Tag Archives: Twitter

A zip of the lip

A very wise man—my late father-in-law—was known to say, “He who talks often is seldom heard.”

He also used to ask, “Is all that talking really necessary?”

For someone to whom words are a profession, a hobby, a love, even half a moniker, this Word Nymph has been thinking a lot about silence.

Perhaps it’s the time of year, or the signs appearing before me in recent days. The Sounds of Silence playing on the radio. References to the evils of loquaciousness in my daily horoscope. A favorite hymn in church yesterday, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, stirred me to wordlessness. Message from the universe: Shut yer yap.

In my faith tradition, the upcoming season of Advent is much ado about silence. Many kick off the season with a silent retreat, followed by three weeks of quiet reflection, listening, expectation, focus outside oneself. Regardless of our traditions, this isn’t a bad discipline to follow.

Modern humans have spurred a society that abhors dead air and assaults it with voices. While others speak we are already thinking of what we will say next—and, ever impatient, we interrupt them mid-sentence with our treasured views. As a child whose report cards often reported that “Monica talks too much in class,” I plead talkative as charged.

Modern media have ignited an explosion of expression. Talk radio, talking heads, talk-talk-talk. Tap-tap-tap a 2,500-word Christmas letter and a 750-word status update.

Enough already.

It seems a good time to undertake a new social discipline. While word count is a key metric in my work as an editor, it never occurred to me that I could put it to use elsewhere. What if I followed the Twitter theory and kept my utterances to fewer than 140 characters?

As an experiment, I pledge to do my best for the rest of this year to use my words more judiciously. To the best of my ability I will:

  • Listen first, speak second. After all, there’s a reason we were given two ears and only one mouth.
  • Not feel compelled to fill silence with talking. Silence can create an opening to ideas, energy and more thoughtful words–while excessive talking can suck the energy out of the room and everyone in it.
  • Not overestimate others’ interest in what I have to say. That story, that memory, that dream I find so fascinating? Others, not so much.
  • Not consume more than my share of the airwaves, leaving plenty open for others.
  • Begin fewer sentences with I and My.

Join me, won’t you?

One final comment: Some of the most stirring renditions of Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence are the ones without lyrics.

Word Count: 439 (still too many)

10 Comments

Filed under All Things Wordish, Holidays, Music

It’s courtesy, stupid.

Humans communicate far more boldly from behind a wall than they do face to face.

Think about it. Many are quick to brandish a middle finger when cut off in traffic. Even a certain Southern Gentleman I know does it.

What is it about being safely encased in steel and glass that gives people the freedom to flash an obscene gesture or bark an expletive at a complete stranger—even if that person has done something unintentional, such as changing lanes prematurely?

Would we flip a digit at a fellow passenger who butts in line for boarding? Would we invoke the name of one’s dear mother for colliding with our cart at the supermarket? Of course not.

We’re uninhibited with our language on the telephone when we find a customer service rep incompetent or unsympathetic. Would our words be so harsh if we were looking the person in the eye? We know the answer.

If you and I travel in the same social media sphere, then you may recently have witnessed my (very polite) outburst over the way people speak about one another online. While I’ve since made peace with a number of my offenders, this provides occasion to reinforce a simple courtesy: Never say (or mime) anything from behind a wall that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face.

Tuesday night, when the presidetial election results were announced, my Facebook feed erupted with hateful comments. I’m not talking about comments expressing sadness about the outcome or disappointment in the process. Those are understandable when something you’ve hoped for—even worked for—does not turn out your way.

I’m talking about comments describing those who voted differently. Not aimed at circumstances; aimed at people.

The predominant adjective was stupid, with a few “idiots” sprinkled in. “How can people be so stupid?” “Well, that just proves you can’t fix stupid.” “50 percent of the country just showed us that stupid is as stupid does.” “The idiots who re-elected our current president…”

Hey, that’s me you’re talking about. And, in quoting you here, I’ve done you the courtesy of correcting your grammatical and punctuation errors. Just so you don’t look … well, you know.

