The Perils of Instant Online Posting

There is a special thrilling moment in the blogging. After you tie off the final thoughts together and put the full stop to the last paragraph or sentence, you give your post the final review and then you hit the publish button and relish the excitement of setting your words free to the world. It often happens that you discover one stray typo after the post goes live, or an awkward phrasing. Most of the time, however,  the integrity of your post survives and it is unlikely that the slip will cause major embarrassment.  This is because a blog post normally follows a certain structure. It is a piece of writing that evolves from an idea, into an outline, then a coherent piece. Each blogger is different, but I find that I have to start from a central theme, that I might develop as I write, but it is still a slow-brewing process. The most important part for me is to find the idea or theme of a post. I sift through dozens of online articles, or blog posts. I mine my own daily experiences or observations, in a hunt for one suitable subject. So regardless of how effortless posts look, they normally are a product of a relatively lengthy process. Of course, there are the odd exceptions like the Hello World page, or the re-posts from You-tube.

Things are a little different in the world of social networking. Technology has made it so easy for us to connect to our social networks. Whether our portable device of choice is an iPhone, iPad, or any other Andoid tablet or photon, there are endless options to use them for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Flickr among many others. So I can connect at any place and time, to interact with my cyber-friends. I can read posts, re-post them and post photos at the flick of one finger. And while commenting or tweeting may take a little bit more effort, the platforms themselves do not encourage verbosity, or limit my thoughts to a few characters, which makes a touch screen keyboard sufficient. I feel that blogging -with the notable exception perhaps of photo-blogging- cannot benefit much from the technology of portable devices. Because although the applications for tablet and iPhone exist, the limitation of keyboard and display size require at least an investment into portable keyboards, or extra-ordinary manual dexterity that I do not possess. For me, blogging involves many stages of careful thought and reflection, while posting on my social network is much more impulsive. As the connection to social apps becomes so much easier, the act of thumbing up other people’s thoughts or pictures; re-posting jokes or articles; and writing that quick comment, turn into something like a nervous reflexes with little or no thought at all.

The danger of this instant reflex lurks closer than you think. A few times I gave thumbs up to a story, when I actually wanted to flip it off my screen, because I found it silly or distasteful.  At least once I wrote a comment or a whinge that I later thought will be misunderstood. Most of the time I caught these things within minutes, but since these actions are “out there” immediately after I click on them, there is always a chance that one of my friends would bear witness to them, maybe even the very same one who would get offended. It is a peril that one has to live with; a means of culling that friend perhaps.

Predictive text is particularly damning in this area, as I found out recently while posting on my tablet a message to Nelson Mandela for his birthday. My “Happy Birthday Tata Madiba” came out as Happy Birthday Tara Marina. I was horrified when I spotted this a few minutes later. I quickly discarded my tablet for my trusted laptop and typed it correctly. Barely a minute later a friend commented that I was a day early… mistakes are caught quickly in cyberspace.

Of course it is perfectly okay, people can make stupid mistakes on social networks as they do in the live social sphere. It is a bit more public, that’s all. So, the moral of the story: Treat your status update as a blog post. Respect it and give it some extra thought, it saves you unnecessary embarrassment.

Cyber Snobbery

One of the places I frequently hang out on the net is Facebook. It is a social networking site, with many infantile applications, games and time-wasting activities, but for me it is useful for connecting with long lost friends and relatives, as it gives me their latest news, photos or random updates.

Last week I was sucked into a Facebook craze. I filled out names of Five Cities Where I Lived, and was later bombarded by requests to fill in five all time favorite movies and books, five greatest fears, five addictions, five bla bla bla bla bla, and it never ends.  Needless to say that I could not be bothered, and dropped out of this FIVE-itis almost immediately, but I had already filled out my five cities.  I lived in more than five different cities, from large to small to insignificant desert outposts, so  I chose the ones that where important to me, or the ones that presented landmarks in my life : Aleppo the city where I was born; Vienna where I had my first brief -and unhappy- encounter with the western world;  Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, where I lived independent from my family for the first time, and Johannesburg my first point of contact with South Africa. Now I was left with one slot and the contenders were : My current city of Cape Town, Abu Dhabi where I lived as a teen with my family, and East London my second stop in South Africa. There was also Al-Ain and Ruwais in the UAE, but the latter thankfully does not qualify as a city.  I left out my current city, because I thought the question was applicable to the past, and chose the place that was most important in my life : East London.

