The Misbehaviors Of Digital Dependence

As serious as we are about media evolution and sealing the deal with digital, sometimes we just fawn. I was reminded of this last weekend, gathered with my cousins at my great aunt's lake house in Virginia.

Yes, there were the lake and the woods -- but there were also various computers, iPads, phones, Kindles, wireless routers, gaming consoles. This made for lots of banter among the well-equipped, even if the stuff was stashed off in the corner in duffle bags while we were playing Scrabble. And, given the age range in the room, there was lots of effusive comparison and use of superlatives. None of these folk work in media, as I do, so the concentration -- and the heft of the duffle bags -- was fascinating.

Because my brain was too fried from the Virginia heat to write anything of major consequence when I got back to my motel room, I found myself thinking about all the small ways we, even in the business, prop up our digital toys. We sometimes sound incredibly codependent as we talk among ourselves. Because we believe our arsenal incomparably empowers us, we give it more power in our daily lives.

My mind wandered to a couple of habits that seem to have become acceptable that I would actually consider misuse. I liken this to how patois or street language makes its way into the dictionary through constant, common usage.

The Facebook Birthday Wish?



Yes, there is great birthday fun to be had in this incredibly interconnected state of social media we occupy. Not only are you aware of the birthdays of everyone in your extended universe, but you have the opportunity to scrawl your wishes on their wall from wherever you are, and appear sincere -- whether you are or not. This is a cute thing, right?

But I'd suggest it gets bizarre in two scenarios. One: if you wish or are wished happy birthday when Facebook profile information is the only source of even knowing about said birthday. I recall a friend being somewhat mortified to have an HR director from his former company wish him a Facebook happy birthday.

I confess I'm one of a somewhat small group of people who uses Facebook in a relatively limited way. For me, it's a social, not a business, tool. The business contacts I connect with on Facebook are in fact folk I welcome to access the little world I've curated there: personal photos, food stuff, 4 million photos of my puppy Bruce T. Beauchamp. Unless we are in fact friends, the HR director does not have access to my wall. But I recognize that's not so typical.

The second bizarre scenario is that even among friends who genuinely know, love, share meals and travel with each other, the Facebook birthday wall wish has often replaced the personal call, card or even old-fashioned email. My rule on that is simple: I will find you and wish you a happy birthday, and I may or may not chime in on the wall. That would be extra. But I absolutely will not do so if you have over 500 friends and more than one page of birthday wishes. This feels like some twisted version of keeping score. Not playing.

Blog Fighting

Speaking of keeping score, I am fascinating by blog fighting. Granted, the blogosphere has become something much more complex than it was at its beginning. There's not exactly a hierarchy or a food chain, but there are galaxies within this sphere -- some of them populated by old-school bloggers, some by extensions of news organizations, some by independent journalists, mom bloggers, reviewers, and on and on. For many, it's an incremental source of news, commentary, research, and community connection.

One downside of broader acceptance I have seen is the use of blogs to fight -- typically between otherwise experienced, adult media folk, who happen to have developed personal followings in the blogosphere. We've seen this trend catch fire a couple times a year, as grown men and women exchange long vitriolic tomes instead of picking up the phone. This trumps hiding behind email, I would say.

As with anything else, we almost need misbehavior to understand the implications and appreciate good practices. There's definitely a spectrum spanning from trivial to toxic. And, sometimes it seems nothing yields material like extreme or exaggerated public behavior.

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