Instagram Magic

A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Who said that I wonder? A quick and dirty Google search tells me that it is attributed to Frederick R. Barnard who published a piece in 1921, commending the effectiveness of graphics in advertising. Imagine what he would have to say in this connected multimedia world.

This is a picture of me and a friend at the age of about three.

Carlina and Susan 1963

Carlina and Susan 1963

I am the one crying. The other cherub is clearly enjoying the moment. I remember this incident and why I was crying. I didn’t want my photo taken. I didn’t know what having my “photo taken” meant. I didn’t like being forced to have this done. The photographer was the father of the happy girl, our neighbour, a school principal, and a huge bear of a man, of whom I was frightened. So it was a traumatic experience for me as a small child and I remember it well.

I have never liked having my photo taken since. I am not photogenic, nor fit the popular notion of what is attractive. So I don’t take many #selfies. And I don’t often post them to social media. I prefer to be at the other end of the camera lens.

On Instagram I am @queuingforbliss. This nom de plume originated in my pursuit to find beauty in my life. This began with a blog I created titled French Accent where I was trying to define what that pursuit for beauty really meant for me. It led to a trip to Europe in 2008 with my husband. We would queue gladly and expectantly to see master works of art and architecture: Michelangelo’s Statue of David in Florence Italy; Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa at Le Louvre in Paris; the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican in Rome; Le Tour Eiffel; and much much more. And I remember sitting in the town square in Beaune France cocooned in a cloud of bliss, feeling like I was in love, realising I had indeed found my bliss. Back in Australia the challenge for me has always been to find that je ne sais quoi here at home. My quest is a daily one that persists. Instagram helps.

I love Instagram. I love the immediacy of being able to see moments around our world as they happen and through the eyes of others. I appreciate the transient nature of this experience. There is no need to archive. I love that it represents a snapshot of our world moment by moment and we get to share that with everyone. I don’t see the point of locking down this social media tool as a private domain. The joy is in the shared experience.

I have always responded well to visual stimulation. Like many people I love colour and beauty. I love this Earth. I love detail, patterns, texture, art, landscapes, still-life images, shapes, and design. I don’t mind if the image has been enhanced with filters or other software applications. The detail is in the eye of the creator of the image, and if it is an image that stimulates further artistic creativity, then that is a perfectly reasonable aspect of this creative stimulation that Instagram inspires.

Some people have a natural eye for detail and capture excellent snapshots. Others have a gift for photography and some earn a living as photographers and it is good to see those on Instagram too. And while I enjoy following National Geographic @natgeo@nasa and other organisations, it is the everyperson daily snaps that seem to carry the most interest for me. I don’t like sales on Instagram or personal promotion, and if it is a key component of the content then I will unfollow that person.

Instagram offers food for the soul.

Some of the Instagrammers I love to follow (in no particular order) are:

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Melbourne rainbow

So I was in Melbourne at Southern Cross Station filling in some time before my train trip home and I was taking photos using Instagram when a vivid rainbow appeared before me as I walked across the concourse. I stopped to take this photo:

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As I looked around me I noticed a few other people doing the same thing while rushing for their trains.

Later on while looking through the images on Instagram there were people ‘liking’ my rainbow photo and they also had a photo of the same rainbow from a different viewpoint.

I tagged my photo with #melbourne but not #rainbow!! How does this happen? Are they just looking at a stream of the latest image uploads?

It really does make you think about controversial incidents or dramatic events or especially political or criminal situations. Who saw what?

Time rolls away

Wow! Two months of 2013 have disappeared already. And it’s been busier than ever. What can I tell you about my work at the library so far this year?

We installed new movable shelving for our non-fiction collection in our main branch which entailed a team effort of unloading, loading, reloading, unloading, reloading books by hand. But the end result is very pleasing and we have just ordered the display fittings that go along with this new configuration. The plan is to rearrange the non-fiction books from Dewey to shop-style subject categories. Then we will need to get some new signage to suit.

We have also embarked on the RFID implementation. At present we have completed one small branch and almost finished the second small branch. Then it is just the tagging at the main branch to go. Another team effort is required to get this job done, and everyone is stepping up to the plate. This new technology will allow customers to check out their own items giving them more privacy and independency. It will also free up our staff so they can provide some deeper and more meaningful conversations with the customers.

I have completed and passed two subjects for the Master of Information Studies and have just two to go. I have started Social Networking for Information Professionals.

Next weekend is a long weekend here in Victoria and I will be going along to the Annual Port Fairy Folk Festival for the fourth year in a row. Last year I had the pleasure of seeing a band called Tinpan Orange and just love their song Every Single Day.

Time rolls away, it rolls away, every single day it rolls away…”

My youngest son was married last month and that was a fun event despite my mother passing away the week before and her not being there (in body) with us all.

The Tomorrow’s Library discussions continue.

Our current open art exhibition is ‘Sunflowers” and we have received many bright works of art from local people. It is always such a privilege to receive and hang these creative pieces. I totally love the idea of inclusive community art, because after all we are all creative to some extent.

Sunflowers_group_04032013

Yesterday (on a Sunday) I attended a workshop Social Media for Small Business and the Arts presented by John Paul Fischbach and Criag Lambie of Auspicious Arts Incubators. It was a really worthwhile session and these guys really know their stuff. I got a lot out of it and wrote my notes to Twitter until my phone battery went dead. It really gives me a better perspective for revamping the social media presence of our library.

I am currently reading Wild: from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed (this is my favourite genre – true travel stories with a twist or quest) and Face2Face by David Lee King. I am listening to Little Stories by Harry James Angus and podcasts of the Midday Interview with Margaret Throsby and This is Your Life by Michael Hyatt.

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.

