June 28, 2014 @ 11:52 am | Filed under:

I’ve made an uneasy peace with becoming a product sold to advertisers. Now it seems I’ve been a lab rat, too.

The AV Club reports:

Scientists at Facebook have published a paper showing that they manipulated the content seen by more than 600,000 users in an attempt to determine whether this would affect their emotional state. The paper, “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks,” was published in The Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences. It shows how Facebook data scientists tweaked the algorithm that determines which posts appear on users’ news feeds—specifically, researchers skewed the number of positive or negative terms seen by randomly selected users. Facebook then analyzed the future postings of those users over the course of a week to see if people responded with increased positivity or negativity of their own, thus answering the question of whether emotional states can be transmitted across a social network. Result: They can! Which is great news for Facebook data scientists hoping to prove a point about modern psychology. It’s less great for the people having their emotions secretly manipulated.


I uploaded this picture last night, intending to write my usual sort of daily-chronicle post. Then my eye wandered from the rainbows inscribed on the bubble to the blunt, browned ends of the grass and I got distracted by the ruthlessness with which we shear off the tender edges of nature. I wandered off to bed, musing, leaving the post unwritten. (Huck’s finger is much improved, was the gist.)

This morning, after reading the article quoted above (about a different kind of bubble, a ruthlessness altogether unsurprising but disgusting nonetheless), I came back here and found the photo waiting. And now I see that I’m in the picture too, there inside the bubble, taking a photo of the green world on the other side of the film. You could work up quite a metaphor there, obvious, clumsy, but apt: the insubstantial bubbles, the world outside, the illusions of people that aren’t the persons themselves.

But my frustrations aren’t philosophical (of course Facebook was always going to exploit us in every way possible) but practical. The reason a billion people have handed over their (our) data to Facebook is, at heart, a practical one: it’s the most efficient platform anyone has yet come up with for letting us keep in touch with a large number of friends and family at once. We failed at writing letters. Good phone conversations, while satisfying, take immense chunks of time. If you want to keep up with each other’s daily lives, the little things, you have to talk every couple of days (at the least) or else there’s too much ground to cover and you must out of necessity abridge.

Yahoogroups worked, for a while—you could engage in meaningful discourse or chummy banter with a good-sized group of people at once. But generally most of those relationships were new, were forged because of the group, by means of the group. I made some lifelong friends that way (hello, TAMs! hello, Karen!) but (I don’t like that ‘but’; it sounds like a devaluation of the friendships on its left, and that isn’t what I mean at all)—but—but my high-school friends didn’t form a Yahoogroup. My college friends didn’t. We kept to our phone calls, our occasional letters and visits. I read letters six times and treasured them, and didn’t write back, or did but didn’t stop for stamps.

After a while, most of the Yahoogroups I was part of morphed into discussion boards (more efficient, because they allowed for topic-sorting; less efficient, because they required administration and management) or faded into disuse. I think I’m still signed up to forty-odd lists. I get mail from three, and read one and a half. It’s years since I logged into a discussion board.

Then came blogs. Those of us still doggedly blogging for personal reasons look back on 2005 and 2006 with nostalgia: we remember what it was like in those days, less than a decade ago, when we were for the first time opening our front doors and saying here’s my house, come in. We shared too much, made friends, celebrated art and nature, got in fights, copied one another or got furious about being copied—all the same things we’d done on AOL in 1995 and in email groups in 1999, only now with photos of our children. We formed new and very real friendships: real and strange, because we knew (know) so much about each other and have watched each other’s children grow up, and yet we live so far away some of us may never meet. When one of us goes silent for a while, the others worry. Sometimes I’ll think: if she dies, I might never know what happened.

That’s if she isn’t on Facebook. Because that’s what Facebook does better than blogging—connects wide groups of people and spreads news they wouldn’t necessarily publish on any other website—and Facebook is why only a fraction of my friends-who-blogged are blogging still. Facebook IS blogging. It’s everyone blogging at once on the same platform, a platform cleverly managed (manipulated) for purposes we all agree are greedy at best, and not guided by principles that put our best interests remotely near the top of the priority list.

I love Facebook. I hate Facebook. I have loved and hated it since the day I joined. Facebook gave me back friends I had lost: that’s the sum total of my reason for loving it, and it’s immense. All those other platforms brought me new friends. Facebook reunited me with old ones. I don’t need to dress it up in metaphors. I’d lost touch with some of the people I loved best, and Facebook gave them back to me. It gave me what blogging didn’t: daily contact with beloved cousins and old school friends. Every day, it gave (gives) me photos and anecdotes of their lives, their children, their pets, their loved ones, their work. How can I measure the value of that?

If all the people I loved were inclined to blog—to blog about their personal lives, no less—I wouldn’t need a platform like Facebook. Somehow, Facebook accomplished the miraculous feat of convincing all these old friends to blog as we were doing, with oversharing and our children’s faces and outrage and sorrow and delight. And commenting is easier there, it just IS: fast, efficient (it always comes back to efficiency), and rewarded by a heartening LIKE. And—significantly—more conversational. You can reply back and forth quickly, in real-time like chat. Don’t blog comments feel more formal somehow? They didn’t use to. I feel like we used to chitchat more in the combox, but maybe that’s nostalgia. It’s probably just the time delay. If I reply to your comment here, it’s probably a day after you wrote it, and who knows if you even see the reply.

It’s strange, actually, the way we feel safer about sharing our personal stories on Facebook. We know we’re the product there; the evidence is thrust before us every time we open the tab and see a sidebar ad for a book we looked at on a different website the day before. We rail about the way they keep resetting the news feed from ‘most recent’ to ‘top stories,’ we fume at each sneaky privacy-policy change, we wince each time another website wants us to log in via Facebook before we can leave a comment.

But we go back, because that’s where our friends are posting photos of their their babies, their travels, their graduations. Because it’s a mini college reunion every time one of us posts and all our classmates chime in, laughing over an old shared joke. Because we have history together, and we care about one another’s present-day lives. Because if something serious happens, you’re going to tell your Facebook friends before you put it on a blog.

To leave, or to make the decision never to go in the first place (for reasons I respect and with a resolve I may at times envy a little), is to cut yourself off from a certain flow of information. There’s plenty of nonsense and trivia on Facebook, as there is in all forms of human interaction, including some of the best phone calls I’ve ever had. But there’s a great deal of the Real, the Good, the True there too, and it’s that—not simply the dopamine hit, as many theorists would have us believe—that brings us back. It’s genuine curiosity. It’s, to be blunt, love. I love you and I want to know how you’re doing. If Facebook is where you’re showing me, how can I stay away?

I would pay for an ad-free social connection site with no data-mining and no gross user manipulation of the sort revealed in the newly published study described in the article above. (You can click through from the article to the study itself.) But—here’s what I know. I know it’s unlikely a critical mass of my friends and relatives would too. Facebook caught us because it was free, and because there was a numerical tipping point: so many of us are there now, you really are missing something if you aren’t. Which isn’t to say anyone should be there who doesn’t want to be: I wouldn’t presume. As I said, I respect and admire their reasons for staying away.

But I’m a practical person, and I know what I’ll miss out on if I leave. I’m 45 years old and I’ve lived in a lot of places. I love a great many people. As I said on Facebook this morning when I shared the link above—my last act before logging out for a breather—”But how will I get my YOU fix?”

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58 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Jennifer says:

    One of your best posts ever. Beautiful, poignant.

  2. Melissa says:

    Absolutely fantastic post. One of my very best friends isn’t on Facebook. Never has been. She’s the last hold-out. We live six hours apart and haven’t seen each other in nearly two years. I have no idea what’s going on in her life and I wish that she would join because I miss that day-to-day interaction that we used to have. That said, I understand her reasons, but you’ve articulated so well why I love the daily connectedness that Facebook gives me, despite the price. Thanks for a great post.

  3. sarah says:

    I loved this post so very much, I shared it on Facebook.

  4. Lori B says:

    Perfect. And I’m sharing it on Facebook 🙂

  5. monica says:

    its funny because i resisted FB for a looong time because i knew it would be a time eater for me. and deep down i knew i would be dissatisfied with the level of connection it would give me with people. i joined it for my job, it was just the way people in my job communicate, so i created a profile with all false info a name that has no connection to my real name. i made the rule to only “friend” work related people, and have pretty much kept to it.

    i was right about the time eater aspect and as much as i am able to control myself, i only check it once a week. that is how i have made peace with fb.

    i do believe blogs, even more than fb and twitter, are the right length for me to really express my thoughts and to get a good window into someone else’s life. the ticker layout of the others is just too newsy, not like a personal scrapbook. I do treasure the bloggers i have been reading for many years.

  6. Ellie says:

    Beautiful essay Lissa. Straight from the heart.

    Well. You know i don’t do facebook — or anything but blogging … I love blogs the way I grew to love, way back in my teens, newspaper columns and autobiographies, and published letters and journals, and writing letters and journals myself. And that grew into writing book and film reviews: professional yet personal, you know? My experience, my feelings, my anaysis, my reaction … To share. So blogging, once i finally got a computer in 2004, immediately attracted me. I found some beautiful and amazing corners deep within the interwebs. And finally i took that step myself. Opened that door, hmm? Come on in … Sigh. It feels like so long ago? 2006. Funny world.

    Facebook (twitter, instagram) …. The immediacy, the minutia, the vast extensive networks, the information and connections … Honestly, it all feels a little (or a lot) overwhelming. Invasive, even. I mean, do i really want all that information flying through my brain, my day, my life? There are bloggers I love who, honestly, on twitter? I’ve got to say, they reveal a different side that i’m not always comfortable with. It’s so rapid fire … A different set of filters are used, compared to blogging. (Self censorship, i mean to say). So it’s just a very different sort of communication …. It isn’t for me, and that’s ok. I’m not much of a party person, either, or a reunion goer. I would imagine how we are socially, and who we are, within the offline world pretty well matches who we are online, right?

    There’s not judgement either way, for me. Facebook et al doesn’t fill a need for me — and i guess that’s the salient point, right? — so for me, the study you reference here (thank you for that by the way, fascinating, and appalling) is just another blockade on the road to me ever opening that particular door.