In all fairness, some of the bullies and their cheerleaders have simmered down. Some have even apologized. I’m grateful for that and for the opportunity to remember that we all need to put the “face” back in Facebook.

8 Comments

Filed under Politics, Rants and Raves, Technology and Social Media

Legally bland

For most of yesterday, I had no name, only a number – 23. Juror #23.

While my number was unique, I’m fairly certain my attitude about jury duty wasn’t.

Part of me hoped to get out of serving altogether, to not disrupt my work schedule, inconvenience my clients, or sit still and unplugged for hours. The other part of me craved a front row seat to a steaming courtroom drama. Surely the other 349 in the pool were feeling the same way.

I’d been called to jury duty only once before, in 1992. I wasn’t chosen then either; but I remember two things about that day.

The first:  More than a few of us were reading A Time to Kill, John Grisham’s first novel. The book had come out three years earlier, but it had gotten little attention until Grisham’s next legal suspense thriller, The Firm, came out in ’92. Jury selection was a central part of A Time to Kill and those of us who arrived with paperback in hand were dying to be selected. The second thing I remember:  Even though I wasn’t selected, I felt sequestered. A full work day at the courthouse without any contact with my office was nerve-wracking.

As I prepared to report for my civic duty this week, I failed to consider the technological advancements of the last two decades. I somberly told my friends, family and clients they’d not be able to reach me. I even put an out-of-office notification on my e-mail.

How sick was my disappointment to be allowed full use of my smart phone? To learn that the jury room had free wi-fi? To see a dozen computer stations available for any use ranging from e-mail to Solitaire? That’s no fun.

While I awaited assignment to a courtroom, I made my own fun – mostly by counting errors in the orientation video. (By the way, Montgomery County, the translation of voir dire is not “to see [and] to hear.” It is “to see [and] to say.”)

I listened in on my fellow jurors’ cell phone conversations, rolling my eyes as they overstated the drama to their loved ones and colleagues. I could only imagine their exaggerated tweets.

Finally, I was assigned to a courtroom where I was sure there’d be real action. The judge outlined some basic facts about the snoozer of the case—a personal injury incident taking place four years prior. He conducted the obligatory voir dire, which revealed nary a trace of conflict.

And then the judge spoke: “Madam Clerk, may I borrow your stapler?”

And then I was dismissed.

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies, Television and Radio, Reading, Technology and Social Media

SOPA opera digest

I’d like it to be noted that I endured 24 hours without Wikipedia. But I didn’t. I got in.

Meanwhile, Internet stakeholders-turned-doomsayers appear to have scuttled the online piracy debate captained by the film and television industries. And judging by the millions of followers they engaged by blacking out popular websites, it appears the U.S.S. SOPA could sink, at least as of this moment.

In my aim to be an informed citizen, I spent way too much of yesterday trying to educate myself on this smoking hot issue, another in a long series that has Americans fiercely divided. As if we needed another.

I actually read the entire House bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act, as well as everything, pro and con, that was posted on my favorite websites by my favorite people, and I talked live with several stakeholders. I’ve cracked open the Senate version, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act, or PIPA.

As usual, I came away with mixed feelings.

As someone who has lived and worked in the hotbed of hullaballoo that is our nation’s capital, I continue to witness firsthand how advocacy groups can twist any public policy issue in their favor, and scare people—often with little effort–into supporting their causes. And people are willing to rally on a moment’s notice when they’re told the end is near.

Who remembers the rumor about 10 years ago that the federal government was going to impose a 25-cent fee on every e-mail message sent and received? I received about 50 bucks’ worth of messages from naïve friends urging me to help beat it back. They cited a bogus bill number that anyone with a clue would have known was neither a House nor Senate measure. It was a hoax.

