Living our lives on social media

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Michelle
Living our lives on social media

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Michelle

I didn't want to sidetrack the "Am I pretty" thread by going off on a tangent, so I thought I'd start a new thread.

We were talking in that thread about the phenomenon of young girls posting YouTube videos asking people to tell them whether or not they were pretty.  And I said that adults do it too, but just a little differently.  The focus in that thread is about the misogyny that young girls are facing on YouTube when they post these videos.  You can read the discussion about that there - my comments below are probably off topic there.

I think one of the great downsides to social media is the constant begging for attention and affirmation in general, not just about looks but about everything we do in our lives, that it has made into the norm for social interaction with our friends and acquaintences. I've left Facebook, not only because I was spending too much time on it, but also because I found that I was spending more time sharing what I was doing and pictures of what I was doing on Facebook than doing the things themselves!  Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration.  But social media affects how people do the things they do offline too - at least it has for me, and I've seen it with lots of other folks too.

It's like, you go off on a trip, and you feel this urgency to ensure that every "kodak moment" is captured so you can share it.  If you don't post a picture of your activity on Facebook, did you actually do it?  It's no longer enough to enjoy a breathtaking view of a lake inside an extinct Icelandic volcano - you have to take a panoramic shot of it and share it on Facebook, because your friends have to enjoy it too, and it would be impossible to just describe it to them later.  (And yes, that's exactly what I did!) 

On the flight back to Canada, we flew over Greenland and I had the window seat.  And the clouds broke as we were flying over it, and it was the most amazing and beautiful thing I've ever seen.  And radiorahim was quietly freaking next to me because I was looking out the window at it instead of looking at it through the screen of my digital camera as I click-click-clicked.  So I did click-click-click too, because I also wanted some pictures of it.  But I made sure I got my fill of drinking it in myself first.

I found myself consciously telling myself throughout that trip to put the camera down more often and just look at things, just experience them myself.  And I found myself watching people on the tours we took, blocking the windows of the tour buses with their arms and cameras and looking at the scenery through the tiny screen on their camera instead of just looking at it.  The gorgeous things whiz by and you're trying so hard to get the perfect shot of it that you don't really look at it yourself - you look at it later when you upload it to Facebook.

And it gets addictive, the ooohing and ahhhhing after every banal or not-so-banal thing you post.  Wow, you've uploaded your 432nd picture of yourself with a cute expression on your face in a brand new outfit or hairdo.  Oooooh!  Ahhhhh!  Like like like like like like like like like!  You look so cute!  Adorable!  Love your shirt/hair/expression/make-up/eyes/whatever!  Look at the supper I just cooked and I just had to take a picture of it to upload to Facebook!  Ooooh!  Ahhhh!  That looks so delicious, I'll be right over!  (Except, no they won't.  They'll enjoy dinners with you by looking at pictures of what you made on Facebook.)  Like like like like like! 

Since leaving Facebook, I no longer feel that nagging urge to snap pictures of every second of my offline life, and I've also found a drop in what was becoming an overwhelming need to check every half hour to see whether people have said anything to me, or liked or commented on something I've posted.  It's kind of freeing.  But at first when I deactivated my account, I was surprised at how isolated I felt. 

If kids are picking up this habit of only feeling affirmed when people in socialmedialand "like" everything they do and every picture of them, they're not learning it in a void.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell wrote:

Understanding the narcissism epidemic is important because its long-term consequences are destructive to society. American culture's focus on self-admiration has caused a flight from reality to the land of grandiose fantasy. We have phony rich people (with interest-only mortgages and piles of debt), phony beauty (with plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures), phony athletes (with performance-enhancing drugs), phony celebrities (via reality TV and YouTube), phony genius students (with grade inflation), a phony national economy (with $11 trillion of government debt), phony feelings of being special among children (with parenting and education focused on self-esteem), and phony friends (with the social networking explosion). All this fantasy might feel good, but, unfortunately, reality always wins. The mortgage meltdown and the resulting financial crisis are just one demonstration of how inflated desires eventually crash to earth.

Unionist

Michelle wrote:
I found myself consciously telling myself throughout that trip to put the camera down more often and just look at things, just experience them myself.  And I found myself watching people on the tours we took, blocking the windows of the tour buses with their arms and cameras and looking at the scenery through the tiny screen on their camera instead of just looking at it.  The gorgeous things whiz by and you're trying so hard to get the perfect shot of it that you don't really look at it yourself - you look at it later when you upload it to Facebook.

