Social Media Awkwardness

HOWARD MEGDAL: As of this moment, I cannot decide if the level of sharing many people bring to Facebook is a net positive or negative for society at large.

For me personally, there is the awkwardness I feel whenever someone I am going to see socially complains about his/her significant other. I mean, when we see that couple- am I not supposed to bring it up? Or reference it in any way?

“Ralph didn’t take out the trash — again. I married a lazy slob.”

Look at this statement. If it were said privately, that would be one thing. But it has been publicly posted! Should I tell Ralph methods for how I take out the trash (such as through the garage door and into the trash can), should I remind him that his wife has been saying she’ll apply to grad school for four years, but hasn’t done a damn thing, and this would make an effective retort? Do I take any trash I see out to keep future conflict out of the Ralph/Mrs. Ralph marriage?

It’s awkward.

But by contrast, for those I distantly know, but have no desire to see again, the oversharing on Facebook allows me to keep tabs on them. No previous generation has had access to schadenfreude in this quantity or detail. I think it enriches my life.

Take the girl who wouldn’t go to the movies with me in eighth grade. I recently saw that her husband is fat and her daughter is homely. It is hard not to enjoy waking up to that in the morning- for me. Not for her. She wakes up to a fat guy and a spinster-to-be.

Better still, she was recently “thrilled to be out with just the girls-no nagging tonight!”

Sounds like a paradise at home. Oh, and did I mention she missed Jurassic Park?!? Good choices there.

So consider me mixed on the question, with the schadenfreude probably tipping me in favor of it. My advice: keep your friends close and off Facebook, and your enemies virtually closer.

AKIE BERMISS: I’m on facebook, myspace, twitter, and tumblr.  I have two blogs of my own and I write for the where, more often than not, I am writing about things regarding my personal opinion on things.  I just got invited to LinkedIn, GoogleWave, and’s empire-building sim-city-like online world.  I’m ALL OVER the web.  You can find me on youtube and googlevideo.  Look hard enough, you might spot me somewhere in previous editions of the Bard College website.  I’ve got pictures in a flickr account.  And I’m featured in other people’s pictures on Picasa.

There is no where to run: I am on the web.  I get drunk at a party and vomit in someone’s vegetable garden.  Before I can even get an aspirin in me the next morning there are twenty facebook messages exclaiming, “Damn!  You barfed all over Jasmin’s green tomatoes.”  There are pictures up.  Someone who caught me wretching on my knees on the subway platform posts it to twitter in realtime with a snarky 128-character descriptor like: “Dude dry-heaving at Montrose stop in the burg.  I heart NY!”

Do you get what I’m saying?  Our lives are devoid of quiet embarrassment.  Those days are over.  Was a time, you could do something horrible like wet your pants, or spill food all over yourself, or shoot milk from your nose in a restaurant and only those who were there could claim to have known anything about it.  Maybe through the rumor mill you hear about it or when you run into one of them years later at a dinner party.  But for all intents and purposes: its something that the people immediately there can share.  Nowadays: your friends shout, “Don’t move!  I have to get this on my iPhone and post it on Facebook. Right. Now!”  And for 30 minutes you are the talk of the town.  No less than 400 hundred people are talking about your wet pants or milky lips before they move on to the next brief, instant conflagration.

Why is this important?  Because as human beings, we need privacy.  We need private space to breathe and grow.  Much like the body needs sleep to rejuvenate and grow, human beings need downtime.  Time when we’re not surrounded by other people and being scrutinized publicly.  If I ever have kids, will they want me twittering their every deed to the known world?  Every poopy-pants.  Every chicken pox outbreak.  Every first date, skinned-knee, acne, new haircut, first suit or dress.  Prom?!  Its like those horrible family photo albums have gone viral, only now they grow with you.

What will this first generation for non-privacy babies be like?  With they speak everything out loud?  No internal monologuing?  Will they feel the need to observe every moment of their waking life and observe that they are observing it?  Will they, therefore, lead a queer meta sort of existence where they are living but also life is about watching themselves being watched while living?

It goes on and on and on.  I worry about the coming generation.  Will children be able to have secret crushes anymore?  Or private enthusiasm for reading everything by Laura Ingalls Wilder when they are way to old to be enjoy such things?  Careful, World.   Careful that in creating an instant and immediate global community of everywhere-neighbors we actually create a world full of over-bearing roommates and prying butlers.  Its fine to have a community, you see.  But maybe not everyone should be hanging out in your house.

Going to the bathroom with you.  Having insomnia with you.  Pigging out on ice cream and watching Castle with you.  I mean, that could get pretty awkward pretty fast.

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