Monday, June 30, 2014

The Fellowship of the Word, for Better or Worse

Sacchi Green


Yesterday (Saturday) Annabeth and Jeremy Edwards and I got together for a lovely lunch and chatfest, with friendship among writers, erotica writers in particular, as a major theme. After lunch we went back to Jeremy’s very nice apartment for a more focused discussion, which Jeremy recorded on his, well, recording equipment. I don’t even know the right term, but this was as close as I’ll ever feel to being in a garage band (albeit on the fifth story instead of in a garage.)

I eventually left to get home in time for an interview via Skype that my publisher had set up for me with Dr. Dick, whose sex-positive podcast series may be familiar to several of you. Lots of fun. Annabeth and Jeremy, who know their way around recording and cutting and making sense out of rambling streams of thought, kept on working to dig out and arrange the bits that would present our discussion well enough to share here, and Annabeth is going to do just that on Thursday.

I intended to give an overview here, but last night I was distracted, even overwhelmed, by the news that an online writer/graphic designer friend had attempted suicide. In fact we thought at first that he had succeeded, but it turned out that he’d been found in time and was in the hospital.

I don’t want to give too many details, because the specific details don’t matter. But the rallying of friends to share news and find out news and work on raising support—in spite of being a brilliant writer, our friend was essentially destitute and would need help if/when he got out of the hospital—was something I’ve seen before online, but never in as personal a context as this. He really mattered to many of us, and we could understand at least a small part of his despair even when we didn’t share his particular mental condition. My contribution, besides contributing, has been in locating one of his family members. I remembered the name of someone posting occasionally on his Facebook page who spoke as though she were related to him, and I managed to contact her by posting on a topic there where she had posted previously. (He’d recently blocked most friends from his page, but I was one of the dozen or so still allowed there, although he’d stopped posting.) She turned out to be his half-sister, and was very grateful to be notified. At this point a family member from the west coast is flying across the country to help out, and the family knows that we’ve raised some funds.

This seems to me to be a stark example of both the pluses and minuses of both online friendship and shared community friendship.

On the downside, our friend’s increasing depression had affected some of us who were inclined toward depression ourselves (which I’m not.) I’ve recently seen a report that Facebook participated in a study along these very lines, manipulating posts so that a selected group of people got mostly downbeat posts, and then assessing those peole’s own posts to see if they got gloomier. Sure enough, they did. I don’t know whether the report is true—I’d think that the study would be illegal, but I’ve never read the fine print in the Facebook agreement all that closely. It’s true, though, that being exposed to depressed people, people you’ve come to think of as friends and with whom you share the trials and stresses (as well as the gossip and helpful advice) of a community of like-minded people, in this case writers, is hard on us.

On the upside, most of us aren’t that extreme in our moods, and we can share our common concerns and be part of a worldwide community that gives us insights we might not otherwise have. There are friends I feel I know well in New Zealand, Australia, Portugal, Germany, England, Canada, and various other places. Some of them have written stories for my books, and I’ve written for some of them, while others share a variety of other interests. We might have been in contact on matters concerning writing even without the online forums and communities, but we probably wouldn’t have come to know each other as well.

Even the downside has an upside, because when our depressive friend needed help (though he may resent it) there were things we could do, and support we could give each other. I don’t know how matters will go from here, but we’ve done what we can.

Now back to the cheerier subject of our lunch and chatfest. Don’t miss Annabeth’s post—podcast?—where our freestyle musings have been distilled down to the gems of wisdom or food for thoughtful contemplation that were in there somewhere. Just be grateful—I certainly am!—that my own many digressions and indiscretions  have been discreetly pruned away. I may even dare to listen to it myself.  

12 comments:

  1. Sacchi:
    I look forward to seeing/hearing this interview session. Good for you to step up to help a friend in need. I lost one of my best college friends to depression some years ago. The nature of the illness is that the victim pushes everyone away.

    I hope the Facebook experiment you mentioned is a myth or distortion. It certainly plays into my fears about Big Brother. I have noticed from time to time that certain of my posts disappear from my news feed and sometimes don't even how up on my time line. On the upside I bet Facebook could identify users who are slipping into depression.

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  2. You've definitely captured the strange dialectic of living in this digital age. If not for FB, you would have had close to zero chance of finding your friend's family. At the same time, I am certain that this always-on, always-visible world in which we live can drag us down. Look at the Santa Barbara guy (whose name I don't even remember, because, hey, he's not news anymore...)

    Wish I could have joined your gathering. Heck, I wish I'd known you lived in the next town while I was in New England. (I certainly knew OF you.) I did meet Jeremy for the first time on my last trip to the U.S. He's quite a character (and I mean that as a compliment). But then, maybe we all are.

