Tag Archives: communications

Socially awe-kward

Is it just me?

I have always been socially awkward, so it should come as no surprise that the “social”-on-steroids world of the internet is not working well for me. I have been learning about social media of late. It has been inspiring Awe in me, but not in a good way.

My simple view of social media is that it is to connect people, a way to keep in touch or get to know and share with people we don’t get a chance to see very often or who live far away. For the “platforms” doesn’t seem to be the goal anymore. The goal now is to connect an infinite number of advertisers selling crap to the poor souls looking for real people to connect with who are prone to accidentally click, hover or swipe in the wrong place.

As some of you know I started a new blog, Goin’ with Grandma. Since what I wanted to do is try and find other people who travel with elderly relatives to share experiences, lessons learned and tips. I really have no interest in “monetizing” the site, but I am trying to figure out how to find people. So I have connected it to Facebook, Pinterest and my partially finished Linkedin profile. I signed up for “Bloglovin'”, and have been using Yoast SEO.

Getting things set up and linked up has been educational, but not effective as a way to find people in a similar situation. If my goal was to have my inbox filled with even more ads it was effective. Most of the ads are to help me become a social media butterfly (got news for them: I am a worm not a caterpillar).

The SEO thing (that means Search Engine Optimization) goes counter to what I was taught about good writing: to use a variety of words instead of the same phrase repeatedly. Long sentences using a rich and varied vocabulary are to become a thing of the past so that computers can figure out what we are trying to say and send us “traffic”.

I was inspired to write on this topic by a survey sent to me by Bloglovin’. Several of the questions were a little outrageous to me, I am pretty sure based on question wording that they are actually collecting data for Instagram marketers. However, I’d like to share one question with you that made me laugh out loud:

What is your favorite new social trend that gained popularity in 2016?

  • Boomerang
  • Yik Yak
  • Shots
  • Ello
  • Hyper
  • Facebook Live
  • Haven’t heard of any of these/They are not relevant to me

I would have checked the last box. Clearly I am not their target demographic. I guess I will always be the person standing beside the door wondering whether to go in or go home…even sitting in my own living room typing at my own computer.

Have you ever felt that way?

 

The tyranny of social media

Many of us spend Countless  time these days on social media, absorbing it and creating it. Don’t get me wrong, I like it and use it. But how does one tame the dragon in order to have a little time left to weed the garden, fix a meal, wash dishes…or spend a little time with a physical person now and then (for the sake of argument dogs are people too)?

My son has a degree in marketing. He is teaching now at a kindergarten in China and would like to move to a different field of endeavor. He and I have been talking, when we get a decent connection, about forming a little business that does marketing: branding (he is pretty knowledgeable about this), web site development (my area), and gives a hand with printed and social media (we are both pretty good at layout, and he has language skills that would allow him to assist a Chinese or Japanese company to create well-crafted English language marketing materials). The idea is that it would give him some experience he could use to find a different career and I like playing with web sites, it’s a bit like quilting.

Our aspirations are low. We would be delighted to have two or three clients.

Where is the countless in this? I have been researching about social media. Turns out that the current ideas about marketing using social media mean COUNTLESS posts on countless platforms. There are countless posts about the ideal calendar for making those countless posts and how to create those countless posts with a small amount of content. The current social media marketing theory is old-fashioned nagging: fill inboxes and “news” feeds with you, you, you and more you. All of these posts are programmed with carefully selected words that big data knows are more likely to cause people to “click” (they call this “responding to a call to action”).

I am feeling rebellious right now, and I am not alone, I read recently that people are starting to react negatively to this constant bombardment. One of the ways you can see the rebellion starting to poke out is when the talking heads say “content is king”. What that means is:  folks are becoming better at sifting the wheat from the chaff.

One humorous marketing backfire this week is that an online travel agency, the one that seriously botched up our hotel reservations, showed up in my Facebook “news” feed as a “suggested post” (see my previous post: Was it all a dream?).

I use social media (duh). It is a communication tool, I post where it makes sense based on who I am communicating with. For example this week I have not posted on this blog because I am in Palm Springs California with my grandmother, and we are visiting her friends, they use Facebook so I have made several Facebook posts related to our activities this week. At home I don’t look at Facebook everyday, here I do.

Sometimes the countless connections become a source of busy-ness. Then we have to figure out how to keep the ones  that contribute to our quality of life and get rid of the rest. I think that is where many of us are in the social media rat race.

How do you deal with the countless demands of social media? Is your goal to have countless followers…or to connect with a few people you might otherwise not meet in a meaningful way?

Divided

I read blogs. Even when I can’t seem to put my own words and pictures on pa…screen, it is beneficial to read, and nowhere can one see more different styles of writing and photography on a broad variety of topics than in blogs.

This morning I read a blog that was well, even beautifully, done, and deeply disturbing to me: Edge of Humanity Magazine’s Social Documentary Photography – Becoming A Man In Omo Valley, Ethiopia.

