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A follow-up on “3 Main Issues with Social Networks”

Have you heard of Professor Pavlov, the one with a dog and a bell? I’ll tell you briefly in case you haven’t, using pretty pictures so you’ll get my point, but don’t get bored.

Professor Pavlov (1849-1936) was a Russian physiologist. He had a dog Julia. One day he got an awesome idea for an experiment. Before he would feed Julia, he would ring a bell. This might sound like not a real scientific experiment, but it actually was one. You see, at the beginning Julia didn’t care much for bells. But at the end, every time she would hear a ring she would start drooling. This behavior would become known as “conditioned reflex”, and Julia, also known as “Pavlov’s dog”, would become famous and would be studied by lots of students all over the world.

So the experiment would go like:


And at the end, Julia would be like:


Just kidding. Dogs can’t talk. The rest is for real though.

So what do social networks and Professor Pavlov have in common? I’ll get to this in a minute.

Remember how last time I told you about three main issues I think social networks have, how you are suddenly interacting with a gazillion of people, lots of whom you would normally avoid in the real life, and how social networks are not for people who take things too seriously? I also promised to tell you more about my achievements in the context of weirdness within my 2.5 months on Google+. Here they are:

My main “achievements” on Google+:

  • Picked up a fight… no, started a discussion with moderators in one of the communities asking them politely why they deleted my post. At some point, I felt like talking to a wall and just dropped it.
  • Picked up a fight… no, expressed my opinion on a post that to my mind was misleading and one-sided. It resulted in a… heated discussion. Another person was ignoring some of my arguments, while twisting the others. At some point, I felt like talking to a wall and just dropped it as well.
  • Offended a vegan person with a picture of fried chicken. I feel really bad about it, but I have no idea how to respond.
  • Received weird comments on my posts and comments, which I simply do not understand. I sense some hostility there, but I have no idea what the other person is trying to say.
  • Was asked couple of times to re-share people’s stuff that I didn’t like.
  • Got pinged on Hangouts (a chat) by… a grandma with 100 cats. No, I wish! By a dude “from India in an open relationship” – sorry to phrase it this way, but this was only information available on his profile – I have never talked to or seen before. No idea what he wanted. I was able to escape when he asked me “to wait”. I seriously don’t want to know what for. His style of writing and communication suggested the worst.

So with time, I started being afraid of this bell (do you see the irony here?) with red numbers on it (a notification icon in Google+), especially if it says “so-and-so had mentioned you in a comment”. Did I offend somebody (again)? Is it a weird comment I won’t get? Is somebody asking me questions I can’t give a positive answer to? And now I have a conditioned reflex of my stress level rising when I look at my computer, where all these notification displaying bells are ringing at me in real time.


And this is what social networks and Professor Pavlov have in common. Or his dog and I, depends on how you take it. I’m not taking it well. And as I’m planning to stick here for a while after all, I had to come up with some Lessons Learned.

Lessons learned

  • No more adding of whole circles of gazillion unknown people! I made one exception for a 1/10 of a gazillion people so far, but only because a) 1/10 of a gazillion is much easier to handle and b) I know where to go to complain if I start seeing half-naked people in my home feed again 😉
  • Never be on-line on Hangouts without a purpose. Sign in only if you need to talk to somebody yourself. Otherwise beware of single men in an “open relationship” chatting you up (or whatever qualifies as weird to you).
  • Think thrice before leaving any comment anywhere. I’m more reluctant to comment now, so I’m going with mostly +1s only.
  • No more discussions on serious matters. Let it go. Let it go. Let. It. Go. This is the saddest one, because discussing nature photos and cute kittens is, well, small talk with little added value. This is also the toughest one, because I sometimes just Can’t. Let. Go.
  • If looking at my home stream I feel my stress level rising from too much useless information, I check the posts of the people from my carefully selected “Friends” and “Inspiration” circles. The things I found there usually make up for it.

But unfortunately, it is not helping much. I look at my computer. My stress level is rising. Conditioned reflex.

Well, at least I don’t drool. Yet.

I have a question to all social network experts out there.


Why is there so much information on how to post – colorful, put in infographics and charts – whereas there is close to none on how to live with it afterwards?

10 tips to make your Google+ post perfect. 15 things you should think about while sharing your post. 23 ways to attract more followers. Tips on post timing, content, structure. Ok, been there, done that. Now what? Is there an infographics on 10 ways not to attract weird people, 15 ways to filter the information effectively, 23 ways of dealing with consequences when the “heated discussion” is already in progress, or when you hurt somebody’s feelings? I’ll settle for less. Give me 5 of anything. You guys follow so many people and have thousands of followers yourself. How come you haven’t gone insane yet?

The only information on this I ever found so far was in Guy Kawasaki’s book “What the Plus!”, Chapter 11 of 19 (eBook version, if counting the +Chapters). His tips: don’t respond, ignore, report and block if it gets really bad. And that’s about it on this topic. I’m working on not responding and ignoring already, still trying to leave at least some comments (after thinking thrice, see Lessons Learned). However, I still have a feeling it can blow up in my face any time. The reactions out there are sometimes absolutely unpredictable.

So is there anything good in this entire endeavor? I’m still here, surfing through the on-line waters. I must be getting at least something out of it.

Indeed, it is. Among this uncontrollable crowd, among this flood of pictures, links and comments, I met some people who really sometimes make my day. With some of them I have real, meaningful conversations. Others I silently stalk, checking out their blogs and new posts regularly. I learned so much about different lives out there, lives of people whom I would have otherwise never met. Unfortunately, these encounters are rare, like everything that is special in this world, but they are worth it. I also get to write, not only for myself but also for the others. Hoping to make their day, or at least an hour. Hoping to spread some good, or at least some smiles.

This is my contribution to making this world a better place. IT consultants don’t contribute much to that. Writers do. Real people talking to real people about real things that matter.

So I better suck it up and go start unconditioning myself. Pity I can’t ask the dog Julia. I wonder how she was coping.