    Here i’ve babbled on and on — blame the antibiotics and steroids, my friend! 🙂

  7. Melissa Wiley says:

    Not babble at all; I love a nice meaty comment! I agree with you about the different filters people use in different contexts; I’m glibber on Twitter than I am here. And I can readily see about FB filling a need for some people and not for others. One of my sisters won’t go near it, the other is there. But we’re the ones who lose out by her absence. I wish she were there. It would be a gift to me. Not that I would try to hard-sell her, or you, or anyone…there are so many considerations besides connection, not least among them the visual chaos, which I loathe and I imagine would be intolerable to you.

    I would imagine how we are socially, and who we are, within the offline world pretty well matches who we are online, right? Yes and no? Scott is an introvert who dislikes parties and avoids reunions, and he avoided FB too at first, and then saw my joy in reconnecting with old friends (and for a while it felt necessary for professional reasons, too, though that has shifted again) and kind of reluctantly joined, and wound up feeling much as I do about it. I think for some introverts FB can be a boon–a way to go to those reunions without GOING, if you know what I mean. 🙂 (But again, I’m not trying to sell it! Just pondering.)

    Thank goodness for the blog world of 2005-6—how else would I have met you? 🙂

  8. Melissa Wiley says:

    A friend shared a link to an article about the shoddy methodology used in the FB study: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/06/23/emotional-contagion-on-facebook-more-like-bad-research-methods/

    For a tweet or status update, however, this is a horrible analysis tool to use. That’s because it wasn’t designed to differentiate — and in fact, can’t differentiate — a negation word in a sentence.1

    Let’s look at two hypothetical examples of why this is important. Here are two sample tweets (or status updates) that are not uncommon:

    “I am not happy.”
    “I am not having a great day.”

    An independent rater or judge would rate these two tweets as negative — they’re clearly expressing a negative emotion. That would be +2 on the negative scale, and 0 on the positive scale.

    But the LIWC 2007 tool doesn’t see it that way. Instead, it would rate these two tweets as scoring +2 for positive (because of the words “great” and “happy”) and +2 for negative (because of the word “not” in both texts).

    That’s a huge difference if you’re interested in unbiased and accurate data collection and analysis.

    So not only was the study invasive and manipulative, it wasn’t even SOUND.

  9. Melanie B says:

    So many things i like about this essay. It captures so much of what is right and wrong about Facebook. I especially love the bit about how it’s not just a dopamine hit but love and connection. And yet there is that dopamine hit aspect too. Ugh. And the visual clutter and the manipulativeness.

    But you’re right about the tipping point and how all these people I love– college buddies and far-flung cousins and aunts and uncles– simply would not be on a pay for use site.

    Then there’s the back and forth of the comments. I do think blogs used to be more chatty and informal but once Facebook took over they shifted and I miss the way it used to be. Still, when I want to get feedback on a question, I ask it to Facebook, not on my blog. My blog is for archiving, for more formal writing, for long form pondering, and for connecting with a set of folks who don’t Facebook. (Hi, Ellie!) I guess I’ve mae peace with that.

  10. Kez says:

    This just completely sums up my own love / hate relationship with Facebook and why I use it. Sharing this – where else, but on Facebook 🙂

  11. Erin says:

    The grass, to give you more to ponder about, grows up from the base of the plant, not the tip. Which is why we can cut it again and again and not kill it. I’m not sure where this fits in in your ponderings.

    Thank you for these thoughts on Facebook. I’m ambivalent. I had a Facebook account where I never spoke, but read others’ news, but when an acquaintance/friend shared the news of her late-term miscarriage over FB I was so revolted that I deleted my account. It was a last-straw kind of thing because I’d begun to think of my friends in very negative ways, as being silly, or shallow, or time-wasting. It was not, in short, improving my relationships with them in real life because I was carrying the memory of their Facebook feed into those conversations and keeping a little snotty disdain in the back of my heart toward them. That said, now that I have no idea what their musings and daily news is about, I feel like they all know things about each other that I don’t.

    I wonder whether it has something to do with my being an introvert, as has already been discussed a little. I desperately want deep, meaty relationships and meaning and all that, and FB seems to serve up a whole lot of what’s shallow in our lives. More thought required, as usual. Thanks for stirring the thought-soup…

  12. Ellie says:

    Dear Lissa, i understand completely the attraction of being able to have a closer to real-time conversations — whether casual or when serious topics arise — within a group of trusted friends and family. I can see how for many people FB, even Twitter too, fulfills that need very nicely. Espeically in a time of crisis. I vividily recall how valuable it was for me whenyou pointed me to a few twitter accounts during the political protests here a couple of years ago: it was wonderfully reassuring to be able to tap in to the ‘on the ground’ happenings, especially whenthis heated up and frankly got scary.

    And right now, i’ve got a blogger whom i’ve read for many years who is in crisis with her current preganacy: her baby has serious health issue and is due to be born within the next couple of days. She has blogged for many years but has now set up a FB page so as to more quickly put out updates and prayer requests. She was frank in that, it is currently easier for her to do it that way in order to reach the widest group of family, friends, and online readers. And so her blog will lag behind a bit. I understand! And so have bookmarked the main public page for her baby 🙂 so i can keep abreast of their needs and situation.

    For myself, being such a monastic contemplative sort, i do appreciate the slower conversational pace engendered at my blog and most of the ones i read closely. I’m ok with there being a bit of lag time betwixt one comment and a reply — what is important to me is that this *is* a conversation going on — i always do check back! You, Melanie, Karen etc 🙂 I don’t comment everywhere I read or even often, necessarily, but when i do i do check back. At some blogs, i would love to comment! But cannot due to the interface not working with the ipad. And at my blog, I do have a note posted assuring readers that I reply to all comments so please do come back. I love the conversations, and the pacing works out pretty well for me.

    I don’t find your twitter voice glib Lissa. 🙂 glib is fine anyway. I think what i meant in my earlier comment was that there are a few bloggers whom i really like who, on twitter, I discovered, get really …. Authoritarian, telling other folks off, telling them twitter isn’t the appropriate place for this or that conversation and i just … Discovered i prefered their blog voices to their twitter ones! 🙂

    Your comment about “if she dies would i even know” struck a cord of course! It’s why Eli has an email contact list for online friends of mine, in case of my death or incapacitation. I know that was very nice for people when I was having the brain tumor removed, that he was emailing. And frankly, right now during this horrid pneumonia, this is why i’m making the effort to blog, so people won’t worry over the silence!

  13. stef says:

    you just said everything i want to say. sigh. that’s exactly why, from time to time, i have to step away and deactivate FB. AND THEN go back, again and again. :/ i wish there was another way, free or paid doesn’t matter to me, to keep in touch with people i love WITHOUT government or another entity watching, keeping tabs… but there just isn’t. can’t force people to communicate another way; we have to meet people where they are — so i have my e-mail friends, my forum friends, and my FB friends and family. and when i think about it, everything is monitored, so in the end unless we were going to take our family completely off the grid and just communicate via snail mail (or pigeon) it is what it is — an uneasy peace. thanks for the thoughts, lissa. beautiful as always. 🙂

  14. Melissa Wiley says:

    I am so enjoying this conversation! Ellie and Erin, there are easily half a dozen threads I want to respond to in your comments. I hope I remember them all. Maybe I’ll write separate comments so this one doesn’t get too long.

    Erin, I’m intrigued by your FB experience. I’m always curious to know what it (what anything) is like for others. Your friend who posted about her miscarriage–could I ask what about that revolted you? Was it that it seemed too personal or serious a topic for Facebook? That has been the case in a few other instances I’m aware of: someone feeling uncomfortable or even repulsed by the sharing of deeply personal news on FB. I think in many cases this comes down to a question of etiquette, and since social networks are relatively new, the etiquette is still developing and there may be many takes on it. I think that for people who are pretty invested in FB, spending a lot of time there in connections that feel meaningful and enriching to them, it becomes quite naturally a place you want to share important (good or bad) news with a wider circle of friends and acquaintances. To me it feels like concentric circles: the small circle of close friends and family you would phone; the next circle of friends you would perhaps write (email) separately or in small groups (or the ones who would get a call from someone in your innermost circle); and then the wider circles of people who would want to know, or whom I would want to tell, but it would be exhausting or impossible to make direct personal contact with each one. Facebook, where so many of those friends have congregated, would seem a natural next step, and a way to communicate the news directly to those friends instead of having it come at second- or thirdhand.

    But I understand, I do, that that’s how it strikes *me* and isn’t necessarily how it would strike everyone. I know some people are very upset to learn difficult personal news via a public-seeming social network. I’ll hazard a guess that it has much to do with whether or not you feel part of a community there. When a former coworker of Scott’s died suddenly, quite young, Facebook was where his friends around the world were able to gather to mourn him. Of course there were also private memorials in real life (I struggle with that phrase, ‘in real life,’ because onscreen relationships are equally real to me). FB was the one place where where his outer circles of friends could come immediately together in grief.

    “I desperately want deep, meaty relationships and meaning and all that, and FB seems to serve up a whole lot of what’s shallow in our lives. “

    This deeply interests me too! And part of my interest is wanting to understand what “shallow” means to different people. I see that criticism (I mean that in the analytical sense, as in a reading of text) all over the place–even on FB itself, internal critiques like the “Art Challenge” that made the rounds recently–an exhortation to post beautiful works of art (an idea I loved) but prefaced with these words:. “Art Challenge – the idea is to occupy facebook with art, to break the monotony of pictures of your food, sports and meaningless check-ins at the dentist.” I didn’t participate because that phrasing bothered me so much. It evokes a straw man: this monotony of food photos, sports updates, and “meaningless check-ins at the dentist” isn’t something I’ve ever experienced on FB. My news feed may be difficult to handle in an election year but is full of quite lively and interesting news. Thought-provoking articles, delicious glimpses of daily life, book discussions, and so on. And if a friend is excited enough about a meal to want to share a photo, I’m generally happy to see it. 🙂 It’s easy to scroll past quickly if I don’t have any comment to make. I’ve hidden all game updates from my feed, but it doesn’t bother me to think my friends are playing games, as I’m a gamer myself. 🙂

    But I’m not suggesting that what you experienced, what struck you as shallow, is any of the above. I made a leap from your experience to my own but I’m not assuming they are the same. That’s what I’m interested in: what do other people mean when they say something (particularly a FB update) is shallow? In a way I feel like the culture is having an important conversation without having defined its terms. I always wonder: if I like talking about x, y, and z, does that make me seem shallow to other friends who aren’t interested in those topics? AM I shallow? 😉 I’m teasing–I don’t feel troubled on that point, since I have to live with my own relentlessly chewing/probing/whirring mind and I know that whatever its defects may be, a failure to ponder life deeply isn’t one of them. 🙂

