Tag Archives: texting

Social Media Has Killed Sociability

Creative Commons: by Matt Hamm

A little over one hundred and fifty years ago if you wanted to invite someone over you went to their door, or ran into them at the market. If you were upper class, you sent the servant over with a note saying “Your presence is requested at Miss Abernathy’s for tea tomorrow afternoon.” You might have sent a homing pigeon.

About a hundred years ago, you could get on the party line, or write a letter to invite someone, or use any of the aforementioned tools. This evolved into individual phone lines for everyone and became the preferred way to communicate with people, or to mail an invitation if you didn’t see them in person. About twenty-five to thirty years ago the internet came along. While it made instant chatting available to those people far and wide; relatives, lost loves, old friends, it didn’t work so well for close to home.

You’re probably thinking I’m nuts, but as the internet evolved our social skills devolved. Sure we could talk to someone in outer Timbuktu and more often, but when it came to the friend across the street or in easy access of the phone, we started to resort to email. I’ve always said email is a cross between a phone call and a letter. You can write out more but you don’t get as much interaction with the other person and it can take far longer to explain or describe something by writing than by having a conversation (remember those?). Case in point; I’ve tried with friends to set a date to get together. I email and say, when are you free. In the next week I can do any date but Wednesday. Two weeks later they get back to me and say okay we’ve got this weekend coming up. I get back to them and say I can’t do this weekend. What about this one? They get back to me and say can’t do that. Another flurry of emails, some long delays and six months have passed without getting together. The second time this began I picked up the phone and called them. Matter solved in a few minutes and a date set.

After the internet, we got Facebook and all its ancestors before that. As well we got text messaging. So what’s the best way to interact? Inane daily events are often recorded on Facebook but it’s not real conversation. And while Facebook is great for letting people know of plays, concerts, dances and other large social gatherings it’s not so great for parties and intimate gatherings. I lose the invitations from friends amongst the invitations to every event in the city. And people don’t respond so it might look like three people are coming to your party when thirty-three actually come. People have foregone the courtesy of yesteryear of responding to an invitation.

How bad is this? Recently I wanted to go see a show where one extra night was added, the rest having sold out. I knew the tickets were selling fast and I thought some of my friends would like it so I emailed eight people and said let me know ASAP because these won’t last. The next day, no response from anyone. I was very puzzled and sent the email again with several test messages to people because I thought my email wasn’t working. But not one person bothered to say yes or no, and because I waited I lost out on getting a ticket myself.

What was I to think:

  1. I’ve pissed off 8 people from different walks of my life all a once.
  2. No one likes me or respects me enough to bother responding.
  3. The internet wasn’t working. (I’m beginning to suspect the internet was OTL last week.)
  4. I happened to luck into 8 diverse people who were sick, working late, had a broken computer, didn’t check their email, didn’t see the email, didn’t care, all at once.
  5. Aliens ate my friends.
  6. Friends A, B, & C prefer to be called. Friends D & E prefer text messages. Friends F & H prefer Facebook and Friend G was jumping off a bridge.
  7. Other.

So, what is the solution if email isn’t the best way to contact 8 people? I know I don’t get on Facebook every day and I’ve had the same response there. I don’t have unlimited texting and not everyone has texting.  What happens if I have a party and want to invite 50 people? I can’t text or call them all. Do I go back to sending old fashioned paper invitations where no one will call because we don’t use our phones for calling much anymore and if a person has to go from paper to email or text they’re likely to forget? Do I send my servant to their door? Wait, what servant? Do I post on Facebook knowing five people will respond and 20 people will look and go oh no one’s going so I won’t?

What’s the answer? Social media really has wrecked personal parties. It’s okay if you want to go to a club but don’t count on your buddies going.  But I think we’ve lost a fundamental aspect of courtesy that is not better in many ways. I think the polite think to do is still to respond when it’s an invitation, when it says RSVP. But I’ve decided to not bother with the party I was going to throw in the next month because chances are, no one will respond. Perhaps the telepathic implants will work better once we get them.

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Sci Fi Channel: When Branding Goes Stupid

Sci Fi Channel is trying a new branding idea that is seriously going to backfire on them. Really, I don’t watch TV but I’ve heard enough, including comments on my writers’ groups that say this is one big dumb idea.

The executives, those guys who get paid the big bucks, decided that the term sci fi (pronounced sie fie) which people everywhere identify with science fiction was just too geeky and they wanted to distance themselves from that overly geeky image.

“The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular,” said TV historian Tim Brooks, who helped launch Sci Fi Channel when he worked at USA Network.

Anti-social boys as opposed to the general public and the female audience? Urr, have any of these guys actually paid attention to the changing world of science fiction in the last fifty years? Have they noticed that the stories and characters are farther reaching, that perhaps they’re thinking cliche here? Yes, the demographics will still have a majority of men but I’m thinking not as big a margin of difference as they might believe. Hmm, well they want to broaden their audience. That’s a good thing, right? “We spent a lot of time in the ’90s trying to distance the network from science fiction, which is largely why it’s called Sci Fi,” Mr. Brooks said. “It’s somewhat cooler and better than the name ‘Science Fiction.’ But even the name Sci Fi is limiting.”  They wanted to distance themselves from what they were selling. How odd. The execs must suffer from a lot of split personality disorders.

So, in their infinite wisdom, they have decided that a rebranding of a channel that shows science fiction and fantasy programs will be better if it doesn’t look like sci fi, even though that’s what they’re selling, sci fi shows. The think tanks specialists of NBC worked long and hard I’m sure, trying to find the right name. Over 300 ideas in fact.  And guess what they came up with: SyFy. Yep, if you think that sounds the same as sci fi, you’re right.

“When we tested this new name, the thing that we got back from our 18-to-34 techno-savvy crowd, which is quite a lot of our audience, is actually this is how you’d text it,” Mr. Howe said.

Hilarious. I mean, if I was being techno savvy and texting I would use SF, pronounced ess eff. My techno-savvy friends would figure that out and it takes fewer letters. And aren’t they trying to bring in new viewers besides those techno-savvy viewers who are already watching? But “SF”, maybe the general public can’t recognize what that stands for so SyFy will look better and “cooler” as the execs proclaim. Cooler. Yeah, way cool. And of course more identifiable as umm…science fiction but not science fiction.

I wonder why they didn’t go for “skiffy,” one former pronunciation of the term sci fi, which I was told once was what the nongeeky people called SF. It just sounded too goofy to me. In the world of speculative fiction where we who are female or older than sixteen but perhaps still geeky tend to say sci fi, or SF or science fiction even. We even say speculative fiction to encompass horror, fantasy and science fiction. I’ve not noticed people at the theaters worrying about what category the films like Wall-E, Watchmen or Star Wars fit into. In fact, Vancouver’s top grossing movie last week was Watchmen. But then:

Mr. Brooks said that when people who say they don’t like science fiction enjoy a film like “Star Wars,” they don’t think it’s science fiction; they think it’s a good movie.

And that’s the point. They don’t think sci fi, SF or SyFy. They look at what they think they will enjoy. A rose by any other name? But hey, if these big execs want to spend their time mixing letters up, well that shows what’s important. I wonder what their programming will be like. I’d like a job like this, to spend time thinking up a new way to spell the same word.

Oh and I really hope they haven’t gone international with this. If they have, people in Poland may not be so quick to jump on the bandwagon as “syfy” translates to something like heretical and unclean. The full article is below and people’s comments are worth reading as it indicates how well the brand change is going over.

http://www.tvweek.com/news/2009/03/sci_fi_channel_aims_to_shed_ge.php

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