Posts Tagged ‘friendship’

This has actually been my favorite week of assignments for this class so far this semester. No, that’s not because there were no assigned readings. If anything, the four books Kyle discussed in the lecture have burdened my life because I now have 4 more books to try and read because they sound very thought provoking.  Somewhere down the line maybe I’ll read all the stuff I hope to read…as long as I don’t read their bibliographies. One book leads to another and to another…

I like doing this critical theory stuff, postmodern stuff, or whatever label you put on it. Critically analyzing the field is where I find myself at home. Having lost my faith and previous identity, my mom to breast cancer, and then my marriage, all within a few years time, the LIS world may actually be more of a refuge for me than a career. In many aspects, it is all I have left at this moment in time. And it is a world in which you are encouraged to read, think, discuss, and when you do that go back and do it some more. I like thinking big picture about whom we are and why we do what we do as it helps me do some of the same for myself.

So these thinkers have given me some things to think about and the way they have expressed these thoughts are unique ones I’ve never thunked before.

Sherry Turkle:

Some of her thoughts include:

The illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.” I thought about this when I “unfriended” (a great word and idea someone should write a dissertation on) someone on Facebook who had over 1,000 friends. I’m sure he’ll never miss me. We go back to our college years and were one time colleagues in the religious world. How do you have a 1,000 “friends”? Social networking easily becomes a fraud or status symbol. Ironically, in the ministry we were encouraged to have such behavior because we the emphasis wasn’t on depth but gimmick. Bring people in, keep them entertained, and get them to be members and contributors. That’s how you build community, so the thought was. Mega church pastors from the Midwest were always the examples: “He preaches to 5,000 each week. What’s the matter with you?” So we were given the “add water and stir” instructions for how to do that in our church. It was soon apparent I would never be able to do this because I was not a cult leader who would draw people by my charisma and entertainment value. I wanted to ask questions and make people question and think. You don’t gain many “friends” that way, but the few you do are greatly enriching.

I think she is on to something. True friendship requires commitment and trust, and surely you can’t do that with 1,000, or even 300 people. But it seems maybe everyone is so alone because in society we are Bowling alone (to cite another book title I’ve never gotten to) that we have to have so many “friends” online to convince ourselves we are connected, or have “followers” so we feel someone is listening when we don’t have anyone in real life who actually will.

Social networking can be just the opposite. We can have fuller relationships we physically couldn’t have in real life, and more contacts than ever before. The strong relationships we have can be stronger because no matter how far apart we can still connect. But I wonder if this is the exception rather than the rule.

* “Being alone feels like a problem that needs to be solved.”

We are so used to the instant and the loud we don’t even feel comfortable in the alone, quiet, and reflective. Yet, it is hard to appreciate relationships and connections without realizing the opposite, and being alone makes us appreciate company. But our devices attempt to “solve this problem” and give us constant, continual noise, dribble, and nonsense.

Well, connection if you look at it positively.

But unless used properly, we can become a slave to our devices and feel we cannot live without a constant tweet or text.

* “We are using them as spare parts to support our fragile sense of self.”

This is pretty true. When we don’t have a sense of who we are, we let machines do it for us. About a year I dabbled into the world of online dating. The biggest struggle for me was in writing my profile so I didn’t sound like a stiff, although I most likely am one, and trying to sound real without really being real. I was depending on a machine with all of its algorithms (how exactly does someone who is a 30% “match” get recommended to me anyway?), swarming with other people playing the same game. Friends have told stories of others they know playing this game, never taking it seriously, but doing it for something to make them feel good. I probably spent more time playing with filters and seeing what resulted, fascinated by how the whole thing works. I have a disabled account now. Not good at playing games. But yet, here we are as living examples of letting machines support our fragile sense of self.

People often feel that no one is listening, really listening to them and who they are. So, Facebook and Twitter create automatic listeners to make us feel there is someone who cares.

*”Human relationships are rich and they’re messy, and they’re demanding, and we clean them up with technology.”

How true. Take the pic down, delete the posting. If only real life were that easy to manipulate. Why can’t I just create a different screen name for the rest of my life? Maybe I can go through life making anonymous comments. That’s much easier than taking responsibility, having commitment, or investing in someone or something.

