The Bitch Slap: Blinding Audacity

social media audacityHi…yeah – is Bullshit in? No, It’s okay. I’ll hold.

Bullshit always keeps you on hold, doesn’t it?

The lines of communication propriety have become inarguably blurred by technology. I addressed this awhile back in a diatribe/personal memoir on online stalking, but think it bears repeating in a slappier tone. So let me rack my Bitch Slapping hand like a shotgun and say this:

Our audacity is blinding.

The social web is a brilliant tool. If used wisely, it offers greater insight into those people who matter to us most. Friends, family, colleagues, customers and clients all now have the opportunity to share their lives to any degree they see fit – from conspicuous absence to annoying overshare and every iteration in between. But here’s the rub: just because you can see someone online doesn’t mean you know them. And it certainly doesn’t mean you have access to them.

I don’t know about you, but the level of faux-social intimacy bullshit I deal with every day is astronomical. There’s nothing I adore more than a personal note from a reader or having the opportunity to answer a question for anyone who asks, but my social networks are becoming overrun with people who think they know me. Well, ya don’t. Here’s what you know about Erika: the persona. There are a select group of people in the Inner Sanctum, the ‘hood. But the rest? You’re standing outside singing “How Much is That Doggie in the Window?” and looking at an Irish Setter.

I know I’m not the only one who deals with this, so before I go from Erika to see-you-next-Tuesday in five paragraphs flat, let’s get to some common sense rules for the social web. These are my rules and perhaps not yours, but I think much of it is common sense. Let’s take a spin on the Train to Communication Propriety and stop this epically fucked devolutionary process back to knuckle dragging Neanderthals that club Jane on the head and drag her back into the cave so we can sneak a look at her Facebook profile when no one’s looking.

Text Messaging

If you get someone’s phone number, that’s a pretty coveted thing these days. Don’t blow up their phone with multi-part text messages. If it takes more than two texts to get your point across, pick up the goddamn phone and have a 30-second conversation. For fuck sake, if your fingers work to text, they work to dial. And yes, I am occasionally just as guilty of this as anyone else. Texts are great for where are you, what time, which brand of ketchup do you want? queries, but they suck ass for dialogue. Dial. The. Phone.

Facebook Profiles

I’ve been pretty lax with this but that’s about to change. My personal Facebook profile is for my family and friends. If I haven’t met you IRL (In Real Life), do you really need to see the pics of me and my girlfriends having dinner? No. Because that’s personal and requires a certain level of intimacy. I love connecting with my readers and hearing their stories and truly respect anyone who sends me a friend request with a clarification on how I know them. Just ask one of my besties, Merredith – I’d met her at a conference and was knee deep in shit, couldn’t remember and even denied HER friend request on Facebook. Alas, I’ve also now spent last Thanksgiving and Christmas at her family’s house. I also know quite a few people who use their personal Facebook profiles for their business colleagues and communications as well. That’s fine. That’s your decision.

But the moral is this: understand what you’re doing. Think about what you’re asking when you click “Add to Friends” on Facebook. It’s a pretty big level of ask. It’s not just a button. I built a Facebook Fan Page so people could reach Erika without seeing the things that really aren’t quite their business. And the same goes for you – you probably don’t think I need to see the pictures of your daughter’s birthday party or your brand of political rants. If someone you see online offers a link to their Fan Page on their blog, but not a link to their personal profile (ahem…coughs…points), maybe there’s a reason. It’s pretty audacious to ask to be let into someone’s personal life. Just think of who you’d let inside the front door of your house – any yahoo selling magazines or the person you share three yoga classes and carpools with each week? Methinks yoga person wins out.

