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.