Visual Nostalgia

by James Wallace Harris, Sunday, July 22, 2018

This post is for Linda. I told her about the growing trend on Facebook for sharing all kinds of old photos, illustrations, ads, paintings, and drawings, and she suggested I do a blog post about it. I’ve joined several groups on Facebook where members post images, usually from the 20th century, but sometimes older. I assume it’s nostalgia-driven, but it might just a love for creative artwork.

The first group I joined was The Golden Age of Illustrations which collects book and magazine illustrations, often from children’s books, but adult stories as well. Here’s a few of them. This group has over 70,000 members.

The Golden Age of Illustration 3

The Golden Age of Illustration 1

The Golden Age of Illustration 2

Over at Mid Century Advertising, the appeal is partly the art but mostly the memories. Here’s a varied sampling that doesn’t really do the group’s wide interest justice. Part of the appeal is to remember forgotten objects. Part of the appeal is to remember a different way of life. This group currently has 35,806 members.

Mid-century ads 1

Mid-century ads 4

Mid-century ads 5

Mid-century ads 2

Mid-century ads 3

One of my favorite groups is Space Opera Pulp because I love science fiction. This group has 11,813 members, on the small size compared to the others. When I was growing up in the 1960s I didn’t know any other science fiction fans. Evidently, there were way more than I ever knew. I guess science fiction was a guilty pleasure until Star Trek legitimized the genre.

Astounding Stories December 1933

IF Magazine December 1964

Space Opera Pulp 2

Space Opera Pulp 1

Another group that focuses on book and magazine illustrations is Illustration Art Archives. It has over 15,000 members. This group loves full-size color illustrations. Most are from old magazines, but some are from books. By the way, adult books used to have interior illustrations. This groups especially seems to admire a dramatic scene.

Illustration Art Archives 1

Illustration Art Archives 3

Illustration Art Archives 2

The last group I’ll mention is Hi Resolution Paintings, where over 40,000 people love to share high-resolution copies of fine art. I like to save high-resolution images for my 4k monitor’s desktop background. This group has some of the nostalgic images of the other groups, but I like it for the old realistic fine art paintings.


Hi Resolution Paintings

schmid richard-ruth in the studio-1396452317

There are many more visually nostalgic groups over at Facebook. New ones pop up all the time. In a way, it makes sense since Facebook is visually oriented. But most people post photos about recent activities. Isn’t it odd that so many people want to post images of things they remember from a long ago that isn’t personal? It might be an age thing. Most of the people I know on Facebook are over 60. Maybe it’s just a delight to see something so vivid and bright that was only a dark dim memory.

Or maybe, in our troubled times, old images are more joyful than the depressing images we see in the news.


Should I Delete Facebook?

by James Wallace Harris, Friday, March 23, 2018

Cambridge AnalyticaI’ve seen at least a dozen stories about people deleting their Facebook account because of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Just now I read two news stories about Elon Musk deleting Space-X and Tesla pages from Facebook even though they had millions of followers. There’s lots of anti-Facebook sentiment percolating on the web right now with many users jumping ship.

But how many? Facebook has two billion users. Even if a hundred million people quit in protest will it matter? There have always been folks who grumped about Facebook. They are much like snobs who sneer at watching television. I look at TV and Facebook every day. Not much, in either case, but they both provide their little pleasures. And, little pleasures count for a lot in our social security years.

People fear Facebook because of identity theft or invasion of their privacy. But is any place safe on the internet? And if you read about Cambridge Analytica you’ll see that people happily filled out forms and shared them with friends. You’d have to be an idiot to not know that everything you do on the internet is monitored. No one pays to use Facebook. Have you ever wondered how Facebook makes its money? Our habits and opinions are valuable. Keeping America supplied with cat videos is expensive, so Facebook has to make its money someway.

When I’m on the internet I assume Big Brother and all his brothers and sisters are watching. I don’t care that they know I love cat videos and scans of old science fiction magazine covers. I have no idea what that information reveals about me politically or fiscally.

Before people rush to delete their Facebook account out of some kind of misguided protest, I think they should analyze what they get out of the service. Facebook keeps me in contact with relatives and friends I seldom or never see anymore. Facebook keeps in contact with people around the world that have the same esoteric interests as I do. And I enjoy seeing a half-dozen funny videos every day. They’re as good as a dose of Geritol.

