough to Google and find a list (which means it’s easy peasy). What I am going to pull out, however, are a small set of little rules that I keep in mind for myself. They (sort of) work for me. I will share them here to help anyone else out there that might want to keep things simple.

1) Think before you post. Like safety rules of the road — look around for incoming traffic. Where are you? Is it a public or private forum? How much traffic is there and what kinds is it? Are the people a semi-homogenous group of friends, or a disparate set of individuals from all over? Is there a moderator and what are they like? Do they wade in and call for reasonableness when people become uncivilized or are they pretty much non-existent and let anything go? Once you have nailed down where you are in the interwebs then you can decide how (or even if) you want to weigh in on a discussion. For example, while I am on Facebook and pretty much keep my profile open to the public, I also belong to many closed groups on Facebook. That way I can share things privately with people I trust online in the closed groups or share other things more openly on my Facebook profile. In a closed group, I have a better idea of the people who will get involved in a discussion, how they will react, what is an acceptable joke, what is not, what can be shared and what may not be shared. On my public profile, I try to keep it easy — kitties, puppies, writing, with the occasional political/personal post. I have a lot of friends who aren’t necessarily on the same page as I am in regards to religious-socio-political beliefs and stances. So, I try to keep it easy, but I also don’t lie about who I am. And I try (really I do) to follow Natalie Goldberg’s advice from Writing Down the Bones: Be Kind, Be Kind, Be Kind.

2) Be canny. Manage your information, just like the spin doctors do. You are in charge of what is out there. Some people have their profile on the internet on lock down. If you’re not a direct friend or family member you get nuthin’. That’s fine. That’s great. If that’s what you want, use the tools available to you create it, and check back and update your profiles. Facebook, for one, is constantly changing how they do things. Check your privacy settings occasionally to make sure they are where you want them to be. If someone has tagged you in a photo that you don’t want to be tagged in, then go in there and untag it (and don’t make a fuss about it, just do it). If someone asks you to untag them, then do it and let it go. They are controlling their information and that is their right.

Also, make sure that what people see in your public profile is what you want them to see. For example, I want people to easily find my Putt Putt Productions page, as well as my websites, so I make sure that’s easy to find on my Facebook profile. Some photo albums I have set to private and other photo albums I have set to public. Sometimes I’ll make an album public for a time so I can show it to some friends, and then set it back to private later. I also take advantage of the “About” section to put out there what I want people to know about me before they friend me.

On my FB profile it lists marital status and birthday (without the year) for friends only because I like getting birthday greetings and I want to meet people, but I’m not stupid. I also have my gender and religious-socio-political leanings posted so people know what they’re getting before they friend me (Religious Views: Very VERY liberal Christian with Zen/Taoist/Wiccan leanings; Political Views: Feminist/Democratic Socialist (that means VERY LIBERAL), prochoice, pro marriage equality, pro union, etc.). Above all remember that once your information is out there, it’s out there. Yes, you can go through and delete things, but someone somewhere may still have seen it and saved it. And years later someone will remember you whining about your boss or your job, or one day that pic of you tossing up your dinner in your friend’s bathroom after a night of drinking might show up somewhere. But don’t panic. If something like that does show up, own up to it and move on and manage your information.

(On a side note here: Also keep your profile log in username and password somewhere where you friends and family members can find it. If you have a will, make sure to assign an executor of your online profiles. This way if something happens to you — if you’re ill or if you die — you have someone who can either take care of your online profile or shut it down so that no one else can get to it, hack it, and use it for their own nefarious purposes.)

3) You can always walk away. Remembering this has saved my sanity more times than I can count (which may or may not be impressive depending on if you’re a music major who only counts to four or a mathematician who tracks the infinity of pi). Just remember that if a discussion gets too upsetting for you, if it pushes too many emotional buttons for you, or if you think it’s idiotic, or you’re just plain tired and want to go to bed — You and ONLY YOU have the freedom to WALK AWAY from the discussion. You can pick up a book, do your embroidery, play Scrabble, watch the news, call a friend or go to bed. But you can walk away. It’s especially advantageous if you can walk away before things get nasty. Learn the road signs to a bad discussion thread. Watch for the signs. If it looks like the discussion has taken a bad turn and isn’t likely to come back to a decent level of civility, then walk away. If you have to, and know that just being around the thread will pull you in, then leave the forum or group.

