That time a celebrity friended me on Facebook

Several years ago, a celebrity friended me on Facebook. I’m not saying who. In fact you probably won’t recognize his name if you scroll through my contacts, but, for some reason,after I wrote an article about someone he’d worked with, he started following me on Twitter. Then sent me a Facebook friend request. Then, I think, we forgot about each other.

Every once in a while, though, he posts something, and it is always so inconsistent with the other posts I see regularly that it shocks me out of my Facebook daze. It’ll be Throwback Thursday, and I’ll be looking at photos of my friends’ proms, and all of a sudden I’ll see a wedding picture from the ’90s with an Oscar nominee as one of the groomsmen. I will be reading someone’s rant about whatever is going on in the world to day, and then I’ll scroll down to find details about a new project this guy is working on with my high school self’s favorite band. And the front man of that band will have left comments on the status. It’s all a little surreal.

I don’t know if this guy realizes it, but his posts were a godsend last year, when I was home, dazed by the first year of motherhood, no sleep, worried about bills, fighting postpartum depression, upset about my physical appearance and sad about moving. Every time he posted a status, I got a little snapshot of a world much more exciting than mine was at the time. I don’t think it’s world I’d like to live in, but it made me feel better to see it, maybe because even as I was changing diapers and dealing with colic, and not writing nearly enough, I felt like I was a part of his world, just a little. It was like a little glitter from his glamorous world drifted out of the computer and onto me.  And also, seeing celebrity faces in my Facebook feed, right next to photos of a friend’s cat, jolted me out of my depression for a few minutes.

I know we’re told as kids that we shouldn’t strive to be cool, and that we should just be ourselves, but I didn’t want to be myself at that point, and dammit if his posts didn’t make me feel cool. And for whatever small reason, that helped me. Thank you, Hollywood celebrity guy, for friending me. You make my Facebook feed a fancier place, and you made a very hard year a little bit easier.

(Even more) Blood and seashells

So the other day I posted about how I spent my Monday night up to my elbows in fake blood in our bathtub for the sake of my career.

I took several photos for the cover of my e-short story about a killer sea god. Now the fake blood stains are finally fading from my palms, but I have another problem: I don’t know which photo to choose for the cover.

So because you all rock and probably have exquisite taste, I want your help. I’ve put four of these photos up on Facebook.*  Head over there and tell me which one you like best.  I trust your input.

And while you’re there, please like me. When you have strange hobbies like I do, it’s good to know that you’re liked.

*It’s currently an untitled album because Facebook is freaking out and won’t let me edit the album, but bear with me.

Evite is Dead, or, Why My Husband Should Join Facebook.

My husband refuses to join Facebook.

That’s his choice, and I’ve been supportive, but man,  I wish he would join. Not because I think he needs to bond with Internet friends, or because I think he should communicate with long-lost buddies and ex-girlfriends, or even because I think the online world should be exposed to his unique brand of humor.*

It’s because Facebook has eclipsed Evite as a way of inviting people to events.
There was a time when my email inbox was cluttered with Evites. Evites for parties. Evites for work events. Evites for things I needed to cover for work. A long time ago, I got one Evite a week.

Alas, the golden age of Evite is over. An informal survey of my inbox reveals that in 2009, I got nine or 10 Evites. In 2010 I got three. Last year I got six – which is so many that I’m afraid I’ve miscounted.

You know how many Evites I’ve gotten in 2012? One. That’s because everyone is sending Facebook event invites instead. And that is why my husband really needs to join Facebook.

Let’s take this week for example. One of my husband’s friends is hosting a Depends-themed party.

I can’t make it to this event. I will be hanging out at the other end of the maturity scale that day, dispensing spatulas and marital advice at a bridal shower. So no Depends for me.** My husband, however, is going. (To the party. Not at the party. Although you never know, the invitation promises that anyone not in a diaper by dusk will be voted off the island.) The problem? I am the one who has all the details about where and when and who’s providing the pack of Depends, because I’m the one on Facebook.

This has happened with other events. I believe I once got a bachelor party invitation on Facebook. I’ve occasionally gotten communication for him through Facebook, because apparently Facebook’s sneaky tactics are working and FB  messages are also eclipsing traditional email.

You may think that my objections to my husband’s Facebook boycott stem from the fact that I don’t like being his secretary. That’s only 20 percent true. Yeah, the part of me that’s a hairy-legged overalls-weraring 1970s second-wave feminist objects to taking messages for my husband. But that’s not the real problem.

The real issue goes a little something like this: I don’t even look at my event invitations on Facebook.

