No Time for Silence

We are 9 days into the Trump presidency and already he and his administration are working on dismantling the fabric of our civil liberties. 

It’s like a giant F-U to the founding principles of this country, to the 1st Amendment and to decent human compassion. 

As an American woman of Arab and Jewish heritage I am horrified that this nation of immigrants is setting up policy to turn its back on those seeking asylum here, those seeking an education, those seeking a living wage, those seeking refuge from war, those looking for a better life. 

In October and November I spent some time with Holocaust survivors who are traveling to classrooms to teach about compassion, empathy and history. Their message is a poignant reminder of how easily good turns bad to worse to unimaginable. A few told me they were worried it was happening again, right here, in the country they’ve adopted because they could not live where they were born. 

Here’s what I wrote about them.

I’ve always thought my unique heritage gave me a certain perspective. At one point I thought a career as a diplomat would be suitable. As a young newspaper reporter I had my eye toward the AP Jerusalem bureau. I wanted my work to help wage peace and understanding. 

I’ve always felt relatively safe here in my country. I haven’t always felt like I’ve fully belonged, and have felt like an outsider. But other than when I was forced off a plane and detained, I’ve felt a general sense of safety. Now I’m not so sure. 

It’s a scary time with many uncertainties for non-white Non-Christians living in America. It’s a scary time for immigrants and people trying desperately to get in the country. 

But I believe we are better than this. And I hope, sincerely, that our goodness outweighs the racism, xenophobia, isolationism and hatred booming from the White House. 

As this continues to unfold, I’ll be following the ACLU’s work and supporting its efforts. I hope you will too. 

Further Reading:


I Figure It’s About Time

A month or so hiatus can be restful. Or so they say.

I say, blogging is restful. A chance to clear the cobwebs and the air, and whatever flurry of ideas are running rampant in my brain. But, I have to admit, that since I started working full time, I have been cleared out of ideas. Not so much ideas, actually, but drive.

So this is something I don’t understand about writers. Real writers. Writers who are disciplined and published and continue cranking things out prolifically. How do they keep motivated. I seem to be motivated by guilt. And a sense of a ticking clock.

Last week the Iowa Poet Laureate Mary Swander gave a talk at my workplace. One of the audience members asked her about her process, meaning how does she produce her work. What happens when she sits down to write?

Swander, being a witty off-the-cuff speaker, said she doesn’t have any obsessive compulsive traits or routines she does before she begins writing, like sharpening her pencil on a manual sharpener 18 times. She just squeezes it in.

I often imagine myself locked away in some remote cabin for a month or two to crank out an idea I have for a story or novel or essay or something. Just to get it out. Isolation. But I’m sure I’d get distracted and find some way to procrastinate and not get it done. Does this make me not a serious writer. I’d say so. But who knows?

If someone were to take a poll of writers to talk about what motivates them to sit down and write, I wonder what would be the consensus?

I have a pile of ideas I’d like to churn out. But who, really, has the time? Might as well let them fester.

Women on Writing Women

This article spun out of a series of Tweets from Susan Orlean. It’s a great view into the life of a writing mother:

‘Think Before You Tweet’

I love this article from today’s USA Today about the evolving etiquette on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s an excerpt:

“We’re in the ‘whee!’ stage of social networking. The trend for 2010 is that everyone is going to cut back, filter, decide whether we really need to follow 1,000 people if they’re not interesting. Next year, only the best tweeters survive.”

Read the article here.

Watch Those Thumbs!

From NY Times:
“Based on our experiences with computer users, we know intensive repetitive use of the upper extremities can lead to musculoskeletal disorders, so we have some reason to be concerned that too much texting could lead to temporary or permanent damage to the thumbs.”

Twitter vs. Facebook

The more I Twitter, the less I Facebook.”

I follow @susanorlean on Twitter, and this was her deft post today. It caught my eye because I am the opposite. The more I Facebook the less I Twitter. But what comes next is interesting. She wonders if she Twitters more because she would rather blast out her commentary to a more faceless audience than the more intimate community on Facebook.

This is something to think about in how we communicate and how these activities affect the way we communicate with each other. Does it bring us truly closer together? Does it provide the adequate wall of separation so we can be enabled to share our true selves? Or are we just projecting some sort of avatar self, someone who we want to be, who we think we should be, but can only be when we are online? Perhaps this is an easier task in a world where people don’t really know you or what you’re talking about.

