All in all I think I’ve done OK with this social media thing. I mean given that just over two years ago I didn’t know what Facebook was. Really. I emerged into 2010 from three years in ‘hosptial-land’ (thanks to breast cancer for that) and was plunged back into the ‘real’ world, and when I first heard the socially accepted end of conversation line, ‘Find me on Facebook.’ I said, ‘What’s Facebook?’
Well times move on and now I comfortably use Facebook, Twitter less so (and could somebody tell me what LinkedIn is for?), but I recognise that there are things about this social media stuff that means that I can stay in touch with people, find new friends who share my interests…. all good stuff. But it’s not all good. I mean, there’s just so much STUFF out there. How do you find the good or relevant stuff?
I recently read an article in The Word magazine (no I don’t read it but Ronnie does), and he’d told me about ‘frictionless sharing’. Mark Zukerberg, creator of Facebook, coined this phrase, and the concept is discussed in an article by Eamonn Forde:
“If everything we consume is being shared socially… does anything actually stand out? Sharing just becomes about quantity rather than quality.”
Exactly my feeling too. Now the article is about music, about the fact that through the sort of music services like Spotify we now have access to millions and millions of songs, in effect endless libraries of CDs. So how do we pick which ones to play? Well, in the world of songs and music, there are now services that organise playlists for you. One is Herd.fm and David Nam who works for them says:
“I have been quoted in the past as saying that we are your ‘shit filter’. I wouldn’t mind if that quote haunted me for the rest of my life as that really is what we strive to do.”
I slapped the magazine down on the table and shouted out to Ronnie, ‘A shit filter! That’s what I need.’ Yes, a shit filter?
If my dear friend Rach were alive now I know we would have talked about this, and I can imagine her saying to me, ‘Where can I get one?’ And we’d probably laugh out loud about it, no – no probably about it at all – we’d probably start selling them. Although, of course if you knew Rach, well you’d know that she certainly didn’t need one. She had a full on shit filter. No shit got past her.
But I digress. So what exactly is ‘shit’? Well, in my opinion, when ‘stuff’ is shared, it should be shared with friction, not frictionless sharing. I mean, if you think an article is worth reading because it’s so sensational that, say, the end of breast cancer is on the horizon, then tell me, express an opinion about it. But if you’re just sharing stuff because it’s about ‘a subject you’re interested in so I might be too‘ (and this happens often in the world of breast cancer, or even cancer generally), then if you don’t tell me why I should read it, then I’ll just ignore it. It should be worth reading, it should be worth my time to read it. Because time, as I am finding, is a very valuable commodity, especially when you think there might be less of it than you’d previously thought.
And there’s so much stuff out there. There’s so much noise, static. It’s too easy to copy other people’s shit and pass it on. And it’s so easy for us to find ‘Friends’ (I’m using the Facebook definition here) and our lives can just get so full. And so I regularly clear out my Facebook friends (yes I really do that – frequently – I see it as a way to make space for new friends who do want to engage with me rather than being a miserable unfriendly person), and I’ve written before about friendship, about what it actually means, with Rach sarcastically asking me, ‘What’s the criteria Sarah?’
Well, that’s for you to decide, but for me it means interaction. It means exchanges that contain emotions – joy or fury – I don’t mind. But it has to contain a real interaction. It has to be real.
In a recent unfriending session on Facebook, I discovered that I can actually categorise my ‘Friends’ as ‘Close friends’ or ‘Acquaintances’, and – what’s more – Facebook will do it for me! So if I have 687 Friends (and who can really have that many friends?), but actually I’m only interested in what say 35 of them actually post or share, I can zone out the other 652. I mean, really, isn’t that a shit filter in itself? A shit filter that someone else (Facebook) has installed for you? But I think it’s better to install your own.
Because, well, now that I’ve discovered this expression – the shit filter – I realise that what I’ve been doing these last few months is that I’ve been installing my own shit filter, and my life is quieter since. I’ve added it to my email, to Facebook, to Twitter, to all my stuff. It throws most of everything out! Obviously it needs maintenance from time to time, to make sure it’s fully tuned in. But it’s better, I like it this way.
I like it quieter. I don’t mind less noise. In fact, Rachel’s beloved husband Anthony wrote on The Cancer Culture Chronicles blog yesterday,
“Unfortunately noise doesn’t help prevent death from breast cancer.”
That’s true. Getting quieter, using the shit filter, can help us to really find the organisations who are doing meaningful things to change the conversation on breast cancer – like Breast Cancer Action. Doing meaningful research on metastatic breast cancer – like METAvivor. And believe me, it really matters to me that we have a different conversation on breast cancer. I mean like ‘life and death’ level of matters.
So now that my shit filter is in good working order, things are quieter around here. But it means I can feel free to write about other stuff than just breast cancer (it’s OK I wrote and published a book, that’s about 100,000 words on my opinions about breast cancer culture, you can read that if you’re interested). It means I can spend more time gardening. It means I can make dandelion honey. It means I can think about how I use my experience of breast cancer to give back, to train to perform unique services to mark the lives of people when they die. You know, these are deep and reflective things, that could get lost in the world of too much stuff. It means my life is quieter.
It means I have time to appreciate life. And life lived beyond a breast cancer diagnosis becomes very precious indeed. No time to waste it on shit.