Facebook or Big Brother?

The Social Media

I am perplexed. I am agrieved. Actually, I am hurt.

I’m not going to milk the theme. I have tons of others things I would greatly prefer to be blogging about. I’ll tell it to you plain and simple. I think the world of social media. I can’t even put into words how excited I am to wake up every day and know that the possibilities for promoting my work (books, stories, essays and poems) are endless, only limited by my own energy and willingness to work.

I have been painstakingly teaching myself to use social media, to find creative ways to market my recently launched novel THE HARVEST OF REASON, while at the same time trying desperately to launch a CD of my poems (ISAIAH’S LONGING) and a book of poetry (CHILDREN OF THE HALF LIGHT).  Meanwhile, with all the racial dialogue raging in the nation I also feel the pressure to release some short stories I had stockpiled and another novel that deals specifically with race unity. It’s been sitting in my (virtual) closet collecting dust. I feel that it would contribute to this urgent dialogue and should be out there. (The reasons why I have so many novels and stories stockpiled and unpublished is a story for another day).

I fully understand that social media is not an advertising machine, to be abused, misused and become intrusive. The way I understand it, it is a tool to share ideas, develop a community of interest in your product, offer your contribution to the world one on one and get ideas back from others.

I have been trying to pioneer in my use of Facebook, to use it in a way that works for me. Some of the ways in which people use it don’t interest me. For instance, my —- uses it to keep in touch daily with her community of friends, chronicling her moods, activities, posting recent music discoveries and videos.  More power to her, she is an awesomely skilled communicator with enough energy to post (at least) hourly status updates. That would exhaust me.

Instead, I send private messages to a select few people I can keep up with and try not to feel guilty about the rest. As the secretary for my religious community I use facebook  for  posting to groups of youth or preyouth, keeping the community apprised of activities, etc. It has been wonderfull and has greatly streamlined my work. I also use facebook to promote my blogs, and to serialize my novel. I post a few pages of my novel everyday, and add a question for comment, inviting people to join a sort of global bookclub discussion. It’s an awesome tool.  (I call it the “MY FRIENDS CAN READ IT FOR FREE” series).

Around the time I started doing this I discovered this sidebar where Facebook tells you of people you have friends in common with in case you want to invite them to be your friends.  Eureka! I thought, why not invite some of these folks into the bookclub? This is a way to go viral right?

So I started inviting people I had more than 50 friends in common with (which by the way gave me a pretty good idea that they were probably part of the same religious community I belong to or were artists/writers like myself). I sent them a onetime message about the book club and sat back to enjoy the enrichment of my daily feed. Without exception they turned out to be positive, upbeat people trying to make a difference in the world by putting out beautiful, funny, profound, or socially relevant content.  I thought, WOW! what a wonderful thing this Facebook invention is, a timely tool for the promotion of thoughtful content, for the unification of thought, for the establishment of word peace!!!!

An then I got the notice from Facebook. It said: We have noticed you are friending people you don’t know. This is against the rules. If you don’t adhere to the rules of the Facebook we will kick you out. (These are not their exact words but this is what my heart heard).

I was hurt.

First of all, not to be snooty, but in my sheltered gentle world, I am not used to people talking to me like that.

Secondly – Someone has been watching me? And they don’t like the friends I pick? What friends should I pick if not those I have other friends in common with? Can’t I get to know my friend’s friends if I want to?

I was aggrieved.

Thirdly – If I have found a creative way to use social media to extend my influence, a way that was not envisioned by Facebook originally, isn’t that good? Could the creators of Facebook have envisioned all the uses for their technology at the outset or is it more likely that these would be discovered as people started to use it and adjust it to their own needs. Wouldn’t it stand to reason that the ways to use facebook would be as diverse as the millions of members themselves?

I am perplexed.

Having watched “The Social Network” a half dozen times (notice on my profile it is among my favorite movies) I must comment that the original use for which the creators envisioned Facebook was not the most attractive. It was kind of, shall we say…mysoginistic, superficial, elitist, competitive…well, I’ll stop there.  Suffice it to say, it is good for Facebook usage to evolve.

To be fair. Any new technology can be used for good or evil. I know that social networks are under great pressure to self-police. This cannot be an easy job. What criteria should be used in policing? Clearly, Facebook is concerned with invasion of privacy. But they should take care not to kill the goose that laid their golden egg. Freedom to innovate, to springboard, to put a technology to its maximum use for good is the natural outcome of any invention and is the patrimony of the common man. It is not possible to restrain it or keep it boxed, because the solution then is competition and the open market.

About rheaharmsen

Rhea Harmsen is a scientist, novelist and author of Language of the Spirit, a volume of selected poems. She has also released three novels, The Harvest of Reason, Intermarry, and God Created Women. Harmsen was born in a family with a black father and a white mother at a time when interracial marriage was still illegal in some states. Her parents gave her a vision of world citizenship that informs her writing and her lifestyle and has caused her to reject traditional views of race and gender. Harmsen's article "Science in the Hands of Women: Present Barriers, Future Promise" appeared in World Order in 1998 and provides the foundation for the story line for her novel The Harvest of Reason. She co-published the Monroeville Race Unity Forum Bulletin and authored many poems on racial topics, crystallizing the "conversation on race" in the novel Intermarry. Her work with domestic violence survivors in Puerto Rico inspired the novel God Created Women. Harmsen holds a doctorate in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She currently resides in Puerto Rico. Upcomming projects are described in her web page at rheaharmsen.com
This entry was posted in futurism, global discussion, national discussion, social justice, technology, Uncategorized, unity in diversity and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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