Dear Old Dad

Dear Old Dad

So now I can be added to the burgeoning masses that blog about “OMG my mom and/or dad are on facebook!”

Yeah, now my dad is on facebook.  Nothing wrong with that – dad has always* embraced technology, I remember seeing huge yellow books on our bookcases about learning C+ as a kid.  

*except for the internet – I still recall the “waste of time” speech at the dinner table when our mother brought up the topic somewhere around 1998.  Dad was converted by the time I graduated from high school though.  Another memory I have is of him chatting with my aunts and uncles at our house after my graduation about how he was able to look up information about his old Air Force base in Minot online. 

Dad rightly skipped the myspace “craze” and has now created a facebook page to keep tabs on his sons and also his siblings (Aunt Anne had a page before he did).

Now the really interesting thing is how you think of someone in your head when you have a “relationship” with their facebook page.  The person that exists in my brain as “dad” is not really the same as the person I would “see” on facebook.  I’d never really been faced with this conundrum before.  Oh, sure, I’d dated women and checked their myspace pages out before meeting and been blown away (for good or bad) when meeting in person, but this was the opposite.  I think this is the problem I have with the Facebook Status or Twitter.  Tweets and Status updates are not indicative of a person.  Furthermore, unless you really seriously know someone deeply, it is impossible to read the hidden meaning in these cryptic messages. 

As someone who lays on the sarcasm a bit thick (so thick that my friend that I hadn’t seen for a while reminded me on Saturday to stop it) communication devoid of inflection and gesture can be rough.  I also get a chuckle when I see a status update that probably seems benign to the other 150 friends on someone’s page – but because I know them well, I know they may be secretly laughing, hurting, etc. inside.

I’m being slowly dragged into this Facebook world, but I’ve learned to cut out all the BS.  I’ll comment on something when appropriate/necessary.  I’ll email on facebook if I don’t know/have a real email address and need to communicate.  I changed my profile photo for the first time in two years last week.  I haven’t put in a “status” message for over a year (and I’m not sure I did back then either), I’ve gotten rid of most of the “boxes” , “apps” and whatever, and I generally ignore any new ones (of which I get requests daily).

A friend of mine who has a job that depends on network told me about a month ago that I should rethink how I use the website.  I had previously only been using it to keep tabs on certain people.  “oh, Byron is in Phoenix..”   “oh, my ex is sick/running/eating/sleeping/tired/scared/excited/younameit”  “oh, my friends from class are bantering about our midterm”   However, my friend told me that facebook can be a powerful networking tool if you use it properly.  What that means is – be social – but somewhat professional.  When used properly facebook can enrich what were previously business relationships and turn them into personal relationships.  I’m not sure if that is entirely true, but you never know, your (or my) next job might come from someone you know on facebook. 

I now have over 100 “friends” on facebook (dad was lucky #100), and believe it or not I actually think long and hard about whether to add certain people.  Byron, if you’re listening – you can validate this as we had a discussion a few weeks ago when I was deciding whether to accept Mindy’s request.  Mindy was a girl I went to high school with.  We knew each other because we were in some classes together – but we mostly knew each other because I dated her older sister.  What Byron informed me (although in different words) was that certain “friends” on facebook are like business cards in a rolodex.  There would be no need for rolodexes if we didn’t keep the cards from people/businesses we didn’t use.  Yet we keep them all “just in case.” Sometimes it can’t hurt to have these people “available” if you need them even though you may never.  I may never have a personal conversation with Mindy for the rest of my life, but she IS in a network of people that I used to have close personal ties with – and you never know when I might need a piece out of that network to complete another puzzle (or more importantly – they might need ME).

How long will facebook last?  A few years.  A unified source of information is coming as phones (like this vaporware Palm Pre) tie all your digital “personality” bits together.  Eventually (within 7 years) I think we’ll exist as personalities on the internet and not as any member of any certain sites.  There are already a myriad of websites in existence now that disseminate your “tweets” or updates to all the sites you are a member of.  I have a feeling this will eventually flip flop over back onto the user – and the user will have a cloud synced profile that starts with Google or Microsoft keeping the data.  In that sense Twitter got it right, eventually we’ll all “subscribe” to each others’ information, but we won’t be using Twitter for short messages, wordpress for journal entries, facebook for photos and so on… we’ll have one unified account without many limits on characters or photos.

Google is already setting the pieces in motion.  How many of us feed ALL our other email accounts to google?  How many of us sync our Outlook Exchange with Google Calendar? How many of us use google docs?  (I can tell you that Google Docs is The collaborative workspace in my MBA program – even though Pepperdine encouraged us to use their own proprietary one)  Within just a few years a thumbprint or word (not the word itself – but your unique vocal chords) will activate your account, a public account (you set the limits) available to anyone and subscribable.  Another hint that google is going in this direction is that now you have the ability to put your name in your google homepage URL (i.e. I could make my google homepage instead of  Facebook is also making its pages publicly viewable by non-members (but members control what information can be seen by whom) and transitioning to customized URLS (i.e. instead of^34).

