Social Media: I feel like I’m back in school

May 14, 2011 § 40 Comments

Once upon a time, I didn’t even have a facebook account.

I know, I know. These days that’s the equivalent of being undead. You’re not really, demonstrably in existence unless you are on the Facebook map. Even my grandmother has a facebook account.

Anyway, by this time I also have a blog (you’d never have guessed that part, right?) and a twitter account, which  makes me feel pretty cool and social-media-savvy. These things do make it a lot easier to keep in touch with friends, family and acquaintances, and it’s a way to meet some interesting new people, too. I’d pretty much love it if the whole thing didn’t increasingly remind me of the school playground.

Since I’m given to rambling at length about things that annoy me, I shall explain why. Let’s start with where it all began….

FACEBOOK

Remember a year or so ago when everybody (actually just the girls) updated their status with random colours? Or after that when everyone changed their profile picture to a childhood cartoon? Or recently when everybody reposted the same heartfelt, meaningful piece of text about Japan?

Well… all the other kids were doing it.

Or how about this one, that I saw today:

ATTENTION. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU ARE ON MY FRIENDS LIST. I ENJOY MEETING YOU ON HERE. I AM NOT ONLY GLAD TO COUNT YOU AS FRIENDS BUT ALSO FAMILY. LET’S SEE WHO ACTUALLY PAYS ATTENTION. COPY THIS AS YOUR STATUS JUST FOR A MINUTE. I’LL BE WATCHING TO SEE WHO REALLY DOES CHERISH FAMILY & FRIENDSHIP….. THANK YOU

I laughed. I had to, because it was more fun than vomiting or stuffing my fist through my computer monitor. Here we have the school playground mentality in full swing.

If you don’t post the colour of your bra, you’re not really in support of cancer research, are you? If you don’t repost some trite phrase about Japan, you just don’t care that thousands of people are dying. And if you don’t repost this wall of text RIGHT NOW, I’ll know you don’t really cherish friends and family. I’ll know that you aren’t really my friend.

I’m just going to hope, really hard, that there aren’t people whose idea of a true friend is someone who posts text on their facebook wall on demand. I’m just going to have to hope that, because otherwise… I’m back to vomiting or breaking shit.

Let’s move on.

O GLORIOUS TWITTER

Ah, Twitter. You connect people. You enable conversations (if stilted ones) across worlds, races, religions, and fashion choices. It’s inspiring.

Here’s the precious, heart-warming communication I received this week.

@charlottenglish and (insert 5 more names here) unfollowed me today. Via #somestupidtwitter”helper”app

Wtf.

Now, I’m well aware that people try to game twitter by following hundreds of people, waiting until they follow back and then unfollowing them and following a load of other people. It’s touted as the quick way to build an enormous following. Therefore, there are some cute applications floating around that will helpfully tweet (on your behalf) every time you’re unfollowed. We’re calling those people out! They deserve to be publically exposed! I bet at school they were the types who would ‘accidentally’ clout the opposition around the head with the hockey stick in order to get ahead. Oops, my bad. Hope the damage isn’t permanent.

Course, you’re more likely to end up aiming those charming tweets at people who had legit reasons for unfollowing you. Therefore, what you’ve actually said is more as follows:

Hey world! I bored the shit out of 6 people on twitter today! Woo!

or

I’m such a foul-mouthed little bastard, I can’t write a single tweet without using the word ‘fuck’! These 6 people think I’m a total prick!

or

Hi guys! I’ve been posting links to my book/website/blog 85 times per day, every day, for the last week. These 6 people felt like they’d either have to unfollow me or they’d take out their own eyes with a spoon! Yay!

Etc. But, you know, nice try on calling me out.

BLOGGING

Blogging, on the whole, manages to be less prone to playground behaviour than facebook or twitter. It’s certainly less prone to the obnoxious variety. But it’s social media, so it’s not immune. I’m talking about

Blog Awards!!!

