Friend Cautiously

My friends over in the Inspirational niche are fond of saying “Life Is What You Make It”,  but this is especially true of one’s online experience.    Since the long ago bad old days of Compu$erve   (and Holly can correct me if I’m wrong I suspect also GEnie) every user has the right to control what is on their screen.   And no user has the right to dictate another’s participation.   If you do not want to see my avatar and hear my point of view,  you have every right to block me,  so that nothing I say appears in your stream  (and I must say that Facebook has come a long way on this– in the Compu$erve days you could still see where some one had posted in a thread,  although their actual message was  not visible you could still their user ID and the message header– on Facebook it really is like you sat shiva for the person you blocked and they are dead to you and simply do not appear on your screen.   You get an error page if you try to click on their content and you really,  really need never know that the person you have blocked continues to live right there in your same online neighborhood.

I’ve met a great many people who publicly state that they have never blocked anyone.   I’m never entirely sure if this is simple boasting,  by people who have actually used a block button in their time,  whether some folks have a moral hangup that it is not okay to block people or if perhaps some of my friends really are so saintly that they get along with absolutely everyone.  (I am not denying nor discounting this last as a possibility,  though I can’t honestly say I’m betting on it either.)   In my considered opinion,  simply blocking a user whose input you do not value and whom you do not feel you can have a pleasant and productive interchange with is the most polite course of action possible when you run into someone who  “rubs you the wrong way”  or whose attitudes and opinions you find particularly distasteful.    Note that I am not in any way whatsoever suggesting that you block all people who disagree with you.

I have been making and keeping friends online for more than twenty years now.    It was many, many years ago (on a trip to Washington, DC for the March On Washington for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights in 1993 I think) that I first met face to face a large number of people I had chatted with online for a long time.     While I fully understand the phenomenon of new users thinking of the people they chat with on their computer screen are somehow different than or even odder somehow less human than the people they live with,  the people they work with or the people they ride the bus with or go to the movies with. I absolutely positively don’t have separate categories   “online friends”  and  “real friends”.     For me they are all just friends.    I absolutely urge you to block  (or just unsubscribe) anyone who becomes a real negative to your online experience.     And if you find that someone has blocked you,  try to remember that blocking was in fact a great deal more polite than telling you to your face precisely why they do not want you in their life.

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Facebook Friends

I have lately taken to using the term Facebook friends and I realized that I probably should make clear what I mean when I say “Facebook friends”.   There really is nothing new under the sun,  and anyone who has ever been successful in a large group of people has had some relationships that are….political.     In any big group you have some folks who are quite obviously too powerful to publicly piss off.   The wise newcomer tries to figure out who these people are as soon as they encounter a new group.

I’ve written many times before about my belief that it is far better to just block people you don’t care for and don’t want to deal with.   Indeed,  it seems as though I got brownie points with a number of people for quietly and unapologetically  blocking a few assholes some of my friends regarded as “Facebook freinds”.  (Which is to say that like me they realized the person was pretty much an asshole,  even though they made a conscious decision not to alienate the asshole.)  To be perfectly honest,  I do not believe that anyone can succeed in any large group without having some “political” friends–  people whom they may or may not like and/or be genuinely close to but whom they always publicly respect and don’t talk trash about.  These “political” friends are what I am referring to when I use the term “Facebook freinds”.

And since this is a post about clarifying things I’ve said before,  I will also go ahead and go on record here that I am quite, quite sympathetic to all of the criticisms that my friends make about Facebook.   I’ve been observing since before I signed up for it that Facebook has a horrible privacy policy and non-existent user service.  (Recalling a previous discussion about the fact that Facebook users are not Facebook’s customers.)   I’m not on Facebook because I saw it and I liked it or because I evaluated alternatives and decided it was somehow “the best”.    I’m on Facebook because pretty much everyone I currently talk to online is on Facebook.   But I never, ever forget that my relationships are with each of the people I talk with and not with the business that currently facilitates those conversations.   Web sites come and go.   Real human relationships endure. 

Just Friends (Not Just Facebook Friends)

Anyone who has used Facebook for more than a short while and is not completely closed to accepting friend requests and at least occasionally meeting new people is well aware that there is a big difference between “friends”  and “Facebook friends”.   Even if you are Not in fact a LION* chances are  that your  “Facebook friends”  are an odd mixture of people whom you’ve known in different places and at different times over the years of your life.   I have some good friends who maintain in their minds (and thus in their realities) a very real distinction between  “friends”  and “online friends”.

A buddy recently mentioned to me that he personally will not agree to meet an online friend face to face without first speaking with them on the telephone.    And I know this buddy is hardly alone in that point of view.  (As a hearing impaired person who physically can NOT talk on the phone,  I would be tempted to say something like  “stay the frig away from me you hearing chauvinist”,  except that he is a good friend whom I’ve known for years and who is in fact extremely accommodating about my hearing problem.)   I personally do not make any distinction between  “online friends”  and “friends”.   For me they are all just friends.    After yesterday talking about and linking to a handful of old friends,  I thought that today I would throw a bit of link love to some of my newer friends:

Holly Jahangiri— writer, mom, social media bon vivant and super blogger  is the author of  A Puppy Not A Guppy and several other children’s books as well as the recently released  Innocents And Demons.   Like me,  Holly is an online old-timer going back to the earliest days of Compu$erve and GENIE,  where she was a sysop.   (Sysop is a low tech synonym for indentured servant who runs forums not for pay but to avoid huge online access bills.)   While Holly tells me that she is not a LION* she has over the years built up a huge circle of friends, fans and admirers who visit her personal blog  (It’s All A Matter Of Perspective) and who are now flocking to her newest niche blog The Next Goal.

Tom Cooley is totally drama free.  While he is something of an expert at promoting content  (ask him about Buzzfeed) he tends to be on the quiet side and almost never raises his voice nor gets rankled.  Tom has developed a big interest in aquaponics and along with Michael Q Todd  is one of the founders of #sustainchat which is working to use social media to work on addressing the environmental and social needs of our planet for a sustainable tomorrow.

Jake Kern is a true friend.   With a remarkable eye and hours of research each day,  Jake publishes Inherently Infinite and Intimate a collection of some of the best photography to be found on the interwebz.   Jake has a remarkable gift for understanding people and mediating disputes and is a lot of fun to hang out and shoot the breeze with.    As I said to Dane yesterday  “…the thing of it is, to have friends you have to be a friend. Whatever that means to you. (and your friends)”.

If you haven’t already met these folks,  I urge you to check out their blogs and say hello.   (I assure you none of them bite;  and if Holly threatens to stick Prunebutt on you don’t worry,  he’s imaginary.)   Here’s hoping that your week is going well.

PS–the photo above does NOT depict MY “Facebook friends”  😉