Relationships Are Earned

This digital access we enjoy – it makes things way too easy. With a Google search, we can find most anyone and the only way to avoid being found is to stop putting it out there. But we should never forget that relationships are earned. Just as flinging a business card at someone doesn’t mean you’ll get them as a client, seeing someone online doesn’t mean you know them. Relationships built over the social web take time and nurturing, just as with any in-person relationship. Why should anyone “be your friend” after exchanging a few blog comments or tweets? After shaking your hand at a conference? I think a good rule of thumb is this: if you’d invite the person to a dinner party where you could only have 20 guests, would you invite them? Granted, the parties are different for both business and your personal life – you have to be the one who decides the boundaries – but we only have so much bandwidth.

Use your bandwidth wisely. Take the time to bask in deeper relationships instead of skipping rock after rock across the surface of human interaction. Stop collecting people in your personal life. In my eyes, I need a select group of incredible relationships, not a plethora of mediocre ones that detract from the time I can spend on the ones I truly want to nurture.

The Desire to Connect – Go Forth and Don’t Be a Douche

We want to feel connected and now we have all of these buttons (Like, Digg, Stumble, Reddit, Add to Friends, Follow, Buy) that give the illusion of connection – but how are we truly connected? When the shit goes down (as it has on this blog), who’s going to be there and have your back? Who’s going to notice if you’re gone?

More importantly – who will YOU notice when they’re gone and reach out to help when needs must?

My readers – you – you’re the reason I get to do what I love. You make me laugh, you’ve been there when all hell’s broken loose. And many of you have come to be my friends and I hope I get to meet each of you one day. I never expected to be invited to your weddings and I don’t know your parents. I only know the persona – what you choose to share with me. And I respect that. How can we change the culture of People Collecting into one where we keep building relationships, but on different levels? I treasure that I’ve earned each of you coming back, post after post. I wouldn’t trade that for the world. But no offense – I don’t really need you to listen in while I chat with my mom, y’know?

So, you’ve been slapped. And I have, too. Enough with the over-asking and false senses of familiarity because a button says we can have it with a click. It’s time for me to rethink just clicking a button and consider what those clicks mean. I tell my clients all the time: it’s not how many fans you have on the boat – it’s how many who would jump in to save you when the shit goes down. Even the Titanic had a max capacity, y’know?

40 replies
  1. Beer Drinker Rob
    Beer Drinker Rob says:

    First time reader, so I know we won’t be at each other’s birthday bashes this year. I came over from Twitter just now where that massively stupid #FF list generating phenomenon is taking place. I also don’t get the collecting of friends who are not friends thing. For what purpose? Anyway, I’ll see you around Twitter.

    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      And thanks for bopping by today, Bob. I rarely participate in #FF, and when I do, it’s because I want to TELL someone about a certain someone I’ve found. It’s how many people have found THIS blog, and for that I’m grateful – but the click/follow blind actions? Sounds like we can both do without those 🙂

  2. Chris Tucker
    Chris Tucker says:

     The monkey balls photo made me laugh before I even got to read. Thx for that. I wish I’d written this first cuz now all I can say is I agree… the texting rant is dead on, and I use my Facebook profile for friends and fam too. No biz for me on my personal FB unless it’s relevant to my “hood” also.

    The IRL rule is soooooo missing from most online “friendships” I think. Glad you mentioned it. Truth is that many of the onliners with huge networks of “friends” have few IRL relationships that are meaningful. Given the ease of access to people online who are willing to share themselves (like you do here), many people can perv their way into acquaintenances that feel like real relationships. Sad really, but human nature I’m afraid.

    Thx for the slap – again. Hope you have a great day – for real:)

  3. Bryce Alan Katz
    Bryce Alan Katz says:

    From my brother, after reading this (and your blog for the first time EVAR):

    “She should be the Patron Saint of Get a Fuckin Clue!!! Kinda made me tear up a little reading that!!”

    I’ll notify the pope.

  4. Sara Rosso
    Sara Rosso says:

    Faux relationships – I had an epiphany several months ago on Facebook and removed 500+ “friendships” so I could concentrate on interacting with family & very close friends. I wrote a post called “No Offense, I don’t want to be friends on Facebook” which was received by some, not understood by others.

