Friday, November 30, 2007

Into the Quagmire

No, not that one: Facebook.

My pal and colleague, Kim Middleton, blogged on the topic and I thought well, I ought to try it. It is (or was) an academic networking site, so perhaps it would be useful in that way.


Blogging seems to some folks a kind of time suck, but it's not a patch on Facebook. The latter seems all about the constant connection, because the default is not only to record everything you do, but everything your friends do, too. Yes, of course you can ignore them, which I do for the most part (sorry to everyone who invited me to become a slayer, partake of movie trivia, or share what I'm reading).

At least it's not as unremittingly ugly as MySpace.

It's simple enough that anyone can figure it out; in fact it's probably easier for someone who knows very little about how the web works. The content doesn't have to be self-generated like a blog. Blogging is great for people like me who never run out of things to write; it's less useful for people who prefer interacting with others more.

However, that's also one of the things that gives me pause: that interaction. Do I want my professional and personal lives overlapping that much? I have a professional website and a personal one. I originally envisioned Facebook as a part of my professional life, but as friends link up and interact that boundary gets more and more porous. Not sure how I feel about that. I have chosen to make my profile available but to hide certain parts from casual viewers (i.e. non-friends in the Facebook universe). Do I really want all my students to know me 'personally'? Not really. But is it avoidable in the interconnected world of the intarwub? Probably not.

Not that this connectivity is a bad thing; I treasure the multitude of friends that I have gained from the web, some of whom are very close to me now and all of whom add so much to my life. Besides, I like being able to have a conversation about canned laughter with Graham Linehan or watching an old video I have longed to see for years. That wouldn't be possible without the 'net.

But I am still wrestling with the issues involved and probably will for a while. We all will be, I suspect. The weight of information is the best protection -- you have to go out and find information for the most part and this will only increase as we approach full steam.

My experience has been that the web is wonderful on the whole: without it I wouldn't be heading to WAMC Monday morning to tape a piece on yuletide celebrations in Anglo-Saxon England.


Adam said...

My reaction is much the same as yours -- I see too little actual content, and mostly just folks making each other vampires or whatnot. this article by Cory Doctorow notes some of the potential issues with mixing assorted social and professional circles.

Crispinus said...

Ooh, nice WAMC segue! 1-800-323-9262, folks!

I logged on to Facebook, and then quickly logged off. Waaaay too much information there on my students, even if is technically public. There's ways in which I feel I want to know my students, and ways in which I don't. Too much of the latter on FB and other sites.

C. Margery Kempe said...

Adam --

Thanks for the link. I particularly enjoyed the often perceptive Cory's reference to "Brook's-law parallel: 'Adding more users to a social network increases the probability that it will put you in an awkward social circumstance.'" I suppose that's what concerns me most.

Crispinus --

Noticed that segue, eh?


You do have to seek it out, though. I was, on the other hand, amused at the number of students who make their profile available to just anyone and then post -- ah, how to put it? -- potentially embarrassing pix (who knows, they might not be the least bit embarrassed by those drunken phone snaps).

I did notice that all the posts from one friend today were his removing himself from a variety of groups. It's a time suck, all right.

C. Margery Kempe said...

Speaking of Linehan:

Worst idea ever?

Unknown said...

This cannot work in the US. No way.

If it does, I may be tempted to pull a Herzog...

(To save someone's time, I'll just go ahead and add the requisite pre-emptive: "Doctor, Doctor, I've pulled my Herzog!")

Crispinus said...

Doctor, Doctor, I've pull--

Aw, crap.

The Queen said...

Oh, I was a Facebooker for about 2 weeks, then I realized why my MySpace profile is private- I didn't want to attach my account to every single student who wanted to attach to mine.
I already have major discomfort with pictures of me being placed on the web without my consent (of course, this does not hold for my friends.) I don't necessarily want my personal life to be broadcast unless I do it myself.
It's a really strange phenomenon- everyone has cameras, everyone goes out, I've ended up in local newspapers without knowing it would happen, but that's the way it is- we lose a little more privacy all the time.
And maybe this is just a very New England way of thinking....

C. Margery Kempe said...

No, I'd agree with that. What I don't get is the (seemingly pathological) need to be noticed. I suspect it comes out the cult of self-esteem movement. "Validate me, validate me!" Everyone seems to want to be on stage all the time. I don't get it.

I'm far from ego-less, of course, but I want my writing to be on stage, not me. I'd just as soon be behind the curtain (cue "Oz" theme). Which is why, I suppose, for a long time I refused to put a picture of myself on line.

Maybe we're just undergoing a sea change in the public/private boundaries. Dunno. Everyone's special, which as many have pointed out, means no one is. What will we do with this constant stream of personal information? Probably very little.

CL said...

I have to draw a line somewhere...
Internet can be a time sucker, even when your intentions are good.

MySpace, even for all the reasons why it's bad, is still useful to me. Top two ways: as a new music finder and as a network for friends, even those I haven't had contact with in years. It's an informal network and I like that just fine.

I have no interest in Facebook. I hear stuff from my student workers about the things they do on it and articles from the academic side in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. It just turns me off.

And as it is, I never seem to have time to update my own website.