Sunday, December 14, 2008

End Of The Semester

This is my last blog post for the online graduate class I've been taking. I will make an effort to continue to blog regularly after this class is over. ENG 830 has made me fall in love with my own blog all over again! I read an article for this class by Stephen Krause in which a student asked the question, "How empowering is is to be forced to blog?" I laughed at that when I read it, but now I can state definitively that it is empowering to be "forced' to blog. The article made a case for blogging as a method for training writers. The unidentified student who voiced the original opinion was in an online class similar to the one I'm taking now. Krause's 2004 class was ultimately a failure. i think if he were to teach it again today, student response would be completely different. The blog explosion that has been taking place has been phenomenal. Everyone has a blog these days.

I never gave much thought to blogging other than as a way to satisfy my own ego via some humorous, relevant and irreverent content--with a healthy dose of snark thrown in. I didn't see blogging as a way to hone my use of language but that lesson is one that I have taken to heart after one semester of "forced" blogging. Any chance to use, and improve my use of, language is valuable. As an English major, I can use my blog as another academic outlet. As a fiction writer in training, my electronic musings could very well end up in some of my work. Blogs are yet another tool through which writing/English teachers can force their students to sit down and write. If the experience is a good one, those students will continue to use the tools at their disposal. I spend another 60-120 minutes a week blogging--two hours of writing on top of the creative writing and journaling I do every day.

End-of-semester final thoughts--the snarky ones. I'll save the real ones for the class discussion boards:

Facebook is fun and so far, stalker-free (knock wood)

Amazon's Kindle is SOOO Star Trek:TNG. Remember how the Enterprise crew read books on tiny little handheld screens? OMG, it's like the future, only now.

I love Apple. I hate Apple. Now that my older iPod no longer functions, thanks to my plugging it into my new laptop thinking it would work (what was I thinking?!) I'm leaning more toward Hate every day.

I prefer email over IMing. I never, ever text.

Eddie Bauer emailed me a $10 gift certificate good toward any item. Because I now had a discount, I bought a sweater I wouldn't have otherwise bought.

And finally:

I am very, very tired.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Reconnecting Through Facebook

Last week I blogged about the fun and frolicking Facebook has afforded me in recent months. While Battle of the Bands and virtual Christmas trees are enormously entertaining, I can finally see why social networking is so popular. For me personally, the one redeeming aspect of Facebook, beyond the fun and games and endless poking (I know, I keep harping on the poking) is the fact that I have been able to reconnect with a few friends I thought I'd never hear from again. I know I mentioned this in last week's post, but I want to be a little more specific today while discussing this one aspect in which Facebook has enriched my life.

When I was in college I had a friend named Dave. He was a hometown friend rather than a college friend so I saw him during breaks and all summer long. Dave, along with my sister Lyn and I, was a musician, a guitar player. Dave, Lyn and I used to jam a lot, mostly renditions of our favorite songs, or reaaally bad, amateurish "compositions" (I use the term loosely) of our own. Most of the time we would play in our friend Ion's basement. Looking back twenty-two years later, our rendition of the surf classic "Wipeout" wasn't so bad. Hey, at least we didn't do "Stairway to Heaven."

Not long after I joined Facebook in September, I received a Friend request from Dave. He was typing in names of long-lost friends to see if anyone popped up and discovered I was now on Facebook. I have to admit I've done the same thing since joining, and luckily, the old friends I basically cyberstalked weren't offended. We've chatted a few times since reconnecting--twenty-two years is a lot of time to catch up on. It's been great hearing about my friend's life and his family. Dave pokes me every single day. I poke back. He sends Drinks requests often. This is one of the games I just can't stop playing. The more drinks you send and receive, the more drinks are unlocked. The game's goal is to get drunk--in a virtual sense, of course.

