Posted by: Hal
Last week in Vancouver I hung out with a very fun, very interesting group of friends who are all heavy online social media users. Below are some pictures I took of our two days of filming with them, interspersed with some commentary and links to their various sites. Overall my impression of them is that they are smart and funny, though self absorbed (but perhaps no more self absorbed than I was at that age…or I still am…) What I noticed most of all was their mixture of savvy image building and utter disregard for how what they share online might alter their future. On the one hand, total sharing without filter, on the other hand, very keen awareness of the way they are building their personal brands online and the opportunities that might create for them.
So the guy in the picture below is Adam. We met up with him at his office and he showed his Daytum site, where he chronicles his sex life, eating and spending habits, and more. Online, Adam mostly goes by Skinny Ghost. He spends a lot of time on Tumblr. He told me he doesn’t do Daytum to get attention or expose his life, even though the site is public.
After hanging out with Adam at work, we went to a hot dog stand called Japadog. While the camera crew filmed, we ordered hot dogs with Japanese toppings. Mine, below, was a turkey smokey with sweet Japanese mayonnaise, teriyaki sauce, grilled onions and dried sea weed! It was surprisingly good.
Adam used to date Malloreigh (posing below). Malloreigh is best friends with Lindsay (taking the pictures with the film crew in the background). Malloreigh, among other things, poses nude for the site SuicideGirls.com, a site that mixes pin-up type photos of young women with tattoos and piercings with blogging and some Facebook like features. Malloreigh also uses LiveJournal, has a public blog, and communicates through twitter and facebook too. She told me that when a new social networking site comes to her attention she will immediately try and secure the user name Malloreigh for herself, just in case she might one day start using the site or it gains in popularity. Malloreigh’s been blogging since she was 12. She’s had someone pretend to be her online, and has had several online stalkers. Still, she’s very open and friendly to anyone who contacts her, even the guys who pay for access to her photos through Suicidegirls.
The girl taking the photos above is Lindsay. Lindsay is a bit older and less into basement apartments and grunge then Malloreigh and her friends, but she’s just as into using the web to promote herself and her “brand”. She has a site called LindsaysDiet.com that features thousands of pictures arranged into photo essays of particular days that all invariably end up in a club. She’s been hired by a LA based DJ to travel with him taking pictures, and she is even an attraction every Saturday at Biltmore’s, a reason to show up and make the scene, like the band or the dj. We went with Malloreigh over to Lindsay’s condo, where Lindsay took pictures of Malloreigh posing in various states of undress, photos that may make up the next set on Malloreigh’s Suicide Girl page. While the doc crew did this, I sat in a chair in the corner, sweaty palmed and embarrassed, and tried not to pay too much attention (though I did look up long enough to take the picture above).
Eventually we all ended up biking over to the Astoria, a dive-y bar with live music and a dj. The specialty of the place is a beverage called the Power Shandy – half Smirnoff Ice, half beer, one shot of vodka. What you see above is me buying a round for all my new friends. Delicious!
Here we are getting ready to party. At the insistence of director Sally, I even danced for a few awkward moments. The two “power shandys” I drank helped loosen me up for my turn on the dance floor.
So there you go. No deep thoughts here. Nice kids (I can say that because, well, even if I’m not that old I felt old hanging out in their various basement apartments). They had a lot to teach me about using the various peep technologies I’m experimenting with. While they lectured me on the different protocols, I bombarded them with questions about what they thought the future had in store for them. I wonder how their various attempts to use the details of their to lives to keep themselves permanently in the spotlight will ultimately work out?
Posted by: Hal
Hi everyone, how’s my blogging? Sally and the factotums of Choco Box have sent down a communique. They want to do a bit of a customer satisfaction survey. They want to know how you like my blogging so far. They’re particularly interested in any personal details you might be gleaning from my musings. Actually, you have to go way back to the beginning of this blog to find the personal stuff, but that’s about to change as next week I’ll be shifting gears and writing daily about the life and times of Hal. Anyway, if you have anything to say about my blogging, what you’d like to see me do, say, show, reveal, now’s your chance. Here’s the official customer survey as sent down from head office. Let’s hear what you’ve got to say as we head into the hot summer of Hal.
