• Entertainment,  Life

    Facebook on My Phone

    Facebooktwitterrssyoutubeby feather

    Or rather, Facebook not on my phone.

    I took it off a week ago yesterday, barrelling past the various, “are you sure” questions and the reminders that it would be really easy to activate again if I wanted to. Yes, I’m sure. No, I don’t want to change my mind. I don’t really care if it’s easy to activate again. Get it off. Gone. Removed.

    And I’ve got to tell you, it’s done wonders for my mood.

    I’m on record as saying that social media has potential to be awesome, a great engagement tool, something to keep us in contact with people easily and build relationships with.

    I’m also on record as saying that I think it’s failing at a lot of these things. Maybe all of them. Remember the old adage that if you’re not paying for the service, you’re the product? It’s to a platform’s benefit to keep you scrolling as much as possible. You see more ads and are more likely to click on one, increasing the platform’s revenue. Tie that to being more likely to engage with things that make you angry, and the algorithms learn that showing you things that annoy you will keep you around longer.

    And so the algorithms develop to foster more division and anger.

    And I’m good, thanks.

    Over the last few months, I’ve really noticed those algorithms at work. Pages I’ve liked or groups I’m a member of, the notifications that come up are the ones that would make me angriest or argumentative or most likely to want to call someone out about something offensive/ignorant/wrong and the comments it picks to display under each post as I’m scrolling seems targeted to do the same. The more I resist those, the worse it gets. Look! See what someone said! How can you let such blatant evil stand?

    It works hard on us subconsciously and it works because, and here’s the problem, at some very small level of popularity, there’s always someone who wants to stop by and piss in the cornflakes just for the sake of pissing in the cornflakes.

    Yes, there have been times I’ve enjoyed the care and feeding of internet trolls, but typically only to help them draw attention to what giant assholes they are. I don’t argue with the troll to convince them, because that’s almost always not possible and their goal isn’t to have a rational discussion anyway, it’s for the people who might be looking on. Sometimes, silence implies agreement.

    But at this point in time, the people even peripherally connected to my friends of friends lists who fit into the category of troll have weeded themselves out. Oh, I’ve blocked a few, and unfriended a few, along the way, and I know I’ve been blocked by one and unfriended by at least two during the same time, but I’ve also seen changes in behaviour. Whether those were the result of interactions we’ve had or not is irrelevant. Even if I just planted a seed of doubt somewhere, I’m satisfied. Be reasonable, point out the behaviour, ask questions. The nature of social media means that there’s nearly always someone watching who isn’t the person you’re trying to have a discussion with.

    But those tactics work less with people you don’t have an existing relationship with, random strangers in public online spaces. Trying to effectively engage with those is pointless most of the time. However, there’s another old adage: “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.” Thank you, Elie Wiesel. Meaning, when something is wrong, speak up. But that doesn’t mean you have to argue with the trolls.

    And I’m tired of even seeing the trolls. They’re not adding to my social media experience. I’d suggest they’re not adding to anyone’s social media experience, even their own.

    Oh, I could take the time to curate things, to beat FB into submission so that it provides the social media experience I actually want instead of the one it wants me to have, and I’ve done a bit of this. I’ve divested myself of most of the pages and groups where the whining and trolling makes up any significant fraction of the content, and I’ve done it quickly, quietly, and fairly close to scorched earth level. Given enough time and effort, I could actually be successful in the short term. But the algorithms are still at work. It’s still more valuable to the platform to make me angry than to make me happy. And sooner or later, FB will make tweak to increase stay time and that will make the algorithm work even harder.

    What does all of this have to do with removing the FB app from my phone? Mostly, it’s providing background reasoning, but it also brings us to changing how I interact with the platform. More importantly, taking it off my phone affects when I interact with it. Now I need a computer to check on social media. No more hate scrolling while watching something, waiting for something, standing in line, killing time in the car during a family member’s appointment. Instead, I have to read or listen to a podcast or write or do something constructive or just be alone with my thoughts.

    And all of that is doing wonders for my mood.

    Stay safe and be well, everyone.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
  • Life,  Philosophy

    I’m taking a break from social media.

    Facebooktwitterrssyoutubeby feather

    A personal break, for a week or so at least, maybe longer.

    I’ll continue to post and interact on an author level on my FB page and a little on Twitter and Instagram, and there are a couple of closed groups for martial arts that will stay on the check list, but beyond the take the birthday reminders that Facebook gives me, I’ve had enough personal social media for a while. I’m good for now, thanks.

