Please Stop "Helping" Me


Alexander Bain as Mark Schubin

Alexander Bain, who died in 1877, shows up in an image search for “Mark Schubin”

Once upon a time, in a land far away, I helped solve some problems involving the acquisition, processing, recording, and distribution of audio and video signals. The company I was assisting was heavily involved in dubbing the voices of American television programming in a different language.

For many decades, I have also been involved in setting up and supervising the production and distribution of live radio and television programs. They almost always involve an announcer. If the announcer speaks while there are other sounds, that’s called a voice-over.

My skills include solving problems associated with the acquisition, processing, recording, and distribution of audio and video signals. They also include the setting up and supervising of the production and distribution of live radio and television programs.

real  voice-over artist Ashley Eckstein  by Gordon Tarpley (attribution required)

real voice-over artist Ashley Eckstein by Gordon Tarpley (attribution required)

At my college radio station long, long ago, I was, on occasion, an announcer myself, and, in my educational presentations these days, I sometimes talk while playing an example. But, to the best of my recollection, I am not now, nor have I ever been, a voice-over artist. I’ll discuss that more soon.

My minimal use of social media would not be considered unusual to those who knew me before the term existed. As a close friend once put it, I was never properly socialized. I commuted to both elementary and high schools in cities other than the one where I lived, and my high school and college were both single sex. My greatest social interaction in my home neighborhood was usually when a gang tied me to a parking meter to see how long it would take me to get loose. Perhaps because I never experienced them growing up, I am a fan of neither tea socials nor Social Tea biscuits.

Social Tea BiscuitsI have nothing against the concept of social media. It seems a great way for a family or group to stay in touch (if one is interested in that). But, like many other things, it requires regular maintenance.

I am annually involved in a nationwide awareness week. This year, I wanted to check something about it, so I entered the term into a search engine, and it suggested a Facebook page. I clicked on it, and the page was, indeed, about that week. But it was last updated three years ago.

That reflected badly on the organization that administers the week, but I don’t know if it was their fault. Maybe they tried, unsuccessfully, to update the page. Maybe they tried, unsuccessfully, to have it taken down. And maybe–just maybe–they never created the page in the first place. I have reasons to suspect the last.

Although I am not, personally, a fan of social media, I belong to some professional versions of similar concept. One is LinkedIn. It is possible to recommend others on LinkedIn. Recommendations must be written by the recommender and accepted by the recommendee. That works fine.

Stop EndorsementsThen there are “endorsements.” LinkedIn sends its own requests for skill endorsements. One day I discovered that many people on LinkedIn were endorsing my voice-over skills. Clearly, LinkedIn endorsements are meaningless. So are requests to join my “network” on LinkedIn.

I am happy to accept a request from anyone in our business or anyone who has another reason to want to join. When I receive a request from, say, a chef in Chicago or a banker in Singapore, however, I ask why that person wants to join my network. Most of the time I receive no answer. On rare occasions, I get a reason and accept the request. And sometimes the person denies having sent an inquiry. Perhaps you’ve received similar bogus requests supposedly from me.

I am on Facebook not because I want to be but because I cannot access certain discounts without being on it. By my own choice, I have no “friends” there other than some corporations offering discounts. Because I don’t want real friends to think I’m avoiding them, I wrote something I thought would be seen by anyone coming to my page. I have never posted anything else on my page.

My Facebook page

My apparent Facebook pageImagine my surprise, then, to discover not only that the message I wanted everyone to see on my page is almost impossible to find but also that there are posts, complete with images, that I never posted. The images are of T-shirts I created, and they say “I just bought this from CafePress.” The text is probably associated with comments I made about the T-shirts when asked about my purchases by CafePress, but, out of that context, they present a false impression of my tastes.

I have a friend in Finland who has a strong basis for believing she is the only person in the world with her name. I have no such basis, but I have not yet found anyone else whose name matches the spelling of mine. Imagine my surprise, then, to discover a Facebook page other than mine for someone with my name and spelling. Imagine my further surprise to discover that the person of that page shares my address and telephone number. And we both seem to provide “Professional Services.” But then the similarities end. That Mark Schubin, according to Facebook, is involved in “Shopping & Retail,” not media-technology consulting (full disclosure: I have, in my lifetime, gone shopping at retailers).

not my Facebook page

In small, grayed-out type, Facebook says this is an “unofficial page” and asks, “Is this your business?” I really don’t know how to answer. It’s my name, address, and phone number, but it’s not my field. And I wonder what else might be posted there if I claim “ownership;” after all, I didn’t post what appears on “my” page, and what I did post is almost impossible to find.

Fortunately, I need not worry about being embarrassed by these phantom postings and pages, because Facebook tells me, helpfully, that I have many friends of whom I might be unaware. Some I know to be dead. Others have names I do not recognize. But, of course, Facebook says on the Internet that those are my friends, so it must be true.

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