I overheard and were part of some really interesting conversations this holiday season about Facebook and the pros and cons of using it to keep up with family and friends. Some of the people I talked to said they would NEVER get a Facebook because it was so "IMPERSONAL" and they had a hard enough time keeping up with email. Some said they don't know why their "...." (fill in the blank with random relation) ever got on Facebook because they never get on their page. Others talked about how they liked it because it was "easier than keeping up on the phone" and seeing people's status updates was "kind of like talking to them in person". I had never thought of it that way before, but if you are an introvert, Facebook is a dream come true.
Me personally? Well, considering I got to have a Christmas breakfast get-together with a long-lost best friend from elementary school over this past holiday, I would say that Facebook really does have its perks. I just wouldn't ever say that it is better than all the modes of communication that we already had in place before it. If you really want to show someone you care, Facebook would be the last place I would turn to - unless you had no other option.
Here's my take on Facebook and how to use it...
WHAT FACEBOOK IS:
1. Facebook IS - a great place to get addresses from family and friends so you can mail them cards.
2. Facebook IS - a great place to check on birthdays in case your family and friends are crazy enough to share that information with the entire world-wide web. Many of them are. And if you are on facebook long enough, your family and friends will share YOUR birthday with the rest of the world, too.
3. Facebook IS - a great place to search and find old classmates that you were best friends with growing up - only, don't stop there, actually CALL or get together with them... or at least exchange addresses and write a personal note or send them a Christmas card ...that is, unless you are pregnant - a procrastinator - and didn't send cards to anyone this year. Ahem.
4. Facebook IS - a great place to check up on distant friends and relatives that live in other states which you can't visit - be sure to comment as often as you can to let them know you care. I would suggest adding snail mail and a care package to the attempts at keeping your relationship in good health, too.
5. Facebook IS - a great for promoting your business, blog, or website - but please don't be spammy and spread it on other people's walls without their consent. Keep your wall comments PERSONAL.
6. Facebook IS - a great place to keep up with your favorite brands, companies, and products (and you might even get a say in how they run their business if you communicate with them there - and you'll certainly find coupons, discounts and give-aways if you are watching your feed closely).
WHAT FACEBOOK SHOULDN'T BE:
1. Facebook Isn't - a place to keep up with immediate family and best friends (how impersonal is that?), yes - write on their wall but don't let Facebook replace getting together or a phone call to let them know you love them.
2. Facebook Isn't - a place for important family news that should be given out over the phone. If little Johnny is having surgery, please do your family members a favor and give them a call or even text them to let them know to pray or show up at the hospital (many of us hardly check Facebook email and some don't even sign in to Facebook more than once a month - hint, hint, Mom).
3. Facebook Isn't - a replacement for personal direct email. Do your family and friends a favor and show them that you value them enough to know what their ACTUAL email address is. Chances are, you'll get a much faster and more guaranteed response.
4. Facebook Isn't - a place to play games with people's emotions. You know who you are - the one that gets flustered with a friend and suddenly 'unfriends' them or makes your wall invisible to them so they can't write on it. Can we all please grow up and not play grade-school games? Working on whatever problems we have is much more productive - especially if we plan on keeping a friend or family member in the long-run (retaliation is usually the worst policy when you first get your feather's ruffled).
5. Facebook Isn't - a place to vent your anger. Being angry is ok - spreading it on the web is not! Keep your personal issues personal. No one wants their dirty laundry aired in front of the world. You run the risk of being seen as emotionally unstable and might damage yourself in the process of venting, too. If you MUST call someone down, please use their own personal email account... or better yet, if you can, go to them in PERSON because writing is dangerous when you are mad.
6. Facebook Isn't - a place to upload tacky or gross photos of people and tag them. You might as well just get in the doghouse and save yourself the trouble. If you have a doubt - do without. Get permission FIRST (because forgiveness is fleeting when the entire internet is in the equasion).
As a general rule, here are the most common modes of communication and the ORDER that best displays your commitment level to the person:
Face to Face - "I care about you a lot and want you in my life."
On the Phone - "Even though I'm busy, I wanted to talk to you."
In the Snail Mail - "You are on my mind even when you or I aren't online."
Personal Email - "I'm taking time to write to YOU a personal note."
Text or Personal Twitter DM - "I've got to talk to you right now."
Facebook Email - "I noticed something you said on Facebook and wanted to personally comment."
Facebook Wall Message - "I wanted to say something in public about or to you."
Facebook Comment - "I think what you said was funny or amusing, or I want to share a tip, or I wanted to encourage you."
Facebook Like - "I can relate." or "Cool." (completely impersonal, but nice)
I use Facebook like most of the population - but I can tell you that I only got on it because all of my blog friends were telling me to: the same reason that most companies are using it today - because it is a great marketing platform for their web presence. I didn't want to have just 'another website to check in on' since I already have my blogs and get hundreds of emails a day.
Ever have someone get upset at you for not seeing their status? Another drawback for me (and I'm sure most people who get online to make money or write have this same problem) is that I have friends on Facebook which I don't know personally. They are my blog readers and I appreciate them because they comment and check in on my site - so I friend them on Facebook even though I don't know them very well in real life. I also have communities that I'm a part of for homeschooling where we have a common thread, but we don't know each other in person. My 'friends' on Facebook quickly add up to way more people than I could ever keep in contact with there. This provides a special problem - the "Why didn't you comment?" problem.
Now your cousin Jenny has issues because you "ignored" her on Facebook. Problem is, you don't even know Jenny is upset. You hear about it on a phone call from your mother, who happened to talk to your aunt on the phone earlier this week. Days have gone by. You have innocently started a family feud just because you either 1. Suck at Facebook, 2. have too many Facebook friends and too little time to check it, or 3. (and this is what she's thinking of you) IGNORED HER ON PURPOSE BECAUSE YOU THINK YOU ARE BETTER THAN HER.
I'm serious, people - if you think families have dysfunction in real life - JUST ADD FACEBOOK and see what you get.
I can speak for many who have over 500 Facebook friends with an easy answer to this problem:
It is impossible to keep up with even 100 people on Facebook. You are really talented if you can do half of that and not skip a beat. How many friends do your friends have? Have you checked?
Therefore, please note the list above - especially #'s 1, 2 and 3 in the 'What Facebook Is NOT' section. Please CALL your family and close friends... or email them personally if there's something you are hoping they know. If you think they might like to know it so they won't feel left out, this applies here also. People can't read minds and most folks who actually use Facebook are only on it for a few minutes each day. Leaving really important news on your page (or in a junk Facebook email account that never gets checked) and expecting all the right folks to magically log in to see it that day is kind of like expecting to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It is only going to bring you disappointment that your Facebook "buddies" didn't notice your plight... when you could have gotten real prayer and encouragement if you had reached out to them in the real world.
So, are you with me now?
Facebook is a fine place - a little on the EXTREMELY PUBLIC side for some of us (especially the ones who break the rules and don't even share their real names), but a fine place for generic 'keeping in touch'. Take my advice and don't let it become the middle man in your real life relationships - or you're real life relationships will certainly suffer. And that's something no one wants to be forced to "LIKE".
Photo Credits: Balakov - Flickr, Rishibando - Flickr (click through to find their photo streams)