Posts Tagged relationships

Our complex social connections

Posted by on Wednesday, 6 November, 2013

IMG_1816Recently, as happens when politics become a hot topic in the social spaces, a dear and close friend was struggling with some questions around unfriending and social media: wondering out loud why expression of opinion would lead to unfriending, and if so then why was the person on their friends list in the first place.  What a simple question that has a long and complex answer, if any answer at all. I’d like to try to tackle this from a high level, conceptual view and hopefully translate that into something usable….

You may have noticed that when I am blogging about work related items, I primarily use the phrase “social business”, but when talking about the tools or channels used I say “social media”. I don’t use the two phrases interchangeably, because they have very different implications, some of which are germane to this post: specifically that it shows a basis of intent. Social business as a phrase implies how we go about utilizing the social media tools to further our business goals or solve business problems. Social media, on the other hand, is the venue in which we apply our social business actions. Note, that neither of these two phrases have I implied any human connection.

That human connection is where things get fuzzy, fast. Not because it doesn’t exist in social business, but rather because it does. Human interaction throughout our social media channels comes with deep complexities because we all use these channels for differing purposes. I don’t mean wide-breadth differences either, I mean those subtle differences that are nearly imperceptible. THOSE are the bits that get fuzzy and sticky and cause discomfort at times. Some people use social media to keep in contact with only family, some with friends and family, others go wider and include co-workers, and even wider yet some will add just about anyone to their networks. Our individual criteria for who we add to any given network changes fluidly between persons and channels causing the complexity of existing criteria to grow exponentially. This difference in criteria undermines some of the basic social contracts we all agree to when adding someone to our networks: we sub-consciously assume the same criteria was used by both parties when that is likely never the case. Add on to this complexity of criteria the differences between face to face interactions and online social interaction, and the differences between people are multiplied yet again. All of this is rolled up into a single word: friends, a word which contains subtle complexities of such a wide berth that the word itself means different things for every person who uses it.

There is also a safety of false anonymity provided by our computer screens and text bases communication, just as there is also a false intimacy that plays counterpoint. Both of which vary slightly (or at times greatly) from connection to connection. Just like in real life, every relationship is different. Social media channels, however, amplify and extend these differences and provide deeper visibility beyond what real life interactions would normally show. Physical life is far more transitory in visible interactions, whereas social media posts and comments have a far longer shelf life and greater visibility. Many things we learn about each other online would never come to light in our face to face interactions. This is becoming more problematic as we see these interactions conflicting with our assumptions of intimacy and connections both online and off. This seems to be especially true during election cycles and immediately following human induced tragedies.

Today we are in a paradigm shift of information; the ramifications of which touch every part of our lives regardless of where we consume that information. And therein lies another cultural shift we are encountering: Online and in face interactions are more commonly coming into conflict based on amounts of information available. Our old concepts and definitions of friends are being quickly outdated by virtue of access to information combined with our own ideological views and our abilities to reconcile the two when they disagree. This demands a deeper level of critical thinking in a world which is becoming more polarized as these views are stated in sound bites and reactionary fashions.

While all relationships are fluid and in constant change, social media has added a passive permanence which has never existed in society previously. Prior to internet interactions and friending/following, relationships that weren’t nurtured and actively maintained would wither and fade, commonly called “losing touch” or “drifting apart”. Now, however, the passiveness of relationship maintenance on-line has given an unprecedented and over-inflated sense of deeper or sustained relationships when those same persons offline wouldn’t necessarily ever be in contact again. This is also a wonderful part of social media tools in that we are able to maintain more relationships at longer distances and intervals of direct communication, but we need to recognize that the social contracts are different; friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter don’t equate to offline friends in an assumed way. GooglePlus has tried to capture the complexities of relationships in this manner with their implementation of Circles to categorize the people in your network and tailor your content shares to only specific circles, but G+ also still misses the fluidity of relationships and how people can easily and quickly shift from one level of intimacy to another. The manual curation for those shifts falls to the user, and no one has time for that level of manual maintenance, even assuming they have the focus and ability to accurately identify exactly when and how those shifts occur.

With this ever-changing landscape of shared information and passive-permanent connections making it easier for us all to become and remain connected to larger networks of people than ever in history, it is even more critical to maintain a thoughtful focus in our interactions. The polarization of dogmas and ideologies means we need to make the extra effort to think critically about what we say online along with how we say it, as the ramifications of what once would have been off-handed remarks to a single friend can now have a much more broad reach and impact than our experiences have taught us up to now. Adding intent to our interactions, not just reactive response will help us all navigate the shifting currents and tides of social engagement.