    Now, of course I have had many exchanges and conversations on FB that have frustrated me. I think in most cases it has to do with people bringing irrelevancies to the topic at hand in the form of a well-rehearsed talking point that sends the conversation into a death spiral. I have a few friends who like to argue for argument’s sake, and while I enjoy sparring with them over a meal at Comic-Con I don’t necessarily want to do it on FB in front of my father, my daughter, my editor, and that nice woman who friended me because her daughter loved my books. 😉

    And like, I imagine, everyone, I have a couple of friends whose FB posts can be hard to take. One friend writes frequently and forcefully about how much it annoys him when other people post such-and-such. I don’t think he realizes how often he does it! I don’t think he’s aware that his tone is probably directly insulting to a number of his friends, who after all must be the ones writing those posts that have annoyed him. I also don’t think he realizes that his own feed is equal parts 1) complaints about what people post, 2) complaints about his job, and 3) photos of his cat. 🙂 I actually love his cat photos: they suggest a tender side of his character that I would never suspect from his cantankerous writing. His cat photos (or rather, what they reveal about him) are why I haven’t hidden him from my own news feed. I rather suspect that *he* has hidden *me* from his own feed–which is fine. 🙂

    Anyway, I’ve used your comments as a jumping-off point for my own musings, but I would really love to hear more about your take. What were you hoping for in a FB conversation? (Argh, tone is so difficult to convey–I’m asking earnestly and curiously, not in any kind of challenging tone.) What strikes you as shallow? Is there a middle-ground between too shallow and too personal? I think these questions point, too, to the search for the *right space* for certain kinds of conversation. Practically speaking, this comment thread is probably better for a long, probing discussion because it has fewer readers than my FB does. (Which is itself another interesting topic–to me, at least.) On FB, especially in a public thread as most of mine are, a conversation is more likely to go flying off on tangents because of the sheer numbers involved. But other topics are much more successful on FB than here. I subscribe to a Betsy-Tacy listserv that is very active, but I seldom chime in myself–maybe once or twice a year. If it were a Facebook group, I would probably participate every day. The interface is so much more convenient.

  15. Melissa Wiley says:

    Golly, all that was in response just to Erin’s comment! And as I scroll down my reply I must observe that seven emoticons is probably excessive for one comment. Yet I mean them all! 🙂 (The tally begins.)

    Ellie! I loved your comment about being a “monastic contemplative sort” and therefore appreciating the slower pace of comment-box discussions on your blog. Your comment threads have always struck me as a really warm and fruitful environment for dialogue. Your friends have conversations there. I always go back to check for new comments because often you share as much there as you do in the post itself.

    I know what you mean about those authoritarian voices on Twitter! At least on Twitter unfollowing someone doesn’t feel quite as fraught as unfriending someone on FB.

    I too have a few blogs I would like to comment on more often but have difficulty with the login. Actually, Tanita’s blog (one of my favorites) is one of these–I would love to be a regular there, but I haven’t been able to log in in ages. I keep meaning to try from a different browser. (“Keep meaning to” are fatal words for me.)

    About wondering if I would know if something happened to a blog friend–I’m wincing a little about how bluntly I phrased that yesterday. And I don’t want to suggest I brood on this in a morbid way. But I do think about it sometimes. The internet has broadened my circle of friendships to such a wide sphere, and sometimes people just…disappear. Actually, it’s happened with some regular commenters here. A few readers who wrote regularly and didn’t have their own blogs. One day you realize you haven’t heard from them in a long time and you wonder…did they simply stop reading (or commenting) and all is well in their worlds? Or did something happen to them? There’s no way to know. And I can think of an instance when a blogger I loved didn’t post anything for a long time, and I worried about her. And pondered the boundaries…would she find it intrusive if I emailed her privately (using the email from comments she had left here) to ask if all was well? Would it feel like a gross breach of privacy? Would it be better to leave a little note in her comments? Or would she feel like I was nagging her? Probably I was overthinking it and a little note wouldn’t have been amiss, but I didn’t know her well enough to KNOW. Eventually she began posting again, and I was relieved that she was all right.

  16. Ellie says:

    I think one of the things that fascinates me so — because i am the historian-scholar-sociologist-writer-thinker! — is the question of the “right space for certain kinds of conversation”. I am genuinely flummoxed when social media, one platform or another, as a whole, is considered the Wrong Space. I am not referring to one specific comment thread being hijacked — that’s always annoying and not cool! But i’ve read, any number of times, “Twitter isn’t the place” or “FB isn’t” or fill in the blank isn’t the “right place” for XYZ and it just makes me scratch my head. Surely the writer/speaker in question — the owner of the blog, twitter account, FB page etc etc is the one to decide if it is appropriate for him or her to say X or Y in their own space? Do you see what i am saying? This policing of one another’s choices over what they say and share (or don’t share: people get criticized for that as well!) puzzles me and fascinates me. In this post you made the analogy of the blog = living room (on my blog it’s the front porch 🙂 ) and i think that is equally and perfectly true of twitter, FB et al. Would you (collective you) say to someone, in their own house “this isn’t the appropriate place for you to raise that subject.” ?

    One of my great passions is historical documents. I love reading what people wrote to one another hundreds and thousands of years ago! What did they note in the farm log, the letter to the mayor, in a letter to their sister, in their diaries, or on the census list? How are people named or titled, if they are named at all? What were the little commentaries added along the side, or parenthetically? What notes did they write in the margins of their books? All of this is wonderfully revealing. Language is culture. How we use it influences everything else in life. Rhetoric can damage a person’s quality of life — or can enrich it immeasurably.

    I, too, have wondered sadly about missing commentors and former bloggers. I do wonder especially about a few. Of course, here too this happens offline as well: we drift apart, lose touch. We can hope they are well and who knows, perhaps they’ll wonder through again one day …

  17. Melissa Wiley says:

    Ellie, I absolutely agree that’s it’s puzzling and frustrating when people try to dictate how or what other people may say on various social networks. It happens all the time on FB: a friend will post a withering “I’m so sick of hearing people complain about XYZ” comment or other criticism of what people have been posting on their own feeds. It’s both passive-aggressive and discourteous. I mean, it’s obvious whom they’re complaining about every time. The friend I mentioned above who posts these complaints frequently–sometimes I have an urge to complain about people who only post oblique criticisms of what other people write–but then I have to laugh at myself because to write that would be doing *the very same thing.* If he wants to use FB as a place to complain about what other people post on FB, he gets to. Nobody’s forcing me to read it.

    But, yes, he’s attempting to police the space, wanting to shape the discourse to a stream that suits his preferences (beyond the point allowed by hiding or unfriending people, I guess). And on Twitter, where all your tweets are public, the attempt to police or shape other people’s writings becomes even more ludicrous. I don’t think of FB and Twitter as being my living room, though. I think of Twitter as a cocktail party or something like the groups that congregate in hotel bars and lobbies at conventions. Conversation in a public space. FB is something in between: a lunchroom, maybe: a place you go every day and see roughly the same people, but still a more public space than your home. And so I suppose I see different flavors to the conversations in these various spaces. A blog–while in reality as public as a public Twitter or FB feed–feels more enclosed, somehow. I’m mindful that anything I write here may show up in a search engine, but still. People are only reading here who have chosen to visit. For me that’s a key difference. It lends a different character to the conversations. I would feel this is a more appropriate space for certain conversations, and FB for others. It felt strange to post pictures of my college reunion here. I wanted them chronicled in my archives, for me. 🙂 But few if any of those friends read this blog. We were all sharing the photos on FB anyway–FB is how the reunion came about. So sharing them here felt almost awkward, like I was forcing vacation photos on guests. Never mind the perpetual awkwardness I feel over doing any kind of book promotion here (or on FB for that matter)–it must be done, and some would say that’s what author blogs are for, but I don’t think of this as an “author blog.” It was my parenting/homeschooling/book-talking space first. It wears too many hats, possibly? (“Room” metaphor now hopelessly mixed. Living room where I sometimes spring a bake sale on my guests? ::shudder::)

    I’ve lost my thread. The question of “right spaces” for certain types of conversation. I’m with you, it’s deeply fascinating. And so muddled, since people are defining the spaces and the discourse that happens within them differently. There’s also the potential confusion of the word “right”–sometimes people mean “appropriate,” in the way you’re describing above (policing) or in an etiquette sense (propriety? courtesy?) and sometimes “right space” might mean “the best place to post this if I want a lively and earnest conversation” or “place most likely to foster snarky replies” or “place where a topic is likely to cause a fight.” “Right space” in regard to what kind of conversation I hope to have.

  18. Willa says:

    Loved your post and the comments, Lissa. And the bubble picture, too.
    Makes me want to love FB more than I do.
    All in all, I love the possibility of connection with Facebook, I love the idea of it (with the caveats you discuss so well) but I dread going to the site. It has a supermarket-type effect on me — so much there, that it is overwhelming. It feels like one of those old-time “party” phone lines where you can hear all these voices speaking in the background. I think if I had superhearing, I would quickly go insane, and FB makes me feel like I have superhearing.
    I get on there about once a week so I can catch up on what my friends and relatives are doing — kind of like the way I step into Target with my shopping list occasionally and then escape out of there with some bargains and a feeling of relief. It’s worth it but not exactly a comfortable part of my life.
    OTOH my husband keeps an FB tab up all day and checks in so if I miss something of real importance that’s been posted, I usually find out from him. LOL.

  19. Melissa Wiley says:

    A few more links related to the Facebook study:

    Emotional Contagion on Facebook? More Like Bad Research Methods

    One of the study authors attempts to explain its motivations. Seriously weak argument. Good reply in the comments:

    I just have to ask – you honestly had a hypothesis that amounted to ‘perhaps we can make people more depressed,’ and decided to test it on a group that hadn’t consented to the experiment, with no way to track its impact on their actual lives, only on the language they used in their Facebook posts? And you ask us to trust that this passed an internal review so it’s ethical?

    Please take a moment to step back and consider that. That appears to have been the train of thought that led to this.

    That’s appalling. Completely appalling. The Atlantic piece is right — there’s absolutely no way this passes APA deceptive research standards.

    Beyond that, you’ll never know what impact this actually had on depressed people. You can only measure what they posted to Facebook, which isn’t a particularly meaningful or realistic indicator of their emotional state.

