Living online

Sometimes it is hard to breakdown how my online networks have an influence on my life, but considering I seem to spend far too much time online, it’s good to take stock of these things. Most of my social network tends to revolve around two topics - Music and Politics. Both of these topics are something I am very in to, and I find that my enthusiasm for these brings other people towards me, and I to them. I used to be a regular music reviewer/co-editor for a music website, so a lot of people I know online, I met through that avenue. Twitter seems to be for Politics, and Facebook is definitely more music oriented. Twitter is very politically aware as I follow feeds that brings news to me, and it’s fast and straight to the point. It’s not the ideal place for debate, but it brings me enough information to be informed and perhaps go forward to write my own blog posts. I am reluctant to bring the politics over to Facebook as I tend to get quite in to how I see things if I have the space to do so, and it is not in my nature to alienate people. My political views aren’t awful, but I have a varied amount of friends whose politics and beliefs vary too, and I’d rather not find out that someone I get along with say, musically, is someone whose political beliefs are very different to mine. Twitter I can easily step away from, and whilst I use it a lot, I take things in an impersonal way. The more content there is and the more room for explanation, the more someone has to dis/agree with, and the more space to get personal. Finding common/uncommon ground isn’t terrible, but I haven’t found it easy to maintain a distance when things don’t go well.

My perception of people and building resilient networks is really hard for me as I had what is best described as a ‘social media meltdown’ at the end of last year. Facebook, to me, cheapened friendships. I had so many people (over 500) on my “friends” list and so very few people seemed to know or care what was going on in my outside facebook life. It was a truly empty experience. It was akin to shouting at an empty wall, and I missed actual physical interaction, and sharing ideas. I’ve calmed down a lot on the matter now, but I am now very choosy about who is on my facebook, and what I do and don’t share. I even use a psudonym so I can post as I like without work colleagues being involved (I’m easy enough to find if needs be though), or anyone finding any information about me online. That being said though without the irregular contact with people, my outside facebook life would be quite empty as if you’re not around and not reporting on your life and what you’re trying to achieve, you are forgotten easily. Whilst Facebook/Social Media in general is a very good thing, people have forgotten about the pleasure there is in being in someone’s physical company, or hearing their voice, and I am trying to spend less time and less energy with my online world, so that my outside world can be full of experience. I went to Strasbourg at the weekend, and saw a few people I know online and it was lovely to see them and to hear them speak (J’aime les accents français!). Living in front of your laptop all the time is no life at all, and social media could do with working on that so social media doesn’t become antisocial.

As for the dangers, I’m not super savvy with this, but I am concerned as to what big companies use data for. I am keen to see a facebook alternative where the people using it, are the people who are the stakeholders. Information isn’t sold along to whoever wants it for big money. I know Diaspora was being touted as the next big thing, but I’ve heard very little from that camp. Future social media users need to regain the control of the internet, otherwise our laptops are another television screen, trying to sell to us, and sell us just as equally. We don’t pay for these services and they have to support the technology somehow, but how to do it and ethically is the question. I am equally worried about Twitter as I see tweets used in more traditional media and hope that permission is requested, regardless of if the tweet is out in the public domain or no. A new way of doing things really needs to be looked in to by more technical savvy people, in the mean time though, I do urge some restraint, having not shown any in the past, anything you say online can hamper your future, and there are phases of my life online that I rather wish weren’t but it is experience in all things that allow us to learn. The video I’ve attached is a great way of getting my point across.

This post may come across as slightly negative, but my online life is a beautiful collection of people, organisations, and ways of reaching out to people I never thought possible, and that beauty has to be maintained in the face of ongoing big business trying to use if for their own ends. Get people interested, involved and motivated, and social media becomes a new plain of existence where we learn about one another, other cultures, and educate ourselves in a much richer way. There needs to be balance though. An online life is no life if the outside world suffers greatly from a lack of interaction with it. There is a world out there, that is so much richer than the one on your screen, and people need to remember that.

[Hypocrisy as a virtue] reloaded

Kate, what a beautiful, thoughtful mission! I am impressed. It’s all wise, with the wisdom that comes, well, from experience: from having put in the famous 10,000 hours that, allegedly, make us into masters of anything (yes, you have probably spent thousand of hours online). It’s all there: the enjoyment and the exhaustion, the new exhalting friendships and the wariness, the interesting, up-to-date information and the longing for physical interaction.

A friend of mine like to say that he does not engage anymore in any debate between techno-enthusiasts (“we will all upload ourselves into a Global Awareness and evolve into pure energy”) and techno-sceptics (“all of this information, so little knowledge! People are becoming more and more stupid!”). He thinks that these two positions are really flip sides of the same techno-deterministic coin. By contrast, he does not believe we are our technology. He likes to quote Kranzstein’s Third Law instead: technology is neither good nor bad, nor is it neutral. And this means doing what you do: dipping a foot in the water while balancing on the other one; making careful decisions whether to engage, how much, who with. Looking at the back end of things, where technological effects (the costless, infinite replicability of digital information) and economic ones (like Facebook encouraging you to share more than it’s good for you, because they sell targeted advertising, and the more you share the more precise their targeting gets) gently nudge your personal life. It might look as hypocrisy, but the Victorians considered a little hypocrisy a virtue, and it might be they had a point.

