Social media?

November 24, 2010

A woman in Portland, Oregon, has shut herself off from society in an attempt to show whether online interaction is a satisfactory subsitute for in-person interaction.  Newspaper to New Media characterizes it as a sort of experiment, stating that she aims “to learn how technology walls people off even while connecting them.”  Her site itself explains it as not an experiment, but as a kind of performance art, and her living quarters, showcased on a city street, are a companion piece. 

If it’s art, I’m not the judge (the only significant art I own consists of a handpainted pig on the wall and my children’s crayon drawings covering my office door like wallpaper).

But as experiment, I have a few things to say about this.  It offends me not as a scientist (as a scientist, I love seeing nonscientists try changing the variables to see what happens – the basis of some of the greatest experiments), but it offends me as a cancer patient.  Unless handled carefully, work like this belittles the vast experience that people who live this every day have.  That people who suffer from depression, agoraphobia, isolation, disesase, or compromised immune systems live with every day. 

There are many people for whom social media is not just a fun distraction on the commute home or between meetings, but for whom social media is a lifeline. . . their only interaction with the outside world, and one that is vital to keeping their own sanity.

I ranted in a blog comment:

How privileged, do be able to do this as an experiment.  Why not just ask those of us who have to live this, or a form of this everyday?  I’ll give you a hint: many cancer patients in treatment, with compromised immune systems, are largely confined indoors when treatment season (4-6 months) conflicts with flu season. Many of us have found solace, and friendship, and a way to keep up with our lives through social media.  I know I have.

I have, and I’ve written about the way that blogging is my window to the world, both as a mother of very young children needing frequent naps (remember those? as many as five a day for the littlest ones?) and then as a woman in chemotherapy, with an immune system not strong enough to fight off flu season, as in 2007.  My immune system is strong as I fight cancer this time (I have the white blood cell counts to prove it!), but it does take me longer to shake off infections; I’ve been down for a week with the latest preschool virus.

Which makes the count nearly 3 weeks that one or the other of us has had a fever and such, precluding playdates and coffees, and Mommy’s too tired for any activity after noon, so it’s been pretty quiet around here.

Very quiet.

Is online interaction a satisfactory subsitute for in-person interaction?  No.  Hell, no.  But some days, it’s the best you’re gonna get, and for that, I am grateful.

Know someone who is isolated from the world because of a new baby, an ailing family member, or the simple ravages of old age?  You CAN help make it better for them, not by “like”ing something on Facebook or RT’ing it on twitter – but with a simple phone call.  Go ahead.  Use those minutes on your cell phone this month.  Call Grandma or that nice old lady from the church who smells like peppermints.  Ask that shy mom with two kids under 3 to coffee at the park — or ask if you can bring her a treat from Starbucks.  Spend your facebook time today on the phone instead, or dropping by a friend’s house (after calling!), talking and connecting with someone who may not have any other contact with the outside world.  Do your own experiment, and find out whether that makes you feel better than another round of Words With Friends or bringing someone an item for their Facebook Farm.  And come back and let me know.  Maybe I’m wrong in the post above.  Maybe this is a good social media experiment in the reverse — and maybe, just maybe, your particpation could make someone happy.

Happy Thanksgiving, my American friends, and Happy Day-That-We’re-Alive to all of the rest of you around the world.  This year, as I have every year since 2006, I give thanks for not the institution of social media, but the friends that it has brought me and allowed me to keep through the isolation of early motherhood and severe illness.  You are so important in my life, and in the lives of so very many others. 


Twitter changed BlogHer

July 27, 2009

BlogHer09 is over.  The conference weekend (was it only a weekend?) has come and gone, and now we’re each left to sift through the conference detrius that remains:  programs, business cards, ads, coupons, swag, more swag, ads that came with swag, and memories.  We’re each alone with our thoughts as the mania subsides.  The “we” is over, at least for a time, and we must sit with the “I,” forming our afterthoughts, asking questions like, “What did I think of BlogHer?  What did I get out of it, and who did I meet that I want to see/read/tweet with again?”

This is not that post for me.  It’s still bouncing around inside, and I’m conflicted on so many topics.  It was … different this year.  It wasn’t the bigger expo hall, the sponsored lunches (complete with a giant pasta jar made out of vegetables), more company mascots (Ms. Potato Head, the SoBe lizard, and not one, but TWO All laundry fairies), the costumes (at BowlHer and SparkleCorn), the private swag parties (I didn’t go to any), or the mania that ensued.

The difference was twitter.

Last year, I was a laptop girl, dutifully setting it up in each conference panel, taking notes, bookmarking sites, contributing to wikis, and otherwise taking action on ideas real-time.  This year, I left it at home (too heavy!) and brought my new iPhone.  It changed things completely.  Even thought I went to the same number of sessions (all of them), the same number of parties (the ones open to all), and met many of the same people (hello, you!), it was … different.

