Internet Sheep


Recently I blogged on the nature of the ever-ominous (and often childish) Facebook deletion.  It’s happened to all of us – at some point or another, we’ve realized our friend count has decreased, only to find out it was because someone had deleted us.  Maybe it was for personal reasons, maybe we posted one too many political rants, or maybe the person’s page just disappeared into cyber-trash – whatever the reason may be, deletions, blockings, and (most importantly) Internet drama are all realities we face in this age of social networking.
In writing this blog, though, I realized that a big downfall of social networking is in the fact that we now believe we can judge people by the content of their Facebook (or equivalent social networking) page.  (This, of course, if we actually thought about it could not be any further from the truth.)  But I think the problem is much greater than our error in “judging a book by its cover.”  It seems that society as a whole has grown a sense of self-centeredness – and (moreover) a tendency to judge others against ourselves as if we are the ultimate standard by which we judge all.
And, again, we can look at Facebook as proof of this.
What has been touted as the beauty of social networking and the Internet is the fact that users can have access to such pages as Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc.; and they can use each page however they deem best suited for their purposes.  So, for example, many bands find Myspace to be a great outlet to network their music and influences to a larger group of younger people.  Specialized social networking sites are even popping up for specific groups of people – for example, sites for writers, bakers, artists, football players; all designed specifically as a place for them to come together as an Internet culture and network.  Linked In – a place for professionals to network and find professional- and career-related opportunity.  The list is steadfastly becoming too long to include everyone.
But with Facebook there is no specialization.  It is not just a place for music; or a place for chatting; or a place for professionals. It is not just a location to get email; or to share information; or to upload pictures.  Facebook has either no specialization or all specializations.  The point is that Zuckerberg and the other brainchilds of the Book tout the site as being your one-stop shop for all social networking needs; and in doing so have inspired the creation of Internet drama.
Because there are so many different functions to Facebook, everyone has a reason for being on it – although no one person the same, exact reason.  I think here may be where some of the contention and Internet drama arises, for in allowing ourselves to be in such quick and constant communication with people we might otherwise not be in such communication with; and in all speaking on different wavelengths in doing so – contention is inevitable.  In other words, we are pissing each other off by all being there for a different thing.
This is quite obvious, actually.  Take into account the major reasons people are on Facebook:
The Curious Watcher
For many of us, this may have been why we started social networking in the first place!  Everyone was jumping on the Facebook bandwagon, and so we thought we would try it to.  Originally, we saw it as a way to see what other people were up to, and occassionally say “happy birthday” or “congratulations on the engagement!”  The Curious Watcher rarely posts on their own page.
The Keep-In-Toucher
This is what a lot of us have turned in to, over time.  Shortly after the advent of Facebook, we all graduated from college and realized that the social networking giant would be the perfect way for us to not only watch what others are up to, but keep in touch on what is going on with our old friends and family.  The Keep-In-Toucher is always friends with family members, and makes lists for high school, college, etc.  More over, these are the people who post album after album of wedding, family, event, baby, and other photos; and rarely post status or other updates, unless of course it is one of those (inevitable) accidental updates that meant to go on someone’s specific page (“The Keep-In-Toucher Oh, I know!  Glad to hear the kids are doing well, Barbara!  It was so great to see you the other day.  How’s Tom’s rash doing? 13 minutes ago Like Comment“)
The Sharer
(And this is the category I believe I fall under the most) – The Sharer is the person who has a Facebook page for the explicit purpose of sharing information.  Could be political, news, humor, events, ideas, tips – you name it, The Sharer shares it.  These are the people who comment the most (it seems), and also those who actually erupt in conversation over seemingly-irrelevant posts about the mundane details of life.  There seem to also be two types of sharers, though:  (1) those that share general things they think are of interest; and, (2) those that share every, faceted detail of their sordid (or not-so-sordid) lives.  The second kind of this group is the one that seems to annoy the majority of other Facebook users, for these are the people who find Facebook to be for broadcasting every, single detail of their lives to a large group of people they may or may not know well.
The Cutesy-User
This is the final category, and that is the person who probably realized a long time ago that Facebook jumped the shark, but still uses it as a place to post questions, ideas, and chain letters.  These are the people who play the “post what color your bra is” game (primarily women); but also, those that use Facebook as a place to play game applications, such as Farmville, Zoo World, Cafe World, etc.
It seems that most Facebook users are a combination of all of the above, but at the same time, have a propensity towards one of the four, major Facebook groups as their belief of what the social networking giant is actually for.  And here is where the problems arise.  For in having so much functionality, and so many different reasons for use – Facebook has given the afore mentioned narcissistic ways of our culture an ample opportunity to further assert its self-centeredness in believing that because they use it for a specific purpose, must indicate that all should use it for that same purpose.  And unfortunate is that this only further creates a sense of misunderstanding, for in seeing how people use their Facebook page, it is often assumed that this must be the way the person is.  
Although, perhaps this is a good thing; for if someone judges a person’s character by what they do on the Internet, they perhaps are not someone you would want to be “friends” with in real life anyway.  Besides the obvious fact that on the Internet all body language is lost; the mere fact that Facebook has no direction allows others to assume it is for whatever they deem it is to be.  Every sheep herder knows that if you don’t have a combination of dogs, horses, and men to lead the sheep in the direction the herd is to go; that the sheep will just meander around willy-nilly, not knowing where to go, and becoming completely defenseless.  Sheep will die, sheep will get lost – the herd will be so scattered that soon there will be no way of even calling it an herd anymore.  Moreover, each individual sheep will have a “plan of survival;” yet, this will only cause contention, for no sheep will have the same, exact plan.  At the risk of equating Facebook users with sheep, we can see the situation is still similar.  With no direction, Facebook users are at the behest of the uncontrolled state of nature that is only natural for us to fall into.  When we define things for ourselves, we inherently assume we define things for others – and contention arises.  This just is not the case, though, with the reality of the Facebook network.  It is a double-edged sword, for in being the all-encompassing, one-stop-shop for Internet interfacing, it (at the same time) makes us more isolated than ever before.
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