General views

The tyranny of the red rectangle.

Update March 2013. You’ve most likely been directed here by a search engine after you inquired about the red rectangles on Facebook. They are something to do with supporting marriage equality. That’s not what this blog post is about but you can read it anyway. It’s good!

I am all social media sorted. I have a Facebook, I have a twitter, I have a blog, no-one is in any danger of not knowing of my every thought and utterance. My wisdom can be imparted on an hourly basis for the world, or my followers at least, to consume. I have 187 Facebook friends and fluctuating  tweet followers. I follow other twits. I only found out I knew at least 187 people after I set up my Facebook. I have made contact with a whole range of people from old school chums, to people I worked and work with, an old flame or two and some people I don’t know all that well but at least have met at least once, Well except James but he is a good friend of a good friend and we share a love of Rugby.  So with my little social network you would have thought I would be all happy and basking in the love of a community of folk all keen to be in touch and share our thoughts, hopes, dreams, wisdom and pointless drivel, however….

Remember the old days when we would look forward to the morning post arriving and hopefully in it might be a letter or a card written by hand, to us? No? absolutely, we have to go back an awfully long time to the written word on paper. Email has been around for as long as some kids who are about to leave school. We polite folk, who were bought up well, still write thankyou cards or letters by hand for gifts or dinner parties, but we are a dying breed. The handwritten object on the doormat is now pretty strictly limited to a birthday and a Christmas card.  Most people I know have a Facebook. I know parents who only communicate with their children by Facebook. They post on their wall, “please Skype me”.

Our friends who actually use their Facebook write their lives on their walls to keep us informed of their latest, discovery, recipe, movement, aches, illnesses, philosophy and dinner plate contents. We read the status updates and put a tick if we are suitably impressed. If we are not too busy we will write a comment to validate their effort of keeping us informed. Of my 187 friends I would say about 20 are regular posters and the others are lurkers who while on Facebook are not actually users. So they are in the network and contactable but keeping themselves to themselves. I am a very social and vocal person. People who know me, know this. I have a lot to say and I like to have a soap box. I have lots of views on lots of things that I like to share with lots of people. Sometimes I forget that most people couldn’t care less about what I think about anything.

So the red rectangle. When you are a prolific poster like me you get a bit down when there is no red rectangle on the top left of your Facebook to show validation of your musings. To show people have liked or even better replied to something you have written. Sometimes its just a depressing comment by someone you don’t know adding their two bobs worth to something you wrote on someone elses wall. Those are the worst red rectangles, they tease you with potential validation but instantly crush your hopes by only being the thoughts of someone you don’t care about. Is this what I/we have become? Do we now, when we pass our PC screen, have a quick look to see if there is a red rectangle on Facebook? It would appear so. While it is great to be able to find people from the old days and have access to people who would not otherwise be in our lives except for an annual Christmas card, the whole thing is so ridiculously fleeting. Your status updates miss most people if they aren’t on Facebook at the time or soon after the time of posting.

Most kids have several hundred friends and unless they actually send a private message to each other rather than an update, they are all effectively just talking to themselves.  That’s how I feel sometimes. I post some wit or wisdom and most people miss it. So you wonder why you bother, which is also selfish as why should it be about me? I could always just use Facebook to see what others I purport to be interested in are up to. Sometimes this occurs to me and that’s why I don’t just bin the whole thing. I am naturally an entertainer. I like to make people laugh or think. I now have a much more accessible audience and when they aren’t listening its a bit of a downer frankly. It’s a bit like people reading a text or making a phone call while you talk to them.

Which brings me neatly onto Twitter. I only follow so many twits and can barely keep up. I use twit to read to the musings of people I am interested in. People tweeting updates on topics I like to be kept informed of. I get followers turning up if I tweet about a particular topic. They use bots to track me down based on a word I use. The most amusing of these was when I was poking fun at the Liberal Democrats. Within an hour I had followers representing the following. Real Ale, Hemp and Macrame. Which to me speaks volumes.  I tweet my latest blog posts, I tweet things that I think up, try to be clever in 140 characters or less. It’s a challenge and sometimes it works. The validation from Twitter is a retweet or a follow friday.

