The unliked life: How long can you stay off of social media?

By Caitlin Kelly

I recently took a week-long break from blogging here, the longest since I started this in July 2009.

I got a lot done in real life, mostly work-related, with a few meetings with new contacts and possible clients.

It was an interesting experience to turn away from the putative gaze, and potential approval, of Broadside’s readers. I know that some bloggers like to post every day. I just don’t have that much to say.

More to the point, I try hard to maintain a balance between my life online and my life…in real life.

Social media is ubiquitous, and for some wholly addictive. We all like a hug, even if it’s virtual. We all like an  ego-stroke, and getting dozens, or hundreds?

How can that be a bad thing?

I still prefer being liked in person — last week over half-price cocktails with my friend Pam, trading notes about high-end travel with a new client, wooing a local PR agency, hanging out with my husband.

English: Infographic on how Social Media are b...
English: Infographic on how Social Media are being used, and how everything is changed by them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s a fascinating/sad story from Bloomberg Businessweek about a camp created for adults who need to digitally de-tox:

It’s Digital Detox, a three-day retreat at Shambhalah Ranch in Northern California for people who feel addicted to their gadgets. For 72 hours, the 11 participants, who’ve paid from $595 for a twin bed to $1,400 for a suite, eat vegan food, practice yoga, swim in a nearby creek, take long walks in the woods, and keep a journal about being offline. (Typewriters are available for anyone not used to longhand.)
The ranch is two-and-a-half hours north of San Francisco, so most guests come from the Bay Area, although a few have flown in from Seattle and New York. They’re here for a variety of reasons—bad breakups, career
troubles—but there’s one thing everyone has in common: They’re driven to distraction by the Internet.

Isn’t everyone? Checking e-mail in the bathroom and sleeping with your cell phone by your bed are now
considered normal. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2007 only 58 percent of people used their phones to text; last year it was 80 percent. More than half of all cell phone users have smartphones,
giving them Internet access all the time. As a result, the number of hours Americans spend collectively online has almost doubled since 2010, according to ComScore (SCOR), a digital analytics company. Teens and twentysomethings are the most wired. In 2011, Diana Rehling and Wendy Bjorklund, communications professors at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, surveyed their undergraduates and found that the average college student checks Facebook 20 times an hour.

Twenty times an hour?

This is just…sad.

There was a time when being with other people meant actually being in the same room — and that meant possibly having to walk, run, bike, fly, cab, drive or climb to access their companionship.

You know, make an effort.

We also used to live lives that we decided were intrinsically satisfying or they were not. We didn’t spend hours seeking the approval of thousands, possibly millions, of strangers — people who we’ll never meet or have coffee with or visit when they are in the hospital or attend their wedding or graduation.

There is genuine affection on-line, I know — but I wonder how many of us now do things now just to see how much they are “liked”.

Much as I enjoy social media, I’m old-fashioned enough to want to be in the same physical space as the people who “like” me and want to hear, first-hand, what I’m up to and how I really feel. There are many things I’ll never post here or on Facebook, where my “friends” include several high-level professional contacts for whom a brave, competent face remains key.

To me, face to face “liking” is truly intimate — like the seven-hour (!) meal at Spice Market that Niva and I shared when she came to New York and we finally put faces — and lots of laughter — to our names for the first time. (She writes the Riding Bitch blog.)

We had a blast.

It was much more fun than endlessly hitting a “like” button.

SPEAKING OF SOCIAL MEDIA — DON’T FORGET TO SIGN UP FOR MY NEXT WEBINAR, BETTER BLOGGING, ON SUNDAY NOVEMBER 10 AT 4:00 P.M. EST.

DETAILS AND REGISTRATION HERE.

Men Won't Shut Up — Women Hesitate To Speak Up — Why Men Blog More

Causerie / something to talk about
Maybe we're just talking to one another? Image by prakhar via Flickr

Are women less likely to blog than men?

So says Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente — hardly someone known amongst her colleagues in Canada for faint-heartedness:

People often ask me why I don’t start a blog. After all, it seems almost everyone else has. Thousands of new blogs spring up in cyberspace every day. All the mainstream media have added bloggers to their websites. Andrew Sullivan’s blog, The Daily Dish, can get 20 million hits a month, and has made him one of the most popular opinion-mongers in the world.

The answer is pretty much the same as why I don’t get a souped-up snowmobile and drive it straight up a mountain at 120 kilometres an hour into a well-known avalanche zone. It’s more of a guy thing.

Guys seek thrills and speed. They go for the adrenalin rush. They get pumped by going higher, faster, farther than anyone else. They want lots of action and instant gratification. That’s also why guys like blogging – instant opinions, and lots of them.

Wente thinks many/most women lack the confidence to speak out publicly — is this true? Really? Still?

There are many female bloggers. I don’t read many of them, because so many blog about mothering (I have no kids), marriage and/or relationships (not terribly interesting to me, compared to other topics), politics (not my thing.)