Yeees, blog awards. Not all of them, of course; mostly the ones that read as follows:

“Hey, you’re such an AMAZING blogger I’m giving you this award! It’s all because I, personally, so much LOVED your personal blog that I just had to express my appreciation with this award!

…. Now go pass it on to fifteen more people!! Spread the highly individual, totally personalised love!!

Ahem. 

What this reeks of more than anything is the CHAIN LETTER. Let me explain why I detest chain letters beyond all reason.

Once upon a time, when I was quite a little girl, I served time in a certain English boarding school. Not all that much of it – about a year – and I was a scholarship student, which meant immediate and lasting social death. But, unfortunately, I wasn’t completely ignored. I still received the chain letters.

This particular school kindly gave each student their own, school-based email address. They all had the same formula, so you could easily figure out the email addresses of all the other girls. That meant chain letters went through the school like a bout of plague.

Hi! Here’s a really cute picture of a kitten! Hope you enjoy it. If you don’t pass this on to 12 people within the next half hour, your entire family will die! Go! You have thirty minutes! Have a nice day 🙂

You see these things all over YouTube videos these days.

If one managed to be impervious to the threats of instant, mass death, the girls who’d sent it were probably in the same room ready to make one’s life miserable over it. So inevitably, one dutifully chose 12 more victims to send the gorgeous kitten on to. About five times a day.

Watching these ‘Blog Awards’ go around, then, is like a particularly putrid trip down Ye Olde Memory Lane. Let me just say that if anybody tries to send me one of these ‘Awards’ and expects me to bite, you’ll be disappointed. K?

Anyway, that’s it for the latest 1000-word rant. I’ll end by saying, that if anybody tries to unfriend/unfollow/unsubscribe on me in light of what I’ve written, I’ll know you were never really my friends. I’ll know that you’re probably horrible people. I bet you didn’t post your bra colour either, did you? I’LL BE WATCHING TO SEE WHO MY TRUE FRIENDS ARE.

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§ 40 Responses to Social Media: I feel like I’m back in school

  • Liv says:

    Ha! Absolutely fantastic blog post. It made me laugh because it’s so true – you got it in one.

  • Lissa says:

    You crack me up. I love rants.

  • Is it okay if I post my cute kitten’s bra color?

  • Dylan Fox says:

    I posted my bra colour on Facebook. Lots of people unfriended me after that…

  • martysharp says:

    I enjoyed reading your blog. Yes facebook feels like a virtual school sometimes. I think people need to learn you do not have to add every person you meet to your facebook.

    • Charlotte says:

      Hi Marty. That’s a good observation – why do people collect so many hundreds and thousands of friends? I suppose it’s part of the drive to appear popular, though after a certain point it just looks pretty crazy.

  • mjcache says:

    Intelligent, articulate and entertaining rant. I whole heartedly agree with you on every aspect.

    • Charlotte says:

      Hi MJ, thanks! I wonder what we’re all still doing on social media when we all agree how daft it is? I suppose it does have its benefits, buried somewhere under all the nonsense. Heh.

      • mjcache says:

        Totally daft… but here’s the upside … social media (twitter) is responsible for my acquaintance with your blog – which I am enjoying. There is a positive side!

      • Charlotte says:

        True enough! It’s not all stupid. Thanks, MJ.

  • Ursula Grey says:

    Love a good rant ~ this was excellent!

    • Charlotte says:

      Hello Ursula, thanks for reading and commenting! I end up having a rant about once a month, I guess. It lets off some of the frustration that builds up about the absurdities of life.

  • mapelba says:

    I couldn’t agree more. And I never responded to chain letters–although in my day they were actual letters that you had to write by hand and pass around at school without the teacher catching you. Seems a bit more sporting in light of the digital age.

    • Charlotte says:

      I can almost, vaguely understand why chain letters were so ubiquitous after the email revolution – after all, it doesn’t take much effort to send the ‘letter’ on to ten or twenty more people. But by hand? Laborious. I have to conclude either that kids were particularly bored prior to email or that chain letters did particularly well at instilling the fear of disaster on the poor kids who received them (always excepting some few such as yourself, blessed with above-average common sense).

