To tweet or not to tweet: That is the question.

I have been active on Twitter for almost 4 years. I was @naturalurbanmom for most of that, @SAHFeminist for a bit and now you can find me @NatashaChiam. I have sent almost 28,000 tweets in that time, have just over 4000 followers and am following ~1900 folks myself. I use Twitter in a few different ways. It is a way for me to stay up to date with news and world events (I follow a few trusted news agencies), to know what's going on in circles that matter to me (feminism, parenting, #YEG), to share my writing and blog with a larger audience and to stay in contact with friends near and far.

I LIKE Twitter. A LOT. I like that it is a real-time social tool and I like a lot of the people I have "met" via this platform. And on Twitter, I am ME. Yes, it also says Stay@HomeFeminist on my profile, and I live that reality every day, online and off.

But like anything in our highly digital world these days, Twitter has an ugly side. Or rather, Twitter allows for the ugly side of humanity to manifest itself a little bit easier.

We see it time and time again. A beautiful woman of colour wins the Miss America pageant and BOOM! The VERY ugly side of Twitter erupts. A woman wants to talk about Tropes in video games/pop culture and her life is threatened. And you can find countless awful examples of sexism and racism all over social media. These days Twitter is the no-holds-barred medium of the troll, the bully, the poor-priveledged-me's and the NIMBY's of the world and you can actually fit quite a few mean and hateful words into 140 characters.

Twitter seems to also be the place for people to have "personas". There is a whole subculture of Twitter, the so-called 'Weird Twitter', where people have anonymous accounts to which they can post all kinds of wacky, often highly inappropriate for everyday conversation things and they get to be all, well... weird. I am not knocking it, I just really don't get it.

And then there are the people who are "really nice IRL (in real life) or offline, but assholes online." To be perfectly honest, these are the ones that I have a hard time wrapping my brain around and the ones that piss me off the most. These are the subtweeters, the "I am not saying anything directly to you, or about you, but I'll just tweet MY OPINION about this topic and you can't get offended because it is only my opinion and it's not my fault if you don't like it."  These online assholes are the subtle or not so subtle mockers of the internet. The ones that for some reason actually believe that their ONLINE personas do not represent the 'real' them and because of this and to keep up the act, think that it is totally acceptable for them to be assholes online.

The problem as I see it is this. An asshole is an asshole is an asshole. Whether you are online or off, 140 characters or 1200 words or face-to-face. And you can replace asshole with bully, or someone who plays the victim all the time, or any number of folks who insist on maintaining that their online 'personas' are separate from the real them.

This clip from Louis CK on Conan has been making the rounds this week and I am going to post it again. And while he is talking about why cell phones (and by extension what kids are doing on said cell phones) are toxic for our children, I think that too much of anything is toxic for ANYONE and that too much social media puts us all at risk of losing some of our empathy and turning into the "stupid kids".

[youtube]http://youtu.be/5HbYScltf1c[/youtube]

The validation that people get with a RT or an LMAO or a 'LIKE' is NOT real. The mean words that people write on any social media platform are and can have profound effects on others and for the most part, there are no real world consequences for them. Often these exchanges get chalked up to, "You misinterpreted my TONE' , and/or the apology of the bully, 'I'm sorry you felt bad and misunderstood my words, but that is on you, not me'. Yeah, online or IRL, that shit doesn't fly with me (and for me that kind of behaviour online often results in an unfollow and/or block).

Like she was reading my mind today, Glennon at The Momastery wrote about the dangers of social media (and cereal). She took a 40 day hiatus from social media and learned some life lessons that I definitely needed reminding of today.

"During my internet fast, I learned that Social Media makes me feel bad. I wish I were cooler so it wouldn’t affect me, but it does. I once saw an Olympic swimmer interviewed after winning a race and she said “I swim best when I mentally stay in my own lane.” Me too. Social media just takes me right out of my own lane- every single time. No matter how satisfied I am with my life, career, family, social life – as soon as I log on and peek into others’ lives, I immediately feel that unease caused by comparison. I start to doubt myself. I just feel a little kernel of doubt settle into my gut and it feels really bad. Comparison is the thief of joy, and social media is a breeding ground for comparison."