I understand your reaction to the Facebook phenomenon, but in my own life, taking photos and videos and audio is really important. I do get a momentary rush from seeing or hearing beautiful things, but I don't have a photographic / phonographic memory. Photos and videos are precious tools to remind me of important experiences and enhance them in my recollection. For example, I find it hard to re-create a person's voice in my memory - an audio clip can be priceless. I've had the experience of older friends and relatives contacting me after the death of a loved one and asking if I have any video or audio of them. Imagine how wrenching that can be when the answer is "no".

I guess what I'm saying is that with the advent of simple cheap high-quality technology, I'm not as enamoured of "real life" as I once was. As long as I can strike an appropriate balance, I can do better than real life.

I'm still going to think about the social media part for a while, and yes, I recognize that that's your main focus, rather than living "in the moment". Again, I'm not sure what's wrong with having friends and contacts and acquaintances that you rarely see in real life, and in looking at youth, I definitely don't see them using social media as a substitute for real-life contact. More a supplement.

 

6079_Smith_W

I wouldn't blame the medium for it. 

After all, there isn't a one - from the printed word to TV and film to the internet -  that hasn't been abused in some similar way. In the first place I think it is a function of society, and in the second place (though I am sure no one is suggesting it) there is no turning back the clock.  The only way forward is to think of this as something with illustrates a problem, and deal with it.

 

On the other hand, there is this: 

http://www.sexbombsburgers.com/www.sexbombsburgers.com/Home.html

Hell, even the clock was initially a military invention - one of the most important ones of the millennium. Given their deadly origins, I am sure anything we do with these technologies is a step up.

 

 

 

 

Maysie Maysie's picture

Great topic Michelle.

Sometimes I wonder about the whole naming "narcissistic" of an entire generation. My generation was called the "me" generation and the prediction was that great doom was to fall upon those of us with short attention spans (caused by Sesame Street, a downright ancient and plodding show at this point), those of us who lived beyond our means, we were the first "raised-with-t.v. generation", focussed only on self, etc etc.

That said, I didn't grow up in a time where every second thought that popped into my head could be broadcast far and wide within a few seconds. 

On the topic of photos, for about 10ish years starting in the late 90s I found something very odd happening. Digital cameras became more widespread and there was a decrease in let's call it highly selective photo-taking, which I used to do, to rampant photo-taking, with a later selection of those photos deemed to make the cut and be printed onto nice photo paper. I found that when my photos were only available on my computer, there was no way to show them to people, including the people in them, aside from email, which removes the "community" aspect of looking at photos together with a group of people from a shared experience.

Facebook is very much about community for me. I limit the "friends" I have to (mostly) people I've met in real life, and I find I'm caught up with people on more outer rings of my spheres, and share jokes, comments and interests with people I would otherwise have contact with maybe a few times a year at community events, if at all.

I will confess to being one of those photo sharers, including meals I prepare for friends (I never used to take photos of my food) as well as cute photos of my cats, etc.

As an educator I've found many dozens of videos and links to blogs, news articles and other media that I wouldn't otherwise know about, in my news feed posted and re-posted by friends and community peeps, and for that I'm very grateful.

I don't take photos thinking "I have to take photos so I can post them on Facebook", but a funny thing I will do is, when I hear or say a particular funny or sarcastic sentence, say, "That's sooo my new Facebook status."

But .....  it's also a huge time-waster, and keeps me in front of the computer (not writing, not working) more than before. And I'm a pretty bad procrastinator as it is. However, I can't blame Facebook for that, it's just fitting into lots of bad habits I've cultivated over the years.

Michelle

Hee, Maysie, I take pictures of my food too, so don't think I was aiming that remark at you!  ;)  (Although you do it more than I do...)

I understand what you mean completely, Unionist, about not wanting to lose the memory of what someone or something looks like or sounds like.  I'm not saying that technology is all bad.  That is the up-side to the technology, and I agree with you that the way we can communicate with each other now is incredible and amazing and there is so much good to be had from it.

One thing I found while on Facebook is that I would take photos, upload them to Facebook but then never print them anywhere else, and I didn't have a very good filing system on my own computer either.  So Facebook became kind of like my photo album.  Which is great if you are planning to be on FB for the rest of your life, or if you're sure you're not going to get booted off by them for some reason or other (and lots of people, especially activists, fall afoul of some sort of "Facebook policy" thing or other).