It was good journalism, I think, the tone was educational, not judgmental (something I could not have pulled off had I been the author), and the photography was technically good and used well to illustrate the story. What disturbed me, and the reason I bring this up as a response to the prompt Divide, is that I live in a world where that rite is wrong…on many levels…and I do not believe that it is just “my culture” vs “their culture”.

Mostly I take a live-and-let-live approach to cultural differences and choose to keep my mouth shut for things I feel are weird but maybe I don’t get how things are in your world. However…

The idea of becoming a man by whipping women, to the point of severe lifelong scarring, is an anathema to me. As is the idea that these scars are a show of affection and devotion:

Backs of many of these women already have severe welt marks from previous ceremonies in which they had been whipped. Welt marks are considered a sign of love and devotion. The more welt marks a girl has the more it translates into her devotion to her brother and also help in attracting a potential husband.

Where do human rights fit into this picture? Is it okay because that is the “culture” of the people? The women look to no future if they don’t have massive welts…not exactly a true choice. I wonder how many of them die of alcohol poisoning trying to work up the courage to participate…or to try and numb the pain afterward.

Yesterday I read a blog article about PTSD. I can’t imagine that anyone in a place where this is a ritual doesn’t have PTSD. Either you have been injured severely or someone you love has. The need for massive amounts of alcohol to perpetuate the ritual is a major clue to this.

I can, on a cold, analytical level, see where the ritual may be a response to living in a harsh and dangerous world. Making a ritual of the pain is one way to take ownership of it. My world is temperate, soft and loving by contrast so I am shocked by this insight into a very different world. I wonder if I could survive in that world?

To avoid articles like that, which I sometimes do because they disturb me so much, is one way to let the world go along without change.

I found the article well-done, informative, thought provoking, and I think people should read this article as it sheds light on many important issues in our world, but I was really, really torn by hitting a “like” button for it. I wish there was a button for “Well done article on disturbing topic”.

Good advice

A quote from this morning’s newspaper:

Arkansas authorities also issued guidelines that they hoped would prevent the spread of the disease, urging people traveling back to the state from countries with Zika outbreaks to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes for 10 days after their return.

The article is CDC confirms dozen cases of Zika virus in U.S. While the article is serious two things made me chuckle:

  1. “Avoid being bitten by a mosquito for 10 days”, as if people wouldn’t try to avoid being bitten. There is also an implied “After 10 days you can go back to your usual carefree mosquito feeding ways.”
  2. While I understand that they are concerned about disease transmission, the following quote might make one think that the risk was to the mosquitoes: “Mosquitoes here in Arkansas can become infected with the virus if they bite someone who has Zika.”

No doubt the quotes are out of context in the article. A wise Arkansas health official probably gave a well researched speech explaining everything well and a reporter grabbed a few quotes from it to make the article fit neatly around the Macy’s ad.

Why do I think that? Among other things they are at the end of the article. We live in a world where we aren’t expected to read entire articles, and perhaps the editors don’t either.

Or maybe I am a little warped…or desperate to find something at least a little humorous when the front page stories included “Five shot at homeless camp” and “Oregon standoff leader arrested amid fatal gunfire”.

Quote Me

Watch Your Tone!

Chinese is a tonal language…what does that mean?

It means that the tone is part of the word, just like which syllable you accent or how you pronounce read (present tense) versus read (past tense). In Chinese it is more extreme than read vs read; the word “ma” can mean mother, hemp, horse, scold or act as a verbal question mark, depending on tone.

In English we use tone primarily to add an element of attitude or emotion to the meaning of the sentence, for example a rising tone makes the sentence questioning (our question mark indicates that a sentence should be read with a rising tone) or a falling tone can indicate that you really mean it. The tones add the same element of meaning regardless of what the words are.

As a lifelong speaker of English I am finding it challenging to switch the way I use tones.  For example, I really want to ask questions with a rising tone. I tend to say “You speak English hemp” instead of “You speak English?”

Being the wish-washy sort I find the falling tone, which is explained as “how you say ‘no’ when you really mean it” hostile sounding, and it seems strange to use it in phrases that are cordial, like “thank you”. I tend to tone it down, which means I mispronounce “thank you” (even though I really mean it!)

When we say “watch your tone!” in English it is an admonition to pay mind to your attitude, to be respectful. In Chinese it would mean something closer to “be careful and precise to make your meaning clear”.

 

It is All Chinese to Me

I am not lazy, but I lack aptitude for language learning. Unless I have a goal it is hard to motivate myself to buckle down and really learn a language. Other stuff drifts to a higher priority.

I am trying to learn Chinese, again. This is my third try. Language isn’t my thing, even in my native tongue when I need words they just don’t come. One reason that I rarely post is that it takes me longer than a day to pull together a response.

When I traveled to China before, I have been twice now, it has been with a lot of dependence on other people. I have managed surprisingly well and had some great experiences (see Let’s Go Fly a Kite, A Picture and a Phrasebook Saved the Day, and Happy Mama).  But this time I decided that

  1. I really want to be able to communicate with people on my own.
  2. I want to go to a couple of places that are not on the western tourist track on my own.

