An interesting profile of a niche community affected by the shift of attention from community-led sites to Facebook, “How Facebook – the Wal-Mart of the internet – dismantled online subcultures.”
Over time, these challenges to the BME community became increasingly problematic. Members deleted accounts or stopped posting. By 2015, the main community forum – which used to have hundreds of posts a day – went without a single comment for over six months.
Having predicted many of the web’s functions and features, BME failed to anticipate its own demise.
It’s definitely something I’ve seen in my niche world of Quakers. I started QuakerQuaker as an independent site in part because I didn’t want Google and Facebook and Beliefnet to determine who we are. There’s the obvious problems—Beliefnet hiring a programmer to make a “What Religion Are You?” test based on a few books picked up the library one afternoon.
But there’s also more subtle problems. On Facebook anyone can start or join a group and start talking authoritatively about Quakers without actually being an active community member. I can think of a number of online characters who had never even visiting a Friends meeting or church.
Our tradition built up ways of defining our spokespeople though the practices of recorded ministers and elders, and of clarifying shared beliefs though documents like Faith and Practice. I’ll be the first to argue that this process has produced mixed results. But if it is to be adapted or reformed, I’d like the work to be done by us in a thoughtful, inclusive manner. Instead, the form of our discussions are now invisibly imposed by an outside algorithm that is optimized for obsessive engagement and advertising delivery. Facebook process is not Quaker process, yet it is largely what we use when we talk about Quakers outside of Sunday morning.
I think Facebook has helped alternative communities form. I’m grateful for the pop-up communities of interest I’m part of. And there are sites with more user generated content like Wikipedia and Reddit that hold an interesting middle-ground and where information is generally more accurate. But there’s still a critical role for self-organized independent publications, a niche that I think is continuing to be overshadowed in our current attention ecosystem.
We’ve gotten into the habit of visiting Howell’s Living History Farm up in Mercer County, N.J., a few times a year as part of homeschooler group trips. In the past, we’ve cut ice, tapped trees for maple syrup, and seen the sheep shearing and carding. Today we saw the various stages of wheat – from planting, to harvesting, threshing, winnowing, grinding, and baking. I love that there’s such a wide vocabulary of specific language for all this – words I barely know outside of biblical parables (“Oh wheat from chaff!”) and that there’s great vintage machinery (Howell’s operations are set around the turn of the twentieth century).
Grinding the wheat
I just love the lettering on the bottom of the grinder
Gregory on the crank
A horse- or steam-powered thresher had great lettering
Another piece of equipment had a great font.
Detail of the grinder
Stove in the kitchen
In the kitchen we made bread
Fields around the farm.
Wheat. This is a special kind of spiked wheat that discourages deer.
Horses coming back from the freshly plowed field.
Last year, the kids and I made a framed handprint collage-like present for Julie and Mothers Day (right). This year I followed it up with a folksy photo of each of the kids holding up hand-drawn letters spelling out “LOVE.” This was inspired by this 2009 post on a blog called The Inadvertent Farmer.
The first step was getting pictures of each kid with a letter. It wasn’t too bad as I just had to take enough to get each one looking cute.
A trickier task was finding a frame to display four pictures. It took the third store before I lucked out. Because of the timing, I had actually printed the pictures before I had the frame and so had fingers crossed that the size would work.
Once made, the absolute hardest was getting a group shot of the kids with Julie holding it!
We’re extending the deadline for the August issue on Quaker Spaces. We’ve got some really interest articles coming in – especially geeky things in architecture and the theology of our classic meetinghouses.
So far our prospective pieces are weighted toward East Coast and classic meetinghouse architecture. I’d love to see pieces on non-traditional worship spaces. I know there newly purpose-built meetinghouses, adaptations of pre-existing structures, and new takes on the Quaker impulse to not be churchy. And worship is where we’re gathered, not necessarily where we’re mortgaged: tell us about your the rented library room, the chairs set up on the beach, the room in the prison worship group…
Submission guidelines are at friendsjournal.org/submissions. The new deadline is Monday, May 16. My last post about this issue is here.
Fascinating article breaking down the stats on alcohol use in the Washington Post in 2014.
Here are the two pieces that strike me: The “top 10 percent of drinkers account for over half of the alcohol consumed in any given year” and this top 10 represents people who drink an average of 10 drinks per day.
I’m not a teetotaler and I’m glad stats also show that most Americans are light on the alcohol — 30 percent don’t drink and another 30 percent are moderate. But 10 drinks per day average is a serious alcohol problem — with serious social implications and costs. Half of the industry profits come from these drinkers. The article quotes an expert:
If the top decile somehow could be induced to curb their consumption level to that of the next lower group (the ninth decile), then total ethanol sales would fall by 60 percent.”
I played hooky yesterday to join a family field trip to the Atlantic City Aquarium along with a group of homeschool families. Horseshoe crabs, jellyfish, sting rays and.… rocks in the water. All lots of fun. Pictures up on Flickr.