Friday, December 14, 2007


There’s a famous Far Side cartoon where a boy puts his hand up in class and says, “May I be excused? My brain is full.” Well, that’s exactly how I felt yesterday, after a day of back-to-back discussions on building Web communities, local news, blogging, mapping, etc. It was interesting stuff, but My God, I needed some air.

One aspect of our online lives I haven’t yet completely figured out is social networking. I am on Facebook and LinkedIn, but I’m not entirely comfortable with them. I think LinkedIn would be valuable if I were looking for a job. Facebook seems much more about fun -- so much so that I’m wary of it as a huge potential time-waster!

In fact, my approach to social networking is sort of like my approach to Photoshop. Underlying my trepidation is a feeling that I can’t really trust myself. Just like I think I may go nuts altering my pictures beyond recognition, I think I may also get sucked into the vortex of Facebook. I don’t trust my own self control. Which is interesting.

Lately, my technique for balancing how much time I spend online is to turn off my computer, rather than just putting it to sleep. If I turn it off entirely, I am less likely to crank it up again. My goal is to spend time online in the morning, and of course I’m online all day at work -- and then get out and have an actual life in the evening. So far, so good!

(Photo: Tompkins Square Park, East Village, Dec. 2007)


  1. Balance is always an issue - for everyone, not just you, Steve. The cool thing about you is - you think about it instead of getting stuck in a pattern and then having to extricate yourself.

    My brother is addicted to Facebook, too. I feel very lucky that computer related activities are only interesting to me for a certain amount of time. Then I get restless and have to go walk around outside. I'm so lucky! It's very addictive stuff.

    As for photoshop - if you see it as an art form, then it's not about changing your images beyond recognition, but about making them even more of an expression of the way you think or your experience of the scene you photographed. In darkrooms, photographers used to spend hours under the red lightbulb, making their prints according to their own aesthetic. Photoshop is the 21st century version of the darkroom. I use it in a limited way, but only because I understand about 5% of what it's capable of.

    Have a wonderful weekend, off and online!

  2. That's a very good way to look at it, Reya. I think my journalistic backgroud confines me somewhat, making me want to represent what was "real" as opposed to creating my own aesthetic. But I have noticed that in many ways, Photoshop makes the photo MORE real -- because sometimes, through some fluke of the camera, the photo just doesn't come out quite right. The colors are muddy, or the image isn't very fresh, whereas the scene itself may have been brilliant.

    Anyway, I think about all this stuff too much. :)

  3. haha oh god... facebook IS such a time-waster. i need the online-time discipline you have, but it doesn't help that homework often requires computer use.

  4. I'm lucky that in my job I rarely have to use a computer. When I get home and spend an hour or so online its still quite a novelty to me. I've resisted the temptation of facebook though one of my best friends is addicted to it. I don't get the whole "I've got 175 friends" thing. Your friends are surely the people you contact regularly without the computer! Anyway...glad I got that of my chest! Have a good weekend Steve.

  5. My brain is...I don't know, but i could use a two day nap...balance things out.

    I have 3 friends! Woo Hoo! (and only 1 of them is imaginary)

  6. facebook seems to be just another thing to manage, but i have been in touch with a lot of folk i probably otherwise wouldn't, and contact in whatever form, is always good. accept the 21st century and our evolution, just maintain a balance, as i am sure you will

  7. well my online contact with people is an important part of my "actual" life. tho' i know what you mean.....

    so, i guess you wont be responding to my invitation to play scrabble on Facebook?.....

  8. Steve, I want to leave comments on older posts. Will you know I have left them? Do you get notification of all comments or just the ones on your latest post? I too feel like I could get lost in the vortex this community. I daren't go near facebook...