And I'd go one step further and say that social media is also a breeding ground for those that like to bulldoze over others in the name of "having an opinion" and for people to let their inner asshole out to play with little to no regard for others or the consequences of their 140 characters.

It's enough to make a girl want to go on an internet fast of her own.

Which is what I just might do.

Maybe.

Starting in about 10 days.

You know, after I get back from that, ahem... social media/blogging conference thing.

{I know, I know, I have a problem.}

Signing off

{for today},

natasha~

 

A good day

Today I got up early. Got the kids ready, got myself ready, walked the dog, made myself a smoothie and was out the door by 8:00AM. I know what you are thinking... Dry run for school next week right?

Wrong.

Today, for the first time in MONTHS, I made it to an #SMBYEG (Social Media Breakfast Edmonton) meeting!

My lovely sister-in-law had the morning off and offered to take the kids for breakfast and I gladly took her up on her offer.

Some of you may be asking, what on earth is #SMBYEG and what exactly do you do there?

In a nutshell...

SMBYEG houses an open environment to share today’s best and worst examples of social media, as practiced by individuals, industries and organizations in Edmonton and around the world. Guest speakers share their experience and expertise of social media use, followed by an opportunity to network with a community of like-minded individuals.

Basically, a bunch of awesome local folks get together once a month to share ideas and experiences, to heckle the host (I love you @hedgehodge) and to meet up with a lot of other social media geeks and freaks that are doing a lot of great things in social media in our city and in our world!

I hadn't realized how much I missed these events and missed seeing all of these fine people in real life until I walked into that room this morning. I seriously got a head rush from it all! The new home of #SMBYEG is the fabulous Startup Edmonton venue in the refurbished Mercer Building and is yet another reason to be excited about these events (and did I mention the coffee and treats from Roast Coffee House + Wine Bar... soooo GOOD)!

AND...

To top off my incredible morning, not only did I get to see so many of Edmonton's local social media scene, I also got to hang out with this particular little social media darling!

Photo courtesy of @luzzara, baby courtesy of @JenBanksYEG

And then the kids and I had a play date with some new neighbourhood and school friends, we all had dinner with the family and then I came home and had the most riveting Twitter conversation ever!

It really was a VERY, good day!

Cheers to you all,

Natasha~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And thus ends my posts for the Summer Blog Challenge. I *almost* made it! 

This is Post #30.

I am taking the long weekend off to mull over some things and will be back to the keyboard next week.

 

 

Friend?

You know when you write a word over and over and over and over...and eventually it starts to look somehow wrong?

Or when you use a word over and over and over and over, like "OMG, I love that sweater!", "I love that movie!", "I love that couch!", "I love these socks", "I love pomegranate lip gloss!" and eventually the word LOVE loses some of its true meaning and meaningfulness?

I think this is what has happened to the word and perhaps by extension, the concept of a FRIEND. Quite specifically in the realm of social media.

I write this after almost a month of not writing a whole lot because of personal issues and insecurities about myself and my place in this online world and with my friends within it.

Recently on Facebook, I was 'un-friended' and blocked from someones personal page. I did not think this was a big deal. We are not very close and have more of a professional relationship than a personal one. I read her status update before she removed me (and quite a few other people too) and I respected her decision to keep her page personal and for her close friends and family members.

Remember when that was what we used Facebook for? To keep our friends and family updated on our lives. Remember how fun it was to post pictures of the kids and our vacations for all our friends and family to oooh and ahhh over? When we could write personal messages on our pages and not worry about who was lurking about to see where we are and who we are with and who we are talking to? When no one was taking screen shots of our pages and forwarding them on in emails to other people for God knows what reasons? When every App on earth wasn't asking to 'GeoTag' you and announce to the world where you are "checking-in"?

Back then (a whole two years ago, if that even), you had maybe about 67 friends on your Facebook page and hadn't even heard of Twitter. And every one of those friends was either AT your wedding or at one of your birthday parties in the past 5 years!

So, {at least in my mind}, this begs the question....

