Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Facebook & Etiquette

A life like the one I've lived thrives with a tool like Facebook. Here's why:

My life has been nomadic, characterized by self-reinvention and tenuous group connections. All my life, I've tried on lifestyles like costumes, found all of them rather ill-fitting and eventually moved on to the next one.
  • A childhood in rural west Texas, an adolescence in a Southern California alternative high school, and a half a year as a terrible misfit in a Central Texas high school.

  • Three wild young adulthoods, one working in bars and partying in Central Texas, another as a Santa Cruz beach bum, and another as a Grateful Deadhead.

  • A mom of two little boys in Southern Humboldt. A newspaper editor. An after-school program director in an elementary school. Married woman.

  • "Returning student" at a community college. English major. Graduate student. ESL teacher. Writing teacher.

  • Mother of teenagers. Empty nester. Divorcee. Grandmother. World traveler. Swedish language learner.
What this history does socially is leave a trail of wildly various friends, family and acquaintances located all across the country and even around the globe.

I feel real affection and regard for a group of people who have never met one another, whose ages range from 0 to 85, whose politics, desires and outlooks span the spectrum.

So for me, Facebook is a blessing. When I log on, there they all are, as different as snowflakes and seeming to be right in my neighborhood, no matter where they are really.

I can come home after a long day, log onto FB and it is like being at a wonderful, eclectic, interesting party -- even though such a party could never really exist.

So my lifestyle allows me to have a special appreciation for Facebook. I admit, I'm sometimes baffled by how others use it, but their ways have allowed me to recognize how mine is different and to think about why that is.

Facebook Etiquette

Your Facebook "wall," or homepage always has a line of ads up the side that are triggered by your comments and conversations. Clearly, FB is a database of public conversations that allows the host to sell ad space by claiming the ads can be targeted. The more "applications" you authorize to access your account, the more advertisers can target their ads to you.

Generally, I ignore ads if at all possible. I find it easy to ignore visual ads, more difficult to ignore animated ones, and impossible to ignore audio ones. Just because I can't ignore them, however, doesn't mean I am persuaded to buy/partake/vote for whatever is being advertised. Quite the opposite, actually.

When I notice Facebook ads, I note their connection to recent conversations, for example, homeschooling ads followed yesterday's homeschooling conversation. Writing, publishing and academic ads frequently appear.

Today, I noticed that politics were dominating the ads of my "wall," politics that bear no relationship whatsoever to my own political views.

This makes me realize that I don't often express my "real" opinions on Facebook.

That's not because I don't have opinions; I most definitely do.

But because of the situation I described above, because of the wide variety of people there, and because I care about them all, I stay with neutral, humorous or basic-human topics on Facebook.

FB is about making connections, not alienating people. So I follow a certain self-designed etiquette when using it:
  • I don't lay my politics or religion on my FB friends, nor do I try to sell them anything.

  • If I don't have something nice to say, I try not to say anything (though I have, in the past).

  • I don't get in arguments (although I have in the past). My argumentation and rhetoric skill is kung fu I try to keep in its place.

  • I try to reveal my individuality and quirkiness without scaring anyone away.

  • I show my humanity and weakness, and ask for support, because we are all human and need that.

  • I try not to say things that are so enigmatic not one person understands me, because what on earth is the point of that?

  • Out of kindness and love, I tolerate the foibles of those who grumble and grandstand and try to sell me stuff.

  • If it goes beyond the pale, I delete. I don't believe in "hiding" people (making their updates invisible). That seems dishonest.
What do you think? What etiquette do you follow?


Anonymous said...

I have only had an ad one time. I'm glad but curious why as I'm a pretty avid user.

I hid someone once because they did (do) incessant posting of music videos and I got tired of scrolling through them. But I missed the one or two pithy points that the person would make throughout the day and reinstated them.

Still, my rule to avoid annoying my friends--don't post more than two clippings from somewhere else per day--music, news, or otherwise.

Don't post your scores from whatever game you are playing.

And Don't just post what you are doing unless it is different than normal unless you add something funny or emotional about it.

Anonymous said...

Good luck kicking facebook, everyone! (Studies show that avid facebook users are less intelligent, sorry)

Indie said...

Can you cite your study, Anonymous?

Indie said...

Here's a study of interest (and perhaps of more relevance, since intelligence wasn't the topic of discussion; social behavior was):

"The Benefits of Facebook 'Friends': Social Capital and College Students’ Use of Online Social Network Sites," by Nicole B. Ellison et al. From Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Vol. 12, No. 4. (July 2007), pp. 1143-1168.

"This study examines the relationship between use of Facebook, a popular online social network site, and the formation and maintenance of social capital. In addition to assessing bonding and bridging social capital, we explore a dimension of social capital that assesses one's ability to stay connected with members of a previously inhabited community, which we call maintained social capital. Regression analyses conducted on results from a survey of undergraduate students (N = 286) suggest a strong association between use of Facebook and the three types of social capital, with the strongest relationship being to bridging social capital. In addition, Facebook usage was found to interact with measures of psychological well-being, suggesting that it might provide greater benefits for users experiencing low self-esteem and low life satisfaction."

Anonymous said...

Let’s give your Swedish a try:
Intressant blogg du har. Det var riktigt roligt att läsa om hur du upplevde Sverige när du var här och om hur du fascinerades av små alldagliga saker som vi inte lägger märke till.

