Saturday, 5 September 2009

Don't Post It? Whyever Not?

The Yahoo article is right - we have ever more ways to disseminate and post information.  About us, or our business.  Or for others to post that information, whether sanctioned or not.  But I'm not sure the article goes far enough into the matter. I've got news for the people who say that these social networks are such a ruin for normal social etiquette.

They ARE the new social etiquette.  

See, there are all these people out there stuck in the past.  Did they learn from history?  Not likely...  To them, it's new and they haven't found their footing in the new society, so it's automatically "bad" and "disruptive."  Once again, I seem to find myself one of the few in my age bracket that gets it, and in fact from that article it seems that many younger people don't get it, either.

It all revolves around that elusive concept of privacy, and the lengths some people will go to, to get it.  But think back - in early times as far as humans go, it was quite normal for 10 - 40 humans to live together in a cave.  Privacy was non-existent under those conditions.  Even later on, the head of the village was quite entitled to walk in and tell you you were doing it all wrong.  As it was, pretty much everyone knew everything about everyone else, and whatever you did, was public knowledge in as little time as it took to whisper it in the marketplace.  People built their own private caves, but developed new ways to figure out what the neighbours were up to, and better ways to disseminate it.

Now the older school of social interaction says that news carried by physical letters is quaint and old-fashioned, and email is the bomb.  But Twitter or Facebook updates are just not right, not kosher, not "real social communications" because they don't have "control" of information about themselves.  They never had it before, either, but they are prepared to overlook that because this new stuff is just so evil and invasive...

I have a very much larger circle of friends now than I ever could have had in the late 70's.  Despite working on a large mining site, living in a mining town, working as an announcer volunteer on community radio, joining a local music club, and starting a computer hobby club with about 30 members, I imagine that the number of people I regularly interacted with in a year would have been about 100.

Today, I have four times that many people I regularly interact with on Facebook alone.  Twitter adds about 200 more and includes many friends off FB, and then Friendfeed, Plurk, Flickr, Tumblr, and various other such sites probably take the number of individuals I interestedly follow and chat with to close to a thousand.

If one of those friends is having a baby and someone else posts the sex of the baby, that's fine with me.  When they send me the email with the picture on the tummy, I'll be as effusive and congratulatory as if I'd just that moment found out.  More, in fact, because I'd have had a little time to prepare for it.

If someone else lets slip that the friend is getting engaged I'll send them a congratulatory private message, I won't post it on their Wall for all to see - because I understand how to use the two for their relevant purposes.  Once they post the announcement publically, I'll issue a public congratulation too.  The private message says "I know about this because I am interested in you and your life, but I see you haven't made it public so I'll maintain silence for you" while the public acknowledgement later on lets everyone that I indeed am a friend of them and support them.

The problem with all these new means of communication aren't the technologies themselves, it's the fact that most people don't think before they type.  Everyone has a couple of friends whose Wall posts to one another are even embarassing (or coma-inducingly boring and irrelevant) to third parties.  Instead of taking such sensitive matters to a private mail or a direct tweet, they are using the public forum as though they were the only ones in it. Often to great detriment, as those people who lose jobs because of it will attest.

If there's one piece of advice I'd like to offer the friends of mine who discuss little Billy's ingrown penis wart (or whatever other insipid drivel they are airing in public) it's to imagine themselves looking at their public profile from the outside.  THINK before hitting the send button.  

That's honestly all it takes to avoid becoming the subject of a Yahoo article...


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