Friday, September 30, 2011

Stuck in an bad teen-aged, high school movie

I wouldn’t go back to high school on a bet. I have a lot of friends I keep in touch with and I have my fond memories. But there is no way I would go back to those years where we were all trying to define ourselves and struggling to understand how responsible people act in relationships and in society.

Yet there are days I feel like I’m right back in the halls of high school watching it all unfold again.

Only this time, it’s on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other such “social” media. And there are a lot of days it seems like it’s anything but “social.”

The problems all start with friends, followers, connections and such. Who has the most? Are they the “right” ones to have? It’s a twisted sort of popularity contest in the minds of many.

Once up and running, you don’t have to be a psychologist to see the high school era personalities emerge.

You have those, who no matter what, genuinely make your day brighter. And then there are the others who just try to somehow convince you that your day is brighter because of their passive aggressive feigned enthusiasm.

Then you have the overachievers – business, hobbies, parenting, sports, whatever. They are ready to impress you with the latest feat that mere mortals could not achieve.

You have the captains of the debate teams who are ready to dig in on every issue and argue to the death, no matter if they are right or wrong. At least in debates there were time limits. I personally wish there were a post/character limits for these types.

Who can ignore the back-of-the-classroom clowns, cracking their jokes and poking fun at the lesson of the day? (That sounds a lot like me on Facebook.)

They may not have a pocket full of quarters heading to the arcade. But in 2011, gamers are alive and well online. The only real difference from the days of the arcade is, instead of standing in line, waiting your turn, they invite you to play with them … a lot.

There are the party hounds, posting pictures of them having a lot of fun and then talking the next morning about the latest binge they are coming off.

One tough group to define is the dark-mysterious-types who are on some sort of different level. All they post is stuff that amounts to the high school equivalent of halfway nodding in the hall and saying something vague like “it’s real” to make you wonder what they are really saying. Of course, then there are those who just try to be the dark mysterious type with their cryptic posts that leave you with your head tilted saying, “huh?”

The stalkers. Now this is a tough one, because in real life we have boundaries in relationships. But in social media, where friendships and connections take on whole new meanings, it’s hard to decide what, if any, boundaries exist. Still, it could possibly make you wonder from time to time if some people are just “too” interested or involved.

Ahhh, the gossips. Generally speaking, it’s always in some sort of weird cryptic code. But rest assured, they are talking about someone or something. These gossip sessions usually end with, “call me.” (At least the fear of slander shuts them up eventually.)

And, then of course, there are the bullies. Cyber bullying, once thought to be only a kids’ problem, is alive and well in the adult realm as well. These bullies use everything from outright threats to passive aggressive tactics to attack anyone they feel might have any sort of leg up on knowledge or business success, or who merely have the nerve to share an opinion on something.

The rules of social media should be simple. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t put it out on the Internet and don’t believe everything you read.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen, especially on business pages. That’s where the “teacher” steps in, reminding the class of the rules. Be nice. Play well together. Let others have their say, too.

Social media will, hopefully, find its place eventually.

Until then it’s remember the rules and try to remember not to take it too seriously. Because in the end, it’s anything but a cut-and-dried world of black and white, truth and lies.

In fact, now that I think about it: Social media with its prevailing high school mentality is a lot like a very common “relationship status” you see on Facebook – “it’s complicated.”