Jag är på ett sätt din raka motsats. Du bor och lever ditt liv i USA men känner en fascination över Sverige och ibland kanske känner att du egentligen vore hemmahörande där.
Jag känner samma sak, fast tvärtom, jag fascineras över små alldagliga amerikanska företeelser och känner ibland att jag egentligen borde ha bott i USA. Ibland när jag har det lugnt på jobbet besöker jag en slumpmässigt utvald amerikansk stad och ”tar en promenad” med google street view, knäppt va.
I´ll be back with translation unless u makes it on your own
Med Vänlig Hälsning

Indie said...

Roger, Tack för att skriva!

Jag översatte det brev utan hjälp från en översättare. Jag förstår inte några ord, till example, raka motsats och en slumpmässigt utvald. Jag talar inte svenska bra, förlåt mig. När jag var i Sverige, förstår jag... the gist... men inte alla ord. Så förstår jag din ... meaning... du är interessad i Amerika som jad är interessad i Sverige. Jag skrattar för att läsa om dinna Google-promenader darför jag det samma! LOL!!!

Nu ska jag översätt på Google översätt och upptäcka vad du verkligen sa.

Roger said...

LOL! Cool, make sure to stop by at my place for a "fika" next time you take a walk in Sweden. (my name is a link to my place (if it works)).

I understood your swedish even though its, to be honest, not very good. My english is of course far from perfect as well.

It must be tough to learn swedish in USA. How/where do you learn swedish? By your self? from books?

In Sweden we get to learn english as a second language in school from the age of ten. Also we are fed with american movies, tv series and video games. So i read and hear a lot of english, but write or speaks it very seldom. Therefore i believe i´m are very good in understanding english, but having problems to write or speak it.

some teaching jobs in sweden said...

btw, i read somewhere that you were looking for a job as a teacher in sweden? If you were really serious about it i believe that you´d probably have no problem finding one. Im not an expert in that area but i believe that an experienced teacher from the US must be very attractive to many teaching jobs.
Check out i believe its an expanding school who continously is looking for english spoken teachers.

Indie said...

Roger, thanks for the tips. Do you really live in Borås? My great grandparents came from Redslared, near Svenljunga. I intend to visit there next time I come to Sweden.

Thanks for the link too!

Roger said...

Yes, I live in Borås. I actually never heard of Redslared before but of course i know Svenljunga.

Anonymous said...

I think it's sweet how Americans long for greater understanding of the countries their ancestors couldn't wait to get the heck out of.

Anonymous said...

Indie, how well does Facebook protect our personal information from the prying eyes of total strangers?

Kato said...

Indie or Roger, can you recommend an accurate translation engine for English/Swedish? The ones I've tried (with my Swedish pen-pal) have been awful. Is a human translator the only sure thing?

Regarding Facebook, I think the administrators themselves could use an etiquette lesson: it seems the ulterior motive to the whole idea is marketing, and to that end the privacy is only as tight as a user specifies. The catch is that one has to be vigilant about fine print, because the default settings are always wide open (and new applications seem to develop all the time).

Indie said...

Kato, I use Google Oversatt
to read what others have written if I need help. However, it is not reliable for assembling your own communication because the syntax in Swedish is different.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Kato, that's the single most useful description of Facebook security issues that I've ever read!

Anonymous said...

Indie, I hope someday you will watch Stagecoach (1939) and offer a review. I would especially value your thoughts about the main characters, Ringo and Dallas, and how they managed to survive personal hardships and social prejudice.

Indie said...

I will check it out, Anon. Watching an old movie sounds kind of fun in the near future.

Anonymous said...

Good question K... Let me think about this. Hmmm. I try not to reveal too much, because there are so many weirdos on. My serious relationships I nourish on MySpace. I don't share too many photos on FB, because I don't like there policy on owning them automatically. On FB I have mostly just acquaintances whom I play online games with and they don't have to know everything. Anything else can be known publicly, I quit having secrets, that way I can't be blackmailed. Some people I'm closer to, with them I message on MySpace. On both sites I have my selfhelp groups about my illness. As you know I'm retired, so I'm on the internet in general to distract myself, and find some people who seem to really care about my well being, or who can at least relate in some ways. I'm on there to seek advice and get other points of view. I know whom I will never find online... my real life partner. He hates what we're doing. And my child? For her it's necessary to reconnect with her friends and classmates. We both try to be polite, eventhough at times I would like to throw my opinions into peoples faces *lol* and then I think twice (if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all)... I notice that family members who live far away and former real life friends, don't appreciate too much involvements or commenting on what they share, they seem to be bothered by it. Religion and politics seems no good subject to share, that splits across the big lake as it looks like. Well, other than that I'm just so happy to have you and M. I just wished you wouldn't be such a stranger all the time. We used to share more info. Still waiting for that one message that fills me in. *hint* Anyway, my thoughts on the subject. R.

Anonymous said...

PS: K... and if that's so with the advertisement showing up on my homepage, why is it that I always get that naked scanner? It is so annoying!!! What EVER made them presume me needing such a thing? R.

Anonymous said...

PS: K... and if that's so with the advertisement showing up on my homepage, why is it that I always get that naked scanner? It is so annoying!!! What EVER made them presume me needing such a thing? R.

Indie said...

Oh I better get to writing that email. I just finished a 20-page paper, the last paper of my graduate career, so maybe I will feel like writing more than a tiny FB update or the very rare and occasional blog post again!!