I have a cell phone. It's a no-frills version that takes calls and receives calls. It doesn't take photos, connect to the internet, or send Twitter messages. Nor does it vacuum my floors, do the laundry, or wash dishes. All it does is takes calls and receives calls. Oh, and the only time it's turned on is when I'm away from home. Keep this in mind for a moment.
A few years ago, a friend got her first book published. There was much rejoicing in our writer's group over her success. But like all new authors, it wasn't just a matter of sitting on her laurels and watching the royalty checks roll in. No indeed. She had to deal with the bewildering intricacies of marketing her book since, after all, without marketing those royalty checks would never arrive.
To her credit, she learned a great deal about self-promotion, particularly utilizing the social networking options which were on the ascendancy. While I struggled to become published, she urged me to consider a MySpace page in order to "pre-market" myself. "Go to my MySpace page," she urged me, "and see how powerful it could be!"
So I went to her MySpace page. And I was appalled. I don't remember much of the details, but it seemed to me there was a lot of sleaze and skank from her followers that had nothing to do with her book. There were ads I would never have approved of and links to questionable websites.
And that was the end of my social network ambitions. That momentary glimpse of my friend's page turned me totally off MySpace.
Since then, of course, MySpace has fizzled but Facebook has boomed. And I'm getting similar pressures from all sorts of people to get "connected," not to mention endless invitations to become someone's "friend." Only this time I can't even view someone's Facebook page unless I, well, join Facebook.
The implication, of course, is that I'm just not hip and happenin' if I'm not "connected" via Facebook, Twitter, etc. I mean, let's face it - it was a big enough hurdle for me to even start a blog! And now you want me to "friend" utter strangers on a social networking site?
I know all my "connected" readers are protesting that it doesn't have to be that way. And I know you're right. My husband, who does have a Facebook page, assures me that all sorts of security measures can be utilized, and I only have to "friend" those who are truly friends. But I'm just not interested.
The biggest reason I'm not anxious to jump on the social network bandwagon is I plain don't have time. For Pete's sake, I have two kids, we homeschool, we have a home business, we have a farm. There's housework to do, music and sports lessons to attend, errands to run. I have columns to write and book stuff to work on. Who the heck has time for all that social network stuff?
But I'll admit I'm reluctant to join the social network craze because it strikes me as just one more step away from really connecting with people through face-to-face conversations or phone calls or even emails.
The reason I enjoy a blog so much is I consider it just an extension of my thought processes. Things I find amusing, tragic, interesting, inspiring, or otherwise worth sharing get posted. In a way you might even say it's a ministry for me. But most of all it's an outlet for stuff I want to get off my chest. I'm a writer, and when someone is a writer they are forever writing - in their mind if nowhere else. The writing that takes place in my head never stops. Literally. I'll be out feeding the cattle and mentally polishing a phrase. I've been known to bring my AlphaSmart into the barn with me while mucking it out, because if I'm working on a topic and sudden inspiration strikes, I have to write it down NOW. My writings and ramblings and rants (like this one) all end up on my blog.
Anyway, my friend Enola Gay recently wrote an excellent piece on how disconnected we are. She says, "As a thoroughly modern people, we have become disconnected. Oh, we are connected to many things - cell phones, ipads, computers, ipods, xbox, television, any number of electronic devises - but we are disconnected from real life." Ironically I read a couple articles this morning which confirms her point.
As social networking matures and comes of age, we find it is counterproductive to the very thing it purports to do - namely, connect people. "Twitter and Facebook don't connect people – they isolate them from reality, say a rising number of academics," notes this article.
As if that isn't bad enough, it's coming out that Facebook and other such media can be detrimental when it comes to job prospects and employment because employers are checking out applicants' social media sites to see what kind of person they're actually hiring. And idiots that they are, people post things on Facebook which, frankly, should never see the light of day. What is it about a Facebook account which causes people to lose all their inhibitions and post photos of them partying and roistering and doing drugs? Don't they think a boss will ever see this?
"A Microsoft-sponsored survey from December 2009 found that 75 percent of U.S. recruiters and human resources professionals say their bosses require them to research job applicants online. Seventy percent report they have rejected candidates after such sleuthing," notes this article.
The article gives an example of an employer deciding which of two highly-qualified candidates should be hired. The employer did an online search for both applicants. "Parsons's online photos caused Shaw to rethink her choice and to grapple with the slippery boundaries between public and private life."
Whether or not this is fair - that is, doing online sleuthing and snooping through a person's private background - it's now a reality. "Before posting information and photographs on Facebook, remember that in the virtual world, our houses are made of glass. Every piece of data is permanent and stored in a digital archive. More than half of employers cite provocative photographs as the biggest factor in the decision not to hire," notes the article.
Now I know there are probably millions of people (including my husband) who have squeaky-clean Facebook pages. Good for them. But I can't see ever becoming one of them. I prefer to keep my modern connections simple - a cell phone that does nothing but send and receive calls, and a blog as an outlet for my overflow writing. That's it.
Our girls don't have cell phones and probably won't until they leave home. (To be fair, neither has expressed an interest in getting one either.) But both are disdainful of the "connected" teens they see around them every day - teens shuffling along, heads bowed over their little machines, texting furiously and not watching where they're going. Teens who are incapable of writing a coherent sentence with proper spelling and punctuation. Teens who can no longer look anyone directly in the eye because it's been so long since they've had a face-to-face conversation with someone. And this is the "real world"?
Now you all must excuse me. It's our turn to host the neighborhood potluck, and I need to get the pork chops with white wine sauce simmering in the crockpot before vacuuming the house. After all, these are our neighbors - not "friends" on Facebook. It's much more fun seeing them face-to-face.