Thursday, May 14, 2009

The New Old Frontier of Social Networking

Now that the traditional media of television and print have discovered Twitter and Facebook (FB), there's plenty of airtime spent discussing these new communications platforms. Just like any news story involving a dead white woman with slightly sexual overtones, the media has taken the topic of social networking and beaten it to a bloody pulp.

And just like when we've all reached our maximum capacity of any given dead white woman news story, there is backlash.

So it was when John Ridley filed this commentary on NPR. The topic? Twitter and Facebook. Here's some of the transcript:
But my real issue with social networking sites isn't their faddishness.

It's the hypocrisy that goes with them.

We claim to be a nation of people who take our privacy very seriously. Just mention the idea of warrantless wiretaps and expect to get hit up with a congressional investigation.

But give somebody an avatar and a URL, and he can't tweet, post or hyperlink enough personal information about himself to as many people as possible.

Seriously, does valuable broadband space need to be taken up with announcements in that creepy Facebook third-person-ese that "John is enjoying two-for-one margaritas with the rest of the IT Team at T.G.I. Fridays"?

Where is the expectation of privacy anymore? Or, more correctly, where is the expectation that people will keep their private nonsense to themselves so that those of us who still like to communicate personal information with one person at a time don't have to get caught up in somebody else's e-mail circles or listen to their one-sided cell phone conversations?

No, I don't know what's hipper; to Facebook or to Twitter. I just know for me, personally, discretion never went out of style.
Ridley is wrong to equate the invasion of privacy with indiscretion. Giving away your privacy and having it taken away by The State and, often, without your knowledge, are two distinct things. If I want to post that my butt itches and I'm about to scratch it, I am deciding that at that very moment such is the statement I want to make to my Twitter followers and Facebook friends.

However, if The State decides that it wants to monitor my left butt cheek by planting a device in it while I'm sleeping so that The State can use my itchy butt as a means for finding out if I am a threat to this nation, well, now we have a constitutional issue.

Big difference. The other part of that is very simple. I choose what to tell you. I don't actually tell you everything. Imagine. The mind reels at what I could possibly be holding back, right? But it's true. Some might say that I violate the privacy of my family when I blog about the doings here at Golden Manor. Perhaps. But if any of them would ask me to not write about something (and they have), I honor that. I call them filthy names and ridicule them for their apparent lack in the sense of adventure department, but I honor their request. Grudgingly.

So I take issue with Ridley's awkward comparison between personal privacy and a constitutional right to privacy. Beyond that, I can agree that there is awful lot of noise out there with this person heading off to the men's room with the newspaper (an FB status that made me laugh, frankly, but I am a fan of potty humor - ooooh, must add Potty Humor to my "fan of" list on FB) or that person who is going to have their roots touched up at lunch time. Seriously, though, I am not so busy and important that these little things make me crazy. For cliff's sake, filter. If you don't want that stuff, don't sign up for it. I know plenty of people who would rather chew glass than use social networking.

Ridley, though, is missing a really good use for social networking. As more people adopt it, it can make communicating to large groups much easier. It's never going to replace more traditional methods like mailings, phone calls, purchased advertising, emails and the like. Come to think of it, a few years ago we would have laughed at the idea of emails being considered one of the "traditional" communications tools.

Part of my job is to communicate to a large audience. We stopped our printed quarterly newsletter and went to a weekly email newsletter. As much as I complain about what a burden it is to produce weekly , it's truly effective. I put snippets of the article into the email newsletter that goes out to our membership using a nationally known service. Each snippet links to the full article on the organization's blog. From the stats, I can see that people are clicking the links and visting the full articles on the blog.

We communicate industry information and promote the various programs, services and events provided by the organization. Next I want to supplement the email newsletter with a Tweet. It could be very effective to tweet something like "Hey, laggards! You have two more days to register for Thursday's webinar. Get on the stick! No time like the present!"

Or something like that.

Colleges have already adopted Twitter and Facebook. I am going to be very grateful for Tweets about the events at The Dancer's university because goodness knows she isn't going to be bringing home a backpack full of notices and permission slips. All levels of school should add this supplemental communication tool to their outreach methods. I, for one, would be grateful for a Tweet that says "Don't forget class pictures are tomorrow so make sure your kid wears something halfway decent and drags a comb through his/her hair!"

