Marlene Hauser

The Northern Lights

Connecting, 3.6 Billion People

Hi Everyone,

Social media, love it or leave it, it’s here to stay? Whether you agree or disagree—and I have one colleague who literally calls it “evil” and refuses to participate (she uses the library instead of Amazon), and yes, she’s a bestselling novelist with zero personal social media presence—if you haven’t watched the financial markets in recent days, haven’t noticed the rock and roll of the Chinese video-sharing social networking service TikTok cross the political landscape from Who Knows Where to Calcutta and Beyond, threatening world security (via data breaches), being potentially banned by President Trump, without maybe a Microsoft savior—something that has Steve Ballmer reportedly licking his lips—may I suggest that you’ve been (perhaps happily) living under a rock?

I have been slow to the social media scene because, like so many others, I am too busy, not technically inclined, don’t really understand the appeal of revealing the idiosyncrasies of my life or really care that much about what others are getting up to…so why did I jump in? Because I watched others, including my family, start counting followers and posting, most of which I was banned from seeing—yes, “blocked.” The vocabulary began to escape me: engagement, ephemeral content, filter, handle, hashtag, lens, impression, share, story, Twitterati, avatar, emoji, etc. Now, as I see it, language is a living thing, and it was changing shape all around me. I was mystified; I had no clue. None of the verbiage felt soft, cuddly, touchy, feely; but rather, angular, cold, hard, technical. Yet, as a wordsmith, this foreign tongue intrigued me.

Finally, after viewing The Great Courses program How to Publish Your Book with Professor Jane Friedman of the University of Virginia, who in lecture eight stressed the importance of an author’s platform, having followers, I crawled out from under my technophobe rock. Platform? Yes. Who knew? I needed followers to even remotely attract a legacy publisher, that is assuming I even wanted an old school (hence the term legacy) publisher, rather than self-publish. Social media meant “connecting,” putting myself out there, natural anathema to many writers, to me…marketing, having a platform (as in rocket launch?) seemed a daunting dare.

So at length with no clear objective in mind, no play on Google analytics, I sporadically snapped (is that even the correct term?) a rain dusted rose, a deeply swollen aubergine or my son with his polo pony in a sort of (I imagined) capriole to be released across several media channels—Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. While I recently wanted to “snap” the handsome rise of MSFT as it seesawed up its CNBC chart (the future life of TikTok in the balance), it didn’t seem to jive with windblown Caribbean palms, the ruffled-haired “selfies” from Amsterdam or the video feed of a well-known author at her typewriter, but as I watched those expensive bracelets bangle, I had an insight:  technology, social media in particular, was in fact, as others have suggested, bringing us all closer together, making us a bit more right sized, accessible, maybe even humble.

What came to mind was Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Márquez, a novel about the optimistic ins and outs of love, life and health—the return of a first love at a later stage. Technology for me has been a bit like that. I had an initial run-in, way back when (late ’90s?). OK word processing, OK Internet, OK AOL, OK Nokia, OK Skype…but I had no patience for bad reception or a learning curve—new vocabulary, especially one that seemed to lack gentleness, curves. But then like love, life, most miracles, the odd blade of grass finding itself growing half way up a skyscraper in Houston, or just a crack in the odd Oxford pavement (sidewalk), something took hold.

So Love in the Time of Covid-19? Yes. Technology in the Time of Covid-19, a sweeping panoply of social media, of sociability, demonstrated by—at last count and according to—almost half the world, 3.6 billion people. Thankfully, social media abides. Some say it is the mall of yesteryear, the old town center; it’s the place where kids meet and…well, and…

Wishing you an amusing August, watching the gyrations of the stock market, your own social media feed and life, pushing up, out and through the cracks, proving that, whatever shape it takes, “it” is here to stay.



Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

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