Sunday, May 29, 2011

Why Facebook is like the swingset in the backyard (or, "Why must things keep changing?")

When I was a new mom, I had visions of meeting other new moms at the neighborhood park. On TV and in the movies, moms were always at the park. They went to the park with their friends, like Hope and Nancy did in Thirtysomething. (Hey, I know I'm showing my age but my oldest is 17 ... my ideas of motherhood were formed in the late eighties and early nineties ....) Or like Dustin Hoffmann and Jane Alexander in Kramer vs. Kramer (though I, of course, wouldn't end up eating pablum like Hope did in that one episode, and I knew I would never let my child fall off the monkey bars like Ted Kramer did.)

So, when I had Anne-with-an-e, I dutifully dressed her in something adorable and trundled her off to the park in her stroller. The hitch in my plan was that we lived in an extraordinarily small town. I was the only one at the park.

At least I thought the tinyness of our town was the hitch. Eventually, however, I came to believe that the real hitch was that no one needed to go to parks anymore. Everyone had her own swingset in the backyard. Why haul the kids to a playground when you could go just a few steps out your own back door?

My first reaction, upon discovering this, was to vow to never get a swingset of my own. I alone would uphold the American tradition and ideal of hauling kids to the park! I alone would continue to rely on parks in order to sort out life's greatest mysteries, as did Hope and Nancy, or to witness horrific accidents, as Ted Kramer did. Yes, I alone would do this!

And alone I was.  No one was ever at the park.

Finally, I caved. "Let's get a swingset," I said to Atticus, feeling that I was letting down an entire generation of both TV moms and idealistic rebels.

"Really?" he asked.

"Yeah," I sighed. "What's the point of going to the park in hopes of meeting new moms when they're all in their backyards? I may as well have the convenience of a swingset in my backyard, too."

So, we got a swingset. And eventually I was quite grateful for that swingset, especially as my children got older and I found myself saying things like, "Go outside and play on the swingset."

Fast forward to 2005. I start a blog. Lots of other people have started blogs, too. And we all visit each other's blogs and the blogosphere is like a big ole park. We hang out together on the merry-go-round of blogging and no one has a horrific accident on the monkey bars and everyone is happy. Then Facebook-the-Swingset comes along and ruins everything. Suddenly everyone has a Facebook page and we aren't all congregating around the water cooler (I know I'm mixing metaphors here but let me go ... I'm on a roll) of the blogosphere anymore and it seems impossible to keep up with everyone because we're all in our own backyards.

So, that's why Facebook is like a swingset and sometimes annoys me. Because I can't keep up with all the backyards.

On the other hand, I used to participate in some homeschooling e-groups and when I started blogging, I had less time for the e-groups and a woman I know likens blogs to swingsets, so what are you gonna do?

The world keeps changing. Just about the time I was ready to upgrade our swingset to a really good one, I realized that my oldest child was seventeen and hadn't used a swingset for about a decade. I guess that means that by the time I really, truly, fully embrace Facebook I'll realize that everyone else is communicating via some sort of electronic brain implant.

And I'll still be living in the past, watching Thirtysomething reruns and posting status updates on this ancient thing called a Macbook.

(Caveat: I said I'd start posting again, but I never said it would be meaningful stuff.)


Sue said...

LOL! In my neighborhood all of the moms do indeed gather at the park with their kids, but that wasn't my ideal. I thought that I was going to take my kids to the park and sit on a bench reading a book while they sat in the sandbox and played nicely. In reality the book never got read, because I was too busy chasing my kids to prevent them from running out in the traffic that runs along the side of the park, and fielding questions from all the moms who were either very curious about the local foreigner or wanted to practice English with me (or have their kids practice it with me).

That sounds very anti-social, I know, but there it is. I'm not sure how that would line up with the facebook/blog analogy. I guess my ideal was that of a blog lurker, but in reality I just get drawn into the conversation too easily. ;o)

tanita davis said...

Yeah, for me it was Twitter that sort of ruined blogging; people say what they want in forty letter bites, and keep ...biting all day. Almost like status updates. Hm....

If it helps, I gave up my swingset and am back at the park. Just... it's quieter in the park, which means I don't swing as much, but I find lying on my back watching clouds still entertaining...

The Bookworm said...

