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.
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.
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.