Facebook: Friend or foe

First, if you don’t have the attention span to read 1,500 words, you’re not my target audience.

Agghhhh, Facebook. It has become both a necessary evil and an ugly beast. My life before I ever signed on back in 2009 seemed so simple. Few high school friends knew what I was up to. Only select people in West Michigan knew details about my life.

Not that I have to explain, but I’ve taken some flak from people who wonder why I made a second Facebook account. Trust me, I never really wanted to. I’m not even sold on this social media thing as a way to grow your business, especially after I learn Facebook has started delaying posts, or making them disappear and show up later, and making you pay to promote status updates. Due to past FB drama, I just have less than 200 friends on my “personal” one, and most live out of state. I didn’t figure I could get many of them to like a business Facebook page. My attempts at getting my name out there would be limited to friends, family and some former coworkers and school mates. They really aren’t my target audience, though I’m still not sure who is, even though I sometimes share the same information.

I also know how people like to nib-nose and figured I’d be more apt to get friend requests on a new account rather than try to get people to like a page. I didn’t really want to go on a “promote my Facebook page” campaign, but that may be on the horizon. In addition, I wanted to get in the loop with other organizations by liking their pages, but without it clogging up my personal news feed. I also like to rant on occasion and don’t care to share it with certain people. One more thing: I don’t want people who don’t know me to see photos from my personal life. It’s not their business.

Bad boundaries and boredom
The truth: Facebook fuels the fire for bad boundaries. And envy. And paranoia. And loathing. And we’re all just staring at a computer screen. It’s actually kind of pathetic when you think about it. While it does connect you with a large group of people, it’s all rather superficial. What happened to the days of meeting face-to-face, picking up the phone or writing handwritten letters?

Maybe we are all so bored with our own lives we have nothing better to do but log in and see what others are doing, then talk about them, then start to secretly dislike them.

Maybe there are just so many huge, complex social issues to tackle it gets to be too much and we want a mindless time suck. Or the state of the economy really blows that bad, it’s simply easier to log onto Facebook as an escape. A trip yesterday to a Grand Rapids nonprofit trying to help youths who have dropped out of high school reminded me of the very serious social issues plaguing our local, regional and national landscape.

I’m just as guilty as anyone else for turning to it as a time waster, usually out of boredom. Because it definitely doesn’t make me feel “good.” And aren’t we all supposed to be so busy, especially nonprofit executive directors? I cannot imagine being active on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr.

Unspoken competition
The people I figured would be a certain way on my new account, in fact, are, and people on my old account could probably say that about me – guilty of over posting, bragging and otherwise being annoying. It’s easy to spot the hater and competitive types. All you have to do is look at the news feed and see who likes a status or posts something right after you. What they post or share also says a lot. Sometimes this is totally unintentional, but I’ve been on there enough to know the news feed reveals more than people will ever admit.

Airport taggers
I still cannot figure out why people tag themselves at the airport – one of my least favorite places to be – or while they are on vacation. It’s okay to post an occasional photo to let people know that you are having fun but does everyone really need a play-by-play of where you are eating and the places you are visiting? Isn’t the whole point to escape from your life, chill and forget your worries? Of course, I was a little guilty of this when I studied abroad in London. My rationale at the time: I also was gone for six weeks, did not Skype and did not take a phone with me. Yes, I posted photos, probably way too many. Luckily, I’ve learned a few things in the last two years. The good old days of vacation meant you only told a few close people, took off with little fanfare, hopefully had a relaxing time and then shared your tales and showed them photos – in person – once you got home and printed them out.

Tick, tick, tick
Don’t even get me started on the Ticker. Talk about a way to be devious and calculating if you wanted to be – liking a person’s status so non-friends, but mutual acquaintances (think people from high school or coworkers) of that person can see it anyway if they happen to be on Facebook at the same time. Plus, now when you like something, it comes up in the news feed. Which I do not get? I also don’t get why your profile photo has to show up really big every time you change it. Or an old post reappears if you make another comment on it. Geez Facebook programmers, can you just stop making changes. Do we really need to know when someone read our message, or give a gift via Facebook on someone’s birthday, or have access to non-friends status updates?

Chat – the root of many evils
I also don’t use chat. I never really have. I think this annoys many long-term friends, that I am stuck up or something. I’ve never really used instant messenger on e-mail or other sites, either. I guess it’s my own Facebook boundary I have set. I figure someone can send me a private message, and give me time to think about my reply. Maybe I don’t know “chat” courtesy but it seems rude to me to turn it on and ignore people. When I did occasionally use it, I would notice people would turn it on and then off really quickly, which I didn’t get. What if you simply don’t want to be bothered by someone? Or how do you reply to five people at once? It also seems like an instant format to spread drama and gossip and talk about other people. No thanks. Not to mention, I’ve known countless affairs that have started on Facebook. Who can really feel good about their spouse or partner chatting all day with people of the opposite sex they do not know? It’s why I finally posted a picture with my boyfriend. I didn’t realize Facebook had become an informal dating site, with lots of creepers. Are you really too cheap to buy a subscription to match.com?

Your online identity
Or maybe it’s hypersensitivity from my mom sending me CareerBuilder articles from my hometown newspaper in the mail. One focused on your online identity: “No social media site associated with your professional persona should be used to share personal pictures or feelings, nor is it appropriate to rant or be negative. Treat each post like a potential interview answer – how would a hiring manager receive it? Remember the importance of boundaries and preserve your professional identity online to ensure that you’re giving potential employers a great first impression.”

The nonconformist part of me thinks it sucks. Who are these hiring managers anyway? They are so great because they have a job and are in a position of authority? Seriously? But it matters, especially if you are job hunting. I suppose if you work for yourself, it’s a little less of an issue. Any way you slice it, image does matter. Sure, you can set your privacy to friends only, and I have noticed there are now groups for close friends and acquaintances. Once again, this is why I hesitated and debated about blogging and what to blog about.

It’s a fact that people judge you based on posts, especially if they have anything to do with politics, religion or other controversial topics. Like God forbid, Obamacare, abortion or the multilayers behind poverty or the mentality “just go out and get a job.”

On that note: It’s time to shift the focus away from “I, I, I” blog posts and turn it to topics that really matter. Like a 25-year-old girl I met yesterday on a freelance writing assignment who wants to get her GED, but couldn’t because she didn’t have a state ID. Her parents brought her to America when she was age 4. Was that her fault? Through the help of this nonprofit, doors are being opened for her – doors to education, opportunity, possibility.