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.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Valentine's Day

I wrote last year that I don't get the whole Valentine's Day hype. Manufactured feelings smack to me of form over substance, and I don't like to be told how to act by greeting card companies or florists or chocolatiers (well, maybe chocolatiers).

As an alternative - or, if you must, in addition - to celebrating Valentine's Day with silly material crap, please consider
the LOVE ebook, now available at Writing Roads. Full of love-inspired poetry, photos and art, the LOVE ebook was developed and assembled by Julie Roads with the goal of spreading happiness and positivity and making a difference for people struggling with the recession. The ebook is available for free, but when you download it you may also make a donation to Career Gear, a national nonprofit
that helps men find and keep jobs through skills training, interview clothing and relationship building.

Please click here and see for yourself how this wonderful idea has come to life. Oh - and happy Valentine's Day!

Love Ebook

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sexism Hurts. So Does Rudeness

Yesterday, I was unpleasantly surprised by an unexpected and ugly instance of demeaning sexism in an email. Not an email just to me, but an email sent to a large distribution list. The offending two paragraphs were written in a joke-y, "of course we all think this way" tone, and they reinforced demeaning stereotypes about relationships between men and women that were already outdated in the 1960s.

Anyone attuned to these things has no trouble finding them everywhere. From the clods on the campaign trail who yelled "Iron my shirts!" at Hillary Clinton to the ignoramuses who write magazine articles insinuating that men are incapable of being nurturing parents (the kind of sexism, like the two offending paragraphs in my email yesterday, that manages both to degrade men and to define women in a limiting way), there is no shortage of prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination on the basis of gender in our everyday lives.

I hate having to be a good sport about sexism, knowing that my silence amounts to tacit approval and makes me a collaborator. Still, I understand that you have to pick your battles unless you want to be battling all the time. I also recognize the need for a sense of humor. Sexism is unfortunately so embedded in our society, our lingo, and our consciousness that even people who do not promote it sometimes find themselves contributing to its continued existence.

As strongly as I feel about this issue, I want to battle it effectively, and I've concluded that taking on every casual instance I run across is not the way to do that. I tend to nod and smile pleasantly and change the subject when people assume my husband's income was what funded our early retirement or ask me who's going to take care of him when I travel on business, or even when someone tells one of those ubiquitous jokes that portray women as for sex only and men as lumbering buffoons.

But yesterday's email came from someone who is widely known and admired. Whether he intends to be or not, he is a role model. I stewed over his sexist paragraphs for a while, then decided that because of his reach, I didn't want to let this one go.
I wrote a polite 3-sentence response that gently objected to the sexism. The last of the 3 sentences read: "I seriously doubt you really think this, and hope you won't mind a friendly reminder that stereotypes don't help anyone."

Once my email was written, I thought it over, bounced it off a couple people whose opinions I trust to rein in my more knee-jerk reactions, and then sent it.
It's now 24 hours later and he has not seen fit to respond. This rudeness further offends me. We're dealing with someone who is always hooked in, who never lets his cell phone out of his sight, who communicates frequently and well. I have the ability to call him out publicly. Shall I?

2/9/09 Update: Sincere thanks to all who've commented on this post, either below, on Facebook or via email. There was nothing private about the email with the paragraphs that offended me. It went to a distribution list that I understand exceeds 50,000 people. There is also nothing private about my reply to the sender. So here they both are.

The paragraphs I objected to opened the 2/3/09 afternoon HARO email. HARO stands for Help a Reporter Out, an innovative free subscription service that connects reporters with sources. HARO emails go out three times per day on weekdays, and each edition is sponsored. As far as I know, Peter Shankman, whose brainchild HARO is, writes the opening paragraphs. In any event, he is the "I" referred to in them.

The edition in question opened as follows:
This HARO is thanks to those words no guy wants to hear: "Why hasn't he proposed yet?!" Well, celebrity relationship experts, TV personalities and husband/wife Matt Titus and Tamsen Fadal have the answer for women who can't get their man to pop the question in their latest book, "Why Hasn't He Proposed?" Go From The First Date To Setting The Date. A real married couple, they have the answer to how you can land the ring on your finger with their fool-proof six week plan to get him to commit without saying a word! This book comes on the heels of their first book, "Why Hasn't He Called? and their Lifetime show, "Matched In Manhattan," a reality show based on their lives as married relationships experts and a real life couple. Plus, Matt and Tamsen are giving away the chance to win a free diamond ring with the launch of their new book!
[Links & contact info deleted].

The above book, which virtually every female on HARO is now buying, is enough to scare me into having absolutely nothing to say in my opening monologue. :)

Here's the text of the email I wrote in response:
Hey, whoa, ease up on the sexism, OK? This female would not only not buy this book if it were the last book on earth, but is disappointed to see someone so evolved playing into outdated notions that women are all about trapping men and men are all about eluding women. I seriously doubt you really think this, and hope you won't mind a friendly reminder that stereotypes don't help anyone.

I should also note than I'd previously emailed him to inquire how one went about becoming a HARO sponsor, and he responded to that email immediately.