I do, however, miss that aspect of Facebook, the sharing of photos with friends who probably wouldn't otherwise see them if I just printed them and put them in hard copy photo albums.  That said, I have photographs of myself that are over 30-40 years old.  Will the pictures we take today, in this format, last 40 years when we want to look back on them later? 

People who saved word processing documents on 5.25" floppy disks 20 years ago - how's that working out for them now as they try to retrieve those files from their disks, which were created in some program that barely exists anymore outside of a tech museum?  I wonder if the same will happen to our digital pics?

The last time I printed a photograph I took digitally was about three years ago.  I just never do it anymore.  And I'll bet most people don't these days.

6079_Smith_W

@ Michelle

I go through my pics each time I download them, and make prints of at least some of it. But then, I am painfully aware of the problem you mention. I don't think most people are. 

Same problem for reel-to-reel tape, of course. Actually I think this is less a case of lost technology than a ripe market for people who have the means to transfer data. After all, you still can find 5-inch floppy drive sif you really want to..

Hopefully we will be a bit smarter in the future, when it comes to backing up data.

As an aside, if you have ever had to deal with old photos from the 30s and 40s, many of them are direct negative prints. In other words, there is an incredible depth of resolution in them , despite their tiny size. I have pulled up clear faces which were only a few milimetres wide. 

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

I would say that the epidemic is capitalism, not narcissism. But I'm old-fashioned.

Maysie wrote:
 Facebook is very much about community for me. I limit the "friends" I have to (mostly) people I've met in real life, and I find I'm caught up with people on more outer rings of my spheres, and share jokes, comments and interests with people I would otherwise have contact with maybe a few times a year at community events, if at all.

This is where I come from on this topic too. Of course there are all sorts of problems with facebook which have been well indexed on babble. But there are also some wonderful things: not only improved organization, communication and maintaining long-distance relationships, but the kinds of social spaces youth have shored up through facebook which come to undermine or resist the original corporatized, for-profit model facebook intended. Queer spaces, anti-authority spaces, safe spaces for expression and all sorts of other amazing things. Of course these also come with attendant challenges and problems, but to cite one without the other is mistaken, imo.

Freedom 55

Maysie wrote:

I've found many dozens of videos and links to blogs, news articles and other media that I wouldn't otherwise know about, in my news feed posted and re-posted by friends and community peeps, and for that I'm very grateful.

 

That's the main value of FB for me... as an aggregator of interesting reading material (and now that I'm no longer on dial-up; video and audio!). That, and the fact that discussions/arguments about said reading materials no longer flood my e-mail inbox the way they did 8-10 years ago.

Sven Sven's picture

Good topic, and comments about that topic, Michelle. 

When I travel, I take a lot of photos for the reasons Unionist noted. I rarely post them to FB (maybe only one or two select photos).  We took a trip to Morocco (and France) last November and I took 1,300 photos over 2+ weeks (none of which ended up on FB) but they are a great memory aid. 

That said, I think your new approach to travel has a lot to recommend it. Enjoy the smells, the sounds, and the sights at the moment (and don't spend all your time looking through a camera viewer -- or thinking about getting your next shot). 

With regard to FB, I post very little about myself. A few photos that I really like and I almost never give a status update (I just don't think other people are going to be THAT interested in what I do). But I do spend a fair bit of time there because it helps me keep up with my many nieces and nephews (and great nieces and great nephews) who are scattered far and wide, geographically.  Besides, young kids, from my experience, have almost completely abandoned using email (texting is, by far, #1 followed by FB as a distant second).  Their world of communication largely exists in short little snippets -- bursts of at-the-moment thoughts or impressions. 

6079_Smith_W

 

I post fairly regularly, under my real name, but I have no pictures of myself, no birthday, and very little information. I just don't like putting all that much out there for everyone to see. 

Also, there are some people I have not friended, like my mother. We have a family page for that. If she really wanted to go look at the things I post to everyone else she could, but I don't think there is much there of interest to her.

Speaking of the "am I pretty" idea, one of my nephews friended me a few months ago, and regularly posts way too much teenage information. I called him once, in a friendly way, on something homophobic he posted, and I remember some time later wondering if I should mention his habits to his parents, because he was posting some embarrasingly personal stuff.

Eventually I came to the conclusion that I should just not read his stuff, and that really, he should not have friended me in the first place, Just because we are both in an open forum like facebook doesn't mean it is appropriate for me to be reading juvenile teenage chatter. And yes, a few people have pestered me with farmville and shit like that, but really, I think people who are into shit like that are going to gravitate to other people who are into shit like that.

