Monday, May 21, 2012

Week of 05/21/2012

What If Real Life Was Like Facebook?
– by David Matthews 2

Imagine waking up one morning, and when you open your eyes, you see someone you barely know standing at the other side of the room.

“Hey! ‘Sup? How you doing? Busy? You there? How you been? You here? K, chat later. Bye.”

As he leaves, someone in a blue shirt holding a wrapped gift box walks in and says “Marjorie Jo Grace’s birthday is today! Wish her a Happy Birthday!”

Another person with a blue shirt walks up holding a cup of coffee and say “Coffee! You like? Fourteen of your friends do! You like?”

You say “yes”, but rather than give you that cup of coffee, that person exclaims “You like coffee!” and then leaves. You then hear that same person repeat that proclamation in a really loud voice over and over and over again as they leave.

You take a shower, keenly aware that someone else is proclaiming that you like taking a shower. Your choice of shampoo becomes another loud proclamation. You get dressed, thankful that nobody is proclaiming what kind of underwear you choose to put on.

You’re ready to start your day when another blue-shirt walks up to you and jabs a finger at you.

“Poke! Poke back! Poke! Poke back!”

This person, though, doesn’t go away. Every so often they’ll poke you and then say “Poke! Poke back! Poke! Poke back!” Even when you say “Poke back”, or even when you jab them back just as hard, that person doesn’t ever go away.

Another blue shirt holding a plate of salmon walked up to you. “Alaskan salmon! Fourteen thousand six-hundred-forty-two people like it! Like?”

The blue shirt with the wrapped gift shows back up and says “Marjorie Jo Grace’s birthday is today!” But this time, that blue shirt doesn’t leave.

You tell the blue shirt holding the plate of salmon to go away, but then another blue shirt appears holding a picture. “Albert Einstein! Twenty-two thousand four hundred fifty-five people like him! Like?”

You tell that blue shirt to go away, but then another blue shirt appears, and then another one after that, and then another one after that. And then some of the blue shirts you’ve previously sent away show up again. Just when you thought you’ve cleared them away, another blue shirt holding something else will appear and asks if you “like” it, and even if you say “yes”, another one will then appear.

Another blue shirt appears holding an address book and says “If you give me access to all of your personal information, I can look up all your friends for you and connect you to them!” Just like the blue shirt poking at you, this blue shirt also doesn’t go away, no matter how many times you tell him to.

Your best friend, whom you’ve known since you were kids, then strolls in. “I’m going to get rid of all the friends I have that don’t follow my instructions. I want you to tell me in one word where we first met, and then you have to go to all of your other friends and repeat these same instructions to them!”

“Poke! Poke back! Poke! Poke back!”

“Marjorie Jo Grace’s birthday is today!”

A blue shirt holding a really cheesy image walks up to you and says “You’ve just been tagged onto this picture!” That blue shirt then proceeds to attach that picture to your back without waiting for your approval.

Another blue shirt holding up a gemstone appears. “Ida May Means just won ten jewels playing Jewel Quest-O-Rama! Would you like to play? It’s a really fun game of strategy and patience!”

Someone you don’t even know walks in. “Hi. I want to be your friend. I’m friends with two of your friends. Will you let me be your friend?”

Another blue shirt shows up holding a chess piece. “Poker Chess! Five of your friends are playing Poker Chess! It’s a fun and exciting multiplayer game! Do you want to play Poker Chess?”

“Dead Squirrels! Eight of your friends listen to this band. Like?”

“Poke! Poke back! Poke! Poke back!”

The person you barely knew from before then appears again. “Hey, ‘sup? How you doing?”

Another stranger then strolls in.

“The pictures you submitted on Photo-Boom-dot-com were absolutely horrendous! Do you even know how to use a camera? Your pictures were as boring as your non-existent profile. You showed no color, no depth, you don’t even know how to focus, and I’m surprised that you didn’t have your thumb in any of the pictures! You’re just another no-talent hack that thinks they can be a professional photographer just because you have a camera and an account. It’s people like you that give photography a bad name!”

