Feeling disconnected

I read in the career advice columns that one must maintain an active social media presence in order to be considered legit these days; in fact, if you don’t have a profile on every site with multiple pictures of yourself, people are likely to suspect that you aren’t actually a real person (see: Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax). I’m a real person and I make a real effort to actively participate in all the several social media forums of which I am a member. But lately I feel as if I have become essentially invisible across the board, and it’s distressing me.

I’ve been on Facebook for coming up on two years, and I still have only 36 friends (if I could friend every person I’d like to, I’d still probably have fewer than 100, but most of the others are people who I wish were on FB but are not). Two of those friends are my own dogs. Of the rest, only about 8 ever comment on or like anything I post. Comments on my posts are rare, and tend to be back-and-forth between me and one other person when they happen at all. I have friends who can post something as profound and thrilling as “meh, it’s Tuesday” and get 20 comments from a dozen different people inside of an hour. I am on FB every day and I am a copious commenter and liker. My posts–from WordPress as well as status updates, shares and other links–go up day after day with no response other than an occasional like here and there. Half of my FB friends have little or no interaction with me on or off FB. Another 30% will respond to me if I comment on their posts, but we have no other interaction unless I initiate it.

I’ve been on LinkedIn for so long I can’t remember when I joined. I’ve received less than a handful of invitations to join other people’s networks; every other connection I have, I initiated. Nobody contacts me through that site. The few times I’ve tried to tap my network for small favors such as in introduction to a mutual link, I’ve gotten promptly shut down. I called one guy in my network, a web designer, before my website launched and offered to pay him $50 to sit down with me for 30 minutes to review my site and give me his professional opinion of it. He accepted my price with alacrity, but then declined to meet with me and asked me to email him what I had so that he could “get around to it” whenever he could find the time over the next week or two. We did not end up doing business together because he made it so clear that he didn’t have the time and/or didn’t want to.

I’ve been on Pinterest for several months, and I follow everyone whom I know either in real life or from FB. Not one person I know has ever liked, repinned or commented on anything I’ve pinned. The few interactions I’ve had on the site have been with strangers, and those have been all repins. If that’s a “social” media site, you sure couldn’t tell it by me.

I have a business page on FB for my photography business, and I’ve asked my FB friends and my blog readers to “Like” it because until it reaches 30 likes, FB doesn’t recognize Shaw Pro Photo as a legitimate employer or let me customize the company page (which is different from the business page). After four months, only 20 people have liked the business page.

This blog has 168 followers, which is actually a fine number for being online less than a year, and I am pleased and flattered that so many people are interested in reading what I have to say. But my spam comment count exceeds my legitimate comment count, and my daily viewership is routinely in the single digits. I do have a couple of regular commenters, whom I dearly appreciate, but I wonder where the rest of you are and if you’re even still reading this.

The numbers do not lie. I am a member of multiple social networks that are neither social nor networked, at least not for me. I’m starting to feel as if, except for those 8 FB friends and two WP bloggers who do respond to what I post and whom I appreciate deeply, I am wasting my time trying to maintain social connections with people who just can’t be bothered to reciprocate. Where is everybody? Why do people join social networks and then just disappear?

I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad and I’m not looking for sympathy or pity. I’m looking for interaction, for connection and for a sense of community among my peers. I want more social in my networks. As my sister likes to remind me, “if you don’t ask, you don’t get.” So here I am, asking, even though, frankly, I am afraid that this could blow up in my face because you might think I’m a crybaby/whiner/attention whore/drama queen for even bringing this up. What I think I am is somebody who tries really hard every day to reach out and stay connected to other people and who would really, really like it if those people reached back to me a little more often. As I’ve said before, I favor dialogue in all instances.

There. Now I’ve said it.

Responses? Anyone?

Related: Still not connecting.

And now that I’ve written about it twice, I will retire this blog topic.



Mourning the digital slaughter

Sometimes I wonder how much more of the digital age I can stand before I go full-blown atavistic and start sending smoke signals and carving on rocks to communicate.

Indian cell phone

Since the advent of the internet roughly 15 years ago, many of the communication tools I cherish most are going away and will soon be gone forever. Typewriters. Film cameras. The Yellow Pages. Paper maps. Drafting pens. Hand-signed birthday cards that arrive by first-class mail (since the internet is killing both the U.S. Post Office and the greeting card industry).

Even my former favorite news magazine, Newsweek, is giving up the paper ghost and going online permanently next year. “Tina Brown, editor-in-chief and founder of The Newsweek Daily Beast Company, announced Thursday [October 18, 2012] that Newsweek will transition into an all-digital format in early 2013. … Newsweek is the first national news magazine to announce it is moving to the digital space.”

I suppose most local and national newspapers and magazines will eventually have to follow, and the only people who will be able to access the news of the day will be those who can afford the hardware and the internet connection. Not only that, but the transition from print to digital will sweep away forever many career positions in the fourth estate, particularly editors and fact checkers. This will deal a serious, potentially even fatal blow to democracy and citizen participation in government, in my opinion.

Other victims of the digital slaughter, either right now or soon, include the Encyclopedia Britannica print edition; telephone companies that supply land lines, as well as the phone books they print; catalog printers; in-person classroom instruction at every educational level as courses are moved online; and paper ballots and in-person voting.

I’m not sure we as a society even realize what a devil’s bargain we’re making with technology. When every bit of human knowledge is converted to bits and bytes stored on a server somewhere that depends on a constant supply of electricity, and nothing is left in physical form, what happens when the power goes out? I am not a doomsday person by nature, but I can see where this is headed and it scares me.

Some will say that fire and flood can wipe out repositories of human knowledge just as well, as happened at the Library of Alexandria, and I have to agree. But the totality of the digital shift is what really concerns me. It all depends on electricity. Not one single scrap of it can be retrieved or used without the juice.

There’s nothing any one person can do to stem the tide, so I suppose the only rational response is to be careful about backing up your critical data and keep physical records of your life if having records at all is important to you. Get those favorite pictures on your phone or computer printed and pasted into an album. Keep a written check/debit transaction register. File those cards and letters away in a safe place. Get a land line in case you happen to leave your cell phone on top of your car and drive away (I know people who have done it).

And while we’re at it, maybe use that phone to call your friends once in a while, instead of forcing the friendship to survive on a perpetual diet of Facebook and Twitter and texts. Don’t let your relationships become the next victims.

With that said, I shall now dismount my digital soapbox and go check in with my friends on Facebook. 🙂