This world. This place. This life.


A stile in the Facebook garden wall

I like using HootSuite to post simultaneously to Facebook and Twitter, and today I figured out why.

Thanks to Chris Walton, I’ve been thinking since December about Facebook as a walled garden.

Chris said—and I’m paraphrasing here—that much of the public conversation of UU blogging had moved into the walled garden of Facebook. Particularly into the walled gardens of Facebook groups.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. I love the energy of UU Facebook groups. They are an amazing place to meet people, have great conversations, spark new ideas.

But there is a downside, particularly for a religion where newcomers often say, after years of wandering in the wilderness, “I was a UU, and I didn’t know it!”

The downside is that we’re spending a lot of time and energy enclosed in private spaces, talking only to each other.

We’re having tea parties in our walled gardens—and tea parties have their place.

But we also need to host concerts in public parks.

We need to find ways to bridge private and public.

Which brings me back to HootSuite.

I think HootSuite is a stile in the Facebook garden wall.


What do you think? Are there times when you want to say something to your friends on Facebook—and also to the public at large? What are you using to bridge public and private?

Photo by Tim Green, used under a Creative Commons attribution license.

Leave a comment

There is no such thing as Facebook

Really. There is no such thing as Facebook.

Facebooks, yes. But no Facebook.

I was reading a particularly charming status update posted by one of my friends, and suddenly it hit me: no two people have the same experience of Facebook. (In our house, we call this a U-Haul moment—when you suddenly see something obvious, like “you haul.”)

Each of us has a unique combination of friends, groups we’ve joined, and pages we’ve liked. And Facebook does god knows what with its algorithms to vary the content in our newsfeeds, based on what we’ve “liked” or commented on that day.

So if I have witty friends who tell charming stories, and you have annoying friends who badger you about playing games with them, how can we debate the value of Facebook?

If the pages I’ve liked constantly try to sell me something, while the pages you’ve liked offer helpful information, how can we discuss a common experience that doesn’t exist?

And if the groups I’ve joined have given me a new outlet for creativity and connection, while the groups you’ve joined are conflict zones—or dead space—how can we decide if Facebook is a waste of time, or a productive tool?


Please don’t like me

I’ve been trying to figure out if I can change my Facebook settings so I no longer get notifications when someone “likes” a photo or link or status update I’ve posted.

So far, no luck.

Last week, Liesl and I watched the Frontline documentary, “Generation Like,” and it made me want to disconnect from “like” notifications even more.

Here’s the deal. When I see the little white number in the red circle on my phone, I want real interaction with you. When the Facebook tab on my laptop toolbar shows a number in parentheses, I’m hoping you’ve got something to say.

“Liking” has come to mean so many things on Facebook. It’s a nod. It’s a smile. It’s a gentle hand on my shoulder. It’s an acknowledgment that you’ve noticed.

But it’s silent. It’s quick and easy. And it makes me feel like an approval junkie when I get excited by a “like” count.

So please don’t like me. Not unless you really, really like my photo, my link, my status update. And even then, would it be so much harder to type a few words?

Because I’m tired of the drive-by nod, the distracted smile, the easy comfort, the split-second attention.

Let’s be real friends to each other, instead of being stretched thin, “like butter scraped over too much bread.”

The “like”habit is hard to break, but I want to work on it. How about you?


Standing in the web

More often than I’d like, I hear complaints about Facebook status updates.

“I don’t want to know what you ate for dinner.”

“Stop telling me about your annoying boss.”

“I don’t need to know that you’ve got the flu.”

I don’t feel that way. Quite the opposite.

There’s something about the sharing that happens on Facebook, of our daily lives, in photos, in words, that’s beautiful to me, like a symphony or tapestry.

I can almost hear the music, see the interwoven threads.

Facebook is like an enormous choir, with each of us standing in our spot, singing.

From where I stand, I can hear your voice, and your voice, and your voice, setting the strands of the web vibrating with news from your corner of the world.

Keep telling me about the strange weather you’re experiencing.

Keep showing me pictures of your grandchild.

When you visit a new place, tell me what you see.

Tell me about your dreams, and your nightmares.

And yes, I’d love to know what you had for dinner.


Photo by Martin K, used under a Creative Commons attribution license.

1 Comment

What (Facebook) friends are for

Maybe you have a wonderful social life.

Maybe you meet friends for coffee at least once a week. Maybe you host a monthly potluck. Maybe you belong to a religious community that’s within easy driving distance, and maybe your regular attendance there fills your soul.

Some of us are less lucky.

Some of us live far away from family.

Some of us have moved time and again, leaving behind a trail of distanced friendships.

Some of us live in places where our interests don’t match those most common in our communities, and we have a hard time finding a place to fit in.

Some of us work from home, and miss out on the casual camaraderie that builds up day after day among people who work together.

Some of us are shy.

Because all of these are true of me, I am so grateful for social media.

Yesterday’s mail—the old-fashioned kind—reminded me of the debt of gratitude I owe.

Here in Girdwood, where we all go to the post office to pick up our mail, sometimes there’s a slip of yellow cardstock in our boxes. In bold black Sharpie, there’s a list of PO box  numbers, all crossed off except for the one at the bottom of the list—ours. We take the slip to the counter, and exchange it for a package.

Yesterday, there was a slip in our box, and next to our box number it said (2), which meant two packages.  Yay!

Willa and I had ventured out to the PO in the Ergo—a new skill for us. And we’d taken the dog. Bringing two packages, the baby and the dog all back home to the condo was daunting, but we made it home just fine.

2013-10-22 14.42.25

One of the packages came from Bellingham, Washington, and the name on the return address was Aadsen. I remembered that Tele had asked for my mailing address recently on Facebook.

Inside the box was a wonderful, handcrafted, upcycled hat for Willa.

Tele’s note said, “Whole-hearted congratulations to all three of you! I expect it’s getting cold up there. I hope the enclosed fits . . . although there must be enough love in your family to keep everyone plenty warm!”

The note was written on a handmade card; on the front was a photo taken by Tele’s honey, Joel Brady-Power. The photo is called “Endurance.”

Tele and I met through blogging, and became Facebook friends. We have never met “IRL.” I love Tele’s storytelling voice, and her commitment to her craft pushes me to return to my own writing. I’m grateful that she considers me a friend.

The other package came from New Jersey, from Rachel, whom I’ve known since childhood.

2013-10-22 14.39.09Rachel’s card said, “My dear Willa—Welcome! I am so happy you are here! I made you this quilt to remind you of several things—how much you need family, how to have fun, that life is to be lived and explored and that you are loved and cherished by many. May this keep you warm and comforted and surrounded by my love till I can hug you myself!”

Rachel and I were best friends all throughout our teenage years, and into young adulthood, but we had a falling-out when I was in seminary. It has only been in the past few years that we have reconnected—through Facebook. In a life where so much has cast me adrift from my past, Rachel has become an important anchor.

I’d love to have weekly coffee dates with Tele and Rachel. I can imagine a potluck where Tele brings a beautiful salmon she’s caught herself, and Rachel brings a decadent dessert. I’d love to join a religious community with broad enough borders to welcome all three of us.

But that’s not how it is right now.

Truth be told, I suspect that most people live fragmented lives, just like mine.

And for us, there’s social media. That’s what (Facebook) friends are for.

Thank you, Rachel and Tele, for the beautiful gifts, and for your friendship.