Choose your Guru

Have you noticed how many self-proclaimed gurus there are on the internet now? With the blossoming of online social networking there have emerged, dozens, hundreds, perhaps thousands of people happily doling out advice to anyone who will listen.

Who are these experts? And what makes them so knowledgeable? Many I’ve noticed are perhaps 20-something in age. Have they lived? Learned? Made mistakes? The confidence, certainty, and arrogance with which many espouse their views stun me. They preach and prattle and fill blog after blog with dot-point precision. Here is a random selection: How to become a Level 80 Twitter Ninja; How to go tribal and sell a truckload of books; Nine Ways To Build a Bridge Between Who You Were and Who You AreThe You, the Me and the We – How I’m Changing How I Use Twitter | Stayin’ Alive; Choose the Bigger Life; No Pressure Knitting. And I could add many more examples but I’m sure you’ve found your own. Everyone is an expert.

Now I realise that many use the social networking neighbourhood for their own self-improvement and education and blogging about it is their way of sorting through the crap and working out their own ideas. But to offer these often infantile notions firmly as well thought out, tried and true rules for living is ridiculous in my humble opinion. I don’t mind reading some of these blogs and twitters but the increase in the number of people doing this is astonishing. And some appear to have all the authenticity and credibility of a Snake Oil Salesman. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking this.

mandelbrot-set

Where are the humble folk who stumble through life like me? The older I get, the more I learn, the more I realise I don’t know. Life is chaos and can present things to you that you had never imagined. Life can’t be totally planned, controlled or “manifested”. Perhaps because this is my belief then it is my experience. But I do find solace in the Chaos Theory because I don’t have much faith in the attempts of Man to tame the world to the one I would choose. I prefer to believe a higher power holds the aces and will create a world that is far more enriching and awesome and unbelievable than what my humble mind can imagine. So I enjoy seeing the weeds appear in the cracks in the concrete. I am in awe of the Mandelbrot set. I love to see the NASA images from the Hubble telescope of the worlds beyond this Earth.

The philosophies I like to live by in dot-points and at this point in time are:

  • Leave no footprints
  • The Theory of Chaos
  • Live in The Now
  • Be Kind
  • Create your own life
  • Do stuff
  • Keep it simple
  • Appreciate and be grateful
  • Learn more stuff
  • Be optimistic
  • See The Big Picture
  • Be authentic

There remain the constant big names in personal development who have written books on the topic, established themselves as leading thinkers, and have now joined the social networking scene: The Dalai Lama; Deepak Chopra; Dr. Wayne Dyer; Marianne Williamson; Eckhart Tolle, and others. Of course the wisdom of the ages can’t be ignored and these sources stand apart: The Bible; the teachings of Buddha; the words of Jesus Christ; A Course In Miracles; etc, etc. You know them as well as I do.

Newcomers to the scene who are making an impression are: Leo Babauta of Zen Habits; Gary Vayerchuk. But the stampede for recognition in this area is scary. What are they hoping for? A well paid talking circuit? 68,000 followers on Twitter or Facebook? Nirvana? Bliss? Who knows? Not me!

Here are some more dot-points which form my humble advice about how to live a happy fulfilling life:

  • Turn off the computer/laptop/mobile phone/handheld device/whatever
  • Look up from the screen
  • Pat your cat and hear it purr
  • Look out the window
  • Go outside – yes outside!
  • Take the dog for a walk
  • Take your kids to the local park or playground
  • Kick a football or throw a ball
  • Walk down the street
  • Talk to a local – then really listen to what they have to say
  • Have a coffee and a chat with a friend at a local cafe
  • Return home
  • Have a conversation with a family member
  • Cook a healthy meal
  • Smile
  • Get a good night’s sleep

Indeed reject my advice in favour of your own self-discovered words of wisdom and lifestyle.

Big Brother

I have recently read a couple of interesting articles about privacy on the internet. Two of these were marking the 10th anniversary of Google. ‘Big friendly giant…or big brother?’ by David smith was published in the Age’s Good Weekend magazine on 13th September 2008. Here is his blog about the article. It was reported that Google “harvest more of our secrets than any totalitarian government”, and that “they have amassed more information about people in 10 years than all of the governments of the world put together.” Scary thoughts. But Larry Page and Sergey Brin who founded Google in September of 1998 instill this daily reminder into their employees – ‘Don’t be evil’. Their mission is to “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

I then read the article ‘Facebook and the social dynamics of privacy’ by James Grimmelmann. The Grimmelmann article reports that “A 2006 survey of Facebook users found that 77% of them have never read its privacy policy.” And that “later regret about initial openness is an especially serious problem for the most active social network site users: young people.

I think that the difference between using Facebook and using Google is that in general people don’t realise that Google are farming your personal details, whereas with Facebook personal information is voluntarily and knowingly provided by the users.

I am an avid user of Google’s tools and use Gmail, Google Reader, Google Maps and Street View, YouTube, Google Books and Google Docs as well as being my first port of call for any web search. And I love Facebook. What a clever interface designed by the young Mark Zuckerberg. It pulls in many of the tools used by web-users and offers them up on the same website. Users can communicate with their friends via chat, email, posts, and share images, videos, games, and links. Users can join groups where their interests lie. It really is an amazing and addictive piece of software. But it is public and therein lays the problems. Where is the protection from predators, or future employers, or friends who are no longer friends, or identity frauds? Many people seem to be unaware of the dangers and often believe that there is ‘safety in numbers’. But in this era “connectedness is social currency”, so what can we do? Be aware I suppose. Read the small print. Be mindful of what you put on there. Self censor. Is it possible to do that and still have fun? “Our social lives are infinitely richer than any controlled vocabulary [labels to describe] can comprehend.”