Perhaps I should not be surprised that I received a comment from one of my friends on Facebook. She said : “I wouldn’t tell people about East London”. You see East London is a sleepy hollow, a very laid back backwater town of South Africa. It is neither hip like Cape Town nor Savvy like Johannesburg. It is not even as Cool as Durban or Port Elizabeth. Even its inhabitants jokingly call it “Slummy”, so  why should I out myself by saying I lived there? In this age of cyber snobbery where everyone has to be smarter, cooler and more with it than the next Facebook friend.

Now, I really do not care about being a snob. I love the Eastern Cape. I do not find any problem in saying that I lived in East London, and to be more accurate (and even more of a country bumpkin) in Gonubie. It is one the most beautiful places in South Africa and if I wasn’t married to the wrong man I would have been very happy to continue living there. In fact I often think that if it wasn’t for want of good jobs and good schools it is the perfect place to bring up young children.

East London has the distinction of being South Africa’s only river port. It lies between the Nahoon and Buffalo Rivers and has a great expanse of beautiful white beaches and the best weather in South Africa. Its people are friendly and kind and stop to talk with you, and it has a low crime rate. In fact I would prefer living in East London over Johannesburg any day of the year, no matter how cool, hip and with-it Johannesburg was. I guess I am a country bumpkin after all.

Hit Me Where it Hurts

I think my brother-in-law is an idiot. But then again there are so many of his kind in my old country.

Recently, I lamented in this post the plight of women in my country of origin. The piece was brought about by what I think of as my sister’s digression into blind submission to the dictates of society. This submission is well-disguised as Islamic morals, values, and mostly dress code (wearing the headscarf or Hijab).

Today my good sister’s husband came up with another gem from my erstwhile people who have been dozing for the last thousand years. He splashed a “funny” post all over Facebook’s “Funwall” and forwarded it to his numerous friends – most of whom are WOMEN if I may add.

I am translating it from the original Arabic:

Behind every great man .. a woman

Behind every prisoner.. a woman

Behind every problem.. a woman

Behind every war.. a woman

Behind every traffic accident.. a woman

Behind every fight between neighbours … a woman

Behind the demographic imbalance… a woman

Behind the corruption of young men and their depravity.. a woman

Behind every mother and father who were thrown into an old age home… a woman

I want to know who was the stupid ox who called them the fairer sex.

End of gem.

Given my current situation, I am not very good friends with the male fraternity at the moment. But this particular post would enrage me even on a good day, and I do not think it is funny at all. It simply illustrates the male (and especially the Middle Eastern male’s) attitude of passing the responsibility of EVERYTHING onto a woman’s shoulders. Men get away with this because we women have broad shoulders, and can carry everything the guys throw at us: The groceries, the kids, and a good portion of the home-loan to boot. We do it with love, then we smile and ask for more of the load.

Yesterday I drew up a list of items I bought in the last two years and gave it to Mr. Negativity. I did that because in the settlement he stated that I will be getting X thousand Rand’s worth of household effects. I annotated the items I would like to have and added them up to come up with the amount HE said I would get. His response: “I don’t want to go into nit-picking”. Of course, it is nit picking, because I am the one who is asking for stuff. In contrast it is not nit-picking when he demands that I throw petrol in the car on the rare occasions I dare to use it, or when he makes me pay for his son’s passport applications.

His latest antic: I am not allowed to use the car for moving my few belongings to my friend’s house down the road, no more than two kilometers away. And of course it is too much “effort and expense” for him to drive me there. Yet, he wants me “out of his hair” sooner rather than later. Perhaps I should do a sit-in protest on top of my boxes, and wait to see who will break first. Believe me, I want out as well, but I have put up with this crap for nine years, what is a few days more?