My love affair/hate on with blogs and Social Media.

Or How Facebook and Twitter hijacked my post.

So here I am writing a blog entry.

Blog entry. Blog entry. Blog entry.

I make fun because earlier this week I’d decided to ditch the blog all together due to the very fact that I always felt like I needed to be writing a blog entry.

I’ve really been sort of re-examining my whole online agenda.

I started putting stuff I wrote up on the Internet way back before the word ‘blog’ had even come about. Not trying to cop any sort of street cred here, just a fact. I used to do it back when you actually had to load a whole new HTML page up for each of your entries, and if you were really a glutton for punishment (or a total loser with loads of free time – comments to yourself), you’d build an archives section to chronicle your mediocrity. This was back when WebCrawler was the browser du jour on the interweb. Remember that?

I started writing stuff to complain. Cause I was pissed off about stuff and I thought even though no one wanted to hear my shit in person, for some reason, everyone on the Internet would. It’s always been a place to vent. To be politically incorrect under the guise of ‘freedom of speech’ and the ‘it’s my blog and I’ll offend who I want to’ mentality. Anarchy rules. 

But really, after awhile, you can only be mad at so much stuff. That and EVERYONE ELSE on the planet eventually got a blog and the singular uniqueness of it went away.

Now I’m all into the Social Media thing. The twitter, the Facebook (which I swore up and down I’d never use), flickr, etc. etc.

It’s a double edged sword the The Social Media (and blog) thing. At some point it becomes kind of a drag. People start to make certain assumptions or try and read into your statements and statuses. It’s a bit unnerving. You start to wonder if you should censor yourself because your boss/parents/significant other/sibling/best friend/local supermarket clerk might be reading. That’s when you really know you’re losing your mind – when you start to think “what if some random person you meet in a bar reads this? What if I offend them?” As if your blog has this ‘massive’ reach and audience. Meanwhile way back in your archives, your second post was entitled “Why I Hate The World: A treatise on how everyone but me is a complete idiot.” That was back when you were hard. Back before you had mandatory sensitivity awareness training at work. Weren’t too concerned about these offensive issues then, were you?

It’s a hard thing when you start to realize just who IS reading your stuff and the ramifications that opening your filthy mouth on the interweb can have. I’ll not lie to you. I have censored what I write here at various times for various reasons and invariably, every time, after the fact, I’ve felt like a total ass. No one knows I was an ass, but I do, and I have to live with my ass-self and it’s not much fun. When I censor what I write – for me – it pretty much goes against all the reasoning I had for starting to write in the first place. I justify it by saying things like “well it’s better than not having written at all” or “at least you’re keeping in touch with everyone”. Load. Of. Crap.

I feel like a boss/relative/friend/dog washer should accept me for who I am. Sure they can disagree with my opinion, or perhaps think I use ‘fuck’ too often, but I’d like to think that we all could be that way. The reality – we all know – is that it’s not. Unfortunately, bosses take none to kindly to tales of ‘lost weekends filled with bong hits and loose women’ or blog posts with titles like “How to stick it to the man: Making the most of your fake sick day”. Those are usually much more interesting reading to most folks though vs. “Did some yardwork this weekend…”

I pretty much fluctuate daily between being all over the (Social Media) sites to pulling the plug on all of it. Sometimes I think it’s a waste of my time. I feel a bit guilty as it is a way to stay in touch with far off family members and friends, but we all seem to get so caught up in it we forget there was a time (only maybe 5/6 years ago?) when we managed without all this crap.

I know, I’m complaining yet again. But it IS my blog after all, and your the sucker reading it. Offended?

It’s become cliche, the argument that we’ve all ‘lost touch with our real-world relationships’, forsaken them for the online ones. Really, most the people I interact with in Social Media circles are within my geographic proximity. I seek them out that way. I figure the prospect of actually ‘meeting in person’ at some point is that much more interesting. I really don’t have a whole lot of interest in conversation with someone from Utah. I mean, I’m sure we could find something to talk about but…

Just today I went through my Facebook friends list and dumped a bunch of people that I hadn’t talked to since we ‘friended’. I mean, really, what’s the point? These are people that – were it not for Facebook – the chances of me ever talking to again were pretty much nil. Was my life that empty without them? And once we found each other, were we so ecstatic that we corresponded regularly, sharing intimate details of our lives and providing invaluable inspiration for each other? No. We sat and lurked and checked each other’s pages for details and goings on without ever having to interact on even on the most elementary level. If you were sitting, watching the details of someone’s life on a day-to-day basis from, say, your car in front of their house – it ain’t called being ‘Friends’. It’s something else all together.

It started with a generic message. “So and so has sent you added you as a friend”.You know, in Facebook, when you add that long, lost buddy that you’ve missed, it gives you the option to send a personalized message at the same time. Most of the people that have friended me have neglected to utilize this feature (hence some were dumped), and really after they friended me (the social equivalent of ‘tagging’ you with a radio collar) that was the last I heard from them, save bullshit statuses and inane fucking Facebook games and ‘Gifts’.

I mean, what does it say about you when you:

1. Friend someone.
2. Don’t have the common decency or balls to actually write anything personal.
3. Never correspond directly.
4. ‘Gift’ the person with a cyber-yellow raincoat.

