The results are in!

Well, I do admit that my experiment was not done in the most scientific of ways. Still, I think the results are interesting, and I’d like to share them.

I am looking to see if my Facebook “friends” represent as much diversity as I would like to think that I have among my friends. I looked at Race/Ethnicity, Religion, Political Affiliation and Views and the size of the city or town a person lives in.

Out of 365 Facebook friends, I received 60 responses (15.6%). Admittedly, the sample is not large enough to have a high confidence rate — it’s about 95% confidence +/-20% — to be certain that the responses reflect the true spectrum of my Facebook friends in entirety. Also, I was limited in scope by the bounds of Survey Monkey, which allows only 10 questions before requiring one to upgrade to a paid account. I also, in retrospect, made some deep errors in questioning — particularly in asking about religious identity— and leaving out important categories on diversity, such as disability and geographic location.

Nonetheless, this is what I found:

My Facebook friends are:

  • Politically Liberal
  • Racially White
  • Straight
  • Believers in God

Now these are broad strokes painted from the results. I have decided to analyze the results of each of the 10 questions in the survey. These will be done in a series of posts.


A new experiment

Seems like this blog is all about experimentation.

In a moment of solitude I had myself wondering if my idea of myself, that I’m a relatively open minded person who enjoys a good bit of diversity around her, is reflected among my friends.

I turned to Facebook–a likely destination–where nearly 400 of my “friends” from past lives and selves converge. The thought was, if my Facebook friends reflected the diversity of which I think I have in my life, then all’s well. If not, well, maybe I’m just living in a fantasy world that people really can have a diverse group of friends. It would support the recent reports that like-minded Americans are clumping themselves together in geographic locations.

Stay tuned to see how this experiment concludes…

Social Disorder Afoot

I have been encouraging my med school husband and his med school cronies to talk about doing research on disorders caused by too much social media.

At work I have been inundated with the stuff. My job as a communications specialists requires me to get my organization’s image out into the public. Social media is the way to do it. That’s where the audience is—especially when you don’t have the budget to buy an ad on Super Bowl Sunday (by the way, Go Chargers!).

So, I have a TweetDeck account, which pulsates on my desktop every minute with updates and alerts. I have a Facebook page to maintain, a YouTube account to manage and an organizational staff to motivate to get on board with the new media and new outreach tools.

The downside of this is my self-diagnosed ADHD brought on by too much input—SMADAH (Social Media Attention Deficit Hyperactivit Disorder). I don’t think my symptoms are rare to social media junkies, either. There are some jitters. And some obsessive compulsive tendencies. There’s the urge to constantly multi-task. And when someone makes a funny comment or tells a strange story, there’s a strong impulse to post it on Facebook.

I feel scatterbrained and on edge. I can’t think coherently. I  need to pull myself away. I need an intervention. I need….to go send out a tweet about that!

No Inspiration Here

I am still looking.

After a failed attempt to retrieve inspiration from my Facebook friends, I have little to report on the writer’s block. I have little, doubt, however, that it stems from an early dose of seasonal affective disorder.

That’s right. It’s November, and I am suffering from S.A.D. There are a long five more months to go before the temperature climbs back to a level at which I am comfortable. It hasn’t even really snowed yet, either.

It’s going to be a long winter.

Maybe I can write about that!

Mac vs. PC

This is an age-old question—at least in the information age. Mac or PC?

This has never actually been a question for me. I am Mac. Or, rather, I have been branded a Mac person. It was a carefully crafted campaign that began early in elementary school, when our class had computer time with the school’s two Apple IIe desktop computers. We filed into an unassuming room and took turns practicing open-apple-control-something to boot it up, then stuck a floppy disk in the slot and played two-tone educational games. It was great. But I really thought nothing of it.MacPC

Later, my family got a hand-me-down IBM from my mom’s work. I used it to teach me how to type and to write school papers. By the time I was in high school I was computer literate and typing about 70 words-per-minute, which was enough to impress my Freshman year typing teacher (we were still actually typing on typewriters ). I was proud of my computer literacy and typing ability, and I think that helped me continue pursuing writing.

I went through high school without much thinking about those early ears on an Apple (it wasn’t even a Mac yet). It seemed that all the computer trend-setters viewed IBMs as the top-of-the-line brand, and my computer teacher uncle had two at his house, which fascinated me to no end. All those cryptic codes and the flashing cursor in green, white and orange. It was like a secret language.

