Silenced Again

This is not the blog post I wrote yesterday and intended to post up today. This is the one I wrote today.

Sometimes, when I’m driving along and another driver is being stupid, I shout at them. They can’t hear me, nobody knows I’m doing it, but it seems to do me some good. The post I wrote yesterday was a bit like that. It was a shout in the car and best to keep it in the car. I think I can give you the gist of it though, in more levelled terms.

I have been going through a period of frustration with social media in general and I think this has been reflected in some of the things I have said or maybe just the tone in which I have said them. 

Yesterday’s ‘car shout’ was worth writing, even though it will stay in the drawer. I thought about it quite a bit after I wrote it and I think it’s brought me a little clarity.

The title of the post is the same as yesterday's one. In essence, it discussed how I have got to feel like I am being silenced on social media, how the technology is effectively shutting me down. It recalled how I always loved remote social interaction, even back to the days of CB radio when I was only a kid. It described how I seemed to lose a lot of social interaction when I left London in ’97 and how the discovery of, first, blogging and then Twitter and later Facebook reactivated the sense of extended society that I had missed.

After thinking about it, and staring at the rant, it was plain to see that it is not the whole of social media that was yanking my chain. It was Facebook. I’ve make no secret of the fact that Facebook doesn’t work for me at all. It doesn’t show me the stuff I want to see and it doesn’t show my stuff to more than a handful of people. Updates are thrown out into the void and responses are only forthcoming when one almost shamelessly seeks them out.

In yesterday’s 'car shout', while casting around for some kind of a simile to summarise the negativity of my Facebook experience, my mind turned to that movie ‘Awakenings’ from back in the early ‘90s. In that film, Robert DeNiro is in a coma and is awakened by a new wonder drug. For a time, he is fully alive again, happy and functioning, but then, slowly and horribly, the effects of the wonder drug wear off. He is left fighting to communicate and, in doing so, becomes grotesque to his loved ones and to himself. 

That, I said in my rant, is how Facebook is starting to make me feel. Social Media was the drug that woke me up, allowed me to be sharp and witty and friendly again. Now, thanks to the workings of Facebook, it is being withdrawn, it is no longer effective, and I am left twitching on the floor, trying to continue to make my mark.

By rewriting today’s post, I’ve deliberately removed myself a pace from the use of this analogy because, obviously it is far far too extreme. To compare that level of human suffering to the minor pain in the arse that Facebook gives me is wrong and patently incorrect. 

Reading back on it showed me something pretty plainly. Facebook is not for me. I have been trying to use a marketing medium as a social interaction tool. I can see that it works for lots of people. Facebook obviously deigns to show them the people they most want to see and that’s all it takes for it to be easy and fun. But in my case, for whatever technical reason, it has not done that.

The solution therefore becomes crystal clear. Get off it. Step away from the Facebook. That’s what I’m going to do. I’ll stick up a link to the blog every week and I'll check sometimes and see if anybody is messaging me but, beyond that, I think I’ll try to make my Facebook like my 'Google Plus', a place where I go once a week and then quickly leave again. 

If you want me, I’m not that hard to find. I’m on Twitter.

Another realisation from yesterday’s failed post is that Twitter, for all its flaws, still works. At least it does for me. The crucial difference between Facebook and Twitter, for me, comes down to just one thing. Twitter allows me to see the stuff I want to see and anybody who wants to see my stuff can do so. 

So that’s it. Easy. Why didn’t I give up on Facebook ages ago and save myself some trouble? Well therein lies the rub. There are people on Facebook who I like and enjoy. People I have known for quite a few years now. People who don’t really do Twitter. I’ll miss seeing their stuff. Maybe I won’t be able to stay away, so good is some of it.

But, man, if I learned one thing yesterday, it’s that I have to try.

Footnote: The cartoon which illustrates this post is by Ben Cameron. One of the nicest and most talented people I know. He was doodling yesterday in his open studio and he asked online for prompts. Rather calculatingly, I tweeted ‘talking to the wall’ and, mere seconds later, he came back with this cartoon and kindly allowed me to use it today. Ben brings a level of emotion into his work that is almost beyond belief. Here’s a link to his online stuff. The cartoon is also a link to his blog. Go and check him out, you won’t be sorry.


Jim Murdoch said...

Before I first started blogging—in a week it’ll be eight years—I spent a long time reading up on the dos and the don’ts of life online. It all seemed very reasonable and worthwhile so I girded up my loins with one hand and took the bull by the horns with the other and jumped in head first only to discover it was a photo of a pond and not a real pond. After the initial shock I started stamping on the photo convinced there was water underneath but, no, it’s only ever been an illusion and, like you, I’m well and truly disillusioned. And I don’t think we’re alone. None of us have had the success we were promised or anything close to it but we have made friends and that’s what’s kept us hanging around, for the sake of our friends. We’re not a part of a worldwide community, we’re a part of a club and we’re deluding ourselves if we believe differently. I was up working this morning on my book—I’m finding I’m most clear-headed between two and six—and I took my regular break at four and watched the BBC New Channel while I had my hot cross bun. There was a segment on Chinese baseball which, apparently, is taking off in a big way and every last one of the players has one goal: to be signed by a big American team. This year a grand total of one was. And that’s all it takes to give the rest of them hope. E.L. James made it. She gets derided all over the place but really we should be deriding her readers. Why are they reading her and not me? Or you? We look for reasons but the answer is not a reasonable one. It’s the one we gave our parents as kids: Because.

