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Filtering by Tag: Facebook

Facebook, the Great Lie?

David Kirkpatrick


Many people don’t understand Facebook’s charms. “It’s not ‘real,’” Aaron Sorkin, famously said, “It’s posing.” Not that Mr. Sorkin would necessarily know. While Sorkin wrote the movie about the founding of Facebook,The Social Network, he defiantly claims that he has never used Facebook.

We on Facebook do not consider our posts “real”. Most of us leave out the relentlessness that plagues our lives, the rapidity, and yes, perhaps the boredom. For most of us, it is a way to share good news: baby announcements, children’s achievements, the rekindling of friendships or love affairs, recovery of health, a new job, an athletic achievement.

Screenwriter Bob Kaufman (Love At First Bite, Freebie and The Bean) once told me, “Movies are not the way life is. Movies are the way life should be.” That’s the lens through which I view Facebook. The social network site is a long movie with many, many scenes or perhaps, a novel filled with nuggets held together with the glue that fuels all art: “a great lie that exposes the greater truth.”

Life is hard for most of us these days. Culture is in free fall. Change is happening so fast that we cannot take a breath to contextualize what we have lost in contrast to what we have gained. Most of us take some reassurance in Facebook and its happy posts. We enjoy the foodie pictures, cozy pictures of family on their best behavior. Yet behind the posing, we know the charm of what people are really trying to say. Inevitably behind the veil, we return to love, family, mercy, justice, and the beauty found in a singular instant which points to the eternal.

No, Facebook is not “real.” Facebook is “super real”.

Until We See Their Faces

Michael Dechane

23 the-shawshank-redemption


When Howard died, we staggered. Any death would have felt huge to the small college where I worked then, but Howard was a very popular, well-known-and-loved senior, the star goalie of our remarkable men’s soccer team, and a warm friend with tremendous character and humility. He was fine, we were all fine, when the Fall semester ended and Howard went home to Jamaica for Christmas break. But then he was tired for no reason, tests were run, a rare and strange blood disease was diagnosed, and by the time classes were starting up again, he was too ill to travel. And then we heard what none of us could stomach or quite believe: he was gone. That was four years ago last month. I miss him, and still cry when I think of him. I want very much to see his face again, have another hug, hear his voice and laugh.

In a culture where most of us have nearly instant and constant access to virtually everyone we know (or have known, thank you Facebook), some of the ordinary and universal experiences of missing people are now gone. For years I have been convinced our ability to hope or long well is atrophying with every video chat or text message. But now I wonder if humans have ever hoped or longed well. Is this because our fallen incompleteness makes us feel deficient no matter the degree of longing and hope? For some it’s “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” but for others it’s “out of sight, out of mind.”

So the question remains: Does Facebook, Twitter and texting make us better or worse at hoping and longing? I don’t know, but it does seem I’m less likely today to find a friend with the time and desire to sit and talk about these things.

Relief News Tuesday 4.6.2010

Ian David Philpot

Calvin -- A week and a half away

Our hotel rooms are booked, rides coordinated, and we're e-mail wrestling to settle who gets to see what panel at what time. The entire ccPublishing/Relief staff is anxious to get into Grand Rapids, MI next Wednesday to set up for Calvin College's Festival of Faith and Writing. So it's probably about time we introduce our theme...

Calvin - At the movies!

So, it's probably not a surprise since you've seen our adjusted logo for a week new, but it's about to get a lot more interesting!

At Calvin, we will be introducing the cover of issue 4.1 as "Coming Soon" posters.  We will also have business cards that look like movie tickets that will double as raffle tickets.  We will be raffling two gift baskets a day that will have a copy of the journal, a 2 liter of soda, a bag of popcorn, a box of candy, and a couple of notebooks from our amazing sponsor (Quo Vadis).

Calvin - On the blog

For those of you who cannot make it to Calvin this year, you don't have to miss out on the experience.  Next Wednesday--Saturday, we will be uploading pictures and videos of what's going on at the conference.  This will include pictures of the new cover, staff, and published authors who stop by our booth.  (We are even looking into streaming the Relief/Diner panel. No promises yet.)

