exploiting the peculiarities of the internet

Since no one comments here (you do know you can comment, right?) despite the fact that I know there’s at least 5 regular readers and I’m getting about 40views per post (do I even know that many people?) I figured I could tackle a subject here that is a very delicate discussion. A subject people take very personally, are easily riled about and can’t wait to tell everyone else how wrong they are about it. I’m talking, of course, about Facebook.

I have a Facebook page.

Hell, saying that is like saying “I have feet” Sure, some folks don’t have one but let’s just not worry about those poor poor folk right now.

I have a Facebook and I practically live on FB most days. I don’t spend more than 45mins at one time on FB but part of what I love about it is its instantaneous and rapid nature; people post stuff that mostly is short and sweet. I can easily scroll on by anything I am not interested in, using “open in new tab” allows me to quickly bookmark stuff I want to look at in depth, and I can respond almost instantly to anything posted.

All this is in direct comparison to blogs which seem slow and clunky once you get “spoiled” by Facebook. Facebook really appeals to the energetic side of me. But you know, one thing that continues to intrigue me is the absolutely different attitudes people seem to have about Facebook. Again, compared to blogs (Livejournal, Dreamwidth, Blogger/Blogspot/Wordpress) Facebook seems to have conjured up entirely different camps of attitude and approach. Here’s some quick observations:

  • “Facebook is superficial” this can be either the “i only get on here because my friends insisted but I’ve got better things to do with my time” as well as “Let’s just post silly and unimportant things like pics of cuddly kittens and people getting punkd, tee hee”
  • “Facebook is my soapbox” – whether political, dietary, religious or sexual, some people only enjoy the whole “world as my audience” aspect of it
  • “Facebook is my mini-journal” – this can be either the “let me tell you what I ate for lunch” posts or the “I want to put every feeling I have from moment-to-moment all day”
  • “Facebook is my billboard” – similar to the “Facebook is superficial” in that you get a lot of memes and reposts but it bleeds into the “Soapbox” crowd too
  • “Facebook is for my fanbase” – not talking about actual celebrities or artists but ordinary people who at some point realize that Facebook is a way to selectively show yourself to others who don’t know you that well. This is how they begin to build a cadre of people who rilly rilly like them even though their “fans” don’t know anything actually, you know, PERSONAL about them. Obviously this intersects with all the previous points as well
  • “Facebook” is my yardstick for friendship – heaven forfend you take one of those people off your main list. Obviously you hate them.
  • “Facebook is how I will build my notoriety” – not the same as “FB is my fanbase” because these are people who use FB only as a way to broadcast their other web-related endeavors. Lots of writers do this. Smart people make a separate FB page for that though

I think most people do not use any these to the exclusion of all others, but most people do tend to lean more towards one or two than the others.  I think of that as “personal diversity” but its probably more accurate to call it something like “Facebook Attitude”. Because attendant to all those previous is more than just a POV or personal approach to  using Facebook, it becomes, over time, a self-assuring cycle that reinforces one’s belief that not just one’s OWN Facebook is like this, but ALL Facebook should be like this. I mean we all recognize intellectually that people who post or write on any social medium are going to have their own way of doing things but we still seem to get more and more judgey about how other people going about doing that. I used to see this a lot with LiveJournal was my primary soshmed but because LJ lends itself to longer, more personalized content, it was easier for people to tolerate and accept the varying styles of presentation. Indeed many people (especially the proto-writer types like myself) tended to enjoy the diversity of presentation and content. Facebook, however, doesn’t seem to bring people down that path. This is why I’m calling it “Facebook Attitude”

So here’s the thing; I notice that I, myself, have started to have Facebook Attitude. I do think, however, that I’m “right”. Of course.

See, for me, Facebook is short and sweet. People dash off a post in fractions of a second and comments can be even faster with the ubiquitous “like” button. You can even play Facebook Friend-Hop. You comment on a friends post, you notice a friend of theirs says something similar (or completely opposite) so you engage with that friend for a minute maybe then of course you HAVE to hop over to their wall and read “about’ that friend-of-friend then sometimes while you’re doing that, you see some friend of theirs who seems interesting and you’re off to another person’s wall…

Anyway, the point is, Facebook can turn into nearly a game (and it even HAS games!) if you like that sort of short-attention-span surprise party of the mind kind of thing.  Ever play “dictionary hop”? Of course you have. You could play it for hours, right? Curiosity, man, it does amazing things to people. So of course Facebook is wonderful for that kind of light-hearted superficial-ish interaction whether it be with people we know and love, people we are mere acquaintances with or complete strangers who show up out of nowhere. Its “safe” because it is the anonymous internet.

Yet Facebook does not have to become a quagmire of flaming trolls running around ruining decent folks’ fun. Why? Because you can “block” trolls. And it feels good when you do: Ahhhh! Yes, Facebook is a mild amusement park of soshmed with enough controls to make anybody feel reasonable comfortable. It’s like a block party. I really like it. Go ahead, sneer at me. I bet you like it too.