My stepdad warned my siblings and I time and time again that we needed to learn computer skills to succeed in the workplace. And, like any good teenager, would, I brushed his advice off as parental gobbeldygook that didn’t much matter in the modern world. Of course, he was right. But he was also wrong to think that computer literacy would be difficult to achieve.

I started college without my own computer. Between my roommate’s Compaq and the computer labs in the library, I had enough access to get all my work done. Classes were not yet conducted online, and syllabi were still handed out on paper. The world had not transferred to the Internet, and books still reigned supreme.

But, as time went on, it became apparent that the work I needed to do needed to be done on my own, personal computer—a P.C. I didn’t even consider an Apple. I didn’t even think about it. And, I got one, and I liked it.

When I started working at the school newspaper, I was re-introduced to Macs. But their Macs crashed all the time. You’d be working on a layout or editing a story, and bam, the computer would freeze and all would be lost. There were many cries of anguish and frustration in that newsroom, and Macs—especially when using the layout program Quark Xpress—were the bane of meeting deadlines. My internship at a local newspaper had me work on an old Apple—actually, the original Apple Macintosh, which was the company’s rebirth model, and the beginning of a movement.

Soon, Apples—or, rather, Macs—became associated with art and design, with journalism and photography, with anything a little more quirky, techie or artsy. Every newsroom I worked in was Mac-based. I became so accustomed to working on a Mac, that I forgot all about my little old desktop PC, which was collecting dust in my grandmother’s garage. I bought my first Mac in 2003—a G4 Desktop with a Super Drive. And, with that purchase I became a completely transformed person. I was now a Mac user. And I could never turn back.pmg4graphite

So here, six years later, I have a new job outside of a newsroom, away from artsy, geeky, techie types. I work in state government, and apparently they have a contract with Dell. So that’s what I got. And I have been flummoxed ever since. I can’t get the shortcuts right. I can’t figure out how to see my desktop when I have multiple windows open. I can’t easily switch from one program to another. It’s maddening. And, while I’m sure it wouldn’t be too hard to learn the ways and means of my new operating system, there is a big part of me that has been taken up in major opposition. Much of my body—indeed, my cells—do not want to use a PC. We, as a whole, prefer the Mac. It’s prettier, it’s user friendly, we are familiar with all of its quirks and shortcuts and doodads. We like it.

So, I put this out to my Facebook friends: Mac or PC? And, I got some interesting results. The first of which was: “Mac, you’re kidding, right?”

Of my 30 respondents, 14 proclaimed Mac, and I mean proclaimed. This was the interesting part of the informal poll.

Those who responded they preferred Macs did so with gusto. Examples: Mac!!! mac!!!!! mac, baby! Mac, all the way!Mac for sure 🙂 Mac Mac Mac.

Others used their response as an opportunity to take jabs at PC users, such as: “Definition of PC user: someone who has never used a Mac.” and “Mac. Todd has a PC and it makes me a little crazy.”

The majority of those who responded with PC as their answer, did so abruptly with a simple “PC” as a reply, or accompanied with needed justification like: “PC but only because the software at work doesn’t run on a MAC. :(,” and “pc. Cheaper,” which seems to endorse Macs over PCs, too. Justification is necessary when defending your choice to use a PC, but enthusiasm is exerted when declaring your preference for Macs. Interesting.

There were a few respondents who said they used both for different purposes and did not lean one way or another. And there was one who responded, “Pepsi.”

My non-scientific conclusion would be that people who use PCs do so because they need to for work or because it is less expensive than a Mac, but the PC users are not excited about their computers. They have not had this great marketing ploy attacking their cells since they were seven years old, and do not hold their computer choice as dear as Mac users do. Mac users are loyal and enthusiastic about their computers. They regard their computers as more than useful tools. Macs are accessories, status symbols, marks of identity. Macs stir up emotion. And, we all have Steve Jobs to thank for that. Thanks Steve!

Christmas Card Friends

I’ll never forget the time I was in anguish about some friend drama when I was in my early 20s, and a close friend of mine said something along the lines of: sometimes friends just become Christmas Card friends.

At the time I scoffed a bit at this comment. I couldn’t imagine any of my close friends, no matter how much drama came with them, demoting themselves to Christmas card-only status. And I didn’t even sent out Christmas cards.

Alas, the time has come when the wise words once spoken have come true. I now have a handful of Christmas card friends. They were once close, but time and distance has ceased regular conversation. We now only get correspondence in the form of Christmas cards. The friend who explained this phenomenon has become one of them. Actually, we don’t even do much of the card exchange anymore.

