Class Clowns  

Posted by Jonathan E Johns

I haven't posted in a long while. Haven't really written in a long time. What with the social networking, tweeting, cell-phone texting... it seems as though there is less and less need to write out long diatribes on the ins and outs of daily life. Although I suppose there are folk out there not tapped into my daily ramblings enough to demand some kind of up-to-date posting. But I don't think I ever used this venue to post day-to-day stuff anyway.

So then, why have I not posted? It seems I post when there is loneliness, depression, or basically when I find no one else listening. But that is no basis for a blog. I might as well become EMO, and cry on my video blog on You Tube.

My Friend Dave over at YenZen recently blogged about the tiresome habit of some folks interjecting themselves into social networks for the purpose of 'performing' for others. I attribute this to group-behavior, and peer pressure, and performance anxiety. It seems when we are connecting IRL, 1-on1, we tend to behave differently than when we are in a crowd of friends. I know Guys do this, because rarely do we see a video clip on Youtube of only one person jumping a Big-Wheel off a skateboard ramp with rockets attached. Inevitably, there is a crowd of nere-do-well onlookers, egging the imbecile on to hopefully crack his skull open on the pavement, or set his hair on fire. You might also notice a person of adolescent age behaving in ways his mother might not approve of when surrounded by those peers of his. Bad language, and other inappropriate behavior is often only seen when one is trying to 'perform' for those around him. Which is what this whole social networking thing seems to be all about. Posting a comment is rarely seen as something only between two folk, but rather as a chance to be seen not only by your friends, but by all the friends of the person whose wall you're posting on. The show must go on, right?

My point is that the current social networking situation, on Myspace, Facebook, and other sites, is only occasionally used for actual networking. It is more often used to perform on a 'global' stage, and represents a movement in our modern society not seen ten years ago. Talk about the ultimate reality show. Truman had nothing on this. Andy Warhol must be clapping like a giggly pee monkey seeing everyones fifteen minutes of fame being used up on youtube, and in clipped semi-witty comments on Facebook wall posts. It was inevitable. We made it this way, so we cannot really complain.

The hurt and confusion comes easily in this format, though, which often causes much stress in friendships. When one person believes they have stumbled into open-mike night at the Ha-Ha Hole, but they have actually stumbled into the confessional at the local church of the social blog, well, feelings are bound to get hurt. It only makes it much worse when the comedian blames the overly-sensitive confessor for not understanding the 'rules' of social networking according to the 'performers'. The rule, they claim, is that when exposing yourself, either physically, or emotionally, on the Internet, you are opening yourself up to potential ridicule, or criticism. Not very friendly behavior.

But then, are we speaking of our true friends here? Or our social friends? No real friend would make fun of you or criticize you, right? Well, actually they do, it just is not often in front of a live studio audience. Which leads us into the privacy of the Internet...

Do any of us have any privacy anymore? Well, yes, we close the door to the bathroom, or at east the door to the apartment, or house. We do close the blinds or drapes when having sex, mostly. But our phone calls can easily be intercepted and recorded, by something as innocent as a baby monitor. But most often, we overhear every other persons phone call around us, because they don't care about their own privacy, or they expect us to shut our ears, as if they would do the same. And as for what we do on the Internet, well, that is the wild west, my friend. No privacy except for the occasional secured bank account, credit card, and if one is quite clever, one erases the history from his browser. So the question then becomes, if we are choosing to post our life on a social networking site, how much privacy can we reasonably expect? I think for those who are concerned, there should be two facebook pages, one for friends we share everything with, and one for friends who we want to be seen with, but who we don't want to share with. Actually, a clever person can configure Facebook to do this already. But it is kind of a lot of trouble, and it basically melts down to categorizing, and ranking friends, which is a thorny endeavor at best. Worse because, in real life, friends usually recognize their place in your life, and don't normally mind, but again, the Social Networking sites are a stage created by us, designed for our own performance, and as all performers know, there are three critics for every performer out there.

What is the solution? I have very few ideas. But here they are:

  1. Get over yourself. You chose to post your life on the Internet, in a forum open to all, or at least open to those you chose to let see it. Accept your criticism with dignity, and honor the forum.

  2. Stay off the Internet. Or at least out of the aforementioned forums. If you are going to open your life to the world, be prepared to be seen, read, heard, and just as you are quick to lend your opinions, others will lend theirs. Accept others as they are. Any good actor knows, don't read the reviews.

  3. Own your world. This one is difficult, but should produce the best results. Where ever you choose to express yourself, make it happen on your terms. If you paint, choose a gallery where you have a lower chance of being ridiculed. If you sing, perform in an environment where you will be ridiculed less (Karaoke anyone?) If you choose to blog, or become a member of a social networking site, control what you can. Don't 'friend' people who are prone to using you as a punch-line-pinata, control your wall postings, and accept no dis-respect. If someone posts something disrespectful, well, there may be a first amendment allowing free speech, but seriously, would you allow your child to behave that way? Your facebook page is your house, and even though one wall of that house is glass, it is still your house. Own it.

My best advice, though, is still the same as it was back in the olden days, treat others as you wish to be treated. Think about yourself saying something wildly inappropriate, but without malicious intent. How would you like to be treated in that case? Follow your own advice, and behave appropriately.

This all seems like a like of trouble, just in order to stay connected with people from all over the world. There is a reason that in our daily and weekly lives, we do not actually interact with 100+ friends. It is a lot of work. Just having lunch with that many people would require over three months. Social networking is not to replace our interactions with friends, but rather a way to stay in touch passively. Once one gets active in it, well, it is kind of defeating the purpose of the whole thing, isn't it? Spending two to four hours per week on Facebook just reading up on everyone else's happenings, and posting taking points, information, and comments sounds reasonable. But anything more than that could be a waste of energy. You could spend the wasted time calling a friend, or actually going to lunch!

I'm pretty passive on the Facebook, choosing to share things I find on the Internet, and posting minimal information, but mostly reading other folks postings and making comments. I try to not be offensive, but often find myself trying to post something funny. Since I am a bit of a class clown. I try not to take things too personally, and try to enjoy it for what it is, and try hard to have a big full life outside the site that fulfills my need for attention.

When I want to type a long diatribe, I choose this blog to vent!

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at 3:49 PM . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


Awesome. Perfect. Wonderfully insightful, truthfully written.

June 2, 2009 at 6:24 PM

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