Facebook isn't all bad, just mostly. For instance this past weekend Mary Beth from St. Agnes Lane tracked me down. I always wondered what happened to Mary Beth. I reconnected with other people that I'm glad to have. That's nice. As this current writing I have 534 friends on Facebook. In some form I know around half of them (personally, via correspondence or by their work). The other half could be anything, a maple tree with an internet connection, really I don't have a clue. Most of my "friends" on Facebook are poets. Or people who refer to themselves as poets. It's nice to be connected in some very loose way with a bunch of poets. Sometimes. Other times it's really annoying when the same few people/publications jams up my inbox with constant announcements and promotional material. Yes, it's annoying constantly being invited to events 1000 miles away -- although Facebook doesn't have any easy way to just invite local folks. The paid targeted advertising is downright offensive -- apparently as a 30-something woman I am consumed with one thing and one thing only: LOSING WEIGHT. It doesn't matter how many times I click the thumbs down on the diet ads, they keep coming up insisting I can be 3 dress sizes smaller and be just like Oprah, or a super model or some guy named Dr. Oz. who I've never heard of but I suspect these advertisers are banking that I do. I must because I am 35 years old and MUST LOSE WEIGHT.
What annoys me most is that people try to conduct business with me via Facebook. Facebook is a SOCIAL networking site. A silly wassup, cool. Wanna send me a virtual petunia, splendid, thank you very much, together we will SAVE the fucking Earth, god bless our little hearts. But don't send action items, requests or anything else that needs my attention -- send those things to to my e-mail account, like a human being for Christ's sake. I delete many of my Facebook messages, Facebook messages are JUNK MAIL. Even if I don't delete a message, it's likely not going to be acted on because it's not in my to-do folder -- and to make the overflowing to-do folder, I need a real e-mail sent to my real e-mail account. Honestly, if you don't make the time to send me a complete e-mail I'm not going to make time for your request. We're all busy people here, that's not an excuse.
Correspondence has gotten way too casual these days -- for instance, I was recently contacted via the live CHAT feature on Facebook from someone asking if I was a poet. I said, yes, in fact I was a poet (first mistake, I usually ignore all AIM messages from people I do not know). He said he wanted to translate my poems. Just like that, no more information offered -- I even had to inquire into what language he intended on translating them into. It was obvious on the get-go that he wasn't at all familiar with my work even though many of my poems are published online. He said he thought it was important to translate British and American poems because they were so vibrant. I told him I was busy at the moment, sent him my URL so he could peruse my poems and suggested he e-mail me if he was still interested. For the next two days, every time I logged onto Facebook he AIMed me about sending him poems. He asked me what I did for a living, he asked what my husband did for a living and then explained it was his culture to ask about people's families. I didn't share much except what was public knowledge and already in my profile -- I edit a magazine and press. He then asked if my press would publish his chapbook (again, just like that -- not, would you like to *read* my chapbook, but will you, Facebook Friend, publish my chapbook because I asked?) I told him no, but I would send him some poems to translate.
I thought hey if someone wants to translate my work, why am I being so obstructionist? Maybe there is some cultural failing and I'm being too critical and expecting him to know things that are outside his realm. I e-mailed him a PDF of my book. The next day he asked if I could send him physical books because he translates on trains. He also wanted me to print out some of my interviews, include some photographs and a permission form -- and to please send it all as soon as possible.
My skepticism changed to alarm bells. A permission form -- to give permission for what? Is there already a project that this is intended for and if so why haven't I been told about it? What poem(s) was he interested in? What is this big rush? And again, why would anyone offer to translate poems he has never read by a poet he is completely unfamiliar with? Was there no standard for what was being translated? I wrote back and told him I had misgivings and a number of questions that needed clearing. Also, mailing all of this stuff is going to cost at least $30 in postage and considering all my money is tied up in shrunken heads at the moment. We'll see what he responds, but . . .
I have no idea if I'm being over critical or duped. His offer was akin to sending a stranger a post-it note. How am I to take that seriously? Is this just somebody who doesn't know how to use electronic communication properly? A quack? If my poems had some kind of monetary value, I'd be better able to sniff out a nefarious intent. I googled him and found a few references in poets' (who I am unfamiliar with) bios who mention his translating their work, but no samples of the translations. I found a handful of references to the press in his signature file, but again -- I'm searching in English and have no real way of knowing. Frankly I can't conceive of sending books at this point and am very put off with how I was approached.
Above is an extreme case, but there have been several lesser cases of my being completely turned off by how somebody conducted himself in communication. Electronic communication does not have to be this way. It can be professional with just a little effort. I don't need fancy letterhead, a powerpoint slideshow or a fancy graph, but I need an e-mail with relevant information conveyed in a clear manner. I'm officially setting my standards and if I miss out on something really great, well, so be it. I need clarity in life.