What is social networking

I recently gave a talk about social networking. It was at the public library where I work. We offered a free information session to the locals residents. The presentation was to inform people in the community about the social networking trend. The intended audience were those people who don’t know what it is all about, and are curious to know more.

We advertised the event well through local media. There was interest prior to the event. I had prepared a worthwhile presentation and had practice runs with library staff and family. I had a back-up plan in case of IT glitches. I knew the material. I had no bullet points and had put together a relevant and interesting presentation I thought.

I began with a video The Machine is Us/Using us by Professor Michael Wesch. I had asked for his permission trying to honour copyright and do the “right” thing. I explained the difference between Web 1.0 (the static web) and Web 2.0 (the interactive web). I gave a quick glimpse of the huge number of Web 2.0 websites online then went on to talk about the more popular ones: Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, Flickr, YouTube, LibraryThing, and blogging with RSS.

Of course, like any self-respecting librarian, I spoke about security, privacy, copyright, and phishing scams.

I finished my talk with a story about Gary Vaynerchuck and how he has mastered the online social networking tools making them work for him in his work as a wine merchant and now an author of Crush It and perhaps a motivational speaker. This description highlighted how the social networking tools work together: we switch seamlessly from one to the other.

So what went wrong? I had only two people in the audience. Two older people seemingly from the same demographic, but one was knowledgeable and a skilled user of these technologies while the other was still reluctant to dive in. They appeared to be interested and focused during my talk. We had a discussion afterwards that was positive and engaging.

It was a cold rainy evening. It is tuna fishing season. This community seems to be active, involved, and maybe busy enough. Maybe they all know about social networking already and don’t need to hear anything else. Somehow we missed the mark with this. This community here is very much oriented to the outdoors. Maybe that is the reason. They don’t need to go online to network socially because the life here is so present in the real world – something I value and appreciate immensely.

I must confess that I am over Facebook myself. This medium manages to have an unsettling ability to make me feel disconnected. It is not authentic. It robs me of the ability to use my bull-shit detectors to capacity. Something feels not quite right to me. Comments are misinterpreted. Harsh judgements are made by total strangers. It is unkind and shallow. We miss out on the essential communication messages read from body language, tone of voice, eye contact, and more. Our written messages lack these. Most of us lack the mastery that the wordsmiths have in illustrating our points with precision and correct grammar. Personally I feel that unless I actually know the person who I am communicating with, then any attempt at “connecting” is a pathetic waste of time; and reeks of desperation. I don’t need it. My life is full enough without this added emotional discord.

I like reading the blogs people write because the longer discourse allows a far better insight into the person and their ideas. And I can pick and choose the ones that are of real interest to me. It is an expansive learning experience, by contrast to Facebook that has a reductionist and limiting social experience. In my talk I tried to explain the benefit of using an RSS reader like Google Reader as the convenient place to gather the blogs that you like to read – but this may have gone over their heads. Not everyone understands the powerful element of this aspect of the Web 2.0 world. And I guess not everyone is interested.

I don’t mind admitting my apparent failure here. I don’t pretend to be a motivational speaker and nor do I aspire to be one. I also feel no need to hide behind a mask of pretence by not confessing the reality of the situation. I am confident that the material was sound and my message clear. I think the audience is there but I can’t begin to guess why they stayed away in droves. I don’t take it personally. It remains a mystery.

Why write

Why write at all? I find I am asking myself this question often these days. How about you?

Writing blogs has become so popular that it is almost impossible to search for information online without getting any blogposts in your search result; even if you try to be clever and refine your search to prevent them. Someone should invent a search engine that can do this – if they haven’t already. If you know of one, let me know.

I love reading blog posts. I find them, in general, to be creative and inspirational. I enjoy reading the ideas of others. The short expression of an idea seems to be enough. If the post is too long I fall victim to #tl:dr (too long: didn’t read).

In fact my time is so full of activity that I have no time to read blogs. My Reader is full of unread posts and I only seem to be steered to read a blogpost via twitter, and even then it requires a clever hook to get me to click on the link. I’d prefer to read people’s blogs but I have to attend to the barrage of emails I receive. Please spare me the email telling me the photocopier in a distant office has a large job – I don’t care and resent the effort required on my part having to delete it.

So why do we write at all? *to communicate *to share *to educate *to change * to amuse *to record *to understand *to create *to set guidelines *to try to make money *to promote *to develop *to learn *to express *to discover *to question *to connect *to ask *to vent *to coerce *to be read *to practice *to improve *to perfect *to explore *to inform *to make people feel…

Solar by Ian McEwan put me in a foul mood last weekend. I hated it. I loathed the main character. I was disappointed with the pathetic inclusion of the scientific concepts. I hated the style of moving the story forward whilst simultaneously backtracking to fill the narrative of the character. I hated the way the story moved on quickly from one scene to the next with no break (or chapter) to indicate this change in the flow. I persisted because I have loved other works by Ian McEwan. Saturday is one of my favourite books. By the end of Solar I despised the main character and felt depressed and uninspired. I expect that loathing the character was the point. Was this the aim of Mr. McEwan? Then don’t bother. I prefer to read literature that is interesting, uplifting, generous, teaches me something, inspirational, innovative, intriging, challenging, clever, or beautiful.

