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Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

Although I have friinternet-addictedends in the town where I live, I spend more of my free time online, socializing with people, many of whom I haven’t met in person. This is the new normal, where we can morph into hunky superheroes or meet and “marry” our soul mate and start a Second Life that’s much more interesting than the first one. It’s possible to spend too much time online,but most of us know when to sit back and look up…most of us.

“I need to get out more”

Thanks to social networking, the word “friend” has acquired a new fluidity. What is a friend anyway? Someone whose interests you share? With whom you can swap stories or exchange confidences? Someone who’ll lend you money,  take you to the airport, water your plants or show up at your funeral? At some point, the only people we can count on for those sorts of things are either family or people we pay, and the latter group is often more reliable.

Online friendship is relatively easy: I like you; your sensibility or sensitivity or sense of humor; you seem like “good” people;  we have friends in common—boom! You’re my friend. Many social networking circle-of-people sites don’t even require that you be acquainted with someone you embrace as a comrade. I have “friended” the comedian Lewis Black and the journalist Charles Blow. Of course, that the creepy guy who used to follow me home in high school can ask to “friend” me, but I can always virtually run in the other direction via the “ignore” button.

Just as I get used to this loosey-goosey, all-inclusive buddy system, along comes Google+ to throw all my choices into question.

google-plus-logoGoogle + is a new social networking site who some people think (and others hope) will knock Facebook back on its heels. Thanks to a few tech-forward friends, I’ve been invited to poke around on the site.  There are many cool-looking features I’ve yet to try, but Google’s big selling point is that it solves the “too much information seen by too many people” problem by creating a classification system. This theoretically allows you to organize your networking by organizing your network; sorting out friends from family (some of whom might or might not be considered friends, but never your mother or your crazy brother) and from acquaintances, people you don’t really know except through someone else. Then there are people you’re “following” (a nod to Twitter): people you only wish you had as friends who in truth don’t know you from Adam. You can customize your circles:  you might have a professional circle (very LinkedIn), or a common interests circle ( like a bunch of, say, writers).

Circles are supposed to be good. They represent strength, unity, connection, community; commonality, unbroken and everlasting. Yet the very act of separating everyone out is giving  me agita.

240px-Bartolomeo_Di_Fruosino_-_Inferno,_from_the_Divine_Comedy_by_Dante_(Folio_1v)_-_WGA01339

I get that someone might want to share professional or technical  information only with people she thinks might be interested. But as far as privacy is concerned, let’s not fool ourselves: if it’s on the ‘Net, it’s absolutely, irretrievably public. Maybe not instantly but eventually. Forget circles or squares or compartments or e-mails marked “private” or password-protected sites. If there’s anything you don’t want anyone to know—ever—your best course of action is not to type it out—ever.

“Hell really is other people.”

The truth is, I don’t want Google or anyone else to help me sort out my relationships. I feel I’ve earned the right to be vague or uncertain. At the same time, my maturity doesn’t protect me from re-experiencing those painful high school-era feelings about belonging. It’s bad enough to invite someone to “friend” you and get ignored. On Google+, you can add someone to your friends’ circle and learn they’ve tagged you as a mere acquaintance or worse:  they haven’t included you in any of their circles. That’s harsh. And must I be denied the thrill of claiming Lewis Black as one of my peeps?

friends Maybe I’m just not seeing the big picture; Google+, please,  help me out.  Why can’t we all be just friends? Even if we’re not in real life.

 

 

images:
healthadal
parenting support circles
Google
Bartolomeo Di Fruosino [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Yes, I have a Facebook page. Call it cultural anthropology but it’s an interesting place to hang out, swinging as it does between highbrow (a group supporting books in print) and lowbrow (a campaign to dump your friends for a free burger at Burger King). After a fast start in a  college dorm it’s a world-wide phenomena available to both the young and the young at heart, which is to say we baby-boomers who just have to get in on everything. I’ve connected with a number of writer friends I like and admire, I located a college roommate and an old boyfriend, and I can finally get a clue as to what my nieces and nephews are up to. Lately, more of my friends are joining, especially those with teenagers. I’m kind of a slacker when it comes to posting, linking, poking, tagging, reminding and joining. And why do my friends all seem to have many more friends than I do? Makes me feel like I’m not getting out enough, cyberspace-wise.

I like to try and come up with clever posts under the “what are you doing right now” section although I tend to fall short. My friend Steve Clemons, who writes a well-regarded Washington political blog, is always dropping impressive tidbits like “[Steve is] having lunch with the Saudi foreign minister” or “…talking about a new approach to Mid-East policy with Rachael Maddow on MSNBC tonight.” Steve has more than 3,000 friends. Most of the posts tend towards “[Joe is] feeling better about work” or “[Jane is] wondering if winter will ever end.” I have six or eight pictures posted but nothing I worry about strangers viewing. When Facebook altered its Terms of Service TOS) agreement, appearing to retain ownership of user information even if the user quit Facebook, the outcry was fierce. The company has temporarily reverted to the old TOS language while it seeks to clarify its intentions (i.e.,w e would NEVER sell your information). Whatever. I’m kind of surprised at people’s expectation of confidentiality when it comes to the Web. I figure all bets are off when you log on. Security is one thing; I support and encourage any and all protections possible when it comes to online commerce or anything relating to children. But the rest of us must know that the information, the images, specifics about who you are and yes, where you live, the asinine thing you wrote to a co-worker or the tasteless joke you sent around – it’s all out there and sooner or later, someone will get to it.

Of course people are free to reveal as much as they like when they like, which is why we’ve progressed from IMs to texting to Twitter, which allows  you to let your friends know exactly what you’re doing at any given moment. Apparently, celebrities, not to mention some politicians and media personalities are all a-twitter over the thought they can fill their fans in on their most minute, not to mention mundane activities. I don’t have a twittering device, at least not yet. I can’t get my head around the idea that I might one day receive a Tweet from someone I like and admire that says: “Had xistential thot b4 heading to men’s rm. It passed.”

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