Archive for the ‘ facebook ’ Category

Facebook?

Facebook, oh Facebook – what for art thou Facebook? I’ve been on Facebook for three years now, lured in by my friend Elizabeth (who almost immediately stopped using it, the bugger) and then enticed to stay when a friend moved abroad for a while.

In that time it has been a source of comfort and despair, a portal into other people’s lives and a link to the past; a place to post my joys and (very occasionally) my miseries; somewhere to seek people out when bored, or drunk, or lonely. It’s been a short cut to friends and a way of discovering and establishing new connections.

When all’s said and done, I am definitely in credit to the bank of facebook – it has given me far more back than I have ever put in. I’ve connected with near neighbours and found an easy way to keep in touch with relatives near and far.

I enjoy the ‘live’ interactions – when you post something and get an instant riposte, and so begins a banter, with all its weird tangents and footnotes and crazed insights into the minds of people you thought you knew but who actually have hidden depths (they can recite a Shakespearean ode! they also like Throbbing Gristle! they too think the new Orla Keily wallpaper is to DIE for!)

I like viewing people’s pictures, particularly to have a nose around their homes and gardens; I enjoy being kept up to date on their biggest achievements, holidays, nights out, how well the kids are doing, and so on.

I mostly enjoy some of the excellent witticisms, which tend to come from other people’s threads rather than my own (thank you especially Mark Nelson & Sophie Everett, for being funny and entertaining and having friends on the same wavelength). Were I to abandon Facebook the single thing I would miss most would be Friday Night Build Up (you’ll all have to befriend Sophie to get in on the act).

At other times these are precisely the things that I hate about Facebook. A wise woman (well, Suzy Scavenger) once warned me that joining Facebook was akin to going to a school disco; if you were one of the popular kids, you’d probably love it, with your 6,000 friends and 50 apps and mad social life and dazzling existence. The rest of us would be stood around like wallflowers on the margins, feeling like failures for not being interesting or witty enough.

Facebook, you are truly no use in times of trouble. In my experience, the worst thing to do when you’re feeling life’s a bit crap right now is to log onto Facebook. You won’t feel better; any feelings of worthlessness will be further enhanced by seeing everyone else living it up on holiday, or announcing their recent promotion or lottery win, or telling you how marvellous their kids are (especially when your own has just told you you’re the worst mum EVER in the history of the universe.)

If you do decide to issue a cry for help and bare your soul about your miserable existence via a status update I’m not sure the existentialist musings of Dave, who you last saw on a bus in Redditch in 1987, will do the trick; nor does it help when Michelle, who you don’t like that much but felt you had to befriend when she sent her sixth request, tells you to keep smiling 🙂

So, my summary is this: Facebook is fab when you’re feeling fab; great too when you just want cheering up and happen across some witty friends online; but is shit if that’s how you’re feeling.

Of course, all this analysis hardly matters a jot. By the time my kids are old enough to have their own facebook accounts, in three and eight years time, it will be passe, history, yesterday’s news. After all, nothing ever lasts forever. (Remember Friends Reunited?)

It’s already been supplanted by Twitter, a medium I started to use a few months back for work purposes. (I even get measured on my twitter interactions, which is pretty galling.) However, I’m learning to love it – for a homeworker like me, Twitter is the equivalent of standing round the coffee machine exchanging a few words with workmates about the issues of the day. I’ve made loads of connections, helped by the fact that I have something people want (access to free editorial space for their company, idea, etc). I’m meeting up with three Twitter followers on Wednesday in fact. What I really like is that it’s in real time – people respond there and then, just like in conversation. For a home-aloner like me it’s a perfect place to enjoy a coffeebreak.

Well, not perfect exactly. That would be a coffee break with real friends. Nothing’s better than the real thing.

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Tweeting from the council chamber

Tonight was a first for me; I followed a council debate live from Dudley while snuggling in my bedroom listening to Elbow’s new album.

No, I wasn’t peering in to the council chamber with a telescope, in the style of James Stewart in Rear Window. I was following the debate through the medium of Twitter.

All I can say is that in the space of 12 Tweets I learned all I needed to ever know about the public sector cuts debate engaging the good folk of Dudley. It saved me attending myself (as if) but still made me feel intimately involved. I particularly liked the bit when the public gallery started chanting and the police had to be called to clear the chamber. All very exciting.

As it happens, I don’t even live in the district of Dudley but I do subscribe to the tweets of the Express & Star, a daily regional newspaper where I once plied my trade as a young reporter.

Someone there has clearly twigged the value of social networks in the battle to engage the hearts and minds of local people. It will be slow, and time-intensive – but I reckon this kind of initiative is the future.

We are used to reading reports from council meetings and courts and inquests and other venues where journalists are traditionally welcome to attend. In our new world of rolling 24/7 news, we can sometimes get those reports within minutes of the case or incident ending.

But being able to get an instant, regularly updated feed live as things unfold? That is powerful. That is really mind-blowing. Through Twitter, pictures can be uploaded, captions posted, precise and clear words written – and it is as if we are right there, while it’s happening.

It’s taken me a long time to “get” Twitter. I still don’t really get it, only because I mostly follow minor celebrities and comedians rather than people I know. I don’t want to network professionally, or engage with other PR people particularly; I’m not trying to market myself or my services or tout any wares. I’ve used it to find some good photography blogs and information sites, I follow a few fantastic record company and record shop sites that tip off about upcoming tours and that kind of thing, and I once asked someone for a print quote who I spotted on Twitter just as I was about to email someone else.

But for those people who do want to do networking, or to engage with like minded people on particular topics, then I get why Twitter matters. I get why more and more people are doing it.