 What the fuck does that mean?

I guess I’ll let it go for now. I mean the reality is that I’m on all these sites and apps and I do enjoy most of the interactions with folks I’ve found, but aspects of it still completely astound me.

For all it’s faults, I still think overall that Social Media is a good thing. It has allowed me to ‘met’ people that I probably otherwise wouldn’t have, who probably wouldn’t even have given me the time of day in the real world. However, when presented with a few witticisms and a profile that I’ve padded with some inaccuracies and half-truths, I seem all that much more appealing in the on-line forum. Thanks to spell check, an online thesaurus and outright plagiarism, I can come across as a highly developed, very erudite individual – not the backcountry hick living in the woods that I really am. Ah the marvel of modern technology!

One of the people I’ve duped into belief of my charade is a woman I’m ‘friends’ with on twitter. Aside from producing some fantastic artwork, she’s intelligent, well spoken and extremely interesting all the time. ‘Course maybe she has a thesaurus too. @Venison (such a great word, the sound of it combined with what it represents and the stigmas attached illicit so many different feelings/responses), said something the other day that I thought hit the nail on the head.  “These “develop a brand” people are the same ones who took something as interesting as blogging, and RUINED it with crap.” 

Blogs used to be about people bitching. People arguing. People emoting. At the very least interesting discourse. Now it seems they’re about driving traffic. Building the brand. Click thru. ROI. Big companies run by old men trying to get a foothold of credibility with a sector that in the past has done nothing but use the medium to speak to what’s wrong with these very companies.

Really this is part of my contention with Social Media. The co-opting of it by companies, corporations, marketers – what-have-you – has essentially negated the very essence of what it once was. It truly has become ‘new media’ in the sense that like all the previous forms of media (radio, tv, etc.), it started out as one thing and has morphed into something else. Someone, somewhere said – hey, we can use this to make a buck. It was all downhill from there. What bothers me as well is that you’ll find a lot of Social Media advocates out there, blasting out hundreds of tweets a day about how great it all is and the subtext is that they’re also sending out links to whatever it is they’re shilling. Even if they’re not selling anything, they’re selling themselves. The person AS brand. 17,000 followers, but really not that much interesting to say (I know, I’ve followed some of ’em). It’s the Internet equivalent of high school. People are following them, because they want OTHER people to see that they are following them. Social Media cred by association. Virtual 6 degrees of @KevinBacon.

Maybe it was an inevitability. I mean, all of us could only tweet about this morning’s coffee and our smelly co-workers for so long, but to me at least it seemed a little more genuine. It was truly more ‘conversational’. I sign on each morning and chat with the same people. It’s like they’re co-workers, sorta.

Now it’s like striking up a conversation with someone, then having another someone bust in and try and sell you web development just cause he heard the two of you talking about the Internet (of course you were talking about Internet porn, but he doesn’t get that). It’s made the Social Media world the equivalent of the hotel bar at an insurance convention.

Perhaps I’m just bitter ’cause I don’t have many followers. I have follower envy. Does Cialis work for that?

I think I’m just lamenting the transition from one era to the next. Social Media is exciting, yes, and the potential and prospects are interesting. Still, part of me will always be fond of the ‘early days’ of Social Media when it was more about people and less about product. Of course I’m sure people said this about Apple, too.

Remember AOL? Remember when it first came out and everyone would troll the chat rooms talking to anonymous folk? The times you’d go in the lesbian chat room and feign sensitivity to try and score bi-sexual chicks? Don’t scowl at me. Yeah, like me and my friends were the only ones that did it. Man up and admit it. Somewhere AOL lost sight. They inundated you with free sign up cd-roms every fucking week (at least we had coasters) and endless new versions until finally someone said enough and came up with something else. In essence, Social Media is the something else. Twitter is like a big chat room, only there’s no set topic and you get to pick who can/can’t come into yours.

Oh Social Media, how I love to follow you. Where you’re going I don’t know, but I’m ready. Even though I trash talk you now, I know something new and fun will be coming around the bend and I’m in for the long haul. Besides, I’ve paid up the hosting for my blog ’till the end of the year anyway.

And, hey, can we stop off on the way in the lesbian chat rooms?

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Funny. When I started out this post I was gonna blather for like a paragraph about the blog and then get on to the inane, matter of fact stuff. Got a little carried away.

Other than my Social (Media) Issues as outlined above, things at the Ranch are well. Our dishwasher has died, so now we’ll have to hire someone else to do that, let the interview process begin.

I’ve started trying to take better care of myself. Eating less crap, exercising every day. Lyn is too. We’re doing good, feeling good. I think, time/logistics permitting, I may even try and enter some mountain bike races this season. Of course now that I’ve actually put it in writing, all hell will break loose.

We’ll be travelling to Halifax in March to get Colin and Olivia’s US paperwork/passports and I’ve also been asked by Goose Lane author/Dal Prof Darryl Whetter to give a presentation on Graphic Design to his Creative Process class. I’ll get to use visuals and PowerPoint and everything – I just need to figure out what the hell I’m doing between now and then so I can try and explain it accurately. I’m not sure if I’m going to divulge to them my secret ‘throw darts at the wall’ method for selecting stock art, or not. Trade secret.