I get so many random invites from bands and local organizations I covered when I was a local arts journalist, that I don’t register events anymore. When I see I have event invites, my brain blocks them from view as it does with junk mail and spam. They are invisible, and I wouldn’t have even noticed the Depends party invitation if the host hadn’t accosted me in person last week:

“Are you guys coming to my party?”

Uh-oh. “Party?”

“I sent you an invite.”

I panicked  and racked my brain. What invitations have come through my inbox? Have I looked? It must be on my phone, right? Luckily, his party has a pretty distinctive title.

“Was the word ‘poop’ in the event title?”

He grinned. Another Facebook event crisis averted.

So what’s the moral of this story? That Facebook is taking over all kinds of Internet services, from email to evite to the sort of social networking once provided by Friendster, I guess. Or maybe the moral is that if you’re married to someone who refuses to Facebook, you might end up being his Facebook receptionist. Or maybe it’s that you should always insert words that stand out in the titles of your Facebook invites. Like “poop.”

*It should.

** At least not yet.

Putting away the iPhone and stepping away from the laptop.

In my book,  I wrote a main character who is addicted to her iPhone. The character’s cell phone addiction was meant to be a commentary on all the people I saw hunched over their iPhone displays, gabbing about apps and texting their ways through life, rather than living it. I wrote the book before I actually had an iPhone, * but this may or may not have been hypocritical on my part anyhow, since at the time I rewrote Beware the Hawk, I possessed what my husband referred to as a Crackberry.

Smartphones have been making me dumber for years.

But I hardly used the browser. I didn’t play Blackberry games. I only communicated with one person (my editor, actually) over the messenger. Then my Blackberry died, and I got an iPhone.

All of a sudden, I understood. There were no tiny keys to wrestle with! The camera was not as good as the Blackberry camera, but I could have more fun with the photos! The touchscreen was so big that tweeting and Facebooking from my phone were a pleasure! I could play Words with Friends! I suddenly had GPS! Now I could see what all the Angry Birds fuss was about!

I know. That’s a lot of exclamation points, but I think that’s what the i in iPhone is. Turn it upside down and flip it around and what you get it is “Phone!” And that’s the iPhone. It’s not a phone. It’s a Phone! And it’s addictive.

Now I’m trying to break myself of the cycle of obsessively checking my phone, which is as rude as it is worthless. I’m pretty sure that having a smartphone is making me dumber. Here are some examples:

  • Having email on my phone has actually made me worse at correspondence. (“Oh, I’ll just email that person back when I’m at my laptop.”)
  • Having the calendar on it has made me worse at scheduling. (“Oh no, an event I’m supposed to be at is happening a state away in five minutes!”)
  • I can’t remember phone numbers anymore because they’re all programmed into my phone. (“Sure, Officer, let me just grab my phone and look up my husband’s phone number for you.”)

So, I’m stepping away from the phone and, to some extent the Internet, this summer. I’m not “quitting Facebook” or giving up my phone or anything dramatic, but I am going to set some limits.

Right now, my iPhone is hidden under a pillow in another room so I won’t hear it buzzing. I have disabled all Push notifications for my social networks. I will not pick it up until I have written a required number of words. I am checking email only a few times a day. I’ve put all my appointments onto an actual desk calendar that I can see. Who knows? Later I may make myself write my husband’s phone number on a piece of paper 50 times the way my fourth grade teacher made me do with multiplication tables when I was being punished for something.

*In all honesty, I wrote the first drafts before iPhones were invented. The original phones were just regular 2001 phones. I was all kinds of excited to add iPhones last year and write the scenes as an indictment of iPhone users. I think this is called Karma.

Virtual book signing

News!

The official release date was tomorrow, but I’m told that my  book, Beware the Hawk, is already available on Amazon.*  There will still be a lot of hubbub tomorrow – I’m starting my blog tour over at WordVagabond and the book will be available at Vagabondage Press (no relation), but this is like a soft opening.

Signing Pen

A mentor gave me this pen to use at my very first book signing. I was bummed that I wouldn't be able to use it - until now.

So, for those who have asked, Beware the Hawk is an e-book. This is awesome for lots of reasons – it’s easy to download, it stays in print forever, it doesn’t weigh anything and it’s not killing trees. In short, it’s kinda made of magic. But one thing you can’t do with an e-book? You can’t sign it.

That’s a bummer, because book signings are fun. One of my writers’ groups once published an anthology and held a book signing and it was amazing. I could have signed books all night. I considered coming home and signing every book in my bookshelves, but luckily my roommate at the time, (who was also in the writers’ group, but who also had books on the shelves that she probably didn’t want me to deface) distracted me.

