After reading the Weeks article, I decided that I would use Twitter as the community to which I post my burning question. Surely, someone would respond. After all, my post may not be as dramatic or urgent sounding as the mama-about-to-strangle-her-kid tweet, but I have a few followers and some IRL friends who follow my tweets.
First post . . .no response, so I re-posted (clarifying, simplifying, and improving on the original . . .still no response.
I did not get a single response. Not one. Zero. This leads me to believe that there is truth to what Weeks said, “people will respond to people who sound like they are in trouble — online or off.” There wasn’t anything dramatic or urgent about my query. Perhaps if I posted something like “OMG!! I totally need help w this project! I’m like totally failing + its like due in 2 hours!!” But that is not my style; I don’t have the energy for all that drama. Besides, that post sounded a little too SoCal-Valley-Girl, circa 1983.
Back to the Weeks article, minutes after the tired mama’s tweet, her page blew up, the police even came to visit. Her followers and random tweeps were offering support, condemnation, help and all kinds of advice. The point is, people responded, her community showed up. Maybe because a child was involved, people checked their usual indifference at the door and spoke up. My experience with Twitter was more like the “flattening of relationships” Weeks describes early in the article.
My Twitter experience made me think about the Rosen Article. Specifically the quote, “the activities social networking sites promote are precisely the ones weak ties foster, like rumor-mongering, gossip, finding people, and tracking the ever-shifting movements of popular culture and fad.” My casual request for homework help was not about gossip or rumors or anything as exciting as people searching. If I followed Rosen’s theories on virtual friendship and narcissism, then perhaps I should have composed my tweet like so: “there’s this total beyotch who sits in front of me in class, WTF! She thinks she’s all that. I seriously can’t do my work & her cheap a** perfume is soooo distracting.” That hypothetical tweet would probably warrant some response, but again, not my style. Too much drama/gossip. This tweet sounds too SoCal-Clueless, circa 1995.
The Twitterverse is too big, and there is way cooler stuff going on. My quasi-academic tweet just got lost in the swamp of gossip, narcissism, and drama. So much for having “community” on Twitter.
So, I decided to post in another community. I am a frequent visitor to Corporette. This community bills itself as the “Fashion and Lifestyle Blog for Overachieving Chicks.” That is so me! I found Corporette last year when I was looking for advice on how to dress for OCIs - on campus interviews with law firms.
When I posted my “burning question” to Corporette - I was not ignored. People were posting within the hour. I felt like I was part of a community; like I was having lunch with girlfriends and we were just sharing stories and advice. This kind of “girlfriend – tell it like it is” attitude is the general tone of this site. Just read any of the “Open Threads” and you will see what I mean.
The vibe on the Corporette site is not like the vibe on Twitter. Nor does it seem like comments are “sociotechnical capital” as described in the Bigge article. In that article the author (citing to boyd) explains that the comments on a MySpace page serve as “currency” in that community. The poor, sad, awkward-looking kid sitting at the edge of a table all by himself in the high school cafeteria is the one with the fewest comments on his page. While the rich, popular, cheerleaders and football players in this metaphor are the ones with 100’s of comments a week. Corporette is less like the high school in the above metaphor, and more like a really small charter school where your Auntie is the principal.
I asked if we have “a set of social rules, a code of civility or just plain manners that we live by in our online communities.” I got 8 responses! Yay! That is way better than zero.
Check out the whole exchange here.
Here are the highlights of my conversation:
“I try not to say anything here that I wouldn’t at the very least be willing to say to a friend in an email in response to a similar comment.”Comparing my experiences on Corporette and Twitter made me think of the Albrechtslund article, and the idea that an “[o]nline social networking can also be empowering for the user.” I did not feel empowered at all on Twitter, in fact, I felt a kind of mild, temporary deprersssion, like the kind mentioned in the Internet Paradox article. Then posting on Corporette decreased my depression, also like mentioned in the Internet Parodox article.
“While I enjoy the cloak of anonymity, I try to not say anything that I wouldn’t have my full name attached to. Sometimes it is tempting to post something that reflects what I’m thinking, but if it’s ruder or more judgmental than I think it should be, I try to, erm, contain myself.”
“This community seems to have a rule that you can disagree or criticize things that are under your control, like clothing or makeup, but not aspects that are more hard-wired, like body shape.”
“ Don’t push your own blog too much. Don’t ask for advice then argue with the answers you get. Don’t type too many WORDS all in capital letters or talk about how BALD your managing partner it, especially if his BREATH is bad, too.”
I have to admit the Internet Paradox article was a bit confusing and hard to follow, I feel like I have to read it a few more times to really get it. But what I did get is that there have been some studies that found that Internet use can lead to depression, and some studies found that Internet use could build relationships and communities. Interestingly, I experienced both of these.
Part of this assignment was to ponder “What did this experience allow you to do that you couldn't have done offline?” Based on my Corporette experience, I don’t think there was much difference between what the responses online and what I would have gotten offline in the real world. However, based on my Twitter experience, I would say that the difference is that I probably would not have been ignored in real life. After all, it is rude, bad manners, and against our code of civility as human beings to ignore people when they ask you a question. Which circles us back to my burning question. It is ironic that good manners dictate that one does not ignore someone when asked a question, yet that is precisely what happened to me when I first posted my question on Twitter.