Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Learning to Use Social Media

The internet often reminds me of the wild west, where there are only a few laws upholding an ephemeral code of conduct, with no long-standing tradition of behavior. It cannot be helped; it is a totally new medium of human interaction which grows and changes daily. I think that we tend to embrace social media with certain expectations and presumptions about the behavior of others, forgetting that everyone's motives for being online are different.

Take Facebook, for instance. For many it is strictly recreational and a way to have fun with family and friends. For others, it is a way to network with those who share beliefs, causes, or professions. We need to remember that some people's Facebook pages are more or less public places. Even if we regard the person as a close friend, sometimes it is wise not to share private jokes and engage in teasing which may be misunderstood by those who are mere acquaintances. It depends on the situation and so discernment must be exercised. I have a friend who was sharing a fact about her dead father on Facebook. Another "friend," being unaware the father was dead, turned the anecdote into a joke, which did not go over well with my friend's family, since it gave the impression that the dead father was being ridiculed.

Facebook has to be used with prudence and discretion, not to mention wisdom and kindness. Facebook is a place for being especially polite, to make certain that our intentions are not misunderstood. Those who are willing to invite us into their lives do so with a certain degree of trust that should not be abused by making intrusive and presumptuous remarks, just because we have the ability to write on someone's wall. It can become a form of harassment and even of cyberbullying. I found an article on cyberbullying which expresses some of the problems and their causes. Here is an excerpt:
It is human nature that if we think we can get away with something, we probably will go ahead with it. And, if we don’t get caught, chances are we will do it again. With young and old alike, behaviors rarely change on their own...Perhaps, we can begin to fill the vacuum of morality left behind by technology with an awareness and understanding of the impact our behaviors have on another living soul.... 
Most of us desire a life in which we feel valued. Our self-worth and esteem are integral pieces of our personas. We each have a need to feel acceptance, significance, and successful. At different stages in our lives and to varying degrees, much of that value is attached to our reputations (ie. how other perceive us and how we perceive ourselves) as well as our various roles.

One of the most toxic trends that has been exacerbated by the advancements in technology is the emergence of the highly narcissistic persona behind technology. It is one that carries with it an inflated sense of self, a false but bigger-than-life sense of worth, and the delusion of an expert voice on matters from the weather to nuclear disarmament. We can be whoever and whatever we want – because we matter. And we can do whatever to whomever we want – because we can. We are entitled.

And in a society where it is so important to belong, if it means that we need to create a mean, tough, or cruel reputation in order to get the worth we so desperately crave, then we do so. Unfortunately, the internet and social networks have made it so much easier for us. We can hide behind the computer screen with an alias while randomly posting violations of one another. With the stroke of a key or the press of a button, we have the ability to rob others of their dignity and grace, to redefine their worth and reputation, and relinquish them to foreign places and positions. We can seek out and strike whenever, wherever we want, and then we can run and hide.
Share

14 comments:

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Excellent post. Unfortunately, we need many such reminders, and often.

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, Jacqueline. It has taken me a long to learn how to handle the internet and I am still learning. It is a whole new form of human communication.

Julygirl said...

The same thing happens on the road. People who would otherwise be polite in a face to face situation turn into maniacs when driving a car. The police can enforce driving regs., but otherwise people display their dysfunction with impunity.

Georgette said...

Very true post, EMV. The thing so many people forget online is: God sees all!

Julygirl, guilty as charged. Well, not that I am a maniac on the road, lol, but I sure can let loose the occasional swear word or two, which I would never do face to face. It's subject of quite the number of Confessions. But I'm getting better. :-/

Julygirl said...

Georgette, It is not something I confess to, but I do drive like a bat out of hell, and have the tickets to show for it, however I am not rude or crude to fellow drivers, even though many try one's patience.

Viola said...

I agree that it is too easy for people to be nasty or cruel on the Web and I am not sure that Facebook is doing enough about this.

Children should have lessons about using social media responsibly, I think.

Terry Nelson said...

I wish I had read this a couple of weeks ago - I tend to be too familiar at times, thinking people will understand my humor or teasing remarks, and sadly they are mistaken for ridicule or something very mean-spirited and critical... It seems I will never learn! Thanks for the post.

elena maria vidal said...

Terry, I think it is different with a blog. People come to your blog because they find your humor entertaining and like what you have to say. But FB brings everyone together; people who "know" each other but may not really share interests. I had some woman from my neighborhood constantly teasing me in a way that became harassing...and on my own FB page. I had to put her on limited profile and she was then deeply offended.

Julygirl said...

I briefly tried FaceBook, but find people annoying under ordinary circumstances much less when they are acting like asses.

Georgette said...

EMV, so sorry to hear about your FB ordeal. That's just it, once you 'friend' someone there, then to "unfriend them" or anything else, will hurt their feelings. It was weird for me having family, "real life friends" and internet friends, and people I hardly knew from Adam, all together. Very voyeuristic. Bleh. I just opted out of the whole thing by just getting off FB altogether.

Sometimes being a coward saves "face" for everbody!

elena maria vidal said...

ON FB we end up with childhood friends, relatives, and people from the business world, all brought together. Everyone has a different world view. Every time I open my mouth I offend someone.

elena maria vidal said...

It really can be a form of voyeurism.

Esther G. said...

Elena, I love when you post articles like this.

After Lent, I was so tempted to delete my FB account. But my sister talked me out of it. I really find the swearing hard to take. Some don't seem to care if they offending other people. Thank you,

elena maria vidal said...

I have had the same experience, Esther. Often you see a side of people you would rather not see.

Viola, I agree.