Hi everyone, We want to get Hal some feedback on his blogging so far. Has he been doing a good job of 'sharing'? Of revealing his personal side? What about his Facebook account? Do you feel you know him any better now than you did before? Or does he keep it too professional, too 'managed'? We're looking for your feedback and you don't have to be kind! Just send a comment to this blog and tell us everything that's on your mind. And stay tuned…full documentary production starts next week and we're looking for people to get involved!
Posted by: Hal
I’m back and I’m posting. Let’s start it off with a funny twitter feed called Shit My Dad Says by a 28 year old who lives with his 78 year old dad. Check this out, it’s my brand of humour. Here are a few samples:
Posted by: Hal
Friday’s shoot started at around 10 am. We were utilizing the new space age basement office for the first time. It’s dark and gloomy, with strings of lights behind the book shelves offering what I think is supposed to be a kind of futuristic glow. I haven’t seen it on camera, so I don’t really have a sense of how it turned out, but the crew seems happy with the vibe.
So first off, Sally (director) and Jeanette (producer), sat me down at my desk and produced a 15 page contract. With the cameras rolling, they took me rapidly through all kinds of legal language which basically amounted to the following: You agree to reveal yourself, to subject yourself to whatever we come up with, and you further agree that you are doing this willingly and that you will probably cause yourself embarrassment and this embarrassment will probably have a negative effect on your career and personal life and when that happens you can’t sue us, because you have only yourself to blame.
Hey, wait a minute, I protested feebly. Just sign it, snapped Jeanette. I signed it.
The whole scene — which was more about dramatics for the documentary then about any actual legal proceeding — made me oddly, suddenly anxious. I mean, really, it wasn’t anything I didn’t already know, but it put it very starkly. What the hell was I doing? Was I pretty much just signing up to make myself look ridiculous? When I pitched this project, it was all about extending our collective understanding of the shift from pop to peep. I wasn’t planning on embarrassing myself by and ruining my life. As the reading of the surprise legal document progressed, I actually broke into a sweat. No doubt you will see me on the small screen anxiously wiping my upper lip.
I’ve been working with these filmmakers for more than a year. I trust them, and I know they have the same intention I do – to make a substantive, important contribution to understanding the dramatic social shift we’re in. At the same time, as the documentary shifts into high gear it’s become apparent to me that we are entering a new more adversarial relationship. They believe that to make the doc succeed, I must expose and ideally embarrass myself. How else could I possibly truly participate in peep? I’m willing to expose and even embarrass myself — I’ve been doing it all my life, why stop now? — but I don’t think that’s what the doc should hinge on. Then again, there is an aspect of peep which has to do with being pushed by someone else to do things you wouldn’t otherwise do. Peep is all about WILLINGLY revealing yourself for perceived gains — attention, community, rewards. But what often ends up happening is that your willingness to share is coopted by other people who use your desires to share for their own agendas.
After I signed the document, they pretended to introduce me to thepeepdiaries.com for the first time. They then asked to see my Facebook page and proceeded to berate me for never commenting on anyone else’s posts or answering any of my facebook messages. That bit of theater was actually pretty funny. And probably true. You’ll notice, by the way, that I’m going to be doing a lot more responding to comments on this blog. I’ll be starting with the comments responding to my post about how my blogging is going…
So we’ll see how things play out. I’m writing this at the airport. The whole crew is off to San Francisco and Vancouver to shoot scenes with a lifecaster, a group of suicide girl twitter partiers, plus google and more. I’ll keep you posted, of course. I’m feeling far more anxious about this whole project now than I’d ever imagined I would. Maybe that’s a good thing.
Posted by: Hal
Last week I added my 1000th friend to Facebook, a move tinged with equal amounts of irony, optimism, skepticism and pragmatism. But let’s save that for another time. Right now, I want to report on my conversation with my new friend.
As you may recall, I promised to get in touch with my 1000th friend and take him or her out to lunch. Alas, my 1000th friend turned out to live in Baytown, Texas, not far from Houston. So instead I called up Marie Angell and we got to know each other over the phone. And instead of buying her lunch, I’m going to send her a tailor made gift package.
