I’m a Jersey girl transplanted to Maine, at first enthusiastically, then unhappily, finally adjusting and moving up the continuum to more than content. We’ve been here since 1989. I’d lived in NYC for 11 years prior, and it was a shock. I’ve been a copywriter all my career, mostly mommy-tracked, freelanced for years and then landed at VIA in 2000. Left after four years, came back in 2009 and now I’m a little shot ACD.
My husband, George, is a celebrity in his own sphere. He came up here to buy urchins and ship them to Japan, and he quickly became the biggest exporter in the state. But then that crashed. He scrambled and now runs a business that supplies seafood to the best restaurants in town. He’s a character and I love him. My two boys were born and raised here, but I’ve made sure they’ve remained Yankee fans. A singular accomplishment.
Excessive hashtagging, hugging strangers in the street, and political flame wars
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?
“The original social media for me would be the phone. I was a typical baby boomer teenager, tying up the home phone for hours. Now I don’t like to talk on the phone much at all. I’d much rather text and be texted. I don’t really even want to talk to my husband or kids on the phone. I do make an exception for my mother.”
“Email weaned me off the phone. Then, my first social-media-as-we-know-it account was on MySpace. I opened it to spy on my then middle school-aged sons. I think I even put myself down as ‘single’ so I’d blend into the crowd. My sons weren’t very active there so I dropped out. I was really slow to get on AIM and now I use it almost exclusively to chat with colleagues. I’ve been on Facebook since the adults ruined it for the kids, in 2006. I joined Twitter maybe year two later, but I use it infrequently. I also don’t use Instagram a ton. I’m more of a words person, and I share a lot of links. I chuckle because I’ve seen my peers joining Instagram by the dozen over the past month or so. I’m constantly getting notified that they’re following me.”
“It took me awhile to ‘get’ Pinterest, because at first I thought it was just style-grandstanding: ‘look at my amazing taste.’ And I thank God it wasn’t around when my kids were little. My head would have blown up trying to make the coolest birthday parties ever. Now I use it pretty regularly as a bookmarking system. I don’t care who else sees it, but it amuses me when friends like something or I get a new follower. OK, fine, take a look at the thigh-torching exercises I just posted.”
“Facebook is my main hangout. I’d rather use Facebook private messaging and texts over email, which I now regard as a necessary evil. My personal email in-boxes are almost all junk mail.”
What do you like about social media?
“This is a chicken-or-egg thing. I don’t know if I was made for social media or if it was made for me. I’m a pretty social animal. Although, I have a strong introverted streak too. Always been a talker, a schmoozer, whatever. But at the same time, I’m the world’s laziest letter writer and thank you note writer. I hate goodbyes because I know I will fail to keep in touch. Facebook especially has made it possible for me to reconnect with so many old friends, and keep up with acquaintances, like, say, the fellow moms I used to roam the school halls and sidelines with, and now rarely see. We’ll run into each now and laugh because we know each other better on Facebook than we ever did in real life. I’ve also made a group of buddies that I know only through Facebook, a friend of a friend type of thing. A few of us have subsequently connected in real life and I consider these people to be true friends. The ease of connecting is so powerful that I find myself miffed with old friends who won’t join Facebook.”
“In terms of the ‘liveblogging’ experience, I love Facebook for things like the Oscars, the Grammys, or breaking news. I’m finding that some of my friends count on me for good snark. I’m not a big Tweeter, but I jump on Twitter when something is going down, especially something ridiculous, like, say, when that Kanye and Kim motorcycle video was released. I can crack up for a half hour reading other people’s observations. During this past awards season, I posted a lot and found myself getting a bit exhausted, trying to get my own comments out there, follow my Facebook and Twitter feeds and watch the actual event at the same time. God forbid my beleaguered husband tried to get a word in edgewise.”
What do you dislike about social media?
“Hmmmm. Well, the usual suspects. The idea that we’ve freely surrendered all this data and behavioral patterns about ourselves to corporations. And probably the NSA. I’ve read articles saying you shouldn’t ever put pictures of your baby or children on Facebook, because you are giving up their privacy without their consent. These little humans will be digitally tracked for the rest of their lives. But I love seeing baby pictures! Dang.”
“I’m concerned about my carbon footprint, and VIA’s work for Greenpeace has alerted me to the carbon pollution burned to support the cloud. My 21-year-old son felt guilty when I upgraded his phone as a birthday present. He was torn because he thought a burner phone would be enough … ‘Mom, do you know people are fighting and dying in the Congo to mine the minerals that make these things?’ Let alone the worker abuse that goes into making the toys that support our first world lifestyle. And yet I carry on. God, getting a Blackberry six years ago was one of the greatest days of my life!”
“Another thing I dislike about social media, but which is entirely self-inflicted, is that I get into political flame wars with members of my extended family. Before, we’d have tension in person. Now we duke it out on Facebook, and it’s still upsetting. But I can’t not post arguments that I find compelling, links, usually. I’ve failed to persuade anyone, so what’s the point?”
“In terms of other people’s behaviors, I have a few pet peeves. Most people have gotten over needing to post a journal of what they ate, what they’re making, what time they’re going to bed. Alright already. I cannot abide posts that try to guilt you into sharing something: ‘95% of people won’t share this. Are you one of the 5% who will?’ Ugh. Lastly, I’m not a big fan of hashtags, especially excessive multiple hashtags, and the ironic hashtag. #thethingsidoforlove, that sort of thing. Just make your observation, putting a hashtag that tracks to NUTHing doesn’t make it cleverer. But this is when I stray into ‘Hey, you kids, get off my lawn’ territory. It’s not going to go away, so I just roll my eyes.”
What would it be like for you to disconnect from social media for six months?
“I slow down sometimes for my own sanity, but I would be bereft. I couldn’t do it. I’d probably be walking down the street, talking to myself, hugging strangers.”
If you could only use three words to describe social media, what would they be?
“Addictive, informative and empowering.”
Is there a person or brand that you think uses social media effectively?
“I don’t know if I’m going to answer this quite correctly, but I’d like to give a shout out to two local under-the-radar bloggers. The first is the lovely Katie Phillips. She’s an Aussie transplant whose husband works at VIA. Katie is a very talented designer who isn’t sponsored to work for a company here, so she started blogging about her impressions, experiences and adventures. Then she designed a line of really gorgeous merino wool sweaters that work both as underlayers for winter sports and as tops in their own right. The line is Evergreen Atelier and each top is named after a character in Downton Abbey, which tickles me. This year, in what I think is her coolest move yet, she started an illustrated fashion dictionary. Every month she covers a different item, with a new definition/history and drawing each day. Clever, informative and brilliant.”
“The other is Brett Willis, who publishes a blog called Drunch. It’s a series of clever restaurant reviews, and yet not as boozy as you’d think. Brett is a young copywriter at VIA, and he’s typical of a lot of talent we have here: he’s from away, he got his chops somewhere else, but he went to Colby and wanted to get back to Maine. We have a number of CBB alums here, in fact.”
“I also avidly follow Rachel Flehinger’s posts on Facebook. I don’t know if she blogs, but she’s a scream. Really smart.”
“And, I love everything the Eventide guys do. Their posts are almost as good as their food.”
I want to thank Kathleen for taking the time to talk with me about her opinions on, and experience with, social media.
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