Here’s my top 5 list of how Twitter changed BlogHer, in no particular order (aside from the order I tweeted as I thought of them):

1. Tweeting key points made sessions more interactive.

2. By listening to #blogher09 backchannel, I could hear the best of other sessions too.

3. Party prep excitement was shared with everyone with Internet.

4. People heard exactly what they were being left out of … While it was happening.

5. What may have been intended as a whisper was broadcast worldwide.

Twitter enabled me to meet people I wouldn’t have found organically (by saying, hi! where are you standing? when shall we meet up?), but it also enabled a whole new level of disenchantment and rumors.  Overall, I’d use a conference backchannel again — but I’d take it with many more grains of salt — and I’d force myself to wait longer before reacting or retweeting.

How did Twitter change your conference experience?

Twitter dressed me today

February 25, 2009

Last year, I tweeted my surgery. Sometimes, I’d tweet my chemo or check in just before radiation. Lots of times I’d twitter just for some company while I recovered from a harsh treatment.

But Monday? A new low in twithistory. Staring at this big giant wrapped arm of mine and a big meeting at NASA the next day, I tweeted and blogged my dilemma, saying,

FASHION EMERGENCY. Seriously … help me get dressed, please?

Now, normally, I just torture my husband with last minute wardrobe changes, but I was so out of my depth here with this big arm that I thought I’d ask around. You guys came through in a big way! Here is the result: Tailored pants, simple top, big necklace, and a brown sweater wrap over it all. [The sweater was perfect until I hot flashed all the way through the meeting. Then I looked like this.]


Oh yeah. That necklace totally distracts the eye from the arm wrap!

A wii bit of physical therapy

August 17, 2008

I’m all about technology.

You know that during my cancer battle, I blogged almost every day, to keep in touch with friends and family, and to keep my spirits up. You all were my daily compatriots during my cancer fight, and I couldn’t have done it without you.

With a borrowed blackberry (and a whole lot of pain medication), I twittered my mastectomy.

With the help of some new friends, I traveled to BlogHer 07 in Second Life, since in real life I was stuck in bed.

But get this. I’ve found a way to incorporate new technology into my physical rehab during my recovery as well.

As you may remember, I now have lymphedema in my right arm (thanks, mastectomy!). That means that the arm and hand swell up frequently, sometimes to the point where I can’t use my hand or bend my wrist or elbow easily. I have to do special exercises every day (wall crawl, anyone?), manually move my lymph around, and see my lymphedema physical therapist a couple times a month to get the scar tissue stretched out and the lymph moved through the scars and back into my torso.

I also wear a lymphedema sleeve, which makes it look like I have a disability. But I’m okay with that … now. Because, really? Sometimes I do. When my lymphedema flares up, I can’t carry my laptop or bag on that arm or hand — and really, I’m not supposed to at any time, to prevent flareups. I can’t carry too much weight in my left hand, either, then, since that throws my back off-kilter. Lovely, eh?

It also makes it hard to open heavy automatic doors sometimes, to pick up my kids, to carry the laundry basket downstairs, and to do some of the other things I really need to do every day.  Oh, and it hurts to shake hands if my hand is swollen.  (I’m the dork waving hi to you from two feet away, desperately hoping that we can hug or skip the handshake.)

But I’m adapting.

I’m learning to do most of the household chores and play left-handed. I’ve got most of them down by now, however rough and awkward they may be. (Note to self: only attempt to pitch wiffle balls to preschooler when baby is out of range.  Far out of range.)

This weekend, though, I discovered a new tool. I bought my husband a wii for his birthday (Happy Birthday, honey!), and, you know what? I use it now too. I play the games left-handed, to strengthen the muscles and hone the use of my left hand and arm. At first, it was more frustrating than not, but I’m getting better.

And that means I’m getting better at using my left arm offline as well.

All I needed was a wii bit of physical therapy.

Launch Fest!

August 14, 2008

I love living here in D.C.

When my preschooler woke up this morning, he toddled into our room and said sleepily, “Mommy, I want to go to Goddard Space Center.” Because we live where we do, the way that we do, I was able to say, “Okay, honey, let’s go!” We packed a snack, called a friend, and took off for a fun morning of adventure at the Goddard Space Flight Center Visitor Center.

The kids had a blast. After donning flight suits and helmets, they played in the space capsule, flipping switches and hitting “nav buttons” to their hearts’ content. They watched videos, explored exhibits, and gawked at the science on a sphere. They were excited, happy, and most of all interested in so many exhibits and even a little learning. When we needed a break, we popped outside for some rocket time and raucous joy.

We topped it off with lunch at 5 Guys (burgers and fries).

Really, free summer days don’t get any better than this.

Oh, wait. There’s a day this Fall that might be better, if you’re also a space buff like me and my kids. I just found out about LAUNCH FEST 08, a special event at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. For more information, read on or visit the Launch Fest website! Twitter-friends Geokitten and Igmom assure me that it’s totally appropriate for even the littlest of little ones. I am SO excited. Here’s the blurb from GSFC’s website:

Explore the Universe in Your Own Backyard!

Mark your calendar! NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center invites all to enter our gates on September 13, 2008! Come and learn about the Goddard Space Flight Center as we prepare for an unprecedented year of 15 major science launches! This FREE event will feature interactive demonstrations, entertainment, a variety of local food vendors and fun for the whole family.