Thursday, September 10, 2009


Lost Weekend
I've been knee-deep in Facebook and Twitter for the past couple months, and while I've enjoyed myself immensely, I've finally arrived at the realization that in so doing I've been — perhaps subconsciously — involving myself in these new media vehicles not only because they're fun, but also because they're a lot easier than blogging.

As I’ve mentioned before, it seems I’ve hit a bit of a dry patch in my motivation to write lately, due in no small part to the even drier patch I struck about two years ago with relation to coming up with new story material.

Problem is, I’ve pretty much always written only about my life, my family, and my moods. Unfortunately, over the course of five-plus years’ blogging, I think I’ve pretty much told the lion’s share of my life’s story, so the only thing left is my mood — and right now my mood stinks. I'm not inspired; I'm not motivated; I’m not really happy, but I’m not sad either. Usually one of those four things are at the personal forefront whenever I write. But right now, I got nothin’ — zippo; zilch; nada; the big donut.

This past Labor Day weekend brought my circumstance into focus.

It felt like a completely wasted five days to me — I had taken additional vacation days on Thursday and Friday to augment the three-day weekend and make it a mini-vacation. I’d had every intention of making it a blogging vacation. My wife was out of town visiting our daughter in Atlanta; I had four solid days with which to work. One would think I could at least ply a couple decent posts in that amount of time. Instead I got nothing done, apart from posting some photos on Facebook along with my typical Saturday barrage of activity on Twitter. Sure, I had some other tasks around the house that needed attention, and I did them. However I still had plenty of time with which to write if I’d applied myself; but I didn't. I just wasn’t inspired. I just wasn’t feelin’ it.

However, don’t get me wrong; my purpose for this gloomy preface really isn’t about flogging myself for having writer’s block; One positive thing did arise from my lost weekend: the realization of why it was lost in the first place. Things have been coming to a head in that regard for a long time, and as a result I’ve finally realized that I must somehow push back in order to stem the tide.

What I’m experiencing isn’t new or different from what every other writer who’s ever lived experiences from time to time. I just didn’t believe it would happen to me. I’ve needed a reason to do something different, and now I’ve got one. I’m going to experiment with something that hopefully will kill a flock ‘o seagulls with one stone.

I’ve decided to get past my dearth of inspiration by drawing some from another who never seems to run out of ideas, and who actually encourages folks like me to do what I’m going to do; to “carry on the conversation” to venues beyond her own blog; to add ideas and opinions that will hopefully spur others to do the same..

The LIZ-a-nator
Say what you will about the ‘preaching to the choir’ nature of Twitter, but this sometimes incestuous echo chamber of the social media channel isn’t entirely composed of regurgitated material. While some of the medium’s mavens can come off as at least slightly egocentric and self-absorbed, there are still many more who leave even the most personable ‘real-time’ types looking like narcissists.

One of these marvelous folks is Liz Strauss. Now Liz and I aren’t pals, per ce, but I’m certain that if ever we were to meet she would treat me like a dear old friend. Out in the Twitterverse those kind of personal characteristics can sometimes be a mirage, but in Liz’s case, after observing her for nearly an entire year, I believe that what you read really is what you get — either that or she should drop this gig and become a politician, ‘cuz she’s a natural.

Tawk amongst y’selves...
A highly sought-after conference and public speaker, one of the daily irons in the fire of Liz Strauss’s career is the support and evangelization of blogging in social media. She herself pens three blogs, one of which is targeted directly at the support and growth of other bloggers.

Successful and Outstanding Bloggers (or, S.O.B. for short) is Liz’s daily invitation to hack thru the kudzu; an opportunity to apply fresh opinions to fresh ideas and release them into the blogosphere. Simply stated, Liz choses a topic, often one that’s been brewing on Twitter or other social media outlets for the previous 24 hours, and places it on the table à la Mike Meyers’ SNL character, Linda Richman, to “talk amongst yourselves.” The effect can be manifold. First, it extends the discussion beyond its original bounds and potentially brings many more people into the conversation, providing new ways of looking at a subject, creating ideas and story material for others to write about, which can in turn spawn countless other potential conversations.

It’s a great concept, and nobody does it better than Liz. So, considering my current plight of not having anything compelling to write about, I figured I would take the opportunity to exercise my SOB genes and give it a try.

For the next seven days (or as often as Liz updates her SOB blog seven times) I plan to continue the conversation and see where it leads.

Wednesday’s topic was particularly apropos to what I’ve been involving myself with lately: Twitter and Facebook. Liz asked, “What IS Facebook” — not as in a literal definition, but rather as in relation to Twitter as a metaphor for a conversation. Some of the respondents to Liz’s poll related it to a party, whereas Twitter was more like a business meeting, “a huge networking room,” as someone put it.

The opinions were fairly varied, but whatever the analogy, the basic difference thing fairly unanimous: Twitter is the more formal of the two media, primarily because of its more restrictive 140-character input limit. And while conversations are trackable through the use of hashtags and more readily available with alternative Twitter interface apps like TweetDeck, that 140 character limit for responses just seems to create an air of formality that sometimes is hard to break through.

Facebook has no such barriers. It’s threaded commenting interface makes it easy to follow even lengthy conversations in a way that Twitter simply can’t do well on its own.

However the judging the physical merits of the two social media clients wasn’t really the question here, but rather, what they represent in comparison, metaphorically.

Liz Strauss’s initial question on the table was “What is Facebook”? She then refined that by adding, “If Twitter is a huge networking room, what is Facebook?

Allow me now to wax a little metaphorical…

Twitter is indeed a huge room; one whose only networking limitation is your willingness to walk up to someone and say hello. Some folks you encounter may indeed ignore your engagement, but if you’re genuine, and have something worthwhile to say, people are highly likely to return that engagement, albeit only 140-characters at a time.

Personally I love Twitter. I love the rapid-fire tenor of the conversations flying back and forth. It can be challenging to follow the story at times, but it’s never dull.

Facebook on the other hand is more like a large, but private, hospitality suite; big enough to house a large group of your closest friends or acquaintances you’d like to become friends, but intimate enough to hold lengthy conversations with any number of those friends, complete with the sharing of photos, videos, or even a party game or two.

So despite the fact that I still prefer Twitter, Facebook has really been growing on me of late, as I begin to plugin more and more to the lives of former high school mates and family members who are discovering its value as a connection tool.

Bottom line is, both are equally valuable for accomplishing the mission of social media, particularly as potential business applications — but that’s another discussion (and metaphor) for another time.

I promise it won’t be quite as long-winded.

NextContinuing the Conversation
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