A facebook friend commented negatively on Feb 5, 2009 about the Notes lists proliferating on facebook. He provided a link to a Time Magazine article by Claire Suddath, “25 Things I Didn’t Want to Know About You”. USA Today had an article along the same lines, but without the usual media cynicism about fads.
One of my first facebook friends to post a “25 things” list, touched me with the phrase “because I wanted to know more about you”. He might have meant the emotional plea personally, but the phrase is part of the boilerplate instructions. It took me two weeks to compose my list, which I posted on blogspot and facebook yesterday.
The Time posting was full of negative criticism, stereotyping the social networking world in a tone approaching character assassination of anyone who participates. I found it divisive. I’m inclusive. I try to avoid contentiousness in discussions, whether political, religious, or in any arena of social justice or community action.
The USA Today article recognized the powerful influence social networking is, a mass change in global communication.
I came late to the social networking party. Beyond facebook, I started posting on Blogger, and populating Google Reader with a wide range of interesting professional and commercial blogs, as well as my friend’s blogs. My daughter had been paying a premium for a Typepad blog for a couple of years, a blog that became a casualty of the economic crises. I found more of my authentic friends (friends I actually know) using Twitter, as well as facebook and their own websites. I started another blog on WordPress, to explore the features and links to a vast array of blogs.
What may be questionable and dangerous about the facebook lists can be “viral”, as the Time article said. Any other online venue that asks us to forward an emotionally charged message to all of our friends, or to allow access to our entire list of email contacts, I immediately delete and mark as spam. Apparently, facebook has a computer server network capable of withstanding the flood of chain letter lists.
Unfortunately, Facebook and some of the Google applications lend themselves to easy mistakes by the user that can lead to computer viruses and all of the other things spam blockers and spyware try to catch. I started a Google gmail account yesterday. On my first email compositions, I noticed the top of the frame scrolling messages for the very same services and products I have been sending to my spam bucket for years.
Among the worst offenders has been the Republican National Committee, and their variations. How did they find me? By following my father’s death notice in 1999 to my home address as I moved from one place to another. He never used a computer, but often manned a phone bank in St. Paul for local Republican candidates. When his personal and frequent cash donations stopped, I started getting the same strong-armed requests, questioning my patriotism and party loyalty. His snail mail versions went on for eight years after I returned the first several months worth marked “deceased”. The latest Republican spam from headline senators and celebrities asks me to keep up the pressure against any show of support for President Obama. The language is morally bankrupt verging on treason.
Only slightly less troubling is the unknown bias of Time Magazine, and Claire Suddath specifically. One of the tools I picked up on from a blogging writing coach reminded me to use mind mapping. One chain starting from “Time Magazine” leads to “undisclosed bias” to “political bias” to the dumbing down of America. Another chain goes from Time’s struggle to survive to its attachment to the “old world order”, which leads to their certain failure. Another chain starts with undisclosed bias and leads through special interests, power plays, corrupt business practices, and fronts to organized crime.
How much of this mind map would be the same if I started a chain with facebook? Half a page of positive links, and cautions, but most links lead to useful tools and creative potential.