Social media has got a hold on us

It’s no secret that I have a love/hate relationship with social media especially sites like Facebook which I admit while they can be useful for keeping in touch or reconnecting, are also huge time sucks. I only know 2-3 folks who can take it or leave it, for Lent the Spousal Unit actually took a month long break from all social media and now only checks in with such sites on a sporadic basis. Then there are my two closest and dearest friends, one who has no Facebook, Twitter, or any other type of social media accounts. Funny thing is, his real life job  is a DJ at a medium size radio station in Chicago, the type of gig where you think one might want to occasionally dip a toe in the world of social media. My other best friend uses sites like facebook on a really sporadic basis. She will go months, and I am talking literal months without logging on then she has a week where she is hot and heavy and then she fades away. She recently told me she did that because she knew if she logged on daily she could easily see herself getting caught up and she just did not want to deal with that in her life. I admire the hell out these three because they recognize that while these sites can be valuable they can also be dangerous.

Now for some of you reading this, if you love these sites and don’t feel they are dangerous time drains, more power to you. Maybe I am just weak and need a bit more of your restraint. I will be the first to tell you I have greatly cut down on my consumption of these sites but it still feels like its not enough and that is what I am desperately working on. Why do I care who writes on my wall? While it’s great I reconnected with Suzy from 4th grade what does it mean in my day to day life when we live 1100 miles away from each other? Why do I feel compelled to click on Sonya’s pictures, when the truth is I barely know her and why the hell did I accept her friend request?

Speaking of friend requests, lately it seems like everyone you have ever met wants to be your damn Facebook friend. We didn’t used to exchange phone numbers and our address with folks we barely knew from the coffeehouse yet we now freely accept friend requests from folks we barely know. In many cases allowing people we hardly know, a clear view into our lives as an upfront stalker under the pretense of friendship yet truthfully I find very little friendship happens on Facebook. Of course there are exceptions but how many of us have “friends” who once we accept that request or they accept our request we never hear from them again? I have about 161 friends at present and out of that about 40 are folks who I regularly communicate with, that means 120 folks out there know way more about me than they need to and we are not really friends.

Yet deleting folks in this brave new world is not such an easy thing because somewhere along the line we started taking this shit really serious. I mean if Winnie at the office realizes you deleted her, it might make for some awkward staff meetings and god forbid you delete your second cousin once removed, it could be war. Family members upset at others because of the shit they post, innocently click that you like a group and all of a sudden people are making value judgments about you complete with FB posses to set you straight. Mind you I am talking about grown folks. In the past several weeks while laid up I have seen friends arguing over unschooling, immigration reform and a multitude of other issues. It’s like Facebook brings out the worst in us not the best. How did a tool that started as a way to connect become a soap box, a way to bully one another? Yes, when we can’t accept that a friend has a different view than us, and we feel the need to correct their thinking we are engaging in a form of bullying. Why does it matter that Jennifer thinks spanking her kids is fine? As long as she is not breaking any laws or spanking my kids, its none of my business.

Then there are the masterminds behind facebook, with each “upgrade” to their program, they are giving away more and more of our privacy. Just yesterday they had a flap where it turned out so called private chats were not private…who here has not engaged in a chat talking a little greasy about someone on your friends list? If you haven’t well good for you. Now we actually have to work hard to keep our private lives private, we can no longer opt in to sharing we must opt out and how many of us remember to do that? I am amazed at the number of folks with private profiles yet all their pictures are public. I doubt they mean for that to happen but unless you take time to make the photos private I can see a lot about you. If you are like me you got on Facebook as a way to connect with folks who are really your friends and perhaps to stay in touch with family that is far away. I know I have a lot of photos posted as it allows my brother and a few others to see how the girl child is growing, yet I damn sure don’t want our family photos available to all. There have been a few reported cases of FB pictures showing up in places outside of the Facebook albums that the owners have put them in.

Thanks to the sheer number of details we give away about ourselves its no wonder we have sites like spokeo.com that can put together fairly complete profiles about us even down to our interests. I recently stumbled on to Spokeo and was stunned; on the other hand I am just giving away a great deal of details about my life. Then we wonder why identity theft is growing….hello, we are making it possible for scumbags to steak our identities! I am no criminal but how do we know that fellow blogger or other we connect with on Facebook are not? The truth is we don’t and lets just say that knowing a few details about someone is a springboard for finding out more information about someone.

Yet as chilling as this is to me when I write this out, it is still hard to walk away. Why? Because we live in a world when many are plugged in, I have quite a few friends who hate talking on the phone. They don’t do it. We make plans to get together and they are all made online, or else they are not made. It’s to the point that not only do folks not return calls or respond to emails, you must catch them on one of these social media sites.  There are folks that when I talk to them on the phone it feels awkward and I am someone who used to love talking on the phone. I still would but no one does it in my inner circle except for 3-4 folks. So it’s either connecting via social media to stay connected or no connection at all. I thrive on human contact so I stay connected despite desperately wanting to pull the plug. Welcome to 2010 and the cult of social media that has us all under its thumb.