I really enjoyed talking to Marie and getting to know her. We had much more in common than I might have imagined, given the random circumstances of our acquaintance. A bit on those random circumstances: Marie became my friend after reading an article I wrote about a failed Facebook party. She looked me up on FB and sent me a message and added me. I asked her: “Did you think I would write you back when you messaged me?” “No,” she admitted. “So why did you bother?” “I’m a ham,” she told me. “I like to express my opinions.” I like her already!
Marie is a parent. She’s got a 16 year old daughter and an 11 year old son, as well as a grown up 22 year old stepson who plays drums in her band. Marie home schools the kids, so the first present I’m going to include is for the kids – a copy of my book for teens, The Big Book of Pop Culture: A How-To Guide for Young Artists. I asked Marie about home schooling and she told me she basically practiced “child led learning”. They don’t have a fixed schedule or tests, though she says she’s making sure that they learn “the basics.”
Next we talked about Marie’s band. Check out The Snake Charmers here. It’s a blues band and it’s a family affair since her husband is the bassist and her stepson is the drummer. There’s also a guitarist they met through Meetup.com. Marie is the singer, keyboardist and wrote all the band’s songs for their upcoming release, which she hopes will be ready in December. I’m planning on buying a copy for sure. I asked Marie how the rest of the band felt about her being the only lyricist and she told me that, “My husband has an engineering background and our guitar player Larry is a chemist so he’s not a word guy either. Eric our drummer is a word guy but his words are psychedelic 60s lyrics that make no sense. So somebody has to put the words there.”
I think, though, that Marie’s being too modest. She is, after all, a published writer. Another point of connection between us is that she writes short short stories also known as flash fiction. She says it’s a hobby and that once she won $20 and another time she got her hands on a $10 Amazon gift certificate. She sent me two of her stories and I think they’re pretty good — they showcase her keen sense of humour and her charmingly understated irony. I’ll include one at the end of this post.
Finally, I asked Marie about the US election. She didn’t vote for Obama because she always votes Libertarian. I looked it up and saw that their candidate for president got 56,398 votes. I asked her how she felt voting Libertarian in a state that always goes Republican. “I’m so accustomed to always losing,” she told me, “I don’t think about it anymore.” Love it! I’m also an optimistic pessimist with a stubborn streak.
Anyway, I was really surprised by how much we had to talk about and how well we got along. Marie is just a really cool person. For all the skepticism I have about FB and social networks, the one fundamental fact is that they bring you in contact with people you would otherwise never have had the chance to meet. We ended our talk agreeing that we were both Internet addicts, and promising to keep in touch. She said that if I ever make it to Houston she’ll buy me lunch, but as far as I’m concerned, I still owe her. In the meantime, since she likes flash fiction I’m going to send her my book of short stories (which is mostly short shorts). Since she’s into music I’m going to make her a mix CD of my favourite Canadian bands and performers. And since she’s a libertarian with an alternative streak, I’m also going to include the last 5 issues of my magazine Broken Pencil, the guide to zines and independent culture. Enjoy all that stuff Marie and thanks for being my 1000th friend!
Posted by: Hal
Last night I held my “Hal Needs New Friends“ Event at the Rhino Bar on Queen Street, downtown West, Toronto. I invited everyone who reads this blog (normally between 20 and 50 people a day, some new, some returning readers), all the people who are friends with me on Facebook who I have never met (around 600 people), and everyone who follows me on Twitter (20 people) to drop by, take a short quiz on my life, and have a drink on me. So how many people took me up on the offer?
One person came by the Rhino.
That one person was a very fun, interesting person and it was great to meet her. But, uh, still. One? On my Facebook event page 14 people said they were coming. Two messaged me the day of and said they couldn’t make it. The rest just didn’t show up. 60 people said they were maybe coming. Turns out they meant: Maybe not.
Paula came. Paula took the quiz. Paula got a 5 out of 9 on the quiz. She didn’t know the name of my favourite restaurant, and she couldn’t answer the question: Hal often argues with his __________. She checked “Don’t Know” to the questions “Has Hal ever had a one night stand?” and “Does Hal write about his pet cat Yoda on his blog?” However, she correctly entered waydowntown as one of my favourite movies, correctly named two of my hobbies, she knew I was married, and she knew the name of one of my books.
