Thursday, May 28, 2009

Popularity

Explaining Twitter to TBG today over lunch, I began to think about popularity. He'd asked me how people knew about your tweets. "Depends on how popular you are, I guess." But then I wondered, if you tweet and no one cares are you really anyplace at all?

Living in the fast lane, being off the grid, achieving your 15 minutes of fame -- these I understand. Assessing your social status based on the number of Facebook friends you've acquired is a little more difficult for me.

Some of it is generational, I know. In my age cohort it is still acceptable to eschew social networking sites. I think I am friends with everyone in my address book who's also on Facebook, but that is nowhere near the totality of people with whom I am in contact. I wish they all used it (the birthday reminders are especially lovely!) but they don't and I understand why. The idea that everyone else would care that you'd finished exams or gone to the dentist or (my favorite) were bored is an absurd construction to those of us who managed to grow to adulthood without pagers and cell-phones and RFID chips. It was possible to be truly alone, really out of contact, and somehow we survived.

Life can be lived without announcing it. And it probably should be, if only to avoid inadvertant humiliation.

Opening oneself up to the wonders of social networking merely increases the possibility for embarrassment. Everyone over a certain age has been on the receiving end of this admonition: "Don't do anything you wouldn't want printed on the front page of the NYTimes." Enough has been written about where that idea has gone - from the demise of print media to the rise of paparrazzi and the media whores who encourage them (Deanna from The Bachelor, for example) - that further explication is unnecessary. No need to repeat that drunken pictures and foul language may come back to haunt you, no matter how closely you monitor access to them. But it's worth noting that a lot has changed since G'ma's day when a lady appeared in the newspaper exactly 3 times - at her birth, her marriage, and her death. Notoriety, it seems, has never been as prized as it is today.

How can you achieve notoriety in an age where Newsweek has to justify its continued existence by having a personality transplant because waiting a week for information is sooo 20th Century and where the Evening News starts with "As you may have heard by now......." ? Cell phone pictures from Virginia Tech and the haunting 9/11 images from the Twin Towers are irrevocably connected to the experiences they document, and they were taken and shared immediately. "Be there or Be square" has never had more relevance. What better way to insure that there is a there there than by creating it yourself? Then share it with your 300 or so closest friends with the click of a pinkie and, presto! it's viral! you're popular!

1 comment:

  1. I can understand your hesitation with social networking sites in reference to those who share (unabashedly) very personal information in a very public forum. But I think you might need to look at Facebook in a different light.

    People are in FULL control of what they post. If they didn't want someone to know that they were drunk last weekend, or that they regret their hook up from last night THEY DONT HAVE TO SAY ANYTHING. I think the greater problem here is the acceptance of exhibitionism. We all know/knew them: the girl who LOVED to get "drunk" and make a fool of herself, the guy who would raise his voice while talking to his friend before class about his drunken escapades the night before just so everyone would know how "cool" he thought he was. the only difference between exhibitionism 40 years ago and now is the fact that it exists in cyberspace.

    I was never the type of girl to brag about my escapades to complete strangers. but I ALWAYS have shared with the world the fact that I love my life, my friends, and my family. I think that is the true beauty of social networking. For those of us who don't like to sit on the phone for hours at a time with a friend from another state, we can simply shoot them a quick anecdote letting them know we are thinking of them, and still hold them as a valuable part of our lives.

    With the world growing larger and larger and the relative distance between people and ideas shrinks and shrinks, it might be beneficial for one to step back and recognize that Facebook provides a beautiful forum for connections one might otherwise not have. Would Obama have won the presidency withough facebook? Would I care about a press conference about the state of the ecomony after the first 100 days of the stimulus package if it weren't for social networking? Sadly, but honestly I probably wouldn't have even known that the package had been in effect for 100 days were it not for these sites. The truth of the matter is this :

    YES- there are people who take it too far, and I always say "if people don't care to disguise their idiocy, that's their problem. And it will probably save their future employer a lot of time to do a little FB stalking prior to signing on the dotted line.

    YES- it is becoming increasingly difficult to be "alone" with the advent of cell phones, FB, twitter, myspace, google etc. But it is still possible, and in face, might be a bit sweeter b/c one is CHOOSING to be alone, rather than feeling lonesome. In truth a dear friend is only a click away, and I wouldn't trade that for all of the privacy in the world.

    ((not that I have an opinion or anything))

    ReplyDelete

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