Social Media Freakout!

I am having a problem. I have been completely overwhelmed by all of the online websites with whom I have signed up for an account. There are even things that I had an account with that I didn’t even know about. Something connected with my Gmail account that is like Google+ and Facebook put together? I have over five accounts for things that are simply connected with my Gmail account. I had a Twitter account for a few days, realized I didn’t use it for anything like I thought I would, and deleted it. I deleted my Pinterest account because I no longer use it. I deleted my tumblr account because I prefer this blogging interface much better. 

Yet, I still feel overwhelmed by all of the connections that are available through this website, and just how much STUFF is out there on the internet to look at. I know this is a good thing, but all the time that it would take for me to figure out how to navigate and use it, find the things that I like the best, and stay up-to-date on all those things, I feel I would have better benefited from doing the things I like away from the computer. Things that make me feel like a real person, like reading, and knitting, and my other hobbies that don’t have anything to do with a glowing screen.

I am trying to become more comfortable with a world in which technology is so widespread, and where everyone in the “first world” has 2-5 devices on them at any given time that will connect them with the rest of the world. I recognize that technology cannot, and will not reverse at this point, so why not try to embrace these conditions? I want to utilize the technology that is available, but in positive ways that really do make small differences in improving the world and expanding my and others’ knowledge. 

Maybe this will be a project I can work on. If I ever do want to become a librarian, I need to know what people are doing in cyberspace and how they are doing it. I’ll try to filter out the internet stuff that is clearly a waste of time. I guess that is what I was attempting with the creation of this blog. To cut the shit, and really focus on the things I want to devote my time to. I do log cute dogs, but maybe instead of looking at videos of other people’s cute puppies I can spend more quality time with my dog, and use the internet for finding resources that are informative for me to better my dog-care skills.

I don’t know why this is so difficult for me all of a sudden. Maybe it’s because I haven’t HAD to be on the computer all the time and want to distract myself from my school work with silly internet things for a little while. And now I’m just realizing how much is out there. Actually, I have no idea. I’m sure I can’t fathom how much is out there on the internet. Think about all the passing information about new websites I’ve never seen, every single day. It’s scary. 

I think I am going to take a break from thinking about this topic and just go upstairs and read a book. I just finished Tina Fey’s “Bossypants,” and am beginning the novel “Everything is Illuminated,” Jonathan Safran Foer. I remember the movie being touching, but I watched that a long time ago and don’t remember much, but I think I might want to watch it again after I read it. Elijah Wood is pretty great. 

Hannah

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Book Review: Without Reservations by Alice Steinbach

In my last semester of college, I took an English course at the beginning of which our professor asked us students what kinds of books we enjoy reading. I thought about it for a while and couldn’t answer that question – I hadn’t read anything for pleasure in a long while. Being a student of Anthropology, I was reading constantly, but reading dry, dense material coming from a wide range of time and places, and it was definitely difficult to enjoy it all. So, my answer to my English professor’s question was rather generic and came from a place I remember from when I was much younger and had time on my hands. “I like to read autobiographies,” I said, thinking back to when I was an ornery teenager attempting to be humorously “ironic” (as silly hipsters today would use the word) and I read Frank Zappa’s hilarious autobiography. After I answered the question in front of my classmates, however, I felt rather phony, and a little sad that I wasn’t able to sincerely answer the question because I simply didn’t know what books I really enjoyed reading. 

Over the course of the rest of the semester I thought more and more about what I really do love reading. Thinking back on books that I have loved, I realized I do love autobiographies, but more specifically autobiographies pertaining to independent, international travel journeys. It made perfect sense all of a sudden – of course I love reading about people adventuring to other parts of the world; my area of study is cultural and linguistic anthropology. I had read “Tales of a Female Nomad” by Rita Golden Gelman, and was completely inspired by Gelman’s spontaneity and accounts of the many cultures around the world she encountered and experienced. In high school my best friend lent me her copy of “Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure” by Sarah Macdonald. Her trials and triumphs of her multiple trips to India forced me to want to experience the colorful, spiritual, and fragrance-filled (not always in a good way) country someday for myself. 

So, naturally, when I read a brief synopsis of “Without Reservations” by Alice Steinbach on librarything.com, I was instantly intrigued and excited to read about European culture from the perspective of another independent woman traveler. I put a hold on it at my local city library, and began reading it immediately after I picked it up.

