Everybody’s twittering—and chatting and posting and plurking—at me



It seems only yesterday—actually it was almost a year ago—that I was blithely enquiring “do you twitter?” in a post here. Back then, Twitter had recently started and the little micro-posts seemed fun and relatively easy to keep up with. Now that I’m (sort of) managing 3 Twitter feeds, it’s not quite so much fun, but it is an entrenched part of my digital life. Then there’s Facebook, where I’m gradually friending fellow garden bloggers; another chat site, Plurk; various garden-related listservs; and—surprisingly—a good number of active forum sites.

Thanks to Carol/May Dreams Gardens, I was surprised to learn how many forums there actually are, including Fine Gardening’s Over the Fence, Horticulture’s Co-Horts, Botanical Interest’s Gardening Network, and Better Homes and Garden’s gardening forum, as well as some forums we’ve discussed many times here: MyFolia, Dave’s Garden, Blotanical, the venerable Gardenweb, and, of course, Garden Rant’s Garden Writers Forum.

Quickly scanning the Botanical Interest forum, I was delighted to see this lovely quote on the sidebar: “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.” It’s from one of their veggie blogs. Sigh. The veggie growers are so much hipper than us ornamentalists these days!

But seriously, folks, who could hope to keep up with all this, not even to mention all the blogs (I have well over a hundred on my reader)? Who would want to? And what about print—you know, that other stuff you can read. Recently on the Garden Writers’ Listserv, longtime garden writers were discussing the deterioration of language in the micro-blogging and chat world in the face of declining print writing opportunities. I know, you’re not supposed to discuss what you hear on GWL. (It’s like Fight Club that way.) But this is a universal topic.

I think most writers are aware by now that we’ve somehow got to carve out a niche that includes the online world—but will what we have to say become ever more restrained to short bursts? Is 140 characters really the limit of what the average person wants to hear from me? I tend to think not, but as we garden bloggers become more overloaded with the panoply of networking we maintain, we have to consider that any potential readers we have might feel the same way. Where do you draw the line?

I see that Blotanical is “suspended,” but I’ll leave the link; presumably it will be back up.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. When I first started tweeting, I was overwhelmed with the 140 characters and didn’t understand the point. Now, I get it COMPLETELY and I’m glad for it. As a writer, restricting to 140 characters is no different that than any other word limit. Makes you think before you write – or rewrite what you think.

  2. The funny thing to me is, I have *four* distinct, non-overlapping areas of online life…garden blogging is just one of them. I use my real name for two venues (mostly professional) and use the chuck b. identity just to write my garden blog and comment on other blogs. I feel like I should break out a few more fake names just to keep things simple, but wouldn’t that just make things even more complicated…?

    I realized recently I’ve been using the Internet now for 22 years (and I still capitalize it). That’s more than half my life now, going back to my first college e-mail account in 1987 (and the news groups and mailing lists, etc, etc…oh, the amount of time I’ve wasted in dark, forgotten corners of cyberspace).

    I’ve been online all this time now, and I’m still a little overwhelmed by it all and not always sure how to proceed.

  3. It’s all too much! I subscribe to so many garden blogs it’s almost impossible to read them all, much less leave an intelligent comment from time to time. I recently got on Facebook–and then got off of it because it was overwhelming to be constantly chatted at. I’m back on again but try to do a bare minimum of interaction there. Now I’m Plurking in order to connect with others going to Spring Fling. Plus we have a local Google group for garden bloggers.

    Where does it all stop? Do we really need to be in such constant communication with each other? Do our real-life relationships suffer as a consequence? I don’t have the answers, but I wonder.

  4. When do you people have time to garden?

    Everyday someone asks me to join some social networking group. Everyday I decline. I spend all day sitting at a desk in a windowless office in front of a computer (I call it staring at a box). By the time I get home the last thing I want to do is sit still and stare at anything. It takes me a few hours of weeding to decompress.

  5. John, but what if you could do all this connecting AT work? Speaking for one blog – this one – we know that our readership is highest on work days. And if I could read blogs and Twitter on company time without neglecting my work I sure would. You know, if I had an actual employer.

  6. It is overwhelming…I’m getting invites to join more and more gardening blog communities each week, and I wonder where it will all stop. When will the thinning and weeding out begin? And, honestly, I can’t keep up with it all. I’ve started using many of the tools that help sort through Tweets, and I use tools that automagically slurp in blog posts to social networking sites, but each time I make 3 steps toward approaching “the curve”, I find myself sliding back behind it.

    Too, I find it more interesting than irritating how communication is changing with the advent of texting and truncated post requirements. Language is not static; it is a means of communication. Since we’re in such a hurry anyway, it’s no wonder we’re shortening our chats. If they went on & on, it would be that much more I wouldn’t have time to read.

    Such is the world of web 2.0, I suppose!

  7. I’m still holding out on Twitter and Plurk. I spend way too much time reading garden blogs. I recently joined Facebook so I could leave a message for a local group. And already it’s way too much. So I don’t know. I miss the days of settling down with a garden mag and some quiet time.

    I do believe that attention spans are so much shorter these days that that’s why the online community is working for kids brought up on video games. Writers will have to find a way to connect to them and online may be the only way. Social networking inherent in Web 2.0 is incredibly powerful, especially for particular causes. Perhaps there’s a way to utilize this power for linking to all the great garden writing out there without having to deal with all the trivia in Facebook??