Again we seek validation by electronic means. I have been retweeted by Hayley Westenra and had a follow friday shout from the Graham Norton show, I was ridiculously pleased. One of my tweets about Mickey Rourke supporting the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup Final was retweeted by over 30 tweeters. Awesome!  So what is my point? I almost have absolutely no idea, but in a way I am just lamenting the passing of the past. We have become infinitely more contactable and accessible but somehow also more alone as the world passes us by in a status update we may or may not see or a momentary tweet that is off your screen in seconds. I have a drawer and a box full of letters from people I have kept since I was young. I don’t read those either but somehow having them is more special than a Facebook update.

9 replies »

  1. Sorry Sandy but this wont do. I know you are your own man because I’ve read your history, but in my view you are losing sight of what is important.

    So let us concentrate on what is important and whatever that is, it isn’t Twit or Facebook or any other sort of facile communication. What matters is real interaction between beings and that includes humans and animals.

    Come on, admit it, what’s important is the one or those few, who you really value. Everything or everyone else is just window dressing.

    yes I know you like to perform, but that has to be in front of a living breathing audience to be of worth. Anything less is just that, less.

  2. It is less, but its where we are. I’m just showing I’m down with the crew and I can do the social stuff. Also as I said I am lamenting the passing of real communication, Now its all done as updates. I am going to voice my best rants though and put them on YouTube when I get around to it. I did my first live performance to a living breathing audience on the side of a Scottish mountain recently. I recited Lorne Greens. ‘Ringo’

    • “Also as I said I am lamenting the passing of real communication, Now its all done as updates.”

      Not if we don’t ‘do it’ though Sandy.

      Even though it’s been done on Youtube already I’d look forward to viewing your Ringo. But I’m willing to bet that like your Grace before a live audience in the holiday cottage, your recital of Ringo was all the more poignant live than on tape.

      Anyway, my pickiness was tongue in cheek so don’t you go getting cross with me. But hey, what the h?ll is Twit and the rest about? A fantasy, give me a real live person (or animal ) over this techo cr?p any day. Failing that. doing it to camera is second best so I see where you are going.

      Meanwhile I forgot to say, as usual, although as you know I don’t always comment, I enjoyed your ‘production’, really, it is a good read, thanks.

  3. OH, if you have seen my Ringo on YouTube, my Scottish mountain one was much better. I had a guitar accompanying me!
    I just fancy the idea of giving voice to my rants rather than people drawing their own conclusions to what I am on about. So many emails or yarns are misconstrued when folk cant see the body language to match. Its just an idea yet as I have a radio rather than a TV face.

    • “So many emails or yarns are misconstrued when folk cant see the body language to match.”

      Yes spot on again Sandy. But what I don’t really understand is that the written word has been so successful for communication and yet now suddenly, most of us are discovering that without the tone of voice being present we can really upset people by E Mail.

      It can’t just be brevity because some of us (me) struggle to do brief. The result is I end up apologising as my standard fall back position before continuing. Is this bad? Well it certainly doesn’t work in France, they just don’t understand why anyone would apologise let alone say please.

      Don’t you love diversity? I do. How about wearing a Lorne Green hat to make a screen face? (Just not the fishing one, yes?)

  4. Yes, I feel the same. Yesterday I googled my name for fun and saw a picture of myself. One that was removed from the internet, months ago… My pen-pal of twenty years got excited when I wrote her a letter recently. We do all corresponding through emails… Things are different now and sometimes I have to keep reminding myself.

    • I am amazed at how many places I pop up when I google myself, maybe the web it trying to tell me to do some work! I once wrote a letter over 70 pages long to a penpal back in my army days, Guess I always had far too much to say.

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