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Labun Jordan: On MicroBlogging

07/07/11 5:55PM By Helen Labun Jordan
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(HOST) We talk about social media in big numbers - 100 billion dollars projected for Facebook's IPO or how many millions of viewers an amateur video receives. But commentator Helen Labun Jordan believes it's also time to think small.

(LABUN JORDAN) When I was in high school, my friend Abbey defined elegance and good taste. She didn't pick up the trendiest teenage fads, she was a legitimate fashion maven for the ages. The Jackie O of Putney.

Abbey knew what Tiffany's was. She even managed to find little silver Tiffany pendants at a tremendous discount in the days before e-Bay and presented them as gifts. She also gave me leaf shaped paper clips that were deemed memorable but not too cute, subway tokens, and a pearl colored address book, as a wish of good luck for one day becoming a writer. Her own parents had once been artists living in New York City. They introduced her to potato knishes, staples of a New York deli - we ate these dense pastries alongside sesame noodles in her parents' farmhouse, seated at a table made from a bowling alley floor. I was enthralled.

Now, I was aware that what seemed deeply stylish in high school might not hit 5th Avenue standards. Most things that were remarkable in high school stopped being remarkable soon after graduation - the top jocks went on to play pick up soccer on the weekends, the brainy kids got into a decent college but didn't stick around as professors.

And, predictably, Abbey and I lost touch over the years. Until this winter, when she sent me a link to the Abbey Goes Design Scouting blog. And there she was again - the same woman I'd known as a teenager, writing from a chic New York City apartment, with gallery walls, botanical prints and an argument for carpeted kitchens. Something I'd considered lost in my past suddenly wasn't.

Put another way, I'd found a blog to follow. I'm not the first - in fact, about a third of Americans my age read blogs and research shows that they've already become passé for younger readers. But those millions of people weren't me. I had no use for the blogosphere until I recaptured a very specific voice from someone whose sensibilities I learned to trust fifteen years ago.

Social media can reach huge audiences at no cost - think of the YouTube video or accidental Tweet gone viral. At the same time, space for individual connection remains. Abbey writes a beautiful, thoughtful blog. It costs her time but not money, and even if it's only read by a handful of old friends, seems to me that's still worth the investment.

Those sorts of economics are good for all of us. When it comes to audience potential and copies sold, publishers know the memoirs of an average Vermonter can't compare to those of, say, a Bill Clinton. But audience size is not the only way to value a narrative. Online, we all have access to the world as our audience, but we also have the freedom to content ourselves with writing just for the people who care most about us. I vote for more of the second option - because, well, that's what I want to read.

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