  8. I started blogging as we were going into fall and winter up north and my time outdoors was winding down. So it’s been a nice winter garden activity. I may have to cut back blogging when I step outdoors again; hard to say at this point. I’m on Facebook but don’t really use it; nor am I Twittering (hey, I still don’t have a cell phone!). I find some of those things just to be too silly, time consuming and not really useful. My friends and I still call or email to set up get-togethers. As for local gardeners, we see each other at monthly club meetings or talks or other events. I am not in contact with them online at all.

    For me, I’m sure this is age-related. I grew up in a quieter world and that’s how I like it. I may play music at blaster level on occasion, but mostly I want to be outdoors where I hear the breeze, or reading or drawing or cooking. I like the quiet sounds associated with all those things and their solitary nature. Maybe some of this is also linked to the fact that my husband is my gardening/drawing/cooking partner and so I don’t have to leave home to find conversation and companionship. What this all means is that I’m going to try to keep up with favorite blogs and comment and go to Spring Fling, but not let it interfere with my face-to-face life.

  9. I hear you and hear all those commenting on how does anyone who is fully entrenched in today’s digital life actually have time to garden.

    For me, I had to make a choice. I work full time in a building that is secure, so no twittering or even getting onto facebook…or even youtube…so either spend all evening doing this stuff, or continue to garden and do things myself.

    I chose the garden.

    So now, I know that means my blog is found only by those that see me in the 2 forums I post in or from the 50 or so blogs I follow, and I am relegated to a small and quiet neighborhood of the internet, but I have GREAT loads of tomatoes instead. 🙂

  10. Oh Susan, I am at work. I can squeeze in GardenRant and GardenWeb but that’s about all the “spare” time I have. The small publisher I work for has fired people over too much personal communication on company pooters. I like my job and don’t wanna lose it.

    When we get to the point that they surgically implant a chip behind your ear so that you can be in constant hands-free communication with the world, I’ll sign up

  11. Actually, I never considered that online stuff would take the place of gardening. I guess I was really thinking of other indoor activities like reading or other types of writing. I am fine with it taking the place of cleaning.

  12. Hi Elizabeth, I joined twitter to be in on the spring fling stuff, then quit in less that a day. It was overwhelming. Facebook is the same thing. Emails and blogging are all I can do. At my leisure.

  13. Connecting at work? Might peak in at lunchtime but the thing about work is there is actually work to do there! And it is noticed when the work doesn’t get done.

    Like anything else, you have to pick and choose your “spots” and let the rest go. This isn’t just a problem for gardeners on the web, it’s a problem for everyone. And it isn’t just online. How many parents have crammed every evening with activities for their kids or themselves, with sports, clubs, etc.?

    You can’t be everywhere you’d like to be and do everything you’d like to do in real life. The same is true online.

  14. I am a writer and I’ve been gardening on the same land for over 30 years. My thoughts on this topic:

    I was invited to Facebook by a niece I wanted to reconnect with…I joined around Christmas time and I’m already regretting it and planning my exit strategy while inviting her to remain connected the “old fashioned ways”–emails and cell phone.

    I absolutely do not care what ANYONE is doing 24/7 and will never be interested in Tweeting with anyone. I enjoy looking out my own windows, working on my own work and, from time to time, reading a few blogs…on average 1-2 per day. If I want to know what someone is up to, I’ll phone or email them…or…if they have one, take a quick look at their blog. But there are very few garden bloggers who write long posts that I find interesting or informative enough to read all the way through.

    The only time I seek out a forum is when I have a very specific garden question I cannot get an answer to from either my own library or a trusted online article…because rarely does anyone from my own locale post any info on any of them.

    In my opinion, when it comes to garden blogs, forums and ways to “stay connected” the cream always rises to the top.

  15. Oops. Meant to post this “in general” not specifically in reply to Craig. Sorry. Also, attempted to edit/delete and repost in proper place, but could not.

  16. I just joined up at Twitter not to tweet, but to get blogging news first. I don’t intend to get into it, just a quick glance now & then. It’s impossible to keep up with all the blogs I’d like to read everyday. There is just too much. Facebook has its uses, but I’m not going to waste time with all the minutiae.

  17. Great topic (and Craig’s link is hilarious). I just can’t do any of ’em. I need time to read & absorb, and I really don’t want to share all that much with the universe. Reading blogs at work *does* interfere, and I try to keep it in check. Sort of waiting for the implosion of Twitter/Facebook/Myspace. Can any bubble last very long?

  18. Bill Maher was complaining about the death of print journalism on Politically Incorrect. He said that bloggers get their news from “real” journalists and what would we do when they were all unemployed? I do all my own research, thanks, Bill. But I do think it’s an interesting topic; how the journalistic world is changing online. Do stories happen more organically this way?

  19. Eleanor,

    Actually I am horrified by the thought of bloggers taking over the job of trained journalists. Currently most online sites do not have the revenue to pay professionals who do fact-checking, good research, follow-up interviews etc. I like the online components of many papers, but usually the writing I like is by the same people who write for the print paper.

    I am not optimistic. While I actually prefer garden bloggers to most garden newspaper journalism, I cannot say the same about local news and other “hard” topics, which I suspect was what Maher was complaining about and, if so, I agree with him.

  20. And I agree with you, Elizabeth. It’s a frightening thought that the times when objective, well-researched journalism that follows a story as it’s happening might be replaced by unbalanced hysteria. Erm, wait, is that 60 minutes calling?

    Seriously, I think there is a real resource issue here…any good ideas about how to monetize fact-based, unfrilly journalism?

  21. I just don’t get it. I can see tweeting if you’ve got a blog, book, website, product, etc. to promote. It’s another way of advertising yourself. But for the rest of us? What is the point?

    Help me see the light here.

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