In this post from late last month, I detailed the topic of my general presence online. That post and the one you’re about to read were inspired by one of the “June Jour” topics my WordPress peep, The Finicky Cynic, posted on her site in June: Thoughts about social media use. As I noted in that post, I tend to think of my online and social media presences as intertwined with each other. After that lengthy post about the online life, I will center this post on how I got to the “You Are Here” point on social media, as well as whether there’s too much of it and if I tend to rely on it too much (spoiler alert: There is, and I do).
I will start off by alluding to some relatively personal social media news: I had mentioned once or twice on this blog that I was never keen to establishing an account on Facebook. I gave reasons such as the controversy over Facebook requiring users to use their real names and not their stage name or preferred private alias, to the image of Mark Zuckerberg being a big prick (yeah, I got that from The Social Network). And I still feel a lot of trepidation and hesitance over establishing a Facebook account.
And yet, out of necessity, I’ve established a Facebook account.
Now, you will certainly brand me a hypocrite for joining Facebook after expressing for so long how nice it was to not have done so. But I have two key reasons for doing so, which I’ll get to later in this post. First, I want to start off with my first venture into social media, Twitter. As I mentioned in this post, I had never thought about answering the siren song of social media until a couple of months after getting my first full-fledged smart phone. Before then, I had one of those basic flip phones for a few years, but with the rapid advancement of personal technology, that phone became oh so archaic by the time I bought my first smart phone in 2010.
By that time, social media was already a big, big thing. Twitter, Facebook, and their not-quite-as-popular ilk were creating waves of media attention and pundit analysis for their societal impact, just as the likes of Microsoft, Apple, Google, and YouTube did years earlier. I, however, wasn’t quite sold yet. I mean, Twitter, Facebook, et al did seem pretty interesting, but they felt like they were just for people who were younger and more vain than I. (No, really, I don’t consider myself vain.)
Still, however, I began to feel the allure of Twitter and how, despite its 140-character limit, it seemed to democratize communication and expression among people of all different backgrounds — famous or not; talented or not; LGBT or not; even vain or not (even with You Know Who being as vain as he wants).
Hmmm… now that I think of it, perhaps a better word for Twitter is not so much democratization as it is equalization. What I mean is, anyone from the most famous entertainer to the up-and-coming athlete, or from the professional businessperson to the star-struck teenager, can share whatever thoughts, stories, anecdotes, images, videos, or whatever else they think is worth sharing — so long as it can fit within Twitter’s 140-character limit. Plus, it can be done without a filter. That means that for someone such as the entertainer, they can freely talk about something the TV cameras didn’t pick up, or even something as mundane as their cutting the lawn on a lovely weekend afternoon. (Celebrities! They really are just like us!)
I joined Twitter as Allison in January 2011, and got hooked on it so much that I started a separate account for my regular male side one month later. Until joining Facebook this year, and even after doing so, I have been rather hesitant and conservative when it comes to joining anything new in the social media world. (Snapchat? Meh.) The exception was Instagram, where Male Mode Me became allured by its visual appeal. And if you know Instagram, you know it’s an app/site/service/whatever that emphasizes visual content. As I’ve mentioned on here several times before, I’m a little bit of a shutterbug, wanting to capture images of things great and small for posterity. That’s spread into the social media world, where a couple of years ago, wanting to break free from the 140-character limit a little bit, Male Mode Me launched an Instagram account.
When joining Instagram as Male Mode Me, I noticed a vast difference in general atmosphere. For one, it’s not like Twitter and Facebook. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. And while there may be captions on Instagram, it’s the images that do the talking, be they witty, profound, touching, intimate, or just plain beautiful. Whatever the image, they give the brain a bit of a pause from the stirred passions of Twitter and Facebook.
And that’s a drawback to Twitter and Facebook, one that I admit I’m guilty of sometimes: The immediacy that Twitter and Facebook (the former especially) can create leads to quick-trigger reflections with the keyboard. Sure, some of my thoughts on Twitter and Facebook can be as witty and profound as what you can find on this blog. But sometimes the quick-trigger feelings can lead to some thoughts that are not as profound as I had hoped and even venture into ranting territory, and often without the nuance (on Twitter, at least) that is so needed these days.
But even though I do not always have the best-thought-out thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, I rarely delete them. Yes, I know, you have the option to delete your tweets and posts on social media. But more often than not, I let them stand for the whole world to see, warts and all. Which brings me to a feature that is not only Snapchat’s raison d’être but can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. It’s a feature that I’ve rarely used and will likely never use again; in fact, I can count the number of times I’ve used it with one finger (no, not that finger). It’s the feature where you can record a brief video or series of videos, upload them to Instagram or Facebook, and 24 hours later they disappear into the ether. As with the tweets and posts, I like to stay on the record on Instagram, not just to admit my faults if a tweet or a post is kinda… uh, meh, but to reread and relive my prior posts, and to show off an image to someone I’m with, especially if I’ve moved the picture off of my phone. Call it a memory refresher if you will. And, no, I do not consider reliving past posts an ego trip on my part; just a desire to share memories with others and with myself.