I’m not saying the SOPA/PIPA proposals or the death knell the tech firms are singing are hoaxes. This is a real issue with high stakes on both sides. What I’m bemoaning here is how quickly some people who have never read a piece of legislation in their lives take up arms based on panic induced rhetoric.  You can’t tell me that every website user who is protesting actually understands what’s in both bills. I know I don’t.

Here’s how I see it.

People and companies who create artistic works are entitled to the income they earn for those works. And these aren’t just the big movie, TV and recording stars. They are members of camera crews, editing staff, key grips (whatever they do), hair and make-up artists, extras, even the little old ladies like my Aunt Patsy who play the small parts they work so hard to get. Their income is being taken from them when foreign websites pirate and traffic their work products.

I use Google and Wikipedia an average of 20 times a day. As an unpaid amateur blogger, I consider Wikipedia my official go-to source for unofficial useless information and Google my treasure trove of silly images, legally available and otherwise. Facebook and Twitter? Big fan. I’d like them to be there for me. I don’t believe Google or Wikipedia should solely bear the burden of policing the content that flows through them, nor do I think they should be censored. But I do believe they have a responsibility to refrain from facilitating criminal activity that harms U.S. workers and businesses and to cooperate when law enforcement has to intervene. So sue me.

Here’s what I’d like to see.

First of all, I’d like to see both sides avoid playing the jobs card. There are jobs at stake on both sides. And these days in the United States, everything has a jobs angle.

Next, I’d like to see the bill’s drafters do some redrafting to address any provisions that produce unintended consequences. This is a challenge given the Internet as we know it isn’t even 20 years old, and criminals are typically a step ahead of the law.

Further, I’d like to see all of us, as regular citizens playing happily on the Internet, simmer down, become better educated before we panic, and think for ourselves. Regardless of where we stand, on this or any other issue.

Need a chuckle break from the madness? Enjoy  yesterday’s amusing take on what would happen in a Wikiless world, by The Washington Post’s Monica Hesse.

5 Comments

Filed under Movies, Television and Radio, News, Politics, Technology and Social Media

Reddit somewhere

A poll of social media aficionados:

Are you on Reddit?
How about Delicious?
Technorati?
Digg?
Well surely you’re on Fark.

No? Neither am I.

I did StumbleUpon for a while; even wrote a blog post about it. Word Nymph enjoys a steady stream of referrals from StumbleUpon and, recently, quite a few from Reddit.

I confess, I didn’t know much about Reddit until recently and still, I don’t fully grasp its value. (Speaking of value, reportedly, Condé Nast Publications upped Reddit’s worth to the hundreds of millions of dollars after acquiring it from the two 22-year-old University of Virginia graduates who founded it.)

Reddit got my attention when the so-called social news aggregator directed hundreds of referrals to a blog post I wrote three months ago. My post addressed the etiquette around graduation announcements and thank you notes.

As best I can tell, as Reddit’s paying members—called redditors—post searches, they’re directed to sites where they can find information. Unlike search engines Google and Yahoo, individual searches are posted publicly. Maybe I’m telling you something you already know, especially if you answered Yes to more than one question on my little poll.

Anyway, I haven’t joined Reddit, so I haven’t seen it from the inside. However, I can view the main page where the questions are asked and searches entered. Based on most of the comments and questions I’ve seen, many of which contain the apparently-now-socially-acceptable F-word and worse, a search for how to write a proper thank you note seems out of place.

My hands are  full with Twitter and Facebook so, unless a client shows that my grasp of those others would bring value to their pursuits, I’ll pass.

These sites will give you all the information you’ll never need, including  certain characteristics of Justin Bieber’s wee-wee (my synonym).

But, as best I can tell, only Reddit will point you to the best advice on how to write a proper f—ing thank you note.

1 Comment

Filed under Technology and Social Media

Plus or minus?

When it comes to new technology, I consider myself a fast follower.

