Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Just another blog about Facebook

Blogging about Facebook is so... 2008.

But I've been workshopping this essay at cocktail parties (read: repeating myself over beers down the Coyote) and my blogroll tells me it's ok for us to still be talking about it (here and here). Here's what I want to explain to those who have dropped in to see what condition their condition is in, and find the whole experience stressful.

Yes, stressful.
There are those in our circle who can not navigate the complex rules of Facebook culture. Here is what I want to explain.

The rules of Facebook are very clear and simple. They are just not the rules of polite society. I feel your confusion, because as you recall, my experiment with Second Life was a complete wash. I feel like that weird long-legged character who attached himself to me is still flying around waiting for "Abby" to come back from the shoe store.

There are active Facebookers, occasionals, and people who never make it to the newsfeed for one reason or another. There are people who don't even provide status. I equate them to Netflix friends who won't rate movies. They are still my friends, I will still flip through their queues, but it would be more fun if they would play along. And here is one of the FB social rules: you don't have to talk to anyone if you don't want to.

It took years, cue cards, and the Female Seminary at Botetourt Springs to help me make small talk at parties. It took 10 years in Higher Ed to practice approaching wallflowers and inviting them into the conversation. FB rules allow you to bust into or avoid any salon taking place at the moment. Because it is only going to be for that moment, and there is another happening right behind it.

You do not have to befriend anyone you don't want to; similarly, you may approach anyone you like, so long as you understand they can ignore you. People tell me "I don't want to Friend that person," (sadly, in FBland, "befriend" did not catch on) "But I don't know how not to."
Like this:

If someone sent you a valentine, or a birthday party invitation, or approached you at a dinner party in real life -- or, if in Second Life, when a skunk with Sailor Moon ponytails approaches a taller, trimmer version of yourself -- it would be rude to literally ignore them. Not so in Facebook.  Accept or don't accept, it's your Wall.

People who find this stressful are only practicing the Golden Rule: they want all their gifts and quizzes and offers of games to be accepted, so they practice receiving.  I can see how that would be stressful.  And a little conceited.  Remind yourself it is not real life, and that isn't a real bouquet you just sent, and you can feel better about not playing Mafia Wars.

I feel very secure in not playing Mafia Wars.

One of my Friend/friends who studies game theory is working on a study of Facebook "play" to identify who plays and who doesn't and why.  If she had been awake at 2am today as I was, she would discover that Facebookers play because they are awake at 2am.

Let me also say that FB is a great communication device.  Use it to organize your personal life, and the results are quite pleasing.  Plan events, schedule group lunches and reunions, meet up for a jog (ok, that's not an example from my life, but you are with me right?), check in on F/friends in flood and fire zones.  Share the pictures from the wedding.  It does all the things Craigslist, eVite, Chat Rooms and You Tube do without the clutter of strangers.  Cultivate your actual friendships and rejuvenate your old ones.  Experiment with new ones if you like.

If you like.

A dear friend I talked into Facebook hated it from the first day.  She bailed quickly, and wrote about it in an old-fashioned medium whose rules she understood better (blogs).  It is an honest account of what's wrong with Facebook, and I don't deny her experience.  No one was more surprised than I was that I "rock Facebook like [I] invented it," (says the man who got me to join Facebook). 

I discovered that FB Nation is a culture that meets my public/private persona needs with the right balance of "Here for you" and "Not right now."  Moving to New England had a similar effect.


  1. Sue Casey O'Neill and 2 others like this.

  2. I ignore. It is just not a media/technology I'm comfortable with and I believe it becomes more self-isolating than I ever want to be! When I want to touch base with folks, I actually write a personal (and private) note or pick up the telephone. Does that make me a dinasaur? Probably. M.

  3. Fancy seeing Charlene here when I got this link from her blog?

    I like facebook because I can see what liquids my Great Neices
    absorbed the previous weekend. Ok the rest of the family is on there, we don't like each other well enough to actually touch or be in the same room or anything.


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