Tumblr for the Lipitor generation


Here’s how I feel about the different social media sites and their uses:

  • Facebook, for the young, is for connecting and gossiping and embarrassing one another.
  • Facebook, for those of us who are no longer young, is for keeping in touch and swapping recipes and Simplicity patterns and posting pictures from thirty years ago and embarrassing one another.
  • Twitter is about branding and advertisement and being stupid in fifteen words or less. If you are not consistently very witty, you shouldn’t really bother posting, unless you’re Katy Perry or Justin Bieber, in which case it doesn’t matter.
  • Pinterest is for those who like to post and share pictures of fashion and decorating and jewelry and cute boys. Much though I like all these things, I decided after a few months that Pinterest was not for me.
  • WordPress is a nice stable blog website, full of people with all kinds of interests. I have made some very nice Internet friendships on WordPress.
  • Blogger / Blogspot ditto.
  • Tumblr is a friggin’ zoo.

Let me expand upon this last statement.
Tumblr is something for everyone and no mistake: lots of beautiful photography and art, lots of underdone cheesy humor, lots of selfies. Also lots of bizarre political thought and amateur porn. It’s a more freewheeling version of Facebook in which you don’t need to friend anyone, and in which most people use handles and aliases. Nothing comes to you automatically on Tumblr: you have to shop around for it. Once you find something with which you feel comfortable, those people will be reblogging from other similarly-oriented Tumblr blogs, and you can follow those in turn, and – within a month or two of careful tending – you will have a beautiful Tumblr garden / dashboard full of lovely and amusing images and texts to enjoy!

Let me give you a head start. Let’s say you’re a mature person, a little literary, a little artsy, with a taste for kitch and a goofy sense of humor. You might like to look at the following Tumblr blogs, just for entertainment’s sake. (And if you’re reading this on Tumblr, look these folks up; you won’t be sorry.)

  • Diane Duane. Diane (who blogs under her real name) is a successful author, mostly sci-fi and young adult. She lives in Ireland and posts wonderful pictures and texts, and she is very responsive to her fans and readers. She is very likeable, and I recommend her highly.
  • Devilduck. This is the ultra-kitschy Tumblr blog of one of the guys associated with the well-known Archie McPhee joke shop in Seattle. If you like pictures of people wearing horse masks and Christmas trees decorated with Cthulhu tentacles, this is the site for you.
  • Bad Postcards. What it says. Mostly 1950s and 1960s; mostly cute, some poignantly nostalgic, and almost all in brilliant Kodacolor.
  • 1950s Unlimited. Like Devilduck, but a little more on the sentimental side. If you get misty-eyed over black and white photos of people using cigarette machines, you’ll feel very at home here.
  • Well, That’s Just Great. The drily amusing / often hilarious daily chronicle of a man named Anthony Giffen who lives in central Florida with a dog named Ducky and a partner named Gizmo. Highly recommended.

There: I have sanitized Tumblr for you. I guarantee no porn, no dangerous radicals, no homicidal lunatics.

Now get in there and explore Tumblr and stomp around a bit.

You might just have fun.

Studying calculus at an advanced age


A friend of mine on Facebook mentioned Coursera recently. I respect his opinions, so I went to check it out.

It’s for real. It’s a website where you can find college-level courses offered for free. Really.

Okay. So I never took calculus in high school or college, and I saw that that Coursera was offering “Calculus 101.”

What could it hurt? It’s an online course. It must be very gentle, right?

Brother, was I wrong.

This is a complete thorough-going college-level course in calculus, with lectures, and homework, and quizzes, and a textbook (all free).

I’m barely through with the first week, and I’m already terrified.

I haven’t felt this way since high school.

Calculus turns out to be demanding and difficult, which is not good for my ossifying over-fifty brain.

Every evening I resolve to quit the course, and every evening I try again.

Now: can someone tell me: how do you multiply square roots? I’ve forgotten.

And I need to know by next Friday’s quiz.

Famous on the Internet

fame on the internet

There is a website called Klout, which tells you how influential you are on the Internet, on a scale from zero to 100. Only a few people have ever achieved a perfect score, and then they fall away again. I believe they give you a 15 or a 20 just for signing up, but then they monitor your Internet presence – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, other social media, blogs, et cetera – and make your score more precise.