I digress.

Anyhow, I was sort of saddened by the fact that there would be no book signing at first, and then, during a conversation on Facebook, I realized that I don’t need to have a physical book to have a signing. In fact I don’t even need to be in the same room with everyone to have a signing. Here’s the deal.

From now until next Monday (Jan. 23, 2012), people who buy the book can send me an email with their mailing address. I’ll send you an autographed Post-It that you can put on your Kindle, Nook or computer while you’re reading my book. Not very fancy, perhaps, but who doesn’t like getting mail that’s not a bill?

So, if you want your autograph, send your mailing addresses to annjoconnell<at>gmail<dot>com. (Just until Jan. 23. Because this week is a special week.)

Then keep an eye on that mailbox. Now, if only I could figure out how to do a virtual reading.

* If you want to help a woman out, get it from the Vagabondage Press site. Both the publishers and I get better royalties and you get the book in three formats. Also, why reward Amazon for releasing the book early?

Blocked.

Recently I’ve begun to suspect that I’ve been rejected.

Someone may have blocked me on Facebook. And not just one someone, but maybe as many as five someones. Maybe even more. And it’s eating my lunch. But my real problem is not that five people may have blocked me on Facebook. I’m irritated because I’m bugged by being blocked on Facebook. You follow? No? I’ll draw a diagram. Here.

I mean, really.

Why would I care? Someone blocked me on Facebook. Big deal. This shouldn’t be a problem for me, because it isn’t a problem.

First of all, if out of 450 “friends,” five have blocked me, that’s a pretty decent rate of acceptance versus rejection. Second of all, and more importantly, I don’t interact with the suspected blockers in real life. I expect to see a couple of them at assorted reunions, probably in the very distant future. The others I may never see, ever, again.

Some of these blockages are even mutual. I can think of at least one alleged blocker whose posts I’ve had hidden for a year. It wasn’t personal; I just didn’t want to see the graphic updates about the contents of her child’s diapers. Evidently she was equally unimpressed by all my clever status updates and scintillating blog posts. And we aren’t actually friends in real life. We never were. If you look at it rationally, our Facebook break-up is a win-win. But in the self-centered, personal propaganda world of Facebook, where everyone is your “friend” and  people are unable to “dislike” your photos, updates or relationships, being blocked comes as somewhat of a shock.

Why should that be? Most of us deal with rejection in the real world all the time. We interview for, but don’t get jobs. We don’t get complimented when we think we deserve it. We say hello to people on the street and they don’t say hello back. People give us the finger in traffic. And although these daily rejections are awkward at best and painful at worst, we deal with them.

I’m 33. Like most people my age, I’ve watched friendships crumble, relationships fall apart, been passed over for promotions. As a writer, I’ve gotten good at being rejected by magazines and journals. When I worked as a journalist, I got used to people being furious at or dismissive of me. But on Facebook rejection brings me back to middle school.

“They don’t like you,”  says the little voice in my brain, the one I heard all the time when I was 12 years old. “They don’t like you and they don’t ‘like’ you.”

This voice is not my friend. It used to hear classmates laughing a few tables over in the cafeteria and convince me that those kids were laughing at me.

“I thought you were dead,” I say to the voice. “I thought I left your mangled corpse on the streets of Spain in 1999.”

“You’re talking to yourself,” says the voice. “No wonder people don’t like you. Or ‘like’ you.”

And the cycle begins anew.

So really, what’s the deal with Facebook and rejection? My only guess is that our Facebook profiles are such manicured, Photoshopped versions of who we are. We post the most attractive or amusing photos of ourselves as profile shots, or else we post pictures of the things we want to show off: our kids, our wedding photos, our pets, our flower gardens, our priceless collections of stamps or brass military buttons. Our statuses are little flags we wave for attention. Our interests are carefully edited. And when someone rejects all that, when they block you, that can seem like a rejection of your highest self.

Except it’s not. It’s a rejection of your own personal propaganda. And if that bothers you, you probably need to get over yourself. I know I do.

In which the author is confused by Linkedin

Early this morning, I got my latest invitation to join Linkedin.

I get a lot of these, because I’m not on Linkedin. The very first request came a few years ago, when I was working at a newspaper and an old source sent me monthly requests to join Linkedin. I got one every month for at least a year before either he stopped trying to invite me or I left my job and lost access to that email account. I can’t remember which happened first. Anyhow, since then, I’ve received Linkedin requests from all sorts of people: former co-workers, current co-workers, students, family members, people I’ve met once, people I haven’t seen in years and friends of my family.

