Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Mad Haters Party


On Facebook, my dear friend and long time sweetheart Ada wrote

“ is sad when people you know become people you knew... when you can walk right past someone... like they were never a big part of your life... how you used to be able to talk for hours... and how now... you can barely even look at them... it is sad how times can change!”

No doubt she wasn’t referring to me. But her status message called for sober reflections. Those who know me well enough will attest to the fact that I often stop to ponder about everyday things in life – Religion, History, science and discoveries, Information technology, and every now and then, Politics especially as it concerns my beloved Nigeria. But this time was going to be different. Ada’s comments made me reflect on friendship and how technology has impacted it – especially in recent times.

Gone are the days when the only thing that separated two friends was geographic boundaries, even then, telephone, letters and postcards filled in as an innovative way to bridge the gap. I come from the post “baby boom” era and with hindes sight, I can attest to how these simple technologies fostered a positive bond between people. You will be right to argue that today’s technology of emails and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter deliver a far more exciting mix of rich features that probably lends itself to better relations and bonds. But the way in which it is been used by people is crucial to its value.

How can one value technology? Valuing technology deals with how over time and in particular situations, people come to attach unique values to the tools (technology) at their disposal. Contrary to traditional misconceptions, technology is not just a physical object but a social and political phenomenon – in simple terms, technology is a result of mans creative innovation to create solutions to life’s problems. But the way in which people use the creation also goes a long way to impact the technologies itself. In designer circles, this called ergonomics – how technology incorporates social factors. A good example in everybody’s hands is how the simple telephone and our desire to stay in touch has lead to smart phones (that now incorporates all other everyday gadgets – Music, calendars, Internet, even TV).

Have we digressed? No, I just wanted to lay the foundations for my argument with technology and how it interacts with people. So back to Ada’s status message.

From the foregoing, I am not surprised that different people use available technologies in different ways. Ada's comments made me look back at 2009 and all the “Friending” I did on Facebook and Twitter and came to the conclusion that todays social networking is just a "Mad Haters Party” where people don’t get close because they want to be friends. They typically do so for two reason, and I will explain:-
  1. Nosie Parker
    Many become friends because they just want to poke their nose in your business. They need to know what you’ve been up to, they want to know who you’ve been seeing, where you've been and so on...

  2. Vain Showoffs
    These groups of people are mere exhibitionists who knowingly or unwittingly display an arrogant aura of vanity – They want you to see how enjoyable their lives are, How much God has blessed them, How much fun they are having, How strong their faith is, How smart they are, etc.
I may be wrong but I am sure Ada’s comment had a lot to do with negative vibe that she could not walk away from – something akin to “living With the enemy”, her whole life was suddenly undated with things that reminded her of the enemy – popups that say “Enemy is now online”, “Enemy just logged off”, “Enemy is connected to friend”, or images of Enemy in fun places. One may argue that the best thing to do is to “Unfriend them” but that doesn’t solve the problem, the laws of Social Studies of Technology forbids it – there is really no such thing as “unfriending” on the internet. – ones you are connected, you are connected!!! It doesn’t go away, it just keeps coming. Worse still and perhaps an equalizing/balance for users, is that you can also spy on the enemy. But how many of us are really interested in doing this? Like all of you out there, I do have my own share of “enemies” and I tried to understand what they were doing, why they were doing it, all in a bid to find a good way to unfriend them. And from my personal experience I don’t see any sane way of doing it without confrontation.

Gate Crashing the Haters Bash!

In the past, confrontation would mean to physically approach the enemy and tell them to their face that you don’t want their s****. Most people would have chosen to avoid this because you could only confront you enemy if you could defeat them physically, emotionally or spiritually. confrontation is not for the fainthearted. Today’s realities show that people can easily hide behind technology and perpetuate this heroic act.

Technological designers inscribe their values, rules and logic into their technology, we are therefore forced to act in certain ways when using it. The openness on the internet and its largely unregulated WWW Consortium is a glaring evidence that the internet is an open place where freedom is allowed to an ever increasing and worrying level. Why does Facebook have a like button and not a dislike one? Why does yahoo inform people in my calendar that I am online without telling me who has my name in their calendars or who is casing out my profile page? Why!!! The truth is not far-fetched - and I will elaborate in my subsequent post here.

I am really tired now, and will continue this later… See you round.

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