Personally I like both hanging out at the park and swinging in my own backyard :)

Melanie B said...

Our first apartment had no yard at all so I had to haul Bella to the playground. Our second apartment had a fenced front yard but was on the corner of a busy street so she could only play outside while I was with her supervising. And it had no swingset so we had to walk to the playground but it was attached to the local elementary school so we couldn't go during school hours. I was actually very happy when the house we bought had a yard with a swingset. It was actually a factor in our choice. But we still go to the playground to socialize (sort of). I've actually had better luck with storytime at the library.

But about Facebook. I know what you mean. I find that my blog has changed. I still write longer things, post pictures, etc. But the sharing of links and many of the conversations have drifted to Facebook and Twitter. I wish they hadn't; but I find myself going where the people are rather than sitting on my blog wishing they'd come over to play.

But to change the metaphor a bit... In some ways I think having a blog is sort of like putting a pool in your yard, anticipating that all your friends will come to hang out. and for a while they did. And you'd go to their houses and we all had these fun get-togethers. But then Facebook is the new community center with the really great pool plus coffee bar and bookstore all in one. Who can compete? I find myself wondering where everyone is and then drifting to where the action is. I don't like how Facebook has changed my blogging habits and yet find it really hard to go back.

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Hi Karen! Ah, yeah, you have a point or two here. Nicely said; I'd never heard it quite like this. I'm still blogging with you, not always able to read but I always enjoy stopping by for a visit. I hope someday it can be IRL. :)

At least we have each other. I'm with you, even if I can't always stop by for a long visit. I'm here when you need an ear. :)

Liz said...

Ok, I still check out my favorite blogs (although I haven't posted a blog post myself in months - no big loss because no one much was reading me anyway), but I'll admit that I do spend more time on Facebook. My son-in-law insisted I get on Twitter and I do check in there every day, but I find Twitter annoying, while other people seem to love it. The nice thing about Facebook is that some people post there frequently so you can actually connect more quickly. However, I still love the blogosphere. Of course what I really miss is the long personal e-mails or the time spent in the Catholicity chat room...

My daughter keeps threatening to shut down her FB because she doesn't like the way some people behave there. So far I haven't had a major problem with that (maybe because my FB friends are mostly really nice and I put the ones who could be annoying on hide feed). I don't like the lack of civility some people exhibit there, but my own particular friends are actually pretty well behaved on that score.

However it's sort of hard to see Facebook as the swingset in the backyard because so many people show up there. They may be people who are only friends of other people, but they aren't necessarily people you really know. It seems more like a neighborhood barbecue where you may have to put up with a few hooligans or guys who've had one beer too many. But maybe it's just that we had a little more control over who showed up to swing on the tree swing in our yard (never had a swingset).

PNG said...

I feel the same way. I looked back at my blog and found that I blogged almost not at all in 2009...when I discovered Facebook. I was so sad about that because I catalog all the pics, overheards, and keepsake moments on there, and I had almost nothing for 2009.:( I decided to go back to blogging in 2010. I vowed to try harder to keep up our blog and do Facebook at the same time. After being so alone on my blog, I liked Facebook because I was getting comments, reactions, and interaction from everyone I had "friended." I decided to import my blog to my FB account, but that still didn't get anyone over to my blog. I really thought no one cared. at. all! I struggled a lot emotionally and decided to not import my blog to FB anymore. I very rarely get on FB, and I've dedicated more effort into our blog. However, this just backfired on me when a dear friend of mine had a serious horse riding accident & we didn't know about it. It took me tons of "older post" searching to find out what & when it happened.:( I was so sad that I had not offered get well soon wishes because I didn't know. I now see that I have to have a balance of both. My "real" FB friends keep up with me & I with them. I'm also finding new friends (like you!) via our blog and the blog world. I think blogging is for people who really want to get to know you. After reading your chapter in A Little Way..., I can honestly say I really want to get to know you. And if you lived close, I'd invite you & Ramona to the's beautiful. You get an ok swingset plus lots of wildlife! On our last walk we saw 2 deer, a muskrat, a family of geese, several ducks, snapping turtles, an egret, and a blue heron! It's the best.:) Oh, and keep blogging...please!

Amber said...

LOL! I think you're onto something here, but I'm not quite sure I entirely agree with your analogy.

