Welcome to Be Our Guest Fridays!
My weekly Be Our Guest Fridays feature is where I showcase guest posts by my favorite bloggers and authors. I started this feature as a fun way to give back to the blogging community. I am excited to share with you these creative, inspiring and knowledgeable bloggers.
Today I have Lucy, author of The Fictional 100, a book and blog dedicated to the most beloved and fascinating fictional characters in world literature. She also blogs about her reading journey Northern Lights Reading Project and joined our Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge. Lucy has been a wonderful supporter of my blog and our reading challenge, she always has the kindest words of encouragement and I am happy to share her thoughts on social media with you today. Thanks Lucy for being my guest!
6 Ways that Social Media Stretch My Soul
To me, social media are not just tech companies or corporations. Behind the Twitter names, Facebook pages, Pinterest boards, and Goodreads accounts are people–people whom I have met online and learned from, people who enrich my life with their personhood, shared through words and images and, in a few cases, face-to-face meetings. Corporations and tech companies have their flaws and people can show their best and worst, and everything in between, online–we all know this–but for this post, I am not going to dwell on those things. Instead I want to offer thanks for 6 ways social media have stretched my soul and still do!
1. Social media have cracked open my shell and pulled me out of it.
I am the last person on earth who would ever film a TED talk. I think of myself as a confirmed introvert and “quiet person.” Social media have taught me that, under the right circumstances, I am not the turtle I thought I was! I love to reach out with a tweet, a share, a comment, a book suggestion, or a “like.” I am a writer and typing is my medium. It’s the brush I want to pick up and paint with on the bigger canvas of human interaction.
2. At their best, social media are about giving as well as receiving.
Like many authors, I came to social media because I had written something (a book), and it was my responsibility and wish to start telling readers about it, by establishing a Twitter and Facebook account. For this reason, my accounts usually have “Fictional 100” somewhere in them. But hawking one’s wares quickly becomes wearisome if one is only hoping to get something from others. Of course, writing and sharing knowledge is contributing content, a form of giving, but the fun of social media only began for me when I started reading what others were contributing, conversing with them, and sharing the news of the amazing talent I was encountering among writers and artists, many of whom were bloggers.
3. Social media have widened my interests and appreciation.
Participating in online book clubs, joining readalongs, or simply heeding the wisdom of others who have read an unfamiliar author or mastered a new topic has led me (as it has so many others) to broaden my reading choices, jettison genre prejudices, and generally explore books I had long neglected, avoided, or overlooked. This happens again and again in the two Goodreads book clubs I belong to (TuesBookTalk Read-a-Longs and Lit Collective: An Online Reading Retreat) and in the Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge (for which we recently read The Poisonwood Bible, a modern classic I had overlooked). However widely I may read, my own knowledge and experience are necessarily limited, and it is nourishing to the soul for me to step back and rely on someone else’s judgment and then venture beyond the familiar.
4. Geographical limitations have become much less important.
The people we meet online can be from almost anywhere, as we know. Online communities tend to form around common interests, rather than shared location, although clearly location can be a natural basis for fostering community as well. But I can drop in on The Evolving Critic, and learn the latest about the Boston art scene, or cycle in France with the French Village Diaries, without leaving my desk in New Jersey. When I was in college, I encouraged my mother to begin writing an advice column for teachers and parents, work she had been doing as a family counselor in our local community for decades. She approached the Binghamton Press, which served a “Tri-Cities” area in upstate New York, where I grew up. She wrote a weekly newspaper column there for about five years, but she was never able to have it picked up for national syndication, probably because education columns tended to be locally based. If she were embarking on this now, I would probably have recommended that she start a blog. Not only would she have reached more readers with her experience and wisdom, but she could have received questions and comments from people all over the country, and beyond.
5. Opportunities to care present themselves.
People are never one-dimensional, no matter what specific purpose led them to join social media. When people (myself included) share activities, interests, causes, or concerns, they begin to share more and more of themselves–at least, this is true of the most fruitful interactions. Friendships develop and the seeds of mutual compassion break open and take root. Life goes on while we review books, write our blogs, share our photos, and meet to chat or comment. Opportunities arise, in the natural course of things, to care about others during tough times and to nurture others’ biggest dreams and hopes–and to be amazed by the caring, support, and encouragement that flow to us from others.
6.The web of souls in our world becomes so utterly apparent.
The great spiritual traditions, including humanism, have long told us that life, especially human life, is interconnected. We are interdependent biologically and ecologically and at levels that transcend the physical. How surprising that the “virtual,” supposedly unreal world of social media is now often the means of revealing this deep truth most tangibly, as events and emotions reverberate around the world at lightning speed. Speaking responsibly and with kindness, respectful of diversity, is more important than ever because of the reach of our words. We are also privy to a richness of human creativity almost inconceivable in scope.
I am terrifically grateful for my own friendships forged and fostered via social media, ones I will keep cherishing throughout my life. In the wider network of connections I have made, I am likewise awed by the richness of what people are creating so prolifically online and sharing so generously. This new dimension of being “social” feels to me like a tremendous, soul-stretching blessing.
Lucy Pollard-Gott is a psychologist and literary critic, with a special interest in the psychology of the arts. She is the author of The Fictional 100: Ranking the Most Influential Characters in World Literature and Legend, and she continues to report news about the ongoing careers of these characters, along with other books she’s reading, via social media and her blog The Fictional 100. She has a second blog, the Northern Lights Reading Project, devoted to the literature, history, and culture of Iceland and the Scandinavian countries. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinteres
I love the way that blogging has helped me grow and I have social media to thank in part for that. Like Lucy, I am an introvert in real life (until I get to know someone better) and love “meeting” people I would not otherwise have had the pleasure of knowing and learning from their experiences. Whether it’s a parenting tip, a great recipe, or a love of books, social media has brought me to people and blogs that have helped me become a better parent, cook, reader and blogger.
What do you like about social media? How has it helped your writing, blogging or personal life? Leave us a comment, we’d love to hear from you!