Calvin - A social media frenzy

For the conference, we will be tweeting from @ReliefJournal as much as possible, but don't forget to catch tweets from ccPublshing President and Diner Editor Michelle Pendergrass (@michpendergrass), Relief Editor-in-Chief and Fiction Editor Christopher Fisher (@ReliefEditor), Poetry Editor Brad Fruhauff (@BradFruhauff), founding President and Editor Kimberly Culbertson (@KimCulbertson), and Web Editor Ian Philpot (@iphilpot).

We will also be using mobile uploads to send exclusive pictures directly to our Facebook page.

So friend us, follow us, and don't miss out!

Dr. Strangewrite or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the eBook

Ian David Philpot

Web Editor Ian David Philpot addresses the topic of eBooks from the perspective of an undergraduate student looking to become an author immediately after graduation in eight weeks.

I have two bookshelves from IKEA that take up a lot of space in my room. They are wonderful and everything I had ever wanted from a book-holding structure, but they are also very full.

My girlfriend, who bought me the first of the two bookshelves, recently asked me if I wanted a Kindle for graduation. My immediate response was "No." I mean, how could I stand to ever read a novel from anything but an actual book? As an aspiring author, the thought of eBooks is nauseating. When I get a hold of a published copy of my first novel, I want to feel the pages, not the pixels. I want to breathe in the stories just by smelling the physical object in my hand. (Have you ever tried to sniff your computer screen? I tried it once. Apparently there was some static build up on the screen. I got zapped.)

I'm also aware of the large stigma attached to "online-only" publications. Don't get me wrong, there are some I follow very closely because I know who the editors are, but a majority of the literary community is concerned about the quality being produced by online-only journals. (And if someone happens to read a story they don't like from one online-only publisher, they may forever be turned off to the idea, whereas that person isn't likely to give up physical books.)

It's Not Easy Being Green

Parts of me wants to have an eBook reader: the tech savvy part, the part of me that always travels light, and the environmentally conscious part. That last part is where my biggest struggle exists.

I want to do everything I can to help out with the environment. I turn off the faucet when I brush my teeth. I take home plastic bottles from work--my day job doesn't have a recycling program in place. These are little things, I know, but I like to think they're helping out. So what if I didn't have to buy any more physical books at all? (Textbooks especially.)  Then I started the process of justifying timber sacrifice for my personal needs.

NPR and CPR or: eBook Bound

Then NPR posted a link on Facebook to Lynn Neary's article "No Ink, No Paper: What's the Value of an eBook?" I was scared when I started reading.  What if I finally write something good and it's never actually printed on paper? What if Richard Stallman gets a hold of it and starts distributing it for free? What if my book never makes any money? I dropped my laptop and ran to find a paper bag to stop from hyperventilating.

When I regained consciousness... Okay, so maybe I didn't really pass out, but I did freak out. What right did NPR have of presenting me with the harshness of reality? I was so upset, I went back to the article to read the rest. And a peace came over me when Neary quoted Chris Dannen, a freelance writer:

"If you have iTunes selling your books, you have this entire store right on everyone's desktop and you can expose them to a lot more," Dannen says. "You can just get them into the habit of buying books, and more importantly, you make the whole process of buying completely frictionless."

iTunes--where I spend over $100 a year buying music--could be selling my book to anyone near a computer? How could I not like that idea?

So Erin, if you're reading this, I'll have the Kindle with a side of eBooks, please.


NOTE: Relief will not be abandoning the printed form anytime in the foreseeable future. Our eBooks are available on Scribd.


Ian David Philpot is studying English at Northern Illinois University and spent one year in Columbia College Chicago’s Fiction Writing program.  He writes fiction, poetry, and music.   Ian prefers black to white, vanilla to chocolate, and only eats yellow cake.

Susan is giving up Facebook for Lent

Guest Blogger

Susan is giving up Facebook for Lent.

Susan’s fingers instinctively reach for the F for Facebook.

Susan wants to check in with God fifty-million times a day, instead of checking for status updates.

Susan is grateful for the friend who emails her status updates the first day.

Susan wonders what role Facebook plays in her life, what boredom it staves off and what will become of her without it.

