TMI? Or not…

November 22, 2008

I am sitting here on Saturday morning sipping tea (but not doing the morrising dancing…) and I have just learned that a senior manager at work is having sausages and waffles for breakfast, along with orange juice. If you had asked me five years ago if I’d ever be tapped into the dietary tendencies of what were (in that place, time and environment) were called “suits,” I’d have laughed you out of my office.

Now the question is, “What, if anything, to do about it?” I mean, let’s face it people, I have strongly held opinions about sugar which basically boil down to “it’s bad for you and makes you diabetic.” But, Mike’s breakfast isn’t my business, much as I approve of sausages, well, in moderation. All those nitrites are bad for you too.

All this information we are accumulating from facebook or any other social networking tool could be a good thing. It could be a bad thing, too, if we, as consumers of information, use it inappropriately.

I’m not going to go on a tirade about sugar during the next New Media tag-up. I promise. For one thing, you all now know exactly how I feel about it without me having make a scene or jump up and down shouting medical terms as if they were curse words.

On the other hand, some people might be offended by what I just said, especially if they draw the obvious conclusion that I’m an unrepentant carnivore whose diet would appall Dr. Harold C. Thompson, Osteopathic Family Physician. Yes, I am taking a pot shot at him for not paying more attention to the recent research in the field of nutrition and I am assuming he’s doing so because it is out of sync with what they tell you in med school. (Taboo topic, also it calls into question whether what doctors have told people for the last 50 years might be a direct cause of disease or even death. TOTALLY taboo, man, LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU….!)

So now I’ve given all kinds of people who might disagree with me good reason to think that by their lights I’m a skulking Neanderthal just waiting to club the next Bambi that jumps out in front of my car on Langley Blvd and drag it, slavering and drooling, back to my lair. If they were inclined to see people like me that way. Neanderthals, by the way, would pass unnoticed on the subway and probably be just fine with living in a modern society, if they hadn’t died out for reasons not quite known. They weren’t bad sorts, and they were almost certainly not the beasts I evoke simply by writing “Neanderthal.”

Maybe we’ll develop different sets of social boundaries. For instance, because Facebook allows folks to post stories and videos about their support/opposition to Prop 8, and because I know they are NOT evil people, I choose not to bring up topics that might offend them, at least to their faces. I have a secret weapon, lurking in plain sight, that allows me to navigate social minefields. I’ve seen what they posted and I’ve paid ATTENTION to it. I know what not to bring up if I want that person to keep me in the “worth listening to” category.

In the early days of the internet marketing frenzy people talked about eyeballs. It was considered enough just that someone’s optic nerve carried your ad message to the brain. whether or not the brain-gate let it in. What they hadn’t thought of, or were deliberately glossing over, was that a retinal image!=perception. In those days more “eyeballs” would be enough equal to perception, because there was nothing better to compare it to. These days, Facebook knows your age and gender and is unashamed about targeting ads that might interest you. As a forty*mumble* female, non-parent, many of these things are not up my alley. My man is not pulling away from me. I don’t need clothes for my kids. But my cat sure loves “The Original Scratch Lounger” that I bought because I saw an ad for it on Facebook and it actually looked like something my cat would like.

I continue to ignore nearly all ads that pop up, but I do not ignore what my associates say on their pages, even if I disagree with their positions strongly. Someone else can post things to their social networking sites in an attempt to change hearts and minds, I prefer more subtlety. Rather than post anti prop-8 videos or stories, I might just join a group that supports the rights of GLBT people. If Facebook provided Groups and knew they’d be used that way, they are smarter than I thought. It would be a master stroke. Users just join the groups that express aspects of who they are and quietly have them in the background. Not much actually happens on these groups, people seem content merely to have their membership visible somewhere, and because there’s a fair amount of agreement between these folks there isn’t actually much to talk about. “I like Pizza!” “Me Too!” “What kind?” “Pepperoni!” “Me Too!” “Ah, dude. See you…”

So far, so good. Facebook members seem to emphasize the positive in their online relationships, and quietly let the disagreements fly under the radar. On UseNet, however, it is exactly the opposite. UseNet flame wars are legendary and can go on for years. Those of us who don’t like conflict tend to deal with this by killfiling posters who offend us rather than get dragged into trying to have the last word, because the last word is UseNet Victory, in a dog-eat-dog knock down drag out world. It’s that way because there are no natural, personal contexts. There are few natural alliances between people, because the only common factor between to users of a group will be a common interest. Unless one of them is a spammer. Or a psychopath.

