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When it comes to social networking, I’m not very social

Working as I do in online media — both as a career and as a free-time hobby — I naturally have to keep up with what’s hot, what’s trending, where everything is going, how people are using online tools to get and share information, etc., etc.

Obviously, over the last several years, social networking has exploded. Facebook and Twitter are pretty much platforms that every company or blogger has to be on, otherwise they’re missing out on a swath of people who might be on Facebook or Twitter all day, but do not necessarily seek out and view content on websites without being reminded by updates they get on Facebook or Twitter.

(Interestingly, the idea of going to websites to seek out the content you want — without getting some sort of reminder — seems almost foreign to me now. I pretty much do all my online reading via RSS feeds, where Google Reader gives me a list of headline links from all my favorite sites that I either choose to click on to read the story, or not.)

But with social networking has come this idea that so much more must be shared, and so much more content (status updates, links to other content, clever asides, etc.) must constantly be generated. But for me personally, I’ve found it doesn’t really work that way.

For starters, I’ve found that I have built pretty distinct walls between my online “public” self, my job, my circle of real-life friends, and my private life. These main spheres of my life (which themselves have subsets) overlap, but not always or necessarily. Enter into this equation Facebook and Twitter, which are supposed to tear down those walls, and what I’ve found for myself is that I simply use these platforms for certain things and certain things only, and the walls largely remain.

For example, if I don’t know you in real life, you are almost certainly not my friend on Facebook. Don’t take it personally. It’s simply that I have Jammer’s Reviews & Blog, where I talk about some things, and Facebook, where I share other things, mostly with friends I have known for years. I don’t want them to overlap by default; if I want something specific to overlap, then maybe I’ll post it in both places. Or not. They’re just two different and distinct areas of my life.

For that matter, even my Facebook page only goes so far into sharing things about my life. I comment on things going on with me personally, but only insofar that my Facebook audience (my group of real-life friends) might be interested or amused by whatever I say out there. Sometimes I do status updates of the mundane, but really not that often. Usually I post something once every few days. Generally a stupid observation or pop-culture reference.

I’m always amazed by people who share so much personal information on Facebook. Given the privacy issues of a company that I frankly don’t trust, I don’t share anything out there that I wouldn’t be comfortable if it got leaked publicly in its entirety. Which of course means that I’m completely censored even on Facebook with my real-life friends. (Granted, part of that is because my Facebook friends include people I wouldn’t be comfortable sharing everything with anyway.) I am not controversial, I do not post a lot of pictures about what I’ve done, and I certainly don’t post anything that I wouldn’t be comfortable with my employer (or any possible future employer, for that matter) seeing.

People who post themselves partying every weekend: What are you thinking? In 10 or 20 years, the potential politicians and corporate employees of tomorrow are going to have to live in a world where there are pictures of all kinds of naughty-looking things they once upon a time shared on Facebook. Either our standards of what we care about will change because it’s so commonplace, or a lot of people will regret their online past lives.

I am also amazed by people who constantly use the location-based social sites. Maybe it’s because they have a phone that isn’t crappy like mine, but even if and when I get an iPhone or Android phone, I doubt I’m going to be updating my location on Gowalla or Foursquare. I don’t want it to be known where I am every minute of every day. It’s called privacy.

When it comes to Twitter, I must confess: I don’t use it the way it’s meant to be used. My Twitter account is pretty much an obligatory afterthought at the moment. As a social networking tool, I should be following a bunch of people on Twitter, and I should then share links with those people and then correspond with them via replies using @theirusername and then retweet their tweets. I understand the value of all of that, and there are all sorts of great links I’ve found by reading the stuff posted by the people I follow. Roger Ebert, for example, is a Twitter madman who uses the medium exactly as it should be used. But I don’t have the will or the time to be combing through my Twitter feed, responding to tweets, and retweeting things I like. Every minute of that is a minute I could be writing TNG reviews or full-length blog posts like this one, consuming my “real” content that I follow in my RSS feeds — news stories, reviews of critics I like, etc. — or for that matter, watching that old-school device known as “television.”

When it comes to social networking, I’m just not that social. Which probably puts me behind the times. To younger generations, I probably sound like a fun-hating old fuddy-duddy right now.