    If this passed an internal review board, that’s only proof that Facebook’s internal review standards aren’t what they need to be.

    Chris O’Donnell ponders FB’s possibilities for evil (and explains his reasons for still being there for now, which are very much like mine)

    Everything We Know About Facebook’s Secret Mood Manipulation Experiment | The Atlantic

    Facebook tramples human research ethics and gets published by PNAS for the effort


    “The real scandal, then, is what’s considered “ethical.” The argument that Facebook already advertises, personalizes, and manipulates is at heart a claim that our moral expectations for Facebook are already so debased that they can sink no lower. I beg to differ. This study is a scandal because it brought Facebook’s troubling practices into a realm—academia—where we still have standards of treating people with dignity and serving the common good. The sunlight of academic practices throws into sharper relief Facebook’s utter unconcern for its users and for society. The study itself is not the problem; the problem is our astonishingly low standards for Facebook and other digital manipulators.”

  20. Melissa Wiley says:

    Jenn, Melissa, Sarah, Lori, Monica, Melanie, Kez, Stef, Willa, I wanted to thank you guys, too, for chiming into the conversation and for your kind words. There’s one place where FB has the advantage: that magical, ridiculous, infernally useful Like button again. It’s comical how much I appreciate being able to Like not just a post, but replies to the post. That little note of acknowledgement really does mean something, no matter how many jokes we crack about it. It works. I want to Like all your comments.

  21. Valerie Cross says:


    So delighted to have discovered your blog! This post resonates so deeply with me.

    Thank you!

  22. Erin says:

    I’m rereading Daring Greatly (because I read it in one huge starved gulp the first time) and I’ve come back to her idea of having to build up to a certain point in a relationship before you can trust somebody else not to be overwhelmed by what you share with them. So, if I’ve just met you, I don’t suddenly tell you about the relationship issues I’m having with my daughter. I build trust and spend time with you until you’re the kind of friend I could tell that kind of thing. Then, trusting you with that information builds our friendship instead of repulsing you. You’re most likely, by that point, sharing that kind of thing with me as well. So, although my reaction to the friend who shared the news of her miscarriage was knee-jerk and I didn’t analyze at the time why I did it, I can see now that it was one of two reasons. Either a) she didn’t have enough of a rapport with me that I could bear hearing that personal news from her, or b) I thought I had more rapport than she thought I did, but I was one of that last tier you mentioned, who got the information through Facebook and didn’t get a call, or a face-to-face, or an email. I think at the time it just felt so personal and Facebook felt so public. Like walking into town square and shouting “I had a miscarriage, anybody who happens to be listening!” If I had something like that to share, the only people who would hear it from me would be those who were willing to sit with me and cry over it. I trust gossip and hearsay to get it out to everyone else, I guess.

    I just realized yesterday that my issue with sharing anything is the problem of sharing it with mixed company. I sat down at a table full of moms at a friend’s house and someone asked me a question about what’s going on in my life. But I had differing levels of that rapport with each of the women, so I had to share only what was appropriate for the least common denominator. I would have answered the friend who asked the question in much more detail if we had been alone, or maybe with another friend who knew more about me, but there were others there with whom I didn’t feel comfortable sharing as much information. So she got a certain kind of response.

    This is how social media feels to me, increasingly. Not just Facebook, but my own blog, which explains a large part of the quiet around there of late. I would talk to you differently than I would talk to my mother-in-law, my sisters, my friends, people who want to know how/why I homeschool, people who are annoyed with me that I do, people who enjoy deep academic conversations, people who yawn about them and just want pictures of my kids, all of whom read the same blog that I write. I think of them all when I go to write something, and considering the varying levels of interest/annoyance/voyeurism/agreement/disagreement that I know will be their response to something I’ve written sometimes just makes me take my hands off the keyboard and be silent.

    I suppose the case could be made for being “yourself” no matter your company, but we aren’t, really, are we? I tailor myself to the people I’m with, especially when it comes to sensitive matters like religion or education. And yet those are a big part of “myself”. So, in order to appeal to a large audience of people with whom I have different relationships, I find myself cutting off bits here and there until what I actually end up saying is beige, and has no corners, so that it will bounce around the room without hurting anybody. Because I care about all of you, but some of you like some things about me that others don’t want to hear about or are maybe even offensive to some.

    So, although I know it’s massively less efficient, I find myself just wanting to engage with people one at a time. This is tough when so many people come through my life, because it means I can’t keep them all. On the surface of it, I like the idea of efficient friendship, but on another level I can’t imagine being comfortable with efficiency as a relationship goal. I know quite well that I differ from many (most?) people in this. I suppose I’m a “deep” friend instead of a “many” friend. Facebook feels like it might be for “many” friend people. To me, anyway.

    All of this and I didn’t even explain my contention about depth or lack thereof. Oh dear. Perhaps in another comment.

  23. Karen Edmisten says:

    Oh, where to even start? First of all, waving back at you, Lissa, and feeling so grateful for those ancient e-groups. 🙂

    Second, I love that photo of the bubble, and I love the thoughts connected to it.

    I’m not feeling very articulate tonight … can only add that I have the same love/hate relationship with Facebook and always have. I resisted it for a long time, and probably wouldn’t have joined if not for my writing work, but it quickly became a way not only to connect with others in the writing/reading world, but family, and yes, friends I hadn’t seen or heard from in a long time. But because of the hate half of my feelings, when Google+ came along, I thought we could all jump ship and move over (not that Google is without privacy problems) but I quickly realized that very few people were making the move and that a mass exodus would never happen. Yup, just too little too late.

    I’m never a good one to comment on social media because I’m always three steps behind, but I couldn’t let this beautiful post pass me by without saying *something*….

  24. Melissa Wiley says:

    Valerie, welcome! Glad you found us!

    Erin: I loved your reply. So much to ponder. “I think at the time it just felt so personal and Facebook felt so public. Like walking into town square and shouting “I had a miscarriage, anybody who happens to be listening!” — this strikes me as another example of how much ink-blot-deciphering there is to human relationships. FB seems like a living room to Ellie, a lunchroom to me, the town square to you. We’re not all understanding FB as the same space, so it’s that much harder to determine what’s appropriate and what isn’t (to go back to the thread Ellie and I are discussing about whether you can define ‘appropriate topic’ for social networks at all).

    Then, too, there’s the sensitivity of the topic, and how different people (or communities) talk about miscarriage, isn’t there? I have a friend who lost a baby in the third trimester and she said one of the hardest parts was running into people who hadn’t heard, and having to have that conversation over and over. It was inevitable, since she was visibly not pregnant anymore and they would often ask with excitement about the baby. I think in her shoes some people might rather just say it on FB and have everyone know at once, and not have to have all those painful conversations in person.

    Also occurs to me that there are varying perceptions of whether FB belongs on the continuum of *written* communication: letters — email — blogging — Facebook or *spoken* communication: face to face — phone — texts? — Facebook? Even though we type and read it, it seems to me like the terms we use for social media, the metaphors we apply, pertain more to oral communication. Perhaps it falls somewhere in between, and that’s part of why the etiquette is muddy.

    I really love your thoughts on the difficulty of sharing with a group of people who are at varying levels of intimacy. The lowest common denominator topics. I know just what you mean. I’d rather a group of three than six or seven. In a group larger than seven, I’m probably going to wind up in a corner with one or two friends anyway. 🙂 I’ve never really pinpointed that before–that a medium-size group can be harder than a big one.

    The idea of “efficient friendship” makes me squirm a little 🙂 and I hope it didn’t sound like that’s what I was advocating. When I say ‘it always comes back to efficiency’ I mean *means of communication*. People write me all the time to ask how I “do it all” (meaning homeschool, write, and still have time for gaming/reading/movies/whatever?) and I always talk about how Scott and I have split the workload, what our schedule is like, etc; but a thing it never occurred to me to say was “also, I hardly ever talk on the phone.” I can only do the phone if I’m doing something else as well–gardening, cleaning–and even then it’s really hard to manage. I can fit FB and blogging into parts of the day when the kids don’t need me, therefore they feel ‘more efficient’ as a means of keeping in touch. My college roommate, one of my dearest friends, hardly ever uses Facebook, and I dearly wish she did. We catch each other for phone calls so infrequently. I have another close friend who lives across the country & isn’t on the internet at all. We’ve had rounds of phone tag going for MONTHS, it’s awful. By the time we talk, so much has happened, too much. And–I hear from other moms of older kids that this is quite common–now that my 3 oldest are teens, our activities are geared largely around them, meaning more driving-and-dropping, less hanging out at the park with the other moms and littles. I miss those days! We chat through car windows, five minutes here, five minutes there. If we have something important to discuss, we email. 🙂

  25. Miranda says:

    This was such an interesting post, and really made me think about my attitude towards social media. I joined Facebook, after some time of (probably snobbish) resistance, when i moved transatlantically, for exactly the reasons you pinpoint – it allows me to keep hold of friends I would otherwise lose. It’s kind of like my ‘to-read’ list on Goodreads – a way to be sure that someone (or some book) doesn’t fall through the net.

    But unlike you, I am not that active myself on Facebook. In fact I have only recently started to post photos and comments, and it always takes a bit of a push for me to do it. I think that your room analogies are very apt, and for me Facebook is almost like a stage – I feel a little bit afraid to put myself out there for all to see. I am a reader rather than a commenter at even my favourite blogs (such as yours!) for similar reasons.

    But I think making explicit the value of platforms like Facebook helps me to feel more relaxed about making use of it in a way that suits me. I really miss my friends from across the pond, and I feel inspired now to make more of an effort with FB communication with them. Phone calls are even harder to co-ordinate with an 8-hour time difference, especially with small children! So thank you for catalysing my feelings on this, and for all your other lovely writings…

  26. Miranda says:

    This was such an interesting post, and really made me think about my attitude towards social media. I joined Facebook, after some time of (probably snobbish) resistance, when i moved transatlantically, for exactly the reasons you pinpoint – it allows me to keep hold of friends I would otherwise lose. It’s kind of like my ‘to-read’ list on Goodreads – a way to be sure that someone (or some book) doesn’t fall through the net.

    But unlike you, I am not that active myself on Facebook. In fact I have only recently started to post photos and comments, and it always takes a bit of a push for me to do it. I think that your room analogies are very apt, and for me Facebook is almost like a stage – I feel a little bit afraid to put myself out there for all to see. I am a reader rather than a commenter at even my favourite blogs (such as yours!) for similar reasons.