    Why, you ask?

    I suppose there are lots of reasons, but as time goes on during this pandemic and the altered reality we’re getting from it, I’m coming up with four trends I dislike in my personal experience.

    1. The Trolls. People posting crap or delivering deliberately inflammatory comments to see what kind of reaction they get or specifically to start fights. This is moving beyond drive-bys on pages to people in my friends list who are trying to entertain themselves. When you point that out, whether by meme or comment, it tends to disappear. When you try to be the voice of reason, the comments don’t disappear but instead you get a target painted on you. Seriously, if all you want is conflict, eventually, I’m going to follow the path of Snooze or even Unfollow, and I’ve lost your voice, probably having decided I didn’t need it that badly.
    2. The Lies and Alternative Truths, some of which real, thinking people actually believe. I don’t care if something agrees with what you already think and I don’t care how sincerely held that belief is. I care if you’re willing to discuss it rationally with the possibility that either one of us might change their opinion due to the actual facts involved. If you’re not entering into a conversation where that’s possible for you, why do you think I want to participate? The right to express what you want doesn’t come with the right to have an audience for it. Could be an Unfollow in the future here, too. It’s tiring.
    3. The advertising. TBH, the algorithms employed to show me things that I might like, suck, especially on Facebook. FB, for example, gives me a range of seven possible reactions now and treat them all as if I Like everything I touch. There’s no reason to show me more things like the ones that made me angry or sad except if it’s somehow better for your platform if you get me riled up. Why is that? So I stay longer? Hmm. How would that benefit you unless it’s to keep me around to look at more advertising. Do you mean, gasp, I’m the product?
    4. I find myself hate-scrolling too much. The feed is infinite and if I’m using it as a time killer, I should be finding other ways to amuse myself, maybe by finding constructive things to do. Instead, I just keep scrolling and hate that I’m doing it. Especially since, sooner or later, it’s going to drag me into an emotional reaction over something in points 1, 2, and/or 3 that I really didn’t need. Looking around at the world, I have enough things to be angry about in the real world. Why do I need more from my social media?

    In the society we’re currently living in, in-person socialization is a lot harder than it was. That’s not going away for a while yet. Virtual is how we round things out, but it’s not working for me right now. I doubt I’m the only one.

    Social media has so much power and potential. Why are we wasting so much of it? I feel like I’m helping waste it, so I need a break.

    In a moment of delicious irony, I’ll be cross-posting this to my personal account before I Felicia my way off screen. If you’re seeing this from there and have any interest in what my creative endeavors are bringing me to lately, give my author page a like or follow me on Twitter. Everything I write about appears there fairly quickly, and I think I’m pretty responsive (well, not as much on Twitter). Instagram is more life and pets. Some of the stuff that I write about isn’t directly about my creative work—politics, life, pets, opinions—and things get more nuanced, like this tiny essay which posted by itself on social media would have gotten boiled down to something like: “Personal social media is bad for me right now and I think I need a break.” Not wrong, but hardly a real picture of what I’m thinking.

    In the meantime, I’ll get some time back, assist my mental health and stress level a little more, and keep reconnecting with meat-space.

    Stay safe and be well, everyone.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
  • Life

    9 Kinds of Irritating Behaviour on Social Media

    Facebooktwitterrssyoutubeby feather

    You’ve probably come across those articles like, “The 11 Kinds of People You Meet on Social Media”. This isn’t one of those, exactly, but it is me making a few observations.

    I’ve spent more time on social media (by which I mostly mean Facebook with a little Twitter and Instagram thrown in) since COVID began than I ever have before, and I’m realizing more and more that different people want different things out of it. That’s become apparent with both my friends’ list and the people I’ve interacted with on various pages and in various groups over the last few months. Some of it was apparent before, even long before, but some of it has come to the front in a big way.

    It’s like that old joke about doing cocaine. “It intensifies your personality.” Sure, but what if you’re an asshole?

    Trolls and irritants and bad actors I can deal with. These are different. Less directly harmful, but not generally helping my overall enjoyment of my social media experience.