This is the beauty of the electronic age. I have been able to correspond with someone I thought I'd never hear from again. Our friendship is conducted entirely electronically. We leave messages on Facebook, write on each other's walls and e-mail occasionally. Contact ranges from a simple comment on a silly status update to long emails where we catch each other up on our lives. We haven't really gotten to the telephone stage yet for some reason. Maybe, after twenty + years, electronic communication is enough. Maybe we'll work our way up to real-life communication. My friend asked me if I was heading down to CT for Christmas. For the first time in 6 years I'm staying here for Christmas. Otherwise, we would have met somewhere in person. I'm sad not to be able to see Dave in person, but for now, "e-communication" as I'll call it, is enough. We check in on each other almost every day. We share photos, joke with each other, reminisce--all online. For now, it's plenty. The internet has brought us back into each other's lives, even if it is in a smaller sense than the friendship we once had. But thanks to Facebook, we're sort of picking up right where we left off. We each have the same sense of humor, same sensibilities. It's nice to know there really was no falling out between us, we just drifted off on our separate lives. It happens. But Dave and I are cool. We'll probably meet up again sometime in the near future. For now, I'm off to Facebook to send him another ornament for his virtual Christmas tree. And poke him.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Adventures in Facebooking

I began my first completely online college course back in September. While the course has been fraught with some technological challenges for me, the one requirement I was initially opposed to was having the join Facebook. I'm basically a loner in the real world so naturally I'm much the same in the virtual, anonymous world of the internet. I didn't want to join a social networking site. Facebook is for kids, i told myself, dominated by teens, tweens and twentysomethings in order to keep track of their friends in between the constant texting and iPod usage. Mainly, though, I was reluctant to join Facebook out of fear of stalking and harassment. Turned off by the stories of MySpace and Facebook incidents, the last thing I wanted to do was join and post my real name out there for anyone to see. At first I found the site daunting. The layout confused me. Someone from college--someone i was not particularly fond of--tried to Friend me. I ignored the request until he sent it again. I had to formally Ignore him. It made me feel like a jerk. Particularly annoying were the ever-present ads. I found the fact that they were sometimes tailored to the hobbies I listed in my profile to be a little creepy. And for some reason, Facebook feels the need to remind me on a daily basis that I am over Forty and single.

Fast-forward three months. I love Facebook! I have to admit: I loved Facebook almost immediately. Right off the bat I had a handful of friends as each member of the class added their classmates to their Friends list. There's something gratifying about receiving a Friend request. It makes me feel popular. I wasn't prepared for how addictive Facebook is. The Friending with a capital F! The games! The Gifts! The Poking! Where does it all end? In the three months I've been on Facebook I've reconnected with a number of old friends I never thought I'd hear from again. Within the first week online I received a Friend request from a guy I went to high school with. Soon after that a college friend contacted me. When I saw another mutual college friend in her Friends list I contacted her. Two friends of mine in Scotland contacted me as well. It's nice to be in contact with these people again. I didn't have any falling-out with any of them, life simply got in the way and we all just drifted on to other things and places. It happens. So far no stalking or harassment has taken place!

I was unprepared for the extent of Facebook's networking capabilities. Not only individuals use Facebook; organizations, indie publications and music labels maintain an online presence. Know who else is on Facebook? Rock bands! I now get up-t-date information on tours, album releases and surprise appearances from my favorite artists. Most of the bands only have the option to become a Fan rather than Friend, but Denver-based Dressy Bessy actually has the Friend option. And they accepted my Friend request! Now I, along with 4,325 other people, can count Dressy Bessy as a friend. It's sad, but it's all I have in my otherwise pathetic life. Another thing I was not expecting: groups. There are groups for everything, from fans of certain TV shows to rock bands to political organizations. Groups are fun! The SSC English department, Grad School English majors and our literary publications have Facebook groups.

Poking around Facebook is fun. Reconnecting with real-life friends has been rewarding even in the short amount of time I've been on Facebook. The time-wasting aspects are fun, such as Battle of the Bands and Drink Requests. I'm getting annoyed at being bombarded with the Li'l Green Patch requests though. Beyond Facebook's initial playground-like euphoria, Facebook's benefits are becoming clear. Facebook fulfills a basic social need. For me, it's been an enhancement to my reall-world life rather than a replacement. As long as that is the case, I will continue to network and socialize. Beyond the internet opportunities to network are everywhere. Indie publishers abound on Facebook and along with them, the opportunity to submit work and to connect with people already doing what I want to do: write. Event invitations are opportunities to meet locally in person and participate in open mikes, poetry slams and other events.

I finally see why Facebook, and social networking online, is so popular. And yes dear Facebook, now that I've had some time to mull it over, I would be interested in meeting a hot over-forty doctor.