Tag Archives: Twitter

The Troll and I

The Troll and I

Once upon a time there were three goats and a troll. Remember this fairy tale, The Three Billy Goats Gruff?

The story goes like this. The little goats are minding their own business, grazing on luscious Norwegian grass. When their supply is depleted, they must cross a bridge to get to the abundant meadow on the other side.

Underneath the bridge lurks a nasty troll who threatens to devour anyone crossing over. This time, however, he is outwitted by a formidable foe. Blessed with street smarts, the goats are able to talk their way out of being eaten. The troll grumbles to himself and slithers back to his subterranean real estate, where he lives a sad and solitary existence for the rest of his days.

In modern day parlance, a troll is something different. Equally odious, yes, but instead of living underneath a bridge, the Internet troll stalks selected people or groups online and attempts to be disruptive.

From Wikipedia:

In Internet slang, a troll  is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory,[1] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[2] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion,[3] often for their own amusement.

Who’s got a troll? I’ve got a troll.

My troll first appeared on Twitter a few years ago. She followed me and after I read her profile I followed her back. Since we shared certain similarities (we were writers, roughly the same age, adult children) I didn’t hesitate, although it seemed  unusual that I didn’t “know” her through other social media. Nonetheless, our occasional Twitter exchanges were normal.

But then I noticed that she was commenting on just about every one of my tweets.

At first it was just annoying. But then it began to get weird. She did the Twitter equivalent of photo bombing, inserting herself into conversations I was having with other people. Her comments became personal, nasty and critical.

Totally creeped out, I blocked her. Good riddance.

Trolling Along

Several months ago someone new started to pop up in the Comments section on my blog. The commenter was highly critical of my work, pointing out what she perceived to be numerous errors and poor writing. Weirdly, she referenced specific passages from posts I had written years ago.

She has read everything I have written online, I realized.

Ignore her and block her, was the advice from my blogging friends. That is what I did. I also inserted a new paragraph on my About Me page with my terms of engagement. In essence, be civil and kind, or get out of my house.

But last week she was back. She kept her name (a pseudonym, I am certain) but changed her email address slightly. I stared at her comment, again, her disapproval of my writing. Like all her comments, it was dripping in sarcasm.

This time I contacted my website host and, through the miracle of technology, the host was able to give me her identity. The blog troll and the Twitter troll are one and the same.

According to an article in Psychology Today, Internet trolls are narcissists, sadists and psychopaths. Many would agree with that assessment, especially those of us directly harassed by one. It may or may not be true of the woman who is trolling me, but at the very least she has an unhealthy obsession with me and has nothing better to do with her time than stalk me … and likely others as well.

As the pieces fell into place, I realized it was also this person who left a couple of mean comments about me on another site that had interviewed me for a profile piece. She Googled my family to get more information and mentioned that in her comment.

Hello, Troll

She is undoubtedly reading this post, so I will speak directly to her:

I know who you are. I feel sorry for you and your obsession with me. We will never be friends, and I will keep blocking you from my site every time you muscle your way in.

My three words of advice for you: Get. A. Life.

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Ten Thousand Tweets

I am very close to hitting the ten thousand mark on my Twitter account. See?

Ten Thousand Tweets

Ten thousand tweets. Who knew I was so chatty?

Well, I’m really not. I mean, I joined the Twitterverse in August 2008, so it’s been seven years. Ten thousand tweets spread over seven years is not so much.

I did the math although I can’t swear I did it right. Ten thousand tweets over seven years works out to a .25 tweet per day.

A quarter of a tweet=35 characters per tweet.

This tiny sentence is 35 characters.

Anyway.

Most of my writer and blogger friends are active on Twitter, but to the unpersuaded, Twitter may seem frivolous and pointless. When I was a Twitter newbie I remember people making fun of it. “Why would I post about what I’m eating for breakfast,” scoffed some.