    1. “Look at me, look at me, look at me.” Selfies, memories, pictures of themselves and very little else. Can go up to dozens of posts per day.
    2. “Listen to me, listen to me, listen to me.” Long-winded opinions every day. Things that belong on a blog instead of a quick post, but that never come with a TL:DR version. Which is fine, because they’re just looking for approval, not to engage.
    3. “I don’t want to talk about it, I just want you to agree with me.” Posts stupid stuff regularly. Gets upset when you disagree. If you post something that makes it incredibly obvious that they’re wrong, the post disappears.
    4. “I’m grumpy AF and ready to go out of my way for you to know it.” Posts things that are designed to call out half of the people reading it but doesn’t actually want to have a discussion with anyone directly.
    5. “I’m right, nothing you can say will change my mind, and I’ve come to this place where my obviously correct opinion is different than everyone else’s so that I can tell you that you’re all wrong.” Disagrees at a fundamental level with the page they’re posting on and needs everyone on that page to know it.
    6. “Most of my posts are designed to make you ask me what they mean or if I’m okay. I need the attention but want you to start things.” Also known as the Queen/King/Regent of Vague-book.
    7. “Here are all the things I think you should know.” Don’t expect them to respond to any of your comments. You’re just supposed to read the articles, news stories, and opinion pieces they post and then Like them.
    8. “See how funny I am?” So many jokes. So many of them not funny. Some of them may be… problematic.
    9. “The pot must be stirred.” Posts things to provoke a reaction, usually a negative or indignant one. Not quite a troll, but steps up to the line frequently.

    I’m sure there are more, but these are the ones that have stood out to me in the last little while. I feel like most people share some combination of things they like, find funny, feel are politically or socially relevant. They react to other people’s posts, sometimes comment, and aren’t afraid to comment back and forth when the subject seems to warrant it.

    But not everyone. Some of these can eventually be so annoying that you need to snooze or unfollow them. Occasionally, I’ve unfriended someone, though that’s usually an extreme situation and has almost always been due to fundamental differences in worldview rather than politics or simple differences of opinion. See the attached meme for the types of things that qualify.

    Enjoy your sojourns on social media and keep an eye out for the folks who want to make that harder. A few of them just need the right kind word. The rest, you probably can’t change their behaviour, so you need to decide whether they’re contributing in a positive way to your feed.

    Stay safe and be well, everyone.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
  • Life

    Social Behaviour In the Time of COVID19

    Facebooktwitterrssyoutubeby feather

    In a word: online.

    In a few more words: social media and video calling.

    And social media is currently losing its lustre for me as an actual communication medium. No one, and I’m including me there, seems to have the appetite to actually discuss things that are worth discussing. We want things over quick, a short exchange of words so we can move onto the next topic/meme/cat video.

    Worse, a lot of that not really communication is more along the lines of “agree with me or don’t bother responding to the thing I posted”.

    Which annoys me. If someone wants to live in an echo chamber where everyone agrees with them in every way, they’re going to need a much smaller bubble and one that doesn’t involve opening up opinions for public viewing.

    Because, and I know this is going to be unpopular: no opinion is worth anything without substantive reality and logic to back it up. Sorry. We all have the right to hold whatever opinion we want, no matter how well- or ill-informed. We have no right to an audience for that opinion or to have people agree with it. If we post something, we should be prepared for people to disagree and be able to have a discussion about it. Most of us don’t seem to have made that leap yet.

    So while social media is certainly social, I’m not sure it’s the kind of social that’s really doing most of us any good right now

    Video calling, on the other hand, is working out pretty well for me. We’ve started, if only barely, a weekly family check in group call, some members of which I haven’t seen in person for far too long, and others I don’t talk to enough in the ordinary course of events. I’ve also used the same programs to reconnect with some old friends, folks with whom, until recently, I’ve only exchanged irregular texts or Facebook comments with. Both of these items are very much good things.

    I’ve always regarded myself as an ambivert, able to function adequately in any social situation running from a hugely interactive crowd to being alone with my own thoughts. But that second piece doesn’t mean I don’t have people I care about who live outside of the house I share with them. And I need to touch base with some of those more often, and in more meaningful ways.

    There’s still lots of physical distancing to come before we start to establish whatever the new normal is going to look like. I’d like for us to remember to talk to each other in the meantime.

    Stay safe, and be well, everyone.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
  • Life

    Return to Social Media

    Facebooktwitterrssyoutubeby feather

    I have this sort of love-hate relationship with social media in the last few years.

    I love the additional social contact, and I certainly love the reminders I can get for whose birthday or anniversary is when, and I love what is ultimately a pooled source of entertainment and news, if properly vetted, that I wouldn’t ordinarily have.

    But I hate, well, what I hate about social media is probably encapsulated in the idea that before there was such a thing as social media, I naturally assumed that everyone had a basic grasp of reality and the social niceties. Neither of which appears to actually be the case.

    Blind dogma following.

