A Nerd on Social Media

Obviously I am not trying to be consistent on how often I write here. Not because of a lack of things to say. On the contrary, I think of a lot I feel like writing here. But I generally do that while working, and they tend to frown on writing a blog while driving an 18 wheeler. Pure prejudice really. Plenty of people write their blogs while working, but me, not allowed. Such is life.

So I think of things to write, but remembering them when I have stopped moving and unloading and loading and doing paperwork, with the occasional meal and sleep thrown in, has not worked out too well. And when I do remember what I was thinking about, I am not always ready to write that particular entry at that particular time. It isn’t like I am a professional, getting paid and needing to meet a deadline. Even my most popular posts get maybe a couple of dozen hits before disappearing, so I am really doing this for myself.

For this one, the nerd in the title is me, as if you couldn’t guess. I have been one all my life, not by choice, but by whatever combination of genetics and environment brings it on. In some ways a typical one, poor eyesight, constantly reading, especially SF and Fantasy, extremely poor social skills, if you could call them social at all. In other ways, not so much. Ran track, varsity cross country, varsity wrestler. But it was a small school, we all had to wear more than one hat, and you couldn’t expect someone on the basketball team to take the nerd role, they were all cool.

I realize that these days being a nerd or geek is kind of cool. There is an entire culture of geekery and such that has grown up and together from the IT/tech sector, SF Fandom, and mundanes feeling free to embrace their true interests. This is good, a thriving subculture is a way for people to fit in and find their path in life, and the more the merrier. But none of this was true growing up when and where I did. It is probably not true even now where I am, although the isolation is mitigated greatly by the existence of the web and social media.

Which brings in the other part of the title of this ramble through my mind. The only social media I really use is Twitter. I don’t have a Facebook account, mostly because of their really lousy privacy policies and other terms of service they have messed with, but also partly because it is not really fun to have 10 friend requests in a year, 2 of them from people you have never heard of. And I hated their interface. It did not mesh well with the way my mind tries to handle information.

Now Twitter, that I understand. It is like 10 million (Probably an underestimate.) conversations going on at once, most mundane, some extremely interesting. The hard part of course is finding the ones that interest you, while being open to the mundane one that can turn interesting.

So finding interesting people to follow is paramount. Even most of what they talk about will be fairly mundane, but if they are involved in things that you like, the very ordinary parts of their jobs or daily lives will be of immense interest to you. As a reader, having an exchange on creativity with Kate Elliott (@KateElliottSFF) or reading about Keith R.A. DeCandido’s (@KRADeC) progress on his latest work, is hugely interesting, even as it is very mundane for them.

The same sort of thing goes for the comic book writers, the webcomic writers, the TV writers, the singers, the comedians, etc. So I follow quite a few people, all of them talking about the mundane and the vital, at different times, to different people, and I (along with everyone else on Twitter) can follow along or even, if I am bold enough, interject my own opinion.

That is where the problem lies. Media I can understand. But social and old school nerds do not mix so well, at least in my case. I have improved over the years, made it all the way up to being only mostly socially incompetent even. But progress has its ups and downs, and I am afraid I am currently on a downward leg. And recent events in my life have had me questioning things I thought I knew about social interactions even more. So I have actually been stopping and thinking about some of the stuff I start to tweet, and not doing so at times. But I have apparently not been doing very well.

I received a reply from someone, irritated about something I had done 9 days before. I didn’t really know the person, and a 9 day wait before complaining would have raised my eyebrow. But I would have normally just apologized and tried to remember to avoided doing it again to that person. I am not on Twitter, or any other site for that matter, to annoy people. At least not on purpose. But this was a bit different. Not 15 minutes before, I had received a DM from someone I like and respect a great deal, complaining about almost the same thing. So I was obviously screwing up.

Avoiding the specific thing I was doing is easy enough. But it is causing some issues for me anyway. I see others doing pretty much the same thing constantly, and that is just in the 600 or so people I am following. So I am missing some rules of Twitter etiquette, which I am trying to figure out without much success.

Still, just avoid the one action, things will be fine. Unless I am missing some other rules that will annoy someone else. More and more I find myself thinking, “Should I really reply to that?” or “Maybe I shouldn’t retweet this.” or “That joke might upset them.”  Now instead of deleting 1 in every 10 tweet, I am starting many fewer and deleting probably 75% of those I do start without sending them. And even a couple after I did send them.

So on this huge platform, with tens of millions of users, and billions of tweets, I find myself in the same boat I was decades ago in a small rural high school. There are rules for interacting and I don’t know those rules. I try to understand them, but they are varied, flexible, nuanced, and hard to decipher. So I sit and watch from the sidelines, wanting to join in but knowing if I do, I will get things wrong and most likely upset someone I like. And it would be someone I like, because the only people I follow I don’t like are a couple of politicians that represent me in Congress. (Yes, I admit, I do try to irritate them on purpose, but that is only fair, they irritate me constantly with their lies and hypocrisy.)

And all of this is on a service I have been using for years, and understand fairly well. Facebook? Google+? I haven’t a clue as to how to begin. Pinterest? Nope, not until I figure out the stuff that is easy.

The internet and the web have given nerds and geeks lots of new ways to connect with their fellows, opening up the world to many. But I am afraid it has also give a lot of us more places to look bewildered and stand to the side looking on. Wanting badly to connect with the obvious like-minded souls that are out there, but not understanding how.

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