My prospective new friend works in corporate communications, plays soccer, and likes to try new things and meet new people. She seems like a cool person. She drank a Tom Collins and stayed and talked to me for an hour or so before heading of. Thanks for coming Paula!
So what to make of this? On the computer, I’m a real swinging guy. Almost everyday someone I’ve never met adds me as a Facebook friend or decides to follow me on Twitter or reads this blog. But, apparently, that popularity doesn’t transfer over to real life interactions. I’m a winner online but a loser in real life? It doesn’t make sense.
I’ll think more on this, and would love your input. In the meantime, I’m going to get in touch with all the people who said they were coming or maybe coming and find out what they did that night instead. I’m not mad or anything. I just want to know why you want to be my “friend” online, but not in real life. I mean, one new friend is probably a pretty good result for any evening out. But still…I had a party and one person came. As for everyone else: It’s too bad. I would have loved to have met ya.
Hal Needs New Friend Photo Essay (courtesy of Adam Smith)
So where is everyone?
Hal heads home.
Posted by: Hal
Last week, director Sally brought the film crew over the house to film a scene she’d come up with. The plan was to record me making a sandwich. No big deal for me. I’d already napped, urinated, played Scrabble, gotten drunk, wandered around half naked, made spaghetti and pretty much done everything else I normally do during the course of my life on camera for the Peep doc, so why not make a sandwich?
But of course the sandwich wasn’t the point at all. Sally promptly informed me of two little tidbits: First, I should gather the phone numbers of everyone I knew on the planet. Why? I asked. Because, she told me, you are going to call each and everyone one of them and tell them you are making a sandwich. After that, Sally happily informed me, fifteen or so strangers are going to come over and hang out in your kitchen while you eat your sandwich.
Oh-kay…I said, a bit put out that no one had bothered to consult me about this scheme. Sally’s vision became clear: a real life real time status update about the sandwich to everyone I knew, a kind of live action parody of the Twitter/Facebook paradigm that didn’t exist five years ago but is now considered the norm. Still, it was weird.
I started slowly. I called Mom. Hi dear, she said. Hi Mom. I’m just calling to tell you about this sandwich I made. Oh that’s nice, she said. I’m glad you’re having a nice lunch. Mom then began to talk about other more pressing issues – her ongoing recovery from a recent surgery, my grandfather’s return to a Montreal emergency room. We’ll talk about that later, I said, cutting her off. I just called to talk to you about the sandwich. Oh, mom said. She hung up, offended.
That went well, I said to Sally and the film crew. Keep dialing, Sally said. Next up, some friends of the family who have known me all their lives. This went much better. They weren’t at all surprised to have me call them and describe a sandwich. It’s a four meat sandwich, I explained, getting into the swing of the whole thing. Niagara prosciutto, farmer’s summer sausage, roast turkey and, just for the hell of it, some Hungarian salami.
I decided to focus on people who were both Jewish and old friends. I figured that they would give me the least trouble. And it was true. Most of them took the phone call in stride. An exception was my pal Jonathan Goldstein who I hadn’t talked to in a good year and seemed kind of worried. Are you alright? he wanted to know. Later on in the day, he sent me an email asking if I was going through a manic phase.
I was tearing through my list. No one answers the phone anymore. I had to go back upstairs and dig deeper. Who else did I know? Who else could I call? Desperate to please the scowling Sally, I started calling people I hadn’t talked to in 5 years or more – Hey, just, uh, wanted to let you know about this sandwich. I also called people more in the vein of associates and contacts then friends or family. The film director Peter Lynch seemed a bit nonplussed. The poet and musician John Samson took my call in stride, asking questions about the bread and the condiments.
The ridiculousness of the whole thing came to a head when I started arguing with a friend of mine in Vermont about my use of mayonnaise. He seemed genuinely disappointed by the application of Hellman’s and I was like, who is he to tell me how to accessorize MY OWN sandwich. Then I again, I called him, not the other way around.
Just another day in Peepvile.
For the record: The sandwich!
