Saturday, May 23, 2009

Anti-Social Networking

I have mixed emotions about social networking. No doubt I'll have to wear orange jumpsuits at the re-education facility for the untrendy by having no desire to Tweet/Twitter (besides watching Tweety Bird in A Gruesome Twosome). An onslaught of crass advertising plus a most user-unfriendly interface drove me away from MySpace. While I like Facebook, I discontinued my account for awhile.

There's a lot to like about Facebook - it's fun to think up bon (or not-so-bon) mots for the news feed, watch video clips chosen by movie buff friends, swap quips with far-flung contacts and receive all kinds of virtual stuff (movie posters, Parliament/Funkadelic albums, knishes from Brooklyn, Django Reinhardt references) - but the sense of lost privacy and potential for social subterfuge trouble me.
It's remarkably easy to broadcast personal information publicly on Facebook . . . and that makes me remarkably uneasy! Although social networking websites are not meant to substitute for direct communication (A.K.A. in-person conversation) with our loved ones, dang it, we homosapiens are fallible, flawed creatures and do this anyway.

Christine Hassler said it aptly in her April 29, 2009 Huffington Post column:

"The internet makes it conveniently possible to avoid uncomfortable face to face interactions or phone calls. But that doesn't make it right. We're all still human beings and owe each other the dignity of not taking the easy or lazy way out when it comes to a conversation that may be difficult. All of us are becoming far too reliant on our gadgets and starved for real human connection."

Illustrating the last point is the following very funny piece about antisocial networking behaviors, as well as a clever spoof of that 1950's classroom staple, the Coronet Instructional Film.

And I can't in good conscience end this blog entry without serving up the real deal, a genuine 1953 Coronet Instructional Film, just the sort of thing that those readers who have attended the KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival have sat through more than once.


Carol L. Skolnick said...

I could imagine some pre-Bell Telephone Luddite making the same complaint about the telecommunications and the lost art of communicating by letter that Hassler makes about the internet. While it's not advisable to break up with your wife by email, for example, there are certainly good applications for using it, or social networking. For example, Facebook has lead to a virtual cousins club on both sides of my family which may in turn lead to us all being more closely in touch and seeing each other.

The Coronet film is priceless and — at the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon — hokey as it is, I rather like the values it puts forth. I can't remember the last time someone held open a door for me; it might have been you. We'd have no need for NVC, The Work, etc. if we all just remembered to ask rather than to demand, to say please and thank you, etc.

paul etcheverry said...

I agree with Christine Hassler. So I'm a Luddite (or more accurately, with my love of mid-1940's Looney Tunes, a Fuddite).

There's some stuff that strikes me as too personal for e-mail and way too personal for social networking and my blog. I know this is no big deal for young people, but that's truly outside my comfort zone. E-mail (which has become the new way of communicating by letter) can be fun but meeting loved ones over food or beverages is a lot more fun.

The older I get, the less cynically I view those early 50's Coronet Instructional Films (manners. . . are good). One in particular, High School Prom, has been a staple of my shows, so I've seen it tons of times. It now strikes me as poignant, much as very old home movies do, and seems much more the product of a totally bygone age (like early silent films) than films from the 1930's do.

However, bringing up SCTV yet again, if you ever saw that sketch with Andrea Martin as "Dr. Cheryl Kinsey" riffing hilarious one-liners through Dating Dos And Donts. . .

paul etcheverry said...

And I look forward to when we continue this conversation in person.

paul etcheverry said...

Almost 11 months after I wrote this post, I have a response:

I agree with the Coronet film. The value of asking rather than demanding, saying please, showing consideration for and thanking those who care for you, all are among those fundamental things that still apply (as time goes by). In the computer age, I would add "please think about what you say and who it affects before hitting return/enter/send".

Social networking and cyberspace in general are too often distinguished by the complete lack of good manners. Truly vile stuff is all over the comments sections (behind the veil of anonymity) of innumerable websites.

Social networking can be and is abused, and Facebook in particular can offer whole new ways to hide, yes, nifty avoidance options that get the dirty work done without even the non-directness of an e-mail or snail mail "Dear John" letter; no less than Prince Harry got dumped by a girlfriend via a Facebook news feed.

There are difficult personal matters that require face-to-face conversation, candor. . . and a bit of courage.