Goodreads, badspellings…

25 Apr

Setting aside for a moment, the illiterate title of a website dedicated to reading and writing (is it a horror of messy hair extensions that I’ve subscribed to?), I’d like to consider the merits of the ‘social cataloguing’ site Goodreads. Friends kept on mentioning it, so I thought that I’d give it a look. I allowed Goodreads to import my Twitter account followers and within three days I had almost 200 friends on the site. I suppose this illustrates that the more you work on your ‘internet presence’, the more the interconnectivity of the web kicks in. Does all of this serve any purpose, though?

I’m also an author-member of Library Thing. I have to confess that I’ve hardly looked at this site and have found it intrinsically uninteresting. Whether this is due to my not having explored its possibilities or its innately boring nature, it’s difficult for me to say. If Goodreads enables the individual to connect with like-minded readers and writers, that has to be a good thing, I think. I’ve linked up with fellow admirers of Georges Perec’s Life a User’s Manual, for example, so maybe this will lead me to other authors that I’ll like, of whom I’m currently unaware. We shall see. And it’s interesting to discover the books that other people are reading and what they have to say about them. I’ve detected the rot of self-promotion seeping in, though, with one writer/reader listing his own work as his favourite. Hmm…

A large quantity of books hidden behind the Christmas tree in the author's front room...

A large quantity of books hidden behind the Christmas tree in the author’s front room…

All social media have their limitations. They’re about the people that you meet and how able you are to interact with them, given the obstacles that each of the sites inherently places in your path. I enjoy blogging and reading the posts that my friends write (please take note, WordPress!). Once you reach a certain number of followers/blogs followed, though, it becomes increasingly difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff. Twitter’s USP of limiting communication to 140-word characters ultimately undermines the ability to connect. And that’s to say nothing of the constant stream of self-promotion that makes it all but impossible to pick out anything of interest. It’s the same needle in a haystack that blights your blog feed. I find Facebook pretty boring in the main with the same quizzes and YouTube clips endlessly recurring. And I just can’t get interested in Pinterest or Instagram.

I’ve actually discovered an interesting new social medium. It has connectivity pretty much the world over. There are no advertisements or outages. It’s called RealLife. You go to a café or bar and talk to people. If you don’t like what you find in your news feed or comment box, you walk to another café or bar and talk to someone else. Then when you’ve had enough, you catch the bus home.

The fact that Goodreads is now owned by Amazon strikes me as worrying. That one, hyper-capitalist corporation should have so much control over a vital cultural activity is a disturbing development. Democracy and government, communities and national boundaries are becoming increasingly irrelevant in the corporate age.  Kautsky got this aspect of society right, it would seem.

Any thoughts?

All text and images © PSR 2014


2 Responses to “Goodreads, badspellings…”

  1. Mari Biella April 25, 2014 at 3:40 pm #

    Interesting post, Paul. Like you, I often find social media overwhelming – it creates so much “white noise” that finding anything interesting or meaningful can seem almost impossible. I think the best thing anyone can do is to hunt around and see what works for them personally. I love blogging. I’ve come to an appreciation of Twitter. I’ve yet to really see the appeal of Facebook, though since joining a private writers’ group there I’ve used it more often and even found it quite entertaining on occasion.

    There are certain aspects of Goodreads that I don’t like – the self-promotion, the fact that an increasingly ravenous Amazon now owns it – but, on balance, I’d say it’s been a worthwhile experience for me. I’ve met some interesting people there, and found books that I’d probably never have known existed otherwise.

    In terms of social interaction, probably nothing will ever beat real life. However, for those of us who live in small, out-of-the-way places, connecting with like-minded people can be a bit tricky. The fact that the internet allows us to become part of a sort of global city, where people of similar interests are just a few clicks of the mouse away, is one of the aspects of online life for which I’m very grateful!

  2. Paul Sutton Reeves April 25, 2014 at 6:26 pm #

    Hi Mari and thanks for commenting.

    I’m hoping to get the things out of Goodreads that you have, Mari. The good people that you can meet on-line are the best thing about social media. That, as you say, is the benefit of McLuhan’s ‘global village’. There’s plenty of potential out there on the web. Unfortunately, big corporations have a tendency to close down opportunities unless there’s something in it for them.

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