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January 15, 2014

Like Me -- Or Not


I am not a big fan of Social Media but as with all of us it's become a part of my life.

Years ago I noticed all my younger reporters had Instant Messenger on their computers. Now, I am not one of those bosses who insist that my underlings work tirelessly: as a former Industrial Engineer I know if you can get an office worker to give you 40 percent productive time on the job you're doing OK.

Every computer in the office had the IM window open. I felt like I was eavesdropping because I couldn't figure out how to close them. That made me realize I could never use IM—that's all I needed was my wife to sit at my computer and read "I need a tight end" in my IM dialogue box.

So I'd watch as I gave an intern a simple box to write that should take 10 minutes.

"How are you doing with that box" I'd ask an hour later.

"I'm working on it," she would reply. Of course, I knew she was on IM the whole time because I was watching her.

Nevertheless, when it was time to write a recommendation so she could get college credit for the internship, I would always do so. The way I figured it, the kid learned to lie with a straight face so she was on her way to a successful professional career.

Then texting became the big thing. I had trouble at first typing with my thumbs, but hey, we adapt. Mostly, texting is for communicating when you are in a place where you can't talk. My favorite texts came from Kitty Merrill when she was covering a town board meeting detailing how excruciatingly bored she was. These texts were, by any standard, so disgusting and obscene that I kept them should I ever need to get rid of her.

It's almost like having nude pictures of Merrill, except I don't have to buy her a beer.

When we received a similarly filthy text from our new Southampton Town Board correspondent Emily Toy, we felt so proud.

But I refuse to use Face Book. Even my 93-year-old mother says it's boring. The concept, that the whole world wants to know everything you are doing, is flawed, at least to me – I don't want anyone to know what I'm doing and I don't give a crap what you are doing.

People compete to see how many "Friends" they can get. "Friend Me!" they beg. Friends of friends can become friends, even if they don't know each other. Those friends, in turn, can become friends of the friends of friends. Soon, every living creature will be a friend to every other living creature, which is kind of like incest.

There is a "Like" button. If you write something profound, readers are invited to "Like" it. This was designed, I assume, to reward intelligent interplay and meaningful dialogue.

The other day – I'm not making this up – Karen read a post she had received on Face Book: "It's Sunday morning," the post read in its entirety. Five people liked it. What is wrong with this picture?

Here are some actual Facebook posts made my real people.

"I am typing this."

"I just took another breath."

"I'm blinking a lot today."

Then, of course, there is Twitter. I'm a little behind the curve when it comes to using Twitter because I don't know what a hashtag is. It is, apparently, a sign made by a symbol as in "I used to smoke a lot of # @ college."

Professional athletes use twitter to get fined, suspended, or fired. What usually happens is a player will have a lousy game, and then a fan who bet on the wrong team will complain, and then the athlete would unleash a tirade of vile and obscene comments that would make the devil blush.

It's not just athletes who embarrass themselves on Twitter. The following are real Tweets:

"No, no, I didn't go to England; I went to London." (@Parishilton)

"The trolls are foaming from their toothless holes. Rumor mill abundant with evil gossip. Mainstream heretics smirking."(@ Charliesheen)

"I am laying in bed with my mommy right now scratching her bug bites." 
(@MileyCyrus)

I remember growing up in Sag Harbor when phones were a relatively new phenomena. In fact, you would pick up the phone and a real woman would say, "Number, please." The operators worked in a little building on Union Street across from the St. Andrews playground. If we dared make a crank call they would tell our mothers at church on Sunday morning. The point is, we used to strive for anonymity. Nowadays, everyone is screaming "Look at me! Look what I'm doing!"

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