Naturally not everyone is going to be on board with these methods, but for those who are, it could be a very efficient way to stay on top of things.

I hope that Ridley will rethink his opposition and disdain of social networking. Soon I'll be setting up a Facebook page for work. When I asked my boss J about it the other day, I posed it like this: "Don't we (meaning the organization) want fans, too?" His response was a resounding yes.

It's not all work related, of course. I mean, it's me. And I can't wrap up this post without telling you how much I love Twitter and Facebook for their efficiency in promoting this here blog. I know. Ho hum, right? Well, when I'm not posting links to my current blog entry or some music I've just got to share, I can still be found posting a delightful assortment of status updates.... writing a blogpost that she hopes will change the way the John Ridley views Twitter and Facebook. eating a Three Musketeers Bar for breakfast.
Lisa...wonders what THAT noise was. fretting the decision to use the pink highlighter instead of the yellow.
Lisa...wants to know - what would YOU do for a Klondike Bar?
Lisa...did not laugh when MathMan did the nod/snort/wake yourself up thing as he slept in his office chair.
Lisa...likes some things more than she should.
Lisa...considers whether it's hypocritical to read The Myth of Multitasking on the toilet.
Lisa...wonders how long it will take The Actor to ask what happened to the XBox360 controller. baffled by THAT decision, but is willing to give it a try. annoyed that every time she starts to do something, she has to stop and go pee.
Lisa...hopes some people don't look too closely at her new FB avatar because there's a wee bit too much cleavage.
Lisa...eyes suspiciously that package over there. Did it just move? Do I hear ticking?
Lisa...wants the voices in her head to stop now. Really. NOW.
Lisa...would walk Five Hundred Miles. Must get new shoes.
Lisa...worries that one day she will accidentally post a That's Why post on the work blog.
Lisa...thinks that she should have a staff to take care of that. And that. And that. Oh, and that, too.
Lisa...says "Look ma! No hands!" and then "Hey, Grandpa! What's for supper?"
Lisa...could, but won't.
Lisa...does not believe in fairy tales. (fill in the blank.)
Lisa...likes french fries dipped in mayo.
Lisa...has left the building........

What about you? Do you...........?


  1. I suspect that as the dust settles on instant communications - we'll find that, just as before IT, 1. many people really have little to add to any conversation. 2. gossip and nasty trump earnest and sincere (in the popular culture). 3. Nothing really has changed regarding privacy or Big Brother stuff - just the gizmos have improved. 4. If you have something worthwhile to say, it will be heard - even if it's just your voice and your neighbor's ear.

  2. Lisa, I couldn't agree more. There is a huge difference between voluntarily offering personal information vs. having personal information spied upon by the government. Like you, I tell a lot on my blog and FB, but I keep a lot of the really personal stuff private - plus I don't reveal my friends' names in my blog because some of them are more "discreet" than I am and would not be happy. That includes my husband, who is not on Facebook, Twitter, nor is he blogging. (He does read my blog once in a blue moon though!).

    It's all about choice.

    And I also agree it can be a very efficient way of communicating. For instance, a friend of mine was in the hospital with pneumonia and was able to keep all of us updated in one place by accessing Facebook on her Blackberry. Given her weakened condition, if she'd had to e-mail everyone separately she probably wouldn't have done it.

  3. What bothers me the most about Facebook and MySpace is that they use your personal information and also spread it around to various corporations. You give them that right when you sign up for the site's. Since very few people read ALL the fine print..very few realize that.

    The facebook site demands you use your real name. Fuck them! Why would they give a shit if you use a made up name or your given name?

    Because they sell the information..that's why. And they want it to be accurate. A Wired article from 2004 that explains a lot:

    The video url below will provide information on who owns facebook, who has money in facebook and a host of other tidbits that might curl your hair..or not:

    Gilman Louie is a very important the world of the CIA and data mining.

    Just saying...what you don't know could hurt you. Strange bedfellows...