I only decided to go about two months before takeoff, a very short time for someone who is all but tone deaf to try and learn a tonal language.

Before my first and second trips I tried using two different book plus CD programs. With the first, I ran through it once then listened to it in the car. After almost a year and a half of doing that, including several trips to and from California where I heard all three CDs twice a day, I made almost no progress. I was unable to recognize the words when someone other than the canned voice spoke them, or come up with them myself in real life situations (Although, I can say nihao and xiexie). But worse than that, I really could not speak the phrases in the phrase book. I couldn’t figure out how to follow and correctly pronounce the pinyin (Chinese phonics system). Nor could I recognize if someone responded with a phrase in the phrase book.

With the second I just couldn’t get into it. I think it was designed more to be used as an aid in a class where the instructor took you through it rather than working on one’s own. I took that one with me to China last time and tried to work on it in the morning then go out and listen for the phrases. I never recognized a thing.

This time, with six weeks to go before take off I started an on-line course (YoyoChinese.com). This seems to be going better.  It helps to be able to see the person forming the words, and they focus on how the tones sound in a variety of real words (saying “ma” five different ways many, many, many times really didn’t help me). It also has a Chinese on the Street segment so you can hear a variety of voices using the material in context. So every morning now I am spending 45 minutes to an hour studying Chinese.

I know that some people have a better ear, are more linguistically oriented,  and are more courageous about trying than I am, but I really think the idea that one can just pick up a language with no effort is blarney.

T – 14 days for my real life test, I’d better get back to work.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Lazy Learners.”

It Used to be More Fun

Not sure when it happened, and I am pretty sure that a prime minister wouldn’t be the fix, but it used to be way more fun to search the web. An adventure: you could type in something, and one thing would lead to another and you might travel all around the world learning cool stuff. Kind of like when you open the page of an encyclopedia to learn about one thing, then get intrigued by something else on the page.

Now you “google” something and everything adjusts as if the only thing you care about is the one thing you searched on. The first thing that shows up in any search is ads followed by wiki-whatever. Don’t get me wrong, I love wikipedia in many ways. It just seems like we have to work extra hard to get a broad overview of what is happening…and sometimes self-declared experts are not the best source of information.

I once made a very short facebook post: “I have decided to go to Africa” and all the ads changed to have “Africa” in them in a blink. That was a few years ago and things were a bit less sophisticated, some of the ads were obviously just plugging in a key word from the post. I can remember laughing about a couple of them and wish I had jotted them down. I think one was about African designer shoes that could be delivered next day.

My son has experienced the same thing: he teaches kindergarten aged kids and looked up an article about how they learn. He says that now all of the news articles that show up are about kids. Nothing about the economy, earthquakes, ISIS or any of the many other things going on, just things like “two year old hit by car”. It is very limiting.

It is also the opposite of how the internet used to be, and a little scary, since we seem to be leaning more and more toward getting all of our information from the internet. Living in China it is James’s main source of information.

I wonder if this does not contribute to the increased polarity that we keep hearing about: we can so easily avoid balanced and nuanced discussion and see a whole bunch of articles that encourage us to think our initial impulse is the only way to think. Why do all the work of creating consensus or compromise if you can just rationalize your opinion and call the people who don’t agree with you names?

But then who has time?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “New Internet Order.”

What’s Your Tribe?

Throughout history there has been a tendency for religion and politics to be mixed together. Caesar was worshiped as a god. The emperor in China was the central figure in religion as well. The divine right of kings…Even here in the US with our separation of church and state religion is becoming more and more intertwined with politics. It seems to be one of the defining elements in being Red or Blue.

Discussions of politics and religion tend to fall into two categories

Yes-Yes

Yes-No

Depending on whether the people involved agree or disagree.

Yes-Yes conversations tend to be pretty smug. Yes-No conversations are either confrontations or attempts at conversion, but there is always a sense that people think they are right.

Media loves a good conflict so they play up these differences. The type of conversation where there is nuance: “yes, but…”, “no, but…” or an honest “I don’t know” met with thoughtful discussion does’t seem to happen anymore.

Political and religious questions are often posed by someone trying to determine if you are a member of his or her tribal group. The story of people being required to say “Shiboleth” in the biblical story (Judges chapter 12) is a record of a simpler approach: if you couldn’t pronounce the word properly you were assumed to be an Ephramite (enemy tribe in the story) and killed.

I avoid discussing politics and religion for that reason, I usually either don’t fit in the box properly or, more and more often these days, don’t want to be affiliated with the owners of the box. Frequently because of how they treat people who don’t agree. We don’t, for the most part kill people literally but character assassination happens pretty often.

While I avoid discussions for the reasons above I think that both religion and politics are areas where the deep conversations, ones without foregone “right” answers are needed. The world is more complex and interrelated than it used to be and people do not live in isolation any more. We need to be learning about each other, the values both shared and different, looking for solutions that aren’t simplistic party-line approaches or “the Bible or Koran or Sutras or Hindu teaching says this” so we don’t look further.

response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Polite Company.”