I have a Facebook account; or, rather, not-Clio does. I don't like Facebook. In fact, I started an account about three years ago when the summer seminar I attended had hoped to use it for communicating group messages, then I deleted it. I think Clio might have had an account then, too, but it also went into the bin.
The whole thing feels creepy on a level just below the surface of conscious. Sometimes, not below, either, as when I see postings from other people that say "[Friend] just read an article on Snooki in the New York Times" or some such type of notice, and you know that the [Friend] did not necessarily want the world to know about their Jersey Shore addiction. Then, people pass all these "quizzes" along for fun, and I'm certain that quizzes just plug you into advertisers or Homeland Security or who knows what else. I've learned to deal with the ads for all sorts of shit, and I wonder what on earth I posted or said or stumbled on that would make the advertising algorithm think that I want to meet "Lonely, Married, Christian MILFs" or some other such nonsense. I laugh out loud at the limits of their cyberpsychic formulas when they offer up the professor who sexually harassed me (and that was the least of his ethical sins) as someone I might want as my "friend." That guy is NO ONE's friend.
Yet, I started a new account for not-Clio to publicize her blog, to maintain professional connections at a comfort level suited to may abysmal social skills, and to keep my parents off of my back (if they see I've passed along a history news story, or posted in not-Clio's blog, or posted pictures of my visits to places, they don't pester me with "why don't you write? Why don't you call?"). I'm also learning that a lot of people out there have no idea about the line between personal and professional (of course, they are all at a stage in their careers when they have tenure and endowed chairs and such so they can do whatever the hell they want), and I myself am learning how to balance the two. Clio Bluestocking Tales is for the personal, and I am more myself as Clio than as not-Clio. Not-Clio, as I have said before, has the professional claim. I had a weird moment when I realized that the divide worked on the internet, but not when the internet intersected with real life. People who knew not-Clio in person but who were not part of her professional network wanted to be "Friends" with not-Clio, and directing them to Clio was too tedious, so I had to devise a way of negotiating the two.
I'm constantly reminded of the need to negotiate the overlapping persona on Facebook because Facebook can show you some sides of your "Friends" or their "Friends" that you wish you didn't know about in order to maintain a polite discourse and pursue your purpose in starting an account in the first place. People from your past show up, and you become Facebook friends out of curiosity, to catch up, and you realize that a lifetime of different experiences has led you to entirely different value systems. That, or you remember the reasons that they are in your past and not your present.
For instance, two friends of a friend, both whom I used to know, consistently make comments that are so smug, self-important and narrow that I wonder why I ever knew them in the first place. In another case, I knew that Komen foundation was under pressure from the anti-choice groups a few months before they yanked funding from Planned Parenthood because a childhood friend, whom I haven't seen since 1980, posted a petition asking Komen to do just that. A colleague from my last job seems to be a far right Republican -- not raving Tea Partier, but definitely caught in the Republican tropes of "Obama is a socialist" to the point that you see there really is a logical continuum between the old school conservatives and these extremists. Plus, you would think a person with advanced degrees in history and political science might know the definition of "socialism" and see that Obama ain't it. This was not something that I knew about at work, but I want to maintain those contacts at those schools.
The thing that I hate the most, however -- the kind of posts that make my blood boil -- are the college sports ones. People, some of whom I thought better of, use their college logos for their avatars, post updates on the games as they proceed, and actually follow the high school recruiting going on and on and on about the luck of their school getting this kid who can kick a ball a mile without any reference to this kid's ability to pass a class or actually get the return on the education that is allegedly his pay for the use of his talents. Right now, one school has just changed their logo, and some of these ostensible friends are heavily invested in critiquing it, saying it looks too much like Penn State's logo. The resemblance isn't what bothers them so much as the association with the abuses there.
I suppose this is their tribute to four of five wonderful years of their youths, but it seems somehow unbalanced, unthinking, or juvenile to me. What I want to do is reply to them. I want to say, "how much money went into this logo change and how much went into the library? Or cost-of-living salary increases for employees?" I want to say, "you may have condemned the abuses at Penn State, but your worship of a team at a school that you have not attended in two decades, creates the same sort of atmosphere that allows such abuses to occur."
But, I don't. Something about maintaining a professional tone, a non-confrontational position, dispassion for all but my research, restrains me. That's something I never really learned: how to disagree politely and dispassionately but firmly. I suppose in most of these cases, there is no point, no reason to be political about the anti-choice or mindless invocation of talking points, no tangible goal in telling the footballers that their relationship to their alma maters is out of sync with the school's actual mission -- which ain't, as Historiann always says, running a farm team for the NFL. I didn't consent to hand over all of my deepest personal information to the FB gods to be combative.
I went on it to let others know about my research, so I try to stick to that and other things related to history and writing. That part has worked. I would like a bigger audience for the blog, but I suppose that will come and of course I should post more regularly than once a month for that to happen. I've also maintained and built contact with other people who research in the same area that I do, and we are putting together panels for conferences. So, in that respect, this has been a mild success.
Still, I wonder what historians in 100 years will make of all of this, and I especially wonder how they will study this weird interplay of public and private, what people share and what they don't, how they share and how they don't, and the consequences of having all of this information fogging up the internet.
Anyway, I've been slacking on my progress in the chapter this week after last week having been so effective. My meds are kicking back in, thank goodness! Today, I'm going to keep track of the amount of time I spend goofing off because I think I do way more of that than I allow myself to admit. I suppose I should shut off the wireless switch on my computer, too. I have to write a proposal for a conference paper, on top of that, which means that I have to figure out what new I'm bringing to the conversation. I'm very poor at articulating that because I become so immersed in my own writing that I sometimes forget that this idea, the one I had, is new and kind of original, so I have a difficult time explaining the reasons that it is new and kind of original. I'm very myopic that way.