Thursday, October 21, 2010

To Whom It May Concern:

With every word I have posted on the internet I have always wondered two things: Who is reading it? How it will affect me (or them) later? These questions need to be answered, even if the author does not plan on committing any crimes in which the text might incriminate them more. When one creates a new account on the internet, they write part of their life over to an unknown force with an unknown binding contract of Terms and Conditions no one ever bothers to read. It is for this reason I have deleted several accounts that, for all intents and purposes, have become rather inactive. Social networking is merely a device--a tool people use to try and satisfy their insatiable hunger to be more than they are. We upload photos of ourselves that are more appealing than we are on a daily basis--college students and their showering habits are not something to be admired during the week--and we post status messages that are often cryptic or quote pieces of literature of which we have never felt the binding in hopes of appearing more insightful.

And I do mean all of us.

People often say they do not do it for the popularity or vanity of these websites and what they have wrought unto our social lives. However, if we did not care, we would not have profiles or care to join the "next big social experience." The internet is not just a resourceful tool for research--no matter how flash-y or primitive (i.e. Bing vs. Google), but it is a way to define ourselves without all of the work of actually evolving into real people. Our phones and our computers are the extensions of our arms the hands lost the evolution game against. Darwin never did take into account the efficiency of technology greater than the mere discovery of fire. Life is not about recording every moment. It is about enjoying every moment--good or bad--but especially good, and remembering out there, somewhere, is someone having just as good of a time. They have made all of the same jokes and wear the same clothes and live in a town or city resembling the one we say we hate, or sometimes love, depending on how lucky we are. We sometimes forget these rather obvious facts and record our lives--even the uninteresting things about them--as if someone is out there looking to document it all. People were able to enjoy life way before there were ways to prove it to the rest of the world.

I am taking extra care to include myself in this, simply because I know I have been just as guilty of it in the past, and still am at times. I wonder, "What if this person read this? What would they think?" I should not be so hung up on who is reading my status messages that sometimes mean little-to-nothing about who I am or my actual life. We let our profiles shape us into these designs of what simple profiles, with uniform layouts and often times uniform information, can represent about human identity rather than grow from the real experiences of day-to-day life and socializing outside of chatting on each other's "walls" and "Tweeting" the latest gossip. I will admit, I have been one to preach safe-guarding myself on the internet, but my few worries since I have been logged on have passed and I find the minutes I spend on the internet just "surfing" to be enjoyable. I do not mean to ramble on end about the mindless chatter that fills my every feed to which I have subscribed, but I would hope to make the point that everyone can slip up at times. And I was a bit careless. While my MySpace has since been deleted, I refuse to sign into Dailybooth, Tumblr, Xanga or even my old AOL email address; Facebook and Twitter are the only two proclaimed "social networks" I am plugged into at this time, and they will forever be as safely monitored by myself and private as I can make them.

The stalker never ceases, and the internet has only increased the yellow and green stalkers in us all. When was the last time you went to someone's page of whom you were not "friends" with (because reality has no place in a world run by a website dedicated to specializing in the officiating of friendships and relationships) just so you could look at their pictures and hopefully see something they have posted recently? How many "friends" do you have on Facebook? How many people do you "follow" on Twitter? Do you really care about every word they write or are you just looking for something to catch your eye?

It is possible, ladies and gentlemen, to spend one's time more efficiently outside of the barricades of a bedroom. Even looking out a real window with an actual sunset can be more enticing and relaxing than winding down next to a monitor which, in ten years, will only be benefiting your optometrists' incomes. This is not my good-bye letter to the internet. This is not me saying the internet is a complete waste of time. Blogging is still my outlet and personal way of getting some form of my writing "out there," to some degree; and clearly, I care about keeping my friends entertained and up-to-date otherwise no one would be able to find me right now on Twitter or Facebook. But I am infuriated by the way it has shaped our minds. I know several people who walk around with impulses to "Tweet" or update status messages every time some mediocre and usually energy drink-induced thought crosses their minds. Nowadays, I have learned to overcome those addictive urges and usually just use my Twitter for entertainment and to say things I cannot typically yell at people for fear of getting hit by the girl in line in front of me who is about 100-pounds heavier and can count to ten after taking off her shoes. But the need is still there, to say something about myself. It is why I had to let go of my narcissism--or what little bit I felt I deserved to express--and stop updating my Dailybooth or keep a regular shit-blog in Xanga or even sit on my bed, ignoring the burn marks on my legs from my laptop's fan, and wait for new things to stream on Tumblr so I could get my two seconds of entertainment at a periodical five-minute rate every night. However, despite my wildest attempts to lessen my need for web-additives, I still manage to stay signed on long enough to have an unwanted and unneeded friend request meet me as I peeked at Facebook via my iPhone (yes, you got me too, Steve Jobs).

The request, since anonymity is what he brings being I have no recollection of the man, though I have his name, came from a person who, through his daughter's MySpace a few years back, tried to talk to me, and proposed I "not tell [my] father about it." Obviously, being that I was much younger and more liable to freak out over instances such as these, I called my father and told him who it was. He said he knew the man. After a bit of calming me down, he told me to inform him if the contact continues. It was years ago, so what I actually can recollect of the ten minutes of horror is there was no further communication, just he was face-less (but I knew what his daughter looked like by the end of it, thanks to her profile picture popping up with every new message), and he knew my mother--as if this fact would make me want to talk to him more. It was, for lack of a better term, creepy. Almost three years later, I come to find this same man has hooked himself into the life-logging world of Facebook and has again found me. I saw the request first and obviously denied. Anyone who has been on the website long enough can attest strange requests often come in numbers, and I assumed this was just another. However, when I checked my messages, the same person messaged me.

