My dad tells a story of himself and two of his brothers. He was three years old, and the year was 1940, in the day when cars and trucks had running boards. My grandfather took those three boys into town with him to run errands. While he was in a store chatting with someone, he told the boys to go outside and wait for him. When he returned, ready to get home, he found his three boys, three years old, four years old, and seven years old, all standing on the running board of the vehicle, and relieving themselves onto the dusty street. My grandfather told me the story once, and he said it was quite a picture. They were having a contest, they told him. I think you know what kind of contest they were having.
Boys from every generation have done this, including my own, right in my back yard. And of course, we all know that here in Canada, where we get snow in winter, the task of leaving one's mark in the snow is enough to encourage even the most shy boy to participate.
Girls have contests, but it doesn't involve nature's call. Little girls compete by seeking attention in other ways.
These kinds of contests don't really go away as we get older; they just manifest themselves in other ways, and social media is no exception. There are days when I check my Twitter feed and leave after about two minutes, because it is apparent that there are three little boys (or girls, I suppose) who are standing on a cyber running board, competing.
I am ashamed to admit that I have used Twitter to blast people, and I ought not to ever have done so. I cringe when I realize the number of stupid things I have said on Twitter.
I like dialogue, and I appreciate good debate, but I'm not a huge fan of contests such as that. They usually devolve into something that isn't all that edifying. It's so easy and so convenient, even at a sparse 140 characters to blast someone, publicly, no less. I am learning to take dialogue offline and finding an e-mail if I'm really interested in conversing with someone. Those are usually rare occasions, but I had one recently, and I'm glad I did. It's a lot more civil, I think.
I have come across bloggers who will not provide any means other than their comments, Twitter, or Facebook as a means of communication. I'm not sure how I feel about that. It's like being in a room with people and wanting to have a private word, but not being able to. There are just some times when I don't want an audience when I make a comment or ask a question. Certainly, not everything needs to be public. We really are becoming a bunch of exhibitionists.
It all comes down to wanting to come out on top, and I don't know as if that's a very good motive. We can feel free to disagree with others and engage them in discussion, but let's leave those little boy style contests out of it.