But that is not what Twitter is, although yes, you will find occasional tweets about breakfast (although Instagram would be the better platform for food porn). Twitter is much more than breakfast posts, and here are some reasons why I continue to be a fan.

Crafting a message in 140 characters is a good exercise for writers.

Speaking of writers, I’ve gotten to know so many of them on Twitter.

Twitter is often the most effective way to reach someone if you need a quick response (I’m looking at you, @ComcastCares).

It’s also the quickest way to get breaking news. Honestly.

Twitter makes the world seem so much smaller. You get to know people all across the universe.

Live tweeting an event, like the Oscars or The Bachelor/Bachelorette, is hilarious and usually way more fun than the event itself.

Connecting with someone you admire – a celebrity, e.g. – is definitely an unexpected treat. Getting a “favorite” or a retweet by a celebrity is cool, I’m not gonna lie.

Because I love word games, participating in a hashtag game on Twitter is a fun diversion when I need a break. This week I played along with one called #TenThingsYouNeverSaytoaWriter.

Group Tweet chats with like-minded Twitter users can be educational and are a great forum for networking.

Do you like Twitter? Why or why not?

 

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Is Sharenting Harming Our Kids?

As a parent whose children came of age prior to the social media boom, I often congratulate my husband and myself on our impeccable timing.

We lucked out. Of all the stresses inherent in child rearing, certainly the use and abuse of social media is high on the list.

I mean the parents’ use and abuse.

Here’s the question I ponder sometimes. If I had been able to share information about my young children on social media, would I have?

Of course, is my answer.

Might I have been one of those parents guilty of a little too much “sharenting?”

Entirely possible.

Sharenting?

Sharenting is a recently coined term referring to parents who share information about their kids on social media and is mentioned in this report from the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Based on a survey of 569 parents with a child or children ages 0-4, the study found that 54% mothers and 34% of fathers discuss child health and parenting issues on social media.

What do they discuss? Sleep issues, nutrition and eating tips, discipline, daycare and preschool, and behavior problems, among others.

So, what’s the big deal about parents reaching out to others to seek advice and support? What’s so bad about wanting to share a questionable photo on occasion? Maybe, after a long day in the trenches, parents need to vent. Or share a laugh.

Totally get that.

As a young mom, I would have enjoyed chronicling the special moments of my three kids on Facebook. Bath time, for instance, or losing a tooth, or blowing out birthday candles. I would have found comfort in a community of parents with similar issues and concerns. If I was in search of advice, or I needed to share a chuckle, why not blog about it, or post on Facebook?

Harmless enough. But what issues? What about tantrums? Or potty training? Sibling rivalry? Meltdowns after school?

That’s where the sharenting line in the sand is blurred. Where should that line be drawn, especially when your kids are too little to have a say in the matter? And even if you get their permission, what does a four year-old know about the implications of sharing personal information on social media?

Is Sharenting Harming Our Kids?

What seems benign now could be a psychological tsunami someday, with aftershocks for years to come We parents are essentially imprinting our kids’ digital footprint in the sands of time without their consent, with no understanding of the potential ramifications down the road.

Preserving memories, or obsessive behavior?

I have seen photos that make me squirm, like a photo of a child pale and glassy-eyed with the flu. I have seen children with frozen smiles whose parents seem to document every bit of their daily activity. Are we forcing our kids to pose instead of just be in the moment?

Photos can be deleted. Not so easy, however, to remove blog posts and Facebook conversations about bed wetting and bullying and discipline issues at school. Does that set our kids up for ridicule? Even if their names aren’t used, I mean, all you have to do is Google the parent’s name and there it is. It is there. Will this come back to haunt not us, but our kids?

I don’t have the answer.

In its early days, social media was a fun game with few rules and boundaries. Now we know that there is a dark side. With that in mind, is it incumbent on us parents to err on the side of safety and keep our kids’ information off the Internet as much as possible, until they have the maturity to make these decisions themselves?

Or is it too late, and our children’s digital profiles are but a Google search away?

