How do you read your blogs? In my recent survey, Writers’ Blogs and Websites, it seems that many people manually visit the sites and blogs they follow in order to read new content. Either that, or they wait for links to new content to appear in Twitter or other social networks. But there is another way you can stay easily up-to-date with all your favourite blogs and websites. That mysterious orange icon: the RSS feed.
RSS stands for Rich Site Summary, and they are used to subscribe to blogs and other similar web content. They gather all the content of your various subscriptions into one place. This saves you time and hassle, and means all your favourite content is grouped together in one easy to manage corner of the web.
Most websites or blogs will display the orange logo you see above. Some sites have a customised logo that fits with the design of their blog – see mine in the sidebar, for example – but it should always be recognisable as the dot and wave lines.
In order to subscribe to an RSS feed, you just need to click on this logo and follow the instructions. You will need an RSS account – a place to store all your feeds. I recommend Google Reader, but there are various others.
This great little video explains the RSS in easy to understand terms:
What Is RSS? also has some useful information.
RSS feeds are useful for staying on top of all your content, but they do only show content. Personally, I think its nice to occasionally visit my favourite sites because I enjoy the design and the ‘feel’ of the site as a whole. But RSS feeds are still incredibly useful tools if you follow lots of blogs and websites and struggle to keep up to date with everything.
Do you use RSS feeds? What’s your preferred way of reading blogs?
I was going to write a post about how my dissertation is progressing, since that’s the thing that’s been taking up most of my time lately (as many of you will have seen from Facebook and Twitter feeds) but I’m going to write about social media instead.
I recognise that I have a compulsion (annoying to some – perhaps many) to post progress reports and word counts via social media. To me, this is motivational. I justify and celebrate my progress by putting it ‘out there’ in front of viewing eyes. I think this is akin to the mentality I have with biscuits and chocolate: if no one sees me eat it, the calories don’t exist. Likewise, if no one sees me progressing with my word count, it might as well not exist. Obviously this is ludicrous, and probably says a lot about my mental state, but you get the gist of the psychology behind it.
Anyhoo, I was flicking through a copy of Grazia (May 2011) this afternoon (a very rare thing, and don’t worry, I didn’t own it) and I came across an article entitled ‘HELP! I’m a Facebook Faker!’. Needless to say, I found this probably the most intriguing thing amongst the many pictures of vomit-coloured dresses and adverts for shampoo in which the model’s hair had clearly been varnished, and decided to give it a read.
It was about a very sad individual who constantly lied on Facebook and Twitter about her social life, to the extent of saying that she was hanging out with celebrities and getting front row seats at London Fashion Week. The compulsion began as an innocent exaggeration, endorsing an average night out as ‘WILD’ etc, etc.
Many people do this, to a certain extent. And the reason behind it is obvious, yet a hard one to admit. According to a new survey, the article goes on to say, we now see social networking as one big competition. Who has the most amount of friends (to confirm that you are a cool person)? Who has the most ‘likes’ or re-tweets on their statuses (endorsing that what they’ve said is amazing)? Who has the most drunken photos (as evidence of having a good time)…? The constant feed of updates and photos paints a false sense of reality, and one that is in the control of the user.
But why do people do it? Why are people so desperate to be seen in a certain way? When it comes down to it, it’ s about in security.
‘You’re doing it for other people’s approval, but you’re also doing it to reassure yourself that your life is exciting’
…say psychologist Judi James in the Grazia article. But it doesn’t take a genius to work out that approval of a lie doesn’t exactly create a sense of self-worth.
Don’t get me wrong, I think social media is a great tool. I’ve made many friends online, I use it to stay in the loop about industry news and discussion, and I feel part of a large community of international writers – something that would be difficult to achieve without the use of social media.
And I think social media has revolutionised marketing in a good way, too, not only by providing a platform for direct engagement with companies and professionals, but by providing a platform for the most reliable and effective marketing tool in existence: word of mouth.
Even so, a part of me agrees with character Hank Moody from Californicaion:
People… they don’t write any more, they blog. Instead of talking, they text, no punctuation, no grammar: LOL this and LMFAO that. You know, it just seems to me it’s just a bunch of stupid people pseudo-communicating with a bunch of other stupid people at a proto-language that resembles more what cavemen used to speak than the King’s English.
Look at Facebook and look at Twitter. For the most part, if all those feeds and statuses were put together in a room and represented by the users that posted them, you’d have a room full of people shouting non-sequiturs, or pointing to things that interest them, or maybe waving a photo of a cat. Sometimes, one of these users will pick up on what another is saying and, thinking it pretty good, shout the same thing. In the midst of this, a few will be wandering around patting people on the back who are saying things that they like. Is this what communication has come to?
From an aspiring novelist’s perspective, we are always being told that we need to ‘build a platform’ for our work, even before we have work to show. Though I enjoy maintaining my site and writing my blog, I’d be the first to admit that I could be spending that time writing creatively.
So I guess this is basically a cautionary post. Because, as with all new technology, we should take a moment to reflect upon our usage of it. Now, if you like what I have to say, while I’m standing here alone on my cyberspace soap box (aka writing my blog), feel free to pass the message onto others with a re-tweet, or perhaps pat me on the back with a Facebook like. Better still, leave a comment and lets have a chat.
(But don’t come round my house for a chat because, well, y’know, that’s a bit creepy.)