Maureen Johnson: What I Read
Maureen Johnson, the Y.A. novelist whose latest book, The Madness Underneath, was released in February, provides regular dispatches to 75,000-plus followers via her "main thing online," Twitter.
Maureen Johnson, the Y.A. novelist whose latest book, The Madness Underneath, was released in February, provides regular dispatches to 75,000-plus followers via her "main thing online," Twitter. Her first media stop in the morning is her phone; the last at the end of the day is a book.
The first thing I look at in the morning is the phone. I have it next to me because I listen to music and various programs when I go to bed. I have a quick look at emails while I’m still in bed, probably because I always liked those stories where people (or characters) like Bertie Wooster or Auntie Mame would get their mail in bed. This is my version of lounging in your morning kimono and going through the post—except it’s more bleary-eyed and in a T-shirt. And I’ve often lost the phone in the bed during the night, so there’s a lot of reaching around and slapping the covers and going, “WHERE IS IT???” I often find it by tugging on the cord of my sleep headphones, so it’s kind of like I start the morning by fishing.
I use Twitter as my main thing online—both as a communication tool and a source. I’ve honed my follow list pretty carefully, so I’m generally pretty interested in what the people there are talking about. It’s a curated list, but still big enough to have a pretty wide range. What I like is getting the day’s news from these people—if something is going on, it tends to pop up pretty quickly.
Certainly, I’m interacting with people right from the get-go. Twitter is a conversation. You talk. You listen. You don’t have to use it in any particular way, but I find you get the most out of it when you do both. This doesn’t mean replying to everything—that would get crazy, quickly. You can move in and out.
I’ll look at various sites like BoingBoing, Gawker, Jezebel, and LifeHacker. I rotate through news sites if something seems to be going on, or if something interests me. But I don’t feel the need to feed myself news all day long. I’m not the president. I don’t need to know what the economy or North Korea is doing all day. Too much news gives you the wobblies. In my media diet, I think of news like a fat: You want to limit the amount, and limit it to the good kinds. You still need it, but you have to be careful and very moderate.
But I do dip in and out of Twitter all day, because it’s a conversation. It’s a great people network, where the topics rise more organically.
I largely despise Facebook. It’s clumsy and crowded and really inefficient in terms of conversation. The information there feels very stationary and declarative. This is fine if you’re putting up a picture of your children or your wedding or vacation or what have you—for announcements. I check it every week or two to see how people I know are doing, but that’s about it. But it also gets clogged with things like “So-So likes the Something Store!” which is not something I particularly want to know. I think the Facebook “like” is one of our Great Pointless Gestures. Whenever people ask me to “like” something on Facebook, I just don’t understand why. I don’t want to. I don’t care.
I love podcasts—The Bugle, Stuff You Should Know, Judge John Hodgman, The History Chicks, and Superego. I listen to them all the time when I’m out walking. I’m very much a listener more than a viewer. I listen to TV over wireless headphones while I do things around the apartment. I don’t usually watch it, unless it’s a favorite show or something special. This, I realize, is a bit weird and not really the point of television, but it works for me.
I write in a variety of places—at home, and out and about. I occasionally listen to music when I write, especially if I’m out. At home, though, I tend not to. I also use a program called Freedom to shut off my Internet access for blocks of time.
I’m very interested in people who take media breaks for a week or a month. I think this is something I’d like to try. I love being online, and I think it’s good. But I’m also interested in what happens when you go off for a bit. I do this for at least a week a year (and I try not to sneak back on, but I do glance for a minute or two over the week. But generally, I’m off.) It seems pretty likely that we’ll be talking more and more about the health benefits of taking media breaks. I do try to turn it off. Sometimes I wander over quickly, because I rarely have hard and fast rules about anything, but I like to generally be off by early evening.
The last piece of media I look at before going to bed is a book. I don’t have a television or computer in the bedroom. This, I guess, is my one bit of dogma. No screens in the bedroom. (I don’t count iPads, because I read on mine.)