    Alternative facts spouting.

    “My opinions is as good as facts.”

    I saw it on the Internet so it must be true.

    I can’t let reality get in the way of my sincerely held opinion or belief.

    It doesn’t matter if this thing I’m sharing is four years old and was debunked three years and 364 days ago, or if this missing child was found the day after they were lost in 2009, or whatever. I think I’m helping, so I’m helping.

    While I do think a relatively small overall percent of the population fits into any of those categories, those who do tend to be vocal and clog up the vacuum tubes that keep things running.

    I’ve already had suggestions that rather than divorce myself from social media altogether, I should just cull my friends list, unfollow or unfriend all the people who are turning what should be a positive experience into a negative one overall. I’ll admit that I have done a little bit of this, for particularly egregious examples of the cultural poisons the internet seems to breed.

    But I don’t want to live in an echo chamber. I like having access to a variety of opinions and thought processes that differ from my own. Those differences are good for healthy discussion and growth, questioning my own beliefs and opinions and trying to live the most truthful, reality-based life that I can.

    But I’m also really, really tired of the part of things where some people feel they’re allowed to be as obnoxious, offensive, or dismissive as they like online interactions, somehow feeling justified by the fact that since they’re staring at a computer instead of sitting across the table from someone else, they don’t have to be.

    In fairness, you do see that sometimes in in the real world. After certain points moving far enough to the right or left, there does seem to be a relatively widely held idea that if you shout something loud enough and long enough that it becomes the truth. On the left, and not even as far, there also seems to be a trend that unless we agree on absolutely everything, we can’t be friends.

    Which is ridiculous.

    We are not all the same. We will not always agree. If there’s something you and I completely disagree on, we can talk about it and try to see each other’s point of view. If it always results in bad feelings, we can agree not to talk about that single issue for now and talk about other things we can make progress on.

    If that describes someone on my friend list, I probably still want whatever relationship, however tenuous, we have to continue exist, and I wish them well. I hope never to hit the point with anyone where I have to block or unfriend them, but it does happen.

    So what does that mean for me and social media?

    It means I’ve slowly come back over the last few weeks from the break I took early in the year because while there a small fraction of my friends list I think I’ll need to block or unfriend eventually, it’s not the whole list, not by a long shot.

    I can see the things I want (including birthday reminders) and get the diversity of opinions and ideas I need without having to cut off that piece of my interactions, especially during the current crisis where in-person interaction is on hold for most of us.

    I wear my politics and social views openly and that makes it easy for people to disagree, and that’s okay. In the past, because I always have hope, I’ve made attempts at communication long after the other party has proven they just want to be a noisy troll. But eventually it becomes a fool’s hope and when it does I will cut things off. Sometimes I’m rewarded, though.

    The whole point of social media is that it’s social and it’s media. It allows me to have the interactions that I want and to have more of them than I could ever manage in only real life, and it provides me with crowd-curated sources of media, admittedly biased, flawed, and in need of checking, that I can use to expand my views and ideas.

    Like so much else, social media is what you make of it.

    And right now, we all need to make the most of it, I think.

    Be well, everyone.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
  • Life

    Social Media Break

    Facebooktwitterrssyoutubeby feather

    So, let’s start with one thing: I like social media as a concept. I loved Twitter for a long time, gradually falling away from it as it filled up with bots and closed-minded arguments. At different times, I’ve enjoyed half a dozen other services to varying degrees, but lately, I’ve found Facebook is travelling a similar route that caused me to more or less abandon Twitter.

    I haven’t exactly abandoned Facebook, and I don’t think I could even if I wanted to. It’s an important point of social contact for people to find me, I’m a member of a couple of closed groups that are very important to the martial arts part of my life, and several close friends and family members use messenger.

    But I can absolutely work to limit my time on the service and use that time for things I value more. Not that sharing funny memes and getting into sociopolitical arguments with strangers isn’t fun, but is it the right use of my time, the most limited currency I have?

    Much as the marketing folks at FB would weep to hear me say it, it’s not.

    I logged into FB tonight for the first time since Boxing Day. And I haven’t really been missing it. Probably because I’ve been filling that time with writing and reading.

    A little more time was needed than I might have liked to catch up. My birthday was in there and I had a number of messages to reply to. I’d also missed a couple of other people’s birthdays, so had to take care of that. Then I needed to catch up on a couple of posts in a closed group. I spent about five minutes scrolling and shared one meme.

    That’s all.

