Social Networking – Some Perils and Pitfalls

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

First of all, let me say that I’ve always been one to pick the wrong battle. To hold my tongue until it finds escape when I’ve let down my guard. Secondly, I’ve apologized to the injured party three times (though no acknowledgement has been made by them).

Here’s the situation: A members only writers’ site to post stories, poems, along with a forum to discuss writing matters and posting etiquette and news of the literary world. The site, though by invitation only, has been ongoing for about five years, expanded to just under 5,000 members, with about 100-250 currently active. The site, however private to post to, is open to viewing by the public.

Since the ultimate purpose is to share their work, writers often post a story and post links to it using other social networking platforms such as Facebook, twitter, etc. Primary reason is to share–as we all understand the need for an audience or else it’s like writing in your locked diary–and links to the piece will bring readers outside of the site’s circle, perhaps even encouraging them–if they’re writers–to request an invitation to join. These readings are counted and show up as a number of “Views.” Views don’t really tell you if people have actually read the item; I’ve clicked on posted stories intrigued by the titles or opening lines only to find that I do not have time to read a longer story, that it’s poetry which really needs to drag me in immediately or I’m outta there, that it’s politically themed or a genre that I’m not taken by, or that the opening lines were the only thing good about the piece. Still, that quick click and click out count as a view.

There are other elements of acknowledging a posted piece: that of the star or favorite (again, a click that shows up in an accumulated counting–though you can click again to remove); and the best of all (in my mind), leaving a comment of either appreciation of the work or suggestion, anything that you feel the work has brought up to you. Each member feels differently about the numbers (views/stars/comments), some completely ambivalent and some desperately absorbed with them. Me, I care, but it’s not what instigated my action to call out a particular story that suddenly was off the charts on the views.

6,000 views in less than a couple of days. Only a single story, by a well known writer, surpassed that number of views and it took years of remaining onsite. All others in the 1000-4000 range had also been there for years. The average immediate response to a story, within a week’s time is under 200. This story had 0 stars and only about 6 comments. But 6,000 views!

Obviously something was amiss–or appeared to be and was noticed by those members who had seen strange things happen via a quirk of algorithm, by trolling or spamming, or by clever manipulation. When the first mention was made of the oddity here I, like a fool, chimed in.

Here’s where it gets exciting; all hell broke loose. From my high horse, determined to defend the integrity of the site, I was my passive/aggressive self in my sermonizing. By implying that the numbers were false, I of course was insinuating that the writer had manipulated the system. He insisted they were genuine, I still doubted. He contacted me via private message where I stated that I felt it was a discredit to him and his integrity if he was indeed abusing a crack in the system since this numerical standing placed him at the top of the top ten list and kicked off someone else’s work by doing so. From there, he took an image of our private mail, posted it online (along with my name) and tweeted a link to it. He personally called me rude, unkind, and insulting. His friends called me much worse.

Then as it turned out–he didn’t manipulate numbers; the site administrator confirmed that they all came in from a link posted on an unrelated site of which the writer was a member. Indeed, it was not his fault that 6000 people clicked the link to “read” his story.

I apologized again. But here’s the kink: the link was “I don’t know what this is, but it made me laugh and that’s enough.”

Wouldn’t you click on that?

But here’s me again, being a nasty picky purist, still feeling that the system as it was meant to work, has been hijacked–innocently–but its meaning indeed has changed completely. That single story posting is being held at the same standards as the thousands of other stories and poems there, but not under the same method.

I realize that I am seeing the scenario and the site from my own experience with it and with my own expectations of it; everyone uses it differently. Some use it in lieu of their own weblog. One has formed groups within the site to use as a personal filing by theme. Most are trying to catch the eye of editors. Many, in fact, are ecstatic that the site has had that much interest and thrilled to think of the post going viral (and, with the hope that theirs will too, I’m sure). But gee, somehow, I’m still self-righteously feeling that views aren’t reads and that somehow the value of the site and its intent has been damaged just a tad bit by this occurrence.

Note that while the incident may be known and recognizable to some, I have not and never did post names or links, nor call anyone names or use vulgarity. I’ve learned more from this and post this as a memo to myself as well as making a statement on the transparency of the internet. Private only means if both or all parties are trustworthy and professional. Online forums and commentary at social networking sites like Facebook or twitter or the like encourage an immediate reaction, often to the statement of a stranger, sans helpful hints like eye contact and body language that give one pause.

There are fantabulous things about the technology of the net but problems will arise as well. We learn as we go. Then again, I’ve always been one to pick the wrong time to mount my steed and go charging into the night. Let’s hope next time I can’t get my foot into the stirrup.



Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

The devastation and pain caused by Hurricane Sandy in October was not about you and your activism on the cause of global warming. The horror of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was also not about you and your opinions on gun control. These tragedies are about victims and how we can help THEM. It is obnoxiously pompous and cruel to turn their pain into your podium.

