Category Archives: Facebook

My Year, According to Social Media

I think many would agree that 2012 went very fast. Some may have enjoyed the ride, while others are glad that a new year is just around the bend. In an attempt to recap this blur for myself, I turned to my posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare. This exercise made me wonder how fully and accurately the images portrayed by social media reflect our lives—and if the content we share with virtual communities somehow has the reverse effect of informing our experiences.

I will try to address these ideas after presenting sample highlights from my online existence this year:

January: On the 6th, I made a New Year’s resolution not to procrastinate. On the 6th.Brownies

February: On Valentine’s Day, I baked gluten-free double-chocolate walnut brownies for my husband.

March: It rained on my birthday, the 31st; I celebrated with champagne and the best burger in town.

April: I began avoiding chocolate, wine, and fried foods (i.e., all the things that make life worth living), due to a GI issue.

Dogs YawningMay: On the 7th, I photographed two of my dogs yawning at the same time. On the 8th, I received my first writing assignment from my coach, due the next day (the metaphorical equivalent of walking over hot coals).

June: On the 23rd, I attended the annual Solstice Parade in Santa Barbara. (There were mimosas.)

July: My husband grilled on the 1st, a Sunday, which pleased me. On the 15th, I attended a wedding out of town. I must have caught a cold on the trip, because I fed it with Chinese food on the 20th.

August: On the 21st, I announced that I was considering starting a blog about writing a novel, which struck me as the perfect way to avoid actually writing the novel.

September: On the morning of the 19th, I accidentally wrote a haiku: “Shiver me timbers! / It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day. / Too early for rum?” I got bangs on the 20th, and made a big deal out of that.Novel-Gazing

October: This blog went live on the 2nd!

November: Between the 1st and the 30th, I wrote the first 5,000 words of my novel. (I wrote just about as many words regarding the process.)

December: On the 20th, I had a pumpkin spice latte (with whipped cream), in case the Mayans were right and it was my last day on Earth.

These mundane things really happened, which is not hard to believe. What may be hard to believe is that, in some cases, I snazzed up the events for public consumption. For example, on December 20, I was meeting a friend for coffee and would have had a pumpkin spice latte anyway. Still, I enjoyed the beverage a little bit more due to the backstory I had created for it in a Facebook post. So maybe the effort to make a moment sharable with a network of friends actually enhances it.

On the other hand, there are times when my dogs are doing something cute, and they’ll stop if I make a move toward a camera; so the moment becomes even sweeter, because I know it is only mine to enjoy.

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Dear Prudence: Time Waster or Idea Machine?

In my first session with my writing coach, she asked me to identify things I was doing that were wasting time; eliminating these productivity killers could free me up to do some writing. Two of my distracting behaviors were being on Facebook and looking out the window. (Damn, I just stared at the trees for half a minute.) I was a bit embarrassed to reveal a third habit: reading the advice column Dear Prudence. In addition to devouring the semiweekly installments, I had been delving into the Dear Prudencearchives all the way back to 2007. At one point, I even considered writing to Prudie herself for guidance on how to overcome my obsession.

Prudence (Emily Yoffe) fields queries regarding social etiquette, relationships, family, and the workplace. So what was it about the column’s questions and answers that merited hours of my time? For one thing, I enjoyed comparing my own reactions against Prudie’s. Often, we were in agreement. Yes, a man who asks his girlfriend to get a nose job and then wants to dump her when she is disfigured by the procedure is kind of a jerk. Yes, it is bad form for a bride to ask the groom’s mother not to wear a dress with spaghetti straps because she finds the look age-inappropriate. In other cases, I was enlightened by Prudie’s point of view.

I also saw a distinct benefit to reading the column, one with a direct application to my writing: The situations people described were fantastic fodder for fiction! For example, here are some story ideas based on actual letters:

  • Relationship drama: A husband and wife are having trouble conceiving when she finds out he is having an affair with her sister. After a traumatic confrontation, the couple moves away to make a fresh start. A few weeks later, the sister announces her pregnancy.
  • Psychological: A school bully becomes a young mother. When her daughter experiences some minor bullying, she is prompted to track down and make amends to the classmates she once tormented. She finds out that one girl, who switched schools because of her, committed suicide.
  • Thriller: A couple moves to the town where the husband’s bachelor brother lives. The husband, who travels frequently, encourages his brother to watch out for his wife. She catches the guy peering in through the bedroom window. Then he lets himself into the house while she is showering.
  • Romantic comedy: A woman discovers that she and her daughter are dating a father and son. Both couples have been talking about marriage.
  • Legal: A man who works at a small company finds out there is a plot to oust the controversial CEO with a false claim of sexual harassment. The human resources department is in on it. Should the employee warn his boss? Or just hope that truth will prevail?

If you are a writer, feel free to use these scenarios as prompts! After the exercise with my coach, I decided to limit my reading of Dear Prudence to just the new ones. I have successfully stayed out of the archives, except to research this post.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to check Facebook.