    And no, I am not a conspiracy wingnut. ;p

  4. I'm with Randal that's just too much information. And like Groucho said " I wouldn't want to be a member of a club that would have me as a member".

  5. No, it’s not hypocritical. I am a true believer that time on the toilet is time wasted. That’s why there is a magazine rack next to mine. (That is interesting time wasted while getting rid of waste.)

    There is no such thing as too much cleavage (As long as it’s not a family member showing it.)

    I hate mayo. However, mustard on French fries is good.

    Some of my status updates that could have been done today:

    Latka…..wishes he could figure out what’s wrong with the f… computer.

    Latka… glad the boss is on vacation.

    Latka… really really glad tomorrow is payday.

    Latka…..would really like to be on the beach right now.

  6. Dusty makes a good point, but doesn't go quite far enough. As soon as you put anything up on the internet, whether it's through a social network site, a blog, or even a commercial transaction (buying or selling something) that is ostensibly only between you and one other entity you're giving up the expectation of privacy. Electronic information simply cannot be controlled the way old-fashioned paper could -- there's never a way of knowing just how many copies of anything are floating around, or when a comment you made in a chatroom back when AOL was in diapers is going to come back to haunt you. So when you post naked pictures, make sure they're flattering.

  7. You said it all, and well I might add. Interesting points brought up in the comments. Food for thought.

  8. And if your naked pics aren't flattering..photoshop someone else's bod onto them. ;p

  9. What a dork. What an insipid, stupid dork (him, not you). To think that just because we Americans enjoy sharing our lives with friends means we should stop complaining about warrantless wiretapping is just about the dumbest thing I've heard today.

    If I want to take a picture of myself standing naked in the backyard and share it with my friends, OK. If the state comes along and takes a picture of me naked and puts it in a file with my name on it - no. The whole difference here is who is doing the picture-taking and for what reason.

    Ridley can kiss my left buttock, because the right one I save for people I like.

  10. I'm so glad to know the status of your left butt cheek...had me worried for awhile. And yes I what!!! :) Great post.

  11. I think you made good points, and I believe that voluntarily giving up your information is perfectly fine. I do think your commenters make some valid points. I FB more than I twitter, I am sort of lost on the twitter front, but I'm interested, I'm often interested in train wrecks too, so it's hard to say. I still believe that you need to know if it's out there electronically, it's really out there........for all.

  12. Thanks for taking that fallacious privacy argument to task. With some people, being self-righteous isn't enough;they have to accuse the rest of us of hypocrisy or some other moral evil (is there any other?) to try to make their choice seem better by comparison. I get really bored hearing (other) hyper-privileged people whine about the actions of their more popular cohorts. Sour grapes, Mr. Ridley?

    I totally missed the fb update of you reading the multi-tasking book on the can. Hilarious.

  13. Love the facebook avatar, especially that cleavage. Am I gay? Why do you ask?

  14. Fries and mayo? My son thinks I'm crazy for eating them like that.

  15. If you've got good cleavage you might as well show it off. (Gorgeous pic, btw.)

    I join you in wishing that someone would Twitter me about all of the things that I forgot (or never knew anything about).

  16. Apparently Ridley has never heard of "privacy settings."

    And BTW, I love the avatar -- it makes me think back to the old days of "I love Politits!"

  17. Listen to Dusty about Facebook selling peoples' info to others; it's all true.
    How does anyone think they make money?
    All that aside, I am low tech and damn proud of it. It took me about six years before I left dial-up for broadband and I just got my first iPod five months ago. I have a Blackberry but it's in a box unused because it had too many doodads on it to bother with.
    Facebook and Twitter take bloggers away from valuable blogging time and deny me the fresh bloggy meat I crave.
    My theory is that people WHO LOVE ME are only 20 percent as interested in my life as I am, and that 20% has to actually be interesting or the numbers drop considerably.
    I think only about 0.25% care if I'm about to eat a BLT on wheat toast, whether my butt itches or who scratched the itch.
    Besides, if one's list of Twitter pals or whatever they call them keeps growing, then aren't users eventually inundated by the throngs of itchy butt tweets they receive?
    Who's got time for all that?
    And finally, I happen to believe that all electronic devices tend to draw positive ions toward the physical body, and in this case positive is negative.
    With a bluetooth in our ear, a cell on our belt, an iPod in our pocket and a laptop in our briefcase, what's next, having electrical sockets transplanted into our bellies so we can hook up even more shit?
    Like Kathy Griffin's mother said to Steve Wozniak, "There's enough technology out there. Stop."