Alas, my disappointment in the writing did not take long to kick in. Steinbach visited France, the UK, and Italy throughout a year-long sabbatical from her American life and reporting job at the Baltimore Sun (the same newspaper for which David Simon, creator of the amazing television series “The Wire,” also wrote and featured in the later seasons of the series). Despite the often sought-after and exoticized locations of Steinbach’s chronicles, I was surprised by how “touristy” her adventures seemed, and by the lack of focus on the local cultures. She visited fantastic places in different cities in these European countries, and very much had a sense of “going with the flow” and simply going wherever pulled her in a particular day. But rather than staying in the present moment, she almost too-frequently reminisces on spending time with her grandma when she was a young girl; she mentions this every ten pages or so, if not more. 

Perhaps I cannot fully understand because I am not yet a world-traveler, yet I can understand how going to a place very different from home can make you look within and examine yourself in a new way. However, my personal preference is more toward learning about the local people of the place, not the other tourists who are just visiting and seeing the places on the surface as well. Whenever she was in a place other than England, she rarely seemed to have made too much of an attempt to delve into the local language, often allowing the local folks to accommodate her and speak English with her if they could. 

All in all, I admire Steinbach for being brave and going to whole new places and experience the unfamiliar for an entire year. I’m sure there are many who would enjoy reading about her adventures, and her writing by no means is “poor.” My personal preference just for a more ethnographic (but not dry and totally dense) type of writing – one that focuses more on the culture and place than just one’s personal experience of it – although I realize it is necessary to acknowledge one’s own position juxtaposed that of the investigated culture at hand. This book just was not “my cup of tea.”  

I would like to end on a positive, less cynical note, however, and identify my own “take-away” after reading the book. Steinbach is successful in not over-planning, and in letting her mood take her wherever it may. I need to remember to do this in my own daily life; to say “Yes!” to opportunity when it beckons. One should not over-plan life to a stifling degree, and I think in my super-organized mentality I haven’t been successful in that. As I am sure this habit will not change overnight, but I will try to be more conscientious as I am experiencing my days ahead. 

Now, I am off to return this book to the public library and check out “Bossypants” by Tina Fey (I need a bit of a chuckle.) 

Happy Earth Day!

Today the 42nd annual Earth Day celebration took place, as indicated by the Google home page design as well as the introduction of a new $60 LED light bulb meant to last 20 years — http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-17788178. For myself the day was meant to highlight the importance of reduction and reuse of materials before recycling, and simple things one can implement into daily life that are of environmental awareness and kindness. At the local organic food cooperative in my hometown, where I worked for about a month not too long ago, there was an Earth Day event in which I took part and helped to organize. 

The purpose of the event, for me, was to have a fun day that highlighted a very simple concept that many people in my town do not seem to grasp – that it is important for people to be more conscious of the life cycle of the things they buy. Many people I have talked to over the past few years seem to believe that if they simply recycle their one-time use water bottles, cardboard boxes, endless beer bottles, etc., that this will ultimately solve so many environmental issues we face in our world today. I’m not sure how this belief has come about; the saying is “Reduce, reuse,” and then “recycle.” I don’t want to get on a high horse about this because I am by no means the best example of someone who completely lives, through and through, in an environmentally conscientious way. I just feel that many people are ill-informed about how much energy it really takes to recycle materials and that the real way to make change is from the beginning of the process – not just the very end. So, with that in mind, I tried to help the People’s Grocery Cooperative plan a store Earth Day event.

The end result was pretty disappointing. Me and some of my friends who work at People’s came up with some ideas that would really highlight reducing and reusing materials, and also that would be fun for young kids so they can start thinking about it early on. The day’s events were supposed to last from 1pm to 4pm, but despite the store advertising for over a week that there would be fun events (and not to mention store-wide sales) for the whole family, the store was absolutely slow with very few customers, and even fewer children to enjoy the fort made from cardboard boxes. I was there for over an hour and a half, and even those to whom I hollered “Happy Earth Day!” seemed to have forgotten the occasion. All in all, the event was a disappointment to me, and in the end we just ended up wasting materials, defeating the purpose of celebrating Earth Day in the first place. 

Now, it did occur to me that perhaps the reason that no one was in the store was because the shoppers of People’s Grocery are more aware of environmental issues than others in my town, and perhaps they were celebrating in their own ways. Staying home and not using the car, not going to the grocery store to buy organic/local food that still happens to be packaged in all kinds of plastics and cardboard, and maybe just spending quality time with family at home instead of out in public. I do not know for sure if that’s what they were doing, but I hope so and thinking about that makes me feel much better about the whole day. 

