Friday, April 23, 2010

Social media

I have a friend of mine is pretty knowledgeable and observant when it comes to social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogger and other things. We had a discussion about this a few weeks ago that was pretty interesting and I meant to blog a bit about it then, but it slipped my mind. However, he reminded me of it again today and I think it's worth mentioning. Certainly because it reflects some of my thinking and frustrations lately.

The thing about social media is that it does bring you in touch with more people than you ever would have thought possible. People from elementary school who you might not have thought of in years are back and want to be your friends. Complete strangers may follow you on Twitter or read your blog. So on one hand you have a greater reach than any other point in your life. You can let friends and family know what's going on in your life without actually ever having to talk to them. And I'm as guilty of following my Facebook news feed closely to see what's going on as anyone else.

However, you're inevitably going to reach the point where you're not going to be comfortable telling a group of people that you may or may not know so well every details about what's going on in your life. This is the point where you tend to be more vague about certain more intimate details. That you're going to the movies, that's fine. That you're having marital troubles, or that a parent is sick, well, perhaps you don't feel like broadcasting that to the world.

The thing of it is, and I know this has happened to me and others, since it feels like you're still "connecting" with friends and family you're perhaps less likely to dig a little further - to call or visit - and see how people are doing. After all, you know how they're doing, you can see it on their Facebook status. Or their Twitter feed. Except most of them are quietly censoring what's going on in their lives.

So what you get on Facebook and whatnot, is a very polite, watered down version of most people's lives. However, since we're increasingly using these tools as a way of keeping in touch, we're actually growing a bit more distant from what's going on in our loved one's lives.

At least, that's his theory, and I have to admit, there's validity in his thinking. He also expresses it better than I do, but you get the idea.

However, it is interesting. On the one hand, I have a better idea of what's happening with some of my friends in their day to day lives. On the other hand, if they're actually depressed or going through a rough patch, something I would be more likely to know if I actually talked to them more often, I'm not as likely to know it.

Hell, I've had a pretty mixed blessing of a week. But beyond the vagueness of me being pissed off, I simply did not feel comfortable venting that in public. It's funny, but for the better part of the last 15 years I've been part of a private Yahoo groups with some of my closest friends. It's been fading a bit in recent years, what with social media sites. But it's been coming back a bit lately as my friends and I realize it's still a private place where we can vent about work, or personal life things that we can't vent anywhere else. So when I had my "I am going to murder someone" spurt this week, that's where I went. I might have 150 friends on Facebook, but I really only have a dozen or so truly close friends that I would walk through fire for. Most of them are on that list.

It also made me realize I actually ought to call and talk to these people more often. I have the better part of 150 friends on Facebook, more than 100 Twitter followers and I'm averaging between 7.000 to 9,000 unique readers per month on this blog. Still, you need friends to talk to when things go askew on you. I think we occasionally forget about that, figuring social media will keep you in touch.

Human relationships require work. Computers can't do it all for you. It's good to have that reminder from time to time.

Last Five
1. I could never take the place of your man - Prince
2. Feelin' this - Blink 182
3. When I get home - The Beatles
4. Miles David and the cool - The Gaslight Anthem
5. Gyasi went home - Bedouin Soundclash


Morena said...

That is a very interesting observation. Makes me think for sure.... however, I can think of one of my FB friends who is venting all the bitterness about her recent breakup in her status updates. It makes me uncomfortable just reading them! Letting people know you're going through a bad time is one thing, venting the details is another. Maybe we should be thankful people don't always do tell us everything.

Jackie S. Quire said...

This is so so so so true. Actually, just today I posted something to my Facebook but not to my Twitter feed (TB as YOU may have noticed, my twitter posts are automatically fed to my Facebook, but not vice-versa).
Why? Because the twitter feed is on my blog, and my parents check my blog chronically, and I know I'd get a comment from my parents about this guy I'm really probably not going to have any kind of future with, but is fun to idly think of.
On the other hand, I find when people write ambiguities about what's going on in their lives on their twitter and blog and facebook (or what have you), I am torn.
Torn, because some of those people I do care about what's going on in their lives and would love to send an email or a message saying "what's up, are things okay?" but I know at the same time I really only know these people electronically. And worry it's rude and sending that note would be prying.

Alan W. Davidson said...

Thanks for bringing that thought to the forefront. We all need a reality check from technology once in a while.

Wisewebwoman said...

I read an interesting article about FB (link gone, sorry) in that us oldies (over 25) tend to think of the connections as 'friends' while the young uns treat them as acquaintances and govern themselves accordingly.
I've started to view all my 'friends' on there as acquaintances only and therefore my updates are fun and frivolous and never too personal. Email is for personal explorations.

Anonymous said...

Cool. I'll be waiting for your phone call! ;)

Actually, I Skype with the Shanghai contingent somtimes. Do you use the big blue "S"?

Take it easy over there (and I'm jealous about the BBQ) ...

The Perfect Storm said...

Just say no to social media. Somethings are best left to be said in person, or on occasion, not at all.

Mom and Dad did know best after all I am beginning to believe more and more. Grandma and Grandpa too.