Home > General > Going back to color in our social lives

Going back to color in our social lives

November 26, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Photo credit: Rinasaur! (Flickr)

Once upon a time, there was no Facebook. There were no Twitter and MySpace, there were no emails … stop! … scratch that! I don’t want to write a romantic story about the past times when we all happily enjoyed our fulfilling social lives, visited regularly our relatives, had fun going out with our friends and took the time to give a call or even write a letter to those far to our eyes, but still close to our heart — because we didn’t! No offense to those few who tried hard in doing so, but you made the rest of us feel bad!

Fortunately, for those of us too lazy to give a call to our grandma — who couldn’t visit us any more because she had a gangrene and couldn’t even get our of her house let alone endure the two hours bus ride to our town — or scribble a letter to our best friend from elementary school — who moved away across the world leaving his old parents behind to send his regards every time we meet them on the street — someone invented Facebook!

Now we can simply “like” the photos showing our best friend’s kids playing with their dog or upload a video of our baby saying the first “googoo” so our grandma could watch it when the neighbor kid volunteering to help senior citizens visits and helps her turn on the computer and log her on to the world of social networks.

Oh what a joy is this new world — we are happy we keep our social ties so close we can just click on a mouse to connect and we don’t have to come up with excuses for not visiting them! Keeping in touch is now so easy that we sniff at those few old friends who hadn’t jumped the social bandwagon yet — were they one of those who wrote letters to people around the world almost each week?! Ha, this time we’ll make them feel bad for not “liking” the wedding pictures of our common high school friend!

Ok, I admit the introduction above is not exactly realistically describing my life — though I’ll admit the lazy part in keeping in touch with real friends as much as they deserve! 😦 Nor is it a sarcastic view over the (as seen by many) mistaken understanding that Facebook and other similar technologies offer nothing but a peep show over the lives of people for whom we obviously don’t care enough to engage with in real life. These views would simply be too white or too black and this article is about color 😉

Let’s first take the white color. The social life inside Facebook, LinkedIn, and other online social networks suffers from the problem of self-perpetuating reality — the networks give the user a feeling that she runs fulfilling social interactions in there and thus craves for more, trying to broaden her network with as many people as possible, thus increasing the feeling of reach social ties.

This in itself is not bad — it may blur or even distort the meaning of “friend” but at the same time it can remove barriers and help people step out of their comfort zone, letting them interact with people with whom they would not even dream to reach out to. After all, hitting the like button on someone’s picture or link or retweeting someones thought is far less scary than approaching them in real life. Next thing you know, you find yourself commenting or replying and the interaction is set to take off.

Photo credit: The Boston Globe

Ok, there must be some evil in social networks, right? It seems lately that many people have been exploring the black color view and reflecting on their experiences with Facebook and similar. So much so that in a very short time, several blog posts on this theme has appeared on the Freshly Pressed page on WordPress.com (see here and here for the few I noticed recently). Let’s look at what people are saying:

I had fb…i was the one to most use fb day and night…i had a trial separation with fb…i deleted fb… Life is so much simpler without it, and in all honesty the ‘world’ does not NEED to know about my witty one liners…haha…i’m a much happier person without it and my witty one-liners keep me amused if no1 else!

I have friends on Facebook using Foursquare to keep other people updated of their whereabouts at all times. I don’t get it and I’ll admit, it has changed my opinion of them.

I also really don’t understand when people use social media to share their domestic quarrels with their entire social circle. Do they really want that filthy mouth and spiteful attitude immortalized on their family’s Facebook feed forever?

I would rather have a few strong relationships with friends I visit on a regular basis than 500 “friends” on Facebook.

So many people think that social networks are addictive and moderation has to be applied when choosing what and with whom to share. I can’t agree more, but I also think that they offer a great opportunity for people to promote their ideas, their cause, their passion, their brand! These technologies offer a chance for everyone to reach out to a wide audience they could not have been able to reach to in the past.

Of course, it is hard work to build a network that will become your audience, but if you believe in what you’re trying to promote and you’re showing your passion for it, the chances are, you will be much more successful using such social tools than running after businesses, marketing agencies, publishers, etc.

Photo credit: *estella* (Flickr)

If using only white or black color in social interactions makes people separate into groups and alienate each other, then an easy solution would be to change colors from time to time. All one has to do is get off all online social networks for some time each day and use the time to pick up the phone to talk to a friend, visit some relatives, go out with someone, or simply watch a good movie or try a fine wine with your spouse.

While these are all great examples, the question I’d like to raise with this article is this:

Do we really have to make choices in how we run our social interactions? Can we not embrace everything that is accessible to us and we can possibly handle and mix it all up?

Think of what color means for you for a moment? We all know the names of the basic colors: red, yellow and blue — red, green and blue if you’re a video engineer 😉 We all know there is a spectrum of colors between these basic ones that we can get by mixing two or three together. We also know we can get lighter or darker tones by adding white or black.

