Forbes: Social Networks — Dipping In (From “Streaming”)

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STREAMING: Volume 1; #Social Media, Mobile Lifestyles, written by Marcia Forbes, artfully combines relevant and often humorous short stories to explain and support her research findings about what youths do online. Here, online refers to the Internet and cell phones. Here, Forbes talks about her early experiences with Facebook.

The following is the second in a series of excerpts from the book to be republished in Caribbean Journal.

Social Networks – Dipping In

By Marcia Forbes, PhD

On one occasion I accepted a request and immediately saw a stream of distasteful sexually graphic discourse appear from this newly acquired “friend.”

He was immediately blocked, the only person with that dubious distinction at that time. In retrospect I wondered how many “crazy” posts may have streamed down my wall and what others who took the time to read them may have thought and may continue to think of me.

Although this was not of enough concern to cause me to stop accepting friend requests, it led me to consider the sort of stress Facebook could bode for adolescents who struggled with accepting or not accepting a “friend” request.

It also caused me to ponder the situation of teachers. How appropriate was it for them to be “friended” by their students and in what context? Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together (2011, p. 182) helped to put a fresh perspective on the issue of Facebook friends. As she notes, “Facebook is a world in which fans are ‘friends.’ But of course, they are not friends. They have been ‘friended.’ That makes all the difference in the world…”

I like her distinction between being “friended” versus being a friend. It does make a world of difference; however, the distinction does not erase issues as to the appropriateness of being friended or friending in relationships with power differential.

New to social networks, it baffled me why the Facebook page called ‘home’ represented a news feed, a never-ending stream of pictures, text and video postings from various ‘friends’. It was an invasion of my concept of ‘home’. Youths didn’t even seem to think about this.

Grasping the difference between this ‘home’ page and my ‘profile’ page took some time. I didn’t quite get the profile page either.

Although it did have my profile at the top, Facebook friends seemed able to highjack it by tagging me to various promotional picture/posters, etcetera and secure top billing in the section for pictures right below my profile.

Yes, everyone seemed Facebook savvy when it came to tagging me, poking me and including me in all and sundry groups so as to share what they perceived as important/useful conversations/information. Again, largely to avoid being impolite, I mostly refrained from untagging my name.

Sometimes, but not often, I did benefit from being tagged since it brought some useful piece of information to my attention. Then there were the endless “hi” as soon as I logged on, the almost monosyllabic conversations, ‘Hi,, ‘How are you?.’ ‘OK, bye.’

Sometimes I played along just in case there was a real need to converse. Usually all the person wanted was just to say “Hi” and usually, but not always, the avatar was of a youthful individual. Avatar is the name given to the picture a user places at the top left side of his/her profile page of the Twitter account.

There were also a few Facebook propositions for marriage or less binding relationships, such as one from the man who wanted to stretch his hand to be fitted in mine, “a lady every man is lusting at.” I did almost literally ROTFL (roll on the floor laughing) when I read that one. My husband was not as amused.

This book, the first of a two part series, is available in hard copy as well as various eBook formats. Download your Kindle copy here. STREAMING is also available here.

This book, the first of a two part series, is available in hard copy format and also as an eBook at Amazon.com. Wider distribution via a variety of eReaders is coming soon.

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