Thursday, September 1, 2011

Facebook Deletions

Recently I've spotted a couple of Facebook related things that I think, for pretty obvious reasons, are a growing trend. Firstly there's the phenomenon of people leaving comments and statuses (or should that be statii?) then deleting them shortly afterwards. Secondly is when people "untag" themselves in photographs, after being tagged by someone else.

I'm one of those types who likes to watch people, to try to analyse how they behave, hopefully to use that information in my future dealings with them. Man management, something I try to do every day, is all about that, about trying to find the buttons that need to be pushed to get an individual to respond the way you want.

So I find it fascinating, often amusing, but always revealing, when someone "says" something on a FB wall and then promptly retracts it.

Now I'm no expert but I do know that the virtual world doesn't work like that. In real life, or IRL as those gamers say, we can say a sentence to someone and then retract it and, unless we've been recorded on camera or have put pen to paper, it's only our words and other people's memories that will bear testimony to the fact. I can call you an insulting name, then apologise and make friends and usually we move on and all is okay.

But the virtual world has both evidence, like google cache, backups and all that sort of malarkey, as well as a dubious and dangerous lack of emotion; a potent combination at times. Let's face it, most of us are severely limited in the way we choose to portray our actual feelings online. There are those emoticon things which you kids throw around with gay abandon and there's "LOL". That's about it.

So when someone leaves a slightly dodgy status on Facebook the rest of us rarely know what level of emotion is attached to that status. We don't know if the person is being sarcastic, deadly serious, full of pathos, or any other of the three musketeers.

I saw many pretty vitriolic comments a few weeks ago referring to the recent riots in the UK. Harsh, but fair enough I thought. If people, many in Sri Lanka, feel that way then it's up to them. I find them offensive and puerile, but that's merely my opinion. Others will, and did, disagree.

But I was amused to see a couple of these get deleted by their writers shortly after they were published. One person left a comment on my wall saying "I really feel for the millionaires trying to understand all this anger" in response to a jokey status I'd written about Boris Johnson and David Cameron flying in from their holidays.

I thought the comment was a weird one, strangely bitter but not such a big deal. The fact that the author deleted it shortly afterwards ensured that it left a far more permanent mark in my memory than if it hadn't been deleted. Ironic I know. And, being the author of the original status, I've kept the original FB email notification that I received.

I also saw one person leave a status along the lines of "serves the UK right for the damage it's done to Sri Lanka", which was removed a little later. I sniggered at this. Because if you think like that then at least have the courage of your convictions. Or is that on reflection you suddenly realised that you might upset your friends in the UK?

Some could say that when the writer deletes a FB comment it's a commendable action and they'd have a point. I've seen people remove remarks that perhaps they've thought about and deemed to be offensive or too insulting. My view though is that the bigger way to behave would be to leave the comment up but to follow it up with an apology, so others can see that you think you make an error and you accept it. Far better than deleting, in effect pretending it never happened.

As for people untagging themselves on pictures, well I risk facing a backlash here, but have only ever seen this done by women, and assume it's vanity. Us men, even vain as hell ones like me, don't care that much. I've had pictures published of myself when I've had my best and most strenuous gurning face on, usually whilst drumming, and though it does bother me slightly, never have I untagged myself.

On the flipside I've seen photographs of some women in which they've had one strand of hair out of place, one face looking a bit ugly, and they've promptly got rid of their name so no one can see who it is. It's a fact that it's only women who do that whole "don't take my picture" putting their hand in front of their face thing. Ne c'est pas?

And a happy September to you. Did you know there are only one hundred and fifteen days to go until Christmas now?


Darwin said...

You shouldn't assume that the reason that many women un-tag photos of themselves has anything to do with vanity. Have you considered that it might have to do with harassment and privacy?

Women, especially Sri Lankan women, grow up with a sense of physical vulnerability that's hard for men, especially Sri Lankan men, to appreciate. This feeling, often confirmed by actual experiences of harassment and assault (a bus ride in Colombo, flashers at the beach etc) can lead, understandably, to a lifetime of low-level wariness and sense of vulnerability that men have trouble appreciating.

So un-tagging a photograph isn't a simple vanity-based decision as 'oh does my bum look big in this swimsuit?'. It's more like 'if I allow this photo of myself in a swimsuit to stay online with my name tagged, how many random pervs will comment on it, email me about it, add me as a friend and send me unsolicited messages and make me feel horrendously objectified'?

This is probably something you have never personally had to encounter, so I don't expect you to empathize immediately. But now that you know, don't be so quick to jump to conclusions about female vanity.

Sorry for the long comment.
(ps: additional reading - excellent essay that makes the same point

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Aloha Darwin - You're absolutely correct when you say that it's hard for most men to appreciate the physical vulnerability you refer.

However, I was talking about something different than people attempting to protect themselves from harassment, which I haven't experienced but do sympathise with.

The instances I've seen are ones in which people who have literally hundreds of photos of themselves tagged and on public display then decide to untag themselves on certain ones. I may well be wrong but I think my assumption that the untagging is vanity related is probably correct.

The treatment of many women on buses and the street etc in Sri Lanka is something I've witnessed many a time and find appalling and backward. No way do I condone it.

Hope you're well!

T said...

It also has to do with not wanting everyone on facebook to know where you were/ what you were doing/who you were with etc. I personally prefer to never be photographed in the first place, specially when I'm out at night, given that you never know where these photographs end up. Also, on facebook, when other people put up photographs of you, you are largely at the mercy of their privacy settings. So if I untag myself, it has less to do with vanity and more to do with being conscious of my public image. I don't want someone to google me (as remote a chance as that may be) and be taken to a picture of me downing tequila shots at a private party. Whether I put up a hundred pictures of myself or not is irrelevant because I have control over who sees my pictures.

Darwin said...

Mahalo RD :)

Ya it is possible that it could be vanity, it's just a bit presumptuous to not give them the benefit of the doubt. For example I do not have a single tagged photo of myself on FB (G+ is a different story, ha!) and if friends do tag photos of me that they have uploaded, I promptly untag it. Not because my hair looks shit or I've got a goofy grin on my face, but because of privacy.

I didn't imply you condoned bus pervs, just wanted to point out there there could be more than one reason for the untagging business, which your blog post did not mention or discuss.

Bimal said...

Some have this nasty habbit of tagging people when they want them to have a look at that picture - whether they are in it or not. I have experienced it myself on a couple of occassions and then untagged myself. Other than that, it doesn't bother me. But then that is just me....