somethingchanged: Finally I can make beautiful coffee at home (without a huge and silly machine)! Love.

So yeah, I think the TV interview went well

That is, until the interviewer realized I wasn’t Viggo [1] Mortensen [2]. The irony is that I don’t have a television and haven’t for years. And cable. Well, I think maybe I had cable service about a decade ago to watch the Olympics. So I was a bit embarrassed when the interviewer asked me if I had seen her show.

What the interviewer found fascinating is that the event I helped organize with two other people was promoted exclusively through social media and word of mouth. Most people who manage events work up a press release and send it to local print, radio, and television outlets. And in turn, local newspapers, radio and television stations pick up local entertainment news and add it to the calendar of events to fill in programming space. But that’s not how three people on a September afternoon began to plan an event.

Three weeks after that September afternoon, sixty people attended an invite-only poetry reading, book-signing and jazz show on a Friday night with almost no coverage [3] by the Mountain Xpress or Asheville Citizen-Times. The event was so far under the radar that it didn’t garner a mention on Ashvegas’s Asheville Hot Sheet [4]. To be honest, at the time I didn’t know if an event publicized exclusively through Twitter and Facebook and word-of-mouth would work. But it did. And I guess that’s why I was invited to a television interview regarding that event.

One comment made during the taping of the interview hasn’t left me. I don’t recall who said it, but someone observed that if poets watched a lot of television there would be less poetry in the world. Television has been around for at least 85 years. Most people reading this have grown up with access to television. This means most of you — specifically Gen-X and younger — grew up in a mass media culture. Interestingly, less than 60 years ago, the poet T.S. Eliot packed an university gymnasium with 15,000 people [5] to hear him lecture about literary criticism. Not exactly what you might call primetime broadcast material. At the time Eliot delivered his lecture, the average American earned a salary of $5300. A car cost $2100. A color television set cost between $500 to $1000 and a gallon of gasoline cost $0.30. [6] Cable television was on the horizon [7], but like network television it was only just becoming accessible to most Americans.

Now, an average gallon of gasoline costs $2.81. The average annual salary is $42,000. [8] And it seems ironic that now a cable television program may be making poetry more accessible to Americans. [9]

[1] Poet, painter and, oh, yeah, an actor. [2] He founded Perceval Press to publish his own books and CDs as well as other artist, poets, musicians and photographers. [3] Full disclosure, Mountain Xpress Blogwire did mention the event twice, but it’s not quite the same as opening a copy of Mountain Xpress on a Wednesday afternoon and reading a nice piece by Alli Marshall or one of the other writers covering Asheville’s vibrant entertainment scene. [4] There is always a lot of entertainment going on in Asheville. So I don’t fault Ashvegas for neglecting to mention an event that was not publicized in the traditional manner on the Asheville Hot Sheet. Maybe the event might get a mention if Dehlia Low or the Avett Brothers were part of it.  [5] Is there a poet alive today that could lecture about literary criticism and pack out a gymnasium?. [6] When I look through the television history archives, I can help thinking that a lot of those old television screens were not much larger than an iPhone screen. [7] Now that there is Netflix, will that be the end of cable television? [8] I wonder if the average American salary includes under-employed and unemployed Americans? [9] Estimated viewership of local cable television ranges between 150,000 to 180,000.

npr:  A rejection letter from the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company (1907-1925), best known for making Charlie Chaplin movies.

When you unplug from social network do your friends disappear too?

Recently, a workplace policy has me thinking about online and offline time as well as social network sites and the nature of friendship. I’m sure I’m not the only one who deals with the challenges of separating work and home life with instant connectivity through mobile devices and laptops nursing on wifi signals. A decade ago, the separation between what goes on at the office and what goes on at home were clearly marked. Early in my career, co-workers and friends would mingle after hours — leaving whatever happened at the office at the office. Some nights we’d hangout at The Village Café, Coffee Underground, a movie theater, a bowling alley, or congregate at someones apartment to watch the latest episode of Party of Five. But the last few years I’ve noticed myself never quite leaving the office at the office. Projects follow me home like a shadow and even on vacation. Obsessively I check emails late at night because I know coworkers are at home doing the same thing — working around the clock.

‘Divide your day into online and offline,’ writes Stephen Elliott in a Poets & Writers article [1] I quoted a few years ago in a post [2] published [3] on a writers blog. That’s easy for him to say, I thought to myself. He doesn’t work for a media organization that has to constantly feed the beast — the Internet — that never sleeps. But I was wrong to think along those lines. An organization can ritualize the release of online content in much the same way that the online consumers ritualize their access of the online content.

Internet restrictions to social media sites (like Facebook and Twitter) and web streaming sites (like YouTube and LastFM) avoid excessive bandwidth usage. Or at least that’s what I’ve been told by the office’s IT department. Some of you reading this might think it unfair that management places this restrictions on employees. Some of you might even think it is the right of employees to have unrestricted internet access at office computers. In some regards, I might agree with you, and in some regards I might disagree with you.