For example, I’ve been reading old science fiction stories from the pulp magazines. I’ve made three online friends in South Africa, England, and here in the U.S. that also like to read such stories. I don’t know how many people left on this planet still love to read science fiction short stories in old pulp magazines, but Facebook has helped me find them. Facebook also keeps me in contact me with relatives I haven’t seen in fifty years.

Besides, Facebook helps me keep tabs on my wife. She always checks in wherever she goes.

I also find it very pleasant to share cartoons, videos, songs, beautiful photos, sayings, etc. with other people. For example, here’s one called Millennial Job Interview that has a passing dig at Facebook. I thought pretty damn funny and very revealing about modern times. Evidently, the young consider Facebook a hangout for older people. That might be true because most of my Facebook friends are older. And most of the people who write about deleting their Facebook accounts are younger. Should we consider this anti-Facebook movement an ageist attack on Baby Boomers?

I wonder if Big Brother finds what we share more revealing about our personalities than the facts typed into queries like Cambridge Analytica’s? For many people I know, what they share on Facebook reveals more about themselves than they reveal in person.

I share a lot on Facebook. My friends and family must think I’m odd from some of the content I post. However, I use both Facebook and Twitter as external memory banks. My biological memory is beginning to fail. I wish Facebook existed when I was young so I could scroll back into the past. When I scan through my timeline it’s like a stream-of-consciousness of what tickled my fancy. I’m sure if Big Brother applied a powerful artificial intelligence program to my timeline it could psychoanalyze my posts and provide me with the ads customized for my personality.

But you want to know something funny? If you asked me if there were ads on Facebook I’d tell you no. My mind is so good a tuning out ads that I don’t see them on web pages anymore. I do use an ad blocker, but they aren’t completely effective. I do know there are ads because I see them when I consciously go looking for them. But psychologically I don’t remember ads on Facebook. That might hurt them more than deleting my account. Sorry, Mark.

I suppose I could quit Facebook. Many who have quit Facebook claim their lives are so much better for it. Maybe mine would be better too, but I sure would miss those cat videos.



Is Facebook Replacing Older Ways?

by James Wallace Harris, Tuesday, July 19, 2017

A few years ago an older version of our web site devoted to the Classics of Science Fiction would get hundreds of hits a day, some days going over a thousand. Now it’s lucky to get two dozen. Searching Google for “classics of science fiction” usually places the site on the first page of returns, which would suggest it’s still valid.

Why the decline in hits? It’s doubtful that science fiction has fallen out of favor. I’ve been wondering if how people use the internet has changed. I know our site is boring and statistical but it did have some fans. Now it doesn’t. I’m wondering if folks have stopped using the web in the same way they used it before. Are most people going to big sites and ignoring the small sites?

Or is everyone hanging out on Facebook instead?


Pages and groups devoted to science fiction on Facebook often have thousands of followers. Are people spending more time socializing on Facebook than surfing the web? Facebook has over 2 billion members. Many of my friends and family use Facebook daily. Has Facebook reached a critical mass of users meaning it can’t be ignored?

I know many people who loathe Facebook. As online forums and Yahoo! Groups die from inactivity will those holdouts be forced to become a Facebook pod person?

The internet existed for years before the World Wide Web. It wasn’t until the invention of the web browser that people began surfing the internet purely for entertainment. Users jumped from link to link, going wherever inspiration led them to click.

Then came search engines. Instead of surfing, you keyword searched. Of course, search results could take you to unknown and surprising places.

The way we use the internet has changed again with smartphone apps. Whereas before I’d start with Google, I now tap Wikipedia, IMDB or other icons instead. There are times when I have to fall back to Google, but it’s usually when I’m doing writing research.

For years my online socializing happened on blogs, Yahoo! Groups, or forums at web sites. All those virtual meeting places are becoming depopulated. After the internet became universal I assumed it would always be the same. Now I’m thinking the underlying technology will always be there, but how we use it will constantly mutate.

Has Facebook become an alternative to web surfing, blogging, home pages, personal web sites, etc? Even more, is Facebook replacing family get-togethers, scrapbooks, printed photos, letters, postcards, greeting cards, telephone calls, and email? Many people now prefer texting to a phone call because it is less time-consuming. Has Facebook become the quick replacement for visiting online friends, or even some real life friends?