“The Outer Limits! Four thousand five-hundred eleven people like this TV show! Like?”

“Marjorie Jo Grace’s birthday is today!”

One of your friends then storms on in and shoves a photo in front of you. It’s the picture of a badly-abused animal.

“This is Gypsy, and this is a dog that was rescued from his owner, who was using her in illegal dog fights! I’m shoving this picture in everyone’s faces until all animal cruelty is stopped!”

“Poke! Poke back! Poke! Poke back!”

Another one of your friends shows up with a photo of a badly-burned child tied to her face like a mask.

“This is a little girl in Afghanistan that was burned by mullahs. I’m wearing her face from now on to show that I want an end to these war crimes! Oh, and I invited you to play Donkey-Punch Bingo!”

Then you hear a loud noise from outside. You look out the window and see another blue shirt sitting atop an elephant.

“Two of your friends just adopted Digital Elephants! Would you like to adopt a digital elephant? All proceeds from online sales will go to save the elephants!”

“Marjorie Jo Grace’s birthday is today!”

“The Fourteenth Century! Like?”

“’Sup. How you doing? Busy?”

“Poke! Poke back! Poke! Poke back!”

This is what life is like on Facebook, folks. All of the insanity and hyped-up-drama that you see is out there waiting for you every single day on social media services like Facebook. But we don’t put any thought into it because it’s all “digital”, and “digital doesn’t count”, does it?

But what if it did?

Let’s get brutally honest here… if we treated our real-world friends and acquaintances the same way that many of us treat our online equivalents then we would be in a lot of real-world trouble. There would be fights everywhere because of the persistent pokes and announcements and insulting statements made by others.

Our very ideas of friendship would probably change dramatically because of the antics that our so-called “friends” would be playing in the real world. How many of you would really want to be “friends” with someone whose definition of friendship is based on ludicrous mind-games that then encourage others to repeat and thus spread the same insanity?

Granted, some of the insanity is the product of software. The incessant queries about whether or not you like inane subjects, not to mention the whole idea of “poking” someone, and the eternal quest to get as much of your personal information as possible are all the result of programmers putting marketing ahead of people. But the rest of the antics and attitudes are all human behavior. It’s done because we don’t put any thought into our words on the virtual world like we do in the real world.

There’s a reason why we’re not as “brave” in the real world as we are online. That reason is simple: because there are immediate real-world consequences to our actions. If you employed the same online antics to real-life people in real-life environments, you’d probably end up friendless, somewhat embarrassed, and maybe even sporting some new bruises for your troubles.

Political consultants love to talk about how “colorful” the political name-calling used to be in the 19th Century. What they fail to mention, though, is that all of that “colorful language” was done anonymously, by people who spent time and money to make sure that their names were not connected to the words they used. And when those names were revealed, the authors often found themselves in need of protection.

Now, I’m not asking for rules or restrictions. I’m not calling for regulations or even for legislation. None of those things would even work. Instead, I’m asking for people to do something far more difficult for them. I’m asking them to think about what they are doing.

If you don’t want people to know every single action that you’re doing every single minute of every single day… announcing what video’s you’ve watched, what products you’ve shopped for, what stores you visited, then you need to be mindful of the apps that you approve. Facebook and the other forms of social media aren’t looking out for your best interests when they make these apps available for you. Their financial bottom line, quite frankly, relies on you being mindless and willfully ignorant.

For everyone else, I have a really simple question: would you be willing to say the same things online to the same group of people - friends, acquaintances, even complete strangers - if they were in the same room as you? Would you be willing to say it to their faces, and deal with the consequences that follow? Would you be willing to pull the same online antics and quirkiness in person?

If the answer to those questions is “no”, then why do you think it should be any different online?

Yes, you could be three thousand miles away from that other person. But you could also be thirty feet away and never know it until they “poke” you on the shoulder for real. Then it’s not “virtual”. Then it is as real as it gets.

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