Thursday, November 06, 2008

Personalities BEHIND the Screen

I am one who has a Facebook account, however I am very careful as to what personal information is posted on this trolling tool (

I personally have never taken Facebook seriously but have been intrigued as to how much people personally self disclose. The deeper we sail into the new online world of communications, the sadder I get about its future. I’m OK with criticism, I’m fine with disagreement, I’m perfectly capable of handling angry notes, that’s not the issue here but what’s really stunning is how hostile people are to each other online these days.

The last two weeks, because of imposed boredom of being at a mandatory conference, I needed some fun in my life and began to “update my status” and was amazed at the responses that began to pour in…PEOPLE, Don’t you work!? I began to continue some “status” thoughts with the US election running hard. Again, I am amazed at the responses of people. All of a sudden, I realize that once again, there is etiquette that is needed on the web and that people should not be so serious and personal on such an impersonal sites.

Without question, Facebook is a community of “FRIENDS” but are they really your friends? How many people really know your birthday? How many friend requests does one get from people you do not even know? How many friend requests do you get from people you want to stay away from? Anyway, after the election and messing with people and wanting to be the pope, I thought that should toss out a reminder of internet guidelines and hear your thoughts.

I believe it is important to understand the culture and the community that you are a part of. Every site and community has a different flavor. Myspace is different than FaceBook, Yahoo 360 is different than Linked-In and then add the world of blog spheres. They not only have different technical platforms, they have different personalities on both sides of the controls. One moment you may be having a chat about the latest gadget and political joke on site A, and the other moment you will find insult on answering questions or discussing personal topics.

When you get online, don't try to fake it. There are plenty of people who recognize you from other social circles and environments. What you say online will be noticed in the other circles. It may not be written in the text on screen, but people will take note of places you have long forgotten. I believe that we need to treat people like you were having a face to face meeting. So many people become rude or negative online when they would never do so in the real world. There is a tendency in the web world to make hasty statements or jump to conclusions and coming off like an idiot.

I am convinced that on the Internet, you are anonymous, (to some degree). Since you don’t have to face the person you’re talking to, you don’t see any reason to display courtesy. Because you are somewhat anonymous, you worry that your comments might get lost in the shuffle, so you lay it on thick to enhance your notability.

Many people who spend lots of time online are, in essence, replacing in-person social interactions with these online exchanges (OUCH). With so much less experience conversing in the real world, they haven’t picked up on the value of treating people civilly. That is, they haven’t yet hit the stage of life when getting things like friends, a spouse and a job depend on what kind of person you are.

People used to dream of a ‘global village’ (Marshall McLuhan), where maybe we can work out our differences, where direct communication might make us realize that we have a lot in common after all, no matter where we live or what our beliefs. But instead of finding common ground, we’re finding new ways to spit on the other guy, to push them away. The web makes it easier to attack, not to embrace.

So people, first write your responses or posts in a Word .doc file. This enables you to have a handy reference guide to proper English, grammar and spelling so you really do not look all that stupid. Try and gauge the community before posting. Don't just jump in and shoot off your thoughts. Who is posting? Do they know you? Do you have a relationship off line so that you can further the conversation? Remember the interpretation! We read messages shared in text form based on whatever mindset we are in at the moment. Don’t forget that if I’m in a bad mood, or reading in a hurry I might interpret your sarcastic humor as plain rudeness. Try to remember this reality when you type messages.

People often get grumpy for all the wrong reasons. In a written environment, people often fall prey to a few words that flavor an entire relationship. One brief statement does not make a relationship, nor does it create one. A relationship is made by a consistent level of interaction over a period of time.

Expressing your thoughts are important but make sure what you've written is relevant and encourages people to continue the discussion. Online communities can be amazing tools for making connections for business and personal interests, yet it can also be a detriment to how you are perceived. If you post offensive content, pretend to be someone else (my personal angst), or try to annoy others it can get ugly. It's not worth it and no-one will think you are funny. Have some common decency when you write a post. Don't patronize people with false concern by writing "Sorry, but you're wrong." Don't insult people's views that differ than yours, people deserve respect, and chances are wrong! :)

Be sensitive, if you do step across someone's line, apologize! Treat everyone online as if you are dealing with a REAL friend. Do not take your preconceptions into the conversation. If they say they are offended, offer an apology and move on. If you don't understand a question or comment, ask for clarification rather than posting a knee jerk response.

If all else fails, enjoy a cup of coffee! There are bigger issues in life. I like St. Arbucks.


Justin Hintz said...

Very well said Uncle Ger. I'm just starting to learn the finer parts of blogging and learned a lot from your post. Thank you.

BTW, I much prefer the new signature caramel hot chocolate. It's sweet, but that's how I like it!

Garry said...

A much needed reminder... as a matter of fact, we have installed a filter so that our office staff won't be tempted to go to the social networks on company time. States say that alot of people spend 2 hours a day on the computer that has nothing to do with their job.

