Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Little Mommy-in-the-Middle Rant

Chevaucher, in French, means to straddle. Literally to be astride a horse. And that sums me up.

Am I a writer or a blogger? Well obviously all bloggers are writers, but not all writers are bloggers. A technician or a wordsmith? These days, it's almost de rigueur to be both. But it's not easy.

On the one hand, there is my mother's generation, many of whom are hard-pressed to find the "on" button for the monitor. (Sorry, Mom!) During a recent visit to my mother's retirement community in South Carolina I was told by several of her friends that they finally just gave up on "that computer thing" because it was just getting too complicated. Understandably so. They want to be able to get emails from their children, open photo attachments, and that's about it. And it's become too confusing for them.

On the other side is my kids' generation, college-age kids who don't really blog much but speed their way through Facebook and texting, and are completely bilingual in English and Internet. Incapable of explaining what it is they are actually doing, much the way you couldn't explain exactly HOW you are riding your bike while you're doing it.

So that leaves mommy-in-the-middle here. Precious few of my contemporaries have blogs. One year ago I had no idea how to write in a blog. Some of you would argue that I still don't, but you may go sit underneath that pigeonnier in the 14th arrondissement. I moved to Paris to experience the ethereal City of Light and now find myself not only caught up in the befuddling world of French paperasse, new systems and so forth, but then when I turn to my comforting link to "home" and my blog, I have a bewildering array of technological terms and techniques that I wasn't prepared to have to learn. I'm soldiering through them, but it takes time and patience, and sometimes cold hard cash. Those lucky, wonderful geeks are not cheap to hire.

This will come as a shock to some computer-savvy folks, but many of my friends don't even understand Skype. As a concept. These are smart, college-educated baby boomers who are still grappling with uploading digital camera images instead of getting the prints at the store. They are whiz kids in their own right, but just not about Internet technology. They keep it on a need-to-know basis. We are a generation that still calls our friends when we're in the airport of their home town, even if we are now calling from our cell phones. It's just in the conditioned reflexes.

One point I keep thinking about is this: if the future of blogs is to be a resource of information, we had all better make all technology more user-friendly because the traffic we want is OUT THERE, not in here, if you catch my drift. The Internet is moving along at a fast clip and we know how some bloggers are making a living from ads on their blogs. (Hah! I'm a purist, I think smugly. I take in no funds from ads, nor do I get discounts or privileges from the places I review. Hah! In reality it's primarily because I haven't figured out how, technologically.)

Bloggers see the blogoshpere as the world of the future, yet it is when Petite Anglaise gets her two book deals -- printed-on-paper books -- that we all sigh with envy. So I may be straddling two worlds, but we all are to a certain extent.

So let me confess here: I do not understand what an RSS Feed is. I'll go back over the Wiki definition a few more times, but it might as well be in Romanian because I just don't get it. I do not understand how to create a hyperlink in any consistent way. I tried to update my blog profile and ended up permanently disabling comments. How is it possible that there exists a little box where in one false click you can "Delete this Blog"? Are you kidding me? 138 posts, a year's worth of work, deleted, with one Enola-Gay little click? Is that why that thing is called an "Atom Feed"? Poof! It's gone? (P.S. If you did not understand any of the terms in this paragraph, raise your hand and I'll come over to help.)

Look, I may need reading glasses to write my pathetic little blog, but many of my friends think that I am amazingly technically with it. I am not kidding. They say things like "Oh, I'll have to read your website. What's your call name?" Oh, that Polly, she's so adventurous, so daring. She's got a blog!

Then in the blogosphere world, I am a Luddite, an anachronism living life in the breakdown lane. I limp along with poor graphics and a font which I detest. I just learned how to add a little HTML. I didn't know that the "Edit me!" things on the sidebar were actually supposed to be edited. It's like life without your reading glasses. Everything looks equally undecipherable. Touching it could mean the blog equivalent of a core melt-down, so I just leave it be. Thank god I found, which at least helped me understand a few more terms. I wasn't born yesterday, but yesterday I did discover . Bowl me over that Dooce is a real person. A very very funny person. I thought it was just another blog term.

Writer's information. I happen to write my blog posts in my Yahoo mail account, so that the drafts are always available no matter which computer I'm on. Then I cut and paste to my Blogspot account. I just spellchecked this piece and Yahoo mail dictionary doesn't even have the term blogger. It wanted me to change it to logger or flogger.

Maybe "flog her" would be better.

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