Correspondence

A green thought bubble
A friend of mine accused me of being old school today.

Lately I’ve been sending friends U.S. Mail letters.

I think that getting a piece of paper in the mail is appreciated a little more than a missive in e-mail. It’s got some substance that you can decide to save in a scrap book when it comes from someone special. I treasure the letters I got from my grandmother.

When you read the letter, you’re seeing more than merely the traces of my fingers on a keyboard tidied up by a spell checker. You can see that there is a real human that you are communicating with.

What’s more romantic? Getting an email from your date thanking you for a nice evening or a physical card expressing gratitude in a flowing cursive script?

I’m not real enamored with “internet time.” The passage of time gives some perspective. I’m less likely to go on a circuitous rant about the current political dispute if I take 10 minutes writing in ink. I’m not going to hit “send” with some half-baked whining that I’ll regret 10 seconds later.

Time has great power. I don’t take enough of it. When I write a letter, you know that it’s something from the heart.

Vulnerable

Thought bubble
In the book “Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other,” Sherry Turkle said “With some exceptions, when we make ourselves vulnerable we expect to be nurtured.” (p. 235) She’s referring Erik Erikson and the expectations coming from basic trust. That’s something that’s completely counter to the way that the Internet often works. For the most part, any time you put yourself out there, you’re at risk of being attacked or ridiculed rather than built up and comforted.

One place for this risk comes from places that encourage intimacy. It’s not always easy to trust people to begin with. Letting your guard down out there in the social media dystopia isn’t always safe. If one makes comments that might be too hard to share in person, it can still end up hurting.

One reason for this is that anonymity allows people to be more negative and exhibit the dark tetrad personality traits when, in person, they wouldn’t act out. To them, the idea that people have feelings or that they are afraid of being humiliated is alien. Often, the enemy only feels good by getting some lolz.

Sometimes you can find a community of like-minded people where you can be safe. This reflects Sherry’s comment “Communities are places where one feels safe enough to take the good and the bad.” (p. 238) I’ve found some, like deviantART, are different than most social media. One reason is that to belong there, you have to put in some work. You can’t just repost an inane meme and belong. A member of dA is a creator. A pretender just looks around and is lurking.

Every time you get in front of a computer screen and post something on Twitter or Facebook, it’s possible to misstep and be misunderstood catastrophically.

Dreaming

Lightning bolts striking To The Right Right To The Left left. Two images Layered making this 30 sec, 250 ISO – f5.6 – 90mm. (C) 2011 James Bo Insogna


Last night, I had some really realistic dreams. While thinking about dreams from the past, it seems that, depending on a person’s strengths and experiences, a dream might contain different symbols.

For example, an effect of experience: I was really successful at taking tests when I was in school. A consequence of that is that I never have dreams about an unexpected test coming up or the anxiety of getting there late.

An effect of strengths: Often my dreams include text. While I can recognize the words on the page, if I look away and look back again, the words have all changed. I can’t remember the message. Apparently my brain’s system that recognizes words and letters is closer to my core than the semantic part that understands them.

One feature of my sleep is that I often have “hypnogogic hallucinations:” I start dreaming before I’m actually asleep. Past experiences have usually been the face of a single person that appears and then vanishes. Recently, the images include two people instead of one. I wonder what that change signifies?

Last night, my dreams were hyper-realistic. Everything was really detailed and pretty mundane. Nothing was bizarre or mixed up. For example, I saw a rain shower in the distance. I could see the edges of where the rain was falling and the dark clouds that were above them. In the dream, I was picking up some papers because the approaching storm could scatter them. They looked like real pieces of papers and as I piled them together, they didn’t do something strange such as transforming into a bird or a monster.

One aspect of last night’s dream was anxiety about a tornado coming. In the past I’ve had real tornadoes coming near me. Eventually, I had one pass directly over where I was hiding and I never had a tornado dream again. I didn’t see one last night, but I was worried that one might come.

Original image: To The Right Right To The Left left. By Bo Insogna, TheLightningMan.com [Image license]

Listening

I’ve learned that when people close to me are skeptical about a task I want to do, listening is a wonderful skill.

I was going to take two classes this summer, but listening showed me that that’s probably not a good idea.

I think it would be cool to build a photographic collection of hubcap designs. One part of the project would photograph the front and back of the car so that I could look up the car’s year. Listening said that that’s probably going to creep some people out, so perhaps it’s not a good idea.

The product of two minds is probably better than one. It only adds up.

The Facebook Experience

I used to have a facebook account, but was very dissatisfied. I wasn’t comfortable with its addictive nature. Also, more often than not, I was self-conscious about adding information that didn’t fit social norms in times of stress.

It seemed that people preferred to submit clever graphics and people could leave the real “them” out. Just put up a facade–all is well. The last straw for me was when they suggested that I might be employed by a fellowship I belong to.

The reason the facebook topic came up with me again is that a course at IUPUI that I was thinking of taking included facebook postings as part of the coursework. I didn’t really want to get an account again. Hence the conflict.

 

Dr. BJ Fogg at Stanford University has studied persuasive technology. He calls it captology. His definition of persuasive is slightly different than the natural one. Persuasive means to cause a desired behavior. It isn’t about the cognitive persuasion to think about an issue a certain way. In his method, you pick a behavior you want to increase, make it easy to do and then prompt the behavior. The behaviors can be tiny such as to click a “Like” button or complex and have you to log in and update your content.

Facebook uses persuasive technology to increase income for the company. The users of facebook need to encourage people to advertise there. “Like” is a simple behavior. It seems to indicate that you’re engaged with a vendor’s products and services. On Veritasium, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVfHeWTKjag suggests that a “like” may not be what it seems.

The part where I get uncomfortable is that facebook has covert information that it can use to manipulate the interaction. People think of the website interacting solely with them, but with billions of users, facebook knows how people act in aggregate and can notice how to make a change with a tiny impact but is statistically significant. By combining these impacts, they can be manipulative and do it without being detected. They can manipulate the users and they can manipulate the advertisers.

One can’t be naive and think that facebook does things are solely for the benefit of its users. When one starts a post and then erases it, facebook’s software can notice. Since they know when this happens, they can find ways to encourage people add content more freely. They also target what you see to what they know you are more likely to attend to and not what you might value.

They knew that many of my friends belonged to a fellowship, so it was natural to blindly propose, to me who hadn’t listed an employer, that I might be employed in the same place.

With facebook they are capable of knowing more about you than you can imagine. They use that to make their shareholder’s wealthy. When I see an ad on YouTube, I know it is an advertisement. I can ignore it if I want. If you’re being persuaded to participate in advertising without knowing that you are being marketed to, that’s where the facebook experience is letting the smoke and mirrors conceal the real interaction. In “Captology and the Friendly Art of Persuasion” by Lynn Griener (*) comments “Advertisers may, for example, be able to get away with sneaky and intrusive tactics” and that “facebook must play it straight.” However, with huge data resources and insatiable stockholders, facebook’s straight can be pretty crooked.

(*) Greiner, Lynn. “Captology and the Friendly Art of Persuasion,” NetWorker, Fall 2009. doi: 10.1145/1600303.1600306