      • mapelba says:

        Well, chain letters were much less common and a much bigger deal because of how much work they took. All that work gave them weight, sure.

        I don’t know if had any more common sense than anyone else (plenty of evidence might prove I was often clueless). But I hated other girls telling me what to do. And it was always girls. Boys never wrote the damn things.

  • Ali says:

    THATS IT!!! I’M UNFRIENDING YOU!! you didnt send me the cute kitten email 😦

    😉 in all seriousness though, great blog, and I fully agree – those chain email / facepalm posts / twitter updates posted by twits drive me up the proverbial wall… LOL

  • Nisha says:

    Twitter has a feature that tells you who has ‘unfollowed’ you? You kidding right? Thats just twisted. I’m glad Im not on Twitter now.

    • Charlotte says:

      Hi Nisha. Twitter itself isn’t so bad – it does send you emails when you’re followed or unfollowed but you can easily disable those. It’s the third-party ‘helper’ applications that are absurd. There seems to be a whole slew of them constructed to ‘assist’ you with your twitter adventures. A few of them are quite handy but some strike me as totally insane. The ones that not only tell you who unfollowed you but helpfully tweet about it to your follows once a day are some of the craziest. I never get why people use them.

  • DarcKnyt says:

    Oh, Sweet Charlotte, you innocent young thing. You missed the days of the Internet when things were really dicey. Bill Gates giving away millions, Honda giving away cars, Walt Disney Jr (I kid you not) giving away trips to Disneyland/world — and all you had to do was get 5000 people to forward that same spam.

    And you missed the days when chain letters were sent via post with postage. THAT was fun.

    All the really good scams are over, I’m afraid. 😉

    • Charlotte says:

      Darc, that’s a little scary. I’m going to go out under the next Full Moon and call down blessings upon my shiny modern spam filters.

      You know, it’s interesting to think of all the magnificent new absurdities that are lurking just around the corner, waiting for the next minor advancement in technology. There’ll come a day when people will speak of facebook wall-posting trends and spammy blog awards as the good old days. What in the world will they have found to do instead? Scary thought huh?

  • laradunning says:

    Great post! I’ve experienced a few of those. LOL. Overall, I still get the most spam on my emails.

    • Charlotte says:

      No doubt spam will become one of those inevitabilities of life, like death and taxes. Having opened that particular box, it’s never going to go away 😛

  • opheliajasmin says:

    chain letters bleh! Follows from business who never intend to read a single word you tweet – double bleh! Unless they’re really really amazingly useful, that is. But it’s still kind of vexing …

    • Charlotte says:

      Yeah, I hate seller-spam. Not altogether, I mean, some of them do actually converse as well. But there are an awful lot who seem to follow everyone in the hopes of a follow-back – then proceed to spam you to hell if you do. I haven’t yet figured out the sense behind that sales strategy, but then, cold calling has never added up either.

  • Heh. There is some truth to this. I’m not ashamed to admit, I’ve “won” some “blog awards” in the past – and even passed them on. I was never offended if the subsequent “winners” did not acknowledge or pass on the award I had given them.

    Mostly, I saw it as means by which bloggers would recognize other bloggers whose blogs they regularly read and enjoyed. Once the main group of bloggers whose blogs we each mutually follow got that out of our system: recognizing each other, one way or another (either through these “awards” or through good old-fashioned reading and commenting on each others’ posts), the self-congratulatory “awarding” sort of died down. As I venture further away from my immediate blogging periphary I still see these awards popping up – but among the main group whom I still typically read and who typically read me, I don’t see them anymore.

    Most of us have settled into a groove of blogging/writing about whatever interests us or whatever we’ve set as our topic for our blog, and that’s what draws us back over and over.

    • Charlotte says:

      Hi Stephen. Got to agree that reading and commenting on people’s blogs is at least an equally valid way of applauding what they’re doing; in fact in my opinion it’s much more meaningful. Tossing a graphic at someone takes no effort at all; being willing to give a blogger a bit of your time regularly in reading what they’ve written and composing a thoughtful reply is really important.