On Facebook you can control what you see in the newsfeed that you scroll through each day. If you have a friend who is posting games or pictures or articles or making comments you don’t like seeing, but you want to remain friends with them, you can make it so you don’t have to see that feed but still keep them as friends.  If you don’t know how to do this, hover/place the cursor without click over your friend’s name. A window will pop open. Down at the bottom you will see a button called Friends. Hover over this button. You will see a list of what they can post. You can either go to “Notifications” to uncheck things like photos and games, etc., or you can uncheck “Show in News Feed” so you never have to see their stuff again — unless you go to their wall to see how they’re doing. You can also put them in as “acquaintances” so you don’t see everything they post. You can also unfriend someone and block them as a last resort, but if you’re like me and have a variety of friends the idea is to keep your friends and, like the Victorian days of old, stay away from too many political or religious discussions.

Whatever you choose (the operative word here — CHOOSE) to do you can do it.

And the ultimate choice, of course, is to walk away.  You have the agency to do this, so take charge of your online life. If you need to, just walk away.

In Sum: Be smart. Be kind. Be canny. Be cool.

Take charge of your social media experience, because chances are social media is going to be around for a long time.

Faster Is NOT Always Better; Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Previously published on Blogetary 1.0 June 2013.

Recently, AT&T has had these ads on TV where a marketer is in a room with a bunch of kids asking them questions. One kid thinks being a slower turtle would be better and the “nice man” and all the kids all laugh at the imaginative child and show why she’s “wrong” because “faster is better.” This ad bothers me a lot.
 

I’m here to tell you that while “faster is always better” is a common assumption, it is not always true, and is in fact many times wrong.

I was fortunate to learn this from an educator years ago. He was the father of a friend of mine and I was lucky enough to learn it while hanging out with my friends, but that didn’t make it any less valuable. John Utendale was the Dean of Woodring College of Education at Western Washington University. He and a team of other educators used to teach at various education seminars. He said one of the things he used to tell educators was that when asking a question in class, don’t call on the first person to raise their hand. Wait. Just wait, until as many people as possible have raised their hands, then call on the last person to raise their hand. The reason? That’s the person who’s put the most thought into the question.

In our society we tend to reward speed, not thoughtfulness or thoroughness. Often, the first one out with an idea is honored more than the one who made the idea better. We try to get to work faster, get out the door faster, be the first finished or the first to get something “done”. But getting to work faster or getting the project completed faster does not make it better. It makes it rushed, maybe sloppy, perhaps even half-hearted, not better. Getting to work faster and out the door faster after work, doesn’t mean your day is better, it just means you aren’t taking the time to enjoy what you have in this moment. It means you aren’t paying attention. When you don’t pay attention, things get missed.

In my business, proofreading, copyediting, writing, etc., speed is also often rewarded, but thoroughness and thoughtfulness are also needed. There’s a reason I don’t call my business “Speedy Proofing” or “24-Hour Copyediting.” I am “Putt Putt Productions” and my motto is “Slow and Steady Wins the Race.” And while I aim to accomplish the projects I’m hired to do in a timely manner, I also endeavor to take the time to pay attention to the details so that I may do a thorough job. Sometimes that means looking over a job and thinking about it a couple of days before sitting down to do it to make sure I take the correct approach. Sometimes that means going back over a section a few times. Sometimes it means tackling it in small chunks. It takes time, but I know I did the best I could on it.

Then, to quote Capt. Mal Reynolds, “I get the job done. I get paid.”

Faster is not always better. It was the turtle who won the race.

For My Dad on Father’s Day: Thank you for not fitting the mold

This was previously posted on Blogetary 1.0 on June 16, 2013 for Father’s Day. Brian Olivier has since passed away (2015). You can read his obituary here. Read on for my tribute to him from 2013.

Dad and Me in his shop, Daly City, 1967

I love my dad.

He wasn’t always around, but that happens sometimes in families, especially when divorce is involved. When he was around, he did the best he could. Since he wasn’t quite sure what it was to be a good father, he has tried to be a friend. But in striving for “friend” as the goal, he still has often hit “father” as the target. The older we get, the better it works.

As much as I love my father, I have a hard time with “Father’s Day.” Not for any dramatic reason, though. No story there. What I hate is that the grand American marketing machine has turned Father’s Day into a day for fathers who only fit in a specific mold. If you look at advertising, TV, articles, “bits”, cards and gifts for Father’s Day, the only dads who exist wear ties, like watching sports, mow lawns, play golf and either play catch with their sons or are there for their daughter’s debutante ball/prom/graduation, etc. Oh, and all dads are also slightly dweebie.