That said, UseNet groups populated by interesting people with specialized knowledge can be extremely useful, if you’re willing to wade through, or set up plumbing to dispose of, all the Crap.

Blogs attract commentary somewhere between Facebook and UseNet. I’ve seen some humdinger flame wars on blogs, but not as much as in UseNet. You can learn a lot about someone from their blog, and people tend to read blogs of people with whom they agree. But there’s a fair bit of cross-pollination, too. Folks find themselves looking at a blog of someone they don’t know, don’t care about and may have no connection to at all. Ironically, it seems that people who don’t like each other and know it often don’t bother reading each others blogs and fighting. There seems to be a need for a certain amount of personal distance before someone will invest the time, energy and emotional effort to try and knock some sense into someone they don’t know but who appears (to them) to be suffering from severe recto-cranial inversions.

Not to pick on Missionaries, well to do so but please don’t take it personally, don’t stay close to home, they go far away to change people they don’t know and turn them into people who are just like them. They perhaps know the magnitude of the battle they’d face to change those hearts and minds, and fallaciously conclude it is easier to change the heart and mind of a stranger. It might actually be, after all they’re still at it. But usually there’s more to it than that, often the missions have other humanitarian goals that make it more likely the target will come around to your way of thinking. Food and medicine are two big incentives, there. But the Mormon or Witness does not show up on your door with a loaf of bread and some nice Chevré. I have heard tall tale scale stories about the lengths to which people will go to avoid missionaries who aren’t bringing anything they want, or might like to have, besides their message. That message is usually “Ur doin’ it rong, Iz will helps you.” If you accept that premise, thn you are not only deciding you’re doing it wrong but also putting yourself into a hierarchal relationship with someone who doesn’t know you from a hole in the wall and who had the sheer, unmitigated gall to come up to your door and question your judgment. (That’s the knockee’s perspective, not the knocker’s.) No wonder people hate it when a missionary shows up. Even more than they hate spam (essentially the same thing, just electronic) in their mailbox. We all have confidence in our minds and our worldviews, and we don’t want other people telling us we should change them, even if they are nice about it.

I think what I’ve worked myself around to is the philosophy of my first Internet company: “If you want to do business with us, you have to give us something for free.”

We are not the Internet company here, we are the missionary. What do we have that is cool enough that the “kids” will want it? If you’ve read this far I am both amazed and flattered at your attention. This post is clearly too long unless there is an alignment between you and me of interest and incentive.

Videos were brought up the other day. I watched one of the department videos, and it seemed be nicely produced but I’ll be damned if I can remember who or what was in it. The ATK motor launch, however, garnered a fair bit of attention. Lesson: If we want their attention, we have to blow stuff up. We have to make it easy for them to see us blowing stuff up.

I am not kidding.

Seriously! But to go back to the original question. How much information is too much information. Each of us makes that decision every time we post. Of course, don’t put up anything you wouldn’t want published on the New York Times front page. (BACON! My husband brought me Saturday Morning Bacon!! OMG! Nitrites! Salt! YUMMMMM) Will we wind up with personnel policies that address whether you can mention your TMI on Facebook? Will blurring the line between the work blog and the home blog make us work together more effectively or bring more personal bias into professional decision making processes? Would that be any different that those biases that occur when we socialize at holiday parties, go to branch picnics or find ourselves wishing so and so wasn’t our supervisor so we could hang out more often?


3 Responses to “TMI? Or not…”

  1. mpfinneran Says:

    Now here’s an interesting site:

  2. chakaal Says:

    OK, I’m sorry I called you a “suit.” You can stop the TMI links, now…

  3. mpfinneran Says:

    TMI revisted: “How information flows through an online network isn’t always clear until suddenly it is made mortifyingly obvious.” A Pew post at

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