Some examples:



Justin Bieber’s a 93, or he was the other day. The Boston Bruins have the same score: 93. The New York Yankees have a 95.



Among my friends: one of my acquaintances (a former Brown student) has a score in the mid-60s. Partner has a pitiful 12. Two of my other friends are in the 20s.



I am currently a 37.



What does this mean?



Well, I consider that my score is pretty good for someone who has less than a hundred Facebook friends (it’s in the sixties, actually). Partner has less than twenty Facebook friends.



I love asking my student assistants how many Facebook friends they have. Invariably they have hundreds. One, a serious young man who’s going to be a junior next fall, has over 500; one of his classmates, a girl, has over 900; two recent graduates (I mentioned one of them above) have more than a thousand.



What does any of this mean?



It means: you can be famous on the Internet, if you know what you’re doing.



Just be careful.




We all have Internet identities, don’t we? All of you who are reading this have one, in one way or another. You have an avatar, or a photo. You have an online bio. You probably have a more-or-less-clever alias (I use “Futureworld” for my blog identity, which isn’t terribly clever, but I’m foolishly fond of it).



So: we are all branding ourselves.



Branding used to be reserved to companies and vendors and businesses, to whom it was important. They had images and slogans. I think of James Joyce’s “Ulysses”:



What is home without Plumtree’s Potted Meat?




And that was written more or less a hundred years ago.



The other day I was walking to the office, and I saw one of those big commercial trucks with the company name painted all over it: ROYAL FLUSH PLUMBING. On three sides of the vehicle there was a big image of a cute bearded guy in a kilt, with a big smile and a wrench over one shoulder.



We stop at the same intersection, at a red light. I glance over at the truck, and the driver. I do a classic triple-take: I look at the driver (who has a cute little beard), and the image on the side of the truck, and again at the driver.



And he grins, and waves at me, and the light turns green, and he drives away.



It’s him! It’s the kilt-and-wrench guy!



He must be used to people reacting the way I did, but he was evidently still very pleased that I’d recognized him. Well, why not? He had his face plastered all over his truck. He likes being recognized.



He knows everything there is to know about branding.



(Postscript: I told the first part of this story to my friend Apollonia. I hadn’t gotten further than a description of the picture of the guy with the kilt, and she said, “Oh, you mean Royal Flush Plumbing.”)



(And then she blushed a little.)



(My goodness!)


Death on the Internet

death on the internet

A co-worker and dear friend – let’s call her Lily – passed away about two years ago. At the time of her decease, she had all of five Facebook friends, of whom I was one.



She used to fret over her Facebook status constantly. She hated the fact that Facebook presented her as both a graduate of Harvard and Simmons. “Why doesn’t it always show Harvard first?” she asked me.



“It’s Facebook,” I said. “It addresses itself to the person looking at it. It may think I care more about Simmons than Harvard, and it’ll show me Simmons first.”



She looked murderous. “There’s got to be a way to fix this.”



Well, if you’re on Facebook, you know that there are very few ways to outfox Facebook.



Anyway, as I said, she passed away. I did not delete her from my Facebook friends, because I like seeing her name come up on my “friends” list. (Three of my seventy Facebook friends are deceased. I refuse to delete them. I like seeing their faces and names on the list. It allows me to pretend that they’re still alive.)



And then, the other day, I saw the following in my Facebook news feed:



LILY posted (five hours ago): I’m on the 6th day of Raspberry ultra drops and have lost 7lbs already, it’s insane! the first 3 days alone I lost over 2lbs. it really is amazing… you gotta check it out!



Dear me. Evidently someone hacked poor Lily’s Facebook account (which was, of course, never deactivated), and is using it to promote Raspberry Ultra Drops, whatever the hell they are.



This is pretty funny, since (as I said) Lily had all of five Facebook friends, and I’m sure all of us were startled to see Lily posting on Facebook from beyond the grave.



But it made me think of George Carlin’s old joke: “If you die while you’re on hold, will the little light on the telephone stop blinking?”



We all have dozens of Internet identities and membership and accounts. What happens to them when we die?  Should I notify Facebook that Lily’s account has been hacked? If I do, will they do anything about it?



And what will your survivors do when you pass away, and suddenly six months later you come back from the dead on Facebook with news about a new weight-loss plan?



Probably it’s worth thinking about.



