Tag: Social Media

Easing Back on Social Networking

Easing Back on Social Networking

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So 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.

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Lessons from Social Media

Lessons from Social Media

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So 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.

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Issues With Social Media

Issues With Social Media

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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.

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My Social Media Secret

My Social Media Secret

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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.

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