The fact that this ignorant human contacted me a second time shows his inability to not only gather but use common sense. He started the message with, "Hey Jen." which only infuriated me more. Why someone with whom I do not speak would feel comfortable enough to shorten my name even to a common nickname of "Jennifer" is beyond my ability to even grasp the little I can of this person. But I am officially not a fan of his distant, but still definitive, persistence, nor am I happy he bothered to search me at all. However, if this dimensionless and inescapable world of online connection has benefited us at all, it is these websites make one significantly efficient dream a reality: the ability to delete and block people out of our lives.

I have done just that.

For right now, this person is out of my life as much as I can make him disappear. Any further contact is to be recorded and reported. I refuse to give this person the knowledge he has wasted any of my time and/or energy--you decide. However, I am going to be even more particular about what I say in light of his need to find me again on the internet. I may un-protect my Tweets, eventually, after I find out what I have said, and if I have said too much.

The truly entertaining piece of information I hope my audience takes from all of this rambling is the irony of tonight's events: I just left the theatre after seeing "The Social Network."

18 comments:

  1. I'm kind of paranoid, I don't do social networking. I don't have a million friends to keep in touch with, the ones I do I go see or you know, call on the phone. I love blogging though which is like social networking with strangers. So I'm a bit of hypocrite really, the internet is a wild place and you have to be careful. A few drunken pictures here and there could lead to not getting that job you want.

    On the flipside connectivity isn't inherently bad. The world getting smaller is kind of cool. I have people from the other side of the world reading my blog, and it's a lot harder to dislike people you know.

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  2. Yes, this is a way to socialize, but it's not the primary use for those who start a blog, though it is a benefit obviously for connecting with others and letting people see what you have to say.

    I have always been careful, and these moments never seem to happen, but this guy just cannot leave well enough alone. Clearly the first contact was a disaster, why try again?

    I've done all I can as far as Facebook is concerned, but if keeping him out means protecting myself on the internet, I'm fine with that. People, myself included, need to be more conscious of what they post anyway.

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  3. Interesting bit of social commentary there. You hit the mark on the vanity issue; it takes a certain amount of vanity to want to share one's thoughts. There's also an extroversion factor. Some people who would hardly talk in a crowded room feel much more free to express themselves (for good or ill) online. Ultimately people reveal themselves as they wish to be seen, perhaps unconsciously. This understated rant brings up those points in many ways. People sometimes don't stop to think they're actually leaving a psychological trail on the internet. LOL. The blogs I enjoy the most dispense with most of the personal relevance stuff and write more about the external world -- objective things. Though some people's internal struggles and changes are, at times quite interesting, the ones I find most fascinating have a certain objective quality of thought. Which you exhibit in flashes, to your credit. Good post.

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  4. I really appreciate the comment. Glad to know I hit the mark as I should have. This is first and foremost and rant based on recent, and some not-so-recent, realizations of social networking, and this recent issue of this person trying to track me down.

    It's unfortunate the pathetic level people will stoop, in any facet of life.

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  5. "Hey Jen" in reading your blog, I am struck by several things, one you are so mature and wise beyond your years. second, I agree with you, people are interrested in reporting their every move it is a wonder more people are not stalked or worse by these raging idiots and third yes the internet can be a wonderful source of information and i use it daily for term papers, research papers, and such but there is so much more bad then good out there and I am glad you posted this and fourth..... Aunt Neenee will handle the fool!! and yes it is pathetic

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  6. I used to be one of those people who just wanted a million friend on myspace and become famous on the web, this all back in high school. Then there was a time where I would update my status a million times about what I was eating or soemthing. I still probly would if my husband wasn't all I dont want people in my personal life. And now facebook is a means of keeping family and close friends updated about our daughter. facebook comes in handy when your too ADD to set down and do a baby book. so facebook is her baby book.

    loved your rant!
    so wanna see that movie.

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  7. Hi Jennifer - amazing blog post to read. I definitely agree with what you are saying. I do not have a Facebook account for the very reasons you have mentioned (I know right? It's hard to believe). I figure that the friends that matter will call me or see me in person.

    Keep up the powerful writing. You really do have a gift!

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  8. Aunt Nee-Nee: Yeah, Daddy said he talked to you about it. I'm so sick of having to deal with someone else's problem, I used great restraint in this post. I wanted to say so much more against his person.

    NikkiDarlin: Haha thanks. The movie is definitely worth it. I plan on writing a review on it later.

    The Roaring Decade: Thank you. :)

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  9. I love social networking. It has its faults, but the world is definitely moving towards a good place I think.

    http://ficklecattle.blogspot.com/

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  10. I don't mind social networking, I mind the people who use them.

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  11. my comment was more in reference to the broader points you made about the internet/technology/social networking, that guy sounds like a disgusting creeper and a half

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  12. Understatement of the century. Heh. :\

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  13. From a soldier in the Legions of the Facebookless, bravo, my friend. The real world has become something which needs to be proved through the virtual one. As far as the scumbag that contacted you... he will get his eventually. He's far too stupid not to meet that destiny.

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  14. I like this post and agree completely. I caught myself doing this with Facebook. Overanalyzing who is talking with whom, checking it constantly, etc. I shut it off about a week ago and haven't missed it yet. :)

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  15. hello, just found you via 'blogs of note'. Very insightful post, I think you've hit the nail squarely on the head there...totally agree it is quite shocking how much these things shape our thoughts if we let them...
    I've sort of gone off facebook now for many of the reasons above (having been on it for nearly 2 years), only keeping it really to keep in touch with people I have no other form of contact with.
    I'm new to the world of blogging (as of yesterday!), but I think it is a great place to express yourself, there certainly seem to be plenty of inspiring blogs around! :)

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  16. I'm glad people are finding such interest in this post. It was pretty much dedicated to a semi-stalker. It was a rough time for me.

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