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Group Hug for Bloggers at Midlife

I almost missed International Women’s Day on Sunday. In a frenzied blur of packing, almost missing my taxi-sharing buddy Elaine Ambrose and almost forgetting my suitcase at TSA screening, there was only so much my midlife mind could process.

It wasn’t until I had some down time at the departure gate, scrolling through my iPhone, that it dawned on me. And I realized how fitting it was that International Women’s Day coincided with the first ever Bloggers at Midlife Conference I had just attended.

Bloggers at Midlife, the conference. The first of many, I hope.

It was somewhat of a miracle that I even got there. Because the day before I was scheduled to fly, we got hit with the biggest storm of the winter.

As predicted by giddy meteorologists jonesing for a real snowstorm, the drama began Thursday morning, just after dawn. A few harmless snowflakes at first, then a steady blast of snow throughout the day into early evening.

I checked the forecast every hour. Would I get plowed out before morning? Would my flight take off as scheduled? The answer to both was yes. I was lucky; several of the conference attendees had to bail at the last minute due to canceled flights, impassable roads, etc.

I am so grateful I was able to go.

Bloggers at Midlife. My tribe.

When I started blogging four years ago I sometimes felt like Sandra Bullock in Gravity, floating through space without a tether. Isolated and alone.

Group Hug for Bloggers at MidlifeOh, there were other women bloggers, but virtually no one my age. The mommy bloggers were friendly, but I yearned for contact with others like me, in my stage of life. It was a lonely cyber world out there.  Until one day BlogHer featured a post I wrote about my son being in the Olympics and I tweeted the link. And I received this text.

Group Hug for Bloggers at Midlife

As it happened, I was not attending BlogHer, but Sharon and I stayed in touch and before too long she invited me to join a newly formed Facebook group specifically for midlife women bloggers.

I was lost, but now I was found.

Thanks to Sharon and her partner Anne Parris, this very same group on Facebook now boasts more than 1,000 midlife women bloggers. Their own site, Midlife Boulevard, features content written by many of these amazing writers.

I can say without reservation that being part of this group has changed my life in many wonderful ways.

I never would have dreamed of having the opportunities that came from it. Having my work published on a number of sites, becoming a Huffington Post contributor, appearing on HuffPost Live when one of my posts went viral, becoming a brand ambassador for several major brands, and most importantly, feeling the validation that I had something to offer, something worthy. Which enabled me to fulfill a lifelong dream: I completed the first draft of my novel!

So this past weekend, at the first-ever Bloggers at Midlife (BAM) conference in Nashville, I celebrated this validation with a roomful of my peers. It was a two-day group hug. And you know how good hugs can feel.

Group Hug for Bloggers at Midlife

I shared a room with my dear friend Cathy Chester and reunited with many wonderful women I have come to  know through Midlife Boulevard, among them Kim Jorgensen Gane, Judi Krell FreedmanMargaret Rutherford, Lisa Heffernan and Mary Dell HarringtonConnie McLeod. It was exciting to meet others whom I had only known online, like Claudia Schmidt,  Wendy Walker CushingSusan Williams, Doreen McGettigan. And so many more. It was a pleasure to get to know so many talented, bright, accomplished women.

Group Hug for Bloggers at Midlife

photo credit: Dorothy Salvatori

 

We learned a lot about blogging, but even better, we learned about the power of friendship and support, of empowerment and sisterhood.

All culminating on International Women’s Day. That just seems right to me.

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12 Reasons for Having Online Friends

“Online friends? You mean you’ve never actually met them?”

Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I often find myself on the defensive when I talk about online friends to real life friends (IRL). Ranging from the raised eyebrow to a gasp of incredulity, reactions from friends IRL have been, well, skeptical. “And you know these people how?” is commonly asked. “But how do you know they are who they say they are?” others will query.

Sometimes you’ve got to take a leap.