Google+ versus Facebook

Having two competing social networks is a problem.  Logically, you’d like everyone to be at one location for convenience.  Until recently, it looked liked Facebook was going to be the universal social network.  I’m not much of a Facebook user, but I can’t quit it either.  Too many friends, old acquaintances and relatives are on Facebook, so it’s easy to keep an eye on everybody.  Facebook is actually much better than snail-mail letters, postcards and Christmas cards at keeping track of people.  In fact I often wish all my relatives would use Facebook.  Facebook actually makes me feel closer to people.  Then came Google+.


Google+ has a few nifty new features, some a touch better than Facebook, but to make Google+ practical I’d need all my Facebook friends to move over to Google+ and that would be rude to ask.  Many people I know on Facebook are computer phobic, and it took them a long time to learn Facebook.  Getting them to switch would be cruel.

What to do?  What if Google+ is a superior tool?  What if we all move over to Google+ and Apple or Microsoft came out with an even better product?  Do hundreds of millions of people then move again to another new system?  Given time wouldn’t Facebook add the features we all want anyway?

Mike Elgan is fanatically campaigning for Google+  and currently 374,958 people have him in one of their circles.  Google+ definitely has more geek cred than Facebook, which makes me think I should use Facebook for people I know in real life and use Google+ as a geeky hangout for people I met over the Ethernet.

There are many things to consider.  Is social networking a fad?  Many pundits and friends have already abandon Facebook.  On the other hand, I can only imagine Facebook becoming better and more valuable over time.  Does that mean we should all stick with Facebook because of its initial momentum?  Are we already stuck with Facebook forever?

Mike Elgan claims Google+ can replace our email systems too and that Google+ can become a central hub for all kinds of communications Facebook doesn’t do and the average user doesn’t understand yet.  At least I don’t.

Which is more secure?  Which is more natural at organizing levels of relationships?  Which offers the most features I’d actually use?  Which is easier to use?  Which can be customized more?  And most important, which has fewer ads?  I hate ads.  I don’t have the answers, but I’m trying to find out.

And one last interesting tidbit.  Facebook isn’t indexed on search engines, whereas Google+ is indexed on Google, Bing and others.  Facebook is a closed system, and that’s appealing, I think.  Then again, should you ever put anything private and personal on any computer system?

JWH – 1/10/12

Can We Trust Facebook?

I’ve heard three stories lately that make me worry about Facebook.  First, my friend Sutton from work posted a message to Facebook about diet pills.  This threw me for a loop because Sutton is on the skinny side but since I’m on the fat side I read the message with interest.  I asked him about it and he said somebody had hacked his account, and it started with a woman he knew that was also hacked sending the same messages. 

Then another friend at work, Joe, told me how people called his wife’s parents pretending to be their daughter stranded on road trip and not being able to get ahold of Joe and thus calling her grandparents wanting them to wire money.  The scammers had all kinds of interesting granddaughter and grandparent details to fool the old people.  The old people just called Joe.

When I told these stories to my wife she told me about a circle of her friends who were getting messages on Facebook from a dead woman they hand known.  They didn’t know if the hackers broke into Rachel’s account before or after she died, but they got messages from Rachel long after she passed – rather eerie.

Sutton and Joe cancelled their Facebook accounts.

I would have quit Facebook long ago because I don’t really use it, except that I’ve discovered it’s a way to keep tabs on friends, family and acquaintances.  I was going to quit because I don’t do anything I feel like posting about.  Being on Facebook makes me feel old and boring because all friends are out doing stuff and I’m not.  However, I have to admit Facebook is a good way to keep up with people.  As a social network it works, maybe it’s far from perfect, but it’s worth having an account. 

People I would have quit thinking about years ago stay alive in my mind because of Facebook.

That still leaves the question: Can We Trust Facebook?

Just before Sutton was hacked, he recommended, an online pinboard, whatever that might be.  He assured me it was fun and I should try it.  So I went to Pinterest and requested an invite.  When the email came and I clicked on the invite I was told to register with either my Facebook or Twitter account.  I was leery of this, but I clicked on signing in with Facebook and I was given a warning about how many rights I would be giving Pinterest and that scared me, so I closed the window.

I wrote Pinterest about this and they said they did this to make it easy to find your friends to share the pinboards.  Now there’s a certain logic in this.  Words with Friends and Spotify also want me to log in with my Facebook credentials.  All these companies are hoping to ride the coattails of social networking.  But it also solves another problem for them – they don’t have to maintain their own login system and manage accounts.

This brings us to question number two: Can We Trust Other Companies with Our Facebook Account?

Social networking is a fantastic idea, but is it being implementing safely?  There are always stories on the news about the dangers of Facebook with warnings about what kinds of personal information not to post on the site.  And Facebook has introduced more and more security features, but because Facebook wants to make billions it seeks all kinds of business partners and ways to integrate our personal lives into their businesses.

Facebook is now seen as a highway to nearly a billion customers so 21st century entrepreneurs are gold rushing to create apps that have symbiotic relationships with Facebook.

Which makes me ask:  How Far Will You Weave Your Life Into the Social Network?

What Facebook has become is a login system to the Internet.  When the internet first started people could be anonymous, but over time sites that makes billions have found endless ways to track us.  Facebook is a pub where everyone can know your name.

And don’t get me wrong, there’s a certain logic of networking people together.  What if all amateur genealogists were on Facebook and was integrated into Facebook?  It could easily link you to all your living relatives all over the world, and let you follow various paths of maternal and paternal inheritance.  What if you wanted to remember everyone in your 6th grade class from 1962?  If they were all on Facebook and the right information was in the database, you could have an instant class reunion.  Facebook has the potential to change society significantly.

Social networking is extremely powerful.  There’s a reason why hundreds of millions of people flock to Facebook.  But can we trust it?  I don’t think so.  Should we abandon it?  No, we shouldn’t do that either.

However there is a new concept on the net called Infosuicide where you leave the internet and try to erase all references to themselves.  I don’t know if this will become a trend, but some people are being turned off by losing their anonymity.  If the Facebook trend continues true privacy will shrink.

What we need is a science of social networking.  We also need laws and etiquettes to match this knowledge.  We need tight controls to how our personal information is monitored.  Our identities need firewalls to protect them, so we can have control over what aspects of our lives are public, or to what degree they are made public.

I think it needs to start by allowing us to control our various social relationships.  Think about it.  We know things about ourselves we’d never tell anyone, but everything else we’d be willing to share with various kinds of people we know depending on the relationship.  I think those breakdown something like this:

  • Spouse/lover
  • Friends
  • Close relatives
  • Close work relationships
  • Acquaintances
  • Game associates
  • Distant relatives
  • Distant work relationships
  • Various level of public networks

Once you start using Facebook for all kinds of social networks you have to divide them into all kinds of categories.  Would you want to let your doctors, dentist, optometrist, plumber, electrician to post reminders and schedules to your Facebook account?  You would if you got up everyone morning and checked Facebook faithfully.  If you start thinking of Facebook as a super Outlook calendar and contact program you would.

I’m not sure most people realize the direction Facebook is taking.  They are letting Facebook grow at its pace and not theirs.  I know people that join Facebook and quit and go back and quit and go back because its so tempting.  Many people don’t want Facebook to take over their lives but as more of their family and friends join Facebook the harder it becomes to avoid it without seeming like a misanthrope.

We can’t trust Facebook one iota, but we do.  Why?  Because it’s too good of an idea of pass up.  This week I got a round robin email from my cousins.  My cousin Jane wrote the first email to another cousin and gave them a list of who to forward the email to next, and I was last with the instructions to return it to Jane.  She then resent it to everyone.  When I saw that I wondered why everyone just didn’t join Facebook.

I don’t read Facebook regularly but I should.  If I did I would know more about my family and friends.  And that brings up another question about Facebook:  Are we obligated to social network?  I’m a loner and I’m extremely selfish with my time, but I feel there is an social obligation.  I don’t know to what degree we should feel obligated to network with the people we know, but I think there’s enough of an obligation that Facebook should exist and be required to legally meet security obligations.  In other words I think we need to make Facebook into something we can trust.  Hell, it’s a lot easier to use than making phone calls and writing letters.  I would make a case that Facebook is the minimum social obligation.

JWH – 10/8/11

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