    But I think making explicit the value of platforms like Facebook helps me to feel more relaxed about making use of it in a way that suits me. I really miss my friends from across the pond, and I feel inspired now to make more of an effort with FB communication with them. Phone calls are even harder to co-ordinate with an 8-hour time difference, especially with small children! So thank you for catalysing my feelings on this, and for all your other lovely writings…

  27. Erica says:

    Have read every word of your post and comments, too, Lissa. I am one of the five-minute conversations through the car window friends, aren’t I? 🙂 Must take our littles to the park very soon!

    Why am I not on Facebook? I don’t really know, but I enjoyed the thoughtful comments here tonight. Lots to ponder. I think I am still just a read others’ blogs kind of gal. I sometimes think of starting a blog, but it feels almost too late, like I missed that bandwagon.

  28. Susan Taylor Brown says:

    Oh, oh, oh….where do I start to reply? I know I won’t hit all the points I want to hit so I’ll say this to start – you put much into words that I wanted to say but couldn’t manage to get out.

    I miss blogging the way I used to blog and those connections but I was figuring it was just me, the unpopular girl in the corner that no one really wants to talk to you so I when people stopped reading and commenting, I stopped writing. I love the idea of my blog being more of an archive so at least I can go back to it for me and I am trying to accept that it is never going to be like it was back in 2006, at a peak for me. I had a new book coming out then and book bloggers were new and I was all over the place and, I confess, it was wonderful! But that was before the glut, before blogs and bloggers got overwhelmed and then, of course, the trying to keep up with them all was impossible. I can’t read and comment (or remember where I comment) everywhere so of course I can’t feel bad when people don’t read and comment for me, so it just became easier to back myself into the shadows, even though I didn’t like it.

    Even Poetry Friday has become huge and hard to keep up anymore but I miss it and am thinking about trying to jump back into that fray in my own way.

    I, too, have trouble commenting on Tanita’s blog and I keeping track of all the comments made and looking for replies is never easy.

    I am grateful to bloggers who really helped my book get so much early attention but I also realize the next book will not be nearly as lucky in that regard.

    I am early adopter. I love technology, so I jump onto what’s new, learn it, pass on the knowledge and usually move on when people stop talking to me. I don’t know how to knit the kind of relationships that stand the test of time. I sometimes wonder if I have it in me.

    Erin’s comment here totally hit me in the heart:
    “I’ve come back to her idea of having to build up to a certain point in a relationship before you can trust somebody else not to be overwhelmed by what you share with them.”

    Oh boy. Oh boy oh boy oh boy. Before I learned that lesson I lost a couple of people in my life, people I thought we good friends but were not, did not want to be my friend because I had overwhelmed them by sharing too much. It has changed the way I interact online and everywhere, really. Made me share less of all of me and only the pieces I think people will be most comfortable with hearing.

    I want to love Twitter. I really do but I don’t. I was an early adopter there and involved in a lot and then it went boom and suddenly there were too many people and again, there I was, back in the corner. I couldn’t manage, even with the various tools, to keep in touch with who I wanted to keep in touch with and not spend hours and hours of time there. I do like it for following news, when something is really of interest to me, but other than that it mostly makes me feel like the unpopular kid, again.

    Facebook works for me. Despite all its great many flaws, it works. I can share pictures, for me it was plants and birds and critters when we had the house and garden and the dog. I get people who who tell me I post too many pictures of birds or of dogs but then those same people never respond to a comment I make on one of their posts so I take that mostly in stride.

    I have people who only comment when I post a photo. I have people who only comment when I post about writing. I have people who only comment when I post about family. I have people who remember we are looking for a new house and comment to ask about the search or people who, when our dog Zoey was hurt, would post to ask about her. So it’s like the blogs only different because, as you said, more people are using it. I like it even more now that we don’t have the length limit on our posts.

    My mom and my kids read my posts on Facebook but rarely ever read my blog. Friends I’ve reconnected with from high school will read about my writing life or my house hunt or the dog training episodes on Facebook but I doubt they would/will click over to my blog to read more long-winded explanations of it all.

    It’s okay. I’m gonna keep telling myself that. It’s okay.

  29. Susan Taylor Brown says:

    Okay, back for more.

    On FB, yes, there is a certain shallowness and a certain closeness that some people feel after posting something (usually a photo) and getting over 100 likes (and hardly any comments) and they think, “They like ME.” Which, as we know, is not always the case. I fall into that trap myself all the time. Oh look, that photo I just posted of X, Y or Z just got 73 likes. Which means, 73 people saw it. That’s all it means. And I have to remind myself of that.

    But for someone who lives a very introverted mostly solitary life, getting comments on FB makes me feel somewhat connected to some people and helps loosen the isolation.

    I love it when I can post letters to my characters and get people excited to see what is going to happen next. It makes me want to finish the book in progress.

    I love it when I post a picture of Zoey and people tell me their dog stories or admire her beauty or comment on how far I have come with her training because I have lost people in my life because of that dog (some my fault, some hers) and to hear nice things about her now validates the time I have put in with her.

    I love it when I can post a photo of a hummingbird in flight and people ooh and aah about it. I don’t care when people ask me about what equipment I am using because I’m not a pro who has been doing this for money for years. I’m someone who likes to take pictures and likes to share them and if you like them too, then we are both happy.

    So what I like about Facebook is that many different people are willing to interact with the many different versions of me and I feel less alone, less lonely.

  30. Fanny Harville says:

    Wow, this rich comment thread is exactly what I’ve loved about blogs and what I feel so nostalgic for as FB and Twitter seem to have supplanted them. So much food for thought here! I just wanted to add a little note, not that significant among the larger topics here: I’ve nudged bloggers who have fallen silent to say, “hey, miss your words, hope all is well with you” and appreciate receiving the same nudge when my blog has been silent. I come to *care* about bloggers in some strange way that feels a lot like real life. I enjoy FB for what it is (but just can’t get into Twitter), but I do think blogging fostered this richer kind of community and much richer intellectual exchanges than FB. I’ve learned SO much from fellow bloggers as I began homeschooling! I enjoy the social connections of FB, but I don’t really deeply learn from them as I have from the blogs I’ve read, nor do I really feel that I’ve made or strengthened friendships there as I have via blogging.

  31. Margaret @ Minnesota Mom says:

    Lissa, it’s been far too long since I said “I love you.”

    This won’t be a nice meaty comment, alas, ’cause I’m fitting it in between supper and baths, but gosh…yes…the times they are a’changin’. And I guess all we can REALLY do is just keep on keeping on despite the cultural manipulations (USA? I love AND hate you) and just keep trying to live lives of integrity.

    More later, maybe, I hope, I’ll try. For now, “the baby wants me.”

    (This from the 13-year-old who wants a break. 🙂 )

  32. sarah says:

    Oh my, there’s so much here that is wonderful and insightful, and I wish my brain was awake enough to contribute on the same level. I want to say something about sacredness and sharing, but I’m not sure if I can articulate it clearly …

    What I see is that, as people become more disconnected from their family groups and communities, they seek more connection online. I understand and support that. I’ve met so many kindred spirits online, whereas there are very few, if any, in my neighbourhood. It’s been a tremendous blessing.

    But there is a responsibility in relationship – one of care, of trust, of reciprocacy – that social media allows us to disregard. So bloggers can just disappear without a word, and people on Facebook can “shout” at each other and overshare and argue maliciously, things we would never do in real society (not if we were kind and polite) and we don’t think it matters online – but it does. Cruel comments genuinely hurt. Breaches of trust breach the heart. I myself am still wondering anxiously about a blogger who disappeared *years* ago – I don’t even remember her name, but I still wonder sometimes if she’s okay. Even a lack of comments on one’s blog can be an emotional minefield for the blogger. We are real people with real emotions pretending that we have no responsibility towards each other. To me, that’s why Facebook’s experiment was so revolting. Because they treated us like we’re not real people and like we couldn’t get really, genuinely hurt by what they were doing. I don’t think they were being ignorant, I think they were being callous.

    I also personally believe there is a sacredness in sharing your life which is being lost these days. That’s why I can understand how off-putting it would be to read on Facebook about someone’s miscarriage. When my uncle died, we could barely mention it for years, as it seemed too sacred to talk about – it seemed like when we did mention it outside the family, we were somehow gossiping. And yet, people can be extraordinarily open about all manner of “private” things. While I understand that it can be good in creating fellowship around trauma survival etc, it also seems to bulldozer over the gentle sacredness of sharing, you know? So while I love the internet and am grateful for Facebook, deep down I worry about what it is doing to the soul of our community.

    Sorry, I’m rambling here, and am probably completely off-topic.

  33. Melissa Wiley says:

    Look at this, it’s like 2006 up in here! 🙂 I’m loving this conversation, you guys. Thanks so much to all for chiming in.

    Susan, I like your observation about how FB allows for feedback from friends interested in the different versions of you. That goes along with what Erin said earlier about how we all present different sides of ourself to the different people or groups of people in our lives. Conversational topics vary among my homeschooling friends, my writer friends, my college friends, my friends with kids vs friends without, friends who garden vs friends who aren’t into that, and so on and so on. On FB, it’s often fascinating to see what topics resonate with which friends–often I’m surprised by the way my various worlds merge. Sometimes it’s awkward and sometimes it’s awesome.

    Fanny, about coming to care for bloggers you’ve read for a long time–so true, right? I have all these associations now from things I’ve read on this blog or that over the years. Chicago makes me think of Mental Multivitamin. So does St. Crispin’s Day and Henry V, for that matter. Middlemarch brings to mind Rohan Maitzen, always. I’ll never see a trillium without thinking of Ellie or think of New Zealand without thinking of Sarah E. Blackberries purpling on the branch: Jenn McG. In the grocery story when I pass the shelf with almond flour, I think of Tanita. TS Eliot: Melanie B. All these little mental associations. And as for books–it’s endless! Muriel Spark: Maud Newton. Flowers in the Attic: Bookshelves of Doom. The Tiger Who Came to Tea: Kathryn in UK. I can’t pass a bookshelf in my home without tripping over one of my blog friends. 🙂

    Erica, I *do* wish you’d start a blog! It’s not too late!