Okay, enough for now.  I doubt anyone made it all the way down here anyway…

3 thoughts on “Dear Old Dad

  1. “I doubt anyone made it all the way down here anyway…”

    😉 whatever…

    i am definitely looking forward to the “one, unified avatar concept” because then i wouldn’t have to open 6 – 7 sites every time i open my computer (rough on the RAM for sure. However, the only drawback is that with things like Facebook/Myspace, i can rigorously control access, whereas, unless you straight up block users on Twitter or others, it’s pretty much open access. Twitter is dangerous because it encourages casual open conversation but has the ability to be searchable through google. For instance, on twitter i mentioned something like “why does this part of california smell like sh!t?” and on a recent personal search i discovered that statement came up on a basic google search. I was a little surprised.

    I was also interested to hear the recent “twitter fails” where silly employees bitched about their jobs on twitter then were fired or reprimanded because the boss found out. With facebook, i feel i can be a little more casual, but now i’m somewhat on my guard on twitter. for this reason, i have my twitter updates feed into facebook, but not the other way around. i flirt on FB but not on twitter. although people who know me on both sites may notice an inconsistency in my behavior, i feel it’s somewhat necessary. i like to keep them separate. Linked In is especially so, i’m very business like on that site (although ive seen some more relaxed LinkedIn profiles, I wouldnt do it). If i had one universal virtual persona, i would have to keep everything super sanitized to the linkedin degree. this would make everything more professional, yes, but i would also lose alot of personality. People who know me well know that i curse and have a dark sense of humor and i’m into a very diverse range of tastes/interests. I don’t necessarily want potential employers to know that outright, that’s more between me and friends.

    so… pros and cons either way, as usual, but for now i enjoy a certain degree of control over my personas. while there is some overlap and some redundancy, i am ok with it for now if it means i keep my different masks for different parties… this is a great topic for discussion though 🙂

    1. My friend, I must warn you – you say you are using these services correctly to protect yourself. Keep in mind that the information you give out on each one only stays private so long as THEY decide it is private, NOT YOU. Facebook could strike a deal with google at any time to divulge all your information (they actually got in hot water for trying something like this before … back when facebook was much more private). I don’t know if you’ve been keeping up on the news, but one of Google’s bad points is their reputation for information security. Can you see where this is going? I recommend never posting anything ANYWHERE on ANY site that you don’t want traced back to you later. Once you’ve uploaded it to any site, the possibilty exists until the end of the time that that information could end up public, either through hacking or just through changes in policy. And yes that includes “private” email. Even if you’re emailing from your own bedroom exchange server – the people you are sending the messages to are not…

      I guarantee you that 35-40 years from now the twitter/facebook/myspace embarassing moments of a presidential candidate will be dug up and exposed for the world to see. Remember how easy it was to dig up nude photos of Madonna or Dr. Laura when they became household names? Both of those photo shoots were decades before the internet. Now imagine if those pictures existed millions of times over on many computers and databases…

      I thought about this when you showed me the website of the girl who painted herself having sex with ex-presidents. I googled her name under google images and all that came up were paintings of her naked body. Before the internet you could pretty much forget about “youthful transgressions” later in life – as there were few records (maybe a few frat buddies in college had a few polaroids of you taking a bong hit…). This poor/stupid artist is going to wake up one day and realize “maybe I don’t want the whole world to see what I look like having sex”… .but it is already too late. Imagine what G-Dub would have had to deal with in 2000 if we had hundreds of myspace photos of him drunk off his ass or snorking coke. (if you don’t believe how easy this can happen just google “phelps marijuana”)

      No online information is ever permanently safe. And since anyone can now post photos/text with ease… that means nobody is really safe outside of their own home.

      If anything I see this as a good thing, as people will have to stand by their words. If I ever run for office, I’m going to have to defend my stance on religion among other things, and that is how it should be. Now I know this borders on the Big Brother premise – but there is a subtle difference. In my example we are kept in line by our peers, by our society – not by an overseeing Big Brother who has the ability to punish directly. The kids that took the photos of Phelps smoking a bong didn’t demand a ransom…they just posted the photos… Michael Richards learned this painful lesson the hard way and so many others recently (“Don’t Tase me Bro!” …etc. etc. etc. etc.).

      None of this should be shocking, as our generation was sensitized to always being watched by seeing things like the Rodney King beating/trial. You’d think we’d know better than to post “partying hard” on facebook the same day we called in sick to work…..

      I know the plan you’ve outlined here does make for accountability, but only so far as the websites you’ve put your absolute trust in allow. Since these sites are businesses not trying to help you, but to make money from you – I wouldn’t trust them very far…

      And yes, that means I think twice before saying anything bad in an email about anyone. “forward” is an easy button to press. Just as a facebook privacy policy is easily rewritten. Once they hit a billion users how many do you think they’ll worry about losing if they switch back to their “all your photos belong to us” wording? (not many)

      1. Not only is it worse than you imagine, it’s worse than you can imagine. Thats why liberals who “mean well” scare me more than grubby old conservatives looking to make a buck. The ability to hide anything from anybody anywhere is gone. Now that Obumble has broken “the code” with the recent release of CIA data–expect the firestorm to hit. Trust an old spook who knows what “top secret” is supposed to mean.

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