At True/Slant I have indeed noticed that the most frequent bloggers are always men, except, usually, me and Sara Libby. I can’t possibly keep up with the men’s verbal Niagara, and don’t even try; I do follow a few T/S men, and they tend, for whatever reason, to post infrequently. They’re more modest? Busier? More thoughtful?

I don’t think it’s because they lack confidence, at all.

Even my Dad (not a compliment, it’s OK) has noted my lack of fear about speaking my mind, and wonders where I get it. Three places.

The first, and — hello, Hillary! — not unsurprising, was attending single-sex schools, as she did in college. From Grade 4 to Grade 9, I was surrounded by smart, competitive girls and taught by smart women. Smart, verbal and articulate counted — n0t being skinny or pretty or popular. We all wore uniforms, so  clothing was comfortable camouflage.

I also attended, ages eight to 16, all-girl camps every summer all summer. Same thing: the leaders were women, the cool kids were female and no one worried about speaking up or out. The counselor who could get us across a wide, windy lake in a rainstorm, motivating weary teens to keep paddling hour after hour, had the right stuff. The girls who were fun and brave and led the rest of us won respect.

The second — smart, confident and  accomplished female relatives. One flies a Cessna. One imports Moroccan rugs after living there for years. One was leading a local environmental movement, and organizing protests, back in the 1960s. My granny was always up for a good rousing argument and my Mom, a journalist and film-maker, covered some tough and scary stories.

I also grew up the only child in a family of professional communicators: film-maker, television and radio stars, television writer, TV host, magazine editor and writer. We made our livelihoods, and good ones, by taking the risks to share our ideas with millions of people. Seemed fun and cool to me.

Our family is so verbally ferocious and competitive — high-volume, too — my quiet, modest sweetie, during his first Christmas dinner with us all (I have two younger step-brothers) 10 years ago, bamboozled by the table-pounding and chest-beating, shouted — “Quiet! Everyone speak in turn.”

Our jaws dropped open. It was like turning the hose on fighting dogs. Shock! It worked for….ten minutes.

So, you know, I’m fine being a mouthy broad. I’ve traveled widely, speak two other languages, consume a pile of other media (and ideas) daily, am fascinated by the world and how it works, or doesn’t.

Since January, 10,000+ unique visitors/month are stopping by this site, none of them related to me, so someone’s finding it worth their time. I’ve even been asked to write for a new Australian blog, plucked from amid the gazillions of bloggers out there to join a small group of 12, all of us without kids.

Women have plenty to say!

But, if you read the letters pages of most newspapers and magazines, let alone the comments boxes of most blogs — they’re staying quiet.

I don’t think they lack confidence. I think most of them are too damn busy.

What do you think?

Five Months Ago, Nil. Today, 101. Woo-Hoo!

Blogger Barbie
Image by BitchBuzz via Flickr

It’s deeply and unpatriotically Canadian to boast or cheer about oneself, so I might forfeit my passport here, but I also have a green card, which gives me explicit license to toot my horn, if not too loudly.

The first day I blogged here — a dead-trees dinosaur dragged whining and screaming into the blogosphere — was July 1, exactly five months ago. I chose to write about Nellie McClung, the feisty Canadian woman, and one of my dearest friend’s grandmothers, who helped win Canadian women the vote and now graces Canada’s $50 bill; July 1 is also Canada Day.

I was, literally, shaking from fear that first day as a blogger here, an admission which might seem risible to anyone under 30. Who on earth would want to read my ramblings, however selective I think they are?

I’ve written professionally since my second year of college. Writing for the largest national publications never scared me, even back then. The pay was great, my overhead minimal, my ambition boundless. Readers, even if there were millions of them, were an abstract crowd out there somewhere you hoped to please but rarely really knew if you did, or not. You only occasionally heard back from them, and when you did, the metric was something like one letter represented 1,000 other readers who didn’t bother to pick up a pen or hit the keys. I had lots of ideas, plenty of assignments and smart, tough, demanding editors.

The deal, and how it went, was tidy and, however hiearchical, well-defined, our boundaries evident and visible, our responsibilities clear.

Blogging? Not so much. What’s with that “publish” button? You now have total license to make an utter ass of yourself. Great! Kajillions of people can easily find you — and also find you irrelevant, boring or wrong. Ouch. You post something that gets, say, 5 views and it feels like you, (excuse my bluntness), farted. For those of us accustomed to the protection and institutional backstopping of magazine and newspapers’ fact-checkers, legal departments, visible, often highly critical and competitive colleagues and editors ready to pounce on every misplaced syllable, that “freedom” is, always, unnerving and decidedly unusual.

We old schoolers, OK me, can feel like a canary whose cage door got left open. So, tonight, I’m cracking open a decent bottle of wine to celebrate the 101 people who, bless ’em, have decided I’ve been offering something worth reading. None of whom — I’ve checked — are my Mom.

Thanks to every single one of them/you and to True Slant for giving me such a fun, cool, terrifying new learning curve. Special thanks to a fellow feisty-Canadian-jock-in-New-York, Katie Drummond, who reeled me in. Here’s to the next 100…