Monday 11 January 2016

Of Social Media

The new group on Facebook
"Ah!", say those who know me well, "Now THERE's a subject on which this lad is ill equipped to write!" An astute observation, especially regarding the 2nd of these, but my post today concerns the networks "Facebook" and "Twitter", the only two on which I stand a chance of making sense.

The new Twitter account which only started today. I am
'in charge' next week. 
Facebook is probably my 'thing' and I have been on it for all of our time in Ireland. It is a place where you can write entries of a decent length, sharing stories, anecdotes and advice, plus pictures and (short) videos with friends, relations and like minded interested parties. I have found it a real boon on leaving work and moving to this 'foreign' land where I'd not know anybody and was planning to start in a lifestyle where I knew precious little.

Our favourite 'Brown Trout' brand (sheep) calendar and two
nice (sheep) books from Santa. 
When you leave a job you always go round muttering "Ah well, good luck in the future.. we must stay in touch" and you probably mean it with about 5% of your colleagues but it is always easier to write that letter or pick up the phone tomorrow and you inevitably lose touch. 15 years ago (or so) a good friend left work to go and take on a smallholding in the Welsh valleys (Hi John and Paula) and we stayed in touch for a couple of years (even went down there once) but that, too, faded. There was no Facebook then, so they might as well have vanished into thin air. In 2011, when we moved, we were able to 'befriend' no end of former colleagues and I am still in touch with dozens on a daily or weekly basis. It feels nicely 'connected' and we do not feel as if we have 'vanished' in any way. We flash up a picture of a new lamb or note a Birthday and we get 50+ "likes" and dozens of positive comments.

Guest-Goat (Nanny Óg) and ram lamb (Dylan) play King
of the Castle on our grassy knoll in the East Field.
One area in which I retained a great interest is the veg growing and allotments. Somewhere in Facebook you will find an interest group to cover any subject you can name and I quickly got involved with the 'Allotments' group. I posted regularly and sensibly and soon got invited to take it over from the couple of guys who had set it up along with 5 other 'newbies' so we became the 'Admin Team' for that group choosing who could join and keeping an eye on the posters to make sure they behaved. We keep a friendly and relaxed ship and have quickly grown the group to over 4500 members, we must be doing something right!

The kitchen gets a coat of paint.
This year/change, a good friend Alayne, actually she who bought the piglets from our other friends Sue and Rob, decided to start a group for the smallholders out here in the 'Wesht'. So was born the "West of Ireland Smallholders Group" and Alayne asked me to dive in and help her to 'admin' it. This is doing well, all be it still fewer than a hundred members and has had some good pictures and nice friendly, lively discussion as well as members starting to help one another to find good books, training courses, to source pigs or deal with problem wasps nests. I hope this one will 'work' but my suspicion is that the type of people who decide to do smallholdering are sometimes doing it to get away from it all and live a quiet life. The last thing they want is to stay "connected" and play on computers to invite into their day the clamour of on line 'experts', keyboard warriors, nerds and (sometimes unwelcome) advice. We'll see.

Hubbard chicken wings glazed with honey and sweet-chilli
For those same reasons I am probably even less convinced by Twitter which I see (maybe wrongly) as the territory of those smartly dressed, young, business and social types who walk the streets of cities with their thumbs glued to the touch screen of their i-Pad* or smart phone** and their eyes fixed on the flow of 'tweets' from celebs, politicos and journalists as well as their own gossip groups.

(* and ** I have no idea what these machines are or how they differ from one another. I have never owned one and could not even turn one on if it was passed to me. I just know the words and think they work in this context.)

Liz battles to use her i-phone from buried under a pile of
blankets, dogs and cats.
I have a Twitter account which I run from my old fashioned PC under the stairs, so I can only get to it when I come back indoors and wash my hands. I miss a good 99% of all the 'traffic' from people who I nominally 'follow'. These posts are limited to 140 characters which is enough for a quick comment, a thought or a link to an article or item the person has found interesting. You cannot really get into a conversation with anyone or discuss things and as quickly as they appear, they are gone, shoved off screen by the next 'tweet'. When I go in after a few hours on the plot (or whatever) a statement says 273 "new" tweets and there is no way (and no point) I am going to trawl through that lot. You can just click on the recent ones; the rest are ephemera. They may have been worth reading 2 hours ago, but I doubt it.

As clear as gin? Well, possibly poitín.
None the less, there is a small community of smallholders who use Twitter and they make use of the facility on there as 'guest accounts'. Here the interest group sets up an account (in this case it is called @SmallholdersIRL ) and then gets a different user to use the account (and do the tweeting) each week. You can apply to be that person, or you can get invited by the owner. The smallholder one on Twitter is very new and was set up in the new year by a friend (Margaret G) and first "curated" by another friend (Margaret whose Pig-Management Course I attended a few years back down in Tipperary). She is doing the first week (this week) but other smallholders have been invited to take the weeks that follow and so, by this means, I am to be the voice of Irish Smallholding for week commencing 18th Jan. Yes, I know. Get me, slagging off Twitter one minute and then up to my oxters the next! I hope I can do it justice.

Please do wish me luck in both. Thanks.

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