I have one more think to add regarding this Twitter vs. Facebook duel. I once attempted to attract friends to Twitter saying it was low-maintenance and much less involved than Facebook, which, as everybody knows, draws you in and won’t let you out. But now that I am caught in the clutches of Facebook it seems pointless to Tweet. What else do I need to broadcast? And my audience is exponentially smaller.

I like having a soapbox. Now I have three. I Tweet when I need to make a quick chirp into the ether. I Facebook when I want to expand on that chirp to a known group of friends and acquaintences from all my past lives. I blog when I need to process and extrapolate. All in all, I get my communication needs met. And I thank you for putting up with all of them.

Here’s an aside:

These applications or time consumers, more like it, have become verbs. In addition, their presence as created an entire lexicon of verbiage to be thrown around, such as Tweeting and Facebooking. I wonder when the Associate Press Stylebook will come out with a new addition that includes a special section detailing how to appropriately use these new terms. It happened with website and e-mail and the like, but things have turned on their heads. We may even need a new dictionary.

Facebook Nation Part III

This will be my last post regarding Facebook, at least for the time being. I promise.

In the meantime, here is some background.

Pretend it is 2002 again. Yes, that is seven years ago. What were you doing? Who were you friends with? What were they doing? Me, I was joining Friendster. You probably never heard of Friendster. It was Facebook’s grandmother’s love child. A co-worker, whom I held in high esteem, turned me on to this website in which I could be “friends” with all of my “friends” on Friendster. It truly was a novel idea. I could post comments, invite other friends to join and have a little network all my own—my own Friendster world that included my friends from far and near. We all would reconnect online in this virtual community and relive college or high school or last night’s emptying of bottles of vodka. It was a great idea. I was fully on board.

I had perhaps 50 friends—at the most—in my Friendster network. The network itself was cool in that it showed how different friends or non-friends were linked together through other people. A true outing of the chain that links us all together. I went through my email address book and urged everyone I knew to join Friendster. This new thing would revolutionize the way we socialized and kept in touch.

Soon, another friend urged me to check out her MySpace profile. I distinctly remember thinking that this MySpace website was nowhere near as interesting as Friendster, and there was no need for me to be involved in the MySpace experience. After all, she was my only friend on MySpace. The crowd remained lodged at Friendster. I did join MySpace that day, however, just to keep abreast of what this one friends was up to. (I have always been distractingly interested in my friends’ happenings.) Plus, I was a copy editor, the more screen breaks I could get from the daily drudge of potential newspaper articles was welcoming.

So,  now I had an active profile on Friendster and another not-so-active profile on MySpace. Yet, I had few friends who were truly interested in also being active participants in the online friend world that went beyond instant messaging on MSN and Yahoo! Instant Messanger, so soon, my activity waned. I became comfortable with standard modes of keeping in contact with friends and relatives: email, telephone, personal visits, and even snail mail. I felt good about this. I felt in touch. We won’t even have to mention my brief association with Flickr.

Then, twin babies and a move to Iowa came along. At the same time a maelstrom of technological change swept over the nation, and my head was buried in the sand. It no longer became enough to email or talk on the phone. You now had to send text messages through your cell phone. You also had to post short video clips on YouTube to get any notice. But I was delayed and distracted by diapers and spit up and Baby Einstein and sleepless nights. My social interaction became null and void.

And when I started graduate school in the fall of 2007 I was confronted with a new reality. Facebook.

I didn’t even know what Facebook was at first. I sort of understood it to be something along the lines of MySpace, but I thought everyone was on MySpace. How many social networking sites does the world need anyway? A few weeks of scholarly research later, I discovered that Facebook really had grabbed ahold of the market. It had a history—and a following. It was so popular that presidential candidates were using it to get their messages out to the people. The politicos had tapped into this communication medium in a way that actually made sense to people because this was how people were communicating with each other.

I was shocked. I could not believe that in my absence from the living world everyone had gravitated to Facebook. Why had they not just latched on to MySpace or Friendster? Why had they waited so long? Why Facebook, and why can’t we just go back to talking on the phone and emailing? Life was complcated enough!

It seems strange now, thinking back, that I felt such hostility toward a silly website (to which I am now, I admit, addicted). But I was indeed being forced to shift my mode of communication—to conform to others’ preference with which I was not comfortable. And then the peer pressure began. “Why are you not on Facebook?” “Won’t you just join Facebook? Then we can just keep in touch.” “Everybody is on it, you should get on it, too.”