Then there were the thoughts from Keen:

I found myself agreeing with what he was saying. Then I realized he is part of the problem because he is using YouTube and participating in the same “Cult of the amateur” society we all do. I know he would say he is giving content rather than dog’s farting, but it is the same freebie audience that is getting information and entertainment for free that he is attracting on YouTube.

One of my realizations in moving from the right wing of my birth to a more center, then to the far left, and now whatever I am, is that there are obnoxious fundamentalists on both sides who simply state their opinion as the unfettered truth. Keen is one of these. I instead lean towards the Robert Frost quote: “A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.” We all have opinions and biases, but to present those in a superior way, is in Kyle’s words from the lecture when he said Keen is a jerk. I agree. If he wanted to, Keen could have demanded this video be available for a fee so pitiful folks such as ourselves won’t be stealing something.

Keen does raise good points, though. Imagine Cronkite saying “Let’s read some of the tweets that have come in about the moon landing…”

CNN has been broadsided reporting such things as “fact” and realizing it is some misguided fool. But these things happened in the old days too, despite Keen referring to the great institutions and establishments of old as guarding against such things. They were full of crap too, but you would never know it unless you were on the inside, and you didn’t have the luxury of it forever living on YouTube.


Today everybody is a doctor on the web, and Yahoo answers will help you diagnose your sickness. But who’s going to trust a government healthcare site that wreaks havoc on users, or what a politician says, or a company that makes its profit by destroying the environment? People are skeptical of the “grand institutions” he describes. While the great stuff does get “lost in the ocean of garbage,” we have access to great things we would not have before.

In a church history class in college, one of the few things I remember the professor saying was “Cream rises to the top, but so does scum.” He was referring to “cults” or erroneous teachings according to the established doctrine. I’m not even going there. But the key I remember was that because of so much other “stuff” out there, it helped re-define what it was they did believe. They hear a false teaching and say “That’s not right…but how do I respond?” Kyle said this well in that hearing these criticisms helps us in better articulating what we are presenting, and also helps us re-evaluate what we are teaching.

I think of an interview I heard on NPR this week with the author of the blog “Hyperbole and a half.” This was a great interview with a lady who shares her struggles through drawings, including describing her bouts with depression. Having had those same thoughts and feelings as her in a struggle with depression I’ve had, I found this interview and blog comforting. This is an “amateur” not a professional like Keen expects. The Idea Box is another example. But because of the free democracy of the web, this message can be sent out for free.


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Being from Maine originally, I know how people take pride in saying “You can’t get there from here” to tourists in an attempt to get them frustrated so they won’t come back.  Pretty funny too, since those tourism dollars are about the only thing keeping the state open.

I feel like that tourist, however, when it comes to the mobile device world. I’m one of the few humans left with only a flip phone. I pay $30 a month for 1500 minutes, of which I used 70 last month. I don’t consider myself alien to computers: in both libraries I work in, people depend on me to setup, fix, or explain computers. People ask me about apps on devices, ebook readers, and other web questions, and even if I haven’t used their device before, I can usually figure it out. So people equate me with technology.

Except I don’t do much of it outside of work.

I don’t really have any reason to text or call someone. The doctor’s office calls to remind me of appointments. My phone reminds me my $30 is almost expired. I am on Facebook, but see little reason to use it. Many of my “friends” are former students who don’t really keep in touch, nor would I expect them too. I’ll post about something during a Red Sox game or share an article, but not much else. I am on Twitter…didn’t use it for  year and no one messaged asking if I was still alive. I have Skype, which I only use now when I need to contact my ex-wife. I don’t get why anyone would use Foursquare and tell people where they are or what they’re doing. I just don’t see the fascination.  I do have an iPod Touch of which the battery runs down fast and many places don’t have free wifi so it isn’t that helpful.

There are times I wished I had a smartphone, but those times are few and far between. Did I really need to check email in the waiting room since I checked it when I got home and there was nothing anyway? I must be doing something tragically wrong in life because everyone else uses these things. I even went to the mall kiosk to ask them what I should get for a smartphone. He asked me what I do now, and I told him about very few minutes on my phone, few texts, no games, etc. and he said I didn’t need one. He may have been a lousy salesman, but I guess he was honest.

