SOCIAL NETWORKING: Keeping Hurt at a Distance

April 23rd, 2009 by susan

If you’re sensitive, the new communication methods of twitter, MySpace, Facebook, et al, are no less humiliating than the face-to-face snub.

My sensitivity is limited to the opinion of those I care about and hold in high esteem or a direct attack by anyone, so this is not a personal case of complaint but rather an observation of the workings of the medium. For example, on twitter, you can opt to be notified when someone starts following your tweets, but you don’t necessarily have to follow them. Since the majority of those who follow are just looking for numbers, you can opt out, and, you can block them if like me, you don’t choose to be a mere addition in somebody’s numbered quest for fame. But what about someone you know? Well it’s pretty hard to either block or not follow because they’ll know it. There’s even (or used to be) that showed when someone stops following you so you can figure out time-wise what you tweeted that made them drop you like a hot potato.

I don’t have experience with MySpace, but on Facebook, it’s a constant push to add to your “Friends” listing. Based on your personal list, that list is expanded to their lists, and these folks are touted as possible friends. This works well to discover who else you might know is on Facebook, and obviously is an excellent method of expanding and connecting. But these faces, one at a time, show up in a prominent space each time you log in, with the suggestion that you add them to your list. But what if you don’t want to? What if you feel it would be an imposition and, knowing that they have to approve you, are intimidated into non-action. Or maybe you just don’t like’em.

Of course this brings you to the other side of the story; if you’re seeing them, they’re watching your image come up randomly with the same suggestion, that they add you. And they don’t. You have to figure that they’ve been given the opportunity, but have chosen not to take it. Is it intimidation or is it b) they just don’t like you? Do you wonder why they’re not picking you for their team? And meanwhile, they’re wondering the same about you. Ironically, these forms of socializing are acting as an equalizer.

You can’t be super sensitive to these things and by the same token, you can’t expect the world to want you watching them. These are, just as in real life, social situations and as technology creates new communication means the social mores will eventually be established to keep us all in a polite society where hopefully no one’s nose gets out of joint.

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