A personal perspective
Do you remember your life before you registered with a social network? Probably not. Although you might remember the fact that it was not always like this, I bet you forgot how it feels to be off-line, to not even know what off-line means.
Do you sometimes wonder how a person who gets suddenly confronted with all the “benefits” of a social network feels? Probably not. I assume you are too busy posting, liking and +1ing. Never mind, I’ll tell you anyway. Because I’m that person, who had a really bad social network week and now needs to process couple of things.
I’m an introvert. I love my cave. I have like five favorite people. To one of them I’m married. The other four never met each other. I like hanging with them one by one. Three is already a crowd, and crowds make me uncomfortable.
When I was on Facebook, I had 43 people on my friends list and I took pride in it. 25 of my “friends” were honored with the membership in the “restricted” group, which never got to see my posts. My profile was so private that you couldn’t even find it if you searched for it. I’ve never participated in any communities or public discussions.
It was my on-line cave. Until three month ago, when I tore it down (i.e. deleted my Facebook account) and went off-line for two weeks. Best decision ever. Reasons? Nothing dramatic, but too long to explain.
And now I’m writing a blog and I’m on Google+. With my public profile. Participating in discussions. Following over 200 people, with over 200 people following me. A cave became a public library with a missing front door and complaints and suggestions book.
Shall I tell you how it often blows up in my face or do you like to guess? Never mind, I’ll tell you anyway.
- Too Much Information
When I just started, I was adding people one by one, looking through their “about” section and posts. A thorough selection process. A life coach with inspirational perspective on life? Wonderful! A guy with hell lots of knowledge about the scary online world? Awesome! A girl who writes brilliant posts on writing? Great! Come with me, you all. And you, lady with the funny pictures of animals doing ridiculous stuff, you can stay, too. A moderate amount of ridiculousness never hurt anyone.
My home feed was fun to browse through. I was giving my +1s (i.e. “likes”) left and right, learning new things, leaving some comments, getting +1s back. My on-line swimming pool for toddlers.
Until I decided to try out the circle sharing thingy. For those who are not on Google+: You can start following a gazillion of people by only one click, if somebody you follow shared with you a circle (i.e. a group, a list) with this gazillion people in it. So I pressed this huge and tempting button “add people” and voila, a gazillion people got a notification that I’ve circled (i.e. friended, added) them and they can circle me back if they want.
Ok, not gazillion, “just” 500, but it was enough. Now it was raining, pouring, flooding posts. Pictures. Pictures of unknown people in Halloween costumes. Pictures of unknown people’s kids without costumes. Pictures of unknown people without costumes or any other cloths worth mentioning. What?! Pictures of plants, pets, relatives (not mine). Links. How to lose weight. How to start your own knitting business. 24 facts you should know before getting an iguana. Switch-it-off, switch-it-off, switch-it-off!
I tried to filter it out, but it’s not like I have all day. So I eventually had to mute them all. I checked and re-sorted the people who added me back, but the rest – silence, please! Now it seems back to normal, if there is such thing in this context at all. But I have an uneasy feeling this hell can break lose any time again.
- Too Many Weird People
First and foremost, let me state the following:
You know how you normally hang out with a particular sort of people? Not that you consciously choose to, but it just happens, due to your background, your job and your interests.
If you are a 30+ banker who plays in a jazz band, your friends are probably bankers, some other white-collar dudes, as well as musicians over 30. If you are a punk (as in “dude with funny colorful hair and cloths with holes”, not as in calling names) you probably never talk to bankers.
And if you are an introverted IT consultant, you never talk to punks, or musicians. Or teenagers who are high. Or grandmas with 100 cats, although you might be talking to grandmas and cats separately. Or random single men from India in an “open relationship”. Or “philosophers”, who in their real life can be either of the people above. Or unreasonable and/or rude people.
Unless you are on a social network. Then all these guys find you, leave weird comments on your posts, leave weird comments on your comments, drop spam links on you, and even chat you up on Hangouts. More details on that later.
- Not For People Who Take Things Too Seriously
I take people seriously. If somebody tries to interact with me I would definitely go and check their profile, their “about” section, their posts, often a link to their blog. I would always respond to the comments.
I take things seriously. Weird comments. Hostile comments. Unreasonable comments. Posts that twist the truth. They deprive me of my inner peace. Shall I respond? I probably shouldn’t. But if no one ever responds, the truth will stay twisted, and the unreasonable people will never learn to argue constructively. This is how my inner conversations go for days after such incidents.
Sometimes I wish my old off-line life back, where my biggest worry was my mother, my work and what’s for dinner (especially dinner). Sometimes I think I’m not made for this. Sometimes I want to leave it all and go to Africa to help starving children. But then I remember that I’m lazy and unadventurous, and that it is 21st century in a comfy first world country with hot showers. Besides, I can’t just abandon my blog like this. So I guess I’m stuck here for a while. Living with the consequences of my voluntary involuntary choice of joining the on-line world. Even if it often drives me nuts.
Oh wait! Not that you asked, but this is not the end of the story. I wanted to tell you about my personal achievements in the context of weird interactions on Google+. And there are lessons learned, of course. And things that are actually good. But I guess I’ll have to do it some other time. I’ve been talking for too long already. I decided to discipline myself and not to write a post longer than two pages A4 in Word and this is my last para…
Well, second to last paragraph. So if you want to know what the deal with that dude in an “open relationship” was, stay tuned. Also details on some of other weird encounters to come.
Update: The “other time” is already here. Read the second part “What Social Networks and Professor Pavlov Have in Common”.