Personally I have supported my first activist group this week. It is one which will hopefully keep the Westboro Baptist activists from their planned demonstrations at the funeral and memorial services of the Newtown victims. The Westboro “church’s” cause and platform is something I find despicable and their completely tasteless and thoughtless disruption at a family’s time of grieving is something I cannot avoid helping to stop.


Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Just had a thought this morning after responding to a long-growing thread of commentary involving several friends on the Facebook site. Since it was a lively, interesting, and informative discussion, I was thinking of copying the whole thread to one of my websites, likely Spinning since it was more relative to literature, reading, and writing. Why? Because at a site such as Facebook, the main driver behind the purpose is being up-to-date, the latest statement or news, and the rest seems to roll off into oblivion after a few days. I didn’t want that to happen to this discussion. Damn technology, I thought, completely disregarding that weblogs have longer, searchable archives, true, but are as transient in nature as anything online, even as it is everlasting. For while it may be online for all eternity (we don’t know that yet), in anything that is geared towards regular updates or postings, the old news becomes the past and usually goes unread.

But there was another path to this theory of constants. Before the internet and its blooming crop of social networking sites, this conversation and all other online 1) would be unlikely, since the participants are globally located, and 2) even in a sit-down, face-to-face discussion, unless someone had thought to bring a recording device, everything said is instantly lost except to memory. Interesting.

SOCIAL NETWORKING: And So-called “Friends”

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

It’s something we all get upset about now and then, or rather half of us do–the other half are the people who upset us. They’re the ones who send friend requests when we don’t even know them or anyone who does know them. This happens on the social networking sites, Facebook, My Space, and all the small groups that have formed on the web due to some kind of sense that folks who like the same things are just bound to like each other. On twitter, you get followers and I’ve learned that a lady’s name followed by four numerals is most likely a minor porn star.

This morning I got fed up. Within the space of an hour I had five “friend” requests and within minutes of confirming, I received requests for favors, i.e., “please go and vote for me here”, from four of them. No, I’m not going to vote for you blindly, and I don’t owe you that much time to figure out not only who you are, if you’re worthy, but what the whole contest’s about as well.

So I’m sort of sweeping up, cleaning house, dumping “friends.” Lord knows, the ones that I know personally as well as so many of the ones I’ve made online are precious, responsive, and supportive. That’s all I need.

NEW MEDIA: Internet Connected

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

This morning I received an e-mail from where I frequently purchase books.

Dear Customer,
As someone who has purchased or rated books by Roland Barthes, you might like to know that Health Insurance And Health Savings Account Made Easy is now available. You can order yours for just $9.95 by following the link below.

I’m still trying to figure out the connection between Barthes and Health Insurance and even with the longest stretch, I cannot see one. So? Obviously a sales gimmick to push a current hot topic on some configuration of their customers.

This is what bothers me about social networking and internet identifiers. Bad enough that folks don’t seem to “get” us in real life, but on the net where we’ve so carefully (and carelessly) let ourselves be judged by what we write, link to, photo-share, and buy? The old Animals’ tune is running around in my mind: “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good/Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.” It’s one of our  fears, for many of us, one of our biggest.

So is an internet identity as cool as we think? Is what we put out there–real or wishful fantasy–something we want hanging in cyberspace well beyond our own physical presence has mouldered (or been crispy-fried) away? Interesting, this new technology, eh?


Saturday, September 5th, 2009

Just as I was writing this I noticed a post in Facebook by Chris Klimas that tells the story perfectly in a visual:


I don’t understand this world where people don’t want to see the trees that make up the forest; where ‘friends’ number in the hundreds or thousands yet have never been touched or held.

It’s a place where we claim unity via communication of typed sentences, often restricted by number of characters such as in twitter, typing into boxes and pressing a ‘submit’ or ‘publish’ key. Where we needn’t ask anyone to even be there, as a face to face or telephone call may require, to communicate because we just throw it out there and let them catch it at will. We don’t know or even care if they do.

Social networking may be the connection of strangers who pretend to be friends for a few minutes as long as the walls of distance are in place. We seem to care more for people in unknown quantities, in unknown quarters: ‘the poor’, ‘the hungry’, ‘the illegal alien’, ‘the oppressed’, ‘the elderly’, rather than any specific, touchable, reachable neighbor or friend. The whole rather than the individual. Which sounds terrifically magnanimous but at the same time terribly empty. Something rings hollow, false. It’s a juxtaposition of intimacy and distance in space. Even as we widen our circle of communication, we seem to accept less intimacy as we draw our own walls, presenting our lives in limited blocks of text.