In the same way, while there are some people who use social media as a way to get attention or set themselves up to be judged by other people,  how is that any different than doing the same thing on a telephone, or by doing karaoke, or whatever? 

Really, that is the only way I can see that this new technology is different. For the most part people are doing the same things as we were 30 years ago; it's just that now we're all doing it in the same big room.

 

radiorahim radiorahim's picture

Quote:
People who saved word processing documents on 5.25" floppy disks 20 years ago - how's that working out for them now as they try to retrieve those files from their disks, which were created in some program that barely exists anymore outside of a tech museum?  I wonder if the same will happen to our digital pics?

Thread drift alert!

I've kept a couple of old 5.25" disk drives.  Neither of them are currently installed in computers but in a pinch I can do that and recover old data.

But yes, it is a problem that a great deal of digital information is stored in proprietary file formats that are no longer supported.  

I read an article a while back about a scientist who wanted to go back to the original data files collected by one of the 1970's era space probes.   The scientist found that the company that created the software for the probe had long since gone out of business and so there was no way he could access this original data.

More recently I read an article in (I think) "Linux Journal" about some issues that the author was having recovering some older digital photographs that were stored in (I think it was Kodak's) proprietary data format...instead of ".jpg" or ".raw".   The software for this old file format would only run on (I think) Windows 9x or maybe it was Windows 3.x    This situation ended up a little better because he found a programme that would run on GNU/Linux that could do the file format conversions.

But even where I work I'm sure that there are some old accounting files that are probably no longer accessible or accessible with extreme difficulty because they were generated with some specialized proprietary accounting software designed for non profit organizations that's no longer in use.

So the best guarantee of preventing your data from becoming obsolete is to use file formats that no single software vendor "owns".  Will you have software capable of reading your ".doc" and ".docx" files 30 years from now?   Who knows?   Software corporations come and go.

As for data you've stored on social networking sites, "web 2.0" or "cloud" services or whatever you want to call them, what you want to be able to do is to get your personal data out of whatever service you're using.   And, even if you've downloaded your data, there's no way for you to truly know that your data has been purged from the web service's servers.  You just have to "trust" folks like Mark Zuckerburg.

If you use a webmail provider like gmail, hotmail or yahoo mail, how easy would it be for your to download all of your old e-mail?   Something to think about.

 

Sven Sven's picture

I recently asked a friend of mine who is a college communications professor what his impressions are regarding the general writing ability of today's students relative to his earlier years of teaching. In his experience, he thinks writing skills have deteriorated.  Assuming that is true, I've got to believe that the highly fragmented communication that kids engage in all day long cannot exert a positive influence on a student's ability to write thoughtful and relatively complex compositions.  If someone sends out hundreds of text messages throughout a day, on a day-in and day-out basis, that probably isn't the best way to train a mind to write things that aren't just superficial, stream-of-consciousness compositions. 

For example, good writing requires a process of carefully re-reading and editing what one writes (and often several rounds of re-reading and editing). That requires an enormous amount of effort and sustained concentration.  Machine-gun texting develops habits that are directly contrary to that process. 

Maysie Maysie's picture

Re. food on Facebook, funny story. In my status I will sometimes post descriptions of meals I'm preparing for friends. Kind of to brag about my culinary skills, I admit it. Wink One day recently I ran into one of my neighbours in the co-op where I live (we're friends on FB) and she said something like "You make such amazing meals!". I laughingly reminded her that I post my yummy meals about once every 2 or 3 weeks, and that the rest of the time I'm eating mac and cheese or something equally unnotable.

We had a laugh over that, but it reminded me that the information any of us put up is completely selective, and like Sven's and 6079's comments above, show a very particular portrait of our Facebook presence, both in quantity as well as the content of what we post.

I also use my real name, which changes dynamics when I (of course Laughing) get into arguments with people on my wall, or on my friends' walls. 

And while I'm searchable if you already know my name, I've done this on purpose, partly for potential work/clients and partly for greater networking that could lead to same, or finding old friends who I actually want to be in touch with again.

6079_Smith_W

@ Sven

I get annoyed by lazy writing as well, but I think some of it is adaptation. It is like the story of Lincoln's Gettysburg address being thought of as a bomb at the time he delivered it, because it was only two minutes long, in contrast to the two-hour long speech by Edward Everett just before him.

