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Ann Brenoff


You Aren't Sharing; You Aren't Even Listening

Posted: 11/29/2012 7:47 am

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch -- a man who has more than occasionally been accused of self-absorption -- once famously said, "But enough of me. Let's talk about you. What do you think of me?" Honestly, Hizzoner may just have been ahead of his time. In all probability, today he has a giant "Like" button as a doorbell.

The level of navel-gazing that defines our lives today seems to reach new peaks daily.
The irony, of course, is that we practice this form of narcissism with the insistence that we are sharing. News flash: It is not sharing when you post a photo on Facebook of the eggs you ate for breakfast. It is equally not sharing when you ask strangers on Pinterest which couch they think you should buy or show the world on Instagram which pair of Christian Louboutins you hope to one day afford. Sharing comes at a deeper level and involves people you actually know. If you want to tell a friend about your troubles in the bedroom, fine. But why on Earth would you want to discuss it with a bunch of anonymous strangers on Reddit?

Don't get me wrong. Spending time doing all those things may be amusing and is probably, on some mind-numbing level, relaxing. But it isn't engagement and it isn't sharing. Mostly what it is is narcissism. You want me to "like" your breakfast eggs. Even with that, it's still all about you.

While no generation holds the patent on how to share -- and I actively follow a "live-and-let-live" course of judgment -- it's still troubling to knock heads with what seems to be the new normal of how we treat one another: rudely, meanly, and at times, with such hostility that you're left wishing Noah had invited only one of each species on board. And at the root of that nastiness is how we share -- how we connect to one another. I fear that being "in a texting relationship" may soon be a new Facebook status.

For me, sharing is when you make the time to meet for coffee or we pick up the phone to call and chat. It's when we meet at a party and you are interested in having an actual conversation instead of constantly checking your smartphone to see if anyone has texted you a photo of where they are -- maybe in case it's better? Sharing is when you slow down the online connection, listen, engage and be present instead of looking around the corner at what's coming up next.

There may be a reason why we have such a hard time sharing the old-fashioned way.

"Without face-to-face communication, online communicators can create the idealized version of themselves," wrote Courtney F. Turnbull in a 2010 paper for Elon University called "Mom Just Facebooked Me and Dad Knows How to Text." She examined the differences in interpersonal relationships of how Generation Yers and Baby Boomers used computer-mediated communication. She wrote:

"Baby Boomers have used computer-mediated [communication] to their advantage, increasing their quality of interpersonal relationships with long emails to their friends and family. Generation Y members, on the other hand, have decreased their quality of interpersonal relationships, making things quick and to the point, losing out on communication depth, which leads to ambiguities and possibly interpersonal conflict due to misunderstandings."

Turnbull's findings dovetail nicely with what Sherry Turkle, author of "Alone Together," found.

Turkle, a leading media commentator on the social and psychological effects of technology, wrote that technology "makes it easy to communicate when we wish and to disengage at will." It's a modern version of letting the call go to voicemail when the caller ID says it's your ex on the other end of the line. We can cut off the texting exchange at will, and since even the fastest flying thumbs will tire out, exchanges are reduced to their simplest and shortest forms.

I don't get it. I see people so busy tweeting the plot twists and dialogue of what they are simultaneously watching on TV or posting cute kitten pictures on Facebook that they just don't have any time or gas left in the tank to pay attention to their brick-and-mortar friends. It seems we have substituted real relationships and communication with our public image and personal "brand." Is it somehow more satisfying to be clever for the strangers of Twitter instead of the real people who are standing in front of you?

As for good old Ed Koch and his prescient need to be on center stage, I just checked out his Facebook page: He has 1,387 Facebook Likes and just three friends. I rest my case.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

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    On <a href="" target="_hplink">Instagram</a> (iPhone and Android, free), users take photos from their daily lives and have the option to apply a variety of filters to enhance or touch-up their images. Users then have the ability to share their images on various social network sites as well as Instagram's own social network. Users also have the ability to "like" other users' photos and share with their own friends. BEST FOR: The application is best for those wanting to share the daily images of their lives. As Instagram has grown in popularity, many users can share their photos on multiple social networks. It's a great way to share your latest craft project or vacation adventures with your family and friends. TIPS & TRICKS: Photos from Instagram don't have to stay in the online realm. Users now have the ability to easily turn their filtered photos into actual photos on canvas using CanvasPop or even into desk calendars with the app Calendargram (iPhone, free), which would make great gifts for all of your loved ones.

  • Google+

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Google+</a> is a social networking site that encompasses a variety of features, including Google Hangouts, an online spot that facilitates group chat and the "+1 button" that allows users to show your personal endorsement of an informative article or an interesting item. Google+ allows you to categorize your contacts into a variety of groups called circles. With circles, you can choose what groups can see what you post and what you share. If you want to talk about a family get-together, you can share it with your friends and family circle, but not your professional colleagues. BEST FOR: Google+ is ideal for those who want to share content-rich information. It has features for sharing personal documents and photos, articles and can connect users via text chat and video chat. The social media network also has over 40 games where you can connect with friends and share your scores with your different circles. TIPS & TRICKS: Google Docs has recently been integrated into Hangouts, the video chat feature of Google+. Now users can pull up their documents while using the video chat feature and you can even share your screen to make for a productive and basically face-to-face conference.

