What we have here is a failure to communicate*

I have a Facebook account.  I created the account about five or six years ago because I had read about Facebook while reading materials for my Internet law course.  Social networking/Web 2.0 was the new thing and I wanted to understand it.  Viewing the site required creating an account, limited at the time to those with .edu addresses.  I looked at the site for 15 minutes, logged out, and didn’t look at it again until a student discovered my account and “friended” me.  I responded affirmatively.  Since I now had one friend I decided my presence should include more than my name so I posted a picture, added some personal information (including that I am married–in the civil sense, not the Facebook sense), and left it at that.  I almost never used the site, viewing it only when a student stumbled across my profile and friended me.  I always respond affirmatively if I know the student.  I’ve never been comfortable browsing student profiles.  It feels like wandering into the basement when teenagers are having a no-adults party.  Things are going on that we shouldn’t share with each other.

Over the past few years Facebook has gone mainstream.  You no longer need an .edu address to create an account.  Legal periodicals discuss how lawyers are using Facebook for networking and advertising.  Facebook:  It’s not just for kids anymore!  I, however, know very few adults with Facebook accounts so I continue to hold it at arms-length.  Every semester a few more students add me to their friends roster, I visit once or twice, and I leave it alone.

A colleague mentioned this week that she had created a Facebook account and contacted me.  I did not receive email notice of the contact so I checked the site to discover a pile of messages in my inbox dating back six months: friend requests, event invitations, requests for job recommendations, and other time-sensitive communication.  Apparently, during one of Facebook’s many recent makeovers, my communication preference changed and I was no longer opted-in to receive site notifications.  The result was six months of unanswered communication, although my failure to respond caused no terminal consequences.

Clearly, while my academic interests include the power and utility of social networking sites, my communication style is rooted in earlier technology.  If getting messages requires that I walk past the kids partying in the basement, I’ll remain out of the loop.

*Everyone over a certain age, and those younger who know films of the 60s, will recognize the speaker and the source.

5 Replies to “What we have here is a failure to communicate*”

  1. nrandall

    “It feels like wandering into the basement when teenagers are having a no-adults party.”

    We never threw parties in the basement. Just the second floor.

  2. DDash

    1. It’s funny that you mentioned this Professor Randall. People I’ve worked with this summer (who are in their late 30’s and some early 40’s) started to join the mass addicted to Facebook this past summer. This followed by all of their friends joining Facebook, and of course my co-worker’s sons, along with my 10 year old nephew, begged to have a Facebook made for them too. So, of course, my nosey nephew and his friends are far too curious to hold it at arm’s length. Now every time there is a party or event, the photos need to be edited to avoid the minors seeing what their parents and family really do when they drop off the kids at grandmas.

  3. alexc

    It is always interesting to get the view point from an “outsider” on things that I take as everyday in my life. I utilize numerous “social” sites these days. Facebook, Digg, Reddit, Newsvine, etc… “Social” is where the web is going and I encourage (however, odd it may be at first) all to jump in because the faster you get used to it, the more you’re going to get out of it.

    It’s also a common misconception that “social” sites and the whole web 2.0 phase is just about meeting people online (of course it is a very large portion of it). Just look at all of the social news sites (Digg, Reddit, etc…). “Social” websites allow for communities to grow and interact with each other more easily than ever and this, combined with the ease of use and streamlined UI of web 2.0 allows for basically a huge platform for user-generated content and sharing.

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