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.