Let me explain.
I’ve had a Facebook account since the beginning. I was one of the people who saw it as a means of connecting with friends and family in Australia and overseas. I uploaded my photos, videos and shared tid bits of what we were doing around the house and in our travels. I kept Facebook for a small group of only close friends and family each member individually slotted into Groups:
- Close Family
- Extended Family
- Close Friends
Privacy settings were regularly checked; photos that had me tagged had to be cleared for my review before going up on my timeline; and third party applications accessing Facebook checked and cleared out every few months.
Status updates and photos was shared only to certain groups dependent on how relevant that information was to them. I declined every request from people who did not fit these categories.
But over time, these rules relaxed to include some colleagues who over time became friends. The lines between work and personal had blurred because we shared experiences that engendered, trust and mutual respect.
I have not had any Facebook issues or problems from any friends, family or colleagues. At worse, I can only ever think of two situations which were minor. The first one I was openly criticised from someone for something I can’t remember now. What I do remember was that my Facebook followers responded to the criticism with their own thoughts and they basically resolved the situation. All I did was to sit back and read the discussion to realise that I had people who supported me or my argument. The second, was a Friend did not share my political views and provided contrary arguments on my page and then declared that he will unfollow me if I put one more post about politics. Sure enough, I did put a post and his last status report on my page was, “That’s it Helen, I’m unfollowing you!” and that was it. It was a pity because I actually enjoyed the banter back and forth. It was the first time that people were actually responding to my posts and having real discussions!
Herein lies the problem with me and Facebook.
Some time ago, I turned to my husband and asked, “why do my friends get long discussions and discourses on their status with just a selfie, or them drinking wine or requesting Candy Crushes and I get nothing?”
“That’s because you probably don’t write something they find of interest,” my husband said as a matter of fact. “What do you post?”
“I write about what I’ve been working on; I ask for volunteers to events or projects; I linked my Activate Learn blog posts – and my personal blog posts – to Facebook; I post photos of my knitting projects; when I was in Rotary I posted about what we were doing for community and club projects, I upload some YouTube videos – some educational – some weird like “What Does the Fox Say” or Demis Roussos, Sailor, among others….I rant about our government…”
“See? You’re not providing stuff to have a conversation on,” he stated.
I thought about this. Maybe he was right. I was expecting the same level of discussions I was getting in other social media but it turns out that we all have different interests. Also, many people simply aren’t inclined to comment or post something to have an online conversation – maybe they just like to view the post but not comment?
What was the online persona that was coming across on Facebook to my family and friends? Is this the persona I wanted?
The truth is that what they see in my online persona – is me. I do like my work; I enjoy writing my blog posts; I love sharing my knitted projects and yes, I do enjoy a harmless rant about our government every now and then.
Over the last few years when I had more colleagues follow me, the use of Facebook did change. I found I was getting requests for networking, meetings and a few jobs came out of it. That is, they were using this medium to contact me for work. I also noticed more interactions with “work” type posts (more likes, some comments) so my perception was that what I was posting was being read and considered. I had lost track as to how many people Direct Messaged me with requests to send them links to posts I had previously placed up on the page that they recalled and wanted to reuse.
Also, I had joined some Facebook groups that were set up alongside some constructivist MOOCs I was doing and these pages provided the conversations around topics and modules we were undertaking at the time. Sometimes the participants who were doing these MOOCs asked to be a Facebook friend but I declined many of them. To me, they had a place in the MOOC and it would take a while to establish trust to accept them into my personal Facebook page. There were other Pages that I was a member of such as my Knitting groups and I began to realise that Facebook did have a role to play in my life and work.
About a month ago, I was asked to participate in a video interview about Facebook Privacy and it got me thinking that I need to test my theory of going without it to see how my life changes.
To me, Facebook has always been a love-hate relationship. Love because it allows me to connect to friends and family easily but hate, in that everyone seems to be on it – we seem to be forced to use this as the only medium simply because it’s a ‘one stop shop’.
So I joined the 99 Days of Facebook Freedom; changed my avatar to 99 Days, wrote my last post and logged off.
In that time, I haven’t really missed the status updates; nor have I missed the Candy Crush requests.
The one thing that has not changed is that I use the telephone to call my direct family (as our news is not shared openly on Facebook) however, I do feel a tad isolated from seeing what’s happening in other people’s lives as an ‘observer’. No close friends or extended family have called or contacted me but I have had a few requests for work come in via LinkedIn or text messages because they couldn’t get to me via Facebook.
However, in the meantime I have used the phone a lot more or Skype simply preferring to get into direct contact with people for a quick chat – and dare I say it, it’s been lovely reconnecting and having an element of surprise when they tell me what they’ve been up to!
I have had to schedule in telephone calls during the day and evening to reconnect with people.
Have I failed the 99 Day Facebook Challenge?
Yes. I have. Even though my blog posts are linked to Facebook, my followers still see updates on what I’m doing or working on. Similarly, there were two occasions where I needed to broadcast a message and seek out volunteers for two events.
The first one for a Third Place (my Learning and Development Meetup Group) event where I have organised a behind-the-scenes tour of the Navy Recruit School at HMAS Cerberus and I wanted to share this with my friends who were in the learning, education and training fields but who may not be in my Third Place community; and the second, was seeking out volunteers for a Working Out Loud Circle. There was simply no other way to contact these people because I did not have their phone numbers or current email addresses so I had to break the 99 Day Facebook Challenge to contact them as a group.
So it got me thinking about Facebook.
Despite me jumping up and down annoyed at how it changes its rules and privacy settings, there are many people who are on it for convenience and as a channel to connect. It’s the “new email”. Some people may not have emails – but we know we can contact them on Facebook.
It’s made me realise that social, personal and face-to-face connections are critical, richer and more rewarding. The online one is merely a conduit or another channel that can add to the experience but you still need to connect to others in person somehow. It also made me realise that I need to schedule time to call my friends and family personally and to not let the online world take over as a replacement for the physical face-to-face one. Yes, it does take time out of our day and we are all busy but really, that’s a small price to pay.
So where to for me here?
I will finish the 99 Day Challenge wiser about my use of Facebook. I will continue to be irritated by it but I’ll modify my use of it. This could be as simple as reducing access to it and continuing the personalised calls, texts and Skype instead. I will use Facebook as my broadcast medium for my blogs and other events and work that I’m doing and manage my expectations of it.
I will continue posting certain status to certain categories as I have always done and to be mindful of my online persona. Over time, I will reduce the third party applications to the bare minimum and streamline it to basic functions only. I’ll also continue using it through Meeco as I do other sites.
It’s been an eye opener but it’s made me realise the price we have paid for this convenience. What has been your experience of Facebook? Have you tried the challenge and succeeded?