My dad fits exactly ONE of those conditions, the slightly dweebie bit, and that only occasionally. He doesn’t wear ties or watch sports. I’ve never seen him mow a lawn or play golf or play catch. He tried to be around for some things, but wasn’t. He has an English accent that becomes a tad “East End” when he’s tired or sick. He likes a good, stiff G&T before dinner and black coffee with two sugars with his breakfast. When I see and hear people like Michael Caine and Ian McShane, I see and hear my dad.

Let me tell you about my dad. And then hopefully, one day, some nanobot belonging to a marketing company crawling through the cyber-verse will find this and may realize that not all dads are made alike and I will actually be able to find a card that fits him and says what he is to me. He is a unique individual and deserves to be celebrated with all the other dads on Father’s Day.

My dad is very determined. It’s easy to say stubborn when the determination is frustrating, but in the end, it’s pure will and it’s kept him alive. He moved here from London when he was about 30. He slept under hedges until he found a job with an employer willing to sponsor him here. Since then he’s a built a life making a family out of the friends who surround him. They are a motley crew because he likes interesting people. Both his father and his father’s father died fairly young, and here he is at 80, still walking around. Yes, there are advances in healthcare, but much of it is pure determination that kept him going.

Me and Dad out dancing with my stepmom and friends, 1985.

My dad lives life on his own terms. He likes what he likes, but he’s willing to take a risk, too. He joined the military as a young man and was an MP in the RAF and was stationed in Singapore. He moved to the U.S. with nothing more than a few dollars in his pocket. He used to love to go dancing until all hours of the night. He was married several times until he found my stepmom (out dancing) and they realized that what worked for them wasn’t marriage. They’ve been together for 30 years (before that his relationships ended in about 5-10 years).

My dad doesn’t like being called “Dad,” but we call him that anyway. And for all that, he still is willing to listen when you need to talk about something, but then you better be ready to listen to him analyze and turn over everything you just said, take it all around the backstop at the farthest end of the universe and back again as he muses over it. Two hours later you’ll find yourself somewhere completely different from where you started. And then there might be a joke and a laugh. Nothing may have been solved, but you feel better anyway. You’ve seen another side of something. He’s seen another side of something. You may not agree with each other, but there’s something to mentally “chew” on.

My dad likes to enjoy life. For Dad going out to dinner means good conversation with people you enjoy. Cocktails and appetizers, wine with dinner, dessert with an aperitif or coffee, and lots of time in between to talk and talk and talk and talk. He likes a good laugh and a joke and enjoys being with people who don’t get stuck taking themselves too seriously. He doesn’t take himself too seriously. My mom has always said that no matter what was wrong with their relationship, they could always talk. In fact, after I’ve had a visit with him, I frequently stay silent for quite a while after. (It’s a lot of talk.). On a side note, I’ve had several roommates who thought he had a sexy voice and he had no problem with joking around with them on the phone, sight unseen. My dad – the flirt.

He enjoys reading. His favorite books are historiographies (usually WWII), books on science (Stephen Hawking, Brian Green, etc.), philosophy (Marcus Aurelius, Omar Khayyam). He doesn’t know what to do with the fiction I write, even less the poetry. He doesn’t get it at all. BUT, on the other end of that, he likes Star Trek. One time he went to see a movie and saw Jonathan Frakes in the audience and went up to him and shook his hand and said, “Well done.” My dad doesn’t get starstruck, but that was a moment for him.

Dad and I in Astoria, 2003

He loves music, specifically classical, but also opera. His favorite composers are Benjamin Britten and Ralph Vaughn Williams (and he says Ralph and not Rafe and that is fine by me. If you want to be called Rafe then spell it Rafe, otherwise you’ll be called Ralph, just like all the other nerds at school). He also likes Aaron Copland and Antonin Dvorak. He used to sing, took voice lessons. And he enjoys the piano he has, though he just plunks at it.

He enjoys learning. He likes the “great courses” things you can get sometimes. Loves listening to NPR in the morning. He is intelligent and self-taught. His father wouldn’t let he or his brother go to university, though they passed the exam. He didn’t want them to get “above” themselves. So, my dad buys books and reads up on things himself.

He’s a genius when it comes to some things. He has been, for most of my life, a mechanic who fixes jukeboxes, pinball machines and sometimes video games. He’s done other things as well, but that’s mostly what he’s done. Basically, he can figure out anything mechanical given enough time. He uses a bluetooth now like a champion security guy. He can put speakers anywhere so he can listen to his music wherever he happens to be. Has no clue about an iPod, though. He used to have a 1956 Cadillac he worked on for a while. It was his baby until he found a new home for it. The truck he’s driving now he’s put together from all sorts of parts. It’s mostly a 1970s Chevy, but it’s got a new transmission and Hummer retractable sideview mirrors. Last year when I was in it, it was barely street legal and I wondered if I was going to end up like the passenger in Death Proof. This year, I still had to grab the door itself to shut it (no interior handles yet), but the ride was a lot better. The thing is, he’s built it out nothing. It’s a sturdy truck, built out of the ephemera and detritus of junk yards and Craigslist.

