blogging

Clean Sweep

Well, I did it. I just “unfollowed” a whole bunch of people on That Certain Social Media Site. Yesterday, for some reason (could it be the weather?), seemed to be a day for a couple of people to become conspicuously unpleasant on that site.

For example, one person announced that she was going to rant. She made it clear from the beginning, in case any of us had any doubt, that she was going to offend people and she didn’t care.

Well, my goodness. Why didn’t she  just update her status in all-caps and declare “I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS! I ONLY CARE ABOUT MINE!” Because that’s pretty much the subtext when you decide you’re going to rant on social media.

The subject of her rant? Parents in our community who have the effrontery to apply to send their children to our district’s most desirable elementary school. How terrible of people to take advantage of the school district’s interenrollment policy. Without even giving their home school a try!

Joy. It’s back to school time, and time for parents to get all judgy on other parents about what decisions they make about where to send their kids to school.

Guys: It is fully none of your business. You have no freaking idea what motivates people to make the decisions they make about where they send their kids to school. You are being arrogant when you judge other people, and assume that you know why they’re doing what they’re doing. You don’t.

I probably don’t need to clarify that I didn’t actually say any of this on That Certain Social Media Site. People can post whatever nonsense they wish there, and that’s fine. I’m not into starting flame wars.

That’s what this blog is for. My sarcastic alter ego gets her voice, right here on this precious little blog of mine.

I just “unfollowed” her. People have every right to say whatever they want on social media.

Just don’t expect me to listen.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

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Another List!

Today on That Certain Social Media Site I found another list that inspires me to make my own. Because I’m a blogger, and I can.

The Jane Austen Society of North America posted a link to a list of 100 (Oh, look! A nice round number!) Best Fictional Characters. The full title of the list includes “From Sherlock Holmes to Jane Eyre,” which is kind of funny because neither of those characters actually made the list. Dr. Watson got a nod, but Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester are both conspicuous by their absence. Grace Poole, well, you probably wouldn’t expect her anyway.

I was very pleased to find Flora Poste and Margaret Schlegel on the list. And I was disproportionately pleased that someone chose Bigwig from Watership Down (even though I like Blackberry better). I mean, Bigwig is a rabbit in a book where most of the characters are rabbits, for heaven’s sake, but nobody who has read Watership Down will ever forget him. Also, I’ve been worrying a little of late that Watership Down is fading into obscurity. It’s nice to get a shoutout for one of my favorite books when I worry that nobody’s reading it anymore.

You know, I think a better title for their list would have been “Favorite Fictional Characters of 100 Literary People” because that’s really what it is. They don’t define the term “best” at all. Are the best characters the most likable, the ones with which we identify the most, or the most memorable?

Why is it that people who publish lists so rarely define their parameters? Probably because they can get away with being lazy because nobody cares. At least it certainly appears that nobody cares, given the way these lists propagate themselves over the social media. Still, I feel it’s important to maintain standards, even on a silly little Internet blog. So I will thoughtfully consider my parameters before I publish my list of best characters.

As with my previous list, there will be as many characters as I say there are. Lists with round numbers are so last year. Or the year before. In any case, I am so cutting-edge I don’t need round numbers.

Well, you know what’s coming now. I wanted to give you all notice so you can look forward to it.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

It’s a Secret

People can be so odd about what they will and will not reveal about themselves on social media.

I mean, I should talk, right? I’m this weird woman with the overly-precious pseudonym and the secret blogging site. On the other hand, I’ve tried to be pretty clear that nobody should expect much information about my personal life here on this blog. I like my secret identity as much as any superhero, and it’s much more fun to blog when nobody knows who I am.

Still, I think the opposite extremes of sharing too much and too little on That Certain Social Media Site are perhaps an interesting illustration of human nature.

You have the people who are constantly telling you way more than you ever wanted to know. How they feel. What they see. What they did while they were logged out and what they are planning to do next week. When they’re on vacation. Where they’re on vacation. Why they’re on vacation. Where they’re staying. Where they’re eating. What they’re eating. All I have to say is, the only person’s vacation I ever want to know this much about is my own. And I will grant the possibility that other people’s interest in my vacation may be limited.

Of course, I don’t have a smartphone, so I’m not out there taking vacation pictures every twenty minutes. I shudder to think that, when I finally invest in a smarter hand-held communication device with a point-and-shoot camera attached, that there is even the remote possibility that my boundaries will shift into over-sharing mode. I certainly do hope not.

On the opposite end, you have people who only share things that have been created by other people. Things like links to articles, quotable little postcards, and online quizzes. I don’t understand why people would want to participate in a social media experience while revealing nothing about themselves. I mean, don’t they know how much fun it is to talk about yourself online? Don’t they want to be in charge of what they say and how they say it? I guess not, and I cannot understand.

And then you have the cagey people who reveal only partial information about their lives, information that inspires a lot of “What? Where? You didn’t tell us! Tell us more!” in the comments section. I can’t figure out if these people are purposely trying for this kind of reaction, or if they are clueless in some really basic way about what they are putting out there. I’m not saying that people should be out there publishing their exact addresses and phone numbers on That Certain Social Media Site. But it does seem to me that if you are going off to college, for example, the status update “Leaving for college! See you in four years!” doesn’t really cut it. I mean, either you want people to know about one of your major life events, or you don’t. Online coyness isn’t charming.

Except when you keep a secret blog.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Do I Know How?

I’m reading a non-fiction book, which is very rare for me. It’s called How to Write A Sentence, and it’s written by Stanley Fish. As I say, I’m in the process of reading it. It’s rather short, which I think is all to the good. Mr. Fish has a point to make about thoughtful appreciation for sentence structure, and I’m thankful that he makes his point without a lot of repetitious belaboring.

Still, I do wonder what kind of help this book will be in guiding me as a writer. It’s good to think about how sentences are put together, and still better to analyze what the sentence does and how it contributes to the paragraph that contributes to the chapter that contributes to the novel (or short story or blog post).

I guess what I’m wondering is, if you think about sentence structures enough, does it become ingrained enough in your mind that you don’t have to go through your work sentence-by-sentence, looking at each and asking yourself “What is this sentence doing?” Because I can’t imagine that anyone would ever write anything if that were the case.

Although, I only write this little blog. What do I know?

Is the art of putting together a sentence guided by the intellectual exercise of pulling it apart or by a general feeling of a sentence “sounding right?” Do our great writers have an instinctive sense of what makes a good sentence without having to think about it too hard?

Or is writing well more of an intellectual exercise than I had previously imagined?

That is entirely possible. What do you think?

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

It was just right

I find, when blogging, that I’m trying to strike a good balance. I don’t want to over-share. I don’t want to lurk. I want my communication level in the social media sphere to be “just right.” (Thanks, Goldilocks.)

I’m sure we’ve all been the victim of a social media acquaintance who is prone to over-share. Her status updates choke our news feed on That Certain Social Media Site. Her new blog posts completely dominate our list of “Blogs You Follow.”

And on top of that, a lot of what she says are things we really don’t need or want to know. Young children’s personal habits, for instance. Good grief, any progress your young child is making in that area is about HIM, not about YOU, plus these topics never counted as polite conversation in civilized society anyway. So, please. Social media isn’t the place. At all. Neither am I interested in anyone’s minute-by-minute reactions to what they’re watching on television. Anyone who does that should consider hosting viewing parties if sharing is so important to the experience. That way, a person may be assured of an interested audience. Not an audience whose brain is set to ignore, ignore, ignore as she hurries through dozens of closely-related posts.

In contrast, we have the person who occasionally “likes,” even less occasionally comments, but never, ever seems to have anything to say. You have to kind of wonder why they bother. It would be kind of creepy, in a way, a little like spying, except because that person never says anything we never think about her. Really, what’s the point?

Well, one algorithm I’d certainly like to see in social media is one that lets users limit the number of posts they see from other users. I may like hearing from a certain person, but not necessarily six times a day. If I could have a setting that allows, say, one post per “friend” or “blogger” per day, I’d become a much more happy fan of the social media experience.

So, come on, social media. Get on it. What are you waiting for?

For myself, I’ve concluded that a couple times a week blogging, plus once a day at the most on That Certain Social Media Site, is just about the right temperature for my porridge. I care about sharing, but not taking over other people’s experience.

Maybe I’ll astonish the online world one day by posting a blog entry on a day that isn’t either a Monday or Thursday.

Hang onto your hats, everyone. It could happen.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

 

To the Finish Line

I recently had the experience of *making* myself finish a book. The book in question is The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt. It seems to be The Book Everyone Is Reading This Summer, the book I’m seeing in library book clubs and social media. I think it’s also very much a book of its time, in that the title of the book is also the title of a painting. This seems to have been done noticeably often  in the past decade or so. I’m thinking of The Girl with a Pearl Earring (Tracy Chevalier) and The Music Lesson (Katharine Weber). And if I can come up with just two off the top of my head, you know there have to be a lot more out there. Right?

Are there enough of these to count as a trend? Since when did we as readers start wanting a dash of artwork with our reading? Does this say anything about us as readers?

I (surprise!) don’t have the answers to any of these questions, but I think about them. I wonder if, with all the information and all the fandoms and all the new ways to self-identify that are part of our Information Age culture, we have a new thirst for self-identifying as cultured people. You know, the kind of people who go to art museums and who know how to pronounce “Modigliani” and who know how many Bach cello suites there are. I wonder if we get a little kick out of seeing and recognizing a painting or an artist’s name in a work of fiction. I wonder whether our little culture kick plays into writing, publishing, and marketing current fiction.

Well. Who knows?

Back to The Goldfinch… I had trouble with it because I liked it too much. Does that make any sense? I loved the beginning, but found the middle sections very painful because I really had come to care for the protagonist of the book. And it’s very hard to keep going when that means watching someone you care for suffer. But I’m glad I kept on going, because the end made it all worthwhile.

You see I’m determined not to give any details or any spoilers. In any case, this isn’t a book review, it’s only my little blog and that means I can write whatever I want.

I’m glad that, for Donna Tartt, writing whatever she wanted resulted in The Goldfinch.

You should read it. But you’ll probably have to wait a while if you’re requesting it from a library, because everyone else wants to read it, too.

It’s definitely worth the wait.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Polished Prose

I’m sure that all of us who love writing enough to be blogging have heard lots and lots of unsolicited advice from other people. Some of it is probably good advice. Some of it is definitely condescending advice. But my goodness, there certainly is a lot of it out there.

The one piece of advice that has stuck with me the most, though, is the one that says if you want to write, you need to read. You need to read a lot.

This advice has been very, very easy for me to follow. As easy as falling off a log, as they say. When people ask me how I have time to read, what I want to ask them back is how they have time to breathe.

If you read a lot, you may recognize my unspoken reply as a reference to Harper Lee’s one and only, To Kill A Mockingbird.  Scout, the narrator, says, “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” If you read a lot, hearing from other readers can be a much richer experience. Because, honey, you are in the know.  You get it. Things that other people say, no matter how off-hand they are, may well refer to one of the most powerful or most witty or most resonant books you’ve ever read. And that makes conversation, and life in general, richer and deeper. And who doesn’t want a little of that?

Those of us who love to read the way we love breathing live in the trembling hope that reading the work of great writers helps to make our own prose better. Unfortunately, there is a downside to this: namely, that it’s very, very easy for us to see when other people get it wrong.

For example, this morning I read a blog entry which referred to “Ann of Green Gables.”  Now, if you’ve ever actually read L.M. Montgomery’s book, you know good and well that the title is Anne of Green Gables, and that Anne Shirley, the main character, places a very strong emphasis early in the book on being called “Anne spelled with an e.” Having her name spelled without an e is hurtful to dear Anne Shirley, and to anyone who’s read and loved the book.

Or another, someone commenting on a blog wrote, “Here, here!” Um, no. If you’ve read and loved J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, you know that when young Bilbo Baggins is completely discombobulated by an unexpected visit from a wizard and a whole lot of dwarves, he shouts out, “Hear, hear!” and when the dwarves ask him what he means, he continues with “Hear what I’ve got to say!” So anyone who has read The Hobbit and knows it well will never, never use the wrong form of hear/here in a blog comment. (Also: Mr. Tolkien used “dwarves” and so I’m using it here. So there.)

The problem is, I think, that I and everyone else just don’t realize what it is we don’t know. I mean, the person who typed “Here, here” probably never considered that he was just getting it plain wrong. He probably still doesn’t know, unless he’s reading this blog, which I doubt. He may not even care. And, on top of that, it is rude to correct total strangers. Which is why I’m addressing  this topic in my own little blog entry instead of joining in the comments.

But if you love reading the way you love breathing, you know a lot of books well and are not prone to making certain errors in your own writing. And you also realize that the people who are getting things wrong are a lot more famous and have many more followers and comments than you do.

So who cares about other people’s little errors in their blog entries?

Only fusspots like me.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Benign or Toxic?

For some reason I was watching a podcast/ video presentation during which the speaker was discussing benign versus toxic disinhibition. The discussion is called Why Internet Jerks Aren’t Going To Win and I guess I was looking over my husband’s shoulder or something, since he is a giant fan of Giant Bomb.

Because in my little world everything’s all about me, it got me to wondering into which category this blog would fall, benign or toxic? Let’s see…

The reason I started this blog is because I wanted to state certain opinions out  loud, but not in a context where anyone would know it was me or I could personally hurt anyone’s feelings. I continue to maintain that there is nothing more obnoxious than posting comments on That Certain Social Media Site that negatively reflect on how others are using the site. Sure, people do and say all kinds of irritating things on that site (see every single blog entry I’ve written) but it really isn’t kind to use that site as a forum to call others out for irritating behavior. I think it might be said that *some* of my motivations for writing this blog are benign. I don’t want to hurt the feelings of people I know by commenting on their behavior in a direct and personal way.

On the other hand, I’m really not very nice about other people’s irritating behavior on this blog. I’m sarcastic, I’m snarky, and I make jokes at the expense of others. Is that harsh enough to count as being toxic? I’m not doing much to spread joy, warmth and tolerance toward my fellow human beings. Unless the people who agree with me think I’m funny. That’s one kind of joy, I suppose. And maybe anonymous venting helps those of us who enjoy it to be more tolerant in other contexts, such as That Certain Social Media Site.

I guess my question is, does “toxic” always mean direct, personal, bigoted attacks? I think it probably does, and I don’t have a lot of tolerance for that in either my real world, or in this one.

It’s very hard to be witty and respect the feelings of others at the same time, I notice. Self-deprecation becomes tiresome, and it’s all too easy to count on other people to do and say things that create an opportunity for them to be the subject of your wit. Also, it’s fun to be clever and it’s fun to be outside looking in on what’s happening in your society. And I do find that it’s easier to achieve the feeling of outside looking in when one is writing under a pseudonym. And I’d like to think that anonymous wit doesn’t severely detract from any one person’s online experience.

Oh, look. I am absolving myself of being toxic. Sly and secretive, yes. Toxic, no. Benign, also no.

Thorny might be a good adjective. But in the online world, no one is going to prick herself on a thorn unless she goes looking for it.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Meta without the Links

So recently a “friend” on That Certain Social Media Site linked to an article by an actual, published columnist about how she doesn’t like that people are publishing lists of annoying social media behaviors. If I were a real cutting-edge blogger, I would link to this article. Because I am a beastly slacker, I’m just going to let you do an internet search for it if you want to. In my experience, links to articles tend to be like the floor plans in Agatha Christie mystery novels, in that I suspect most readers just skip right over them. So no link, and you’ll have to take my interpretation of this article as gospel unless you do the search.

Anyway, my “friend” agreed with this columnist, and told us all how much she loves posting to That Certain Social Media Site. Well, yes, dear, we all guessed that. We all are able to follow your vacations hour-by-hour, we all know exactly what articles are trending in your profession, and we even know about the symptoms displayed by your child when she is suffering from a virus in the middle of the night. It’s clear to us that you are a real fan of That Certain Social Media Site.

I don’t know, it seems to me that people have a perfect right to tell the world that there are in fact a lot of behaviors on That Certain Social Media Site that are really, really annoying. The lists I’ve seen don’t even touch on all of them; of course, if they did, they’d be so long that nobody would read the whole list. In my experience, any list published online has a very obvious title in big letters, making it very easy to decide not to read it if you don’t want to.

The thing that is really rude and annoying, in my opinion, is people who choose That Certain Social Media Site as the venue for complaining about how other people use it. But if you publish a list elsewhere? If you have a secret, pseudonymous blog expressly for the purpose of making fun of social media? Go for it.

And I do.

Therefore, I am using my social-media-topic blog to talk about a post on That Certain Social Media Site that references an article that comments on a list of social media behaviors. How meta is that? I ask  you.

Is it **more** meta not to include the links? Are there degrees of being meta?

Questions for the ages.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

 

Stick ’em up

Hello, my name is Hobbie. I am a mom and I do not own a glue gun.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, we *have* a glue gun in our house. Somewhere. But I wouldn’t know how to use it, even if I could find it. And finding it is probably not happening anytime soon. By anyone in our house.

Want to know who bought the glue gun, and who uses it at our house? It’s my husband. Yes, my charming, clever, IT geek of a husband is sporting the Martha Stewart persona in our house.

Not me, honey. Never, ever, me.

One time, when my daughter was in second grade, I sewed red patches on a men’s large blue T shirt so my daughter could be Pippi Longstocking for Halloween. Of course, I was laid up with a sprained ankle at the time. Still, it is undoubtedly the pinnacle of my career as Crafty Mom. I was kind of hoping that my daughter would just keep on dressing up as Pippi for Halloween until it stopped being cute, because then, you know, she could just keep wearing that costume I sewed by hand. Sort of. I sewed the patches on by hand. With big raggedy uneven stitches, because isn’t that the way Pippi herself would do it?

What this means is that I will never be able to post photos of Look-What-I-Made-With-Felt-Scraps-And-A-Glue-Gun on That Social Media Site. I will never open an account (or profile? See, I don’t even know) on Pinterest so I may commune with other crafty-minded souls.

All that I love is books, everyone. And playing the piano. And other things that don’t lend themselves to demonstrations of how awesome I am online. Except…

Oh, look! I made this blog!

But it didn’t take a glue gun.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy