Thursday May 09, 2013 | 09:00 AM
Posted by Rob Gould

BookTalk is a new podcast which features intelligent, candid conversations with leading authors about their new books. There’s a new episode every week.

Cary Barbor is a seasoned arts producer, based in NYC, who has worked on such public radio shows as "The Leonard Lopate Show" and "Studio 360." She hosted her own popular show, also known as "BookTalk," on SiriusXM. Also a writer of fiction and nonfiction, Cary’s work has been published in New York magazine, Salon, More, and many others.

Facebook as a gateway drug, disconnection heaven, and the serendipity of Twitter.

As with most of my interviews, what you'll read here is a greatly condensed version of our conversation.

What was your first experience with social media?

"I suppose Facebook was my gateway drug. I dipped my toe in very gingerly to social media. I’m very private, so the thought of broadcasting my intimate thoughts and activities horrified me. It still does. Also, I could foresee how it would be a giant waste of time. But as I got the hang of it, I began to see how it could also be fun and useful."

What do you like about social media?

"I really like the “in the know” feeling I get from Twitter. There is so much great information to be had on there. I fell in love with Twitter during the Arab Spring. I feel very attached to Egypt -- my in-laws live in Cairo and I have visited many times – so I was following that story obsessively. And I was tremendously grateful for the accurate and timely information I got from reporters like Evan Hill (@evanchill) and Ben Wedeman (@bencnn). It truly gave me a picture of what was happening on the ground in Tahrir Square and around the city. The newspaper reports supplied good overviews but there was nothing like the thrill of an instant tweet from someone in the thick of it. The same thing happened after the Boston Marathon Bombing, when the reporter Seth Mnookin (@sethmnookin) happened to be standing in Watertown, tweeting what was going on with the manhunt, right in front of his eyes."

"I also love the access that Twitter allows. I have had some short exchanges with writers I love and admire, so there is that “fangirl” aspect of it that is also exciting. I used to write snail mail fan letters to writers. I hope I don’t stop doing that."

"For my podcast, I love that Twitter allows me to find fans and readers whom I normally wouldn’t run across, because they’re far away or our worlds are otherwise separated. I have been able to gather a great and ever-growing book-loving cohort—readers, agents, booksellers, critics, writers—on my Twitter feed."

What do you dislike about social media?

"The main thing I dislike is how overwhelming it is. How do I withstand the tsunami of content without drowning? How do I pick out what is useful without wasting time and brainpower on the things that aren’t? I struggle with that every day.  Sometimes I avoid it for days at a time because of that feeling of overwhelm."

"Social media also implants in my brain a feeling that I am always missing something. Which I am. And I have a love-hate relationship with the serendipity of it. If I don’t happen to be online when a certain tweet comes through, I miss something important. But it works the other way too – I have found things out because I just happened to be online at that moment."

"I don’t like the lack of discernment. A great, thoughtful writer gets the same real estate online as someone who can’t even spell. I very often miss the gatekeepers of traditional media. Again it’s a love-hate. It’s great that everyone can publish, but I like when smart, sophisticated editors pick out great things to publish. I value that. And I continue to be very skittish about the lack of privacy."

"Shall I continue ranting? I am not sure if this is social media’s fault but I am very alarmed at the parents I see who are ignoring their kids and gazing into their smartphones or tablets. I almost ran over a toddler on my bike the other day because the nanny was completely engaged with her phone and ignoring the kid. There is a generation being raised by people who are not paying attention."

What would it be like for you to disconnect from social media for six months?

"Honestly, that would be heaven. I feel like I would get a lot of brain cells back. There’s a new study out of Carnegie Mellon that shows that all these interruptions are making us dumber. We knew that, right? I suppose I might feel lonelier without it, because it is a great way to stay in touch with people. But I might not. In some ways it’s like junk food – the more I eat, the more I want. But once I cut the junk food habit, I don’t miss it. And I get better nutrition.  You can see I am very conflicted about the whole social media thing. Disconnecting would undoubtedly be bad for my business, though, because it’s the primary way I get the word out."

If you could only use three words to describe social media, what would they be?

"Overwhelming. Serendipitous. Insider."

Is there a person or brand that you think uses social media effectively?

"@tkcuny, which is the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at CUNY. They have a finger on the pulse of what people are doing in this brave new world of journalism, newsgathering, storytelling – whatever you want to call it. They send out very relevant articles and links and they also have great events. I like that they walk the talk. They’re teaching it and also doing it well on their own behalf."

"Oh, and @HonestToddler of course. Her twitter and blog posts make me laugh out loud."

I want to thank Cary for taking the time to talk with me about her opinions on, and experience with, social media.

You can find BookTalk on Twitter at: @booktalkradio

You can find BookTalk on Facebook at: BookTalk Radio

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Social media has changed the way that many of us learn, purchase, interact and explore the world around us. And, things are just getting started. Social, Social is a place to discuss social media with people from all walks of life. No experts allowed.

About the Author

Rob works as a digital marketing & public relations consultant to agencies, brands, and individuals. He has 20 years of marketing experience. He also currently serves in a volunteer capacity as director of pr/communications for TEDxDirigo. From 2005-2011, Rob served as director of social media & agency communications at The VIA Agency (Portland). Prior to VIA, Rob worked with several PR & advertising agencies in London & Boston. He is a graduate of The University of Vermont (UVM) and a Maine transplant (2002).

Follow Rob on Twitter at @bobbbyg

His real-life interests include art, travel, writing, design, psychology, the beach, & exercise (grudgingly at times).

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