Case in point. I just returned from a truly amazing trip to London with my dear friend Lois, whom I met in a Facebook blogging group almost two years ago (more on the London trip when I recover from jet lag).

12 Reasons to Have Online Friends

Our paths most likely would never have crossed if not for this online connection, and since becoming friends, we’ve seen each other many times IRL.

12 Reasons to Have Online Friends

Other friendships that started in the online blogging community have blossomed into treasured IRL relationships. I am lucky that friends such as Cathy Chester and Estelle Sobel Erasmus live within a couple of hours from me and we get to see each other throughout the year.

12 Reasons to Have Online Friends

For those who fear that online friends are akin to stalkers or potential axe murderers (and no one yet has turned out to be either) here are a few of the reasons why I value my cyber buddies — and why it’s good to keep an open mind.

Getting together is effortless.

You know how you make a lunch date with a friend IRL and it gets rescheduled once or twice or maybe gets shelved indefinitely? Weather issues, last minute work constraints, other interruptions come up. Whereas online, having a lunch date is a piece of cake.

They share your addiction to social media.

In essence, they speak your language. You can mention the merits of Google+ or how to maximize SEO or the best time to retweet a post and they get it.

You get lots of birthday wishes.

Admit it, this is cool. Even though we all know that without the Facebook reminder it wouldn’t happen.

They don’t have to live in your neighborhood. Or even your time zone.

It’s the middle of the night. I’m tossing and turning, and finally give in to my wide awake self. I go downstairs, make a pot of coffee and get online where I know there will be someone to talk to, maybe clear across the world.

No one forgets where the conversation left off.

It doesn’t take much to lose a train of thought in real life discourse. An interruption as minor as a phone call can veer you off course. Ummm, where were we? Online chats will seamlessly steer you back on track.

There’s always something new to learn.

Some years ago, I had a Facebook conversation with a childhood friend who became well known in tech circles. I was curious about how he had become so savvy. He told me that he picked up everything through his relationships with knowledgeable tech people online. I now understand that, for that is exactly how I have picked up most of what I know on social media.

Live tweeting an event with online friends is really fun.

Only my online friends understand the sheer joy of participating in a live tweet. Whether it’s Election Day or a March Madness basketball game, or goofy reality shows, yukking it up with millions of other viewers is often the best part of the event.

The smartest people are online.

Whether it’s technical know-how, or cutting edge political analysis, or awesome recipes, online friends are my go-to source.

When you need it right now, you can get sympathy, appreciation and good advice.

There’s nothing like a virtual hug when you’re feeling down … or elated. Can’t reach a friend IRL to share the good news? Go online for that instant gratification.

It’s come as you are, 24/7.

Even though I had never been to one, I was always intrigued by the idea of a “Come as You Are” party. The Internet is just one big “Come as You Are” party all day, every day. Jammies, unwashed hair, no makeup … and no one is the wiser.

When you haven’t posted in a couple of hours, they think something must be wrong.

If I fell off the face of the earth, my friends IRL may not know until the body is discovered. Online friends would wonder where I was if I happened to sleep in one day.

If you’re bored with the conversation, you can just walk away.

I find it very hard to extricate myself from the nattering of a long-winded person IRL. The beauty of online relationships? You can sign off. Or even better, just pretend you’ve gone and lurk.

I adore and cherish my friends IRL. But I’ve also got a world of online friends. Who mean the world to me.

12 Reasons to Have Online Friends

How about you? Do you have online friendships?

 

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The Bachelor Finale: A Withered Rose

Deep breath.

I am a fan of The Bachelor. rose The Bachelor

There. I’ve said it. Go ahead, judge me. Tell me I have no life. Call me shallow, tasteless. Of surprisingly poor character.

But as this season’s Bachelor Juan Pablo Galavis would say, “S’okay. I’m just being honest.”

I’m a Hopeless Romantic.

I admit that I look forward to Monday nights with an inordinate amount of pleasure. I get completely caught up in the week-to-week adventure of a good-looking guy looking for love and hoping to find it among the 25 or so young woman on the show. As they travel from one exotic locale to another, I lose myself in the romance, artificial as it is.