    Several suggested creating two personal(!) profiles, one that was a “secret” one with just close friends. Others said to keep using lists. Like you said, I’d rather spend time furthering relationships than blocking faux ones. 

    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      And why should I have to segregate mylife to suit the feelings of others? Here I am professionally, here I am personally. Why don’t WE be the ones who decide where the people in out life belong instead of letting others insist on their place?

  5. @RabihNajjar
    @RabihNajjar says:

    Great post Red. I am very guilty. And like many others before & after me, we need people like you to help guide us and hear other’s perspective. Otherwise we carry on as little naive people. My face hurts now that I’ve been slapped.

  6. Angelique
    Angelique says:

    Now that you’ve told readers they shouldn’t expect to be your friends on Facebook, will you PLEASE tell all the other public figures? I keep running into authors, teachers and speakers, including those who give out social media advice, who don’t have Facebook business pages, but instead blithely tell one and all to friend their personal profiles. Or they run organizations that have groups instead of pages, so they cannot be followed B2B, as a page. They don’t understand what the hell my problem is — after all, don’t I “know all about” social media? Apparently they need to hear it from someone more convincing — or scary — than me.

    • Michael LaRocca
      Michael LaRocca says:

      When I was in the sixth grade, this sad little boy wandered from table to table asking “Will you be my friend?” It worked — he’s one of my Facebook friends over 30 years later  — but I agree that it’s not the best way for me to market my novels.

  7. Brian Watkins
    Brian Watkins says:

     Well said, Erika. “Mile wide and inch deep” relationships seem rampant in social media. That’s fine, I guess, but too often I see people with 2000+ “personal friends” that don’t really post anything of value or engage with anyone. You put it perfectly when you said “collecting contacts”, which seems like what some people do rather than any real attempt to build a relationship with anyone. It’s kind of like throwing darts blindfolded, hoping that if you do it enough times something will stick.

    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      And don’t get me wrong – I believe the more people I know, the more people I have the opportunity to know really well. I just don’t think everyone needs to see the inner guts of my life 🙂

      • Brian Watkins
        Brian Watkins says:

        Totally. I know some people conduct business off their personal page, but I’m with you in preferring to run a business page separate from that as a way to stay connected with fans and clients without breaking the “see pictures of my beach vacation” barrier. 

  8. SL Clark
    SL Clark says:

    Hahahaha, simple, change your personal social name to something generic like, oh I don’t know, maybe Steve, as in the Hedge or one of 100 stupid movie characters.

    Welcome to Celebrititis, the disease of apparently, big balls. You’ve got ’em, people want ’em.
    Cheers, -Steve

  9. Trudy
    Trudy says:

     Thank you for this bitch slap. I have been bitching about this for four years. I’ve been bothered (not that bad), harassed (bad), cyber stalked (terrible) and some even moved it to in person (horrendous). People are using social media to exercise personal pathologies, addictive personalities and other problems that sound funny in text but manifest in incredibly terrible ways. I hate the beating that the word “friend” has endured because of this. I really hope that the positive will always outweigh the negative but sometimes I am not so sure with social media. 

  10. Doug Leavy
    Doug Leavy says:

    Awesome post and “slap served”! I think today’s social networking (thank you Zuck) has created this era of everything is a screen door and out there for the masses. If I can see you and I’ve interacted with you online only, then we must be “friends”. There is no private online any more and it’s becoming harder and harder to keep ones personal life between family and FRIENDS, not “friends”. 
    I totally agree with you though.. time for some spring cleaning.. Erika is for YOU Redhead Writing is for US. Those allowed into the “inner sanctum” should be limited and everyone else needs to learn boundaries!

  11. Leon Noone
    Leon Noone says:

     G’Day Erika,
    As a very smart lady once said,
    “flattery will get you everywhere; especially to places you probably didn’t wanna go.”