At this point, I want to express a few side notes: First, while Male Mode Me has an Instagram account, Allison does not. The reason is that my image interests as Allison are limited to the likes of “Oooh, look at this outfit” or “Yeah, don’t I look ravishing?” I can post those types of pictures to Twitter and Facebook and see if they generate positive reactions from my tweeps and followers. Instagram, however, is for the Male Mode Me who is more prone to taking images of sunrises, sunsets, landmarks, scenery, and images of friends and family — and very few selfies and clothing photos — and not minding if there’s not too much of a reaction. Modesty prevails, I guess.
Secondly, you’ll notice that I’m not sharing my male mode social media links. That’s to help ensure my male mode anonymity. However, there is one person… well, actually, two people (who are related to each other and share the same accounts) who first followed me on Twitter and later started following Male Mode Me on Instagram (where I’ve followed them back). I won’t get into the circumstances about that arrangement, but it’s kind of cool to know that at least one person on social media appreciates both sides of me. Will I, as Allison, ever disclose my male mode social media identity to anyone else on Twitter and/or Facebook? Well… maybe I will, so long as they promise to ensure my anonymity.
About Facebook and Instagram, one thing that really drives me crazy about both of them is that in the past year or so (at least on Instagram), they’ve instituted an “algorithm” with their timelines, in that the “most interesting” accounts and posts are listed highest on your timeline and the other accounts bringing up the rear. That’s something I really don’t like about Instagram and Facebook. I prefer to see posts within my timeline in chronological order, which can also add a bit of nuance and meaning (i.e. a continuing thought not placed out of order). At least Twitter does allow its users to control how they see their timelines… including me, who made sure my timelines continued to appear in chronological order. (Now, if there were a way to not see the “this person liked” or “you missed this post” entries.)
But, I know, you’ve seen the title of this post and at this point are desperate to know, “Well, Allison, why did you join Facebook?!” Okay, okay, let me get to that right now. There are two reasons I joined Facebook at the beginning of May, the first of which was keeping in touch with a trans support group I’ve been attending. I had hoped that I could just look search for their Facebook page and get information on meeting schedules, topics of discussion, and support resources. Problem was that the group’s Facebook page is private, accessible only to those who [A] have a Facebook account and [B] have been added to group by an existing member. And had I not joined Facebook, I would only have been able to learn about the group and what they’re doing next by actually attending the meetings — literally word of mouth.
But there was another catalyst of my joining Facebook: A Twitter friend of mine leaving Twitter. We followed each other on Twitter, and I enjoyed hearing their thoughts and sharing their exploits: Their family. Their friendships. Their big move to another city. Their career. Their experiences on stage (they have performed in drag in the past). But earlier this year, they let the world know that they were signing off of Twitter for good. Yeah, the 140-character universe had lost all enjoyment for them. My heart actually sank a bit by the news, fearing I would completely lose that connection with them.
But, of course, reconnecting with them would take nothing more than starting a Facebook account, finding them on Facebook, and connecting with them as Facebook friends. Before my Twitter friend deactivated their Twitter account, I let them know that I was about to join them on Facebook. Yes, they got the message (they liked my tweet). Not too long after that, I officially joined Facebook… and found and friended not only them but some people I first met through here on WordPress and a few others I first met on Twitter but had not heard from on Twitter in quite a while. Perhaps they lost the thrill of the 140-character universe as well.
It’s been over three months since I joined Facebook, and I’m still trying to get accustomed to the ins and outs and quirks and queries of that platform. What I have discovered, though, is that there seems to be an easy going feeling on Facebook compared to Twitter. Perhaps its due to the relatively small number of accounts I follow or have friended on Facebook compared to Twitter. Maybe it’s what those friends are sharing; it’s not the “constant angry person” stream other people may experience on Facebook (well, not yet anyway). Or perhaps it’s that the flow of information on Facebook is easier to digest compared to Twitter. Maybe it’s also my relative restraint in accessing Facebook so far; it’s not the “must check every time I turn on the phone” status that Twitter is. Or perhaps it’s all of the above. Whatever the reason or reasons, my experience on Facebook so far has been generally positive. Oh, sure, the layout and non-chronological order of posts in the feed may be inconvenient, but perhaps I’ll figure it out as time goes on.
