Am I “on” or “in” the internet? Well, I’m using it to write this article on my website, so that means that I am “on” it.
But if the internet – at least in its WWW form – is a giant library, and each website is a book, then I must also be “in” it.
Trying to play with that particular piece of English led to a much bigger question. If I’m in it, and if (as we – that we means you and I – know) we (that is the friend who helps with my tech – the “we” is a “royal we” – I’ve no idea what happens after I press the buttons on my keyboard) have been able to get my name pushed up in search engines (as I noted in a previous post) then surely I need to make myself known in the broader internet community. The idea, I thought, would be that more people would just trip over whatever internet presence I have. Profile by stealth.
I pretended to know what I was talking about and began to mutter stuff about “Web 2.0,” (apparently that’s an outdated term so using it just demonstrated that I was reciting what I’d read elsewhere) and social media. I tossed in words like Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Blogger and other brand names that, mostly, mean absolutely nothing to me.
“Well,” said my friend, “you’ve had a page on Twitter for ages but it doesn’t work because for some reason Twitter and your website stopped talking to each other. So what you post on the website doesn’t appear on the Twitter page.”
“Oh, and since when have I had that?”
“Since you first asked me to set up the website. It did work for a few weeks, then stopped and we don’t know why. But in any case, it was selective as to what it picked up which isn’t the point of the idea. So, now it’s just sitting there, with a link back to this site posted. If you want to go and update it manually every time you update this site, you can.”
Hm. Like that’s going to happen. It’s taken months to get me to type directly into this site instead of writing in OpenOffice.Org and copy/pasting into the little box that I’m typing into now.
How about Blogger? “I had someone in the office create pages on MySpace, Blogspot , Google+ . Blogspot was a pain in the arse. It took more than an hour to get something usable. MySpace has a seriously dodgy policy on what data is made public and Google+ won’t accept RSS feeds so when you update this page, the Google+ page isn’t updated.”
So they are useless, then? Apparently not. the primary reason my friend (who, you will realise is never named in these pages) created the pages was so that – if I ever get famous – no one else can come along and create a page in my name and get what he calls “traffic” that’s really meant for me. From that point of view, then, even if they are little more than placeholders, they serve a purpose.
But they are also channels of communication. In theory, they should be two way but apparently, I can make it so that it’s only one way – and encourage people to come to this site if they want to communicate with me.
Why, I wanted to know, do I need a website at all, then? Why not just have my public face on Facebook or something like it?
Apparently, that’s all got to do with credibility. I don’t get this. If successful bands have their entire web presence managed on e.g. MySpace, then why don’t I do the same? The answer was as much about my friend as it was about me!
First, when he agreed to help with my tech, it was on the basis that we used the same underlying platform as he uses in his own companies so there was no learning curve. But that didn’t quite work out because his people installed the latest, most shiny version – and it doesn’t do half the things that the previous version did. And there’s no “downgrade” path so if he wants to use the identical version as he does on the several dozen sites they manage, he’s got to transfer all the content to the new, I mean previous, version. What he does not want is to have to start dedicating resources to trying to work out what to do with all the white space on my Google+ page (I actually know what “white space” is!) or trying to work out how to manage something called APIs and other stuff. If all I want is to have that kind of web presence, then, given that the books are via Amazon.Com, all we need to do is create an author’s page on Amazon. But it won’t let me post little letters to you, like this one.
Secondly, social media is addictive: as a new one comes along, people want to jump on it. So it becomes a never-ending cycle of trying to manage the existing plus new things. By having this site, and creating pages that link back to it, then we don’t need to maintain different sites in all of the different services. So, ten minutes or so is spent to create the pages and then they just sit there, unloved, unwanted, the bastard child resulting from a one-night stand between a programmer and a media junkie. Here, we can maintain a long-term and up to date presence, in one place and not have to keep trying to surf the latest wave of innovation which, ultimately, is more about fashion than about spreading information while our primary purpose of being “in” the internet is to spread the word.
But they still build “profile;” they still point back here.
So, what about Facebook, I asked.
There was a groan.”I’ve been sitting waiting for the confirmation e-mail from Facebook,” he said. “I had it sent to the yahoo mail account that we use for all the signups for stuff so you don’t get spammed in your real mail box. The screen says “Thanks for signing up on Facebook! We just sent you a confirmation email to – it quotes the correct address. Click on the confirmation link in the email to complete your sign up” – but it’s not arrived. So, I did it again. And got the same message. And still it didn’t arrive.”
But it did, later, after another attempt to sign up using a different browser. The e-mail arrived almost instantly.
This is why I hate tech. Even the simple stuff doesn’t work properly. If I can’t rely on it doing what I tell it, when I tell it to, then what use is it? I need tech that I can “set and forget.” If I have to double-think everything, to micromanage it, then it detracts from my quality of life, not adds to it.
The technophiles can’t understand that – they think that constant problem solving is part of the fun, that it’s a game to always be able to work out why the tech isn’t working and to fix it. Me? I can’t be bothered. When I have a few spare minutes, I’d rather feed the ducks on the pond or make something nice for dinner than to spend it trying to work out why this note won’t appear on a Twitter or Google+ page.
I understand why social media is important in marketing. And I understand that it allows my readers to think they are in some small way involved in my life and me in theirs. On principle, I think that’s manipulative and wrong because, honestly, I don’t know my readers. They are fleeting presences as they buy or comment on a book or meet me in a book signing (not that I do book signings – I’m too shy. This whole self-promotion thing is an anathema to me). And I don’t have time to strike up long conversations or correspondences. Hell, I neglect my friends so much they sometimes wonder if I’m dead and send an e-mail “just checking.” My brutal response is “look at my website: if it’s out of date, I’ve died!” There are less than 20 numbers in my mobile phone of which almost all are the homes and mobiles of Starfish’s and my families and our various homes around the world. It’s not that I’m a hermit, it’s just that I’m not “out there,” “networking” or all the other things that pass for friendship these days.
I’ve noticed that people talk less and less – Facebook has taken on a form of megaphone diplomacy. People post their innermost thought, feelings, fears and even comments about those that have given them pleasure or pain. The worst way to break up with someone used to be by letter, then phone, then SMS and now by them finding a posting on Facebook. Or, even, has changed their relationship status without bothering to warn their erstwhile significant other.
So, I’m not technophobic – I am not scared of social media or other tech. I just don’t like it (and not liking something doesn’t make me phobic) and what it’s doing to our society. It’s become the village pump in the global village. It’s creating the illusion of togetherness while actually keeping people apart. I see people sitting together, not talking to each other, both posting messages. I’ve even seen people sitting next to each other sending messages to each other.
Turn off the phones, people, and talk!
So, while my friend will keep making placeholders for me on the various social media sites I, personally, won’t be there. I will be here, where I am happy and comfortable and have control over what happens. With so much social media, I lose that control for the commercial – sometimes voyeuristic – interests of others.
This is my home. It’s where I stay.
And it’s where you can find me.
Anywhere else is just an electronic form of fly-posting.
Twitter: www.twitter.com/jeffersongalt ; @jeffersongalt