    I write a B2B blog. It’s taken a while, but I’m in the process of finally establishing myself on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I gotta say that I’m sticking with my fan page rather than friends. I just don’t wanna know that much about friends’ friends, to say nothing of imperfect strangers.

     Years ago, I made a conscious choice not to care very much what people thought of me personally. I slid noisily into marriage, fatherhood and  obsessing about my career in the halcyon days of Transactional Analysis and books entitled “Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I Am?” I wasn’t afraid to tell. But I was scared that no one would want to listen.

    Woody Allen has an interesting approach: “I don’t want to be remembered for my work. I want to be remembered because I never died.” He’s smarter than lots of people realize.

    But for all that, I just wanted to let you know that I agree entirely about bloody texting. I also happen to believe that face to face communication is the core management skill.

    In June last year I put a post on my blog,”Face to Face Communication: Why it’s At Risk From Modern Media At Work.” Sorry about the length of the title. At the time I was experimenting with long headlines.

    Anyway….. I mention this merely because I feel certain that you have nothing better to do on Saturday and Sunday than to trawl through my blog posts searching for my words of corporate wisdom. So……



  12. heatherrast
    heatherrast says:

     I think you have a very legitimate point here. I imagine those in the public eye get approached to the point of exhaustion from insensitive eager beavers (quite possibly full of genuine interest) and creepy types alike. On the flip side, it can be a bit tough to determine an appropriate level of online intimacy, just as it is in real life relationships. Can you text one of the other mothers on the baseball team to ask about practice when you’ve only exchanged smiles in passing? I’ve wondered.
     Like you suggest, I’ve been careful to include a personal message when connecting to someone a step or two removed from the “know zone” on LinkedIn or FB. I’ll add my Twitter handle, mention a convo thread and anything else that shows them I’m human, with real human interest in getting to know them (when I perceive smarts or sense of humor in 140 char, I sometimes look for ways to get more of that good stuff). I also add some message that suggests no hard feelings if they’re not comfortable connecting in that space (some people are open networkers on LI but not on FB, etc.) But maybe the tools themselves erase some of the IRL boundaries we seem to understand much better. I mean, someone may think a prolific and gregarious tweeter who openly uses bad language and follows a ton of people might be very comfortable hooking up on FB (just supposing a “type” here). Not so sure if people are ignoring the cues, or if social has helped change the cues and we’re still trying to decipher them.I do wonder, though, about the person who might genuinely feel drawn to someone, having read their work and exchanged bits through multiple channels. Sure, that person shouldn’t expect a hug or job offer. But are they wrong for trying to forge a kinship given the social tools available to them? For example, your writing style is very personable and feels 1:1 to each of your online readers, as I’m sure it’ll grow exponentially with the magazine column. We feel like you’re talking to us as individuals. Some readers respond as individuals. Well suddenly Erika has 100 people wanting to get closer. Yeah, that’s weird for you, I totally get that. But unless those folks are incredibly self-aware, they don’t comprehend the dynamics. They simply don’t “get” that just because you sound like our BFF and our radar squawks “friend!” doesn’t mean your radar has had a chance to pick up any signals yet (unless you’re reading all of our stuff too, which would be awesome but completely impractical).

    It can be hard on the one looking to connect, too. Say I can never make it to a in-person conference where you are because of geography or finances or whatever. Does that mean I have no chance of progressing into the next-closest-in circle? If I’m reading all of your posts and updates, that could be tough to reconcile. Like watching from behind the glass.

    Again, I support your point. You (or anyone) choosing to share your words with us doesn’t earn us right-hand placement in your life. But I can see why someone would want to hang with you, thinking they had instant rapport, and that it was mutual. Guess that’s a testament to your mad skillz. 🙂

    Best of luck drawing those boundaries!