Kinda over Facebook

I have written often about my addiction to all things net related including spending too much time reading blogs and wasting time on Facebook. Well thanks to the girl child being home more often and my work life going full tilt as I do the money dance all non-profit executives are doing these days. I have had less time to spend online, yet when I do now get online aside from checking into a few of my favorite blogs, I find myself growing bored when I am online. Specifically the great love affair with Facebook is officially over.

Maybe it’s me but I seem to know a lot of folks who like to play Mafia Wars…don’t get me wrong it’s a great time waster but recently every time I log on, my newsfeed is filled with what folks are doing on Mafia Wars. To each how own… No the biggest issue is realizing that most of those folks I was so happy to connect with, well there is a reason they were in my past. Seems I know a high percentage of folks who are just out-and-out nutty. To the point I cringe when I get notification that certain folks have replied to one of my links or status updates. At this point there are about 3 folks I am genuinely happy to have reconnected with but otherwise most are people I would be happy to never know again.

Then again maybe its just a sign that Facebook as a fad is on its way out as more and more folks realize after a while there is only so much catching up you can do with someone you haven’t seen in damn near 20 years.

So what about you? Are you still a die hard Facebook person or are you over it?

Pulling the plug

I have written before about my ongoing battle with spending too much time online. Due to the nature of my professional work, its hard to completely not be online since email is a far more efficient means of communicating and heaven forbid the week I stop checking email could be the week I miss an important message.

However as my daily routine has gone from checking in with a few discussion boards, checking email and reading the paper to checking my Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, blogs (as well as writing this one) and a few more online haunts I find myself going STOP! Seriously, I find myself wasting hours just being online and lately I am wondering what is the value to any of it.

Yeah, Facebook has put me in touch with old buddies from my previous life but at the same time I find myself thinking maybe they were in the past for a reason? I have well over a hundred “friends” on Facebook but aside from family members (only 3 I believe) how many of these folks are truly friends? There are probably about 20 or so that I communicate with outside of Facebook so that leaves as awful lot of folks that aren’t really friends but more like acquaintances if that. Once upon a time, it would have seemed strange to share photos of family and details about ones life with a mere acquaintance but now thanks to Facebook, we and that includes myself have started sharing all sorts of details about ourselves with folks we really don’t know. I don’t know about you but the more I think about that, it seems well…strange.

Why do we and again I include myself feel the need to share with folks the most mundane shit in our lives? Part of it I know is that I have a shortage of real life buddies in part because of my move here to Maine seven years ago. The other part is that many of my real life friends and I include myself have moved from a time where we talked on the phone to just talking online. I don’t know but it bugs me and I am thinking its time for a change.

I was recently looking at my friends list and thinking how many of these folks could I call if I were in a jam? Um…..I really don’t know. The fact that I can’t really answer that question has made me think that maybe I have reached a time where its time to seriously think about downsizing my online life.

Its no wonder that folks speak of Facebook as having addictive qualities, after all its so easy to get sucked into thinking you are having real relationships with your “friends” but are you? The answer is in many cases no, you are exchanging information but these “friends” are not friends in most instances.

I am reminded of the year of my mother’s illness and later death, this was 5 years ago before we became Facebook, Twittering fools. I was involved in a few discussion boards but at the end of the day, when I was breaking down and losing it, it was my real life friends I called. Now I only had two folks I really leaned on aside from the Spousal Unit during that time and both friends were back in the Midwest but I could call them at midnight as I did one night and talk, cry and scream on the phone for three hours and you know what? They were there for me. My oldest friend I have known since the 4th grade and when my Mom died, she made the 6 hour drive from her house in Minnesota with a newborn to be at my Mom’s memorial service.

I remember thinking she wouldn’t make it, yet I turned around in the church and saw her coming in with her Mom, husband and newborn baby girl. Let me tell you her presence got me through what was truly the worse day of my life. Later the next day she stayed on to come and take me out for breakfast before hitting the road, she left her breastfed baby for 3 hours to hang with me, to sit in a coffee shop while I chain smoked and lost it.

Can I say that now that I have been a breastfeeding Mama, that what she did for me in the name of friendship was huge…that woman is my sister just as if we had been born of the same mama. When I think of this, while it was a shitty time in my life I am reminded of what friendship is all about.

Casual comments and virtual hugs while sweet don’t make a relationship and to think so speaks of how fractured we have become as a society.

In light of thinking on this issue, I have decided the time has come to start pulling some plugs. I like blogging, I like being able to just write without thinking deeply about it. It can be cathartic, so blogging stays. However many of the discussion boards, gotta go…how many times can one discuss parenting? Facebook is nice but I think daily status updates are well, just not needed, same for Twitter.

The plan is to get my online time down to one hour a day, I don’t even want to tell you how much time I spend online at the moment. I will just say that I could read more books if I got off the fucking computer. I also want to enjoy more time outside alone or with the family and right now that is not happening, so time to pull some plugs.

That said, should you swing by here and see that my posting is a little more sporadic, it just means I am out enjoying the world.