This means I’m not among the first to embrace something just because it’s new. At the same time, I’m typically not one to be dragged into the latest technological wave kicking and screaming. When I got air conditioning for the first time this year, I went willfully, glowing and wilting.

Generally, when something new becomes available, say a new social media platform, I consider it thoughtfully and wade in carefully. Such was my foray into Facebook which, by the way, I still like a great deal.

Lately, Google+ is in my face, like a gnat that flies too close.

My friends and contacts are embracing Google+, which I assume is Facebook’s latest competitor. I’m aware of the dynamic between the two companies and find it no surprise that Google has stepped onto the mat to give Facebook a run for its members.

At least I think I’m aware.  Frankly, I’m not sure I quite understand what Google+ is offering.

Here’s where you come in. Who can give me the 30-second elevator pitch for Google+? I haven’t quite heard it anywhere else.

Google+ appears to have veiled its rollout in exclusivity—in that members must be “invited” to join. If this is the case, I’m already a bit turned off. I’ve been invited by several people I know and trust, but if these same people invited me to join an exclusive club, I’d politely decline. I’m not big on exclusivity.

At the same time, I do suffer from a mild case of FMS, Fear of Missing Something. I’d like to know what’s happening at this party that I might benefit from in some way. Will it enable me to make valuable contacts that will enrich my network in a way that LinkedIn does not? Will I have to re-connect with the same friends and family members with whom I already interact on Facebook? Would I need to create a gmail address? Heaven knows, I don’t need a fifth e-mail address.

If I choose to stay on Facebook, how much more time will I need to spend online? Will Google+ give my friends, God love ’em, more stupid games for which they need my help buying wheat?

Will I be operating in parallel universes? And how many universes is there room for in this galaxy? 

The floor is open and so are my ears (in this case, my eyes).

3 Comments

Filed under Family and Friends, Technology and Social Media

Inner-child abuse

Attention users of social media: Have you been hacked lately?

If you’re reading a blog, chances are that you’re no stranger to social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. And perhaps you’re savvy enough that you’ve avoided falling prey to Internet hoaxes and scams.

I consider myself pretty tech-savvy. I know how viruses, worms and malware work. Actually I don’t know exactly, but I have a sense of how they lure their victims. And still, I’ve been sucked in. I have a theory about why.

These evildoers brilliantly appeal to our inner seventh-graders.

We’re all mature adults who have left our adolescent insecurities in the past, right? Wrong.

It took two or three times of clicking into the underbelly of the Internet before I got smart. A post in Facebook’s news feed tempting me with “OMG, here’s a site that will tell you who’s been looking at your photos.”  An e-mail from a (hijacked) friend, warning me that “hey someone is posting really NASTY tweets about you and linking to your Twitter account, profile is …” The next thing I knew, the things are spreading and the tweets appearing on my blog are corrupted. All because I wanted to know who was looking at my profile and who was saying bad things about me. For my supposedly mature ego, it’s 1973 all over again.

I know all about https versus http and about changing passwords and Googling solutions and all of that; I’m not completely stupid. These hackers are smart people. They know that many of us still harbor our childhood frailties beneath our confident adult selves and that we’ll likely follow the impulse to find out what people think about us. There’s another Facebook hoax I’ve seen (but proudly avoided) that asks people what they think about you. Isn’t that what we cared too much about when we were young, and maybe still care about now more than we should?

Now I’m mouse-shy. Yesterday I was in a hotel room, working away, and I got a pop-up telling me, congratulations, I was Facebook’s Ohio winner of the day. I’m a little creeped that it knew I was in Ohio, but so go these intelligent platforms. It said that if I clicked a link within 70 seconds I’d receive a $1,000 gift card from Best Buy. I confidently scoffed and X’ed out of the application.

And yet, early this morning, before I was fully awake, the first thought that entered my mind was how I would have spent $1,000 at Best Buy.

1 Comment

Filed under Technology and Social Media