I settle in front of the TV and block out extraneous interference. My children know that if they call between 8 and 10 pm. it is my husband who answers the phone. If it is an emergency, I will speak with them during a commercial.

The fun of watching is surely due to the hilarity of live tweeting, so entertaining that it keeps me laughing even (especially) when the show falters. Let me just say that there are some funny people on Twitter.

Is it the voyeur in me that enjoys following the “journey” ( a commonly used Bachelor term, along with “for the right reasons”)? Or the romantic part of me that hopes that by the end of the season the Bachelor (or Bachelorette) finds true love and lives happily ever after? One can hope. The track record on this show is pretty dismal, but there are some exceptions; several couples have gotten married and remain together, happily, it seems.

The Bachelor was a Loser

What made this season “the most dramatic Bachelor season ever” (always used in Bachelor promos, but perhaps true this time) is that hunky but personality-deprived Juan Pablo pretty much alienated almost every contestant. As well as us viewers.

This season I never became emotionally invested in either of the finalists, Clare and Nikki, and Juan Pablo’s machismo had grown so annoying that I was no longer besotted. He was cocky, inarticulate and one-dimensional.  Like former contestants Sharleen, an opera singer, and Andi, an attorney, I  bailed on him toward the end. Bravo to them, by the way.

Even his family members warned Clare and Nikki that he was “rude,” “liked to argue and walk away,” and “difficult.” This is from his family, mind you!

Spoiler Alert

Iwithered rose The Bachelorn the end, Clare was booted, Nikki got the final rose but no proposal, and Juan Pablo’s likeability rating took a nose dive. Even Chris Harrison could barely speak to him.

The good news? Lawyer Andi is the next Bachelorette.

I can’t wait.

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Is the Daily Newspaper Passe?

My husband and I can’t bring ourselves to cancel the two daily newspapers we’ve subscribed to our entire married life, but I wonder if we’re just delaying the inevitable.

 

Newspapers B&W (4)

Newspapers B&W (4) (Photo credit: NS Newsflash)

 

As our reading habits continue to evolve, I suspect the day will come when we suck it up and kick the printed newspaper habit out the door.

It startles me to even think this way, but let’s be honest.

Who has time to linger over the daily paper anymore? With our rushed morning schedules, we barely manage to pick it up from the driveway and toss it in the house.

This is not to say that we are news non-consumers. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We just consume differently these days.

While getting dressed, we get the headlines (and much valued weather forecast) from Good Morning America. I can leave for work not only dressed appropriately, but with full confidence that the world has not ended and celebrities are still misbehaving.

Stuck in traffic on the way to work, I check my Twitter feed and scour the posts on Facebook. I might have a minute to look at a few photos on Instagram.

My radio dial is tuned to either Howard Stern or NPR, depending on the subject matter (both informative sources in my world, although not necessarily yours).

At work I receive CNN alerts throughout the day with significant breaking news. If time permits, I may go to the New York Times app on my iPad and do a quick scan of the opinion pages. Over lunch I try to read a few posts from bloggers whom I enjoy following.

Chances are someone will email me a link to a news item of interest. If I have time, I’ll read it then and there; if not, I’ll bookmark it for later.

By the time we get home and grab some dinner, it’s likely that the forlorn daily paper will join its unread companions stacked in a corner of our bedroom. It’s hard to let an old habit go. We tell ourselves that we’ll get to them eventually.

Except that there is a Google+ hangout I want to attend. And that novel on my bed stand is waiting to be finished.  When my eyes are too bleary to focus on the screen or the page, there’s always CNN News or The Daily Show before calling it a night.

However, nothing can take the place of our leisurely Sunday morning ritual: newspapers served with bagels and a bottomless pot of coffee.