It’s hard to see friends come and go. People you thought were once so close they could be a sibling become distant memories. People you thought would be your best friend forever or your maid of honor at your wedding didn’t even RSVP. But, this is what happens. Lives change. People change. Paths diverge. It happens to everyone.

I do say, though, that Facebook has created this notion of closeness to friends whom I have not been in touch with in 15 years at least. It’s an interesting social experiment. I don’t necessarily feel closer to these people, but I suppose it deletes the need to have much small talk at high school reunions. You can just get down to the nitty gritty of why you lost touch to begin with and how amazing it is that Facebook brought us all back together again.

In fact, I’ve been thinking that high school reunions are going to become obsolete because we can all peer into each others’ lives through Facebook. How much real conversation are you going to have with someone you haven’t seen in more than a decade once you’ve gotten past that initial cocktail party chit chat? Take this out of the equation and is there really anything else to talk about?

I’d rather just send a Christmas card.

The Gloved One Shakes Cyberspace

From CNN: How many people does it take to break the Internet? On June 25, we found out it’s just one — if that one is Michael Jackson.”

The news of Michael Jackson’s death on Thursday apparently rocked cyberspace. There was so much commotion online through social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, that servers struggled to keep up with traffic. It was a cyber log jam, an equivalent of rush-hour merging from I-5 to I-405 near Irvine.thriller-michael-jackson

As the use of these sites increases globally, the effect they have can be seen when events like yesterday’s happen. Even the wunderkind, Google, had trouble managing its intense traffic flow.

Michael Jackson was an icon. That is an understatement. He was loved and abhored in equal parts around the globe. I can recall flickers of images of screaming teenagers in Japan aching to get a glimpse of him in the ’90s. And I can also recall how the new Thriller cassette felt in my young hands. I remember the freedom I felt dancing alone to PYT (Pretty Young Thing) and Beat It. Michael Jackson had a firm grip on my early youth only bested by Madonna.

To my generation who grew up witnessing his transformation he seemed beautiful, odd, misunderstood and incredibly cool (all at different times, of course). Even though it has been quite some time since I have listened to any of his music, I know that it remains a seminal feature in my evolution as an American girl who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s.

His life was at once beautiful and tragic. But we have to also think that he may at last be at peace. However, it is clear that he can still make a crowd go into hysterics, as witnessed in cyberspace on the day of his death.

‘Think Before You Tweet’

I love this article from today’s USA Today about the evolving etiquette on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s an excerpt:

“We’re in the ‘whee!’ stage of social networking. The trend for 2010 is that everyone is going to cut back, filter, decide whether we really need to follow 1,000 people if they’re not interesting. Next year, only the best tweeters survive.”

Read the article here.

Twitter vs. Facebook

The more I Twitter, the less I Facebook.”

I follow @susanorlean on Twitter, and this was her deft post today. It caught my eye because I am the opposite. The more I Facebook the less I Twitter. But what comes next is interesting. She wonders if she Twitters more because she would rather blast out her commentary to a more faceless audience than the more intimate community on Facebook.

This is something to think about in how we communicate and how these activities affect the way we communicate with each other. Does it bring us truly closer together? Does it provide the adequate wall of separation so we can be enabled to share our true selves? Or are we just projecting some sort of avatar self, someone who we want to be, who we think we should be, but can only be when we are online? Perhaps this is an easier task in a world where people don’t really know you or what you’re talking about.

I have one more think to add regarding this Twitter vs. Facebook duel. I once attempted to attract friends to Twitter saying it was low-maintenance and much less involved than Facebook, which, as everybody knows, draws you in and won’t let you out. But now that I am caught in the clutches of Facebook it seems pointless to Tweet. What else do I need to broadcast? And my audience is exponentially smaller.

I like having a soapbox. Now I have three. I Tweet when I need to make a quick chirp into the ether. I Facebook when I want to expand on that chirp to a known group of friends and acquaintences from all my past lives. I blog when I need to process and extrapolate. All in all, I get my communication needs met. And I thank you for putting up with all of them.

Here’s an aside:

These applications or time consumers, more like it, have become verbs. In addition, their presence as created an entire lexicon of verbiage to be thrown around, such as Tweeting and Facebooking. I wonder when the Associate Press Stylebook will come out with a new addition that includes a special section detailing how to appropriately use these new terms. It happened with website and e-mail and the like, but things have turned on their heads. We may even need a new dictionary.

Facebook Nation Part III

This will be my last post regarding Facebook, at least for the time being. I promise.

In the meantime, here is some background.