It seems like everyone’s on LinkedIn, and since I’m a sucker for groupthink, I’m beginning to wonder: Do I need to be on Linkedin? And if so, why?

I have checked out the site. It looks like a non-scandalous, grown-up version of Facebook, where people use phrases like “communication skills” and “can-do attitude” in lieu of “OMG” or “LOL.”

And although I realize the site is used to network professionals, I can’t figure out if it is useful or not.

It’s not as if I don’t love social media. Those who suffer my Facebook status updates and my Twitter feed can attest to the fact that I love The Network. It’s ridiculous. I’ve been waiting for it all my life:  I write words and people react to (or fail to react to) those words almost instantly. It’s instant gratification. Sometimes it’s instant mortification. And it’s done wonders for my writing — Facebook has honed my comedic skills by teaching me that 80 percent of everything I say is not funny.

Same thing with Twitter, which has allowed me to gradually connect with other writers, and which has also taught me how to craft very, very short sentences while including hashtags and replies.  And these two sites are really just the latest in a series of social media innovations that I’ve loved and abused. Before Facebook, I was on Myspace. Before that, Livejournal. Before that, I was on Friendster. And before that, there were various messaging and file-sharing groups that I can barely remember. ICQ and Hotwire (I think it was called HotWire. It could have been HotLine. Livewire? I don’t know. The software I’m talking about is from 1995. It’s been lost in the mists of time.) Also, AIM and unsupervised chat rooms, and even the old Apple chat software Broadcast.

All of them were useful in their own way, just as Facebook and Twitter are useful to me now, as I build a reader base and follow what’s going on with my friends and in the world. But LinkedIn? How is that useful? Isn’t it just a way to get my resumé online?

And so, because I have no answers of my own, I end this blog with an obnoxious crowd-sourcing series of questions. Are you on Linkedin? Is it useful? How? Have you obtained a job or gained contacts by being on Linkedin? Please, corporate types. Help a sister out.

 

A question for bloggers.

This is a question for other bloggers. I’m not sure what the etiquette is regarding social media and blog promotion.

Earlier today, I posted to my blog. As is my custom, I posted a link to the post on Twitter and to my Facebook profile. One of my friends then complained that I was spamming.

That gave me pause, because there are lots of people who post things I don’t want to see. I don’t report them, I just block their posts.

But it also made me stop and think: I have more than 400 Facebook friends, and of course they aren’t all interested in my blog. Am I spamming them? Am I violating social media etiquette by posting a link to my blog on my profile?

Facebook is an important social media tool and I plan to keep using it – both for myself and for my blog. But I want to be sure I’m using it correctly.

Can anybody help?

Trees, snow, and my belated list of thanks.

Oh, you crazy tannenbaum.

There’s nothing quite like the smell of a Christmas tree. Especially right after you’ve brought it into the house and right before your nose gets used to it and you cease to consciously smell it. The fresh-Christmas-tree scent is one of the few scents I wish I could get my nose to smell for the whole season, but I know that by tomorrow I will have to stick my face directly into the branches to smell the tree. In a week, I will be crushing needles to smell it.  I can’t be the only one who’s experienced this.  In fact this is probably why Yankee Candle is able to do such an appalling trade in balsam-scented candles.

Right now however, the tree is two days old, and smells just like a little piece of the forest in our newly cleaned living room. And the best kind of snow is falling outside: The kind that looks pretty, collects on the ground, but does not make the roads treacherous.

And because I’m grateful for all these things, I thought I’d write the blog I failed to write a few weeks ago. Inspired by a few other people’s Thanksgiving posts, I had meant to make a list of five little things for which I’m grateful. Not the big things (wonderful husband, awesome parents, brother and future sister-in-law, roof over my head and job that I love) but five little things that make me happy every day. Things that seem so good that they might be revoked by the government. Continue reading

Facebook is the devil. But I can’t give it up.

It’s happened again. Disappearing friend syndrome. One day my friend is there, on Facebook. The next day, I want to post a video of an animal yelling “Helen” on her wall, and she’s gone. Not just gone from my list of friends, but gone from the network entirely. Her profile has been erased. She’s departed the Matrix. She’s given up Facebook.*

I can’t do it, but I understand the reasons why I should give up Facebook. This past weekend, I was walking down a very crowded street in Soho when I saw two faces I normally see only on Facebook. They were in the throng of people, moving past me in the opposite direction. I was disoriented for a moment. In fact my moment of confusion was all it took for me to lose them in the crowd again. So instead of greeting this couple on the street and congratulating them on their recent marriage in person, I sheepishly posted a greeting to a Facebook wall. That’s just wrong. Continue reading