Posts tagged ‘social awkwardness’

Hide, Unfriend, or Ignore?

a difference of opinion?

Facebook is a weird place.  It makes it very easy to keep tabs on people.  You can say yes to the friend request of someone you had English class with in high school but never hung out with, or the wife of an old childhood pal, or someone you only knew at work.  And it isn’t until you friend these people, and you are suddenly privvy to their own personal data stream, that you may realize you have some major differences in opinion.

I have heard and read several studies that claim that the Internet and social networking sites allow us to meet more people that are exactly like us, rather than fostering diversity and interconnectedness.  I like to think that I am an openminded individual, who is happy to associate with people who do not share my political views or personal ideals or even religious beliefs.  Hell, T and I have very different political beliefs, so we just agree to disagree, and we don’t talk politics too much.

And there’s the rub.  All these people you friended because you used to know them in a certain context are now sharing their most deeply-held personal beliefs 24-7 with all of their closest friends and family.  And you.  Subjects that would never come up during a 40-hour work week are suddenly posted, shared and ranted about on a regular basis.  Whether you agree with them or not.

Maybe they posted something that is completely contrary to your beliefs.  And you can’t resist making a comment to contradict them, which turns into a comment battle.  Or maybe it’s the other way around — you post something, and get a torrent of criticism or unwanted advice.  I’m sure that everyone on Facebook has run into this problem before.  But what do you do about it?

The first time I ran across this phenomenon was with the spouse of a former high-school classmate.  I had no interest in going to war with someone I had never met in person, so I simply hid her posts.  The next time around, it was a former classmate themselves, someone who had opposing political beliefs to mine and liked to stir the pot.  And I always took the bait.  I finally decided I had to do something, if only to save myself a small amount of mental anguish each day.  Unfriending seemed unkind, so hiding his posts was the easy way out.

But then there was a third person.  Someone I had been close to during our freshman year of college, but had not been in touch with for over 10 years before Facebook reunited us.  This person had become born-again in the intervening time, and frequently posted points of view I disagreed with, both religious and political.  For a little while, I commented on the posts I disagreed most violently with.  In one case, I found myself in an exchange with another of his friends, with several volleys of opposing opinion.  And then I realized something.

I was that person who decided to butt in and provide my unsolicited opinion when no one else wanted it.

My born-again friend?  Never commented on my posts he didn’t agree with.  And rarely replied to my annoying comments on his posts.  He was just stating what he believed to his friends who believed the same thing.  And he let me believe, and post, whatever I liked without comment.

And that’s where I realized that you don’t have to hide or get rid of people you have friended but sometimes disagree with.  Any more than you need to stop talking to your coworker as soon as you realize that they are a Green Party member and you’re a Libertarian.  You simply choose to not get into it with them, in the hopes that they will respect your right to believe what you like and do the same.  So when I see a Facebook friend’s post that I disagree with, I simply don’t read it.  And that way, I don’t get mad, and I don’t have to be that crazy person who is ranting in their comments.  And since I stopped meddling, I don’t seem to have the problem of people butting in and telling me my posts are wrong either.

Most of the time, it works that way.  Sometimes, I admit, I just can’t resist butting in.  Respectfully, of course.  But I do try to hold my virtual tongue.

And I’m sure that as soon as I have kids, and I start to share the choices I’m making as a parent, all that no-one-butting-in will be a distant, fond memory.  But that’s okay.

Because there’s nothing more boring than only knowing people who believe exactly the same things you do.  Just ask T.  *smile*

A Reminder to Be Kind

I have written before about what I like to think of as my particular form of OCD, the inability to let a question go unanswered.  If you ask a question and I know the answer, whether you were asking me or someone else, even if you are a complete stranger I just happened to overhear, you’re going to get the answer from me.  I have accosted total strangers in grocery stores, and even a father and daughter pair checking out a cool little sand crab on the beach.  It’s so bad, the poor woman who used to share a cubicle wall with me simply referred to me as her “smart wall,” because I would shout information through the divider at her.

So yesterday when I happened to see a friend’s status on FB had a comment under it from a woman I’d never heard of asking a question, I had to answer.  Apparently, her email had been compromised, and she was unintentionally spamming her friends with links to male enhancement drugs.  She knew about it, but said she wasn’t at all computer-savvy and didn’t know what to do.  Since my friend hadn’t replied yet, I told her it was either a virus or a Trojan horse, that she could probably get rid of it with her antivirus software, or else a local computer store should be able to help her out for not too much money.

Easy enough.  I have probably notified a dozen friends who suddenly started sending me links to odd things that they were infected, an on occasion gave them the exact same advice.  I literally didn’t think twice about it.

This morning, I got a friend request from someone I didn’t know.  I was puzzled, but then realized that there was a note on the friend request, thanking me for answering her question, and this was my friend’s friend.  Rather than friending a total stranger, I sent her a message back letting her know it was no big deal, but I was glad I could help.

She responded almost immediately, with a note that genuinely surprised me.  She said that she often had difficulty believing that there were more good people than bad in the world, due to her life choices and experiences, and she seemed deeply moved by the fact that a total stranger, with nothing to gain, would reach out and help her.  Apparently, a younger relative who is in college for an IT degree wouldn’t help and simply told her to figure it out herself, and she was frustrated and didn’t know where to turn.  My tiny bit of assistance out of nowhere appeared to be so significant an act, it had at least partially renewed her faith in human kindness.  Seriously, I’m not exaggerating here.  It was a pretty mind-blowing note.

