Musing on the concept posting online…

28 02 2008

Weather: High – 28 degrees & sunny

I know this is usually a match to the gasoline topic, but lately I’ve been thinking about what it really means to be “friends” online.

I am one of those crotchety old people who remember when the internet was only available through college campuses and the military. So when this whole concept of the WWW and it’s ensuing sub-niches like IRC, Gopher and “Message Boards” started up, it seemed like a neat way to communicate with like minded people –i.e. other geeks who liked the same geeky things I did. 🙂

As in all things there were differing opinions, and trolls and great conversations based on minutiae that others just didn’t comprehend. Friendships were made, but there was no emotional connection, no responsibility to that person, and rarely contact outside the forum. Not that this was preferable, but it was the nature of online connection. There were rare exceptions that Real Life connections were made, but they were few and far between.
So leap forward in time to today. Message boards, while still popular, have given way to the blog and the community. Whereas before people were very reluctant to share personal information on the web, now we don’t seem able to shut up about ourselves. We share every little minutiae about our lives, from our relationships, to our private lives, to TMI about our bodily functions that is almost ridiculous. I don’t really condemn the practice, because if you’re secure enough to blog it, more power to you.

Usenet used to be the place to post things like this , but there was an anonymity about it that blogging just doesn’t allow for. Not with search engines and the Copy/Paste function. And the insistence on posting pictures and bios that are rather unnerving in their detail.

So, blogging communities like LiveJournal, MySpace, Journalfen and Greatest Journal cropped up. Their focus is more on the community aspect, having a “friendslist” of people approved to comment on your posts and interact with you. There still are straight blogging tools, like WordPress (natch) and Blogger, which allow for comments, but not the interaction in the way the communities do. Which lately, I personally find preferable. I like to JOURNAL, and really don’t need to peanut gallery chiming in on EVERY thought I post.

So we come back to the concept of “Friends” online. What defines a friend? Is it someone you merely have shared interests with? Does it require shared life experiences as well? How much does this person need to know about you personally to be considered a friend?

I find the term FriendsList misleading. You can add communities to your friendslist. Doesn’t mean you know anyone there. And you can add people to your friendslist because you want to read their journals. Doesn’t mean that you’re reading EVERYTHING, nor does it mean that they’re going to be forthcoming about their lives with you either.

Let’s face it. We use the friendslist function to give ourselves an audience. While, yes I concede, we do want to connect with people, how much of a connection is actually occurring when you really have no idea, day to day, what is being shared is the truth, or even is the same information that others are receiving. Thanks to the filter function, and let’s call it what it is- enforced anti-social behavior- you don’t have to let everyone know everything. You can cut people off from the flow of information by effectively closing the door on them. And you don’t even have to let them know.

However, this being the internet, people find out. Then what happens? Usually hurt feelings and defriendings or at least awkward questions.

So here’s my question. As someone who has never used filters for posting, (not because of any personal integrity, but because I’ve always felt that if I’m gonna post something, it should be readable by all), I guess I’m a little at a loss for why someone would choose to post a topic on a publicly accessible medium, then use filters to block that information from people they have personally given access to said information in the first place. It just seems a little skeezy. And seriously, does anybody really believe that a friendslock, or defriending keeps anyone from seeing what you’ve written? If they do, I think they need to reassess their naivety on trust issues.

Since I am cynical and can be harsh about such things, maybe it’s time for the blogging communities to wake up and smell the rot that exists at the core. You place a lot of trust in people you don’t really know to keep your secrets, to safguard your rants from the people they’re about, to protect your personal information from those who would use it against you.

If you’re posting something sensitive, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t, why don’t people make those posts PRIVATE? Is there really that much a desperation for others approval or hand holding that nothing is too private to post?

I guess I’ll just have to shake my head and continue my own way. I think the fact that the news has denigrated into daily updates of Celebrity train wrecks, and the audience as a rule is ravenous of every gruesome detail about them has actually trickled down into our own need to be famous in our own little ponds. Overexposure doesn’t exist anymore and it almost seems like there is a race to post the most raw and vulnerable things about ourselves to placate our communities. People are getting dropped for not revealing enough about themselves, or for not commenting on the expos of others. Maybe it’s just indicative of the mass insecurity that people seem to be experiencing nowadays. The same insecurity that has made hundreds of attention starved people go on reality shows that are both humiliating and idiotic.

Just today, a friend of mine who is a published author had his personal life dragged into the public court ad had several libelous and UNTRUE things brought up. Not about his writing, which he himself says is fair game for opinions, but his personal life and the lives of people IN his life. Out of bounds info that he does not talk about publicly. And they were all misinformed lies which all parties came forward to disprove. The woman who had made the aspersions quickly backpedaled, (And I say woman because she’s 45 years old! OY!) and the thread was locked down. Thus proving my point. People will say anything online to get a reaction or momentary approval from their little group of friends, forgetting that they are in an OPEN forum. Poking the bear with a sharp stick and acting surprised when the bear pokes back.  It’s almost like a group of 10 year olds making fun of a fat kid and the one kid in the group who wants to be liked adding “and you’re stupid too!” then looking around to see if the other kids approve.

Is this what we’ve become? A worldwide group of bullies poking fun at the fat kid, thinking it makes us taller or stronger or wittier than others?

Wow this turned into a bit of a novel. Guess it’s really been bothering me.

Hopefully a less tl;dr post tomorrow!~

Now playing: Nåid – Visur Vatnsenda Rósu
via FoxyTunes



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