    Miranda, there are many blogs where I too am “just a reader.” In quotes because I want to say that as a writer, a blogger, I’m grateful for all readers whether they are chatty or not. Sometimes I look at the map in my stats, just to marvel at all the places around the world where someone has visited my blog.

    It’s immensely fun to see this thread bringing so many old and new friends out of the silent spaces. (Margaret! Hi!) I’ve missed this, the rich world of blog comment threads. I’m going to try to do better about replying to comments and encouraging discussion. Thanks, everyone.

  34. Melissa Wiley says:

    Sarah, I didn’t see your comment until after I’d posted mine. Yours isn’t off-topic at ALL. We have several strands of discussion going here and any one of them could keep me busy for a good long while. I’m intrigued by your thoughts about the sacredness of some topics. Something that strikes me is the connection to how one’s mind and heart work, how one handles tragedy or grief. I’m a word person. I don’t get over something until I’ve talked (or written) about it. The greater the grief, the more I need to talk about it. If blogs had existed when Jane was going through chemo, I would probably have chronicled the whole thing. And that might have put some readers off. But I would have been doing it for me. (Well, except of course there’s the whole question of privacy and how much of my kids’ stories I have the right to share, which is another topic entirely. As they get older, I write less about them.)

    And I wonder if those of us who cope with sorrow or fear though words must inevitably strike more private sufferers as inappropriately gabby or even profane (in the old sense of the word).

    But I understand it, your sense of the sacredness of loss or grief, I really do. There are losses I haven’t written about, because it’s too hard to articulate exactly how much someone means to you. Words are too powerful a force in my life and I quail at the thought of using them clumsily about something very important.

    Totally agree about the callousness of the FB experiment. Manipulating moods. That’s an ugly weapon.

    “We are real people with real emotions pretending that we have no responsibility towards each other.” There’s another big topic worthy of discussion! I haven’t seen it framed in those terms before–it’s a really arresting thought, this question of responsibility toward the connections we’ve made in the ether. If, say, you decided one day to quit blogging, leave Facebook, unplug from all of it, you wouldn’t *owe* your readers an explanation, but I’d be seriously worried and would certainly reach out. And if no answer came? I’d worry and wonder forever.

  35. sarah says:

    I agree with you about writing out the feelings – I do that myself. Even when I am in the midst of some terrible moment, a part of my brain will be composing a story about it. (I’m weird.) What I meant was a more generalised sacredness. When we share our hearts with other people, do we really want to be doing it willy-nilly, or do we want to do it with tenderness and with an opening that begs for consolation and a caring response? Facebook seems to me to encourage a blase, disconnective approach to reporting our experiences, and certainly we see often enough that people don’t always respond with humanity, and in my mind that FB study really encapsulated the whole callous, unsacred, soulless environment that Facebook can be. (I am grateful I have wonderful, loving FB friends, I’m just talking generally here.)

  36. Charlotte says:

    Just read all of the comments… too much. overload. need to process… but here are a few quick thoughts.

    LOVE/HATE: I love/hate FB too. I only got on it because I had friends who refused to communicate any other way. Seriously. No email, no blog comments, nothing but FB. I wanted to see what was going on in their life. Funny thing is now that they rarely use FB anymore. They pop on maybe once or twice a month in spurts.

    LIKES: The “Like” button: it don’t think it really means “Like” anymore. I agree with the previous commenter who said that it really just means “saw this”.

    2006: Oh the glory days of blogging! Real conversations could be had because that’s where the conversation was. Then 2007 saw the emergence of FB and I (not an early adopter) felt horribly left behind. That’s where the conversation moved to because it was more efficient and that’s where everyone was. Now, it’s still the same but the difference is also that bloggers used to also be readers…hence the conversation, but now, with so many professional bloggers, the community has been divided into bloggers and readers. Rarely do I see professional bloggers commenting anymore save maybe a few of their close friends’ blogs.

    SHALLOW?: I’ve hidden all game stuff and other stuff that I don’t want to see like all shared posts from the latest Korean pop star my niece is fascinated with (I love her, but not Korean pop). I don’t have as much trouble with stuff that seems shallow. In fact, I don’t like to get deep and personal on FB, I’d prefer to keep it shallow. That’s an extrovert thing. Extroverts tend to keep things shallower with their outer circle of friends and save the deep stuff for their inner circle of friends. What I can’t stand is the passive aggressiveness that goes on. The post that says, “I guess some days you learn who your TRUE friends are… and it’s not who you thought.” What the heck kind of status update is that? Or the ones that say, “Can’t stand hypocritical friends who show their hypocrisy on FB and then get mad when I say something about it. Oh, and unfriending me doesn’t change the fact that you are a hypocrite!” Um… if the hypocrite unfriended you, they can’t see that post, right? So… what’s the point? Grrrrrr argh!!!

    BLOGS: I know my readership has tanked. I’m ok with that because I do see it as an archive. But because I’ve been sharing more on FB and IG, I know I’m not archiving as much as I used to. Maybe that’s why my readership has tanked?

  37. Mary Alice says:

    Two thoughts:

    1) FB is both instant and addictive, and so I do think that there can be some problems there for people who are mercurial or happen to be in a bad place. You can over share, you can over react to someone else’s comments, you can get your nose bent out of shape very quickly for no good reason. I have heard friends characterize other friends as “bragging” when I read it as just sharing some good news, but I have also at times been unfairly judgy or jealous/discontent by looking at someone else’s feed. So, you have to be able to read it with kind eyes and also to walk away from it, which requires one to be in a pretty good place as far as sleep and mood are concerned. I have had a few times when it has made sense to just walk away, and I do have a few real life friends whose feeds I have hidden.

    2) One category of friends that you don’t mention are new, real life friends, and these are my favorite kind of facebook friends. For better or worse, I am slow to make friends, it takes a lot of one on one conversation for me to really care about someone. I want to know the backstory. With kids running around on the playground or under an umbrella at the side of the pool, there is rarely time for that kind of conversation. Friend me on facebook, and I can know, and really care, that your air conditioner is on the fritz, that your five year old daughter is third from the back in the chorus of the school play (adorable), that your older child made the high school football team. I can see your sister share the picture of you making a toast at her engagement party. Now, I know your back story, and our quick snippets when we see each other in the grocery store make so much more sense, and mean so much more to me. You feel like an OLD FRIEND, not just an acquaintance. Our face to face friendship can deepen.

    We get so close to our college friends because we are part of their entire story, together 24 hours a day, and we have time to hear their backstory, too, and maybe even meet their families, etc. With adult friends, we just don’t have that kind of time, but I feel a closeness because of facebook.

    As I write that, I worry a bit, though, because the time can’t really be replaced, and also there is no way to tell whether others feel the same way. I do really think, though, that the more you know about someone, the more apt you are to be kind, flexible and forgiving, so facebook helps me to do that.

    Maybe it’s a false sense of closeness and mutual understanding, though? I’ll trust you all to discuss.

  38. Ellie says:

    Mary Alice ~ you wrote this, that i think is just beautiful, and so true: ” do really think, though, that the more you know about someone, the more apt you are to be kind, flexible and forgiving, so facebook helps me to do that”. And i just wanted to thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    And Lissa, you wrote this: ”Sarah, I didn’t see your comment until after I’d posted mine. Yours isn’t off-topic at ALL. We have several strands of discussion going here and any one of them could keep me busy for a good long while. I’m intrigued by your thoughts about the sacredness of some topics. Something that strikes me is the connection to how one’s mind and heart work, how one handles tragedy or grief. I’m a word person. I don’t get over something until I’ve talked (or written) about it. The greater the grief, the more I need to talk about it. If blogs had existed when Jane was going through chemo, I would probably have chronicled the whole thing. And that might have put some readers off. But I would have been doing it for me. (Well, except of course there’s the whole question of privacy and how much of my kids’ stories I have the right to share, which is another topic entirely. As they get older, I write less about them.)
    And I wonder if those of us who cope with sorrow or fear though words must inevitably strike more private sufferers as inappropriately gabby or even profane (in the old sense of the word).
    But I understand it, your sense of the sacredness of loss or grief, I really do. There are losses I haven’t written about, because it’s too hard to articulate exactly how much someone means to you. Words are too powerful a force in my life and I quail at the thought of using them clumsily about something very important.”

    I have been pondering all of this in my heart since you posted this essay and since the conversation began …. When i first came to the internet there were two core groups of blogs that caught my attention from the very first — really, about the first week! And i found my way to both groups via the same source: the Mothering magazine online discussion forum. Homeschooling blogs and Baby Loss Blogs.

    The homeschooling, how fabulous! I quickly found wonderful blogs that way, and even eventually made friends. But it was the baby loss blogs that were the true revelation. Having suffered great losses of my own, and having been silenced for so long well … It was amazing to find these women and these spaces where openhearted discussion was acceptable! To acknowledge our grief, our struggles, our pain; the challenges and choices, all the dark paths and terrible terrible grief.

    Even today I still hear women say, “when I [recently] lost my baby, i discovered that nobody talks about it.” There are more books today than there were twenty years ago. But there is also still great silence. Unless you know where to look.

    So the blogging world, it gave me something vital: a voice, a space, a community. I understand completely that there are people for whom the open discussion of baby loss is too personal — both as a speaker online and as a reader online. We do not all have to be the same! But for many of us, this is where we can speak and read and write, on our own time, in our own online corners. And that is a wonderful good thing.

    Is FB, instagram, twitter the ‘appropriate’ space to share such news? I guess i still feel that’s got to be up to the woman in question. If i only used FB, well, that’s where I’d do my sharing, right? But i blog, and so, on my blog, it becomes quite a mish-mash, doesn’t it?? Homeschooling, my faith journey and monastic vows, health and healing and disability, loss and grief, yardening! … Well, it’s a journal, a diary. And it has become, over the years, a place to connect with friends. A gift, really.

    Thanks for hosting the conversation, Lissa 🙂

  39. Maureen E says:

    This is perhaps a slightly different tack than most of the (wonderful) comments here, but I think it might offer an interesting perspective. I’ve been blogging since 2006, when I was 18. (!!) I intentionally kept the blog and FB very separate. I have a lot of FB friends from old message boards I used to be part of, old church camps I used to attend, besides college friends and family members. In short, it’s a really wide range of people and opinions, and I didn’t want to deal with someone taking offense at something I wrote–or rather my own fear that someone would take offense.