My friend Jack, who was nearing 80 at the time and now deceased, used to meet me for coffee at Starbucks. We would talk all things liberal politics and social issues, philosophy, theology, sociology, psychology…and smartphones. Jack always wanted to figure out if he needed one because everyone else did. He would drive to the stores just to ask the workers what their opinion was. They all told him he didn’t need one, but he wasn’t satisfied. He did the same with a Mac Book or other computer I’ve since forgotten. He found that after months of asking questions and reading reviews from everywhere, he would go and buy stuff…I remember computers, an iPod Touch (he seriously grilled me on), etc. But then he would never use them because once he realized what they did, he saw little use.

I wonder if I’m becoming the same way. In my case, it is career driven in that I need to know the latest stuff so I can help people with theirs. But what is wrong with me in that these things have no value for me personally? I’ve created accounts on Goodreads, Ning, wikispaces, Flickr, Picasa, Tumblr, Ebay, Scrbd, Feedly, and I don’t know how many others, and have rarely used them. Then there was meetup, which became a big disappointment. Unlike Jack, I don’t spend money for these things,  but do spend time on things I think will benefit my life, but find I never use them. Don’t even remember most of the passwords.

Perhaps I am just a curmudgeon after all. Perhaps it is because I really don’t have anyone to share anything with anymore. But there are those on the opposite extreme with 700 “friends” on Facebook whose lives are shallow and need the confirmation of people clicking “like” about their posts and all that stuff that makes me gag. Maybe they really do know all 700 of them, and could sit down like Jack and I and say exactly what you think and feel about anything. But I doubt it.

Perhaps this social age is shallow, as people realize they really don’t have true friendships or relationships anymore and this facade makes them feel good. Or maybe it’s just the opposite. Maybe social relationships are that much better now because of different avenues of connection, and connections which were never possible before this era.

I don’t know. I just know I find little connection with all of this. I can tinker with things and get others connected, but I find very little for myself to connect to. I guess I somehow need to become mobile and relevant and have reasons to text and post because you can no longer separate career from personal life. So I guess I’ll stop and ask directions and hope someone points me in the right direction.

I must be somewhere between a curmudgeon and technolust. My cell phone story is probably my technolust- thinking I need one because everyone has one, and to understand the LIS world I need one too. That could be true, but when you don’t use what you have because it really doesn’t impact your life, then I guess you are a curmudgeon.

I like Michael’s discussion of “learning everywhere”


and a couple of things stood out. In the comments section of “learning everywhere” he said this in response to a commenter saying she was an introvert:

My other comment is something that has been on my mind a lot. Introverts may find less opportunity for individual work in current and future libraries. I want my graduates to be versed in interpersonal communication, collaboration of all kinds and teaching (from groups to individuals). I’m believe the jobs that include solitary work cut off from the public will dwindle.

I work with people all the time in teaching and assisting in the library and classroom, so I wouldn’t consider myself Grizzly Adams living alone in the wilderness. But having recently read a very accurate, in my opinion, Huffington Post article on 23 signs you are an introvert (and realizing all but 2-3 don’t apply to me), I am confused in how I fit into this constantly connected “learning everywhere” society. One statement from the article stands out particularly in regards to our class/career:

Networking (read: small-talk with the end goal of advancing your career) can feel particularly disingenuous for introverts, who crave authenticity in their interactions.

The solution, the article states in the next paragraph is that introverts need to “network in small, intimate groups rather than at large mixers.” I am not opposed to networking, but it does, as the article says, feel phony. It would be like me texting someone completely out of the blue right now. Why would I? What would I say? What would someone say if they texted me? I have very few with whom I do and even then it takes me by surprise. I’m not sure what to do about all of this.

I know a PLN is based on your own uniqueness and I should work more at building one. It just feels foreign to me to be “connected” to hundreds of people I really don’t know. But the same feeling happens in “real” life as well. It amazes me how just recently a friend was asking me where my wife was…nearly a year and a half after the divorce. This person has seen me several times a month at gatherings, and even spoken to me several times, always seeing me alone. She may as well be a screename of someone I have never met for as well as she really knows me. Maybe I should have texted everybody and used up my minutes.

Can I grow into this, or will I always be the red shoes in a closet of white ones (#3 on the HuffPost article), trying to fit in to something alien to who I am? In any event, I have a long way to go in learning and applying these ideas of the mobile, the creation creators, and the new literacies we need to embrace.

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