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Facebook: You Talkin’ to Me? (Well, no, actually.)

The wisdom of Corky Sinclair,

” . . . people don’t like fire, poked, poked in their noses, you know when you get a cinder from a barbecue right on the end of your nose and you kind of make that face, you know, that’s not a good thing . . . ”

Facebook is a funny cinder.

Via status updates, all participants reveal something about themselves – their likes, dislikes, ideas, grievances, joys, needs, weekend plans, frustrations at work, what music we like, photos, etc.

Everyone. Yes, EVERYONE, as in you and me. We talk about ourselves on Facebook. It’s kind of the way it works.

All people. (If we can agree on that, then we can keep going here.)

However, on the recipient’s end of these updates there is a tendency to personalize the statements, sound-bytes, and articles, with the internal  question of, “You talkin’ to me?!” (Ever wonder, “Huh. Was that comment directed at me?)

Like Corky’s statement above, people don’t like fire poked in their noses and many often react to somebody else’s FB status as if they themselves are being directly targeted with a hot cinder.  (Yes, yes. There is most definitely some outright, direct, and even passive-aggressive poking going on as well – but that is so not the point of this post. Keep reading.)

It’s interesting.

As you are aware, I’ve been working through some FB issues. I’ve even done quite a bit of big-girl research on how FB has affected communication patterns. (Translation: I’m not just making this up. I can give you some studies if you want them.) During a recent discussion with a long-time friend, and Professor of Communication, I learned something very valuable.

We are becoming a “reactive society”. (Which is very different from responding.)

Think of first responders: an EMT, for instance. Before they treat the victim, they ask questions. If the person is unconscious, they assess. BEFORE treatment. Before taking action, they run through a series of steps to insure they treat the person correctly. Similarly, during his GoRuck Challenge earlier this month, my husband learned that rather than relying solely on electronic surveillance during a mission, one should TALK TO SOMEONE ON THE GROUND.

For my generation, instant electronic communication was all but non-existent while we were growing up: no cell phone, internet, or texting. In fact, I didn’t get dial-up internet until 1999, used voice-mail at work (no interoffice email), and didn’t text a word until 2009. I had a pager so my agent could reach me. She and George were the only two with my pager number. A vibration from that handy gadget would send me on a search for a pay phone. Point being. I couldn’t respond immediately.

It’s very different for this generation. As my prof-friend pointed out, rather than asking questions to clarify what we are seeing, hearing, or assuming, (and we’re speaking in terms of Facebook here) we tend to just react. Without “fact-checking”. There is a lack of, “What did you mean by that?” or “Please explain so I can better understand you.”

Why don’t we clarify? Either we must not really care enough about our friends’ status updates to seek that clarification, we don’t know how to sufficiently follow-up, or we’ve just become so quick on the trigger that poking back is the most convenient next step. (FB lends itself to the quick-click & comment, doesn’t it?)

2011 was a big year for me. I won’t rehash it here. You can read this if you are curious. If there is one HUGE tip I learned this year, is that goals – big, scary goals – need to be verbalized and communicated. Talk about them. Share them. I chose to do so. Facebook and blogging were my vehicles for personal accountability.  In the course of a year, I met many personal goals, built a new business, made new friends, and got very transparent about everything listed above in paragraph 4 of this post.

I’m certain there have been people who have mistaken my transparency as a personal poke. Whereas, I was actually using FB as a platform to poke myself. “Putting it out there” is a wonderful accountability tool.

However, I also have the unfortunate habit of typing “you” or “everyone” when I make a comment – yeah for hyperbole! Only, in my mind, (and haste) as I type to the “you’s guys” in my FB world, I’m actually thinking in general terms. Lazy writing  can generate misunderstandings.

This is a tension we just didn’t have growing up. We had Slam Books. But those had to be circulated manually. They were awful. We didn’t communicate via electronic means, so we didn’t have to deal with the “mini trashcan fires” that can be sparked by non-verbal conversations.

The current generation has been gifted with an entirely new layer of relationship tension provide by electronic devices. And that’s on top of good old-fashioned, face-to-face misunderstandings. I envy you not.

So, in case you were wondering (and by you, I mean whoever is reading this, and nobody specific), no, I’m not talking directly to you in my Facebook status. (Unless of course I tag you.)

And if ever you are unsure – it’s ok to ask.


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