Things to know if you follow me online

This post is more than 3 years old.

If you spend any amount of time following my online adventures - through my blog, Twitter, Facebook, or otherwise - then there are some things you need to know:

  1. Please don't assume that you know me because you read my posts or status updates. I'm not saying this because I think I'm mysterious or hard to know, I'm saying it because I believe reading someone's status updates does not constitute an engaged and genuine human relationship.  I do use the Internet to express myself, but only one very particular slice of myself.  I hope we can talk "in real life" or even via more direct online communication if we really want to get to know each other better.
  2. Please don't assume that I know you because of your posts or status updates. I sometimes try to keep up with what people are saying about their lives on social networking sites, but sometimes I definitely don't bother.  If there's something exciting, hard, important, or otherwise noteworthy happening in your life, you should assume you need to tell me about it in an "old fashion way" (e-mail, phone, letter, in person) if you want me to know or care. (Hopefully I will also be asking you how you are doing once in a while too.)
  3. I have a sense of humor that sometimes doesn't translate very well to written electronic form. Sometimes I type things that sound absolutely hilarious in my head, and come out quite confusing (or even worse, alarming) in pixel form.  I guess you should assume that if something I type sounds weird or problematic, it's just a poorly executed attempt at humor, but you're still welcome to call me out on it.
  4. I don't act on ambient invitations. Just because you think I may have heard about your (non-public) event, gathering or party because other people are mentioning it online or because you mentioned it on Facebook, please don't assume that I think of myself as invited.  This may be old fashioned or even self-absorbed of me, but I generally still want to know directly from someone if they want me in attendance somewhere (and will generally give you back the courtesy of a direct RSVP).
  5. I don't really use Facebook for anything other than status updates.  I generally do not respond to requests for joining causes or groups, and I never accept requests to take quizzes, play games, or send or receive strange little objects via applications.  I often don't have time or interest in responding to comments people post on my status updates.  I know, I know, some people will be like "Dude, you're DOING it wrong," and maybe I am.  Just don't take it personally.
  6. I use for social bookmarking, and you should too. If I see a website link that I think you might enjoy, I'm 27% more likely to follow through on that thought and make you aware of it if you have a account so that I can bookmark it for you there.   If I have to send you an e-mail message, I'm less likely to bother.  I'm sorry, it's lazy, I know, I know.

I realize that this may sound curmudgeonly, especially coming from someone who works with the Internet for a living and who encourages people to use it as a tool for better communication.  But if you do read my blog, you know I feel strongly that we need to be very careful about replacing genuine human interaction with stalking each other on Facebook.

I know it may be futile, but it's important for me to draw some of these lines in the sand about what kind of life I will and will not live online.

If you maintain some sort of presence on the Internet (via Facebook, Twitter, a blog or otherwise), what are some ground rules you set for yourself, and what should people expect (or not expect) from that online existence?

6 thoughts on “Things to know if you follow me online

  1. I think I knew (or at least was at the point I could have inferred) about 67.66% of this. On the whole, I find the 6 heads up to be right on target: Good principles to follow, from my perspective.

    The presentation seems a little more sharp and cutting than the Chris Hardie that I "know." I agree with your overall point that modern media connections offer distorted glances into the souls of our compatriots. . . . But I am also a little skeptical that we get much more clarity in person . . . .

    I think I could write a similar post along the lines "don't assume you know me just because you play ultimate Frisbee with me. . . ." But on some level, how we keep and manage any social situation - even one as lawless as the internet - reflect on who we "are."

    Thanks for the thought provoking post, Chris.

  2. Thomas, you make the good point that the snapshots we get of each other's lives online may not be any *less* useful than the snapshots we get in brief social exchanges we have offline. (They're certainly not any *more* useful IMHO.) Perhaps, then, I'm writing out of an ideal (and a related frustration) that has less to do with the Internet's constraints and more to do with the state of human communication in general. It's just that the Internet and social networking tools in particular have made it *so easy* to pretend that we are really connecting with each other when we're not, at least not in the ways that I think we crave and are wired for as humans.


  3. Chris,
    One of the ways we're wired to connect with others is to bash each others brains out. I've never really gotten into a serious fight, but the less serious ones I have gotten into felt very real.

    Now, does that mean we should privilege these kinds of interactions? (Some do, BTW!) Should we all take up boxing to feel what it's like to punch someone in the face and get punched? I don't think that's necessary or necessarily beneficial.

    Each form of communication has it's benefits and drawbacks, but I don't think the "hard-wired" criterion of what constitutes a good medium is going to get you too far.

    In the end, I come down on the "this sounds curmudgeonly" side. Perhaps in our lifetime we'll have direct brain-to-brain communication. Our brains will rewire themselves for it, or become rewired.

    Sure, you can set your privacy settings however you want, but to those who you share everything with, it could very well outdo every previous form of interpersonal communication in terms of subjective "realness". How does that fit into your hierarchy of geniuneness?

    As for myself (FWIW) the only ground rule I've set is to try to minimize embarrassing stuff for future potential employers to find. I may not be as deep into the internet as you, though, so maybe I just haven't had cause yet to get worried. But I think we have a fundamental difference philosophically on what constitutes reality and real human connection.

  4. Chris - You asked about ground rules we set for ourselves. Mine are the same for the blog as they are for the nonfiction I write:

    1 - tell the "truth" as best as I can recall it, construct it, offer it up.

    1a - get the facts straight.

    2 - Someone else's story belongs to them. Not me. Don't tell it without asking, nicely.

    2a - unless the story is about a public figure, institution, or *ahem* a local newspaper that routinely violates rule 1a and sometimes rule 4 and often rule 5.

    3 - My story intersects with other people's stories; if I need to tell theirs in order to tell mine, write out of a seeking for truth. Not vengeance, not oneupsmanship, not pity, etc.

    4 - Don't make things up.

    4a - Okay, you can make things up if your readers know you are making those things up. My dog, for instance, likes to "write" entries now and then. I trust my readers over the age of, oh, five get the idea that my dog (who does not yet have opposable thumbs) can't really type blog entries.

    5 - Endeavor to write clearly, concisely, with a certain amount of flair that helps the subject come to life. Do not bore your readers.

    6 - Remember that real people do read your blog.

    6a - Forget this fact when you write.

    7 - Never let praise or rotten tomatoes go to your head. Figuratively, that is.

    I think that's it. As a writer first, and blog writer second or third, it's simply fascinating to see what happens when I put a piece of writing up and watch what happens. It either provokes no response, a trickle, a tiny flood, or some passionate responses on and offline.

    Thanks for THIS post, Chris!

  5. I agree with pretty much everything you said. I use Facebook a lot more than you do and I will accept Facebook invitations and Evites as real invitations.

    I too don't like that people think you should know who they are. I mean, we all think we're kind of a big deal, right?

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