DJP(2Kings 9:20) said...

Very timely thoughts. There have been many times that I have written a response to a response to one of your blogs. Needless to say, I have been known to "shoot first, ask questions later". Some of my responses, if posted, might have been interpreted as offensive, and may have added nothing constuctive to the discussion. What I have learned when responding to e-mails---and this would apply to blogs---is to self edit or self censor. I write out my response and before I send it I read what I have written. I often find that I do not like the person that has written those words and either tone down my response or "kill it" entirely. I can recall a response that I composed that was three pages long. I was angry and I had made all my valid points to the intended receiver as to the offense committed against me. After sitting back and reflecting on what I had written, I deleted the whole thing and walked away, never even making a second attempt with a toned down version. I find that sometimes when I have sat down to post a response, I end up with a technical glitch---read, operator error---that prevents me from posting. I attribute this to God saving me from myself. I reason that I probably should not try too hard, at this point, to make my point. I think I've come to a place in my spiritual journey where the world doesn't always need to hear what I have to say, as much as I may sometimes think it does.
I hope that this response will help and not take away from the points that tact, politeness and grace---when we are continuing discussions with written words---should always be at the forefront of our minds.
I leave behind this thought: "Great minds have discourse of ideas. Lesser minds discuss their possessions. Small minds talk about and ridicule other people.”

Karen said...

This is not a comment on peoples writing etiquette but rather on Gerry's comment about Facebook. I read an excerpt from a book by Frank Viola and I saw a connection between Postchurch Christianity and Facebook users.

"Postchurch Christianity. This paradigm is rooted in the attempt to
practice Christianity without belonging to an identifiable community
that regularly meets for worship, prayer, fellowship, and mutual edification.
Advocates claim that spontaneous social interaction (like having
coffee at Starbucks whenever they wish) and personal friendships embody
the New Testament meaning of “church.” Those who hold to this paradigm
believe in an amorphous, nebulous, phantom church.

Such a concept is disconnected with what we find in the New Testament.
The first-century churches were locatable, identifiable, visitable communities
that met regularly in a particular locale. For this reason, Paul could write
a letter to these identifiable communities (local churches) with some definite
idea of who would be present to hear it (Rom. 16). He would also have a
good idea of when they gathered (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 14) and the struggles
they experienced in their life together (Rom. 12—14; 1 Cor. 1–8). While
unbiblical in its viewpoint, the postchurch paradigm appears to be an expression of the contemporary desire for intimacy without commitment."

Reimagining Church
Frank Viola

“... appears to be an expression of the contemporary desire for intimacy without commitment.”

…..explains possibly the popularity of Facebook; you can get all kinds of info on people you are interested in but you do not have to make any investment yourself. On the other hand you can also give out all kinds of info about yourself and hope somebody cares; but don't have to face rejection in person if no one does....


Brandi R said...

Gerry, you are right on many points mentioned but I'm choosing to point out that just because grammar is incorrect or spelling is incorrect doesn't make a person stupid. That's a judgment (and yes I'm guilty of them to) and if you are in too much of a hurry to read the full content and context of what is written and the individual whom it is written by, should you be reading it at that moment?

Facebook is a tool for friends and family to connect, I believe it is appropriate to disclose personal information because I know that I keep only the people that I have interaction with on there. I wonder out of your 480+ "friends" do you really know. That's not meant to be negative but I'm pointing out something obvious.

Was this a rant for you or a lesson for all of us reading?

Brandi Randell

Misty B said...

As a single woman I sometimes feel like I have a target on me when I am on the internet. I had some very bad (and scary) experiences that caused me to make my profile unsearchable on one social networking site. Facebook hasn’t been as bad. I have only had a few people I don’t know send me a friend request. I have never received a message from someone on Facebook that left me feeling threatened.

I am careful about the information I post on the internet. I don’t put my address or phone number on my profile. I generally stay away from posting about where I am going until after I have already been there. I definitely don’t post about being out of town until I am back from my trip.

I have had bad experiences that had nothing to do with the internet. I had some guy phone me at work and tell me he had met me at Tim Horton’s. He knew my name. Someone had pretended to be me. It had to be someone who had my work phone number which would make them either a coworker, or someone at church who had that number. I also received a letter in the mail from someone claiming to have found an inheritance from a long lost relative of mine who died in the tsunami.

With Facebook my philosophy has been that since I have a blog where I share my heart there isn’t really much additional threat to being on Facebook. I am not anonymous on my blog. I have reconnected with several people who were important to me in the past. Some of those connections are meaningful and some not as much. I can keep track of more people than I could before. Yes it can be used as a shield from meaningful connection but it can also be the beginning of a meaningful connection.

SoulPastor said...

Point of Clarification

Apparently, some readers of this blog were involved in the same conference which I attended and may have taken offense to my reference of “boredom.” I apologize if one is offended, it was not my intent to imply that the entire conference was boring, but rather a specific moment of time in which I found myself. I must be more sensitive.