Sunday, October 30, 2011

I'm Eating A Ham and Swiss Cheese Sandwich

  • I'm currently eating a ham and swiss cheese sandwich for lunch.  I bet you want to see a picture of it!
  • I urinated in a white commode in the master bathroom 4 hours ago.  I need to go again.  Hey, do you want to see a picture?
  • I played Quake III Arena a few weeks ago.  You should too!  Hey, let me show you a video of me playing the game!
These things are all true.  "Why," you ask, "are you telling us all this?"  That is an excellent question.

The real question is why someone would want to ram this information down anyone's throat.  This is my gripe with facebook and Google+.  There comes a point where I need to say, "Enough!"  Google+ is about to be the first fatality of this feeling, for me.

I've been thinking about this a lot and trying to decide at what point a status update becomes too much information.  It's really a hard question.  I'm sure that some people want to hear, several times a day, how the rich are screwing-over the less rich, from all different sources.  "Here - this proves it!"  I'm sure people want to hear a play-by-play (practically) of every single event that happened at the high school ball game where their kid is playing in the band (hey, and here's a picture!).  I'm sure that there are some people who want to know every single location that a person stops at every single day.  I'm also sure that these are things that the people who post these things really do find important.  Unfortunately, there is no way for me to say, "Y'know, these things aren't important to me."

This is where I stumble all over my own words.  On the one hand, here is my blog.  I'm sure that there are things here that you all agree with, and some things that leave you shaking your head saying, "I can't believe he feels that way."  Probably even more likely, "What in the world is he talking about?"  Some of this is kind of timely.  Some of it is topical.  Some of it is stream-of-consciousness-based.  Perhaps some people would question why I don't put this into facebook or Google+ and share it with everyone I know.  To me, while I think this is important, or I wouldn't write about it, I also don't think it is something I want to share with everyone I know in real-time.  Even more importantly, I think because it isn't just a few lines with a link to something someone else said, it means I have to spend a bit of time thinking about it myself before I share it with the rest of the world. I also like the semi-anonymity that takes place by having this separate from what I write on social networks.

The bigger problem is volume.  If one person is a fire hose of information about his every activity, that's probably tolerable.  However, that one person is not the only person who is my "friend" on facebook or in a circle of mine on Google+.  If you're on both social networks, well, that crap gets really messed up.  The same fire hoses post the same stuff on both networks.  At what point does this just get way out of hand?

On facebook, I have simply made a decision to hide status updates from anyone who starts to grate on my nerves.  Unfortunately I believe this list is more than half the number of people who I am actually friends with.  On Google+ no such mechanism exists - they are either in one of your circles or they aren't.  You can see the status updates from a single circle.  That doesn't really help much, though.  So what should I call all my Google+ circles?  Instead of "friends...family...acquaintances...coworkers...former classmates" do I now have "blabbermouths I'll look at someday when I'm really bored ... TMI but I may look at them sometime ... really smart people I would like to hear from often ... people who I need to hear something from even if I don't want to" ???  This is why I don't like Google+.  I have no idea how people who follow the constant ramblings of more than one or two other people have the time to do so.  At least in facebook, I can still remain friends with someone who I just wish would STFU for a while ("a while" too often meaning "from now until one and one are three").

This brings up more fundamental questions:  Should I actually be friends with people who virtually grate on my nerves?  Is facebook and Google+ trying to tell me something?   Do the status updates people put in facebook and Google+ say something about their character and personality in real life?  There are people I care about in some form but avoid as much as possible because they're toxic to me.  In my case these are people who basically interrupt everything I have to say, or belittle me, or choose topics that are sure to push me further and further away from the conversation, that violate my moral compass, or are just plain rude.  You probably know some of these kinds of people.  They don't think they're doing anything wrong - and maybe they even think they are helping me in some convoluted way.  In any case, I can't handle this in the real world, and in some ways this is what is happening in the virtual world on social networks.  As I typed this paragraph, I started wondering why I should care about anyone who would treat me in a toxic way, regardless of the reason.  Why should anyone subject themselves to this kind of treatment under the guise of "friend?"  In the case of facebook, I am allegedly friends with people who wanted nothing to do with me in high school, simply because they recognized me during the planning of the reunion online.  I doubt that these people would think any better of me now, and frankly, I would go as far as to say they don't have any idea who I am or what I even stand for.  They didn't know then, they didn't care then, and they probably don't care or want to know now.  Yes, I realize this is a negative thing to say and a generalization at best, but I bet you that this is really the case.

The ironic thing about this is that by my own lack of interest in a person's political beliefs or in their kids' activities or in their movement to various places, there is a part of me that feels I am not being a friend either.  After all, here is someone laying out there those things that mean something to them, but I'm sitting here bitching about it to all of you.  What kind of friend does that make me?  I'm trying to resolve this in my own mind and I can't.  I could simply conclude I'm just a thoughtless person, but I know other people who feel the same.  The very fact I'm discussing it here and that it bothers me says that I am absolutely not thoughtless.

Perhaps what's really the problem here is that in a real-life conversation, I would most definitely be interested in someone's political beliefs, their kids' achievements, and where they were.  The difference is that in a conversation those are time-limited and kept relevant to the conversation at hand.  While I know of people who want to captivate the conversation by recalling every detail of every single event that has happened to them since we last got together, those kinds of people end up being pushed aside pretty quickly as they monopolize the conversation.  In facebook, there is no natural throttle.  There is no context to the stuff the "fire hoses" of conversation spew out in their facebook updates.  In some circles, the conversation is entirely relevant.  In others, it is meaningless banter.  Because context is absent in social networks (absent of just knowing someone), there is no natural filter as there is in real life conversation.  That's what's wrong with social networks.

Anyhow, thanks for listening and sharing my thoughts about this.  Now, I need to use the rest room.  Pardon me.

1 comment:

Speck said...

you could always do what I do...don't go on twitter, facebook, or anything else like that. Use the PHONE to call your out-of-town friends to catch up, write letters to international friends, and talk to your local friends when you see them. I agree that there's a lot of TMI going on online.