Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Real Person vs. Social Media Person

No, I'm not going to rant one bit about personal integrity or the evils of services doing exactly what you signed up for by accepting their terms of service. They might still be evil and rotten and greedy bastards, but it's not what I'm going to talk about.

It's something I've been thinking about for quite a while. Talked to a friend about it the other day and he couldn't other than agree with my thoughts on it. Look at Facebook. The standard user adds contacts to it at a regular basis. Friends, family, co-workers, cousins, and so on. Contacts. People you usually would never ever want to spend time with all at once suddenly bunched up before the Billboard of You.

Personally I felt that what I could write in my feed diminished little by little for each new contact I added. First we had the friends, and then I could write a bit of everything. Oh, now I have a friend from that class. Ok, can't talk much about that class anymore. Oh, now I have someone from that job who might know that and that person. Ok, can't talk freely about work anymore. It goes on and on. You censor yourself. It's fairly natural in the situation.

But - many people on there seem to believe that if you read all posts by me in my feed, you can make a good picture of me. Even otherwise intelligent people. The thing is, I know that if you were to read my feed you'd probably conclude that I'm a cynical and whiny fellow because of what I usually post there. It has come to a point when I don't want to share much of the positives of my life. If I write about future hopes and plans or personal victories then I know that a lot of people that I really don't want very close to me will be able to read it.

The more people you get in your contact list, the less personal you can be. It goes from full and complex to shallow and simple. It's the same as hanging out with a few select friends - you can usually talk about mostly anything. The more people you add to the room, the less personal you can be. You don't know everybody very well and don't want to let them into your private sphere just yet. It's human nature to want to feel safe. It's in our nature not to show our every weaknesses to strangers, be it moments of sadness or happiness.

So what do I post on my facebook account? Usually neutral stuff that nobody cares about anyway, some music link here and there, a photo, and when I dislike something. It can be something or someone, expensive software being incompetently programmed or a movie sucking balls in all the wrong ways. Small annoyances. Because that doesn't let the wrong people in very deeply, I suppose. Close friends tend to understand that. Others... have a tendency of thinking that what they see on facebook is you. The whole you.

Really, that is quite stupid when you think about it. And sometimes you get a reply just oozing of hey, I'm gonna put him in his place for everybody, that whiner. It's not often, though, and that's not really the problem either. It's when things like that surface that they can be dealt with. It's all those cases where people just read and make up their minds behind my back.

Trust me, there are lots of things in my life that are precious to me and a lot of things that makes me happy. I'm highly optimistic, realistic and logical. I rarely give up. I'm stubborn as hell. I would like to think that I've got integrity. I don't take disrespectful shit from anyone even if that puts a job or something on the line. I'm unemployed, but have saved up some money for the occasion. I have little idea what to do with my immediate future, but I know that things tend to work out. Also, what I love and like in life tends to be different from many others. I don't care much for pubs. I don't care much for... taking a coffee and mingling with a group where half of them are strangers. I don't dance, physically. Needless to say, I don't like shoes and I love being barefoot. I was more open with the positive sides of life way back but it made me feel... exposed.

And some people have attacked that, more or less aggressively or passively. An example would be to write something like yeah, we heard you the first time as if he/she suddenly spoke for everyone. Apparently, stating time and time again that you really like to play guitar with your friends or travel to Japan every year and pour photo after photo into your stream, that's fine. You're supposed to like doing that, or whatever. Other stuff are just weird, aren't they. Well, my life's fine without people stepping on what's good, so I'd rather keep that to myself and my closest friends, thanks. The others can have the leftovers.

So, yeah. This post is about two phenomenon really. One being diminishing closeness with growing groups and the other being people not understanding that phenomenon.

Also, a friend said something smart the other day:
I'm getting jealous of those who haven't yet got themselves a facebook account.
I've been thinking lately that I wonder how it would feel to just delete one's account (as much as it's possible, at least). Somehow it feels like it's time to move on. Do I need facebook? Do I need to keep the contact with people like that? I will miss out on announcements made by friends who assume everyone's got facebook, of course... but that's about it. That, or I should just prune away at my contacts like a mad man. Get down to the core group of friends, but... even then, there'd be a lot of different circles that I would be willing to share different facets of myself with. So it feels like it's either all or nothing if it's to really matter.

I've always always preferred small groups to bigger ones. That's not because I dislike social contact - quite the opposite. I love hanging out with a small group of friends because you can get much deeper, much more personal. The less people there are, the less chance of the wrong person learing the wrong thing about you. It could be a friend of a co-worker who learns that you plan to quit your job, or a person secretly disliking you finding out that you have a fetish for goblin ears or something and can't wait to spread the delicious news. And you might not know who that is. Of course it matters what other people think, especially those that you take for friends. Strangers, not so much of course, but then again... who knows what strings they can pull in the wrong directions?

But look at me. Having to explain any of this really feels like explaining how to walk because it's such a basic thing. Trust and circles. Being you the worker and you the friend and you the parent. It's about filtering away parts of ourselves and sometimes adding a bit more depending on the people you interact with. Put all those groups in a single place... I mean, picture how you would need to shape yourself, what role to put yourself in, for that to work. Ask your friends, family, flirts, co-workers and your boss to come home for a party where you act as if everyone was the same kind of friend. It'd get totally fucked up, and if not, it'd get so extremely shallow and boring. That's what we get with people assuming we're in any shape or form resembling our real selves on Facebook. We're not. That would be absurd.

Now I'm starting to sound like that one guy at the Swedish Game Conference who said the same thing over and over for over an hour when he could've just summarized it in 5 minutes or less.

(I know the grammar of this post isn't the best and it certainly doesn't represent my skill in English.)

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