Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Social media way too social for me

Not wanting to be left behind by the rush of the "social media," which was sparking revolutions in the Middle East and turning Hollywood ciphers into celebrities, I created my own Twitter and Facebook accounts about six years ago.

It didn't take long for the trickle of tweets in my Gmail inbox to turn into a steady and annoying stream of nothing. What people had for breakfast or lunch, not that it was anything interesting like alpaca steaks or scrambled alligator eggs.

Or someone I knew who was on a bicycle marathon somewhere in California and tweeted huff-by-huff alerts about his exact location and physical condition on the order of "just pulled into Cucamonga and I am beat" or "had a flat tire outside of Sausalito."

My career as a twitterer—or is it tweeter?—ended soon afterward.

Gladys and I three years ago.
 It's a real picture though she was a
 few pounds lighter and so was I. 
My Facebook account blossomed too with requests from people wanting to be friends and notifications of messages, pokes, folks writing on my wall or "changing their status," or requesting that I please "like" something.
Just yesterday I received a Facebook-generated friend request from Omid Mehdipour in Tehran. I have no idea who he is or how he got my name. He looks like a handsome, serious sort and perhaps it would be interesting to hear about daily life in Iran from an electronic pen pal and find out how much chit-chat the mullahs monitoring the internet will tolerate before Omid is sentenced to fifty lashes for offending something or someone, possibly Allah himself.

Even before I looked up Omid on Facebook an e-mail arrived about having forty-one pending messages from friends, in addition to two pokes, one friend request and one notification.

It turns out Omid has four-thousand fifty "friends" including Dipak Shankhalpara Gajjar and Emei Fillz Kardirebeyogu, the latter a very attractive woman if that was really her. I've found people often post photos of their dogs, cats, favorite movie stars or baby pictures. Either way, no doubt Omid is a popular guy.
Of the hundreds of friend requests, and other Facebook pings and pokes I've received probably ninety-seven percent are from people I don't know; one percent from people I do know but don't particularly want to hear from—and perhaps two percent updates by real, live-and-kicking friends such as a recent note from a San Miguel woman who had to return to the States to look after a daughter with cancer.

I'm not dismissing the value of Facebook as a handy communications conduit for keeping in touch with friends and family, a circle which in my case might number a hundred people if that.

But as these real contacts metastasize into thousands, tens of thousands, of people, companies and causes, who has time to manage the flow? And at what point does the torrent of megabytes become a silly waste of time?

Indeed, Pope Francis, his social media council at the Vatican and I seem to harbor similar misgivings on this. That's why Pope Pancho doesn't have a Facebook page, despite having millions of potential "friends" around the globe: It's too time-consuming to sort through all the crap, even when you have staff.

But he does have a Twitter account (@Pontifex) though his one-hundred-forty character missives, the Lord forgive me, so far don't seem to be earth-shaking. Sample: "We will never be disillusioned or lose our way if we are guided by God."

It's a lovely thought but not enough for me to dip into the Twitter whirlpool again. 


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