Thursday, August 27, 2009

I need to know if this is me. But no one thinks it's them, right?

I admit I am mostly unskilled when it comes to "social networking," including something seemingly as simple as Facebook. I have mental block about which tab is my home page and which one is the public page people see. No matter how many times my boys try to tell me, I don't absorb the information.

I find my way around, albeit with little confidence. And then, just as I started to feel a tiny bit comfortable, I read this.

Honestly, it sums up what I've felt for a while about Twitter, less so about Facebook but still. I don't update my Twitter feed because I have never really felt the need to inform the world at large about one single thing I'm doing at any given time. In fact, I don't think I've ever done one single thing worth recording for posterity in my entire life, even if that record appears only via a Twitter 'tweet.'

But according to the WSJ article, some of us are treating our Facebook pages like Twitter feeds and posting pointless updates that inexplicably draw "comments" from friends and the cycle continues. I've often read posts of friends that are followed by dozens of comments that make little sense to me. And I wonder, why was the update posted in the first place and more important, why did so many people find it fascinating and worth a comment? It wasn't.

My favorite line in the article comes from Patricia Wallace, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. As she poetically puts it, "Online, people can't see the yawn." That's just about perfect. Maybe Facebook needs a yawning icon. Would anyone be bold enough to use it???

Like the author of the article, I love my Facebook connections. Some are quite a bit more active than others though. Some of them may even be guilty of the kind of mindless posting that leaves me wondering, why would anyone want to know that?

I like to read posts that make me laugh or make me think. Plenty of friends post that sort of news and I'm grateful. I also like the real life updates, but not all of them. Life changes, major events, good news, bad news and family updates all work for me. But I'm not particularly fond of reading messages about waking up, oversleeping, going to sleep, taking a nap, wanting to take nap, heading out to an appointment, coming home from an appointment, doing laundry, not doing laundry, writing out checks, buying stamps to mail out bills, or any number of everyday events not one of us felt compelled to share before we all had Facebook accounts.

So maybe this makes me cranky and not the sort of person who does well in a Facebook environment. It's very likely that my posts are as prosaic as any and people reading them rightly think: yes, your posts are pointless. You are exactly like the people profiled in the WSJ piece. Welcome to the world.

But like boring people around the universe, no one recognizes when they're boring right? The worst that can happen in that case is that I unknowingly find myself boring a room full of people. In a forum like Facebook, I have the opportunity to bore possibly hundreds of people at once.

There's just no end to the delights of the Internet.


Richard said...

I have completely left Facebook for some the reasons you discussed in your blog post. My favorite from the WSJ article is the line about which Addams Family member you most resemble. There are so many more inane quizzes too.

The other annoying thing about Facebook is how many people I hardly know (or don't know at all) who want to be added as friends. They just seem to be in some social-climbing contest to see who can accumulate as many 'friends' as possible. Some of the people who have sent requests to me had over 1000 friends. I wonder how many of these so-called 1000 friends he sees, even once a year.

I had about 100 friends when I closed my Facebook page and only one (count 'em: 1) sent me an email to ask if was still alive, or OK.

For a funny bit about if Hamlet used Facebook see this at McSweeney's:

renee said...

Hi Richard - thank you for the link! You can always count on McSweeney's for quiet brilliance. I am definitely buying Sarah Schmelling's book!

Not sure I'll give up my Facebook page quite yet. But I can see why you did.

I'm not sure what the allure of the quizzes could be. Cyber-bonding, I guess. I don't take them, I don't send them to people. The truth is, my life is pretty mundane: I've never lived in Asia, I don't speak four languages (can barely speak one), and I can't name even one character in Twilight. Pathetic, I know.

Thank you so much for the comment and again, for the hilarious link.

Steve Salerno said...

Renee: Great post. But the editor in me wanted you to end with the line about boring hundreds of people at once, which is classic and priceless.

Btw, I read the Journal piece, and I think that anyone who feels obliged to tell others what he or she consumes for each meal should be forced to...well, I can't think of anything sufficiently clever at the moment, they should be forced to do something appropriately horrific!

renee said...

Hi Steve -

Well, I suggest the following to complete your thought:

Women who force their daily menus on unsuspecting facebook friends should have to endure an hour of other women talking about their childbirth experiences. And not once pipe in with, "Well, what happened to me was..." Trust me. It will be torturous.

Men who do the same will be forced to listen to other men give directions to somewhere and not once interrupt with "No, the best way to get there is..." Same thing. They'll want to poke their eyes out, which would be less painful than not contributing to a conversation about driving directions.