Realistically, I should have a Jammer’s Reviews Facebook page, and I should be out there regularly tweeting instant reactions to things. But I don’t want to (a) share everything on my mind, or (b) create a crapload of new content. One or the other would be necessary to have a vibrant life in the social networking spheres. Choice (a) would require me to delve into things that I don’t want to delve into with the various audiences of my various life spheres. (Have you seen what happens when you make a political opinion known on the Internet? Get ready to be pilloried.) I value that old-fashioned thing known as “privacy”; certain people have a piece of certain parts of my mind, and others have other pieces. Sometimes they spill out into each other, but more often not. (There are people in my real life who have no idea I run a review blog, for example.) And choice (b) simply will suck up all my free time.

Is there a choice (c)? Maybe. I’m not sure. Let’s do that whole social networking thing in the comments below, where you can tell me.

But I do find it interesting how many people are willing to share so much more than I am on the Internet. Are we looking at a future where, by design, privacy doesn’t exist because we no longer care that our entire lives are lived in public view?

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11 comments on this post

It’s funny that you mention this, the whole social networking thing is OK if you keep it low key like you do, but some people are outright stupid with it. For example, I work at a fairly large hospital, and the HR department has 2 people whose sole job is to scour the social network sites of those who submit applications, she told me about 20-30% get disqualified on their Facebook/myspace pages alone. I kills me that people can be so brash and have no sensor as to what pics and things they are posting. Awesome insight on this stupid social networking page.
(Although I admit I have a Facebook account, however my updates are usually big Lebowski quotes)


P.S. you should have a button so we can like each others posts……..

I had a Facebook page for about a year and a half. My intent with it was to hopefully reconnect with people I’d lost touch with over the years, and to an extent it did work. But once the reconnections were made and taken to phone calls/hanging out, I found FB was useless to me. I never updated my page. I found the updates others threw out there to be pointless…did I really need to know the details about what you found in your baby’s diaper, or how much you hate Obama every hour on the hour? SO I ended up deleting it. No regrets.

I do have a Twitter account. In two years, I’ve made all of 7 “tweets” (one of which was a response to you, actually). I don’t go out of my way to collect followers, so whatever I have to say is being read by, likely, no one. And thus, I never feel compelled to say anything. But I keep the account because it’s a nice way to find links to stories. Some of those I follow are really good at using the character limit to hilarious effect too.

I think there’s a mindset in younger generations that it didn’t really happen if it’s not online for others to “like”, watch, and/or comment on. The whole “pictures or it didn’t happen” thing. I can’t wrap my mind around it — some of my best experiences have no tangible pictures or videos to go long with them. Just images, sounds, feelings, etc. attached to memories. I’m cool with that, and I feel bad for anyone who isn’t. I also think a lot of people get off on the collecting friends thing…you know, wow, lookit me, I have 500 Facebook friends! Again, not something I understand.

And like you, I’m also concerned about the privacy thing. I have nothing to hide, but that doesn’t mean I want everything about my life exposed either.

But how does the Facebook Gestapo at your work get into profiles that are locked? Don’t most people adjust their privacy settings so that no one except their Facebook “friends” can get in? Unless your profile picture is a very dubious one, that should get rid of this spying, which I think is kind of unethical. Of course it’s everyone’s responsibility to make sure your account can’t be viewed by others. But that doesn’t change anything about the fact that your Facebook is private. It’s the equivalent of walking into someone’s house and start opening photo albums. Facebook should make the default setting that every new profile that’s being created is locked from anyone but your so-called friends. I’m pretty sure that a lot of people aren’t even aware that all their personal stuff is out there for anyone to see.

I got into the internet at first at college in the mid-90’s. I created my own webpage and was posting on different things with my name for about a year. As the web started to really grow, and people like my parents started to explore, I decided I really wanted to be able to tailor my words to my audience. So that webpage is long deleted, and I never joined facebook. I do personal internet contact via email; public comments (like this blog) are done with an alias (I use one for sports sights, another for entertainment, etc.)

So I definitely agree with you in looking to keep my internet separated into different spheres.

That said, I don’t mind someone who posts everything about there lives. When it comes to personal lives I’m completely libertarian, so I’ll at most be amused by it all.