Has the inescapable realm of Wifi, and unlimited data plans and Twitter and Facebook and Google+ and FourSquare and... and... and... completely wrecked our understanding, interpretation and definition of FRIENDSHIP?

Think about this for a minute.

How many of your {insert number here} Facebook friends would drop everything and come over to watch your kids if you were stuck in bed with the worst flu of your life? How many would dog-sit for you in an emergency? How many would buy you coffee and give you an ACTUAL hug if you were having a really bad day? How many would pick up the phone and call you....or even have your direct phone number for that matter?

What then constitutes a true friend? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of the word is this:

Definition of FRIEND

a: one attached to another by affection or esteem   
   b:acquaintance
a: one that is not hostile
   b: one that is of the same nation, party, or group
3  : one that favors or promotes something (as a charity)
4  : a favored companion

 

I do believe that there are levels of friendship and some friendships are closer than others. Some are deeper. Some are based on a long history together, some on mutual life experiences, some on similar belief systems and some on the simple foundation of a love of all things shoes. And these days, some are IRL and some are SOF (strictly online friend - I think I just made that up).

For the sake of full disclosure, I have ONE Best Friend. I have known her for over 20 years and she has seen me in all my good, bad, ugly, beautiful, sick, elated, sad-beyond-belief and so-excited-I-could-fly glory! And I hers. And we RARELY talk via social media.

On the other hand, I have 190 Facebook Friends. And if I sat down and set up some form of criteria for who and what I truly believe a friend is, I know that this number would decrease significantly. Or at least be divided into categories.

I found this post by Kristen Tennant about the four levels of friendship and I think she does a pretty good job of describing these levels or categories.

Category 4 friends are people you say hello to and maybe stop and chat for a while if you run into them at the cafe or bar. They’re probably friends of yours on Facebook, but if it weren’t for Facebook, they would have almost no clue what’s going on in your day-to-day life.

Category 3 friends encompass a lot of people like co-workers, members of your church or community, the parents of your kids’ friends, and others you see and talk to regularly but don’t necessarily go out of your way to get together with. Every once in a while, you might decide to call them up and see if they want to meet you for lunch, or you might invite them to a big party you’re having, but the expectations of your relationship are low and the interactions are casual.

Category 2 friends can get more complicated, because the relationship is deeper, but the expectations often aren’t clear. They’re your go-to friends when you feel like getting a group of people together on a Saturday night, or you want to go out to dinner to celebrate a birthday, or you feel like inviting someone over for dinner. These are the friends you spend time with once or twice a month, but I also think we keep ourselves (or our hearts?) at a bit of a distance, to protect ourselves from feeling left out, hurt, or disappointed when they don’t come through.

And Category 1 friends? I think I would describe them exactly the way my nine-year-old daughter would: They understand you—they get who you are at your core, which means you can completely be yourself around them, without worrying what they will think. Category 1 friends like to spend time doing the things that you like doing best. And they always want to see you. Whenever you feel the urge to see them, they’re ready and waiting, thrilled to see you if they can possibly make it happen.

Now, no, I am not about to go and categorize everyone on my Facebook page, but I will make the case for having Lists on Twitter and Facebook and deciding how much you want to interact or share with these lists. You can set these criteria in your account privacy and settings pages on both platforms and on Facebook, no one knows when they are added/removed from one of your lists and on Twitter you can make both private and public lists.

How you use social media is of course your prerogative. These are after all your pages and what you do with them is your choice. So if you want to remove me, un-friend me, un-follow or block me from your friend list or your feed because we really are not much more than acquaintances or we have more of a business relationship than a personal one, go ahead, it is OK.

I will not be offended and I will respect your wishes.

And if need be, I generally know how to get in touch with you outside of stalking ...uhm, I mean, social media.

Natasha~

P.S. And now for my favourite song about Facebook by the incredible Kate Miller-Heidke. (WARNING: EXPLICIT LYRICS-NOT FOR THE KIDDIES!!)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0FdR7dEAYU[/youtube]

P.P.S.  I'm BaaaAAAAACK!!!

Photo Credit: Wonderbra Print Ad. 2009. Reza Behnam-photographer.