One of the things those in the know said eight years back was how important social media was and so, dutifully (if a little half-heartedly), I joined up and connected with all my friends whose blogs I was following anyway who posted pictures of cats and reminders to buy their books and read their blogs. I didn’t want to be that person so I hardly posted anything. Some automated thingy tells Facebook when I’ve a new blog (it posts to Twitter too) but I’ve long since forgotten how that works so I couldn’t cancel it if I tried. But bit by bit the blogs I was following started to dry up—you’re one of the last still going—and it seemed that all the writers were hanging out on Facebook. Doing what? There weren’t any meaty discussions or anything. Just crap. Photos of what they had to eat the night before, their new haircut or dress or cat videos. What are we doing here? I’ve heard Facebook compared to the office water cooler and it’s a fair comparison. It reminds us that the people we’ve come to care about who used to write interesting articles on their blogs to which we’d post considered comments were still alive and that’s nice; we care that they’re still alive. But as a tool for promoting ourselves, forget it. Cat videos go viral, not literary articles or poetry books.

We’re all tired. We’ve been at this for a while and we’re getting nowhere. We’re like the bloke sitting in front of the slot machine (we called them ‘puggies’) feeding it coin after coin convinced that as time marches odd the odds of a big win improves. Odd don’t improve with time. It’s false logic. Companies who employ people in their production departments usually let them nibble as they work because they’ve learned that within a very short time the employees will sicken themselves of whatever it is they’re handing and never want to look at another whatever until the day they die. That’s a bit how I feel online, like I’m sitting in front of a conveyer belt and there’s nothing on it bar cuddly toys. (You’re ages with me; you see where I’m coming from.)

Facebook has its uses but they’re very limited. If I check my daughter’s page sometimes there’s a new photo or two. I like that. I’d love to say I get notified every time you post something and from checking your page I seem to do but it’s watercooler stuff: “Hey, Jim, have you heard this one?” I don’t follow you on Twitter. I don’t get Twitter. I look at Eric Idle’s photos and that’s about it.

Ian Wieczorek said...

Facebook, yeah... I have 2469 'friends' at the moment.

My initial motive was to use it purely as a publicity machine, so when I have an exhibition opening or have been selected for a show I can be 'delighted' to announce it to the wider art world, maybe acquire a bit of kudos or just maintain the blip on the radar that says 'I'm still here'... But then I, and other people, started 'finding' each other, interacting...

First of all, cousins from Poland and Hungary and the UK that I hadn't been in touch with since my teens - via my parents and their mother tongues - began to 'find' me. You can run, but in these digital times, it seems you can't hide... After initial familial rapprochements, we don't now interact any more than previously, but the odd 'like' seems to engender a connection that seems both appropriate and - ok, I admit - kinda nice. (You might have gleaned by now I'm not generally the best 'keeper upper' with people, and typically 'only child' self-contained... It's not that I'm not mindful of people, I just don't tend to distil that into any concrete action.)

And then there's the others... people I knew back at college, or even earlier. We seem to have been a disparate bunch, but, weirdly and happily, we mostly seem to be content to reconnect after years of unapologetic neglect and apparent indifference... suddenly we're homies again... Not face to face, sure, but via the keyboard... And yes, that's kinda nice too.

And finally there are the new people who I seem to have struck up deeper 'friendships' with... ephemeral , perhaps, but in some sense as meaningful as any face-to-face. We exchange information, opinions, banter and 'maybe more' in a no-strings-attached manner that is quite enriching. I guess when one is not a 'people person', the on-line version of life can be a fairly comforting duvet...

Twitter I tried, but somehow it seems to encourage a pithy (glib?) one-liner approach that can seem both swaggery and slightly needy... Ok, I admit, maybe I just never 'got' it...

So that's my tuppence worth on the subject. And ironically, I'm telling you this via the keyboard because we never have/make the time for a coffee...

Hope said...

I learned early on that I'd delegate how I interacted with FB and not the other way around. Sadly, FB does not play nice and like you, I get weary of not being able to see what I WANT to see from my friends. Mostly FB was for the charity/husband's business, with my "secret page" on the side to keep in touch with friends from Blog World who were spending more time on FB.

I had to learn to walk away when the rants start, especially political, or when people start spouting just to hear themselves talk, without thinking first. Sigh.

I'll keep doing FB on my terms. While I don't like Twitter, I appreciate YOU. So at least stick your head in the door from time to time so I know you're alive. Then again, I haven't given up my blog either. Not as frequent but that's more of a lack of time thing most days: between my job, keeping books for my husband's business and our charity for soldiers, don't have a lot of "me time".

Take heart. YOU are what's important. And I'll take whatever you feel like sharing, even if I'm standing next to you looking at that brick wall. :)

seoirse mac enri said...

Hi Ken, for me Social Media can take or leave it, think of the initials, SM,reminds me of 'Smiley' Finan's quip, 'Give every masochist a fair crack of the whip'....
FB falls into that category for me, obscene, it moulds peoples perceptions of themselves and others for financial gain asking seemingly mundane questions , which in the end reveals a lot about those answering, when all relevant data is collated. I read last year FB was employed
to gather tv ratings, in an experimental project in U.S. ,usinf peeps FB details to monitor viewing habits, not realising the can be then used to tailor adverts to specific groups, free market research...

I agree people see SM as how the are percieved, everyone elaborates a little on their online personas, but in reality most can read between the lines, but are too polite to say. I have a FB account but never use it Twitter I use, not often mind, I also read of 'buy buttons' being trialled there, which leads me to think market place rather than community, but we'll see, Knowing you as I do your quick wit is far more evident in person than on FB.
I recently heard of someone local checking FB pages of prospective employees, trn up a guy
sick evey monday, posting pics of night before, When will peeps see what sharing too much info can do

take care Ken