Pretend it is 2002 again. Yes, that is seven years ago. What were you doing? Who were you friends with? What were they doing? Me, I was joining Friendster. You probably never heard of Friendster. It was Facebook’s grandmother’s love child. A co-worker, whom I held in high esteem, turned me on to this website in which I could be “friends” with all of my “friends” on Friendster. It truly was a novel idea. I could post comments, invite other friends to join and have a little network all my own—my own Friendster world that included my friends from far and near. We all would reconnect online in this virtual community and relive college or high school or last night’s emptying of bottles of vodka. It was a great idea. I was fully on board.

I had perhaps 50 friends—at the most—in my Friendster network. The network itself was cool in that it showed how different friends or non-friends were linked together through other people. A true outing of the chain that links us all together. I went through my email address book and urged everyone I knew to join Friendster. This new thing would revolutionize the way we socialized and kept in touch.

Soon, another friend urged me to check out her MySpace profile. I distinctly remember thinking that this MySpace website was nowhere near as interesting as Friendster, and there was no need for me to be involved in the MySpace experience. After all, she was my only friend on MySpace. The crowd remained lodged at Friendster. I did join MySpace that day, however, just to keep abreast of what this one friends was up to. (I have always been distractingly interested in my friends’ happenings.) Plus, I was a copy editor, the more screen breaks I could get from the daily drudge of potential newspaper articles was welcoming.

So,  now I had an active profile on Friendster and another not-so-active profile on MySpace. Yet, I had few friends who were truly interested in also being active participants in the online friend world that went beyond instant messaging on MSN and Yahoo! Instant Messanger, so soon, my activity waned. I became comfortable with standard modes of keeping in contact with friends and relatives: email, telephone, personal visits, and even snail mail. I felt good about this. I felt in touch. We won’t even have to mention my brief association with Flickr.

Then, twin babies and a move to Iowa came along. At the same time a maelstrom of technological change swept over the nation, and my head was buried in the sand. It no longer became enough to email or talk on the phone. You now had to send text messages through your cell phone. You also had to post short video clips on YouTube to get any notice. But I was delayed and distracted by diapers and spit up and Baby Einstein and sleepless nights. My social interaction became null and void.

And when I started graduate school in the fall of 2007 I was confronted with a new reality. Facebook.

I didn’t even know what Facebook was at first. I sort of understood it to be something along the lines of MySpace, but I thought everyone was on MySpace. How many social networking sites does the world need anyway? A few weeks of scholarly research later, I discovered that Facebook really had grabbed ahold of the market. It had a history—and a following. It was so popular that presidential candidates were using it to get their messages out to the people. The politicos had tapped into this communication medium in a way that actually made sense to people because this was how people were communicating with each other.

I was shocked. I could not believe that in my absence from the living world everyone had gravitated to Facebook. Why had they not just latched on to MySpace or Friendster? Why had they waited so long? Why Facebook, and why can’t we just go back to talking on the phone and emailing? Life was complcated enough!

It seems strange now, thinking back, that I felt such hostility toward a silly website (to which I am now, I admit, addicted). But I was indeed being forced to shift my mode of communication—to conform to others’ preference with which I was not comfortable. And then the peer pressure began. “Why are you not on Facebook?” “Won’t you just join Facebook? Then we can just keep in touch.” “Everybody is on it, you should get on it, too.”

I resisted for more than a year. I tossed the invitations out like moldy bread. I told everyone, and myself, that I had issued a boycott against Facebook, not just to the site itself, but to what it stood for. I wanted real communication. Real intereaction. Realness. Not virtual, cyberspace blather that clogged the fiber optic cable running underneath the Pacific Ocean. The truth, as it turned out, was I missed my friends. I missed my network, and I was more than perturbed that people had not joined up during the Friendster era, or even the MySpace era. That they had collectively jumped on the Facebook bandwagon and taken it for the proverbial ride through the park without me. And, not only that, but in order to be kept in the loop I needed to join. There would be no other way in which I could be intimately involved in my friends’ lives without joining Facebook. What an outrage!

But then I succumbed. I joined. It’s old news by now, and I have recovered from the initial shock of it. I have accepted my fate. My redemption is the recovery of relationships with friends, some of whom I have not seen or spoken to in 15 years. It’s an interesting undertaking, and there’s much less responsiblity that goes into it now than I had during the Friendster years. I am no longer the pusher, I am a joiner, or perhaps a follower. And, while I would still rather catch up on the last 15 years with that girl from high school over a beer or a cup of coffee, I will take what I can get. And that is Facebook.

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