I realise writing a book is a completely different experience compared to writing a short idea or essay for a blog. And reading books too is a completely different experience that requires some commitment. Asking the question “why write?” applies here too though, perhaps more so. What do you want to be your legacy as a writer?

Julia Cameron wrote The Artists Way some time ago now and by following her prescribed three month program, it instilled in me the practice of writing “morning pages”. I think she has inspired many people to do this. So I use the morning pages as first stream-of-consciousness venting. It has had a profound effect on my wellbeing. It is a useful tool to be able to write any junk without concern for being correct in any way. It helps me sort out my thoughts and gets rid of the neurotic junk. I record my dreams sometimes. I plan. I vent. I try to understand. Writing for my blogs is more considered and I try to pick topics to explore and share that I think may interest others. But I keep asking myself why I bother – why any of us bother at all.

A rare treat

A rare treat; lying in bed in the morning, the cat asleep on the covers, the lace curtains moving with the breeze, a thunderstorm passing overhead, corellas flying wildly and squawking,  reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery; I smile. My tea cup is empty as I read about the love of tea shared by Madame Michel and the young budding intellectual Paloma Josse. There are so many turns of phrase in this book that I smile constantly enjoying the story. I savour the experience. Here is my full review.

Food for thought

Food is one of life’s great pleasures. I have always had a hearty appetite and yet, like so many people, my experience with food has been a journey of discovery, understanding, and getting to know which foods and drinks best nourish my body.

My interest in healthy food began during my teens and I tried to convert my family to whole grain bread and less salt. I accepted the intellectual argument against cow’s milk and still choose soy milk when I can, but without fanatical avoidance of all things dairy. Your Life in Your Hands by Professor Jane Plant  offers an extremely convincing argument against all dairy foods.

Over the years I have been my own guinea pig and tried: food combining; vegetarianism; Leslie Kenton’s raw food; Dr  Sandra Cabot’s books; Eat Right for Your Type; the CSIRO diet; and the rich European style of eating. I think that the CSIRO diet comes closest to a sensible, nutritional, balanced and manageable plan for eating for life. Balance, portion control, and variety are the keys.

It can be confusing and even more so when we are “fed” on TV The Biggest Loser closely followed by Master Chef. On the Biggest Loser they plead with us to exercise, diet, and stay away from fatty foods, shunning butter altogether. As a society we are fast heading towards chronic obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in alarming numbers.  Then Master Chef tantalises our taste buds and challenges our culinary skills, all the while piling on the butter, fats, and sugar.

Recently I read somewhere that there could be a connection between migraines and gluten in the diet. This is new to me, but seems to make sense. Often my migraines feel triggered by poor dietary choices and particularly if I’ve been eating too much carbohydrate in the form of bread or pasta. So I ransacked the library shelves for books about gluten-free cooking. This led me to the book “Gluten-free girl” by Shauna James Ahern and her blog. Reading her story made me feel very sorry that as a child she was fed a very poor processed American diet. There must be so many people living in the wealthy West brought up on poor nutrition. Yet we are so lucky in Australia to have so much fresh produce easily available; and so many different cultures to learn from and eat as they do.

The theory behind Eat Right for Your Type by Dr Peter D’Adamo sounded right to me when I read it years ago. He states that wheat in particular is bad fuel for people with my blood type. Wheat is the food containing gluten that is so widely used in our diets. It is very difficult to avoid wheat and its products I found.

So on to my next experiment in order to find a diet that nourishes me, keeps me healthy, and does not add excess weight. For breakfast today I made Sweet Quinoa (organic) Fruit Compote from the book Wheat & Gluten Free. It was not bad but required far more cooking time at breakfast than I am accustomed to, and has left a strange aftertaste. For lunch I had avocado, salmon, cream cheese, and salad on a corn wrap. Time will tell how successful I am at finding alternatives to wheat and the impact this has on my health and BMI.

It is not only important to try new ideas and foods, but also to listen to your own body. Only you can feel how food is affecting your body. We are all indeed different, live different lives, and have differing nutritional needs. While vegetarianism may intellectually be a good idea, not all of us are suited to this regime and soon become starved for protein and iron. Your body will soon tell you, so take notice.

Let food be your medicine and your medicine be your food” ~ Hippocrates