It’s still touch and go when it comes to the computer, though. I remember when he first got a computer getting phone calls in the middle of the night: “So, how do I get this internet thing going?”

“Dad? Is that you?”

“Yeah, community college was selling these used things cheap, but I don’t know how to use it and the lady at AT&T said it was set to go. Where do I go?”

“Well, type a search word into the box…”

“Type a who in the what?”

“Make sure the cursor is in the search box.”

*silence*

“What’s a cursor?”

“Move the mouse around until the thing is in the search box.”

“Mouse? Do the cats know what this is?”

“Yeah, dad…now, take that and move it around so you see the thing moving around on the screen. Then make sure you click in the search box – the big box in the center of the screen – until you see the vertical blinking line…”

“What thing? What do you mean click in the search box?”

“When you move the mouse around on the mouse pad, do you see a thing on the screen moving, too? Put that in the big box in the center of the screen and then click on the button on your mouse.”

“Okay, now what?”

“Type your word in there.”

“Oh, right. Well now I’ve forgotten what it was I wanted to find out! You’re a lot of help.”

My dad has perspective and he’s been around long enough to know that things will be what they will be. Money comes and money goes. When my dad was born in London, in 1932, there were still coster mongers and rag and bone men on the streets. He was one of the kids shipped out to the countryside during WWII. He’s succeeded and failed at businesses and relationships. He’s bought and sold cars and houses. He’s made mistakes, but he also has a good heart and a generous spirit. He does his best to do right by people and see the best in them, but he also is quick to warn you if he sees something, and quick to help people who need it. I remember when I was 15 getting the “birds and the bees” talk from him. I hadn’t seen him in a while. He took me out to lunch and said, “I want you know that whatever you want to do with guys, that’s okay. As long as you enjoy it and want to do it. That’s important. Don’t do anything unless you want to do it.” That was the extent of that talk. But I consider it one of the best sex talks a daughter can get from her father.

I worked for my dad the summer after I graduated from high school. He had a handbag repair business on Geary, up the street from Britex Fabrics. I don’t know how helpful I was to him as an employee, but I learned a lot from my dad that summer. I was surrounded by people from Germany, Sweden, Norway, Poland, Beirut, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia (back when those both still existed), England and India. One of the best 4th of July’s I had was that year (the other one was when I spent it at a consulate when I was in Shanghai, PRC one summer). The summer I went to China, when I got back, I spent a week with Dad. It was a good debrief. He was able to share some of his experiences in Singapore over Chinese curry dishes, as well as give me good advice as to the let down I might go through once I was back home, and some of the pitfalls I might run into as regards some of my friends at the time. He was right.

When he was growing up, the dogs and cats didn’t get dog and cat food, they got the left overs of people food. And they did just fine. He used to go on and on about how dog and cat food was just a 5th Avenue conspiracy. These days, there are veterinarians who agree with him (and many who don’t). When it came to my cat’s diabetes, though, I know it was store bought food that made him sick sooner. When he was able to hunt outside and eat mice and birds, he was a lot healthier. My dad was right.

My dad is a perfectionist – a yearner of the perfect. He quit trying at the piano because he knew he would never be as good as he’d like to be. If you suggest a place for him to have dinner, chances are he won’t order anything as is, but will ask for little changes to be made here and there. And then he STILL won’t like it. But, he’ll be a good sport about it.

Me and Dad, San Francisco, 2013

I love my dad. He’s not the dad the 5th Avenue marketers tell me is supposed to be my father for Father’s Day. He’s not ANY of the dads I see on TV (though $#*! My Dad Says with William Shatner got close, and sometimes he’s eerily like Archie Bunker). In fact, he’s nothing like what all the stores and cards and what-have-you tell me that a father is supposed to be like. But, he’s my dad. Like I said before, he’s unique and he deserves to be celebrated like any other dad out there.

So, Happy Father’s Day to my dad and I thank him for his uniqueness and for passing that uniqueness on to me.

And cheers to all the dads out there who are NOTHING like Hallmark and American Greetings say they’re supposed to be like, but EVERYTHING like themselves.