Some brief thoughts on Google+

Posted by on Thursday, 14 July, 2011

The past week has seen an amazing buzz surrounding Google+ as serious competition for social networking tools. Most people seem to be comparing it to Facebook for some reason. Personally, I think that is rather short sighted. G+ is not really a direct competitor to Facebook nor Twitter. Rather, G+ fills a gap which exists between those two monoliths. A comment on one of the various G+ conversations I’d seen over the week likened this to the game of thrones, wherein the result will not be a single victor, but rather the demolition of thrones  at all, where no one site will be dominant. I think that is the likely outcome to all of this… as I’ve said before, use that which works for you. I am on nearly every site for varying reasons, as I find value in each. I won’t be leaving one for the other until such a time as there is no value for me to gain form it. Much like my reasons for dropping MySpace, I simply got no value from my account on that site, so I finally let it go.

When it comes to G+, I’ve also seen a very disparate view of the party. In my experience thus far, there has been immediate and dynamic conversation sprouting up and gaining serious traction. For others, however, I’ve noted them likening their experience to entering an empty room. I attribute this directly to how actively those people have added to their circles, and how active the people in their circles at posting. In my case, I now have 137 people in my circles, a solid 20 of which are fairly active at posting. Because of those numbers, I am immediately able to see value in the space since there is activity in the space. Much like real life relationships, you get out what you put in. The same is true for G+, Facebook, twitter, Tumblr, and any other social network you join… after all, relationships are the basis of social!

For me, G+ is quickly becoming a widespread network of connections with whom I can globally collaborate, engage, and learn. Posts in G+ thus far seem to be more substantive, richer, thoughtful, and of higher quality than those coming across my Facebook news feed. While I -think- my twitter feed is just as substantive, the quality of those posts seems to be inhibited by the 140 character limitation, whereas G+ takes a long form approach and allows for those posts to be fully expressed not truncated. Plus, the multimedia aspect of G+ is implemented far better than in either Facebook or Twitter.  Oddly, this is the only area in which I think Tumblr may have a leg up, as tumblr does multimedia VERY well. The downside of tumblr, of course, if the conversation aspect is disjointed, difficult, and even hidden. So, while Tumblr may present multimedia content in a better fashion, I really am just a consumer, not a participant. G+ takes the cake again when it comes to enabling good discussion surrounding the originating posts.

When it comes to controlling and organizing how you post content to your streams, Circles are brilliant. I have even more ideas about how Circles can possibly be improved, but for that conversation you’re going to need to head over to Google+ and read my public post on the matter:

While you’re there, feel free to add me to your circles if you’re also on G+… if you aren’t there, feel free to ping me for an invite so we can continue this conversation and/or engage in others! You can find my profile at:


How do you change culture? An honest question with no answers, yet…

Posted by on Friday, 12 March, 2010

A friend of mine tweeted earlier today about a conversation she had regarding the concept of love, and how it is being a bit twisted by the Twilight novels… specifically she’d noted that a friend intimated that “it’s really unselfish love, he’s controlling because he’s concerned for her”. This not only disturbed her, but me as well. She summed up her frustration as: “So, a guy treats girlfriend like a child, or a possession, & young girls are reading this and thinking it’s romance?!?!”

Now, tell me; how as a human being is this ever an appropriate lesson or example to be teaching to -any- person regardless of age, race, orientation, or gender? *

While I realize that my personal views may not always be 100% correct, or right for everyone, but shouldn’t we be teaching and exemplifying good and healthy relationships? When the divorce rate in the US is so high, and domestic abuse is a common theme in our judicial system (for the minority of cases which are actually reported…) HOW, I ask you, can we condone books and movies which romanticize dangerous relationships? If the lessons provided in these media shine above all else, how can we ever change the culture to nurture healthy successful relationships? How can we teach and ensure the lessons are heard: that we all deserve to be treated as humans, each one of us worthy of love, and not as possessions to be controlled and manipulated for others’ selfish desires? Does this all really just boil down to more responsible marketing? Or is there more to it?

Aside from any sort of government control (which I will state for the record I am very opposed to), are we destined to simply play Sisyphus and continue pushing this boulder up the hill, only for it to roll back down upon us time and time again? Or is it indeed possible to make headway with culture change and see some success in building solid healthy relationships?

How can we change culture when healthy living is drama free and uninteresting to society’s school of mass-media? I am hopeful that there may be some good discussion in the comments to this post soon, as I am honestly stumped as to how we can effect any change against such popular items which simply reinforce the wrong message… Of course I am also open to discussion which disagrees with me, as I crave that other point of view to help convince me or further solidify my own position.

More importantly, how to we quell that which we find truly wrong, but still allow for revolutionary ideas and change to still mete its way through the culture and effect more change to better us all? Can we really drive what we believe is right and proper and see it take hold without resorting to tactics of controlling opponents’ right to disseminate their opinions?

Alas, the most important question of all…. can I HAVE any more question marks in this post??? (apparently the answer is yes!)

*It should be noted here that I am all for any kind of relationship that is healthy, regardless of what that actually entails. So long as it involves adults who act in a consensual and informed manner, I can bear no judgment.  A relationship based on control and misinformation is not healthy, as at least one party involved is likely unaware of any other choices available.