What I don’t like, (here comes the downturn) is the other side of that coin. The people who take Facebook seriously. As mentioned before, these are the people who see their FB “popularity” as somehow meaningful in the larger, realer world. This means they post always mindful of how their post will make them look. This does not mean they post mindful of how their post makes other people react, though. I find this alternately amusing and frustrating. These people post things that have almost guaranteed reactions of one kind or another yet do not like the fact that their posts are not immune to said reactions. As if the whole of soshmed is somehow going to bypass them because they, of course, are so *speshulsnowflake* (cue fairy-like glockenspiel trill).

Here’s another bullet list (yay!)

  • Socio-political posts by people who get angry that comments lead to arguments among their friends. Really dude? You post a link to an incendiary op-ed that details a specific socio-political viewpoint then you are pissed that people start arguing? Really? Are you hosting a Barney and friends party or are you just waiting for an excuse to delete comments? I mean, between the set-up and the expectation and the mod-actions it just seems cruel to do this …or stupid. Take your pick.
  • Religious posts by people who get annoyed when someone disagrees with the specifics of the religious statement (especially when said dissenter is the same religion). I can’t believe there’s a person in America (I’m not going to pretend I write for or even fully fathom other cultures) who thinks that their religious views are universally shared by all, or even shared by all their friends and loved ones.
  • Parenting posts by people who get competitive if another parent shares or doesn’t share their sentiment. It’s a whole world of discontent in that but on Facebook especially it’s gotten beyond annoying. Parenting is something that is different for everyone. We all know this. So why is it when someone posts a parenting POV they flip out when someone comments to the contrary? Or worse, tries to one-up them if the commentor agrees with their own version? I am amazed at how snotty parents can be on a regular basis on Facebook of all places.
  • “Anti” cause posts by people who take it very personally if you bother to point out that you are not “anti” too. No quarter given. You’re not a child-free atheist vegan too? YOU EVIL. It really starts to look as if the real motive here is conversion by provocation. Not cool, people, not cool.
  • “Cause” posts by people who will argue vociferously if you dare to inform them (with proof) that their post is misinformed (or a hoax or fabrication). This one gets me most of all. If you post something based on some information you gleaned from somewhere, don’t you think it behooves you to maybe possibly cross-check that stuff before you post it? Maybe just a little?
  • Sneaky Bragging.  Now I’m not one to say no one should toot their own horn, but I’ve seen some real verbal acrobatics people get into in order to brag. There’s posting pictures of all the food you cooked and talking about how delicious it is, but not posting any recipes. There’s posting several self-portraits in sexy poses and captioning them with things like “oh my nose is so big, I’m so embarrassed”. There’s detailing all the clever decorations you made for a party that is invite-only.  There’s talking about your puppy’s new-found ability to bark.  Hell there’s just posting “I do this completely normal thing but because not many other people do it, I must be special” (birthing and feeding methods spring to mind here) which is closely related to “I’m so strange because I ___” – Okay yes, you are all very special people. Its wonderful you do ____ are a part of ____ have some special _____ in your life. But its hard for me to look positively on your posting about it when the most I can contribute to this “conversation” is “oh okay. how nice for you” I’ve even seen people post their sexual peculiarities with accompanying “tee hee! I’m such a pervert!” Sometimes I really think everyone in the world is dying to be recognized for some unique aspect as if its the utmost pinnacle of uniqueness. Yes, we are all unique. I love hearing about my friends’ interesting adventures in life, but that doesn’t mean I get excited over every minor thing you do that you think is “so quirky! tee hee!” After a while, it just seems like bragging. Pointless bragging. I want to hear about interesting things but I’d like it if the expressions of those interesting things were matched in qualitative terms with the importance of the actual event. If your kid takes their first step, that’s wonderful! If your kid draws a straight line that’s… nice. If they draw a straight line when they are six? I’m scratching my head over why you’re telling me in such grandiose terms.


Ultimately, this all boils down to a Facebook Attitude of “this is my special private world where I am immune to the usual rules of interaction and discourse”

Yeah, not so much, people.

What’s really amazing to me is that not only is the perpetrator under the mistaken belief that they can bypass the normal social mores, but that everyone else must suspend them on their behalf and adopt the mores the poster declares to be “the real rules”. Like when someone posts a political hot-topic then is upset that their friends end up arguing on their wall. Well okay YOU don’t want to have anyone argue with YOU, I can sort of understand that (though its still ridiculously naive to think that’s going to happen) but you don’t even want your friends to argue with each other?!  I certainly get behind the whole “play nice” edict but come on! “play nice” isn’t resting on your personal definition of what “nice” means. “Play nice” doesn’t mean “sit down and shut up”

This is soshmed, folks. Its where people go to gather and exchange bits and pieces of themselves however small, large, relevant or personal. When you make a post on Facebook, you are not making a radio advertisement, you’re engaging in interactive media. If you don’t want other people to weigh in, start a blog with comments blocked.



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