Today was one of two official fast days in the church year so naturally I’m tired and hungry and grouchy all day. Thanks so a combo of ice and snow that our area got Sunday night, Veeka’s school has been cancelled for three days straight. And so I dragged her to a noon Imposition of Ashes service where she got a large black mark on her forehead. Which got us some looks at Kroger and other stores we were at today. In DC, there were lots of people wandering about on Ash Wednesday with large black splotches on their foreheads but here, not so much. I had to explain to my students last year what Ash Wednesday was, as nearly all of them were Baptists who had not a clue about the liturgical year.
I’ve been doing more work on my List of Things To Try re social media. I joined Pinterest, which is like an online scrapbook where people “pin” photos they like. Because of copyright issues, I chose to use my own photos for my three specialty areas, but they weren’t as good a quality as many of the professionally done ones that other people were using. I decided to showcase some of the crafts I do, ie my CD ornaments that I make for holidays or peoples’ birthdays composed of 2 CDs glued together with a hanger, lots of beads, stickies, photos, erasers and other decor. I can do ornaments of peoples’ pets, too. I tried to sell some
Halloween-themed ones last fall but got nowhere. I also put up a separate category to show off some of the ornate Texas star-themed potholders I make, which take many hours to put together. I had a long talk with a friend last fall who also does crafts and she said it’s tough to make any money on those things. I agree. And I created a third category showcasing the theme of my 2nd blog (the one for singles adoption), but I’m not convinced that Pinterest is the right place for such photos. First, it’s hard to gather much that is cute and Pinterest-y about singles adopting. And adoption doesn’t always lend itself to peppy photos. One look at the baby house where Veeka came from (and an orphanage that I photographed in India) shows that reality isn’t all that photogenic. Anyway, I’m still trying to figure out how to drive traffic to my Pinterest account, since there don’t seem to be separate URLs for each of my topic areas. A piece by Steve Buttry makes some suggestions to that point.
Elsewhere on the social media front, I got to see tons of birds because of the snow. The ground was a sheet of ice, so I put a lot of bird seed and crumbs on my back patio and all sorts of birds visited us. Today two pairs of bluebirds dropped by; the first time I’d ever seen any. You know them by their electric blue plumage. I took Veeka to the library today where we got a bunch of bird books. Paging through, I began identifying all the sparrows, cardinals, blackbirds, robins, thrushes and other winged creatures that showed up in my yard. Many I’d never seen before. I managed to get some Vine video of the feeding birds, but I couldn’t get too close to my window or they’d all fly away.
I’m gradually figuring out the technology for some of this media but a few still stump me. I’ve got Instagram down – I think – but could not get a photo on Tumblr today. Don’t know why; the iPhone just refused to do it. What gets in my way is the technology of using the phone to work with all these different methods. Sometimes I can get our #photoaday file to work; other times no matter what I do, I cannot post to it. Sigh. And I spent hours with another student trying to learn how to get Facebook and my Storify accounts to work together. Am still not sure they are working – even with the Chrome browser.
People in my class are still making their way through Shirky’s book where – in the readings we were assigned for this past week – he talks about the trust that is inherent in using social media and which makes group-run media keep on going. He puts forth a strategy called ‘shadow of the
future’ which is like a theory on how people work in informal groups to accomplish something – and that there’s this unspoken agreement in our civilization that if I act on your behalf today, you will act on my behalf tomorrow. Had to shake my head at that one. If there’s one principle that doesn’t work, it’s that. I’d be up for many hours if I listed the things I’ve done for people, especially as a reporter in Washington, over the years and how they never did a thing in my behalf back. I’ve seen this happen too in Tennessee; I will call or reach out to people repeatedly (especially when trying to arrange play dates for my daughter) only to see no action back in my direction. I have found that people are happy to take and very loath to give. Which has been one of the most frustrating things I’ve learned in living here. There’s no one who gives back. Whereas in the community I lived in while in Maryland, there was more of an unspoken social contract whereby absolute strangers helped people out.
Shirky calls this “social capital; of which there are two parts. “Direct reciprocity assumes that if you do someone a favor today, they will do you a favor tomorrow. That’s what I have found missing in Washington as well as Tennessee. I was amazed by how many people I benefited in some way who – if I approached them some time later with a request for help – would turn me down outright. I could never get over how many times I’d been burned by people that way. I almost saw more in terms of indirect reciprocity, which is the assumption that if you do someone a favor today, someone (maybe not the same person) will be around to do you a favor tomorrow. Like the guy in Maryland who would use his snow blower to clear all the driveways of the people on my street. Were it not for him, I wouldn’t been able to leave my garage for days. I see none of the indirect reciprocity here in Tennessee, other than the friendly people in my social media class who help me with my constant questions. Otherwise, everyone here is an island.
Other social media experiments: One fun thing was being part of a Tweet chat during the Oscars on Sunday night. The people in my social media class had a hashtag (#joscar) – anyway, we were conversing as to what we thought of peoples’ gowns, Ellen’s selfie, the pizza pass-out and more. It made me actually enjoy the Oscars, which in former years I’d found to be rather boring. The movies I liked (ie the Hobbit part 2 and the Hunger Games, also part 2) weren’t really in the running for this year’s Oscars, which is why I had not planned to watch them at all, but the chance to be part of a Tweet chat lured me in. A Tweet chat, for those folks like my parents who’ve never done one, is when everyone is on Twitter but you post messages with the same #hashtag and you ‘follow’ that hashtag which means you can have a semi-private conversation among your own group.