I love thinking about Lily, floating around in the afterlife, incensed about her Facebook account being hacked. Lily was the soul of propriety.



But I suspect that, wherever she is right now, she’s pretty calm about it.


The fragility of the Internet

fragility of the internet

I still have shelves and shelves of books: novels, poetry, history, biographies. Also reference books.



But do I really need reference books? Isn’t that what the Internet is all about? Twenty years ago, you had to know how to use a dictionary, and an encyclopedia, and an almanac, and a phone book, to look anything up. Now Google and Siri have everything wrapped up.



So long as you have 3G, or 4G, or WiFi, and provided your battery is all charged up.



The nice thing about those big lumpy reference books is that they’re not going anywhere. They will sit on my shelves, ugly and faithful, until they’re called upon for use. They do not require electricity, or an Internet connection.



What if an electromagnetic pulse (AKA EMP) happens? Or a huge angry sunspot? Or an attack by hackers from some unfriendly country?



And the Internet goes away. Electricity too, for a while.



What will we do then?



My books will still be useful. It’ll be just like the 1980s. I think I’ll be able to survive, for a while.



But for the young people who were born after the Net took over the world, it will be torture.



Poor things.



You can come borrow my dictionary.


Another blog to follow: Scott Gatty’s “Who Knows Where Or When”

I have begun, once in a while, to feature other bloggers I enjoy. I will feature Oma, one of my very favorites, in a future column: she’s a gardener (which is +100 points on my scorecard) who lives in an English cottage (“Can we visit her? Can we stay with her?” Partner wants to know), and she takes wonderful photos, and she writes nice fiction too, and you should follow her.

And I recently featured another of my favorites, Attila Ovari. He’s an Australian husband/father who writes about management, and family, and many other topics; he’s also wonderful, and you should follow him.

Today I want to feature whoknowswhereorwhen.

He is on Tumblr. His name is Scott Gatty (he’s like me, he uses his full name on his website). He is a gardener and photographer and all kinds of other things. He also writes very well. This is from his Tumblr profile:

The thing that has fascinated me most in life is Time, the passage of it and my relationship to it as I age.



I was born in 1957, and as each year goes by, I find out more events that took place in that splendiferous year: the first artificial satellite was put into orbit by the Commies and set off a panic here; the first Pink Flamingo lawn ornament rolled off the assembly line; “The Cat in the Hat” was first published, by Dr. Seuss; Burt Bacharach joined with lyricist Hal David to create some wonderful songs; and, five days after I was born, John Lennon was introduced to Paul McCartney. Kinda neat, eh? . . .




I love the plant world – sometimes, I think, as if I actually were part of it. They’re the other major form of life with which we share this planet, but very few people treat plants with the dignity and respect they deserve. I remind people: we need them, they don’t need us.




I think we’re the same person in alternate universes; he got to be a gardener (which, because I live in an apartment, is forbidden to me) and I want to be a photographer and he is a photographer, and we’re both very aware of time, and we were both born in 1957, and . . .

But anyway.

Follow his blog.

More recommendations soon.

Social media (and especially Pinterest)


Social media allow us to craft our own image and present it to the world, in ways that only a few artists and writers were able to do in the centuries before us. More than that: we can do it over and over again, in various ways. We don’t have to present ourselves on Facebook in the same way that we do on LinkedIn, or Tumblr, or Twitter.



Take me, for example. My Facebook persona is pretty vanilla. I repost this blog to my Facebook feed, but I suspect very few of my sixty-odd “friends” read it. And, after all, why would they? Facebook Loren is mostly 1970s Pacific Northwest Loren. A large percentage of my Facebook friends are my school acquaintances from Battle Ground, and various Pacific Northwest relatives. As you can imagine, their politics vary considerably from mine, in most (though not all) cases. So: we stick to safe topics, and harmless photos, and nostalgia.



LinkedIn Loren is very dull: he’s just a brief resume.  He has a reasonable number of connections, but (since he’s not actively looking for a job) he’s not out there roaming the LinkedIn network very much. Mostly I use LinkedIn to find out what my various work acquaintances are doing nowadays. Now and then I’m amused to find that some of them are exaggerating their titles, and their experience, and their education, and their accomplishments. (But I won’t rat them out. Not here, anyway. Give me a call, and I’ll tell you all about it.)