I’m firmly convinced that presidential candidates will be elected in the future despite the fact that they have sex videos from years past on the internet. In 1970 it was probably difficult to imagine you’d ever get a president elected who people believed smoked marijuana, yet we’re on a run of 3 straight presidents who would fit that bill. A kid graduating from high school wasn’t alive the last time a president who didn’t experiment was in the White House!

I totally share your views on this subject. It took me a while to get into facebook, and once I did I established pretty much the same limits you’re describing. Now, concerning privacy, and considering the place science fiction has had in your webpage, I couldn’t help but think about the movie Minority Report. I’m a screenwriting professor and not long ago I was about to use that film in a class so I re-read some facts I’d gathered about it. Spielberg had around 15 “experts” join him for a three day brainstorming session to generate a document about what the future would realistically be like. One of the points they all agreed on, was that the right privacy would be “a thing of the past”. Scary.

I too am fairly private when it comes to social networking. All I have is a Facebook account, and it’s set up so that only people on my friends list can see my wall posts or pictures. I’ve grown tired of people sending friend requests seemingly for the sake of it. Last year, I cut my friends list by nearly two-thirds of what it was – simply ridding it of acquaintances who had made a friend request (which subsequently was accepted), and yet made no attempt to communicate with me thereafter.

I wish that social networking and the issues of privacy and safety concerned with it were addressed more frequently in schools. I can only speak for UK schools, but there simply isn’t enough focus on how young teenagers can make their accounts private with just a few clicks of a button. Having worked in a school until recently, it was alarming to see the number of Facebook accounts which had no privacy functions established – leaving the users vulnerable to cyber-bullying, dangerous adults, etc.

The article above references Mark Zuckerberg’s desire to see children under 13 being able to sign up to Facebook. I don’t quite understand the so-called educational benefits of Facebook. I work on a helpline for children and young people. The sheer number of misunderstandings over status updates or teasing as a result of pictures or details not being kept private only illustrates the detrimental effects of Facebook. I’m sure the site could be useful in promoting children’s social development, such as forming or maintaining relationships with others. But I think there are many ways that it can all go horribly wrong, and to allow under-13s on Facebook without significant education on privacy and safety would be a recipe for disaster.

if social networking sites on the web stopped tomorrow, the internet would continue.

if AV’s were no longer viewable tomorrow on the web, the internet would end (at least 50% of it) or at least traffic would significantly drop….

Sometimes I wonder if I am an old fuddy duddy too, but I don’t get into Facebook much at all and I don’t even have a twitter account and have zero desire to get one. I set up a Facebook account originally to view photos my brothers posted and while I have reconnected with some folks I have lost touch with, I so rarely make updates or read anything that other post, I just don’t have the time and if it is important enough I figure they or I will call or e-mail.

I still frequent quite a few websites, forums, review sites, a few IRC channels, but the closest I have gotten to jumping on the newer social media bandwagon is having quite a few friends through Steam and using that to connect to other PC gamers either to play online games, see what they are up to, etc. (Steam is a program that let’s you download games and play them having them linked to account so you can always re-download and you can also get a friend’s list going so you can see who is playing what steam game, IM them, see their game stats, etc.) I am also frequently annoyed when I can’t get the special coupon for XYZ because I don’t have a twitter account or don’t want to go to their Facebook page and like them or similar rubbish 😉

I too am very surprised by what folks share online with basically strangers. It takes years of “knowing” someone online before I will share even my e-mail address or first name, my group just tends to go by alias’ so when we have unknowns running with us we don’t let any personal info slip. The push to connect everything online with your true personal information is baffling to me. I want to be anonymous online, that is one of the great things about it.

I don’t use Facebook although my sister signed an account for me. But I never activated or used it ever. The thing about social networking sites is that if you give so much information about yourself, a third party can monitor your activities and locate your identity and even where you live. And if you say “Oh! by the way, this weekend, I’ll be gone for 3 days for the July 4th holidays” don’t be surprised if someone tries to break into your home. Like they say, you can reveal TOO much information to strangers about yourself on social networking sites to people who don’t have your best interests at heart. Cheers.

Jammer I only come to your site through searching and I do that for most of internetting experience. Apparently I have an RSS feed thing on my desktop and I could use it but I kinda like it this way.

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