    I had a blog post to write, mushrooms to marinate, and a book to continue reading. And I’m good with all of that taking priority.

    Be well, everyone.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
  • Life

    Easing Back on Social Networking

    Facebooktwitterrssyoutubeby featherSo I think I spend too much time on social networking.

    And, let’s be honest, most of that is on Facebook lately. I still enjoy Twitter, but I treat that primarily as an information source. I lurk a lot because I find it too difficult to have a nuanced discussion or argument with somebody 140 280 characters at a time. Facebook allows me more than just a snarky comment.

    I have an Instagram account, which gets a few photos here and there. Most of those are of my dog or my cats, sometimes of something I’ve seen outside somewhere. It’s not exciting, but it entertains me.

    I have a LinkedIn account which I didn’t touch for about four years, but I’ve recently decided to start updating a little bit. I started a few weeks ago, making the decision to update my work history. I haven’t gotten much farther.

    But Facebook, much as I enjoy it, is a time sink, and a lot of the time sunk into it really serves no purpose.

    It’s a great point of social contact, the daily reminders of people’s birthdays are nice, and the system lets you keep in touch with people without all that pesky phone conversation or letter writing, and makes sure you can never completely lose touch with old friends, so long as they’re on Facebook, too.

    But it’s very, very easy to get lost in the infinite scroll of cat photos and other memes, pseudo-articles and not-quite-advertising, pictures of places you’ll never go, and gross stupidity.

    Let’s be honest, you don’t really care what I had for breakfast. (In case you do, it was toast. It’s always toast.) Probably, you don’t much care what I did last night unless it was particularly interesting. I’m not going to answer any of your game requests and I will not like and share, nor will I copy and paste, and I will absolutely, positively not type amen. I may laugh if you post something I find funny, cry if it’s something worthy of tears, and like some of the accomplishments you put in your highlight reel.

    But there’s too much.

    Apparently, I have something close to 400 friends on Facebook. I don’t feel like I ever see posts from some of them, and there are people I’m surprised when I do see something. And, yes, there are people who I’ve hidden because I can’t stand the stuff they do post and discussions are either fruitless or not worth my time in the first place. I’ve had some great discussions and arguments on Facebook. Occasionally, hearts and minds of change. That’s never the objective, but it’s cool when it happens on either side.

    It’s still too much. It takes too much of my time.

    Frankly, it’s interfering with my life goals. And I’ve got a lot of those. I have things I want to do, places I want to go, sights I want to see, a world to make a better place. A lot of what I do on social networking isn’t helping me work towards any one of those.

    But that’s on me, not you. I’m the one using too much of my time scrolling.

    There’s a meme about how someone can’t go to bed because someone is wrong on the internet.

    Lovingly borrowed from XKCD.com

    Surprise, someone is wrong on the internet. Someone is always wrong on the internet. But unless they’re endangering other people or deliberately lying to them, is it worth a response? Or is it better to leave people in their own echo chambers? I often consider that silence can be taken as implied assent or agreement, so I frequently respond with a quick google search or a link. Sometimes it’s even worthy of a discussion.

    But I need to consider my own time, too, and whether the audience is even there to begin with. If no one is responding, is it worth the time and energy? Isn’t it better to leave the echo chamber as it is?

    Right now, every article, every link, every post gets considered before I click on it, react to it, or comment. Will this improve my life or those around me? If I can’t come up with a compelling agreement, then maybe I should just move on, or stop scrolling altogether.

    I enjoy seeing what you’re up to, what you’re doing with your kids, what you just accomplished, the cool place or thing you just saw. I want to talk about philosophy or politics or religion or major events to keep my brain working, and sometimes to keep my blood warm.

    But it’s too much. It’s taking too much of my time.

    I’m not going to finish my current writing project sitting in front of Facebook. I’m not going to get farther than playing the C-Major scale on my saxophone sitting in front of Facebook. I’m not going to hike to the top about Mount Fuji sitting in front of Facebook. I’m not going to go back to school for the degree I actually want sitting in front of Facebook. I’m not going to get back into the appropriate shape to run a marathon or complete a triathlon sitting in front of Facebook.

    There’s an old cliché about how no one in their deathbed wishes they’d spent more time at work. The same can be said about social media.

    I’m around, just a little less, and only on the things I think are truly important, or to remind people I remember they exist and appreciate that. And maybe to bring you a feel or two.

    Things to do, places to go, people to see. I may even post about it. And I may react when you do. We have to live, to experience, to exist aside from just reacting.