Posted by: Hal
A pretty interesting and healthy discussion broke out on my Facebook page yesterday, responding to my last blog post. I thought I’d reproduce it here and respond while I was at it. (My comments are new, added here, they didn’t appear in the original discussion.) And, hey, let’s keep this discussion going! I’m reprinting the comments in order, and using the initials of the commentators here, hopefully they’ll comment on the blog and identify themselves in full if they so wish. So here goes:
TD: I’m with you on many elements of your ‘peep’ thesis as presented thus far in other posts/forums, but “it’s still entertainment and distraction, not some newly evolved way to learn, connect and meaningfully interact” comes off as broad and gratuitous, a bit of overstatement for effect. For some types of use, you’re correct, but for others I’ve seen too much evidence to the contrary to agree completely. My ability to respond with the above, within the same medium, in context, inside an hour also does not remind me of television.
[Hal says: it’s a bit broad, true, and of course there are many exceptions but overall I’m sticking to my guns here: peep culture is replacing pop culture which means we’re deriving entertainment from watching other people’s lives, and FB is a big part of that. Does that mean that’s all we’re doing on FB and other peep sites? No. But it’s a big part of it and we have to acknowledge that. And interactive tv is already happening with more just around the corner as TV and Peep inevitably complete their merger.]
MS: The correlation between lower grades in TV-watching students and Facebook-ing students does not necessarily imply that the same factors can be attributed to the causality models. For example, both models most likely identify “distraction” as a factor that contributes to the effect of lower grades. But what are the other factors unique to the between Facebook and lower grades? I would suspect that they differ and that it would be quite interesting to analyze them on a deeper level. I think that a major divergence between TV and Facebook is the presentation of a narrative within a formally defined beginning and ending (even so-called “reality” shows are presented as such). Facebook is a never ending “narrative” that is not framed within any context. In addition, as TD points out, TV is passive (TV viewer) whereas Facebook is active (Facebook user). Therefore, the comparative influence of each medium on the grades of students’ must take these factors into account.
[agreed there’s plenty more to study. we’re still trying to figure out the effects of television watching on kids, let alone the rest of it. love your point, MS, about the fact that FB and peep are never ending, unlike tv which at least has nominal breakaway points. ergo: peep is more addictive and fascinating and obsessive!]
MM: Whether passive or active, one thing the two mediums have in common is the mass communication of meaningless drivel: on that point, Hal, you are spot on in your analysis.
[thanks MM. but I’m not sure it’s drivel, or always drivel: it’s people – all of us – using the techniques presented to us, ironically alienating mass media type techniques, to try and announce the fact that we exist, have opinions and feelings, aren’t just statistics and net worths.]
TD: That could be said of the Internet as a whole (vs. a specific comment on social networking behavior). In fact, is the bulk of Facebook use even “mass communication”?
[it is…it’s one person communicating to many. how many? depends on # of friends etc. and, yes, it can be said and has been said and will continue to be said that the bulk of the content on the Internet is drivel…]
RS: absolutely! maybe worse ...cause when ‘working’ on computer you can Facebook without even noticing (like now!) but I’d never go up and turn on the tv.
[so very true…social networking and peep break down barriers which, again, is why it’s all so addictive: you are twittering and you maybe aren’t even sure if you’re twittering for work or for yourself or both at the same time…]
MM: TD, I think Hal’s thesis is that both mediums are more about “mass entertainment” and “mass amusement” rather than “mass communication”.
TD: As I’ve said, I agree in part (if by “both mediums” you still mean social media in particular). But is “mass” anything (e.g., audiences) a prerequisite for ‘peep’ to function? Hal? I swear I see it play out on a much smaller scale all the time, just as I also see social network interactions that I can’t dismiss as detached/pointless amusement.
[i think that, yes, peep functions only on an ‘mass’ scale which is not too say that every blog post and twitter gets a mass audience, but that anything anywhere has the potential to become mass entertainment on a massive scale. the prerequisite for something to be part of peep culture is, in my mind, that potential. and, again, it’s not at pointless, and, as with television, there’s more to it than just entertainment, but no matter what happens, those other elements are always a by-product of entertainment]
MM: I still think Hal’s thesis is spot on. Think about it: ppl on FB surfing each other’s status statements like they used to change channels with their remote control, seeking (i.e. peeping) whatever entertains or amuses? Moreover, the social contact between FB friends (unless based offline in the first place, or an anachronism, at best) hardly ever rises above that of superficial. How much more akin to TV can a medium get anyway?