I’ve had several months to consider this change in workplace environment. First, I confess that until August I brought my on laptop to work — as I’ve done for years — and used it to go about my business of producing audio podcasts, publishing books and other related graphic design projects. But I must also confess that throughout the work day I would often carry on casual conversations via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other social network sites. But when the company purchased a new laptop for me to use, things change. After all, the machine they purchased is not my laptop. It’s the company’s laptop and therefore all I do on that machine should be work related, correct? Before the company provided a new laptop, my attitude was: ‘This is my laptop that I purchased with my earnings. The software is mine. All the apps are mine. All the silly desktops and screensavers are mine. And since it’s mine, I can do what I want on it.’ But my attitude has since changed. The new, company-owned laptop with all its new company-owned software is not mine. I use it for business in much the same fashion I would a rent an auto for a business trip. At the end of the day I return it — actually, I leave the company-owned laptop at the office — as I received it.

The second thing I noticed is the virtual blindness I feel from the restrictions of my daily social media diet. It’s not as if I had disappeared from social media entirely. I was restricted from updating Facebook statuses a few times a day or from tweeting as least once an hour — or more. So, I’d return home from the office. After the kidlingers were sent to bed, I would sign into various social network sites and try to maintain those conversations. But social media conversations are really strained when they occur once a day rather than periodically throughout the day. At a social media school, Gary of G Social Media, [4] mentioned that your tweet may be viewed by 10% of your Twitter — or social media — audience. He encouraged people to tweet something twice to reach a large portion of your social media audience. The science of tweeting and retweeting [5] is still a rather young field, but Gary has a valid point. The challenge I discovered is that most people are offline — or at least not checking their Twitter or Facebook account — at 10 p.m. I’ve missed a few Tweet-ups due to this social network disruption, but I was able to catch up with other people in real life.

This brings me to the idea of friendship as it relates to social networks. Socrates taught that there is no greater thing than a good, sincere friend. [6] But is this idea akin to collecting Facebook ‘friends’ for the mere fact of voyeuristically peeping in on their lives? Was Socrates saying that friends are objects to possess? One of the things I really enjoy about Twitter is the tweet-ups that result from online conversations. I’ve met new people in real life through Twitter connections — some personal and some professional. But I don’t hear much from the Twitter crowd since the new internet restrictions have been in place at the office. And though I try to maintain social network connections after work hours it makes me wonder how well Twitter ‘friends’ translate to real life ‘friends’ or whether you can be a ‘friend’ without Twitter? Socrates observed that people are often more reckless in their friendships than their stuff. Have I been careless with my friendships online and offline? I’ve been thinking about that question for awhile. In Mark Vernon’s article on friendship, [7] he mentions that Aristotle taught that there is an immediate desire for friendship, but that friendship is not immediate. From that I deduce that friendships take time to nurture and maintain. With the speed of social media networks, I wonder if it is nearly impossible to properly nurture friendships. It seems that people eagerly accumulate ‘friends’ on Facebook and Twitter, but deep friendship requires more than a laptop and the internet.

While researching and composing this piece, NPR ran a story [8] about a Pennsylvania university that blocked Facebook and Twitter for a week. I saw their story link on Facebook and added the following comment:

A policy of no Twitter nor Facebook was put in practice about a month ago at the office where I work. I don’t know if productivity has improved, but I have observed that some co-workers appear to be more accessible.

What I didn’t mention in the comment section of NPR’s Facebook page is that I’ve been catching up on night stand reading material including books on business strategy, spirituality, poetry and an entire print issue of The Writer’s Chronicle. I’ve made a new acquaintance on the bus route and at the local coffee shop. Further, I began writing this piece almost three months ago and have delayed posting it because new articles and opinions continue to emerge. For example, CEO of Behance, Scott Belsky, recently provided solutions to disconnect from online distractions based his question of why we choose distraction over downtime. [9] Along Mr. Belsky’s line of thinking, I’ve eliminated Facebook distraction all together (full disclosure: the fact that my WordPress blog posts aggregate to Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter does not mean I actually log in to those services) and sought out ‘sacred’ spaces for downtime. It is not my intent to demonize the 500 million users for spending 700 billion minutes a month on Facebook. [10] To be honest (and I’ll have to explore this in another post), I’ve used Facebook affectively to promote events with great success. But I also know that a ‘man’s got to know his limitations.’ [11] So I’m taking a hiatus of sorts from online distractions in order to focus on nurturing relationships with family and friends.

[1] Surviving a Month Without Internet [2] Unplugged [3] Info diet [4] G Social Media [5] Science of Retweeting [6] Socrates on Friendship [7] What is friendship? [8] Pa. University Bans Facebook, Twitter For A Week [9] What Happened to Downtime? The Extinction of Deep Thinking & Sacred Space [10] Facebook statistics [11] Harry Callahan

The underestimation of the human intelligence is the worst sin of our time…

Mortimer J. Adler

Everything is an aggregator for something else, even every link in the chain dilutes the message a little bit more… Stories spread. Word of mouth gets recommendations. Followers and bit.ly clicks don’t mean a damn thing.

tdhurst of antiprguy from Social media is dead

Who spends $125 at Dollar General store? Apparently the woman in front of me. And there’s only one line. *shaking my head* All I wanted was a single bag of candy corn for $1.