  13. Brad Holland
    Brad Holland says:

    You have officially arrived in the big leagues when you get stalkers. It doesn’t help having the racy and provocative images of “ENORMOUS FUCKING BALLS” as Hannah so eloquently put it, displayed on your site to entice those poor depraved souls reaching out to you with chloroform only wanting a little of your attention. 

  14. Mimi
    Mimi says:

    I read a lot of articles every day.  Some are interesting when I read them, some a waste of my time.  Most are forgotten after the initial impact.  This one was a paradigm shift for me.  Often I need to be slapped to hear, but this was enough of an impact that not only have I been thinking of the idea for hours, but it will definitely change the way that I look at my interactions.  Thanks so much!

  15. MegCarpen
    MegCarpen says:

     I always wondered about things like this. I follow a lot of authors, and many of their websites lead right to their personal pages. I always feel a little odd friending them, and I’ll often stop right there. (Yes, I have friended a few authors, and no, I never feel badly if they later purge me, it usually means they’ve finally created a fan page.)
    I know how creepy it is to have people acting like they’re your best buddies, and not having a clue who they are, so I’ve always strived to create that boundary for others. It’s nice to see I’m not the only one that gets the heebie jeebies when people start acting like they’ve always known you and don’t.

  16. Ellen Berg
    Ellen Berg says:

    Lots of smarticles in this article.  As a teacher, I have two separate FB profiles:  one for my students and their families, and one for my close friends and family where I let it all hang out.  I have actually had parents complain that I won’t add them to my personal profile; they think they should know all my bi’ness or that because I was compassionate and worked closely with them and their kiddos that we’re besties all ready for sleep-overs and hair braiding.  Only two people have made the transition from client to close friend, and that took a few years of relationship building.

    In the end, it’s about boundaries, and boundaries are healthy.  The world needs more of ’em.

  17. Kellie J. Walker
    Kellie J. Walker says:

    Boundaries are a good thing. I’ve been preaching about them to friends and clients for years. So glad I’m in such good company!

    Sadly, I believe this phenomenon is being fed, at least partly, by the ‘entitlement mania’ that seems to be prevalent in our culture today. At the risk of sounding like some old lady, kids these days just don’t seem to understand the idea of earning anything. So many seem to expect things – money, friends, jobs, recognition (don’t get me started on everyone gets a trophy just for showing up), etc. – to be there when they want them.

    Slap received.

  18. Michael LaRocca
    Michael LaRocca says:

    So I saw a kitten in the window of a pet shop with a sign that read “For Sale – Amsterdam Cat.” I’ve never been aware of any cat breeds that originate in Holland, so this definitely caught my interest. I went inside and asked, “How Dutch is that moggy in the window?” 

  19. @keithprivette
    @keithprivette says:

    Hey Erika it is interesting how many people are collecting contacts. I usually ask “why?” what the hell are you going to do with this? To be honest I am a little freewheeling on twitter and follow because it is easy, but I always read bios and first 10-15 tweets before I follow.  Facebook and Linkedin I always always always drop a note to ask if we can connect and if we don’t that is quite alright.  Know why it is their account, they can do whatever the hell they want with it!  I do appreciate the fact that we have had the opportunity to connect.  I gained valuable insight about writing, running a business, and following someone is them inside and out! I really dig the opportunity, so thank you.  ‘

    Side note I would notice and for sure! I would have your back!  Need any help? Yeah and those fucking balls….wow

  20. veganmama
    veganmama says:

    Great post! Something for everyone to consider. I’m fairly turned off by
    many interactions on social media. That said, I’m sure I’ve come across
    as ‘chummy’ to people who have no idea who the f#$k I am and could care less.
    I liken my personality to a terrier-mix, I can be VERY enthusiastic and
    friendly (which annoys some people) but I won’t jump on you or lick
    your hand (the “mix” part. I like to support and promote people I enjoy and some people
    can take that differently than I intend. My stance is to give more than I
    get. Thanks for the ‘heads up’ to keep myself in check ; )


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