Not to be Shared

Aaron Sorkin was on The Colbert Report the other night talking about his movie The Social Network. When asked if he was on any social networking sites, he said no and that what people are doing when they post comments or tweet is a performance. That the posts are a version of ourselves we want to present the world.

Something that’s really bad is when I find I’m in a conversation based on what’s said by people online. “So-and-so said this so I wrote this back to which someone else (that jerk) wrote this thing I can’t believe.”

I’ve been going back and forth about that myself for a few months and cut back on the time I spend on those sites. I usually tweet something once a day but have tried to keep my social networking time to under 15 minutes a day. I think I do it mostly out of an irrational fear of not being alive. I think half of my online presence is a preemptive self-defense tactic. If I do or say stupid things online about myself first then…

I feel a shift happening. Maybe this movie about Faceboook’s creator, Mark Zuckerburg, is the death knell for the site. His recent donation of $100 million to the city schools in Newark made me wonder if he was working out of the George W. Bush playbook. (Rule #17: Give a bunch of money away before you do something bad like hold office or are the subject of an unauthorized biopic.) So then I wonder if Mr. Zuckerburg will get philanthropic before the dvd release or something else bad comes to light. Maybe that’s cynical but my hunch is something’s afoot.

I wonder if online etiquette is taught in schools now. Based on my experience at NYC public schools, I’m going to say no. (The general rule of not posting anything you wouldn’t want tattooed on your forehead for life is the best to use.) At the office the other day, I heard a couple people talking about how no one is saying anything about sexual predators on Twitter. That made me tilt my head like Scooby Doo and I let out a “ruuhhh?” sound before I could control it. I guess if people give out their locations, etc., that could put people at risk.

Now that the sheen is off this interactive yearbook for adults that pulls together people from every chapter of my life, I wonder what’s next. I’ve been leaving more voice mails with friends but doing them badly. 80% uhs, 20% some semblance of a message. A friend from high school who has steered clear from any of this insanity has been phoning me. We’ve missed each other 3 times. I have to call back this weekend. I can’t just leave some quip on his wall. Weird.

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3 thoughts on “Not to be Shared

  1. Facebook is indeed crazy, but it's affected me in ways I couldn't have imagined. Last year, I connected with my first grammar-school classmate. Within a couple weeks, a big chunk of my class was connected. I was suddenly chatting with people I hadn't seen or talked to in almost 30 years. I actually felt dizzy from the waves of nostalgia and the flood of memories. We even all met in person last summer, which never would have happened without Facebook.

    I agree that comments are a form of performance (in my case, literally, since I'm a comedian.) But I also think being among all those people I know, and used to know, has popped the bubble of nostalgia around different chapters of my life. Instead of all those “whatever happened tos” and keeping people frozen in time, I get to see them as they are know, all grown up with families and careers.

    And if they annoy me too much, I just hide 'em from my news feed. How postmodern is that?

  2. Online social networking is absolutely a performance–just like every area of life. For most of us, there is very little of our “real” selves on display most of the time. But, just as in a stage performance, even when playing totally against type, some pieces of honesty bleed through. They have to, for the performance to work.

    Everyone is different in how they wish to be perceived. I, for instance, have had many people tell me how much I make them laugh. This cracks me up, since I'm so serious so much. But, I always point out, that online I have fewer filters than in real life, so if they know me in real life, they actually see more of the real me on screen, than in a social situation.

    Odd, no? The internet is an interesting place. I love it, but I see it as an evolution. After the invention of the telephone, we really lost the old art of letter writing. In the old days, many people's letters actually read a bit like a series of tweets or status updates. It's just they arrived in a bundle. I think of social networking as a kind of modern, letter writing fad. I don't think it is going away. People have always loved written communication. Now we love instant gratification. Marry the two, and you have an addiction that will be hard to beat.

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