    And then my dad was diagnosed with a glioma in February 2012. I felt such an outpouring of love from my blogging friends, and of course my friends in general. But when he was dying in November 2012, and I went out to Oregon to be with him, I decided to just update the blog, so my blogging friends could see the updates as well. So I linked the blog and FB. And then I just left it. It’s turned out to be great–I was partly afraid that people would be annoyed by my updates, but I sometimes get more comments on the FB link than I do on the actual post! Plus, I think it helps me open up a bit more to FB friends, who I tend to ranks as more acquaintances than my blogging or Twitter friends (ironic, since some of them I know in real life).

    I do get annoyed with the amount of political rhetoric that gets spewed on FB–it seems like it’s easier to get in an argument there than on other platforms, even though things can get quite contentious on Twitter. Perhaps it’s just that I choose more deliberately who to follow there, so we’re less likely to disagree.

  40. Melissa Wiley says:

    Mary Alice, beautiful thought. Good point about how FB can help a new real-life friendship blossom. I’ve experienced that too–a sense of relief, almost, that this person I encountered briefly can actually become a friend because we can ‘learn’ each other through FB. Especially with folks I’ve met at conferences. I’m thinking of a few wonderful people in particular whom I met at one dinner, one night; clicked with; might not have gotten to know beyond that if not for FB. It’s a way to hold on to the connection and strengthen it. And perhaps more socially acceptable to say “are you on Facebook?” than “you should read my blog!” 😉


    Ellie, I’m glad you revisited the subject of baby loss and whether there are spaces one ought not to talk about it. I’ve been thinking about it ever since it first came up here. It *is* a topic hedged with silence. After I had a miscarriage (years ago) I was shocked to learn how many of my friends had, too. And it did seem that the internet was the only place anyone did speak of it–homeschooling message boards, actually, were where I found women spoke of miscarriage and infant loss more openly.

    Last year a young woman I know lost her first and much-yearned-for baby at birth. She’d shared her pregnancy with her FB friends, a glowing and joyful chronicle, and after her terrible loss, she wrote frankly about her grief. Her friends and family were able to grieve with her there. It seemed very healthy to me, a shared healing process.


    Today I’ve realized another reason blog comments declined in the wake of Facebook. I made an effort, yesterday, to comment on several blogs. Today I’m clicking round to all of them to see if there were new replies. On my phone that’s quite time consuming! Some blogs have a “notify me of follow-up comments via email” box, but not all. I have one (and I just noticed that it says “e-mail” with a hyphen! gah!): does it work for you guys? Do you click the box? On other people’s blogs I don’t always remember to.

    I do offer an RSS feed of my blog comments so you can subscribe to that directly and read replies in your reader. It’s for the whole blog, though, not a specific post.

    FB offers such one-stop shopping in that regard. That little red notification button is so handy–tells you not just who has commented on your page but on other people’s threads that you’ve participated in. And the good phone/iPad functionality. It’s really hard, I think, for blog platforms to compete with that. Hard, too, to comment *at all* on some blogs via mobile apps.


    But I’m keenly aware that this conversation here wouldn’t have been likely to unfold the same way, with as much depth, on Facebook. For one thing, some of my deepest-thinking friends eschew FB and it’s here in the combox I get to enjoy their insights. (Thanks, y’all.) And then–on FB with its broader cross-section of friends & acquaintances from my different worlds: personal, professional, in between, past, present–it’s almost inevitable a conversation will be derailed. For example, if you’re talking about a homeschooling topic there, it’s very likely a friend-of-a-friend will weigh in about feeling insulted by the tone. Or (worse, in my book) I’ll post something related to my work, a book review perhaps, or news of a launch, and some dear old friend will make a wisecrack that would be seriously funny in private but is mortifying in that context, with all my professional acquaintances looking on.

  41. Fanny Harville says:

    Right, the very wide spectrum of one’s friends on FB (a big part of what makes it fun!) makes it hard to have actual conversations there. In some ways FB has become more like LinkedIn for me, as I’ve added many more professional “friends.” I’ve never bothered to restrict who among my friends can see what I post; instead I find myself posting less and less, thinking about so-and-so hotshot scholar sneering at my frivolity as I visit yet another train museum with my kid. I liked Google+’s Circles, but Google+ didn’t catch on with my friends.

  42. Charlotte says:

    I think the mobile platform issue is a huge one when it comes to comments on blogs anymore. I can’t stand using my phone for reading blogs. I use Feedly but didn’t even install the Feedly app. It’s so much easier to leave a comment on FB or IG (I know many people who use IG as a “quickblogging” platform) with a phone. And that notification service is delightful for keeping conversations going. (And Lissa, I just checked and I have “notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail” clicked down below here but I wasn’t notified of any of the comments that came after mine above so maybe it’s not working.) But what also makes FB the better choice for conversations is that you can call people’s attention to what you want them to see. I know over tagging is a no-no and can be used to excess by some people, but if I want to ask a question or get some feedback on a book, I know I can tag you and my other book loving friends and stand a better chance of them seeing it than just posting it without tags.

  43. Charlotte says:

    I meant to say above that while I don’t use my phone or iPad for reading blogs, I know so many people who do nowadays.

  44. tanita says:

    (I’ve been reading this whole conversation with nostalgia (2005 is when I started blogging) and myriad comments, esp. Susan Taylor Brown’s comments, really resonated with me. As you know, I was on FB for about five minutes, and then I had to go – I keep thinking it’ll be okay to come back someday, but the more I read… Anyway, Google+ I JUST joined, and so am trying to come to grips with all of that networking stuff again – I’m terrible at it, but I also see the value FB has for people who have friends all over — it’s a great connector. I so take your point, Liss, that it’s hard to have a single place where all of your …yous intersect – professionally, as a parent, a college chum – it’s too hard to do damage control for the various people who will either misunderstand and be offended or who are rigid and/or offensive themselves… it’s just A LOT for me. I feel more in control with blogging – and yet, I know how people will miss sharing the tiny things. For some people, a tumblr blog is a cross point in between FB and full-out blogging. I’ve just decided to blog more often; who cares if the post is a sentence long and about some passing aggravation?)

  45. Jamie says:

    LOVED this!!
    Totally agree with it all. I’ve been struggling with it myself. More with trying to fit it all in along with my favorite thing, my original thing, blogging. I’ve found that with Facebook, I don’t have time to read blogs, my favorite blogs that I used to read every single day.

    It’s that interaction that we all crave. The “like” button creates a positive for us all.
    The “like” can mean a lot of things. I find now that when I read blogs I want a “like” button, so without commenting, I can agree and be positive and move on.

    Maybe that will be next.
    Great post!

  46. shaun says:

    I love this conversation! I am not sure I can add anything new to it, but I just want to say that I love it.

    As an introvert, I really love how Facebook has connected me with people in a new way. Sometimes I have connected with people from the past, and over a couple of weeks we catch up via various comment threads, and then we mostly stop commenting or posting on each other’s walls, and that’s fine. We reconnected, affirmed happy memories or the significance of our relationship at some time, and then returned to the present.

    Facebook has also helped me think about how I interact with people I am very different from, or with whom I disagree strongly. (Maybe because of left-meets-right communities like homeschooling or urban Catholics, I have a lot of FB friends like that.) I am more cautious about sharing political posts that attack a group of people rather than an idea or position, which makes me read more critically. At the same time, with certain friends I have learned how to discuss contentious topics without ruining a friendship, which is a pretty useful skill.

    I joined FB to keep up with my niece when she went to college — she has significant physical disabilities, and her mom started a FB group to share information about how things were going and specific needs or prayer requests. By now, it is definitely the best way for me to know what is going on with niblings or cousins I see only every few years at best.

    I do have FB friends whose status updates are dull, or who carp on too much about political points that have been made 100 times in better ways by better writers, but I love them for other reasons. And I *definitely* have that FB friend whose repeated complaints about tedious or shallow posts have become more tedious than anything else I see on my wall. Scrolling past is pretty easy.

    I miss blogging and the blog world a lot. But I’m just not sure how much I have to say about the topics I initially blogged about anymore. Homeschooling in particular — it became so much the norm for us that it seemed like blogging what we ate for breakfast every day. (Although of course there are many great homeschool bloggers — I am speaking more about what it felt like to write than what the actually content might have been.) And then there is the whole writing-about-older-children conundrum. I keep poking my nose back in, but there’s no doubt that sometimes FB gets a thought that I might have developed as a short post, back in the day. Too many obstacles conspiring against regular blogging.

  47. Melissa Wiley says:

    Charlotte, thanks for letting me know that my comment notifications aren’t working for you. I’ll look into it. Anyone else?

    You’re so right about the handiness of tagging!

    Shaun, I saw that you shared this post on your FB page and I thought one of your commenters had a reply that succinctly expressed its good side: she said she had a young nephew she’d never met in person but she was watching him grow up, day by day. Bingo.


    One takeaway I have from this conversation is to want to know more about what my blog readers (you guys!!) would like to see here. I’ve talked about using my blog for *me* — chronicling the things I want to remember, tracking books read, and so forth — and of course the authory stuff too. Versus Facebook, which I think of as the place to keep up with what others want to share. But that dichotomy probably sells Bonny Glen short a little, since I think of its other primary purpose as what one of my readers long ago called “sharing the resources that make learning a joy.” I’ve had high and low tides of that kind of posting. I used to dish out advice much more liberally in the early days, when I was a very knowledgeable 30-something. 😉 (Charlotte, was it your blog where this came up recently? The quieter-ness of the 40-something moms compared to the moms with younger kids? Another worthy topic, and one related to the point Shaun and others (me too) have made about how family-blogging changes when your kids get older and their stories are fully THEIR stories.)

    Anyway, my thought here was to ask (and maybe it should be a new post, but feel free to answer here if you like) if there are topics you wish I wrote about more often here, or discussions you’d like to have in this space.

  48. Amy C. says:

    Love this conversation. I’m trying to soak up every word, and trying not to be overwhelmed with the very real affection I have for so many of you here in this combox, people I’ve never met and probably never will.

    So many thoughts, though most of them amount to “what she said.” 🙂 I’m with Karen, wishing everyone had migrated to Google+ . . . it was my gateway to FB, which I resisted for a long time. G+ really felt like it addressed some of the appropriateness and depth issues of social media to me, and so I jumped in, happily pondering the issues as I crafted my circles. I know it wasn’t perfect, but . . . sigh. Lissa, I’m curious how you see G+ now, and if you use it at all or if the lack of critical mass killed its appeal for you.

    When I hear people talk about how FB is shallow, I find myself agreeing and bristling at the same time. I don’t like shallow when it veers into wallowing, but otherwise I tend to enjoy the shallow posts. Whether it’s a good dinner or a good report at the dentist or a good song someone’s listening to, I love the mindfulness that FB brings out of people, the awareness that our lives are full of things that are worth noting.

    Oooh! The relative quietness of older moms . . . hope someone runs with that, can’t wait to see where it goes! And every other thread on this post. I can’t seem to find the brain power to put together sentences these days, but I’ll be eagerly reading the rest of this conversation and smiling virtually at all of you. Thanks for the lovely points to ponder.

  49. Melanie B says:

    I have so much I want to respond to, but for now I just wanted to drop a link to an article that seemed timely and felt like it might inform the discussion (oops almost posted a link to an entirely different article that pertains to a highly political discussion I’m involved in on someone else’s FB page) http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/07/01/communities-vs-networks-to-which-do-you-belong/?hvid=1GrQRX

    I’m not sure about the author’s claim that networks are necessarily top down or that communities must be geographically based. This thread is a case in point. (Unless you consider a blog to be a sort of virtual geography? That’s an interesting side topic we could develop.) We all chose to be here because we share values and concerns and interests, at least to some degree. And I do think blogs and other groups have found ways of holding members accountable at least to some degree. Maybe we need a third category, something in between? A virtual community is shallower and less cohesive because of the lack of physical locale, but can share more in common with a community than a network. But my experience of meeting blog friends face to face does suggest that there’s something more there.

    Communities vs networks. It does seem to me some people see FB as exclusively a networking site, and that’s fine. But I also think that people tend to look for communities and they can form anywhere. I like what Mary Alice said about how learning more about people can make us kinder. I’m much more likely to get involved in hot topic conversations with people I know fairly well, even on FB, and it is so annoying when someone I don’t know at all jumps in and derails the amicable conversation by slinging personal aspersions against me. I trust the friend who is hosting the conversation, but I don’t know their friends or trust them. I trust conversations in my own space much more because I do curate my friends list and those who are going to be rude and disrespectful will get the boot.

  50. Melanie B says:

    One more thought about miscarriages and Facebook. A few weeks ago a friend, who had already excitedly shared news of her most recent pregnancy with everyone, announced that sadly they had lost the baby. Immediately she was inundated with prayers and virtual hugs. I felt inspired to send her Karen Edmisten’s lovely book about Miscarriage and evidently it was the right thing to do. She was very, very touched.

    I’m not saying this to toot my own horn, but to reinforce what Ellie said. I was very happy that I had that resource to pass on to her and was able to offer more than just sympathetic words and prayers, as valuable as those are. I’m glad she spoke up and shared about her miscarriage on Facebook because we don’t know each other at all in real life, she’s a friend of a friend, and she would never have emailed me about the topic.

    We all deal with grief differently and for me miscarriage or the death of my grandmother were not something I wanted to keep quiet about or that I felt private about. I respect those who feel that way about grief, but it’s kind of an alien way of looking at it to me. For me grief has both its public and private faces. I suppose I see FB posts about it as being somewhat akin to the Victorian wearing crepe. The only problem is that we no longer have a universal convention, a public ritual of mourning and so we don’t quite know how to navigate it in the public sphere. And especially with miscarriage where even religious structures don’t quite know how to make that grief into a formalized sacred experience. When there is not a funeral or any public acknowledgement of the loss, grieving parents can feel at sea. I can see where a FB post might even be a cry for help and support.

  51. monica says:

    Y’all have inspired me to resurrect my blog. 5 minutes a day, thats all. Here is my first post in over a year:

  52. KimP says:

    What kind of posts do I like to read here? Posts that come from you and your pondering deeply brain. I don’t have a lot of opportunity for meaty conversations like this and know I can depend on listening in on one here every once in awhile. 🙂

    I love blogs. I love the personal look into someone’s life and experience that they’re willing to share. I know there are friends and family that really do care about what’s happening in our life and look forward to the next blog post. That keeps me writing (archiving), and since it’s a “private” blog, I’m much freer to share the details that I wouldn’t just throw out into the free-for-all that Facebook can be.

    Facebook I like for different reasons. For many people, a quick glimpse is really all I want or need. I care about people but don’t have the time or energy to have a deep relationship with them all. Facebook allows me to get the glimpse, offer encouragement when I can, and have some small clues about what to talk about with people I don’t see very often. It seems much easier for me (an introvert, to some degree) to start a conversation with someone if I have a general idea what they have been doing lately or what their interests are. I can gather that information on Facebook much simpler than any other platform.

    Facebook can also be much like people watching. Quite entertaining, so many types make the world go ’round, and I find it fascinating to witness just how many different types there are! 😀

  53. Tabatha says:

    Very interesting post and comments! I am on FB, but not really, as I almost never post, and I go on too infrequently to feel as though I am keeping up with people that way. It seems as though the fact that I am not on much changes what I see and who sees what I post on the occasional times I do share something?

    When my grandmother died, my cousin posted about it on FB before her dad had a chance to call everyone he wanted to call, and some people were mad at him because they heard about it through FB. It was rough to have people annoyed with one another at the funeral.

  54. Melissa Wiley says:

    Melanie wrote: “We all deal with grief differently and for me miscarriage or the death of my grandmother were not something I wanted to keep quiet about or that I felt private about. I respect those who feel that way about grief, but it’s kind of an alien way of looking at it to me. For me grief has both its public and private faces. I suppose I see FB posts about it as being somewhat akin to the Victorian wearing crepe. The only problem is that we no longer have a universal convention, a public ritual of mourning and so we don’t quite know how to navigate it in the public sphere. And especially with miscarriage where even religious structures don’t quite know how to make that grief into a formalized sacred experience. When there is not a funeral or any public acknowledgement of the loss, grieving parents can feel at sea. I can see where a FB post might even be a cry for help and support.”

    I appreciate your thoughts here. I think you’re right—we have all these new means of communication and connection now but not only haven’t we quite figured out the etiquette, we haven’t really figured out whether they are public or private spheres. Even in the face-to-face world, some people may be less comfortable hearing others express grief openly, or may consider it inappropriate in certain circumstances. Miscarriage, especially, because it can be an invisible loss, so to speak–no one knows unless you tell them. I’m glad you were able to offer some comfort to your FB friend.

    And here I find myself thinking: see, this is something blogs do really well–create a space for conversations like this.

    Tabatha, I’ve seen a situation like that, too–where someone was quite upset to find out some news because it was posted on FB before all the phone calls were made. (In that instance it was actually good news, but the older relative was still kind of crushed not to have been told before it was shared at large.) But…I think as time goes on, that will start to seem more…normal? Typical? I sense that digital natives will be more likely to spread personal news via social media and it may not seem like a breach of etiquette to announce it that way, the way it may to older generations now.

  55. Jennifer Gregory Miller says:

    I’m behind on comments as usual. I read the first half, but I don’t think I’m caught up. But I’ve been pondering this. I’m not on FB for various reasons, but was actually going to join for newer reasons…but not looking forward to it. It’s become a bit of necessary evil these days.

    I dislike FB and Twitter for many reasons, but one of the biggest in relation to the comments above is being an introvert, I can only handle so much. So much pettiness and minutiae — it is draining and exhausting. I need to be able to withdraw, to be alone with my own thoughts or mull over what I’ve read. Often the conversations move too fast. Other formats move a bit slower, requiring time for responses. Blog posts don’t disappear. Yahoo or board formats are also slower.

    And like another commenter, some Twitter behavior is surprising and a turn-off. for some that I follow I see a side that I wish I hadn’t seen.

    For FB and Twitter, there still is a person on the other side. Unfollowing or unfriending can be hurtful. But an introvert needs to protect her space.

  56. Natalia says:

    I just read this post today. I didn’t look at the date to see when it was written and I am commenting without reading all the comments ( I intent to read them all) but I just have to comment. Recently, I connected again with friends from my high school in the Dominican Republic via Whatsapp. Most of us went to the same school since we were 3 years old. When we, my generation, discovered FB, there was tons of excitement about seeing each other again, seeing each other’s husbands and kids. But, later on, I feel, the novelty wore off and now, FB feels like a place where people collect friends. There are many friends- those same ones I am” whatsapping” with that have been on FB for years and I don’t feel that the real connection was there. There are pictures and news but not real conversation or even conversation at all. Now we have this WA group and all of the sudden we are talking to each other daily, sharing, joking, praying. It has been a closer connection that I have ever experienced on Fb. But, like Lissa said, I wouldn’t leave FB for what might miss. I get my news on FB. If it is important it will be on FB. So each day I peruse FB briefly in search of I must know. 🙂

  57. Abigail Benjamin says:

    This post is so rich! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

    I’m an extrovert and a Carmelite. It’s kind of a weird mix. I feel like God is pulling me out of my natural sanguine “So what is everyone talking about today?” and more into introspection “What am I thinking about today?” I loved Facebook and was on it for hours everyday. It kept me sane while my 5th baby was in the awful throes of colic. I liked having an easy social connection while my baby was having such unpredictable crying fits that just going into our public library for 20 minutes was potentially traumatic for me as her Mama.

    I left Facebook for a year after I started writing a book. I kept up my blog. At first, it felt awesome to get off of Facebook. Then I missed it horribly. Now I’m not sure about it. I feel like when I’m not plugged into every social fad in Catholicism, I’m more free to really figure out what I’m supposed to do with my Faith. Often the answer is “Sit Still. Be Little. Try again at something that is hard for you to do….”

    The weird part is that the less I’m engaged with the world, the more opportunities come knocking on my door. I’ve spent the better part of 6 months writing on my blog about miscarriage. Not a sexy topic. Yet, I recently I got asked by Disney to do a Film Review out of the blue. Tomorrow 3 kids and I are going to a Movie Premier for the new Planes: Fire and Rescue. We love the movies! My girls went shoe shopping for the big night with all the excitement of dress buying for the Oscars.

    I think what honors God most on social media is when I’m the real “me.” Not the cleaned up me, or the me I wish I was, or a hipper version of me. I’m grateful for the time on Blogger, Facebook and Twitter that’s helped me reflect more on the real me. I appreciate it to high heaven when other people are super honest about their true selves. It’s rare to find that level of honesty on social media–but honesty itself is a rare trait to find in the world.