Social media? Or monologue?

File this one under “too long for a Facebook status”.  It’s not quite a full-on “Jon-rant” either, more like a (hopefully) quick bit of thinking out loud.

For years I’ve described my personal internet presence; i.e. the things I have ownership/editorial control over —  message boards, forums, websites, Facebook — as being akin to my living room.  If I’d give you leeway to say it there then I’m good with you saying it in my digital space.  Think of it as being a guest at a party basically.  If you got invited in the first place then you’re most likely not expected to kiss my ass in order to remain welcome.  Within whatever arbitrary boundaries I may set, whether in advance or as the situation requires, you can say what you will.

Just like with that virtual party though, there are some lines you could cross that would get you asked to leave, or maybe even physically escorted to (or through) the front door.   I make no pretense about that imaginary line being exactly the same for every guest either, some people have more leeway than others.  I don’t think that makes me any different than just about any other regular Joe/Jane out there.  Our relationships with people generally have a value  related to the investment you’ve made in each other over time.  A beloved relative therefore is going to get more benefit of the doubt than the new neighbor you met two weeks ago & invited out of some sense of obligation or just trying to be polite.

In reverse, I treat other people’s digital domains the same as I treat my own, it’s your living room & I’m allowed there at your sufferance.  I’m still not likely to censor myself beyond what I find reasonable or tolerable in the digital realm any more than I am if I were standing on your carpet.  In other words, I really try to be the same guy online that I am in person.  Good or bad, right or wrong, for better or worse, there’s basically only one me.  I have enough trouble keeping that one between the ditches, no chance I’m going to try to have a whole different personality, behavior, rules, etc. just for the internet.  If you have a problem with that, you’re just as free to ask me to stop or ask me to leave or bounce me out the door as you see fit.

Hopefully all of that makes a reasonable amount of sense to everybody, because the living room analogy is key to what I’ve really got on my mind:

What about those in between spaces?  I originally described it as a “virtual porch” when I started writing this entry, but quickly realized that wasn’t the right metaphor.  Maybe “common area”, like you have if you live in a condo or neighborhood or something but that really wasn’t it either.

When I say something here or on Facebook or on Twitter, the very nature of the venue invites comment & feedback.  Like making a statement aloud in the middle of the living room at my own party.  Hence the phrase SOCIAL media.  Ultimately I have control over what feedback is acceptable, but I really don’t believe it’s realistic to pre-emptively issue a blanket order for people not to comment.   That’s not a party, that’s a lecture, and to be honest even my ample ego is pretty sure the number of people signing up for “An Evening With Jon” is going to need a pretty small room to hold everyone who wants to attend.  And truth be told, 99.9% of Evening With Person X lectures are going to be able to take place in the same linen closet.

Thing is, the nature of social media is a lot like that living room party.   With the current technology it’s difficult to nigh on impossible to only hear (well, read) the stuff you want to hear or will like or agree with.   And that’s fine, we’re not required to attend anybody’s “party” but it’s just not remotely reasonable to invite us to enjoy the cute little weinies-in-crescent-rolls but expect us to not hear something you say at full volume in the middle in the room.

Our hearing isn’t that selective, neither are the user options on most internet sites.  I can’t just filter out, strictly for example, every reference to Obama that is made by a left-leaning friend.  I have to either deal with those in order to also see the latest news about their kids (which I find imminently more agreeable) or do without all of their content.   Heck, I can’t even consistently & effectively filter out disagreeable references made by people I don’t even know, those “friends of a friend” are the source of frequent irritation for a fair number of people.  The technology is simply much more “all or nothing” than that, same as I can’t control what some idiot co-worker of a friend might say if I was at their home to celebrate their kid’s graduation or something.

The choices really aren’t that complicated.  I can deal with it in silence, I can object to whatever degree I decide is appropriate, I can leave the party altogether … but I can’t control whether or not I hear it if I’m going to attend the party.  That’s not an option, the technology in use on most sites simply isn’t that advanced … so please don’t be surprised if there’s occasional feedback that isn’t always hunky-dory agreeable.

Likewise, please don’t expect everyone to comment exclusively if they’re in wholehearted agreement.  Those aren’t “friends”, those are sycophants.  Nothing wrong with being selective about how often you express that disagreement,  go too far too often & well, you likely ain’t gonna remain friends.  Nothing wrong with choosing your words wisely, nothing wrong with at least trying to do so with the amount of respect you deem appropriate … but reality says there IS occasionally going to be heard a discouraging word.   I’d strongly suggest people either deal with that reality or find a different venue, because you’re expecting more out of the current social media landscape than it can really provide.

Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that anyone suffer endlessly or anything of that sort.  A user can pretty easily cut off communication that becomes intolerable.  To be frank, I’ve done exactly that on more than one occasion, when someone simply stepped irrevocably over the line between what I was willing to tolerate from them and what I wasn’t.  {shrug}  No different than “real life”, sometimes people simply become more trouble than they’re worth to you.  When or if that happens, you deal with it and move on, may not be something you wished would happen, but it does.  Such is life. {shrug again}

In the interest of even more clarity, a couple of other things I think ought  to be said before I close this one.
1) Neither Obama nor anything left-leaning nor even the political season has anything to do with this bit of wisdom.  The reference above was strictly an example, nothing more.  Honest & for true, that stuff has exactly zero to do with this entry, so please don’t try to connect dots that don’t exist.
2) Yeah, there was an actual incident that prompted this blog post at this particular moment (waves to the one or two readers who saw it) but I was a relatively innocent bystander.  The subject is nothing new though, what happened today was merely a catalyst for writing on a topic that’s crossed my mind plenty of times in the past few years.

So Jon, (I can hear someone saying) exactly what is your point here?  I guess what I’m shooting for is just a combination reminder/advisory that we all should have reasonable expectations about how the various online avenues are going to function (and dysfunction), be ready to cope with situations that arise, and to urge that those coping mechanisms be rooted in reality rather than in some peace- love- Kumbaya sing along fantasyland that doesn’t exist in the physical world much less in cyberspace.

And that’s my three cents.

1 Comment

Filed under Personal

One response to “Social media? Or monologue?

  1. The other option…and one I frequently exercise …is to take that pereon who may or may not be under the influence, aside and ask them to reign it in for the sake of my other guests.

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