Time to come clean: are you one of those people who gets all giddy at the possibilities of the reach of social media and goes crazy, creating groups and adding in dozens of your Facebook Friends? Do you spam everyone with messages about your new website/blog/product/book? Are you one of the legion of Guilty Ones?
Please say you're not, because I love you and don't want to gnash my teeth and curse you.
Yeah, I often love Facebook. I love how it lets me see what people are up to, people I know who are doing interesting stuff, people who are posting cool photos and traveling and all that. I love it for that.
But I hate it for bombarding me with crap. Ads, silly teaser status updates (where do you hang your purse when you come home? Teehee! Blush!), invitations to play games and take idiotic quizzes (that are not based on anything, you know, scientific, so you can't even pretend you're going to find out something interesting about yourself but are, instead, created by socially inept adolescents for their own odd amusement). And I hate it because it allows people to bother me with crap. They can "tag" me in a photo that has nothing to do with me, just so I'll get a notification and have to go there to untag myself and then will find an ad for some product they're trying sell by spamming me and 93 other people. Or, as happened this morning, adding me to a group without asking me first, so that even after I go in and remove myself from the group, I'm STILL GETTING EMAILS with comments others are posting.
I rant about this stuff often, and someone will invariably ask me why I care. Why don't I just go in and remove myself? It's not a big deal, they tell me.
That's not true, and here's why. I get email from a variety of people about stuff that requires my attention. In addition to all the stuff involved in having online accounts, there's a lot of work-related stuff. There are comments that need to be approved for my blog posts over at CreateMixedMedia.com, where I, you know, *work,* and there are people who are requesting to join one of the groups I moderate. Those are important: those are things I've committed to doing, and I try to do them in a timely manner so someone somewhere isn't left waiting and wondering if their request has been received. There are comments to moderate and posts to check for spam, and then there are the notes from various editors, all important. There are things like this morning's correspondence with the nice people at Libsyn, my podcast host, helping me figure out settings so podcasts will stay at iTunes rather than getting archived. Stuff like that. Plus I read every blog comment at least once, and I try to respond to as many as I can.
So, yeah, email is a tool for me. It's something I use all day every day for stuff that's way, way more important than joining a new Facebook group to look at other people's photographs or blocking some new version of Farmville or whatever obnoxious new incarnation they've thought up. Instead of being able to look at my inbox and see immediately if there's anything I need to deal with right away, keeping in mind what time it is on the east coast and what time it is on the west coast and taking into account deadlines and holiday schedules and everything else, I have to wade through notifications of stuff in which I have no interest, stuff that requires that I go over to Facebook and delete myself from things I would never, ever have though to join and--let's be honest here--to which I really, really resent being added. I hate it when people presume on my time and think I'll be flattered to be added to something, along with 6 dozen other people they've never met.
(And the reason I can't set it so I don't get email notifications about this stuff (I've opted out of notifications for tons of stuff and set my privacy settings as high as I can get them) is because I don't want my name involved with stuff I don't know about. I don't want to be listed as a member of groups I didn't join on purpose (I'm not a joiner), and I don't want weird photos of me floating around without my knowing about it, not that I can totally prevent that, but I can try to keep tabs on it. The truth is that once you have an online presence, you have to try to keep tabs on it lest you end up like one of those people who finds they've been linked to some subversive group they've never even heard of and are now having their phone conversations monitored by the government. Although some of my friends would say that's true for all of us, all the time. We won't think about that right now.)
Is this you? Are you using Facebook to annoy people? Never mind that *you* don't think it's annoying, do you really know how your Facebook Friends feel about the things you do there? And if you don't know, why don't you ask first? You know, like you would in the Real World, where you're not allowed to add people to stuff without their permission. Imagine being able to sign up your friends for life insurance or book clubs or PTA membership or political parties. All your friends wake up one morning and find out they're now members of the Tea Party and are--surprise!--hosting a rally in their den this evening. Complete with beer and those little sausages. What fun! Imagine their delight that you so thoughtfully signed them up!
Facebook, just like all other social media, can be used in countless different ways depending on who's using it and for what. Don't assume that everyone else uses it the way you do. And before anyone says, "But, Ricë, that's what you're doing right now," let me say this: No, I am not. I'm not asking people to use it the way I use it. I'm asking them not to include me in the way they use it. Don't add me to stuff. Don't spam me with messages I'll have to delete. Don't clog up the inbox with requests for me to play games and do stuff that doesn't make any sense to me.
And I'm not the only one. Not by a long shot. We--people who use Facebook in large part for work-related stuff--hate it when we have to take time out of the work day to deal with other people's impositions. We love it when they post photos of their projects or status updates with exciting news, but when we have to go in and remove ourselves from unwanted inclusions? We grumble. We "hide" people. We--gasp--unfriend people. And I don't know about others, but I report people for spam. It seems that anyone who knows me at all, even in the most tangential way online, would have a clue that including me in a new group is not a good idea. I won't be any fun, I'm not useful, I won't contribute anything. So why even bother? There are dozens of people who would LOVE to be included. Please go find them.
OK, enough gritchiness. Sorry to whinge at you, but I really want everyone to think about the things they do online. And to balance out my griping, let me tell of a happy story. Someone sent me an email yesterday. (She doesn't have a website that I know of, so I'll just call her E. Hi, E! Thank you again!) She sent me a nice note asking about my podcasts on iTunes and if there were anything I could do to make more of them available--not just the ten most recent, but all the others, in case people want to listen to one of the older ones again. Other people have asked me this before, and I've gone in and poked around and tried to find out how to do this, with no luck. This time, E's note prompted me to really tackle it. I poked around, googled (no luck here--forums are sometimes like the blind leading the blind, you know?), and finally sent a note to Libsyn. They responded right away (if you're looking for a podcast host, I'd heartily rec. them; the few times I've had to contact them, they've responded within hours, not days) and told me how to fix things, and E reports that now all is well and the podcasts are available. Yay! This makes me very happy: I fixed something and made someone happy, and now I'm happy. That's the kind of email I like to receive: it's not that I don't like it if it requires work from me. I don't mind that. I just want it to be something valuable, something that Makes Things Better.
I love hearing from actual people about things that matter. It's just that I'm really pretty sure Farmville isn't one of those.
Next time, I promise: less griping, more inspiration~~XO
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