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Facebook; An Update

The internet superhighway as predicted by Vice President Al Gore (1993-2001). Facebook was launched in 2009.
Once again, it’s time for a Facebook assessment. I remember my reluctance to enter this virtual world, and my surrender. I’ve written about finding a college friend, the pleasure we’ve found in our posts, the constancy of our responses, the shared news about our creative lives. I enjoy the photographs my niece posts of her children and her husband posts of his new encaustic paintings. Yes, he’s painting again! We are separated by a continent but can eavesdrop on one another’s activities. This makes it easier to feel connected and to reconnect when we do see each other.

I post my website blog—this blog post that I am writing today—as a “note,” and the Facebook note feeds into Twitter which enhances my online profile and keeps my classes (mostly) filled. My prospective students check me out before signing up. Who can blame them? They are spending hard-earned money—a lot of it—and want to make sure it will not be wasted. I even use their Facebook posts and photographs as writing prompts in the workshop. Who would have ever thunk it? In fact, I encourage my students to write their hearts out on Facebook and in emails, not just sound bytes but long narratives: captions for every photograph, commentary in answer to every commentary. Facebook: yet another tool to keep the writing muscle supple.

But Facebook is more than a publicity or writing tool. It’s also a bulletin board, a graffiti wall, a communal well, a listening post. I find it particularly comforting when something awful is going on in the world which, alas, is all too frequent these days. People in the US and overseas post words of comfort or insight, and all at once the isolation, despair or frustration we feel is eased; we are a community. And, maybe just maybe, a shared link or two might suggest a way out of a conundrum: the refugee migration crisis, England’s imminent EU referendum, the US election. Or, more personally, a private woe expressed fleetingly on one particular day: “Dear FB Friends,” it might say, “I am not feeling so great today.” Incoming: lots of supportive messages and suggestions. And, for me, the impulse to pick up the phone and talk.

A dear friend, someone I see in the flesh in the city, once said to me that an old high school mate, now a FB friend, is ranting on his site. For some reason he won’t “unfollow,” him though this is easy enough to do now—a new, welcome function—without the finality of “unfriending.” Don’t we pick and choose our friends in the real world? So why not insist on civility on Facebook if that is our preference? The digital culture has evolved and so have we.

I can’t imagine my life these days without Facebook and I wonder, at times, whether friends and family who “don’t do Facebook” are missing out on this inclusive, global conversation. I intuit that they are and wish they’d consider joining.  Read More 
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Facebook Stories

When I was in graduate school studying media—before the days of social media—one of my professors always reminded us that whatever technology we chose to use and master, it was important to remember that technologies are tools, nothing more or less. And some of them are powerful, as we have experienced since the advent of the internet and smart phone. And so I am puzzled when someone says, “I don’t want to get into FB, it will consume me.” Unless one develops an addiction, this is patently not true. And most people are responsible. Those that aren’t can easily be un-followed or un-friended. I don't believe in robots taking over the world; the use or the abuse of any technology is in our control

That all said, I do remember my first skeptical reactions to FB, which I wrote about here. The skepticism didn’t last long. Like everyone else I know, I have enhanced my personal and business connections, kept in touch with friends and family very far away, found people I had not been in touch with in a very long time (a college friend, a friend who had moved to Asia) and enjoy posting photographs with captions (one technology inside another). I’m a writer and I write long captions, notes and stories. Why not? I even use the edit option to change them occasionally and/or correct a mistake. Thank you, FB, for this feature.

As for privacy issues, surveillance and all the rest. I try to ignore them. We all know that surveillance is pervasive and will be for the forseeable future. But this is my thinking: we live in a free society, albeit constricted in some ways. And in this democratic free society, it is our mandate to speak with loud, bold voices without fear. Whomsoever wants to drop in on my blog posts and FB posts, please do so. If you have an issue with what I have said, answer it in words. I am listening.

I am thinking about all this today because an ex of my daughter’s, who I have always thought of as a son, is in the hospital. He’s able to use his phone and is on FB all the time. Friends and family are at his bedside, others are on FB sharing stories, joking with him and encouraging his recovery. What a wonderful healing technology, one to celebrate as we enter a new year.  Read More 
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Carol Bergman:Writer

I suppose I should be pleased that I now have 67 Facebook friends on my professional Carol Bergman: Writer page. It’s an active page but what does that mean exactly and how does it enhance the writing life and/or help to solicit professional gigs and/or sell my books? I’m not sure. I do know that my students, prospective students and private clients look at my website and read my blog though they are loathe to admit this. Until I have mentioned them in a blog, then they might say something. “Oh, I think you were referring to me in that blog post the other day.” Of course, I don’t use anyone’s real name but they are nonetheless able to identify themselves and their triumphs or conundrums. I keep the FB page active by routing my blog into the “notes” function. The blog post, this one included, also appears as an RSS feed on my Amazon Authors Page and Goodreads. It also used to appear on the PEN AMERICA website but that has been redesigned and I can’t be bothered to re-do everything, not this week anyway. Are you getting my drift? All of this takes time, energy and a different mind-set than writing itself, although I am writing right now as I write this blog post. (And I hope you noticed the alliteration.) It’s so pleasurable I could do it all day but I have to get back to some other business, as opposed to writing, and then meditate/rest for a half hour before I go off to teach at NYU. Must remind myself to cut up an apple to slip into my bag. (Sentence fragment.) And what else? How about some reading? I’m in the midst of three books at the moment, two on my Kindle e-reader, another in hard copy. The current New Yorker is interesting and there’s more than one article I want to read there. I’ve read the NY Times online today. I wish I could be in a hammock, or on a cruise ship, or at a writer’s retreat because my mind is so befuddled by some brick work drilling on the East Side of my apartment house that I can hardly think much less work today on the revision of one of three failed novels. I have my headset plugged into the computer and am mildly distracted by the Brandenburg Concertos on Pandora, thank goodness. And did I mention that I’ve been “friended”( noun into a verb, quite common in the vernacular American English tongue) by a young woman writer in Kenya and a writer in Hong Kong and another somewhere else, all three people I don’t know, which is a bit unsettling. If you like me, I will like you. Isn’t that how it goes? Unsettling also because I am being “mapped” and “followed.” I forgot to say that my Carol Bergman: Writer FB page appears automatically on Twitter, whatever that means, and that I get notifications there of so many people following me, more than 67, and why? Then these same people, strangers all, writers in far flung places, turn up as requests on Linked In. I think my blog posts appear there also. All told, as I end this blog post, I realize that social media may be more exhausting than useful. Comments welcome.  Read More 
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