Twitter Loren is a nonentity. This blog reposts there too, but I seldom look at Twitter; it’s too busy, too full of chatter.



Blog Loren is the same person on Posterous, Tumblr, Blogger, and WordPress, as this goes out to all four. Three of them – Posterous, Blogger, and WordPress – are full of windy pontificators like me, so I’m just a face in the crowd there. I’m not really at home on Tumblr, which is really more about images and memes and being cutting-edge. I like Tumblr, though, more as a subscriber (and occasional reposter) than as a contributor. Few people on Tumblr read me, but I read and look at lots of people on Tumblr, and enjoy them very much.



Then there is (or was) Pinterest Loren.



I heard about Pinterest, and decided to try it. I was sort of charmed by it; I liked the mosaic layout of the pages, and the variety, and the ease with which you can browse, and the way you can click through a pinned image to an original website. In no time at all, Pinterest Loren had lots of stuff pinned: funny pictures, and cute puppies and kitties, and cute G-rated men, and pretty landscapes, and . . .






Pinterest Loren was a sixteen-year-old girl.



I deactivated Pinterest Loren not long ago. I don’t think he/she will be back anytime soon.



I think I did the world a favor.



Internet identities


I had a acquaintance some years ago who was active on every single social-networking site: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. He was anxious to make a name for himself. More than a name: an image.



(This is not me, by the way, so get that idea out of your head. It’s not one of those “I have a friend who . . .” things. This is a real story about someone else. You know I always tell the truth about myself. Well, most of the time.)



My friend’s LinkedIn image was professional: he’d had more jobs than you could shake a stick at. He was all over the place in his profession, rising from level to level. You could trace his career growth on a graph, if you wanted to: manager, director, executive director –



Except that it wasn’t true. I knew that he’d actually lost his previous job and wasn’t working at all at the moment. So: he was either making it all up, or misdating the information he was posting. I didn’t want to call him out – who wants to destroy a career? – but I had a strange feeling about all of this, as I watched him go from untruth to untruth on LinkedIn.



Then there was his Facebook persona.



On Facebook, he was Mister Philanthropist. He was all over the place: giving speeches here, making heartfelt appeals there. He was amazing. Some of his Facebook friends were buying it: he was getting “Congratulations!” comments right and left on his various philanthropic / altruistic posts.



(I, on the other hand, knew that he might or might not be making this stuff up. And, even if he wasn’t, he was certainly making the LinkedIn stuff up. And, for those of us who were following him on both LinkedIn and Facebook: we had to ask ourselves how he could possibly have the time to do all these things – be a stellar businessman and a stellar philanthropist – at the same time?)



So what’s a girl to do?



I could have messaged him, or confronted him. So could lots of other people, I imagine.



But I didn’t.  Oh, well, I thought.  It’ll blow up eventually. And, when it does, it will be spectacular.



And we (who knew the truth) will be able to say: “Oh, I had no idea! I thought it all sounded a little out of kilter. But I really didn’t know he was doing all of that . . . “



A warning to all of you fibbers out there: the truth will come out.



The Internet is built that way.




Etsy is an interesting website on which craftsy people sell craftsy things: soap, jewelry, clothing, ceramics, jewelry, homegrown herbs, jewelry.



I like that the Internet has brought back a kind of corner-store mentality to the world.  I like seeing that people are making artisanal candles and selling them on the Web.



I only wish those craftsy people were getting rich. 



But most of them are not.



Back in the faraway 1990s, I used to sell lots of stuff on eBay: vintage phonograph records, books, memorabilia.  It did not make me rich, and it was often a pain in the keester.  Finally I gave it up.



A eFriend of mine crafts beautiful little accessory items and sells them on Etsy.  She spends hours making the items, and more hours photographing / describing / posting them.  She is not yet independently wealthy, however.  (Do yourself a favor and check out her things.  They are very pretty.  I myself have purchased two of her handcrafted necklaces, to give as gifts, and they were both very pretty.)



One of the other things I like about Etsy is that, when you join, it gives you a “taste test,” to see what kinds of things you like.  Kind of like being at the optician: this, or this? Except that it’s: chair, or necklace?  Pottery, or scarf?



Afterward, it gives you a list of things you might like.



The first time I took it, it recommended two basic categories of things to me: French Provincial furniture, and silver skull jewelry.



Go figure.



The Etsy algorithm knows my inner soul!



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