facebook or not?

I recently engaged with facebook (no, I didn’t buy stock), but I gave in. I concluded that I needed at least to understand (is that possible?) and experience the social media phenomena and at most learn from and enjoy the connection to friends and colleagues, most of whom I know, but some of whom I just read and some of whom read me.

For the last three months I’ve checked my “wall” every few days and scroll through hundreds of shared observations, photos, and comments. The process is surprisingly quick.  I engage more like a magazine editor with an unexamined metric for judgment, pausing to “like” certain contributions, commenting on a few and sharing even fewer on my own personal and authors’ facebook pages.

For the present at least I’ve limited my fb world and page largely to literature and human rights in order to put some boundary on the possibilities and on that evaporating commodity of privacy–not a 21st century value and an oxymoron in a discussion of facebook.  That is not to say I don’t enjoy the news and photos and commentary on a range of issues from all the friends, but in my fb space, this is my focus for now.

I enjoy Roxana Robinson’s regular lyric observations of nature and Richard Bausch’s paragraphs of wisdom about the writing process, Melissa Pritchard’s postings on the writing of women in Afghanistan and book reviews by Alan Cheuse, Ron Charles and Marjorie Kehe’s book pages in The Christian Science Monitor, one of the remaining newspapers that actually covers books. I follow stories in Poets and Writers magazine and the news from PEN International and its many centers and the compelling cases of writers who are in prison for their work.

The recent troubling, and oddly comic, posting from Salman Rushdie alerted me to the news that the Islamic Association of Students has developed “The Stressful Life of Salman Rushdie and Implementation of His Verdict” video game to “introduce Iranian culture, value and Islamic identity.”  How does one even comment on that? !!!!!!! was the best I could do.  To add context, earlier this month the Iranian government handed down prison sentences to translator and women’s rights activist Manijeh Najm Eraghi (aka Araghi) and economist and writer Fariborz Rais Dana, who were detained for their membership in the Iranian Writers Association and for transmission of statements and interviews that criticized the government.

At least a quarter of the postings from friends I can’t read because they are in Arabic, Japanese, Russian, Polish, Romanian, Turkish, Kurdish, Nepalese, Portuguese, Serbo-Croatian, Albanian, Danish, Swedish, Italian, Chinese, French, and Spanish (the latter two languages I can skim). These postings remind me of the effort these friends go through when we meet, and they speak English to me.

I have yet to develop (and may not) my own fb voice. Once a month for the past years I’ve posted this blog, a bit of an anachronism in the fast moving, clipped social media world, but so far that is my offering to the internet.  I hope friends old and new will enjoy the musings. Most of my writing goes into books and thus far printed work. For now I remain an editor of my own fb page, poised on the sidelines with a quick-blink selection process that appreciates all but shares only a few.

To follow up last month’s  blog post on the Olympics, I’m linking  to one of the more interesting projects I discovered through facebook. The Poetry Parnassus will be part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad held at the same time as the Olympics in London. On the map linked above you can find poetry from all the countries competing in the Olympics and read poems ranging from Ireland’s Seamus Heaney to Kazakhstan’s Akerke Mussabekova  to Tanzania’s Haj Gora Haji to Colombia’s Raul Henao to Canada’s Karen Solie to  Fiji’s Sudesh Mishra.  One hundred and forty-five of the poets will appear at the Southbank Center in the Festival of the World, the largest  poetry festival ever hosted in the UK. I’m sure I would have heard about the festival eventually, but I got the news first on a facebook share from a friend in England.


  1. Chiara Macconi on July 8, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    dear Joanne,
    I joined Fb because I want to have an idea of what goes on and , as you said, mainly write about literature and human rights. I’m astonished at the kind of comments people jot down after a political “so to say” sentence and I find myself totally out of this kind of malevolent, dirty, easy negative kind of writing…therefore I prefer quiet blogs where writers express thei views and we can interact on issues that can be complex…facebook and social media most play on belly emotions or simplistic ways….it enhances the feeling of belonging to a golden stage
    thanks for your blog

  2. Joanne on July 9, 2012 at 7:43 am

    Thank you, Chiara. I appreciate the comment and especially glad to know someone is reading!

  3. Judy Tyrer on July 9, 2012 at 10:10 am

    For the editor of the magazine, it is work. But for the consumer of the magazine, it is entertainment. People share little bits of their creativity to small audiences. At least, that’s my favorite part.

  4. Fred on July 9, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Thought you might like to know that some of your readers are so old-fashioned that they not only enjoy reading blogs, but also can’t unravel spam queries.

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