Delicious Omega-3s

Delicious Omega-3s (Photo credit: lynn.gardner)

I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

 

 

 

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Gobble Gobble

Word geeks like me get a kick out of the Oxford English Dictionary’s (OED) additions and deletions to our lexicon. This morning on my Twitter feed I found the shortlist for 2011’s word of the year, along with OED definitions (thanks @mashable), and among them are:

  • Bunga bunga: Used in reference to parties hosted by the former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, at which various illicit sexual activities were alleged to have taken place.
  • Clicktivism: The use of social media and other online methods to promote a cause.
  • Crowdfunding: The practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet.
  • Gamification: The application of concepts and techniques from games to other areas of activity, for instance as an online marketing technique.
  • Tiger mother: A demanding mother who pushes her children to high achievement using methods regarded as typical of Asian childrearing.

FYI, retweet and sexting were added to the dictionary in August, and earlier this year, the terms LOL, <3 and OMG.

So this got me to thinking, as this Thanksgiving holiday weekend comes to a close, what items might the OED have missed? Here are some of my ideas.

  • Bloatulism: That feeling just beyond exquisitely full that borders on nausea
    related: CranBeriBeri
  • L-tryptophantasy: imagining that the dishes will be washed and put away when you wake up the next morning
  • OccuPyCrustNow: Sitting around the kitchen table picking at the last crumbs of the apple pie
  • BlackFridaySaturdaySunday: When only black clothes, preferably with lots of elastic, will suffice
  • NordStromboli: Craving Italian food after a tough day at the mall
  • WeAreThe99% Fat-Free: Swearing off carbs for the rest of one’s life. Or until the December holidays.
  • WeightWeightDon’tTellMe: Stepping on the scale while covering one’s eyes
  • Maaloxandbagels: our Sunday brunch menu
  • FingerClickinGood: no more leftovers; ordering Chinese takeout online

What say you, OED?

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In the Company of Writers

I'm Going to BlogHer Writers '11!

BlogHer Writers was a one-day conference for … well, writers who blog. Two hundred of us gathered for a day of education and sharing, and if the enthusiastic conversations on Twitter are any indication, the other 199 enjoyed it as much as I did. All the elements of an awesome conference — knowledgeable and articulate presenters, well-designed sessions and workshops, and relevant topics yielding many takeaways — were in place. Best of all, this was a community of smart and savvy women (and a few good men) who also happened to be NICE PEOPLE. What a pleasure it was to spend the day with them.

I’m a writer because I love to write. Always have. Yet my unfinished novel sits waiting for me to complete it. What’s my problem?  Oh, I have a million excuses, like working full-time and being too tired at night and not having the time, blah, blah, blah. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking and time marches on. How much longer can I procrastinate? The time has come to stop kvetching and start producing.

I started this blog, booksiswonderful, to flex my creative writing muscles which were mightily in need of the exercise. A writer needs to write (a recurrent theme at the conference). Most successful writers will tell you that they produce something every day. It doesn’t have to be perfection. It just needs to get typed on that Word document. That is what I need to do.

The well-spoken presenters at BlogHer Writers talked frankly about the publishing process, the challenges to the industry (increased costs, disappearance of Border’s and Oprah’s Book Club, growth of self-publishing, among others) and the even more intense competition for writers. But the good news is that new talent is still being sought, and literary agents often read blogs to discover that talent.

What else did I learn? Here’s a smattering:

Using the f-bomb in blogs is OK.

Getting rejected by a gazillion agents is normal and does not mean your book is worthless. Nor does it mean that you are without talent.

It is important to get rid of toxic people in your life.

Editors and book cover designers usually, but not always, get it right.

Scrivener is worth looking into.

Publishers really do look out for your best interests.

A blog is not a book. But good writing transcends all.

I hoped this conference would teach me HOW. How to get started, how to shake off the self-doubt. How to just do it.

I came away feeling inspired. I think I can, I think I can.

I know I can.

BlogHer Writers, I will see you next year. With book proposal in hand.

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