Wednesday, January 26, 2011

On Social Networking

Social networking comes under fire a lot in the media and is responsible for the downfall of Western civilization, from what I can gather. I’m going to take another tack here and make a confession: I love Facebook. Now granted, I don’t love it so much that I’ve allowed my 11-year-old to create his own page, nor do I allow my 17-year-old to have her own page to which I don’t have access. Her membership into the FB community came with a price: a “friending” by her mother which, if violated or revoked, would come with punishments that only Amy Chua—you know her as the Tiger Mother—could dole out.

This isn’t a love song to Facebook, but rather just some observations I’ve made since creating a Facebook page back in 2008. I started on Facebook just to see what it was like and because my publisher and many other writers recommended it as a great marketing and promotion tool, something at which I am woefully inept. You can do only so much marketing and promotion from the comfort of your desk chair in your attic, I came to find out. Obviously, it has reconnected me with a lot of old friends. Curiously, almost my entire high school graduating class is on there and getting to know many of them has been a blast. Many of them are excited that I am a writer and have bought all of my books, even suggesting them to their extensive friend lists.

My husband has remarked that I am perfectly suited to the world of Facebook because I am a social person by nature. If I were a dog, I would be a Golden Retriever. If he were a dog…well, we’re not sure what he’d be. He’s social, but not as social as I am. He likes the computer, but only for work. He is mildly curious about social networking, but not enough for him to explore this new world. “But still,” I protest when we discuss, “you’d find people you went to high school with!” to which he replies, “I wasn’t looking for them.”

True enough.

I still don’t know what kind of dog that makes him.

I wouldn’t say I post a lot of status updates, but I do post my fair share. For the most part, they are well thought-out; I try to avoid the “making pork chops now” posts which tell people just a little too much about the sorry state of my cooking and inventiveness on a given night. I try to stay away from politics, but there do come times when I just can’t keep my fat mouth shut, try as I may. Those instances are rare and hopefully, strike a chord among the majority of disgruntled Americans or those of us who aren’t writing manifestos in our cabins in the woods. Maybe not. I have been accused of leaning a little to the left, so who knows?

There are certain things about Facebook I don’t like. For one, I don’t like oversharing. Letting me know that your spouse is more-than-skilled in the boudoir makes my skin crawl, for some reason, as do posts about your viewing of people doing disgusting things in public places. If you found their behavior revolting, why would you want to share that? More to the point, why would I want to read about it? Better to try to wipe their actions clean from your mind. I don’t enjoy the hijacking of the comments section—you know what I mean, when one person comments on your status only to incur the wrath of someone else who read the status and the comments and who then feels compelled to take issue? Hate that. Your entire day is spent deleting comments from two angry commenters who really need to take their fight outside.

I also don’t like when a post that I actually spent some time thinking about and that meant something to me is then appropriated by one of my friends who says “Great post! I’m reposting!” without giving me credit. It’s called plagiarism and it applies to Facebook, people. There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing that person’s comments section populated by “Brilliant!” “Wish I could have said it like that!” “Well said” and know that only two people know the truth about where the post came from and it wasn’t from the brain of your now-unfriended former Facebook friend. I’m a writer and writers are very proprietary of their words.

Maybe I could start a trend: Facebook status copyrighting?

Too much?

All in all, the same basic codes of etiquette and civility that apply in daily life should apply to social networking. In other words, if you wouldn’t want your mother to read it, don’t post it.

Tell me, Stiletto friends, some of whom may also be in my Facebook cohort, what do you think of social networking? How do you use it? And what are your pet peeves?

Maggie Barbieri

4 comments:

  1. Maggie, I am liking Facebook, too, even though the HarperCollins peeps had to twist my arm to get me on. I started in November of 2009, and I've found it's a great way to check in on a bunch of people at once without having to send out a lot of emails. In fact, that's just what I said to my hubby the other night when he teased me about it (he's a lot like Jim, Maggie, as you already know!). ;-) As long as I keep enjoying it, I'm there!

    Cheers,
    Susan

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  2. I like Facebook too and agree with all the things you said about people airing things about their personal life they shouldn't. I've unfriended a couple who revealed things I didn't need to know about them.

    I love the fact that people show they care by commenting when you express a good thing or something not so good that's happening in your life.

    Of course I use Facebook for promotion but I hope I don't over do it as I've seen some folks do.

    Marilyn

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  3. I haven't seen those "anti social networking" articles in the media - only the opposite - how you must be on facebook. I have a love/hate relationship with it - when it works, it's a lot of fun. But too often it doesn't work. It's also too easy for me to overshare - I can be a bit impulsive - lol - and then regret it. Quick, delete that post. There's talk now about regulating social media - and of course, FB is going to use our posts and our interaction to benefit them - that's my biggest issue with it but, ultimately, that's what it's all about. But it seems to be here to stay - that's how I stay connected with certain people and I love that part.

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  4. I am generally not a fan of FB and its kind. Too much actually thinking that your day-to-day is or should be of any interest to anyone. And, really too much not living in the moment because you're constantly living in documenting, poorly, your moments. Ever spend a lunch hour with some putz who pays more attention to their smart phone than they do to the live conversation you foolishly think you're having with them? This is what becomes of a society that has spent two to three decades frantically bolstering the self-esteem of its youth over bolstering their actual skills, education, and work-ethic. You get a whole mess of people who think that pretty much whatever gum ball drops down the chute from their brain is important and worth sharing. It's dumbing us down emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually.

    But, like all resources, I can see that FB and other options are good for select and minimal communication with, for example, very far-flung friends and family, especially in times of stress or trouble. Beyond things like that, I find these tools to be generally too much the vanity exercise and meaningless to the point of actually sucking the meaningful out of life.

    When did we get so lazy about having relationships that we needed to be able to "post to everyone at once" or have every interaction be "easier and faster than phone calls or email"? By the way, though I get that sharing pictures or maybe trading quick views or advice about an issue isn't a bad thing per se, what makes it important or must-do? Does it matter if some very distant relative spends time today looking at pictures of your new puppy or some virtual stranger's new baby instead of, say, spending time doing something that is right there for the doing in their actual lives? Does it matter that you are missing out on something in your own life because you spent five minutes you'll never get back posting back on forth on FB about someone else's business? Not for nothing, a lot of this sharing is the sharing of very unimportant and distracting white noise. It's fluff, it's filler. It's a good example of just because you can do something doesn't mean you should/have to.

    On a tangent, I despise the "emoticon" and stupid e-shorthand like "LOL" (which to my chagrin people have taken to actually saying, as in "When she tripped and that whole box of donuts flew across the conference room I was like loll!"). I would like to throw them all down a flight of stairs. Emoticons are antithetical to using language well and stage directions like "LOL" that get used with insane frequency ("I'm just 2 tired 2 go, lol. I mean it's such a long drive, lol. Maybe I can get DH to drive! LOL!") make me sneer. These things remind me of the applause and laughter signs flashed to the studio audience during the tapings of sitcoms: "OK, this part is funny so clap!"; "I know the sentence I just wrote sounds snotty and mean, but since I'm too lazy to construct meaning through words and context, this stupid little winking face made from punctuation marks lets you know I'm actually witty and sweet or at least claiming to be. LOL!" Notice that this is like a newer edition of and also seems to be paired up with an over use of the exclamation point.

    It all makes me want to HURL.

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