Susan has to go on Facebook the very first day – to retrieve business information from an old message. She shields the page with her hand, ignores the new message in the inbox and finds what she needs before exiting quickly.

Susan is not exactly praying more yet, but it has been a busy day.

Susan has realized she thinks of events now in terms of how she will frame or caption them for Facebook: how will life be shaped into a status update?

Susan thinks about how Facebook is utterly self-centred. What is the motto again: connecting and helping you share with friends. Something like that. But every sentence starts with me.

Susan has more than 25 random facts to tell you about herself. She is so fascinating. To herself. And can she employ her skills (Random Fact: Susan is good with words) to make you fascinated with her too?

Susan wonders what this Facebook fast is about, anyhow. Narcissus not being allowed to look into the pool? Perhaps.

Susan wants to express her feelings, to be heard. Is FB more gratifying than prayer? If a tree falls in the forest, does God hear? And will God comment on the status of the fall?

Susan misses the juiciness of the details. And can make a rational argument that FB is better than gossip or reading tabloid stories.

Susan decided not to break her fast on Sundays. It seems arbitrary and weak to take a break.

Susan’s grandma is sick and she wants to blurt it out once and get lots of nice notes back. Would that be so wrong?

Susan watches how she fills her Facebook hole and is not exactly proud. But I’m trying.

Susan thinks it’s funny to speak in the third person. Not the royal we. The self-reflexive she.

Susan really, really, really, really, really wants to go on Facebook. A lot. A really lot.

Susan is going to Italy tomorrow.

Susan is exploding with anticipation and she has already called everyone reasonable to call. Must. Get. Going. To. Italy. Presto.

Susan hopes she is not sending her children into therapy by leaving them on the other side of the world.

Susan is dreadfully homesick, jetlagged and culture shocked but she has never ever seen such beauty.

Susan was wooed in a garden today.

Susan is in a quiet place: no Internet, no phone, no tv.

Susan’s thoughts are clearer, way clearer.

Susan was afraid to be alone for ten days with her husband and without her kids and the props of daily life, but now she loves it.

Susan is dreaming in Italian...un poco.

Susan is dazzled by beauty.

Susan is pondering.

Susan is learning that anxiety comes more often than I would like, but it goes too, every time.

Susan feared they would have to spend the night in the car when they got lost, but they got home. Grace.

Susan’s children are doing well. More grace.

Susan thinks people are delightfully kind.

Susan learned to make pasta.

Susan does not have Stendhal Syndrome, just Art Overload.

Susan may have had the happiest time of her life.

Susan can’t wait to be home.

Susan is dizzy with fatigue. Her kids are not.

Susan needs more beauty, less noise.

Susan is scared it will recede and fade. How do you hold onto it?

Susan is sorting things out, examining the things I stuffed away, preparing to enter the fray again.

Susan feels like my garden: boggy, slightly mildewed and winter-weathered, but with fresh green shoots of hope.

Susan is editing up a beautiful storm.

Susan is sleeping naked.

Susan is glad to see the world greening up.

Susan no longer feels like there is a glass ceiling between her and God.

Susan has fancy eyelids.

Susan can now write about prayer in a visceral way.

Susan feels surprisingly regretful at the end of Lent: do I want to start narrating my life again? Unlike other addictions, this one is social. Can you go to a party and just sit in the corner? Why not stay home?

Susan circles the site like a cold pool, dipping a toe in here and there, reluctant to take the plunge.


Susan Fish is a writer, editor, wife, and mother of three school aged children who lives in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Her first novel Seeker of Stars was published in 2005, while her second is still looking for a home. She is always intrigued by the signs people choose to erect on their garages, fields, or lawns, and once had both a pesticide sign and a Green party sign on her front lawn at the same time. Fortunately, she saw the irony in the situation. Susan's story "That Sign" can be found in Relief Issue 3.2.

On Writing Groups and Muddling Through

Kristin Noblin

Last summer, my husband’s friend posted on Facebook: “Are there any serious writers in Seattle who are interested in a writers group?”  My husband replied that I was, and then he asked me what I thought.