    Be well, everyone.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

  • Life,  Musings

    Lessons from Social Media

    Facebooktwitterrssyoutubeby featherSo I left off yesterday with the idea that social media teaches you things.

    In particular, it teaches you things about your friends. There’s a lot of stupid/ridiculous/crazy stuff being posted on Facebook. In fairness, it’s on every other social network as well, but Facebook, and Twitter to a lesser extent, is where I see the most because that’s where I’m hanging out.

    For example, I love cats. In particular, I love my cat. I post a very small handful of pictures of my cat to Facebook and/or Twitter on an annual basis. I think a lot of people are in the same boat. Pets are part of our lives, part of our families.

    But there’s a small group of people for whom their pets are their lives, and that’s fine, too, but you can over share your pet just like some people over share their children. To me, it’s great that you love your cat, and I’m thrilled that you have him/her/them in your life, but I’m not really interested in you filling my timeline with pictures of the little/big fur ball. Unless s/he’s doing something spectacularly entertaining, s/he looks more or less the same sitting on the couch, and the chair, line the floor, stretched out on the porch, or even sitting on top of your refrigerator. The same goes for your dog. Your goldfish. Your guinea pig. Your parakeet. Your giant boa constrictor.

    And really, I’ll say the same for your kids. Post big things, exciting things, fun things. Everyone has problems with their homework sometimes, and sometimes as a parent we can’t help as much as we’d like to. Basics math was a long time ago. Don’t stress about it, and don’t post about it every night.

    Far worse are all of the ridiculous recirculated hoaxes, scams, prayers, conspiracy theories, etc on cluttering up my time stream. Really, enough. Social media teaches you things about some of your friends that you’d rather you didn’t know.

    But sometimes these things are very important.

    For example, it teaches you which of your friends might actually be just a little bit crazy.

    You know who I’m talking about: the folks who take at face value, or embrace wholeheartedly, every ridiculous statement or idea to come along. These are frequently the same people who believe that there are a large number of things that “they” don’t want you to know. They believe in chem trails and homeopathy and the power of marijuana to cure any disease ever known to man. They wish that the rest of us would just wake up and see the world as it really is instead of how society tells to see it. An awful lot of them also seem to believe in astrology, but that’s a little more widespread among otherwise rational people too.

    Social media teaches you that some people don’t understand what the phrase “highlight reel” really means. Breakfast (and lunch, and dinner) updates. The colour of their shoes, socks, and pants. What they bought at the grocery store. The TV channel they can’t be bothered to change. That they just stubbed their toe on the ironing board.

    It teaches you which of your friends not to be trapped alone with in a social situation so you can minimize the risk of them placing a hand on your forehead and starting to pray out loud. I am happy if you want me in your thoughts and prayers, because if I’m going through some tough $hi7 I’ll take whatever positive energy anyone cares to send my way, and it’s nice to know you prefer me on this side of the grass. Knowing that is bound to help help my mood, straighten my spine, and help me believe things can better.

    But please understand that I am an atheist and humanist. You can believe whatever you want, however crazy it is, and I don’t really care. But I’m not obligated to sit still for it. I’ll be pleasant, and I’ll be polite, but I’ll be firm. With that in mind, it might not surprise you to learn that if the majority of your posts are connected to your religion, and the love you have in the relationship you share God, Jesus, Allah, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I’ve probably already tuned down your impact on my timeline. Sorry about that.

    Social media teaches you how to write clearly, or at least more clearly. I mean, it should teach you that. Politeness and clarity cost nothing. It should reinforce some grammatical rules, because without emotional or tonal content to a message, it’s not enough for your words to be vaguely understood. If I don’t get what you’re trying to say, that might partly be the mental space I’m coming from, but there’s a much better chance that you’ve chosen the wrong words, the wrong phrasing, the wrong short forms, or the wrong butchered spelling and grammar. If I don’t receive the meaning you’re trying to communicate because you didn’t communicate it clearly, that’s not my fault, it’s yours.

    The same lack of emotional context shift has mated with the ease of non-face-to-face communication offered by the internet to make some of us forget a few things. Like common courtesy. Like how not to be a jerk. Like to actually consider what you’re going to say, and not assume that your first impulse is the best one.

    But I digress.

    There are also things social media should teach us.

    It should teach us that if we’re not paying for the service then we’re not the consumers. We are the audience, the produce, the generators of data for the real users. And the real users are the services themselves. They use the data we generate to sell advertising and generate revenue to keep themselves in business. That’s not cynicism. It’s economics. You’ll notice I haven’t abandoned Facebook or Twitter over a few ads, especially since the algorithms are getting better at showing me things there’s some chance I might be interested in.