[I’m with mm here]
TD: That’s just not my experience with the medium. YMMV.
[thanks everyone, great conversation, let’s keep it going!]
Posted by: Hal
The study basically shows that the average person has around 120 “friends” on Facebook but that most people only actively follow and comment on the profiles/status updates/pictures/wall posts of say 10-15 of those “friends.”
This is pretty much a validation of what I’ve been arguing in terms of Peep Culture, that we use social networks less as genuine attempts to achieve friendship and more as a combination of entertainment, marketing and gossip (not the gossip that used to keep community cohesive, but the new global cyber gossip that allows us to feel like we have relationships with people we don’t know).
The truth is that although many of us claim that we only add people we know, most of us do not really ‘know’ 120 people in any meaningful way. We’re adding them because the urge to do is irresistible. With the click of a button, we’re entertaining ourselves and marketing ourselves. It’s all very addictive and exciting. (I’m totally guilty of this…the other day someone accused me of being FB friend obsessed….I thought about it for about 4 seconds before realizing that she was totally right…I need help.)
So check out the show if you want to hear me discussing this in more detail, it’s on today at 10am est but they also have a podcast.
Posted by: Hal
“What exactly are you attempting to achieve here, Hal?” writes Mark McCawley. “Where’s the personal risk? Or is this going to become another very large coffee table book?”
Okay so that’s not exactly scathing but it’s mean, at least. It’s my first mean comment! It’s a dig at my writing career (though a strange one, since the only book I’ve published that could be remotely construed as a coffee book was the Original Canadian City Dweller’s Almanac – available on Amazon.ca starting used at .25 cents) and a dig at my blog. All neatly done in three concise sentences.
Well, look, he’s got a point. So far, not much risk happening on this blog. I’m not exactly opening myself up to you, my readership. I want to get more personal, but every time I try I cringe inside and pull back. But this blog is just beginning. There’s plenty of time for me to work up to it and spill my guts. I will reveal! Just give me time.
Anyway, according to Andreas who presides over all things peephal.com my stats are slowly growing. His last report said that I’ve got about 30 more daily visitors than I did last time he checked. But in total only 12 people have visited the site 15-25 times. He figures that I’ve got roughly 9 regular readers. Welcome back once more my loyal 9! If I’ve disappointed you, I apologize. But I’m doing my best here.
So I was going to write about my weekend but, honestly, not much happened. My hockey team was in the finals for our division but we lost. It was a fun game. That’s about it. Next week my parents are coming in for Passover. That should provide more fodder, I’m sure.
In the meantime, I did a CBC interview today that will air Wed. morning between 10 and 11am on CBC Radio 1’s Sounds Like Canada. I’m discussing the extremely important topic of “my favourite pop culture saying from when I was a kid” or something like that. My choice was Mr. T’s: “I Pity the Fool”. If you want to hear me waxing nostalgic over the A Team, be sure and tune in. I actually thought I sounded like a bit of a doofus, despite my genuine love for ‘T’. Still I managed to work in my 2nd favourite Mr. T tagline – “I ain’t gettin’ on no plane, Hannibal” while I was at it. Truth is I always leave radio interviews feeling like I was terrible. Especially when I’m trying to be funny. Well, listen in and let me know what you think. Be mean if necessary.
Hey, I’m Hal Niedzviecki. I’m a writer/thinker who lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with my wife and daughter. Up till now I’ve always considered myself a private person. But at the same time I’m fascinated by people who effortlessly open themselves up to the whole world. So I’ve… more...
Ghostbuster zines from the Canzine Hollywood Piracy Zine Challenge are now online! http://t.co/RoAMEQTU
EXPOZINE 2011, Montreal’s 10th Annual Small Press, Comic and Zine Fair—http://t.co/3ISW3Ovx http://t.co/FlLfB6hk