Isn’t that all we can do, anyway? The earth matters to us, because it contains our sources of living, and we should work to protect its resources from being completely usurped so it is unusable. However, what is the point of continuing to live on the earth if we cannot experience the simple enjoyment of quality time with those we love, or doing the things we love? Maybe if we focus more on the people around us, and nurturing our relationships, then perhaps we will in turn decrease our “carbon foot print” because we are not so obsessed with “stuff” that is made from Earth’s resources. For instance, I was so focused today on making sure I had this, I had that, to take to the event, that I was so distracted and missed out on the opportunity to have a real and meaningful conversation with my parents over the phone, or my boyfriend in our home, or by writing a letter to my best friend who is currently in Cambodia. 

These days our society makes such a fuss about “being green,” that we lose sight of WHY we are going green, why we are doing things to extend the life of our planet and ourselves. Maybe it would be best for us to take a step back and think about what is important to us and how to genuinely hold onto what that is. If we focus more on family, friends, community, and human connections, I believe that a result of that would be an environmental consciousness that we may not have purposefully developed. I think Bill McKibben has an article entitled “Deeper Shade of Green” in which he points out that for us to make a true, positive difference and slow down environmental degradation, we need to keep and open and consistent dialogue and take action with our neighbors. 

So, I am going to get off of the computer and go hang out with my man friend. Tomorrow at work I think I will pick up a Bill McKibben book to check out (not buy my own copy), and read. 

 

Hannah

Inspiration & Aspirations

I have other blogs. Let’s be real – I have a blogspot page, as well as a tumblr page. One I have rarely used and that was years ago. The other I use on a fairly regular basis, but it is by no means of any interest to anyone who doesn’t know me. It may be of no interest to anyone who knows me either, as it is a rather disappointing online version of a personal journal.

The reason I turned to WordPress for a new blog outlet was a result of an inspiring lecture I saw the other day at my city’s university. I work for K-State Libraries at Kansas State University, from where I graduated recently and received a degree in anthropology. I got the opportunity to see an anthropology faculty, Dr. Michael Wesch, give a lecture in Hale Library about pushing educational boundaries in the modern age of digital and social media. He founded a movement (of sorts) called “ed parkour” (www.edparkour.com), using the practice of parkour as a metaphor for the way he, and many others, believe educators should be practicing education in this ever-globalizing world of constant data and digital collaboration in which we live. I cannot explain all of the details with as much eloquence as Dr. Wesch did in his talk, but if you are interested in this concept, I recommend looking around and getting familiar with the website. Dr. Wesch’s talk ultimately eradicated my persisting fear that the increase in online participation will lead to lack of human connection, and inspired me to become a part of the dialogue of the positive impact these outlets could potentially have on education if used in productive ways. He mentioned WordPress in his talk, seemingly impressed with its usability and customization possibilities for anyone with an internet connection and ideas to share with the world.

Now, I’m not saying I have mind-blowing, out-of-this-world ideas to share with the world, not by any means. Besides the basic inspiration that came directly from seeing Dr. Wesch’s talk, I was also inspired on a broader, yet more individual and personal level. I have considered obtaining my masters degree in library science, and possibly exploring the possibility of becoming a social sciences librarian. I feel this would be a great way to utilize my anthropology degree, as I came to understand the importance of academic research and feel that anthropology, while it has its problems that may not be solved any time soon, is one of those disciplines that truly works to completely understand the human condition and to make the world a better place for all its inhabitants. After hearing Wesch’s talk, I realized I want to also delve into matters of education. All-in-all I want to be involved in constant learning, creativity, and encourage pushing those boundaries of exploration as many people as possible can have positive and unique learning experiences. There is a lot to know about the world, so much more for me to learn, and for humankind to learn, and I want to be a part of this particular human journey.

I want to utilize this blog to focus on humans, creativity, education, technology, and how all of those intersect and depend upon one another. I also want to utilize this blog to become a better writer in multiple facets. I want to use what skills I acquired while an undergraduate, toiling over term research papers, but to support my interests as they are applicable to daily life – for both myself and others.

So, this has really been my mission statement, if you want to think about it that way. I only hope I will follow through on this stated goal and that this blog may help propel me to someday making a positive impact for someone, somewhere, and be a conscious contributor to giving the earth a stronger and brighter future.

Now I am off to explore.


Hannah