  18. BTW, like Utah Savage, I, too, like the new pic, but have refrained out of respect from mentioning your visible lady bits.

  19. Now KZ, you know I love you woman!

    You could read a phone book and I would sit and listen Karen, seriously! ;)

  20. "...too much cleaveage" is an oxymoron. And possibly one never uttered by a man. Ever.

  21. Social networking has proven to be an incredibly valuable tool for my nonprofit agency. Not only is it a great way to do outreach and to communicate with our participant population, but it's been a great resource for our expansion of individual donation dollars as well. I read a story in the Chronicle of Philanthropy recently about how to use social networking to build awareness and donations for your mission/cause.

  22. Come on, of course you believe in fairy tales :-)

  23. I haven't wanted to start another computer driven task, with work and blog already taking too much time from Abner and Louise (my two paint brushes that I can tell apart but I bet no one else could) and giving me pain that feels too much like carpal tunnel... So no Facebook or Twitter for me anytime soon. Though the ladies in my house love it.

  24. I agree with you. But I wonder if Ridley was just being facetious.

    I still have yet to write my first tweet. You know, in case you're counting.

  25. trying to avoid twittering my blog posts are inane enough!

  26. I just signed up to twitter, but I won't do facebook for the reasons already stated in the comments. And french fries taste really good when dunked in dijon mustard. Makes me unAmerican I suspect.

  27. I don't have a cell phone, or an Ipod, or a blackberry or a notepad or a laptop. But then I'm very old. That probably has something to do with it.

    I just scratched my left buttock. Am I gay? Why do you ask?

  28. I agree that there is a big difference between putting your info out via various media and the government snooping on you. What the government knows about you pales in comparision to what the private companies know about you. They know when and where you bought that mayo for your fries, fries too. Who knows how many places that mayo info is in??

    What has had me scratching my ass (maybe it's catching) for quite some time is the assumption that everybody is online and connected. Like after the VA Tech shootings they said they would e-mail everyone if a similar incident happened, as if everybody is constantly checking their e-mail 24/7!! Or the phrase, "For more info on this story, go to our website."

    I concur with the other commenters, there is never too much cleavage. If you got it, flaunt it!!

  29. You're absolutely right, Lisa: One's an autonomous decision, a willingness to sacrifice privacy in exchange for access and intimacy.

    The other case, the NSA shit, is collectively autonomous only on their end, a clearcut invasion of our 4th amendment rights so they can gain more access and intimacy.

    One's a private, arbitrary decision, one involving a more or less calculated risk.

    The other is Big Brother. The difference is clear to me.

  30. Hmmm - let's see:

    Renn is...thankful that, thanks to FB, she is finally 'friends' with her dad!

    Renn is...standing outside her office in a vain attempt to stop stuffing her face.

    Renn [says]: “Much violence is based on the illusion that life is a property to be defended and not to be shared.” - Henri Nouwen.

    I'm kinda boring...

  31. Use the yellow highlighter, of course. Don't use the pink one! They don't taste as good.

  32. I am very late to this but I will say that as I drove to work and heard that Ridley piece on NPR, I began shouting out loud.

    Oh please - man who has a job like his and then on the radio telling us his thoughts, going on about how he doesn't want to hear our thoughts? And that we should not want to hear them?

    Give me a fucking break, Ridley.

    Ack. Enough!

  33. I couldn't agree with you more--about Ridley's silly opinion and about Potty Humor. I LOVE Potty Humor. :)

  34. HA! This was my favorite one, too!

    Lisa...considers whether it's hypocritical to read The Myth of Multitasking on the toilet.There should most definitely be a blog about what people read on the toilet or some suchness.

    Also, my son's have some kind of routine in which they announce like carnival salesman, the sale of "Buttscratchers! Get your Buttscratchers!"

    Potty humor indeed! I'm a fan.


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