What we usually don’t think of when considering color is that the light that shines on us every day from the sun — admittedly, there’s less and less of it here in Vancouver these days 😦 — though colorless at first sight, contains all of the colors we’re familiar with. Physicists would say that the visible light spectrum includes all colors between the infrared — which we are familiar with as it causes our popcorn to pop in our microwave — and the ultraviolet — which burns our skin when dipping our toes in the sea in summer.

If light could be used as a metaphor for our social interactions, than making specific choices which technology to use (or not) to run them would be similar to putting glasses that can let only one color from the spectrum be visible at a time before we go out to enjoy the world. It sounds like a very limited experience, doesn’t it? Well, that is what we do with our social interactions when we don’t embrace all possibilities for engaging at the same time!

Next time, try to post on your Facebook wall that you’d be taking the kids out to the park and would like to invite your friends to join you! Then turn off the connectivity on your smartphone and get out!

Or, print the pictures from your albums, get in the car and visit your grandparents to flip through them together. Ask your Twitter followers to suggest a good wine to pick up along the way!

Or, don’t hit the like button on those wedding photos, but respond in the comments with a love poem you’ve read in a book recently — or better wrote yourself!

Or, share a movie trailer and invite your friends to join you in watching that movie in the cinema with you.

Or … you get the point!

Photo credit: Tessa Yoder (Flickr)

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  1. November 28, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    I have had to face that annoyance of people trying to be “rude” to one another on FB.. by not “liking” others’ pictures or videos.. what kind of nonsense is that.. ?! You bring up a great point on revenge.. That is the best some people have got apparently 😉
    Do you know how many people/friends called me up on my birthday, 5, and that includes my mother and sister.. And FB messages, can’t put a number, that many!! But, it still doesn’t feel the same.. 🙂
    Kima, now I know you what else is keeping you occupied other than TED children.. Facebook 😉 Ha ha..
    Oh, and the trollers, gosh, they have had a field day on my blog while I was gone.. 😦 Luckily, none passed through Askimet!
    And the pictures, always smart, like the one with all the colors converging!

    • November 29, 2010 at 11:27 pm

      Thanks for being such a wonderful reader and friend! I have grown accustomed to getting an insightful and thoughtful comment from you every time I post so I just don’t feel I’ve completed my thoughts around it if your comment is late or missing 😉

      The comment about the birthday is exactly what I needed for this one. It relates to one of the core issues around social networks, that of the definition of a friend. I did briefly mention that the artificial feeling of social ties may blur or even distort the meaning of “friend” but I left it at that. You brought up the missing ingredient, which as often with us humans, has to do with emotions.

      You see, the “feelings” in my metaphorical view of the brain are conscious … we deliberate over questions like “who is our friend” and “are we connecting at some level with them to say we keep a social tie running” and we conclude that the answer is “yes” or “no” … then we reflect back on the whole thought process and we tell ourselves a story that “we feel she is our friend”

      The “emotions” on the other side are unconscious … we can’t think them over … when a true friend calls for our birthday we experience “emotions”, while when somebody posts on our Facebook wall a happy birthday greeting we smile and “feel” happy that she thought of us

      Recently, a very good and dear friend of mine who I haven’t seen for a year and a half and haven’t talked to for almost the same time … I mean really talked to, not just clicking “like” on a photo from his last vacation 😉 … got his first son! Barely out of his shock, with his wife still in the hospital, he sent me a message on Google chat (trying to be considerate of the fact that we’re 9 hrs apart and that I was at work at the time) … I was on a lunch break and only saw the message with an hour delay … you know what was my reaction? … I first froze, barely able to control my emotions … then I couldn’t control my grin 😉 … and then I reached for my cell phone and called him, ignoring the fact that I was supposed to enter a meeting in 5 minutes and that those 30 minutes we spent of the phone would cost me the same as the regular monthly bill any other time!

      No social network can offer the emotional part yet … they can be used as tools to share information, photos, etc. … one can even use them to deliver an important message like my friend did with Google chat … but the reply when emotions are involved would never go back through the same medium!!

      /Kima

      P.S. as for the trolls … I am thinking to write an article that would be inviting for an orgy of troll comments and turn off the spam filter all together … I wonder if that would get me improved page ranking on Google? 😉 … or get freshly pressed :-b

      • November 30, 2010 at 7:54 am

        I am glad you picked up the phone and called!! Listening to a familiar voice is always comforting..!
        And the spammers and their trolls, I don’t know what to make out of them, although if you plan to turn off temporarily, there is a possibility that they will attack your previous posts 😉

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    • November 26, 2010 at 10:42 pm

      Not sure what to make of this offer 😉 I fished the comment out of spam as it seems a person, rather than a troll has posted it, so I am honored that you took the time to give feedback, even if the goal was advertising. On the other side, the indecent offer to use software to write my articles for me is amusing and maybe even slightly offensive. It makes me wonder how many users use software like this for blogs?! The naive in me would suspect very few, and probably running unsuccessful blogs at that?! I’d like to check one out if a reader can point me to some amusing article to see the state of AI for blog writing 😉

  1. November 26, 2010 at 1:18 am

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