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    1. I would love to meet you in person someday! I do wish we could have had you join us!

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  3. By the way - on the subject of the podcast - I'd strongly suggest that you post a link where it can be downloaded, rather than including it in-line on the blog. That sort of media embedding brings my browser to its knees, and it may have the same effect on other people.

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    1. Hmm, it's probably too late to talk this over with you, but my plan was to do a little of both. I'll cross my fingers that it will work for you without blowing up your browser.

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  4. Wow, your post started so... "I wish I were there!", then the real world intervened. So sorry for all involved. My Mother was bipolar, and tried several times. I've also lost a brother and a beloved brother-in-law to suicide. Good that you could help in some way.

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  5. Wow, Sacchi. I hope everything gets better for your friend from here on in.

    Here's another timely example of writers trying to help their colleagues in need:

    http://alisontyler.blogspot.ca/2014/06/summer-summer-sommer.html?zx=a21f5fac894ce62a

    It was such a blast hanging out with you and Annabeth! Personally, I find our recorded convo edifying and entertaining even after having been through it umpteen times to prep it for the public.

    I took "quite a character" as a compliment even before you clarified that, Lisabet! (You could even have preceded "character" with "cartoon." (:v>)

    P.S. Link to HuffPo article about f**king Facebook f**king with our minds in that study, which I happened on today:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/29/facebook-experiment-psychological_n_5540018.html

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    1. Yeah, I read about this in my local newspaper today, too. Scary. Unethical. Possibly illegal, despite the FB terms of service.

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  6. What people seem to forget is that the new technology that we can't live without anymore isn't providing any kind of significant change to any of us. Sure, we're more adept at navigating around on-line, and all of the knowledge of history and the world is at our fingertips...but most people spend their time yakking about themselves and other people.

    We demand instant gratification, and expect it to be free... but how is that any different? We fall in love, get depressed, some of us share our lives, some just lurk and listen, and there are always predators waiting for a chance to pounce upon the unwary or naive among us, or to browbeat those whose opinions they disapprove of...especially narrow-minded white men who feel put-upon because they are no longer the universally-acknowledged top dogs, but have to earn their place, competing with everyone else.

    I don't expect much from Facebook, so though I have 2 pages, one for me personally, and one for my author name, I don't go on either one very often. I don't tweet. I don't pinterest, and I have no interest in expanding to any of those other venues. My cell phone is a flip-phone, and our plan charges us a quarter for every sent or received text, so I don't ever give it out to anyone.

    What I'm saying is that in this "new frontier" of the internet, we are still the newly-hairless cavemen who just yesterday were living in caves eating raw meat. We haven't evolved anywhere near as much as our technology has. Until we as a species become more mature, it will ever be thus. The on-line community just makes everything faster and seemingly more shiny and new.

    There will always be people suffering from depression and those who try to help. There will always be those who connect, though we can now do that with people we'd never have known existed living in countries half-way around the planet...and there will be those who have a community at their fingertips, but are unable to grasp the opportunities presented to them.

    That being said, I wouldn't dare tell my family about this site, other than to mention things I occasionally find too fascinating not to share. They'd lecture me about sharing too much, about internet safety, about all kinds of things that they think I'm too naive to know about. But I've "met" some very interesting people here, and I'm eagerly looking forward to the link to the interview you referred to.

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  7. Sacchi, it was such a pleasure to meet you in person, and I wish you and your friend all the best.

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  8. I'd heard about that thing with facebook too. It doesn't surprise me. It seems like there is a demise in face to face contact among younger folks these days and it bothers me. It can never be a substitute for being in the presence of someone. Which is why I envy Jeremy. I wish i could meet some of you someday in the real world. But I live in a part of the country where erotica writers are neither visible or welcome.

    Garce

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  9. Lisabet, for better or worse, I remember the name of the Santa Barbara guy: Elliot Rodger. Sacchi, the crowdfunding for the designer guy makes me grateful for the speed of social media sites -- and I'm so glad you were able to contact a relative. I have a reason to be grateful to him because he did the interior designer of 2 of my books, including some font that complemented the writing (IMO)..

    I haven't forgotten the dramatic suicide of Bill Brent, who once ran a funky erotic 'zine named Black Sheets and a small press named Black Books. I met him once in person, and he didn't seem depressed at the time -- thus it was a shock to read years later that he had plunged off the Golden Gate Bridge. This is part of the problem of being part of an international erotic-writing community. Being acquainted on-line is not like having a close friendship in the real world.

    Now I can't help thinking about erotic writers I've known slightly who have passed away (most from natural causes, as far as I know). I just hope everyone here is in good health and good cheer.

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