I feel left behind in this whole social networking craze. I once defended the internet because it was a way to build community where there was none but now, I see many friends I have communicated with in thought and word via blogs turning to social networking and in turn, neglecting their blogs. So I tried popping onto Facebook via my husband's page (which he doesn't ever use) and just couldn't get into it. It was all jumbled up and not very orderly which made me feel like I needed to tidy up and declutter. If I want to feel like that, I just have to walk into my kids' bedrooms! Then, I opened up a Twitter account, tried to pop around and see what people were talking about... and promptly had a panic attack. Seriously. All the chatter, all the conversation, all the virtual noise and I felt my chest tighten up, my heart race and my breathing get shallower and shallower. I felt like Professor X in a New York subway. Thankfully, it was not telepathy induced so I could turn it off before I started hyperventilating.Do go and read the whole thing.
I don't want to offend anyone who enjoys these communication mediums, but I love blogs! A blog is a beautiful place filled with the character and spirit of the person who owns it. It offers pieces of them and their world. It opens your eyes to places, customs, family situations that you might not get to experience in your own world. Even if a blog is not visually beautiful, it can be intellectually beautiful and carry your mind to the pinnacles of thoughts you never could have imagined yourself. You can follow the conversations of the blog hostess and other readers and you can even choose to engage in those conversations as well. It is a notebook where you can quickly share a small silliness that you will just as quickly forget or a scrapbook to hold those precious things that you want to remember forever. And it can be a lovely place to share yourself with the world and a comfortable parlor to invite guests to come in and sit a spell with you. If blogging is like a home cooked meal, then social networking is fast food. And while fast food can work in a pinch, I'd rather enjoy a succulent pot roast with roasted sweet potatoes on the side.
I share my sister-in-law's perplexity at the sudden popularity of social networking among Catholic homeschooling mommy-bloggers. To be honest, I see these tools as valuable and useful to a few distinct groups of people: businesses, as a source of "free" advertising; high-school/college students, as an outreach of their natural gregariousness and desire to stay best friends forever with people they met six months ago; and the techno-bloggers, who try all the new technology out there so they can stay abreast of current trends and report on them to their audiences.
Now, I could see where you could add "politicians" or "information writers" to the "business" category, and where some large extended families might find something like Facebook an easier way to stay in touch than the old method of calling six people in the family, expecting them to pass on the information you're sharing, and then finding out at the next family gathering that three of them never bothered to share what they assumed everyone knew and the other three distorted what you said and created a lot of false assumptions and hurt feelings among the people they did share your news with.
But I find it harder to imagine how useful Facebook, Twitter, and other networking sites are to Catholic homeschooling mommy-bloggers specifically. Sure, some of them use the sites to stay in touch with distant and extended family or scattered friends, but it seems like others are just using the sites to "talk" to each other, the same people they used to "talk" to on forums, blogs, e-mail lists, etc. As my SIL says in her post, this has the effect of moving the conversations to a new platform where only the technologically-savvy will be able to continue participating. Brand new homeschooling moms, those still investigating homeschooling, those needing support in the early years may find that these social networking sites are too hard to use for the purpose of getting help from more seasoned homeschooling moms, and too difficult especially if you need to ask serious, complex questions; the answer to "How do I discern a call to homeschool my children?" will probably take more room to answer than is generally allowed in these brief formats.
This isn't to say that Catholic homeschooling moms who find social networking sites fun and enjoyable shouldn't keep using them. It may be easier for some to write a quick sentence saying "At the grocery store. The usual battle about sugar cereals. Why is it so hard to say no when my brain is thinking secret midnight mommy-snack?" than to write a longer post about how our battles with our children so often reflect our own ambivalent feelings about a thousand different aspects of parenting, discipline, limits, self-control and the like. But the quick post or tweet or other brief thought gets swallowed up among the hundreds of similar thoughts scrolling quickly across the page; there's no real opportunity for reflection, for introspection, for examination. If former prolific and thoughtful blog authors eschew blogging altogether, or severely cut back on it, in favor of the briefer and more immediate but less reflective thoughts posted on social networking sites, I think it would be a pity.
Perhaps it will be possible for Catholic homeschooling mommy-bloggers, to balance their use of social networking sites while still providing thoughtful, reflective posts about their vocational lives as devoted wives, loving mothers, dedicated and focused homeschool teachers, skilled and conscientious homemakers, and kind, involved friends. To be perfectly honest, I couldn't do it; there are already enough demands on my time and attention, and having to add the pressure to post five to ten "quick thoughts" detailing the minutiae of my day on top of the blogging and writing I already do (and enjoy very much) is not an appealing thought.