Friday, February 20, 2009

Ever the Iconoclast

I've decided to buck the social media trend and reduce the number of people in my online crowd.

I was never in it to rack up numbers anyway. My goal was and is conversation, not reach.
I also don't mind the amount of time it takes to interact with my SM community even though it often takes more than I expected to spend.

No, my problem is that the prize isn't currently worth the price. My cost-benefit ratio is off. I'm irritated and annoyed too often. Sometimes, I'm actually angry.
There may or may not be an upward limit on how many people one can legitimately befriend/follow/interact with, but too many of my folks aren't holding up their end of the bargain I thought we were making.

I want conversation. I want reciprocity. I want to read interesting, humorous, intelligent updates and click on thought-provoking, well written articles and blog posts. I want to be acknowledged and treated courteously.

I don't want to be bored. I don't want to be told the same thing 20 times. I don't want to feel obliged to read back in time to make sure I haven't ignored a friend, knowing and resenting that the friend has never once extended the same courtesy to me.

I don't want friends who recommend sophomoric or banal content. I don't want to read the work of writers who are evidently unaware that "it's" and "its" are not interchangeable, who think "lot's" is a word, who don't know the difference between "affect" and "effect," who can't spell. (I'm not talking about typos; I'm talking about people who "die" their hair or seek "resoprosity.")

In short, I want intelligent, interesting friends and requited friendships. Not numbers, not users, not talkers who never listen,
not nonstop profferers of the self-congratulatory social media Kool-Aid, and not illiterates.

But wait. Who the heck do I think I am?

In social media, as in life, there's no percentage in holding other people to my personal rules of engagement. For one thing, it's not fair. One size doesn't (and doesn't have to) fit all. For another, no one died and made me king. Other people aren't wrong by reason of not defining friendship the same way I do. They're absolutely entitled to their own definitions, their own rules of engagement. The only person I get to be in charge of is me.

As I see it, I have three choices:

  • I can roll my eyes and wonder what's wrong with people. Resent them for not having the kind of manners, writing style, intellectual sophistication or attention to detail I'd consider ideal. Feel ignored, unacknowledged and taken for granted as I meticulously read everything they offer even when it's obvious they are not doing the same in return. [Insert loud "Wrong Answer" buzzer sound effect here.]
  • I can accept people as they are. Enjoy what they do bring to the party. Adjust my expectations and meet them on their terms. [Ding, ding, ding.]
  • If my crowd includes people whose terms I can't manage to meet without excessive teeth-grinding and tongue-biting, I can walk away. Social media is to friendship what Las Vegas is to blackjack tables; it's always possible simply to get up and move to a more agreeable and satisfying table. [Ding, ding, ding, ding.]
How stupid of me to have spent even one minute choosing Option 1! How arrogant to hold others responsible for not making my choices while I blithely ignore my own responsibility for making them. How nice to have woken up!

So I'm culling my list. No judgment, no hard feelings - it's just a matter of placing the responsibility for tailoring my experience squarely where it belongs. On me.


kim said...

I am guilty of doing this too! It's definitely starting to wear on me. I think I'll have to do some weeding.

Lea said...

Debra, even though my social media world is likely much smaller than yours, I've been experiencing similar feelings of late. (And of course, I'm with you on the frustrations of reading "lot's" of spelling/grammar/usage mistakes. "Its" making me crazy!)

Love the way you came around at the end... the sign of a wise woman. :) BTW, I'm really enjoying A Merger of Equals! I'm going to have quite a list of questions for you... and each day I can't wait to see what Jane will do next. :)


Liz Carver said...

What's difficult about this social media experiment is that it's not just a collective experiment, but *each* person has to suffer through the trials on his or her own. We each have to wade through the technology first, the social graces second, and the repercussions of both, third. We're human, so we make the same mistakes online as we do IRL (that's "in real life" if you're a noob, and that's short for newby if you're new to... oh, you get it!) And by golly, it's painful sometimes!

I started looking at social media for my last job as a writer for a software firm, and I feel lucky that I have a tee-niny bit of "experience" in the experiment compared to many others just getting started with Facebook, Twitter, and the other biggies, but you know what? Even being in front the curve, so to speak, I still get my feelings hurt, I still trust people to live up to my standards, and I still forget my social graces from time to time. And that's because I'm human, both online and IRL.

But most importantly, as you put it Debra, the experience lies with each person individually... like a love affair, or a job, or a meal at a restaurant, if we're not happy, we have to speak up, demand what we feel is best for us, and live with the consequences of potentially turning off those we offend in the process. As for me, I've done exactly the same thing - from time to time, I've deleted names my online social media lists and felt sort of sickened inside when I do it, but after it's done, I find it makes me happier. I simply can't argue with that.

CityStreams said...

Great post! It's hard not to hold others to my standards. But then again I have a hard time understanding the people who don't want to follow/friend me. I'm pretty good with grammar and I don't repeat myself a hundred times. Why would you have a multi-tweet conversation with someone and then NOT follow them? I just don't get it. Oh well! Their loss. :o)

Davina said...

Hi Debra.

I LOVED this post! Found your blog through a Tweet of Amy Derby's. I've been in this mindset for the past week. Received a lot of followers suddenly. I'm grateful for them, but I think it's important to remind ourselves to not take things so seriously or personally.

I'm just not interested in following some people and I don't think that I'm obligated to follow someone JUST because they follow me.

I usually check out their website or blog before I follow. If no link exists I scan their tweets. There's no point in following someone if you're not interested in what they're talking about. And it has nothing to do with that person specifically. It's just personal preference.

Thanks for this post.