Posts Tagged ‘ social networking ’

The Luxury of Being Anti-Social

I don’t have that luxury.

Was my reply to Mom’s announcement she was considering closing her Facebook account. “Of course you do!” was her response.

On the surface, she’s not entirely wrong. I can absolutely close my account. It has not replaced my interactions with my friends and family, although sharing family photos would require some rejiggering on my part. But that wasn’t really what I was referencing.

At the time, my cousin’s teenage daughter was living with my parents. My mom really only used her Facebook account to monitor her activity, but because she wasn’t a regular user my mom did not have the tools to fully understand what my cousin’s daughter was doing. Over time, the Facebook activity became such a bone of contention between the two that my mom eventually banned her from Facebook.

As you may have guessed, this strategy wasn’t exactly successful.

I adore my mom. She’s incredible and I often call her Super Grammy. Although there is an alarming and growing trend of grandparents rearing children, to take on your niece’s teenage daughter is matter for sainthood. On top of that, she’s there 100% for me with my children as well. Vomiting kid? No problem, get your hiney to work and I’ll mop up. You’re sick? Let me bring you some soup. Need a night out? Send the kids over, I can handle it.

On top of that, my mom is incredibly intelligent and tech savvy. She was the one to teach me DOS and introduce me to computers. She’s still the only one at her house that can setup and program their entertainment centers. She was the first to adopt ebooks in our family and the first among us to use online banking and shopping.

So let me make this exceptionally clear. Her problem with Facebook isn’t lack of smarts, caring or knowledge – it is lack of use.

First, without regular usage, Super Grammy was unaware that you could disable posts, pictures and your wall from people you still had friended. She didn’t know that she wasn’t seeing a complete picture and she didn’t know how to limit or control it.

Second, it’s impossible to model good social networking behavior if you don’t use the services. Until you’ve made a few online blunders yourself, it’s difficult to anticipate the specific problems, bullying and arguments that can arise from these platforms.

With the increase in frictionless sharing and interconnectivity it’s imperative that I remain fluent in the digital biosphere.  I’ve made a few of my own blunders and I’m learning how to mentor and model best social networking practices.

Frictionless sharing is the single most irritating part of Facebook and what almost had me quit. As the Maid of Honor in one of my best friend’s weddings, I was using Pinterest to explore all facets of wedding planning. Although I’d disabled the app from posting to my Timeline it managed to sneak back. Multiple inquiries about my upcoming nuptials had me steaming.

A small mishap like that one could really translate into major problems for the novice user. Unfortunately, this technology is changing at a pace that even the most seasoned social networker has trouble staying afloat. I will simply be an ineffective instructor for my children if I don’t keep my account, actively use it and seek out the newest changes each and every time.

My children are still young and they haven’t yet begun with Facebook  but I certainly see it glinting at me over the horizon.

What are your thoughts? How do you manage your children’s online social networking? What’s worked? What hasn’t?

Single Mom, Social Butterfly, Insomniac

Single Mom. Social Butterfly. Insomniac

These three qualities have left me with hours of spare time sandwiched between 8:30 pm and whichever wee hour of the morning my body and mind finally collapse into exhaustion. Bored by television and in the mood to socialize, online networks have provided the window into the outside world I craved.

I have two main sources of direct social connection at the moment: Google Plus and Facebook. I find I use both of them for very different reasons. For years Facebook has given me the opportunity to reconnect with lost friends and stay abreast of the every day happenings of my closer friends and family. Now Google Plus gives me new content discover and interest based connections.

I was delighted when a high school friend tracked me down on Facebook. Reconnecting for the first time in 15 years she told me that her memories with me were some of the happiest from her childhood. Year later, we found our lives hadn’t been that different in the intervening years. We both have 2 sons and are divorced and we still enjoy and easy camaraderie.

Other Facebook friends include grandparents, aunts & uncles, cousins and far distant friends who enjoy the posts about my daily life and photos of my kids. Separated by distance, we’re still able to follow the basics of each other’s daily lives. I know when their kids are sick, when they get a raise, a chance to see the picture of my cousin’s wife baby bump, birthday parties, food adventures and all the small details that make up a person’s life. From across the country I’m able to feel like we’re still a part of each others lives.

Recently I’ve noticed a growing trend of broadcasting. I’m observing a lot of chatter: “I’m doing this” or “Pic of kid” or “I am here”. I’m seeing less and less commentary on each person’s broadcast of their life. I don’t know if this is simply busy lives, a growing fatigue at maintaining the social connection, boredom with the homogeneous content or some sort of mix. Even I feel challenged to find relevant comments. After the 100th picture of a friend’s child or pet I find have nothing new to say or contribute. You can only say “How cute!” so many times and still sound authentic. The thing is, I still really enjoy seeing these pictures; I just don’t know what to say without sounding contrived or cheesy.

I find that I’m using Facebook more and more to see the trivial details that breed familiarity but we’re losing the conversation that’s involved with discovery. We share the intimate details of our daily hum drum, but we’ve quit challenging each other to think. This familiarity seems to prevent us from exploring the differences we still share; instead allowing those same differences to drive us further apart. Without the conversation it’s really just a bunch of people all chattering about their own lives.

This brings me to Google Plus

I’ll admit, Google Plus isn’t for everyone, at least not in the manner I use it. For me, Google Plus is about new content discovery and finding new contacts; contacts based on both common interests and challenging view points. The circle format gives me the chance to follow new people while maintaining my privacy and the ability to form long posts means I get more than a 140 character snippet of thought. Instead, there’s a conversation 40 million voices strong.

I understand that not everyone is looking for new content the way I am. Many are simply to busy or hesitant to add new people in to the streams of their lives. “I don’t care about the opinions of strangers” is what I hear from my friends when I talk about Google Plus. It’s not that I care about the opinions of strangers for making decisions in my life, it’s that I find people inherently interesting. I love the discovery of commonalities across distance and I also love having my world view challenged.

One evening my sister and I played a nerdy board game, Settlers of Catan. Both the group of people and the game were new to me, but I had a blast. I was invited back to play again with the group, but the logistics of babysitting make getting there a challenge. The next day, a quick post on Google Plus netted 6 people who were interested in playing online. Within an hour we had an online game setup and using the Hangout feature were able to video chat while playing. Nearly instantaneously I found like-minded people to explore my interest.

The compelling nature of the group Hangout feature is that it allows me to know the people I interact with online face-to-face. True dialog. We share some of the daily chatter, we debate life, we joke, we play, we get the chance to really know each other. Text posts take on more meaning when I can hear their voice reading it to me.

Things I’ve gained:

  • We’ve challenged each other to get fit from across continents
  • Shared meaningful thoughts about our favorite childhood books
  • I’ve come across new art which I purchased
  • Had the pleasure of hearing about how Hangouts started
  • Exposed to new music
  • Debated merits of different healthcare systems in the US versus Canada
I love that Google Plus brings the content, people and ideas to me through my Stream. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a fond place in my heart for Facebook. It’s just that is now where I go to catch up with the people I already know. Google Plus is where I go to find new things and have my mind challenged.
And, as an insomniac, social single mom with hours of quiet time to fill, I’m loving every single minute of it.
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