Use your social networking powers for good, young grasshopper…

After soliciting blog post topics from my friends on Facebook, one of my friends from high school, K, posted the following:  “How about people that post way way way way too personal things on fb? Or people that have very personal arguments on here? I would LOVE to hear your take on this :)”.  Because we’re all guilty of “TMI (too much info) and rants and raves on Facebook” I thought I’d go with this one!  (K, your promised mix cd will be in the mail this week or next!)

Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Bebo… social networks of all kinds are heavily prevalent in our day to day lives, whether you have one or not.  You’d have to be living under a rock in the middle of another planet to not know what Facebook or Twitter are.  Even my grandparents know, and that’s saying something.  Social network sites are fun, they’re useful, they’re a great marketing tool and they’re an amazingly easy way of keeping in touch with old friends and with family.  They’ve started revolutions, toppled regimes and organized massive protests and events in some of the biggest cities including London.

I personally depend on sites like Twitter and Facebook sometimes just to know what’s going on back home and the opposite is true for my friends and family–they depend on these sites to make sure I’m okay and that everything’s fine over here.  I even use Twitter/Facebook for my blog:  to spread posts, gain new readers and to find out what you guys want to read about next!  Thinking back five years ago, knowing I didn’t have a Facebook or Twitter account, I’m wondering how in the heck I survived.  On one level, I think a lot of us (especially the younger generation) are borderline dependent upon these sites as a means of communication, entertainment and yes, cathartic therapy.

Who doesn’t feel better after posting a foul status or message after a really crap day?  Who doesn’t want to call out someone publicly for being an ass?  I know I’m guilty of “Facebook Feuding” with friends, with N, even slightly so with family.  I’ve even gone so far as to use this blog as a means of letting people know I was pissed off.

But really, what does it accomplish?

Not a whole hell of a lot–it just complicates things further and makes fights a hell of a lot messier.  And trust me, sometimes when you say something on Facebook or Twitter about someone else as a means of getting their attention and letting them know you’re mad at them, well, it doesn’t always work.  For example, a while back, a friend made a posting on Facebook which I had an inkling might be directed at me so when I sent them a text message asking about it I fully expected to be told off.  But instead I was told it had nothing to do with me.  Come to find out, however, after nearly a month’s worth of silence and nasty emails back and forth, this person had been pissed off at me.  Big surprise there… but see?  Just because you put something out there doesn’t mean you’ll get the response you’re hoping for… or even a response at all!

Because of the “instant” nature of Facebook and Twitter, once you put something out there you can never fully take it back 100%.  You can delete the post or comment but chances are at least five other people have already seen it–even if you delete it within minutes of posting.  Facebook and Twitter are a veritable Pandora’s Box; you can’t shut the lid once it’s open.  And that’s a horrible feeling, believe you me.  I’ve put things out there in the ether that should never have been said and I know people have read it and I know people have been hurt over it.  The best I can do is eat a nice, huge, steaming slice of humble pie and make apologies.

There’s something to be said for the phrase “don’t air your dirty laundry out in public.”  It’s terribly cliché and overused, but I really think it’s a wise thing to say.  You wouldn’t hang a dirty pair of underwear out your window, would you?  You wouldn’t leave smelly, muddy socks trailing up to your front door, would you?  And you certainly wouldn’t leave a pit-stained t-shirt draped over your pc, I’m guessing.  So why leave all of your dirty, emotional laundry out there for everyone to see?  It’s only going to leave you feeling embarrassed and sheepish a few days later, so why not skip that bit?

I’ll be the first to admit practicing restraint some days.  I’ve learned my lesson and I’ve learned that Facebook Feuds get you nowhere.  But it’s still hard to avoid making snide remarks eluding to specific people.  I try to stop and think before posting, “Would I want my grandmother to read that?”  Usually, the answer is no.

If you’re mad at someone, man up and phone them.  Or email them.  Or text them.  Do what you have to do.  But don’t include everyone on your friends list in on the fight.  People start taking sides, especially if you all know each other, and the situation spins out of control.

As for the TMI that runs rampant on Facebook:  get a room.  I don’t need to know that you and your boyfriend just had sex, or that you’ve got an STD from a one night stand (unless you’re my husband, and then we need to talk).  Again, I’m guilty of this too, but I’m trying to be better about it.  This also is the point where I stop and ask myself, “would my grandmother want to read that?”  And again, the answer is almost always “no.”  So if my grandmother, who I’m very close to and who loves me unconditionally, wouldn’t want to read something I’ve posted, why would anyone else, especially people I’m not as close to?




One thought on “Use your social networking powers for good, young grasshopper…

  1. As for the “would I want my grandmother to read that?” checkpoint, I do something similar. Would I want the college professors that I’m Facebook friends with to see it? Would I want a future job interviewer to read it? Would I want college admissions personnel to know everything? That cuts down just about everything that could possibly be damaging.

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