I see egroups (and public discussion boards too, come to think of it) as the playgrounds - anyone can come and join, anyone can post, and everyone can join into the conversation easily - both in starting conversations and responding to conversations.

But then people started blogging and things changed. Now everyone can read what you have to say and comment on it, but the reciprocity suddenly isn't there. It is like a bunch of people who have big backyards and cool swingsets who are very willing to let anyone come in and use them... but they aren't necessarily going to be bothered to return the visit and come over to your house to play in your backyard. So you end up with some really popular blogs/private yards and lots of little languishing ones where people keep hoping that someone might want to come over and play with them and see what they have to say, rather than only being able to respond to what others have to say.

And then Facebook happened, and the backyards and swingsets started acquiring locks and gates. Now you have to be someone's friend to get entry to the person's playground, merely showing up is no longer enough (ok, so this depends on privacy settings, but still...) There's a level of exclusivity that bothers me about Facebook. But I could be entirely wrong about this one - I only had a FB account for about two weeks and just couldn't take it.

I may be stuck in the dark ages of blogs forever and ever... or until Facebook gets supplanted by something else! (Which I'll probably like even less, given how much more curmudgeonly I seem to be getting...)

(and reading this over I realize that I sound a little bitter. Perhaps I am, as one of those people who had a languishing little blog for years and could never quite figure out how some blogs became well known hubs and others just dwindled along. Maybe I'll get over it someday... *grin*)

Mary Poppins NOT said...

Yea, blogging has undergone a transformation, and it isn't as warm as it used to be. More of a marketing tool now, it seems. The conversation has probably moved to Facebook, but that is much more limited both in depth of thought and ability to meet new people. I miss the old days, but I still blog for my own memory preservation working out my thoughts in words. But I do miss the time when there wasn't such a dividing line between famous and obscure bloggers.

Mary Poppins NOT said...

P.S. I loved Thirtysomething, too. I dressed just like Melissa, with the funky hats and asymmetrical earrings, curly hair and scarves. I still have an inner Melissa that I commune with at times.

Sarah said...

Great post, Karen. Well said. I still do not have a FB page. I have a blog, though. But there are days I wish I didn't. (I totally get what Amber said.) Maybe I long for a return to the park? I can relate a lot to what PNG said about not knowing about things, because I am not on FB. I find out about things that I'd like to know from the source, but I find out about them from someone else who read it on FB. It's kind of annoying. But I have made the decision to stay off of FB for many, many reasons. So, I just have to deal, I guess :)

Karen Edmisten said...

Thanks for weighing in, everyone! I enjoyed the various takes on the analogy (and on inner Melissas.)

I'm not really anti-FB, as it probably sounded -- I just haven't decided/figured quite how to navigate it, or how I want to navigate it. And, I have personal and professional stuff all mixed up there, and that doesn't help.

Hmmm ... maybe I need to go to the park and ask Hope what she would do. (Atticus would say, "It won't do you any good ... she'll just whine about her privileged life." We were never on the same page about Thirtysomething ....) :)

Elizabeth C. said...

I could have spilled out my coffee from laughter...Thirtysomething was a GREAT show.

I have a little corner of a blog that I'm very happy with, still. I don't have the time to post as much but it serves the needs of a little memory saver for my family. I enjoy the once in a while comment that is left; it always feels like getting unexpected flowers when I see the notice of a comment on my dashboard LOL!

Like Amber though, I was often curious to see how some blogs received many visitors and other just a few or none. But I kinda like my little corner w/o the fuss too.

FB started for me as a needed tool to keep my brother (in London) in touch with his nieces and nephews. I have a sweet group of 20-something friends/family who are mostly far away. In keeping with my original purpose to start a FB page, I'm free to chat and share photos of my family without it being too "impersonal". I mean who needs to keep in contact with 500 friends!

Keep blogging Karen, keep writing. I'm one of your visitors who doesn't often comment but I do visit and you are lovely!

And I see many familar faces in this one post too. Which makes me know that the mommas are still hanging around the playground.

naganpets said...

Hahaha!.Facebook its so amazing!you can communicate even your classmate from grade school.You can post blog,pictures and others.That is why Facebook is like a swingset in our backyard because children mostly like it.happy together with friends,running,jumping.
on the other hand things must changing i think it is a time to upgrade our swingset.