It’s a brave new media world

I’ve always been a bit late to the technology party. I got email as soon as AOL offered it, back in the 14.4 kbps modem days, but ever since, I’ve kind of been dragging my feet.

I realized I was losing my place in the world of professional communication without technical skills back in 2002, so I went to graduate school and got myself some. I learned the basics of web design, among other things, and thought I would be set for awhile. But just as I finished my master’s, the social media wave was rising as Facebook launched. I remember reading a short blurb about it in Newsweek at the time, when it was available only to Harvard students, and wishing it were available to people like me at little state colleges far out west because it sounded kind of fun. (Of course, that was when it was brand new and entirely innocent.)

Nevertheless, I resisted joining Facebook until last year, and only this week took the plunge into Pinterest (I think I’ve pinned four or five things so far). I missed the MySpace craze altogether, I am completely befuddled by Twitter, and I have no use for Google+. I have been on LinkedIn for a few years, but I don’t do much with it. So of the top 15 social networking sites, I lightly use only two, and can’t imagine where I’d ever fit the rest into my day or how they would add value to my life.

From a personal perspective, this is probably neither here nor there. But as a communications professional, I have to understand how technology affects how people connect with one another as private individuals as well as how they connect with businesses as customers and consumers. So I’m studying the social business model to get a better idea of where we are now as well as what’s ahead.

For the time being, I am keeping my own interaction with social media manageable. I don’t have a smart phone, just a dumb one that handles only voice calls and texts, so that helps keep me from becoming a 24/7 media devotee. This is good, because I never want to get to the point that I can’t even go to the bathroom without my phone for fear of missing some vital bit of communication. When I start to feel that my life hasn’t actually happened until I’ve posted the pics on Facebook or blogged about it, though, maybe I’ll have to step away.

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Refriending Facebook

As I discussed in yesterday’s post, I suspended my Facebook account about three weeks ago to give myself time and space to focus on getting this blog up and running. Well, up and running we are, so it’s time to re-engage with the world’s most popular social media site. I love the long form of expression that this blog allows and am excited to see readers from all over the world stopping by, but I also enjoy interacting with my real-life friends through chat, posting on their walls, and commenting on their posts. I am on FB solely for that interaction with people I know, not to find new friends or play games or be relentlessly sold to and spied upon by the service itself.

Since that last part cannot be avoided, however, I want to give FB much less information about myself.

I will scrub my profile clean of everything except my employment and education. My religious and political views, favorite books and movies, and all that other stuff is just filler that my friends already know and nobody else really cares about but it also generates a boatload of ads.

I am going to lock down my profile and limit visibility of my photo albums and all past posts to friends only. I used to make about 50% of my posts public, but now I am thinking none of them should be. My pictures and posts are entirely innocuous, but that doesn’t mean I want just anybody browsing through them. Online privacy is an illusion, I know, but I can at least close a few of the gates.

I’ve already turned off all applications (so they cannot access anything in my profile) and that will continue. I don’t want to be checked into any location or automatically tagged in any photograph. I do not tag myself in pictures, only the dogs, and I watch where those pictures turn up elsewhere in FB.

And finally, I will stop complaining about FB on FB. I am choosing to be there and take advantage of the service that it offers, while at the same time doing what I can to ensure that I am taken advantage of as little as possible.

On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog

For the past few weeks, I’ve been on Facebook only through the persona of my miniature Schnauzer, Rudy. (Reggie also has a page, but I hardly ever log in as her.) I created pages for the dogs awhile back to give me a way not only to keep an eye on my own profile (which I suspended when I started this blog) but also to try some FB services without exposing my personal information. And, oh yes, to have a bit of fun.

Impersonating my dog has been an eye-opening experience for me that has fundamentally shifted how I see myself as well as how I choose to participate in social media.

The biggest revelation is that when I am online as Rudy, I see my FB friends and their activities in a completely different way. Before I post anything under his name, I ask myself “would Rudy say this?” I delete most of what I type because the answer is almost always “no.” Rudy does not judge. He does not criticize. He is not sarcastic. He has never defriended anybody and he does not have a Restricted List. In fact, he loves everybody and isn’t afraid to say so, and he will accept any friend request he gets (I don’t even know some of his friends). Every single thing on his page is visible to “Everyone” because he has nothing to hide. He never discusses politics or religion. He has few opinions and expresses them in only the mildest terms. He’s happy when others are happy, sympathetic when they are sad. He has no ego so he isn’t invested in whether people like or comment on his posts. Which is good, because most of the time, they don’t. Rudy doesn’t mind. He knows that people are busy and that his post is just one of dozens or hundreds that his friends have to sift through every day in their newsfeeds. He will post again tomorrow. He’s cool.

I thought at least one friend might say something on this. (Click image to enlarge.)

One weird thing I’ve noticed is that some people seem to think that Rudy is actually Rudy and not my alter ego. It’s an odd bit of illusion that apparently gets easier to accept as real the more time you spend looking at it.

Now I, on the other hand, have been known to feel critical and judgmental on occasion, although I generally keep it to myself. With very few exceptions for friends of friends who will vouch for them, I don’t friend anyone I haven’t met in real life. I’ve had to defriend some people to keep the drama level down. I have a couple of social/political causes that I am enthusiastic about and like to promote. I’ve gotten my feelings hurt more than twice because people ignore what I post.

Rudy and I are alike in that we both regularly comment on other people’s statuses, and regularly post pictures, links and observations. We really do like our friends, and we want to hear what they’re up to as well as be supportive of them however we can. We love to interact.

Now that this blog is off and running, I will return to FB as myself for three reasons.

First, it’s just awkward trying to figure out how to let people know what I’m up to while being Rudy.

It just doesn’t feel right to have him call me “Mom.” He’s my pet, not my child. (Click image to enlarge.)

Second, I want to be able to comment on politics, religion, movies, real estate, current events and other topics about which dogs simply have no knowledge or opinion. I have had a lot of fun with my canine profiles, but I do know where the line is between fun and just plain strange.

Third, Rudy’s friend set and mine overlap quite a bit, but they are not identical. I miss keeping up with my own FB friends who have not chosen to friend Rudy also.

By playing my dog on the internet, I’ve been able to find a more accepting, more compassionate, more forgiving side of myself that I hope to be able to carry forward when posting under my own name. Maybe if Rudy wouldn’t say it, I shouldn’t, either.

I’m looking forward to going back on FB as myself, but will be making some changes in how I participate. I will detail those changes in tomorrow’s post.

Deciding to defriend

I’ve been seeing this ad (or meme; I’m not sure what it should properly be called) around the interwebs lately.

I didn’t click on it, just hovered my mouse over it for a second, and instantly I was logged into Facebook* (which I had been logged out of) and a page displayed a list of my friends who “Like” the band Nickelback. Some other sites have similar links that allow you to see which of your friends like Crocs, Larry the Cable Guy, Kim Kardashian, Adam Sandler, George Bush, Fox News, and many others, so you can respond accordingly.

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