So my answer was a random act of kindness?  I guess so.  All because I’m a compulsive know-it-all.  It reminds me that you never know how your actions can affect someone else out there.  If you try to be kind and helpful to everyone you come across, and you may make more of a difference than you know.

The Ubiquitous Commenters

Like most blog hosting sites I’ve seen, WordPress has a front page with a selection of new blogs that they highlight.  And, like most sites I’ve seen it has a cute name: Fresh Pressed.  A lowly blog will be plucked out of the blogosphere and highlighted on this page, and lots of people will read it.  The reason I can state this is, those featured blogs usually have a ton of comments.

There are protocols to follow when leaving comments on these blogs.  Often, the first few comments are from friends who subscribe to the site regularly, but it is proper ettiquette to congratulate the blogger on being chosen, in our case with a comment like, “Congratulations on being Fresh Pressed!” or, “Congrats on making it to FP!”  It’s cute when the chosen bloggers express confusion because they not only don’t realize that their post has made it into the spotlight, they don’t even know what “Fresh Pressed” means.

WordPress posts links to about a dozen blogs, and often they are really good, so I have started making a point of visiting the interesting headlines each day.  Sometimes I comment, sometimes I don’t.  Some blogs cover a controversial topic, like ADHD in schools, and get a huge number of people arguing their points of view in the comments.  Others get a lot of feedback because everyone agrees with the blogger — like the woman whose post focused on the song “I Love My Hair” from a recent Sesame Street episode.  Some bloggers try to respond to every single comment they get on their post, and others just let the public argument play itself out with little or no additional comment.

I like to read the comments along with the blogs, especially if I feel the need to add something, since I hate it when everyone says the exact same thing over and over in the comments section.  If I don’t feel that I have anything new or unique to add to the discussion, then I simply don’t post my, “yeah, me too!” comment.

But as I have started reading the FP blogs and comments over the last few weeks, I am noticing something.  There are a few people who appear to leave a comment on every single blog that makes it to FP.  And I am really curious to know why.

One guy in particular puts a link to his blog at the bottom of his comments, so I assume part of the reason he comments is to help advertise his own blog.  His comments are always relevant to the FP blog and many times don’t mention his own blog at all, so I don’t have a problem with this at all.  Another woman who always seems to post usually has a slightly nasty spin on her opinion, which is forcefully expressed, so I assume she is just the kind of person who likes to add her two cents to every conversation.

His blog has a very distinctive name, and she uses a personal photo for her signature icon, rather than choosing one of the generic design options, which may be what makes them stand out in my memory.  There may be a lot more people making a point of reading and commenting on everything on the FP each day that I haven’t yet noticed.  And while I like to be engaged and to comment from time to time on the FP posts myself, I do sense a whiff of judgementalism on my part.  Don’t you people have better things to do than comment on the blogs of strangers all day long?

And then I realized: if I read many of the posts, and comment on many of them each day, what do other bloggers who notice think of me?  And how am I really that different?

Someone else out there may be thinking, that Archiegrrl, she sure does like to spread around her opinion… *smile*

Social skills

Facebook is ruining my social skills.

You know how they say that people who become psychiatrists do it because they are a little bit crazy themselves?  Or people become cops because they have had a run in with injustice?  Well, people become cultural anthropologists when they don’t understand their own culture.  And not too long ago, I was a cultural anthropologist.  *smile*

All those simple rules about being part of a group and getting along with people?  Yeah, I have had to study people to figure them out.  I wouldn’t say that I am completely socially inept, but I am far more likely to be found on the fringe of any given social group than a core member.  I tend towards being that little kid from Jerry MacGuire, who starts every sentence with, “Did you know..?”, or the guy who just has to constantly one-up you with anecdotes.  I know that about myself, so I try really hard to keep it all under control.

I spent about 8 days in the field recently, with a crew of folks from work that I knew, but not well.  I am always insecure until I have worked out the dynamics of a group, and I always worry that I am the irritating know-it-all girl who just won’t shut up.  Plus, when you are in the field, you often spend 12-16 hours a day together, since you work together all day and then have no one else to socialize with at night, so interpersonal dynamics become that much more important.  And I was kinda getting that annoyed vibe from my crew after the first few days.  We had long drives in and out of the field, and silence would often descend over us.  When I tried to jump start conversations, it usually went nowhere — I’d say something, and there would be little to no response before we lapsed back into silence again.

And then I realized: I was treating my conversations like a series of status updates.

There’s been a lot going on right now for T and I, mostly surrounding a long, difficult battle with the underwriters at US Bank to get our first home mortgage approved.  I know that I am obsessed with every twist and turn in the plot line, but I forgot that NO ONE ELSE IS.

On Facebook, you give everyone updates on your life, no prompting necessary, and you get “like”s and comments as everyone provides virtual support.  But if you do that in real life, constantly updating people about something that’s going on in your life when they haven’t asked, it makes you really, really annoying.  As soon as I figured this out, waited out the silences and let other people break them, things went much more smoothly again.  And when people asked, I would tell them about the status of our loan.  But if they didn’t ask, it meant they really didn’t care, and I shouldn’t be talking about it.  Such a simple rule!  Damn you, Facebook, for making me act like an egomaniac!

Now I just have to quit constantly asking people for things I need, like farming supplies and mafia weapons… *smile*