  • Pinterest

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Pinterest</a> is a virtual pin board where users can "pin" images on a variety of topics, such as home décor, recipes, and apparel. Pinterest users then create boards to house the images, so users may have one specific to anniversary planning, birthday parties, favorite recipes or quotes, for example. The cyber-version of "vision-boards," users have the opportunity to browse and share images. BEST FOR: If you're constantly surfing the web to collect ideas, it can be difficult to remember every site you visited or how to keep up with all of your bookmarks. With Pinterest, the "pinning" can be added to your internet browser easily and you can start collecting all of your favorite images. TIPS & TRICKS: Need some quick gift ideas for your grandchild's first birthday party or your son's promotion and not sure what you're looking for? Pinterest has segmented categories for price ranges in their gift section and you can quickly click on the image to take you to the product information and you can order right from your mobile device or computer.

  • Twitter

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Twitter</a> is an online, micro-blogging social network channel that allows users to share and read posts up to 140 characters. Users can follow friends, celebrities, news distributors, companies and other organizations to keep up with daily news, the "it" celebrity or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. BEST FOR: Twitter is a great way to quickly receive news and catch updates from your friends, family, favorite sports team or news outlet. You can create different lists to separate your personal friends from the entertainment world from breaking international news. TIPS & TRICKS: To help you create lists, Twitter has a suggestions feature that provides categories such as music, fashion, technology and government. With these suggestions, you can have a complete list to keep you up-to-date on these areas. Also remember, watch what you tweet, especially if your information is public. News and broadcast networks could feature you on their show if you interact with them online.

  • Facebook

    With "more than 10 billion visits per month and the Facebook user hitting the site an average of 68.7 times every month," according to <a href="" target="_hplink">The Financial Brand</a>, most people are familiar with the social networking site. A <a href="" target="_hplink">recent study from AARP</a> amongst people age 50+ showed that 23% of those surveyed either used or frequently visited Facebook, which was by far the most popular social network amongst their age group. One thing to keep in mind is that Facebook has seen changes recently with Timeline, meaning users need to familiarize themselves with the different privacy policies that accompany the modifications. BEST FOR: To best use Facebook, remember to keep in mind what you want to share. Check your privacy settings and if you need help, remember that Geek Squad is available 24/7 online at to help you navigate the changes. TIPS & TRICKS: Did you know you can now use Facebook to connect you and your friends through text message? If your Wi-Fi or internet connectivity is off, you can still contact your friends and family via Facebook. You can turn on text messaging so your contacts can use Facebook Messages to send you texts. Also, once you have activated text messaging through your Facebook account you can send a text to 32665 (FBOOK) and in the message, write msg and the name of the person you'd like to Facebook message and it will send to their inbox! For example: msg Joe Smith How are you?

  • LinkedIn

    <a href="" target="_hplink">LinkedIn</a> is a social networking tool focused on professional networking and building business relationships. The tool can be used to network and has informational tabs that compile your personal industry's top news for the day for quick reference. BEST FOR: LinkedIn can be used to connect professionally and also as a supplement to the traditional resume and business card. You have the ability to expand and personalize your descriptions and skills that you sometimes leave off in hard copies. You even have the option of adding a video onto your LinkedIn profile to give you an extra boost in impressions. TIPS & TRICKS: Frequently check your LinkedIn to see what your contacts and colleagues are up to. It's a great way to stay connected professionally.

  • Best Practices for Social Media

    <strong>Watch who you "Friend" and "Follow."</strong> On many social media sites, people can request to follow or friend you. If you're not comfortable with strangers having access to your social media information, depending on the social media tool, you could have the option to allow them access to pre-approved sections of your profile. <strong>Privatize your profile.</strong> Geek Squad can show you how to take advantage of the privacy settings offered by social media sites. By marking your page as private, people have to request you as a friend or ask for your approval in order to "follow" you on Twitter or view your complete Facebook profile. Social media websites generally undergo changes a few times every year, and most of those facelifts affect privacy settings in some way - though users may not be directly alerted of those specific changes. If you notice changes on social-networking site homepages, it's a good idea to revisit your privacy settings, perform a quick internet search to learn more or ask a Geek Squad Agent to give you the scoop.

  • General rules of thumb that everyone should know about social networking websites:

    <strong>Beware of your posts!</strong> Always remember that any content you post on the internet will be there forever, for anyone to read, store and republish. Remember that this information is stored somewhere, likely in multiple places. <strong>Avoid sharing personal information.</strong> License plate numbers, house numbers or other addresses as well as specific names of schools, workplaces or towns should be not shared on the internet. Information can be used like pieces in a puzzle to paint a bigger picture of you. <strong>Always take a second look.</strong> Just because the screen says your friend John has sent you information doesn't mean John is actually the person who did. Scams often run rampant on social media sites, so beware of any unusual messages. For example, hackers disguise messages to your contacts claiming to need money after being robbed or having lost money in a foreign country. <strong>Trust your gut. </strong>If it doesn't "seem right" it probably isn't. Things free or too good to be true are just that. Social networking sites have been a breeding ground for fake antivirus software ads, so avoid any type of free antivirus offers.


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