Friday August 16, 2013 | 09:59 AM
Posted by Rob Gould

Jacob moved to Portland in 2011 from Los Angeles. Since then, he's worked for EqualityMaine and Mainers United for Marriage (on the 2012 "Yes on One" campaign) and has played drums for Portland musician Jeff Beam. He remains grateful for the 3,000 miles that separate Portland and LA.

First dates, "AmyXOXO13," and the veil of anonymity

As with most of my interviews, what you'll read here is a greatly condensed version of our conversation.

What was your first experience with social media?

"My initiation into social media and the Internet was AOL 3.0. 'Wishbush1' was my screen name. Probably the worst screen name anyone could choose. So, at the time, the way AOL worked, there were privacy controls that my parents could set. All of my friends had AOL IM, but my parents restricted me from using it. In hindsight, they were really smart. The Internet is a scary place. Chat rooms are really scary places. I could go into the kid-friendly chat rooms and I could email, but I couldn't IM like all my friends. So, if I wanted to chat with someone, if I wanted to 'cyber,' I had to use email. So I would hear 'you've got mail' like 50 times in the course of an evening. This was my first introduction to social media."

"This was also my first introduction to online bullying. Well, maybe not bullying, but online gossiping. There were all of these feuds that you could get into that were specific to this world. I remember, I was 10 and I would tell people I was 13. At that time, 13 to me was the acme of maturity and sophistication. Being Jewish, 13 has connotations to it that are very important. So, I remember, I was talking to someone—this was also my introduction to pre-teen angst and humiliation—and I told them I was 13. That person talked to one of my friends and he told, let's call her 'AmyXOXO13,' that I was 10. This did not sit well with me at all. The betrayal! I wrote this really long message, 'I can't believe that you would tell AmyXOXO13 that I'm only 10. What kind of friend are you? I really don't think I can hang out with you anymore.' Yeah, that kind of stuff came up all the time."

"As I got older and figured out how to log on with my parents' screen name and change the settings, AOL IM was a really important thing for my social development as a teenager. It was a really powerful unifying force. I had a lot of friends who I would keep in contact with. They were spread out across the country. And, by the country I mean Long Island. AOL IM was really important and definitely a gateway."

"I can remember the day I signed up for MySpace. It was New Year's Day 2004. MySpace was the logical next step after AOL IM. I don't think I was even aware of Friendster. It came and went so fast. There was a seedier side to MySpace that I don't think ever migrated over to Facebook. MySpace introduced me to the concept of 'friends as currency.' I think this had a big psychological impact on people in my age group that came of age with this."

"The only time I've ever 'met' someone from the Internet, and I think my first date in the traditional sense, was someone that found my profile on MySpace. I talked with her for a long time and determined that she had to be a real live human female that was approximately my age. I didn't think that a 35 yo predator would like watching 'Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman' as much as she did. Unless that was a major miscalculation and that's a thing for predators that I don't know about. So, I felt comfortable meeting her. It was the worst date possible. She ended up taking me to a PETA protest at a Kentucky Fried Chicken. We were holding signs and I just kept thinking that I really liked KFC (at the time). So, I was standing there with this murder sign next to this guy dressed up as Colonel Sanders covered in blood, holding a knife, with a surgical mask on. They were harassing people. It was awful. That was the last time I met anyone on MySpace. It was a different type of scary than I had ever experienced before."

What do you like about social media?

"Social media is such a strong and unifying force in that it brings people together that would otherwise never meet. This fact really can't be ignored or judged as anything but good."

"It seems like the collective wisdom, at least among people who don't use social media very much, is that it's creating an anti-social society. To me, this is totally bogus. Or, at least it's too early to state that categorically. People said that about the novel and the telegraph and the phone. No one is ranting about Cervantes anymore. I think we need more time before we can really determine the impact of how people engage with social media. We're still learning so much about it."

What do you dislike about social media?

"While I appreciate that advertising dollars drive social media's evolution and existence. I wish there was less of it."

"The veil of anonymity is a pretty powerful thing. Even if you know the person, being behind the computer and having that divide gives you almost a super powered, or a magnified ability to hate. You know, like trolls."

"Twitter is a kind of trite, or whatever the middle ground is between trite and desperate, way of projecting who you are. I think it's a kind of phony way of getting your 'real self' across if that's what you're trying to do. If you're trying to get across to the world who you really are as a person I just don't think it works. It's a good way of getting across a kind of curated, disinfected version of who you are."

"It's very easy to falsify the narrative of a person's life on social media. It's hard not to do that. I think everyone is using some kind of a filter. Most people, and I'm guilty of this, are tailoring their posts to make their lives look as fun and as positive as possible. And, then there are people who use social media as some kind of a therapy and are posting things that should really only be said to a therapist. That's hard to see."

What would it be like for you to disconnect from social media for six months?

"The hard part wouldn't be the disconnecting and going six months without access. The hard part would be coming back and realizing that maybe everything I thought was wrong and no one needs to use social media or the Internet. 'Everyone should log off! No one needs to use social media or the Internet.' The possibility of having that realization seems much harder to me than the actual act of disconnecting for six months."

If you could only use three words to describe social media, what would they be?

"Cybering is overrated."

Is there a person or brand that you think uses social media effectively?

@scharpling Tom Scharpling has been my comedy hero since I first heard his radio show on WFMU in 2006. A mandatory follow!

@jonwurster Unbelievably funny. I am as obsessed with his KISS obsession as he is obsessed with KISS.

@hollynunan If you don't like George Harrison, stay clear. Otherwise, Holly is integral to the Portland music scene. A great resource for finding what live music is playing where, any day of the week.

@SCOTUSBlog Fantastic SCOTUS reportage, but even better is the way they needle people whom mistakenly believe it's the official Supreme Court Twitter account.

@TheMeltingPot A great example of how not to run a corporate Twitter account.

I want to thank Jacob for taking the time to talk with me about his opinions on, and experience with, social media.

You can find Jacob on Twitter at: @jacobwolk

You can find Jacob on Tumblr at: therearenomatchesforyoursearch


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Social media has changed the way that many of us learn, purchase, interact and explore the world around us. And, things are just getting started. Social, Social is a place to discuss social media with people from all walks of life. No experts allowed.

About the Author

Rob works as a digital marketing & public relations consultant to agencies, brands, and individuals. He has 20 years of marketing experience. He also currently serves in a volunteer capacity as director of pr/communications for TEDxDirigo. From 2005-2011, Rob served as director of social media & agency communications at The VIA Agency (Portland). Prior to VIA, Rob worked with several PR & advertising agencies in London & Boston. He is a graduate of The University of Vermont (UVM) and a Maine transplant (2002).

Follow Rob on Twitter at @bobbbyg

His real-life interests include art, travel, writing, design, psychology, the beach, & exercise (grudgingly at times).

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