For me the future of Twitter comes in sharing information in a way that is direct, unadulterated and interactive. Any Express & Star followers tonight would have been able to find out what was happening in a council chamber miles away, and then make an instant response if they were so inclined.

This type of information-sharing will soon be the norm. There are already several class and school tweeters, who post daily from the classroom about what the kids are up to. Court reporters are beginning to tweet from live cases.

I like that I could choose to “tune in” to these tweets, in much the same way we currently tune in to news shows or TV and radio programmes.

Thanks for twittering on tonight, whoever was behind those E&S Dudley tweets. Good job.

PS: That Elbow album – excellent by the way.

Oh, and if you are minded to follow my tweets (they are rare) then I’m @rockhousePR See you twitterers!

Flaming Lips and Dark Beaches

Last Easter we visited our favourite British seaside location, Woolacombe in north Devon. One night, after a particularly wonderful day, we headed down to the beach to take a stroll.

Other than the distant lights from the village, there was nothing to pollute the darkness. Not even the stars penetrated the black night sky. Our breathing and whispers were the only sound accompanying the gentle swish, swoosh of the far-off tide.

A bit creepy really – all that darkness, all that space.

The kids must have picked up on the vibe. They were terrified. They clung to me and their dad, begging to get back to civilisation.

Teasing them, we ran off towards the sea, turning to run back to them only when their cries of anguish reached fever-pitch. Ha ha, what a jape.

Sensibly, hubby thought it best to silence their screams before the police were called, so hoisted littlest boy on his shoulders and gripped the hand of big brother before setting off towards the bright lights of the Red Barn pub.

Because I like to frighten myself sometimes, I lingered awhile.

The sand between my toes was icy cold, making the whole of my feet tingle; the wind blowing across the beach was like gentle puffs of fairy breath. Before I knew it I got to contemplating the earth, the universe, everything. My life, where I was going, where I had been…what colour burps were…how long I would live. Then I hastened after my family, keen to swap my deep thoughts for the buzz of their noise.

I sometimes love being alone, in perfect isolation. Sometimes, like when I go for a long run or walk, or head off to take photos, being alone is inspiring and uplifting. But I’m not naturally good left to my own devices for long – I end up eating takeaways and jumping at shadows and getting greasy hair and getting melancholic.

That’s when I turn to my two loves for salvation  – people and music.

Sometimes, of course other people are not available – not in a real sense. I guess that’s why I’ve embraced social networking so wholeheartedly since I took to spending chunks of my week alone. It’s also why I dote on my iphone and my ipod – if ever I don’t like being alone, I’ve got company in my pocket.

Then there’s always my music. The first thing I tend to do when I am alone in the house and not revelling in the peace, is turn on some tunes.

Music has been a constant, loud and lively presence in my life for as long as I can remember. My dearest childhood memories involve music – from my mum blasting out Billie Jo Spears’ Blanket on the Ground, or The Carpenters, or Elvis, while spring cleaning on a Saturday morning; to listening to rock ‘n’ roll classics while she and dad practised for their world record jiving bid in 1976; to my sister loudly playing early Police, Jam  and Siouxsie and the Banshees in the bedroom we shared til I was 11.

My kids complain that I’m “always” listening to music. I tell them I am doing them a favour, educating them in pop and rock history and preparing them to be cool kids when they are teenagers. Then they insist on putting on JLS just to annoy me.

Top of my list of bands I feel a missionary zeal to teach them to love and appreciate is the Flaming Lips. Anyone who knows me well will know I have a particularly soft spot for the band’s frontman Wayne Coyne.

He turned 50 this week, and still looks amazing. I have dragged my husband to the north of Scotland to hear him perform. He doesn’t mind my infatuation though – Wayne is the sort of guy that men want to be like and women want to be with.

He is cool with a capital C, slightly mad but self aware, and has devoted his life to pushing back boundaries, both artistically and sonically.

Last year he made  a poster in his own blood to mark an appearance at a festival. When asked why he replied he thought it was better to use his own blood than extract a chicken’s. Oooookay…

This is also the man whose live festival shows start with him emerging from an alien mother ship and rolling over the audience in a giant zorbing ball, before then dazzling the audience with fantastic light and sound effects, confetti cannons, dancing teletubbies and giant yetis.

His band released an album in 1997 which has to be listened to on four separate CD players, through four separate speakers, to be properly appreciated.

Each Halloween, Wayne dresses up to scare trick-or-treaters who come to his home in America. He feels that it is good to scare children, because when they grow older, there are things “that are horribly scary…you can’t just run away from them or turn on a light and it runs away.”

He a man who believes in the power of communication, in every form, to heal, to make life better. As he eloquently puts it: “Without art, without communicating, we wouldn’t live beyond 30 because we’d be so sad and depressed.”

The incredible The Soft Bulletin, their breakthrough album of 1999, is a place I like to escape to if I’m ever feeling a need for people, but either real or virtual friends won’t do. It is a thing of beauty and brilliance; easily one of the best albums of all time.

It was written when Wayne’s father was dying, and some of the songs resonate with sadness. Waitin’ For A Superman, a track that blew me away when I first heard it, is a good entry point for people who don’t know much about the band. The opening verse is based on a conversation Wayne had with his brother, on realising his dad was not going to get well. He asked his brother: “Is it going to get heavy?” to which his brother replied: “I thought it was already as heavy as it can be.” The meaning behind the rest of the lyric is self-evident – there are some things in life that even a superman can’t lift, or make better.

The Flaming Lips are a bit like social networking. You either get it and embrace it, or you don’t. No point in dabbling – either go for it wholeheartedly or leave it. If you don’t get it, then I respect your choice – but just know that you’re missing out, all right?