Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cyber Contact And Communication

Before the internet, there's no doubt people were curious about how their exes, one-night stands, could-have-beens or former friends were doing after they'd come and gone from their lives but they didn't have the means to find out without hiring a PI or asking a friend of a friend. There wasn't instant access to someone's day-to-day life. Nowadays, there's frequent trolling of someone's Facebook page, Twitter stream or coincidentally running into someone at the location they just checked-in on Foursquare (that last part is their own fault). I even know folks who get somewhat irritated or annoyed if they log-on to check-up on a former down-low and there are no recent posts; there's an expectation that the "ex" will keep them in the loop with updates. Then the freak out begins: What's up? They not using Facebook anymore? What are they doing? Who are they with?

The past few years, my circle has become populated with artists of all genres. My timelines and Twitter feeds are are full of event invites and links, twitpics of what's going on in "real time" and I'm subscribed to a lot of mailing lists. In my situation, I'm actually friends with many of these artists so I have direct contact with them, off of social networks.

What I'd like explained to me is the phenomenon of the continuous peeking in on someone's life. Think hard and honestly--there's that person (or people) whose personal emails you read but never reply to, whose texts you ignore yet whose life you seem compelled to know everything about. Why? They're reaching out to you directly, so why not just talk to them?

I had this blog sitting in my drafts folder when I received this text from a "former":

I contact you more than you do me,I still check your FB page

And therein lies the problem. Communication is blurred in 2011. Reading someone's Facebook page or reading their Twitter feed doesn't equal contact. Updates seem to be misconstrued by friends/followers as direct communication. Perhaps people automatically assume everything is directed at them because of the passive-aggressive nature of social networks, all the "subtweeting". I know I'm not alone in having a web presence but not broadcasting everything I do. And considering the anonymous nature of social networks, I don't think that's wise. I do write personal posts on this blog but I don't put every detail of my life out there. So for those who only rely on this blog, social media or my email campaigns to know what's going on with me, you're missing a lot.

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  1. This is really interesting. Many people rely -heavily - on social media to act as their way to interact and connect with others. I feel that I have a mixture of the two. As someone who struggled to make friends while in academia, I have found social media to be a great way to meet like-minded individuals even though many may live far away. I have found it helpful to find people whose ideas I think are fantastic or who are doing things that I'd like to do. This isn't an experience I've had outside of social media.

    But I also try to be careful about broadcasting my entire existence. But it's a fine line because my blog is based off of my existence versus objective, journalistic facts. And I use twitter as a way to personally connect, versus just spreading information. I'm just very personal, so it's hard to be detached from the process unless I kept off Twitter - or switched all my convos to e-mail. Which I don't want to do. Nor feel obligated to.

    I also think that in a way, we're always sharing pieces of ourselves with others that allows them to peek into our lives. It's part of having an online identity. More transparency. The only way to really avoid that is to not blog or use twitter. And to restrict your FB to only people you know and talk to regularly.

    However, I will say that I stay in touch with my real life friends regularly. I've very much about keeping in contact with them all the time. Either through the phone, e-mail, skype, writing letters or IMing. Though I'm attached to my computer - for various reasons - I still talk to my real life friends as much as possible.

    /super long comment

  2. The super long comment is cool :-)

    But you still stay in touch with real life friends via other means. There is a balance between having an online presence and sharing every detail of your day.

    Now suppose you never posted on FB or Twitter and didn't contact people any other way? It shouldn't be an excuse--I didn't know what was going on with you cause you didn't post it on FB or something like that. Or why keep tabs on someone who does use other means of direct communication yet never contact them/reply? It's all so strange to me.

    Not sure that came out right but eh, I think you get it.


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