I resisted for more than a year. I tossed the invitations out like moldy bread. I told everyone, and myself, that I had issued a boycott against Facebook, not just to the site itself, but to what it stood for. I wanted real communication. Real intereaction. Realness. Not virtual, cyberspace blather that clogged the fiber optic cable running underneath the Pacific Ocean. The truth, as it turned out, was I missed my friends. I missed my network, and I was more than perturbed that people had not joined up during the Friendster era, or even the MySpace era. That they had collectively jumped on the Facebook bandwagon and taken it for the proverbial ride through the park without me. And, not only that, but in order to be kept in the loop I needed to join. There would be no other way in which I could be intimately involved in my friends’ lives without joining Facebook. What an outrage!

But then I succumbed. I joined. It’s old news by now, and I have recovered from the initial shock of it. I have accepted my fate. My redemption is the recovery of relationships with friends, some of whom I have not seen or spoken to in 15 years. It’s an interesting undertaking, and there’s much less responsiblity that goes into it now than I had during the Friendster years. I am no longer the pusher, I am a joiner, or perhaps a follower. And, while I would still rather catch up on the last 15 years with that girl from high school over a beer or a cup of coffee, I will take what I can get. And that is Facebook.

Facebook Nation Part II

So, about 36 hours after venturing into Facebook land, about 12 of those hours have been spent on Facebook. The other hours, obviously, I did much more insignificant things, like child rearing, graduate school paper writing, eating dinner with good friends, working out, getting therapy. You know, the mundane things in life. My Facebook time, actually, has been the most productive, most interesting of those 36 hours.

I have managed to get almost 100 friends in this time. In real life it would have taken 33 years to get 100 friends. Maybe longer. It’s amazine. Here I am going through traditional avenues of trying to meet people: school, work, neighbors, parties, and all I really had to do was sign up for Facebook. Truly, truly fascinating. I also have been privy to exclusive clubs, such as one that punches people in the mouth until they straighten their sh** out, and another that supports the San Diego Chargers. I’ve been wooed by a club that promotes cuddling. I like cuddling. I may consider joining that one.

But I tell you, in strict confidence, I like this Facebook thing. It really does cut down on the need to leave one’s house. All anyone really needs is a wi-fi Internet connection, a laptop, a glass of water and a Facebook account. Especially in these days of Swine Flu and economic meltdown, it’s better to be confined yet still be a part of the living, breathing world. I know that Facebook lives and breathes because it allows me to tell everyone how I’m feeling through this neat trick called “emoticons.” And only living, breathing things have feelings.

It’s calling me back. I’ve been away far too many minutes, and I hear its robotic voice alerting me to new posts and comments that must be addressed in due time. This Facebook thing is a recipe for total cohesion. I really think it could save Humanity.

Facebook Nation

I have just crossed over into the dark side. That is, I have just joined Facebook.

After all my hemming and hawing over the ruins of Facebook and social networking sites, in general, last night I broke down and signed up. I can already feel it sucking the life blood from my veins.

I feel like I’ve lost hours. This is what I feared. Actually, what I feared most was that it would change the way I related to people. No more calling, no more emailing, no more Face time. Just Facebook! It started with Twitter, which was manageable. Then, I broke down. I wanted to be connected. I wanted to see what it is all my friends who were badgering me to get on Facebook were so attached to. They said: “If it weren’t for Facebook I’d have never reconnected with ———(insert old acquaintence’s name here). They said: “You should do it, you’ll like it.” They said: “Everybody is on it.”

Aha! There’s the magic phrase. Peer pressure has always turned me into a sucker. And finally, though I held strong for more than a year since the friend nagging began, I succumbed. And here I am, lost in Facebook land, facing old friends, current friends, acquaintences and a whole world out there that is tuned in and linked in.

I’ll have you know, though, I remain a skeptic. I will post with one eye and five fingers poised to bring down the house. I will hold strong to my cell phone and e-mail accounts. I will continue to reach out on the “traditional” modes of communication, in hopes that I will not forget the roots of communication. If this is the way our human race is going, I mean, if we are all to be linked into each other’s profiles and comment walls and the like, well…I’ll have to get back to you on how that works out.

For now, I will see you on Facebook.

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