  • Damyanti says:

    This post made me laugh. People would be people, no matter what. We take our schools with us as we grow up I guess…and with social media we can let it loose.

    I have suffered in various degrees from all the things you name… and I’m not great with blog awards, follower contests, giveaways and so on.

    • Charlotte says:

      Hi Damyanti, thanks for commenting! We do indeed seem to carry our school days around with us forever. How curious that those few years can be so enduringly important. Social media comes to seem like a vast school disco where all the local schools join up to have one massive, cruel, juvenile, angst-ridden, totally crazy party. What a depressingly amusing image.

  • In a grad class I’m right now someone just did a whole presentation on the dangers of the facebook-based identity that is emerging. Your opening made me think of it. She talked about the implications of adapting an externally based concept of identity; that your very personality is predicated on the validation of the audience. Lose the audience, lose the personality.

    But, I suppose you can find new venues and “re-post” your identity…

    • Charlotte says:

      Hmm, I’ve been thinking about this comment since I read it yesterday (I know, I’m late replying. Sorry). What it makes me think about in particular is the way facebook seems to encourage seriously extroverted behaviour from most people, and on a mass scale. Suddenly everyone is a model, with a thousand glossy pictures of themselves in magazine poses. People share every aspect of their day – or rather, not every aspect at all, but all of those things geared towards constructing a desired image, an image that is expected to appeal to the types of people of which the audience is composed. Decorated, no doubt, with a fair amount of embellishment in certain areas. I notice this among acquaintances, whose online versions of themselves and their lives sometimes bear very little connection to the person I know in the flesh. I suppose this is, indeed, playing to the mass audience that is facebook, and using it to promote your idealised vision of yourself.

      Possibly facebook does encourage a sort of mass reliance on lies, on a scale you could never get away with without this kind of media platform. I wonder if some people take it further and construct whole ranges of different identities across different profiles? The possibility is interesting if somewhat appalling. I think I’d have found this presentation pretty fascinating.

  • DarcsFalcon says:

    LOL This was really cute! 😀

  • Thus far, I’m enjoying blogging more than FB and Twitter combined. And you are so right, I feel all I do is bore people with Twitter updates. Some people must spend half their day on it and say…NOTHING. I get the “connecting” part, but I’m not sure about the value of every little thought everyone has at every minute of the day.

    🙂

    • Charlotte says:

      As for Twitter, you are miles away from the kind of boring twitter feeds I see a lot. I’ve never noticed any tendency in you to update every time you take a breath. So no worries there… but it is absolutely boring when people do that. I’m not sure where the compulsion comes from. Do they really think their followers care about their every-ten-minutes essay-writing updates? (Just starting an essay. Third of the way through my essay now. Hate essay writing. Halfway through essay. Nearing the end now. Really hate essay writing. Almost finished but I got distracted by something. Okay finally finishing my essay, just a little bit more to go. Etc). Rather boggling stuff. It seems simple logic to try to tweet things that we ourselves might be passingly interested in on some level, and avoid the rest 😛

      Blogging is lovely because it has so much scope. Even there, though, there are quite a lot of blogs that are updated every single day about nothing but tiny, insignificant daily events. The same goes for facebook. It seems to be a widespread human compulsion to want to share every tiny detail of our lives, if given the opportunity. It’s visible face-to-face, too – know any of those people who can’t seem to stop talking but rarely have anything much to talk about?

  • But it’s so true!
    I end up reposting the sarcastic ones because they make me laugh. But sheesh, there are so many ‘downer’ messages that make me feel like I’m in trouble when all I’ve done is logged in and ignored people.

    Honestly, when did social media become about talking to people? snort.

    • Charlotte says:

      Haha. Quite right – you shouldn’t have to be sociable with your social media. That’s a completely unfair expectation. Everyone knows facebook is really just about Farmville and posting pictures of your cats.

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