Starter for 10

To celebrate 10 years of me blogging with WordPress I’ve decided to share some of what I think are 10 highlights of my blogging life (AKA some stuff I wrote that I don’t hate). In no particular order:

  1. What will survive of us is love (August 2007)
  2. The shape of my heart  (December 2007)
  3. Birth story (March 2014)
  4. Phoneography challenge: my neighbourhood (March 2013)
  5. Catheter report (September 2007)
  6. A recipe for easy bun loaf (November 2007) (My most popular post according to WP stats!)
  7. Dr Giancarlo Rastelli (December 2010)
  8. The Rabbit Problem (June 2011)
  9. Miss Happiness and Miss Flower (December 2011)
  10. Weekly photo challenge: happy (October 2012)

Reflections on content overload and self-filtering

This a response to Ernesto Priego’s post, which is one of the best and wisest things I’ve read for a while. Please read his post before you read mine, which is but a poor reflection, and a bit of a mind dump, so please excuse waffle and bad syntax but not foolishness.

Reading Ernesto’s post, I thought again about giving up this blog, but then I thought, no, it is my voice. It is where I share what (for good or ill) would not otherwise be shared. I’m thinking of @PatientAsPaper, #chronicLife, etc. Patients’ views need to be heard. I could share elsewhere, on Facebook we have the Somerville Foundation page where lots of CHD-related sharing goes on, but some sharing needs to go outside the “echo chamber” (as we used to say in Library Land). Sometimes, I need to write to at least attempt to be heard, because I can’t speak, or I don’t want to, or I think it’s good to let other people know I go through these things too – I like to feel like I’m doing my bit for patient solidarity and support because I don’t do much of that offline.

Of course, this is all my way of justifying the continuation of my online ramblings, most of which aren’t even about my experience as a patient! But I do try to filter. I’ve recently removed (literally) hundreds of posts from this blog because they were there like a millstone around my virtual neck – I actually felt them weighing me down – adding to the content overload which I, too, feel overwhelmed by even as I add to the problem, typing some more letters, words, paragraphs, waffle, to add to the overfed monster that is social media.

I returned to Facebook fairly recently, after a few years’ hiatus, and this hasn’t helped, but actually I find it easier to filter Facebook than Twitter, partly because of the changes to Twitter Ernesto talks about – it is a bit ‘all or nothing’, whereas Facebook, though clearly evil, has grades of filtration. And, yes, I think it [social media] is evil, or at least partly so – we are making ourselves both the marketeers and the marketed – the consumers and the commodities, even as we preach against such things. As Ernesto says, I think part of this is due to the fear of missing out, especially in a professional context:

Fear of missing out means many of us feel we need to keep an eye on social media to be mildly aware of what’s happening in our fields and in the world, but the illusion created by what looks like everyone actively broadcasting how hard they are at work (or having fun taking planes to exotic conference destinations) can also have a paralyzing effect.

This may particularly apply to librarians and other information professionals who may feel (or it may actually be) that part of their job is to engage with it, and yes, Ernesto is also right about the self-filtering/accompanying professional anxiety. I don’t know how we get round this, apart from to self-filter more, but even if you cut out all the dross [how?] the anxiety would still be there. And also, who decides what is dross? Is it ethical to cut out (‘harmless’) dross on a supposedly democratic platform? Who decides what is harmless? Etc. [One of] the problem[s] with social media is that it is both tremendously subjective and in everyone’s* faces [*yes, I am also aware of the digital divide, don’t worry]. People are consuming other people’s lives like never before – and we the marketeers/consumers want them to do it.

It’s like a new form of social evolution/survival of the fittest – there is a pressure to be [seen] as the best – who takes the best pictures [Instagram], who has the cutest kids/makes the best cakes/has the most friends [Facebook], who has the most readers [WordPress] – the rise of ‘click bait’, even on the BBC News website for pity’s sake, illustrates such things quite well. There isn’t necessarily a prize (except possibly for advertisers) if you win – but it’s the feeling we want – the high of a jump in stats or likes or admirers.

I want to get excited by new forms of social media, but now I just feel overwhelmed. Like Ernesto, I’ve been at this lark for a long time. I do feel old now (even though I’m not yet 40), and a bit behind and a bit lost these days; partly because I feel unable to filter as I used to (see Twitter changes, dumbing down of the BBC website, etc.). I feel bombarded and bored and the same time, but, conversely and paradoxically (and hypocritically), I want to enter into the mix and have people read my content. But why? Why do I want to be a commodity? Because I want to be be heard, I want to feel important and valued. I want to be a survivor in the mad world of the web. To take a more benign view, I want to continue creating: to create is to be human, it is said.

I’m not sure what the answer to Ernesto’s questions are. I think we do have a responsibility as users to filter and self-filter, and to try and take a step back from social media sometimes, to critically assess both it and how we use it. As users/creators/consumers of social we are ultimately responsible for its content – we are the transmitters and the receivers of the messages that are sent and our fate is in our own hands.


I promise…

I will not change my blog’s theme again for at least 6 months. (This doesn’t mean I promise not to make changes using the same theme!)

The shrinking blogosphere

I started blogging a long time ago (in Internet terms, anyway). I don’t have a great memory, but my first experience of blogging in something I remember fairly clearly. I was a postgrad student, sitting in my room in Aberystwyth (with my own internet connection – whoo!) when I discovered a blogging tool called Diaryland. I don’t think I had ever heard of blogging, as such. I just wanted somewhere to write and share my thoughts – I don’t even really know why this appealed to me – narcissism, possibly! Anyway, I started off in Diaryland, writing about I don’t remember what. I saved all my posts in Word when I closed the account, so I could find out, but perhaps I’d rather not! I moved to Blogger after a couple of years. I don’t think I wrote consistently during those couple of years, but once I moved to Blogger I did write pretty regularly. [Most of those Blogger posts got transferred to WordPress when I moved here, so if you can read them if you go back in the archives – not that I would recommend this!] I didn’t find Blogger particularly easy to use, and it (then, not sure about now) had less flexible customisation options, so I decided to move to WordPress in 2006.

Anyhow, in those early days of my blogging career, which I would count as 2003-2006, I was the only person I knew in real life who blogged. I didn’t tell anyone I knew in real life about my blog until about 2005-6, when I moved to my current workplace and found more like-minded (i.e. geeky (I mean this as a compliment)) people, and then I think someone actually discovered my blog before I told them about it so it wasn’t really a choice to tell people about it then either! But actually, I was glad to be discovered, in some ways. It gave my blog more of a purpose to know that real people were reading it, even though I then had to be more careful/thoughtful about what I wrote – this was not necessarily a bad thing, although you probably wouldn’t notice any improvement, looking at the posts from this time. Moving on…it turned out that the person who discovered my blog also blogged, and I found other people I knew online through H2G2 had blogs as well, and suddenly I didn’t feel alone in the blogosphere anymore.

Gradually, over the years, I found more people I know in real life were keeping blogs. I wonder when the peak time was; perhaps around 2009? I don’t really know, but I think that in the past few years the people who were mainstays of my part of the blogosphere have, little by little, stopped posting. There are a couple of people who still post, and some new bloggers on the scene, but I do feel that perhaps the blogosphere, or at least my little corner of it, is shrinking. It makes me a bit sad, silly though that may be, but it was nice to have company. But still, as I said there are new bloggers around, including some people I know in real life, so perhaps I am being a little pessimistic about the demise of the blogosphere at this point.

I suppose part of my thoughts about the shrinking (?) blogosphere is along the lines of ‘ if these people (who, by the way, wrote great posts) are no longer blogging, maybe it’s time for me to stop as well’. But I think thoughts like that a lot, and here I am, still rambling on over 10 years later. I don’t know why I carry on. I think I just enjoy the process of writing and publishing too much. I’m still a narcissist, after all.

P.S. I’m not saying everyone who blogs is a narcissist.

Birth story of the week!

This is just a quick post to say that the story of Babymouse’s birth is this week’s Birth Story Of The Week over at Gas & Air. Thanks to Clemmie for sharing our story on her blog.

Why I change my blog’s theme all the time

There are several reasons:

  • I get bored looking at the same theme after a while
  • (I find my own blog boring. This is obviously not a good sign)
  • I can’t think of anything interesting to write, but I think I should do something with the blog, so I change the theme instead of writing a post
  • It makes me like my blog a bit more for a while
  • (I keep thinking about stopping blogging but then I can’t quite bring myself to do this)
  • I like re/designing things
  • Sometimes I feel the current theme doesn’t reflect my currrent mood, so I change it to reflect how I’m feeling at the time, or sometimes how I want to feel