This also on today’s ‘twitter’ news from and article on Networking Etiquette at USA Today : “After all, the average person has 120 “friends” on Facebook, according to the company. In real life, the average North American has about three very close friends and 20 people they are pretty close to, said Barry Wellman, a sociologist at the University of Toronto.”

This whole topic fascinates me and I take it personally; I’ve always been better at writing than face to face verbal communication and yet, why does this new approach bother me when I should be reveling in the idea that my time has finally come?

SOCIAL NETWORKING: Keeping Hurt at a Distance

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

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.


Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Like many people, I blog as well as Twitter and post on Facebook and diigo. Each has its purpose for me, and each its own circle of “friends.” In fact, I had been on Facebook to try it out and dropped out because it didn’t seem to do it for me. I rejoined under invitation from my closest high school girlfriend and folks found me there. Diigo is used only for particular new media linking, and I haven’t exercised my Netvibes circle to link in with others. The two weblogs I have are separated by topic. Twitter is a place for those random quick thoughts that don’t beg a paragraph to a page.

One thing I’ve noticed is that my circle of “friends” is repeated in the different networking systems (and I’ve avoided connecting with family on these and may start up a separate identity for them instead) and while I tried but decided against repeat posts at twitter and Facebook, I notice that many of the others do exactly that. And, if another area is merely being pointed out, i.e., a link to their longer posting at a weblog or video site, then there are three or five or more places where a single item may appear, and the question then becomes where to respond if a response is wanted.

Obviously the same response can be posted at all sites, yet this seems to just clog the atmosphere with duplication. On the other hand, the single post may induce different threads of commentary and so wander off into areas that are related, and yet not linked.



Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

I’m not exactly sure how it was set up, but I was recently invited to an event by a dear friend on Facebook and after taking part, realized that it was a successful example of folks getting together momentarily in time and space.

In this case, it was as a memorial on the one-year anniversary of her mother’s passing. I received e-mail notice and checked in to see the number of people invited, who would be attending, and the request to share a story or two about her mom with the others. It was noted that the event was scheduled for a particular date and time period, in this case, April 19th, from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm (Tennessee time–that’s one of the glitches, that you have to specify time zone or else everyone’s thinking differently).

This idea could easily work for conferencing or discussion that needs a rapid input of ideas from a group, i.e., brainstorming session. Despite its silence and lack of visuals–although Pat did put up some nice images of her mom and the family to add to the sense of closeness–there was a feeling of sharing and the imagination puts the attendees sitting ‘somewhere’ with their fingers on a keyboard. People drifted in and out, not all online at the same time (whereas this could and would likely be a requisite for a group discussion), and it seemed that some just left the application open and wandered back in to check new comments or add a thought.

All in all, a lovely experience to share this particular span of time with a high school best friend in remembering her mother and offering support in the grieving process.  But I can also see this as a viable means to hook up a group for anything from classroom discussions to topical groups to meeting points.

SOCIAL NETWORKING: Part VII (?) – Lassoing the Universe

Friday, February 6th, 2009

When I received a Facebook invite from my high school best friend, Pat, I cringed. This horrid reaction was only because I’d tried Facebook before and found it to just be one more place to scatter my thoughts. It seemed that everyone knew if I was ‘on’ and I didn’t feel right about not contacting them, as if I was tiptoeing by to avoid them. There may be a shutoff for this but I didn’t stay on long enough to find out. But with the best of intentions to keep in touch, it seemed the years flew by without contact between Pat and I above Christmas catchups and a promise to call or email right after the holidays.

Within an hour of rejoining, I had seven friends. You can’t really turn down an invitation, and luckily, these are all people I know and like so it wasn’t a problem. It’s up to nine now, after a day on the network and that number could rise quickly very easily since Facebook sorts through all its data on all its members and finds connections to bring up loads of folks you may know. Via Pat’s page, I found a photo of a young couple who are likely related, (son?) to my first serious boyfriend, Jimmy.

Then I played a bit by putting in people that I do know, such as members of my family, my husband’s, some of our friends and old acquaintances. Yep, there are plenty of them on Facebook. I immediately found two of my nieces, two of my nephews, my sister-in-law, my great niece, part of my neighbor’s family, several more friends, and a slew of my customers and past co-workers. And here’s where I stopped.

We all have family, friends, co-workers, a present and a past. Facebook, it would seem, can bridge all the gaps of time and bring everyone together. That’s not my way of social intercourse. There are different worlds for different friendships and while it’d be a great idea to let everyone know simultaneously what’s going on–sort of like that detestable Christmas letter–there are certainly different layers of intimacy and interests among our circles of communication that don’t need to or want to overlap.

More on this later, or maybe I’ve already covered this issue in the series I’ve done here. I’m just thinking that maybe I’m not good with large groups not only in physical living, but on the wide world of the internet either.