Josh is a freelance writer, author, and bookseller based in Yarmouth, Maine. He runs the website, Brews and Books, which runs news, reviews, and other editorial content covering the worlds of books and craft beer. He’s also the co-host of the Bookrageous podcast, a twice-monthly audio podcast “about books and why they’re awesome.” Josh shares writing duties on the Sunday Telegram’s “Skiing in Maine” and “Worth the Trip” outdoors columns, which cover recreation in the Maine outdoors. Josh also serves on the boards of the Eastern Ski Writers Association and the New England Independent Booksellers Association. His first book, Maine Beer: Brewing in Vacationland, comes out on May 7th.
Josh is someone I have “known” on Twitter from the day I started using it. When I held this interview, it was the first time I had the opportunity to actually meet him. A great bonus as I’m a fan of both Josh and books. Over the years, Josh has been a huge social media resource, recommending many great books for me and others. I know he also regularly makes valuable recommendations for beer-lovers in the Twitterverse. Hit him up. You won’t be sorry. And, don’t forget to buy his book when it comes out next month.
Books, beer, Twitter journalists and Reddit detectives.
As with most of my interviews, what you’ll read here is a greatly condensed version of our conversation.
What was your first experience with social media?
“In the early, early days of my using the Internet, which would have been the mid-nineties, there were bulletin boards and I know I posted on them about video games. But, I don’t remember what any of them were. I know that when I started high school there was LiveJournal, and I know I used that. I started using it for daily public diary entries. I was a typical high school student, so I’m so glad I’ve lost the address for those posts. I’m sure they were miserable. LiveJournal really puts in sharp relief my whole experience with social media. There were other people in my high school that read it, so I loved having an audience. At some point when I was a junior or senior I had my first anonymous negative comments. It was brutal. So, I had my first experiences with both fans and trolls—all of social media already experienced when I was just 16.”
“When I was in high school I had no real idea about how much of myself I was putting out there for public consumption. So, it’s probably good that LiveJournal ended when it did. No, it’s definitely good. There was, and often is, a false sense of privacy associated with social media.”
“Twitter came along for me sometime right after college. Late 2008 or early 2009. When I got started it was great because there was still a very small Twitter community in Maine. It was easy to connect with people who were really helpful. For example, other independent booksellers. It also allowed me to post links to my websites which really helped me build an audience.”
What do you like about social media?
“The way I always think of it, it’s like the way your group of friends expands from high school to college. In high school your friends are determined by geography. It’s who you grew up with, and you’re forced to be with those people everyday. In college you have the chance to develop friendships based on actual common interests and liking each other. This is how it is with social media. You can easily find people with common interests and they can live anywhere. And, these people become real friends. For instance, there were people at my wedding I had met on Twitter.”
“It gives everyone a platform and social media can level the playing field for an indie bookseller and an Amazon, for instance. Or, for an small, independent brewery and Budweiser. So, the great thing about it is that everyone has a platform. Although, sometimes that can be a bad thing too.”
What do you dislike about social media?
“Personally, I think it can be a lot of noise sometimes. There is a tendency for people, and I’m not excepting myself, to be fairly narcissistic on social media. It’s your platform to talk about yourself, so of course it’s narcissistic. There can be a lot of ‘me, me, me’ going on out there.”
“It also can be just another avenue, like email and direct mail, for spam. I don’t like that at all. You know, sometimes someone has got a bullhorn and they’re aiming that bullhorn right at your face. That’s unpleasant. It can also lead to interesting things. When people ‘cold call’ me using social media they’re definitely taking their chances.”
“Social media is an incredibly powerful tool for disseminating information. That means it’s also a powerful tool for disseminating false information. So, if you’re not discerning about what you post you could really do some damage. I mean, a Reddit account does not turn you into a detective and a Twitter account does not turn you into a journalist. Think about what you’re posting before you post it. Think about where the information came from. Just because it’s on social media doesn’t mean it’s true. It doesn’t make it a fact.”
What would it be like for you to disconnect from social media for six months?
“It would be tough. Six months is a long time. I’ve built a lot of actual friendships on social media and I wouldn’t be able to interact with those people.”
“It would probably also be good to disconnect from the noise for a while. I already intentionally don’t have a smartphone and I do disconnect regularly for short periods. Like, when I’m writing outdoors stuff, or hiking or skiing for fun, and other things like that. In those cases I don’t really have the ability to be connected and it can be nice. It’s good for me.”
“One of the great things about regularly disconnecting is it helps me to realize what I really miss and what’s just noise. That’s really valuable perspective.”
“Six months is a really long-time. Could I get a digest at the end of each week?”
If you could only use three words to describe social media, what would they be?
“Incredibly useful chaos.”
Is there a person or brand that you think uses social media effectively?
“Sugarloaf does as good a job with social media as any ski area in the country. I love following The Blue Room, which aggregates Sugarloaf-related content from places like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vimeo.”
“Greg down at Bier Cellar posts tasting notes on practically every beer and wine that arrives using the store’s Facebook page. It’s invaluable when you’re hoping to discover new stuff. He even recently recommended a bottle of wine for me. I never drink wine and never would have tried this if it weren’t for him.”
“Also in the world of beer and social media, Maine is lucky enough to have a bunch of stellar beer writers – folks who don’t just bang out tasting notes, but really write good content. My favorites are James Sanborn, Carla Companion, The Beer Babe, and Chad Lothian.”
I want to thank Josh for taking the time to talk with me about his opinions on, and experience with, social media.
You can find Josh on Twitter at: @jchristie
You can find Josh on LinkedIn at: Josh Christie
You can pre-order his book, Maine Beer: Brewing in Vacationland, here