    Social media should teach us to not automatically believe everything we see. Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t make it so. A corollary: just because someone is wrong on the internet, doesn’t make it important. Demand evidence and think critically. Pick your battles.

    It should teach us to understand we only need to worry about the stupidity of other people and other groups when they are actively putting the rest of us in danger. Yes, anti-vaccination movement, I am specifically talking to you here. And others.

    Social media has unfortunately helped mainstream media teach us that there’s far more evil in the world that we want to believe. But it should also be teaching us the flipside: there’s far more good stuff to be found in the universe than any of us ever thought. But, while I don’t believe that “evil will always triumph because good is dumb,” it’s a fact of life that good is often lazy, which lets some people get away with far more than they should be able to in most situations.

    So, to recap: narcissists, religious nuts, crazy people, lessons learned and lessons we should have learned. What else?

    Oh, how about “native advertising”, i.e. ads disguised as news joining the opinions disguised as news that have been around for a long time. It’s disturbing to me that even trusted news sources are basically taking press releases from whoever sends them one and treating it as news. Then we get excited/upset and share it with everyone we know.

    And there are cats. Lots and lots of cats.

    Oh, and memes. Funny photos. No-funny photos. Infographics.

    And entertainment. There’s lots and lots of bread and circuses to choose from.

    Like most things, social media is neither good nor bad, and moderation is probably a good idea. It is what we make of it, and your experience will be different than mine or anyone else’s. I suggest trying to maximize the value you take from it, but that value is up to you to determine.

    If you want to catch me on Facebook or Twitter, please feel free. I don’t have unlimited time, but I’m more than willing to interact. Religious nuts and crazy people need not apply. Narcissism I have a slightly higher tolerance for because it’s easier to skim past when I need to. Entertainment is nice, stupidity is not, and libel should expect to be treated with relaxed disdain and facts.

    What do I post? Big, exciting, and fun events in my life and my family’s. I’ll toss up the occasional meme or photo that’s meant to entertain, share the occasional article that’s meant to make you think, promote the occasional thing a friend is working on, and once in a while post a picture of my cat. Like this.

    IMG_2826 cropped

    Be well, everyone.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

  • Life,  Musings

    Issues With Social Media

    Facebooktwitterrssyoutubeby feather

    dreamstimefree_206298So I’m not sure when exactly I started to have issues with social media.

    I don’t mean I’m tired of Twitter, because right now I’m not. I’ve taken several long breaks from twitter in the last few years, one just trying to deal with things, and the others just because I get tired of all the work of having to filter for the few people who are actually interactive on the service. Social networking shouldn’t be work.

    The problem with Twitter is not Twitter, but how I used to treat it, and how most people still do. It’s not a numbers game. Do I need tens of thousands of followers or people following me just so I follow them back to boost their numbers? The answer is no, by the way.

    Back when I first started seriously considering the author route, I spent too much time with twitter, particularly focused on the number of followers I was building, because it was all about building the platform, right? If someone did a follow Friday while I was online, I did a quick investigation of every person in the list and if they appeared to be human being, instantly followed them. Most of them followed back. I still do that a little, but mostly only when someone includes me in that list, and I’m a little more judicious with my own “hey, follow these people” lists.

    Prior to that. I’d been doing Twitter the personal way: following people I knew, following interesting chats and conversations (and following people involved in those), and following a small handful of celebrities and famous authors I thought might have something interesting to say. I went from well under 500 followers more than 1500 in a relatively short period of time, and which point I realized I was devoting way too much time to the process and not nearly enough to the conversation, please my time stream had turned into a series of links, quotes, and “look at me”.

    Not what I wanted, and it still isn’t. I keep trying to get back to the Twitter I used to have, the interactive conversation/party I fell in love with in the early days. Some days, it’s there and some days it isn’t. But the important thing is that I still have friends there.

    Facebook is a different matter.

    Disregarding the couple of things that constantly irritate me about it (if I set my timeline to most recent, it really needs to stay there) Facebook has the potential to be more attractive to me, and on a deeper level, than Twitter. It has more ways to share and interact and a lot of potential to use those ways to have fun and meet/stay in touch with friends, or have an audience.

    It’s also more narcissistic.

