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.
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.
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?