Then again, Facebook feels like a necessity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not regretting signing up, nor do I regret the friends I’ve connected or reconnected with on Facebook. It’s just that with its ubiquity, prominence, and importance, being on Facebook is like getting the same protein pills that everyone else in your life takes for sustenance. Perfect case in point: Male Mode Me. Until early last month, I thought I’d be all right not having a Facebook account for my male side. But then, my sister forwarded to me a link on Facebook concerning my high school class reunion plans. Trouble is, I was unable to access it because [A] Male Mode Me wasn’t on Facebook yet, and [B] it was accessible only by special invite. Since I obviously didn’t want to miss out on my reunion, I immediately set up a Facebook account for Male Mode Me, complete with my actual first and last names. (No, I’m not going to tell you what that name is; please let my male side have some privacy.)
Thanks to joining Facebook as Male Mode Me, not only did I get information on my class reunion, I’ve been able to continue connections with some of my classmates. It’s solved the question I have had between class reunions: How have my classmates been doing? At least now, I am reminded that they don’t resurface in my life every few years the way periodical cicadas emerge from the ground. (Safe to say you were not expecting to see the words “periodical cicadas” in a blog written by a crossdresser, now were you?) But there was also the risk of being dragged into their points of view, as well as those of my blood relations. That was part of what made me hesitant to join Facebook all these years: The fear that my mother and sisters (who are all on Facebook) and my classmates would use Facebook to spew one stomach-churning political post after another. Thankfully, there hasn’t been too much of that so far. Though there are those in my family who are generally conservative, and though my classmates and I were raised in a conservative portion of northern Wisconsin, they are not ones to wear their political and cultural viewpoints on their Facebook sleeves (so far, anyway)… which is adding to the enjoyment of being on Facebook so far.
Let’s circle back to Allison and “the name thing” on Facebook: Obviously, I’m not completely out of the closet when it comes to being Allison, meaning I prefer the name “Allison M.” rather than using my actual male-mode first or last names. It’s the name at the top of this blog, and it’s the formal name I present on my Twitter profile. However, Facebook requires users to identify with both their first and last names, which meant that “Allison M.” was incomplete in their eyes. So, needing to require Facebook’s identification dictates, I went ahead and used the user handle on my Twitter and Facebook accounts — Allison Madison. It’s not perfect, but it’ll do.
So, now that you know the history of me on social media and my thoughts about my social media experience, let’s get to what The Finicky Cynic asked in her writing prompt: Is there “too much” in the way of social media? Well, as I mentioned way back in this post’s first paragraph, I feel there is too much reliance on social media. I think part of it is how the Facebooks, Instagrams, and Twitters of the world design their platforms to entice their users into accessing it more often, to the point that it begins to occupy their seemingly every waking moment.
That addiction to social media is not good for the grownups, of course, but also for the juveniles who use social media. And here’s where I’m going to get a little serious: I’m a firm believer that kids who are on social media should be on their with parental supervision. This is important with the dreaded “bullying” one can experience on social media, i.e. “let’s go online and bully that kid from school and sully their reputation, just because we can.” Parental supervision and guidance for children using social media can help counter that negative experience: Have the kids follow accounts that are known for not spewing hate or bullying. Make sure the kids do not post their own kind of destructive words. Restrict the amount of time they’re on there as well. Though there’s still a chance Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. will warp their minds, and there’s still the possibility that a hateful word will fall through the defensive cracks, moves such as these can help foster a positive experience for the kids, and with it help the kids’ mental well being.
Perhaps those social media recommendations for kids can rub off on us adults as well. As I’ve noted above, Twitter and Facebook (the former especially) can be non-stop fountains of information, thoughts… and, yes, diatribes. No wonder it can lead to burnout after a while. Perhaps that led to the online friend I mentioned above leaving Twitter behind for good earlier this year. That’s why it wouldn’t hurt us grownups to put the phone aside for a little bit every day and free your mind from the cacophony of one tweet or post after another. Yes, your friends and their big stories will still be there; that’s why you can always click on their accounts or favorite that oh so important tweet for later reading (provided they don’t delete it beforehand, of course). I’ve found myself starting to scroll all the way up to the top of my Twitter feed (on both my male and female accounts) when I discover one tweet after another repeating previous information or if there’s a multitude of tweets that I know I’ll never get to read one-by-one in the 15-minute span of my work breaks. Truth be told, it’s a great feeling to know that even for just a little bit, I can unshackle myself from the chains that social media can wrap around their users.
So, what are your social media experiences? What are your general thoughts on social media use? Feel free to share them in the comment section below. Oh, and if you really, really want to discover what I’m sharing on Twitter and Facebook and wherever else I may be online… well, you can find a list of my accounts at this link.