None of this was introduced in the digital age. Technological constraints have always been there: chances are, 200 years ago you’d end up marrying someone from your village - the high costs of travelling (i.e. the inefficiency of travelling technology)  made it impractical to court anyone else. And don’t even get me started on the social implications of economic relationships: Karl Marx even called his underclass “proletarians”, childrenbringers. If you had no assets, a sound survival strategy was to have many children that could be put to work. But this is our age, these are our challenges, and we need to meet them. As far as I can see, no one has found a better way than your trial-and-error, trying to seize the opportunities of richer human relationships  while staying safe from the risks. And yes, it might be a good idea to give Diaspora a go.

OT: you were in Strasbourg? This is where we are! What a shame we did not get a chance to meet up.

I have no doubt in my mind that I’ve spent expert amount of hours online and then some :slight_smile: I’ve been online since I was 17, and been using computers for a lot longer than that.

Kranzstein’s Third Law sounds great to me, but so few people seem to follow that, and sometimes, I believe myself to be too cautious, and that I step back from something that could prove interesting. I prefer to debate in person rather than online anyway. Then I worry for children being brought up by their computers and televisions and I am glad I show caution now so should I become a parent in the future, then hopefully I’ll know what to do to allow them the opportunity to explore online without being a dependent of it.

I was in Strasbourg. Got there on Friday and was gone by Sunday afternoon. Went there as my friends run a record label there, and they had a tenth anniversary party at Hall Des Chars and Molodoi - a lot of fun, and it gave me the opportunity to see a little of the city, which is good in case I get to go to the conference :smiley:

A late addition

I recently came across Charlie Stross’s inadmissible assumptions about the Internet. I find they are a good complement the Third Law.

The party in Strasbourg sounds like fun. Oh well, till next time :slight_smile:

Thank you for the link - I do find myself agreeing with his thoughts. Not really a surprise there though :slight_smile:

Is there an influence on how we behave socially offline?

Kate, yours are wonderful and precious insights, and speak volumes to people at the beginning of their online social networking “careers”.

On the pitfalls with facebook, I was commenting on Ildim’s report on social networks that for a long time I wanted to stay within a hundred friends precisely because that’s how much I thought I am able to manage, and make sure the relationships are real and not superficial. But how many friends are too many friends? one asks although of course there’s no right answer. My capability is really reduced to maintaining lively, yet sporadic relationships with only a few, but probably there comes a time when your work or interests, like yours for politics and music, really drive more activity and it becomes natural or indispensable to cultivate those interests by sharing interesting stuff with the people around, with as many people around.

Whilst Facebook/Social Media in general is a very good thing, people have forgotten about the pleasure there is in being in someone’s physical company, or hearing their voice, and I am trying to spend less time and less energy with my online world, so that my outside world can be full of experience.

About the above, do you think there can be an effect of spending a lot of time online and fogetting or losing ability to connect offline as well? Not as a rule of course, but can that happen? Or that the more confident you get online, the more inhibited you can become when you’re out of that comfort zone and out with strangers? I’d be really curious to read some studies on that… Lyne here, who’s really active online, she says (can’t find the reference) she can spend days without even talking to someone, and that she even feels good about this. Of course I’d have to ask her if she was as quiet before starting to be online most of the time. I’d doubt after a certain age, and being socialized mostly offline, as some of us were before fb and twitter, you would no longer feel comfortable interacting outside the online sphere.

Speaking of Strasbourg, we’re looking forward to a confirmation on your part, you should’ve already got an invitation to the June conference via email. Also check your spam folder, it’s dated April 13th…

The amount of friends you have online depends on the person. I found that I was just getting exhausted by following so many people who were not really engaging me. Nothing against them at all and if we were to meet in person (actually quite high for me with the music people as I have met most of them at festivals) I would happily chat with them. It was just too much of everything. Some of my friends have over a thousand, but they choose the use the platform in a slightly impersonal way, or have a much thicker skin than I and don’t take online stuff so seriously. When I was working on the webzine it was very useful for me to get links out there so people would read and listen to what we were producing, but now I don’t really have to do that, I can maintain a much easier amount of people and hopefully build a closer network.

About the above, do you think there can be an effect of spending a lot of time online and fogetting or losing ability to connect offline as well? Not as a rule of course, but can that happen?

I do find that I am a little quieter to begin with in groups of people. I also find taking actual phone calls a little intimidating as I’m so used to typing an email. I’m not sure if that’s the case with all people, but I know my friend Andrew would prefer a phone call as he misses actual interaction as much as I. Sometimes, like Lyne, it is nice to take a break from people if you’re feeling a little tired, but I find after a couple of days on my own, I start craving company and physical interaction - I guess I’m a social animal :slight_smile: I know people who would prefer not to deal with people most of the time, but again, perhaps it’s a personality thing?

Thank you so much for the invitation! I have yet to recieve it and do monitor my spam folder. If there is a chance this could be re-sent to me, that would be wonderful (missyk8(at)gmail(dot)com)

Just re-sent invitation, you can simply reply to the email.

looking forward to hearing from you!