My grandmother told me that when she was young there used to be two mail deliveries per day (this was in Winnipeg). People did not tend to write letters for a lot of their messages - they scribbled them on postcards, and it was common to send an invitation in the mail in the morning, get a response in the afternoon, and have the person over for supper that same evening.

 

 

Caissa

When Justin Bassett interviewed for a new job, he expected the usual questions about experience and references. So he was astonished when the interviewer asked for something else: his Facebook username and password.

Bassett, a New York City statistician, had just finished answering a few character questions when the interviewer turned to her computer to search for his Facebook page. But she couldn't see his private profile. She turned back and asked him to hand over his login information.

Read more: http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/TopStories/20120320/job-hunting-facebook-login-120320/#ixzz1pf39tkRh

Sven Sven's picture

6079_Smith_W wrote:

My grandmother told me that when she was young there used to be two mail deliveries per day (this was in Winnipeg). People did not tend to write letters for a lot of their messages - they scribbled them on postcards, and it was common to send an invitation in the mail in the morning, get a response in the afternoon, and have the person over for supper that same evening.

[THREAD DRIFT]

That's a great story. 

Thinking of unusual (relative to today) uses of the mail, when my dad was in college (about 65 years ago), he would send his dirty clothes back home to his mother who would wash them and then mail back his clean clothes. Dad said that was a pretty common practice at that time. 

[/THREAD DRIFT]

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Caissa wrote:

When Justin Bassett interviewed for a new job, he expected the usual questions about experience and references. So he was astonished when the interviewer asked for something else: his Facebook username and password.

Bob Sullivan wrote:
In Maryland, job seekers applying to the state's Department of Corrections have been asked during interviews to log into their accounts and let an interviewer watch while the potential employee clicks through wall posts, friends, photos and anything else that might be found behind the privacy wall....

Student-athletes in colleges around the country also are finding out they can no longer maintain privacy in Facebook communications because schools are requiring them to "friend" a coach or compliance officer, giving that person access to their “friends-only” posts. Schools are also turning to social media monitoring companies with names like UDilligence and Varsity Monitor for software packages that automate the task. The programs offer a "reputation scoreboard" to coaches and send "threat level" warnings about individual athletes to compliance officers.

A recent revision in the handbook at the University of North Carolina is typical:

"Each team must identify at least one coach or administrator who is responsible for having access to and regularly monitoring the content of team members’ social networking sites and postings,” it reads. "The athletics department also reserves the right to have other staff members monitor athletes’ posts."

Fidel

Bob Sullivan wrote:
Student-athletes in colleges around the country also are finding out they can no longer maintain privacy in Facebook communications because schools are requiring them to "friend" a coach or compliance officer, giving that person access to their "friends-only" posts.

I know for sure that FB pages of prospective junior and college league hockey players are examined by people connected to the pros.

Caissa

The B.C. Supreme Court has ordered a former Victoria law student to hand over pictures from her Facebook site as she pursues a lawsuit in connection with a traffic accident.

Tamara Fric was a first-year student at the University of Victoria in 2008 when the vehicle she was in was rear-ended by a car owned by Tracy and Stuart Gershman.

Fric is suing the Gershmans, claiming the accident has left her with chronic pain and a diminished ability to enjoy life and earn a living.

But the defendants believe pictures on Facebook that allegedly show Fric on vacation, hiking, scuba diving and wakeboarding might contradict the lawsuit's claims.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2012/04/30/bc-lawsu...

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Pictures like that have always been relevant in a civil law suit. The only difference is now people post them on a medium that reaches far more people. A lawyer facing the same type of suit 30 years ago would likely have sought and obtained disclosure documents relating to a ski holiday etc if those events had been published in a Society News column.

What most people don't realize is that our internet security is like a needle in a haystack for isolating a single person's behaviour on line. However once a person is isolated the police and corporate security people can then go back and find the most intimate and mundane details of everything from purchases to admissions of guilt in e-mails and other communications.  Big Brother is watching but until you make yourself known to the state/corporate apparatus you can fly under the radar. 

Just ask 6079 Smith W what happens when you get on the radar.    Cool

milo204

"I think one of the great downsides to social media is the constant begging for attention and affirmation in general, not just about looks but about everything we do in our lives,"

part of this though might be that we interpret what we see on social media based in part on how well we know the person.  When it's my best friend posting a picture of their lunch i might think "oh that's great that susan has decided to stop eating mcdonalds all the time and go on a vegan diet, good to see she's making an effort what with her diabetes and all."  while someone else might say "i really don't give a shit about your lunch!" it's all perspective.