He was right.  I was interested.  I was still working a couple of part-time jobs, and I was considering pursuing my M.F.A.  The thing about these writing programs though is that they require a writing portfolio and I hadn’t done any significant poetry writing since 2007.  Writing is a lot like exercise: once you stop, it’s really hard to get started again, and it’s easier to do if you have a buddy.

Writing Groups of All Shapes and Sizes

As a writing major and an English teacher, I have a long history with writing groups.  I learned how to give and receive critique from my high school English teachers who both modeled effective critique and created workshop space for us to interact with each other’s work.  It wasn’t until I began teaching that I realized how rare those creative writing classes are in high school, and I have yet to work at a school that offers that same opportunity.  By the time I graduated from college, I had come to depend on feedback from my community on my writing, and I found it harder and harder to come by.  My teacher friends didn’t often offer the same depth of critique—perhaps because it was simply relief to be reading something beyond the average eighth grade poem—so when I came upon my first writing group in Portland, I felt relieved to know that my writing was once again in good hands, with people that would neither praise it excessively or tear it down needlessly.  I found this particular group through my church: it was small, met biweekly, and while we each had different poetic styles, we were able to provide solid feedback to each other.  Either that, or we just said, “Dude, I’m not sure what to tell you.  This is beyond me.”  Being in a small group gave us space to focus ample time to each piece on those rainy winter evenings.

That group broke up about six months after I joined it as people moved and life happened.  About a year later, I was asked to become part of the leadership team for a larger writing group, and I found that to be much less effective.  We only met monthly, so I frequently found myself either throwing something together before rushing out the door (a great leadership model to be sure) or not bringing anything because I knew there was no way we would get to everyone.  While I received some good feedback on the few pieces I did bring, I was exhausted, leading in too many areas of my life that year.  I was not sad to step down.

Despite the overwhelming sense of relief after leaving the leadership team, I effectively stopped writing poetry a few months afterwards.  It seems I am not as self-motivated as I would like to think I am.  So when this opportunity opened to join a new group in Seattle, I jumped on it despite knowing no one in the group.  I have found it’s often best if the people in the group form their relationships around the writing; it’s easier to stay on topic that way, and it’s easier to be honest—both in your writing and in your feedback.

Since those initial summer conversations, we have met a handful of times.  We are still figuring out our rhythm: how often to meet, how to prevent procrastination, what size is best.  Perhaps most significantly, we are working through how to give feedback on significantly different kinds of writing.  Out of the four women, each of us is working within a different genre, and I find myself a little disoriented jumping from one genre to the next, in and out of my expertise.   Yet there comes a point when good writing is good writing, and it’s something you recognize in prose or poetry.

Muddling Through (Or Um, What Now?)

However, it is hard to be an active member of a writing group when I am not producing much new poetry.  I’m out of practice; I’m not seeing or hearing things like I used to.  Last week, I had about two hours to write a poem for the upcoming meeting.  Nothing happened.  I read some poetry.  Nothing.  I found some of my old work.  Nothing.  I finally decided to take the old work to the new group since they hadn’t read it before in hopes that it would spark new ideas and ultimately new poems.  So far, nothing.  The issue is not so much getting back into writing.  Those of you who read my personal blog know that I participated in National Blog Posting Month in November where the challenge was to post every day for thirty days.  This commitment catapulted me back into writing regularly; it’s the best thing I’ve done for myself in some time, but the poetry remains stagnant.

Right now, I am waiting.  While I am still planning on pursuing my M.F.A. after my husband completes his graduate program, I am not sure where I’m at as a writer right now.  And I believe that’s okay.  There’s something to be said for the discipline of writing, for surrounding yourself with good art and thoughtful people, for giving yourself deadlines so you actually produce work instead of just telling strangers over appetizers and small talk that you’re a writer.  Yet it’s not instant, there’s no formula, and you must learn to listen well—even when the silence uncovers more questions (like which genre to pursue and when).  In the end, the process will yield the art, and right now I am trusting the journey.


Kristin Mulhern Noblin is a veteran English teacher who enjoys good coffee, watching football, and using her red KitchenAid mixer.  She lives in Seattle, Washington, with her husband and looks forward to the day they will have a dog.  When not wrangling middle school students, she is busy standing for truth, beauty, freedom, and love.