    Paraphrasing Steven Furtick, never compare someone else’s highlight reel to your everyday life. This is especially good advice when you’re on Facebook. Most people are more likely to post only the good things about themselves, their lives, and the things they enjoy. Keeping things positive is good, and it’s nice to be able to keep up with the important events in your friends’ lives, and especially to have something to talk about when you see the ones who are part of your real world as well.

    The problem I’m finding lately, and it may in part be due to circumstances in my own real world, but I don’t think so, is that the highlight reels a lot of people are presenting actually don’t compare to my everyday life.

    To be clear, I am not saying that my life is particularly interesting or exciting. It is my life, though, and if I don’t like something about it, I should make an effort to change that thing. Aside from the changes that are always in progress because life isn’t static.

    But for myself, I post major events. I don’t believe anyone particularly cares that for the 17,342nd morning in a row I had toast for breakfast. (Actually, whenever you read this, I probably did have toast for breakfast because that’s what I have those almost every morning. I love toast.) I also have my doubts that anyone cares what I’m wearing shoes to work (the black ones), or that I’m tired after a long day (isn’t everyone?), or that for my entire vacation to Las Vegas I spent 12 hours a day in front of the slot machines and here are the 400 pictures to prove it (never been to Vegas, but if I ever go, it won’t be to gamble).

    I post fun things, exciting things, big things. Pictures from our trip to a major science fiction convention. Publication of a story. Major events in my children’s lives. The fact that all three of my kids are willing to sit at a table with their parents and learn how to play Dungeons & Dragons. Stuff like that.

    And I try to interact with my friends as much as I kind. The “Like” button is addictive, but comments work better.

    I get that I’m not alone. I also get that we’re not a majority.

    But I also get that there’s more to social media. It teaches things, too, but I think that’s an issue for another post as this one is already going long.

    Be well, everyone.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

  • Life

    My Social Media Secret

    Facebooktwitterrssyoutubeby featherPsst.

    Come here. I need to tell you a secret. No, it’s okay. Really.

    I suck at social media. Which is not okay.

    There, it’s out there, and it’s true.

    With three kids, a wife, a career, trying to launch a writing career, karate, and several hobbies with the previously mentioned kids, I’ve got a lot going on. I get wrapped up in the real world, or stuck in dealing with the thousand little twists and curves life tosses in our path, or I just get really, really busy and forget about social media.

    Yes, there have been times when I’ve deliberately shut the world off to deal with things, and that’s really not good, or all that helpful if I’m honest with myself.

    But sometimes I really just do forget. And that’s bad.

    I’m probably best at Facebook, at least parts of it, because that’s how my daughters message me (my son texts me by phone), so I remember to skim my newsfeed because I want to keep in frequent contact with my kids.

    But I have friends on Twitter (a few of whom I’ve even met in person), people I care about how they are and how they’re doing and whether their lies and dreams are going well. And yet I forget to log into Twitter on a regular basis, often for more than one day at a time (a week isn’t uncommon in recent months). Not exactly fair to them, is it?

    I go in little spurts on Google+, logging in a few times in a short period and then ignoring it for weeks or months.

    And I think I’ve been to my Linked In account twice since I created it. Including the day I created it.

    Not exactly consistent, am I?

    Never mind that if you buy into the whole personal brand mythology, from a certain viewpoint the gaps may, in a vacuum with other data absent, make me look either unstable or unreliable.

    So I need to fix this, right? Although fix is the wrong word. Nothing is broken, I’m just not as good at something as I want to be. Improvement is needed. Self improvement.

    So I’m falling back on one of my strengths: planning.

    Yes, I’m going to plan a social media assault. Well, assault is probably the wrong word, and ‘plan’ is probably the wrong tense. I built the plan in the last couple of days of October and pressed go on November 1st. At this time, it covers 7 different social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linked In, Get Glue, Four Square, and Foodspotting.

    Facebook and Twitter are the big ones. Daily stuff.

    Google+ Linked In both need a brief study period, but will probably wind up on a weekly basis mostly. You can’t be everywhere because you wind up being nowhere.

    Get Glue, Four Square, and Foodspotting are for specific purposes. Oh, and I shouldn’t forget Good Reads, though I use that more as a tracking system than a social network. It counts for many people, though.

    Patterns will emerge quickly, but I’ll strive to make things appear normal and natural. They will be, for the most part, but with the understanding that I’m actually trying to force myself into habits. Hopefully, the requirement for structure won’t last too long, but I’ll accept it for as long as it takes.

    Wish me luck. So far, I’m not where I want to be, but I’m an order of magnitude or two better than I have been.

    Be well, everyone.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather