Friday, March 9, 2012

Arianna and Henry David on Social Media

"We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate." -- Henry David Thoreau

This morning Arianna Huffington related Thoreau's quote to our current social media "fetishization" as she calls it.  I love social media: in 1996 I put out one of the first email newsletters as part of the InnovationNetwork and followed it as soon as possible with a blog.  I leaped into LinkedIn early on, not quite so early into Facebook and was an absolute laggard into Twitter.  I also became addicted to Pinterest within weeks of its birth.

I love the democratization of information sharing and the web of connections that social media creates.  The super-idealist within me thinks that maybe, just maybe, all this openness and connection might support a more peaceful universe.

However, I've been really busy lately with the move and the upcoming show at the Morro Bay gallery.  All my normal social media activities have fallen away (except for this blog, of course).

And ... guess what happened?  Nothing.  My life did not change one iota.  As far as I can tell no one even noticed my absence.  No one tweeted that they missed my tweets.  No one said, "Gee, I haven't seen your name scroll by on my Facebook roll."

It makes me think that I'm like an old lady walking through the aisles of a grocery store, talking every step of the way.  Mostly no one notices, but every once in awhile, someone says, "I heard what you said and I agree completely." And, the old lady smiles and walks on with a slightly gladdened heart, continuing to talk all the while.  

So, I still love social media and those occasional connections, and to Henry David ... maybe it doesn't matter that we have something important to communicate ... maybe it's simply the communication that is important.

About this Image:  I Dream of Flying

This is a new work I just finished for the Morro Bay show.  It is 57"x15", the largest piece I've created so far.

Here's Arianna's full comment this morning:

Arianna HuffingtonThe media world's fetishization of social media has reached idol-worshipping proportions. Our media culture is locked in the Perpetual Now, constantly chasing ephemeral scoops that last only seconds and that most often don't matter in the first place, even for the brief moment that they're "exclusive." 

"We are in great haste," wrote Thoreau in 1854, "to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate." And today, we are in great haste to celebrate something going viral, but seem completely unconcerned whether the thing that went viral added one iota of anything good -- including just simple amusement -- to our lives. So the question remains: as we adopt new and better ways to help people communicate, can we keep asking what is really being communicated?


  1. The natural follow-up question is, to whom is the communication important? Oneself or someone else? The answer is in what we tell ourselves is our reason for blogging or using social media.

    I've also learned not to assume no one is noticing.

  2. Both you and Maureen make wonderfully points -- and... on the scale of 'good communications' you both rock my world!

    Thanks for all you communicate through your blogs and photos and words and emails and tweets and...

    and PS -- when you're not here... I miss you!

  3. Hi joyce....
    I was wondering the same thing about my blog the other there a point? Is it all about ego or is it just a way for this introvert to be heard.? All ego?