Facebook. I was persuaded to set up a page. I was fairly reluctant because I was not convinced of the advantages. Why would anyone want to read my one-line updates? (Do not be deceived, dear reader. The irony of anyone wanting to read multi-line updates on my blog is not lost on me. The difference, I think, I hope, (with the exception of this post) is that my little anecdotes here are marginally more interesting, although I fully accept that it is more than probable that they are not, BUT if you read these blatherings, it is entirely your own choice to seek them out as they do not automatically appear on your page). And come to that why would I want to read anyone else’s one-line updates?
I caved into pressure and now have a page. Curiously, two of my most enthusiastic evangelists for Facebook rarely post anything. I’ve decided that people fall into various personality categories. There must be a PhD in Social Behaviour in this somewhere. Interestingly, it seems that most of my friends on the site are like me: they rarely post. Fortunately, though, there are half a dozen who are quite chatty and so there is usually something to read when I go to check up on what’s going on. I have another whole swathe of friends who would never be persuaded to have a page at all. Their attitude (and I can understand it because it was also my stance) is “if I want to say something to my friends, I’ll phone them or send an email”.
This I think is the crux of the problem for me. I can rarely think of anything to say that would be of any interest to all my FB friends. And if it does not apply to all of them, then why tell them all? I’m still trying to work that one out. (I know, I’m probably taking this all far too seriously!)
Then we have the issue of who is a friend and who isn’t. I have seen pages where the mighty popular have literally hundreds of friends. I have been approached by some people who had found my page because I am friends with one (or more) of their friends. This was another thing I had been dreading – the school playground scenario of “Can I play with you?” and being rejected…or worse still, having to reject! More knots to tie myself in. There were one or two applications for friendship which concerned me – a) because I felt that there had only ever been a passing acquaintance – even if this had lasted for some 10 years and b) how to draw a line between the type of passing acquaintance that I wanted to accept as a friend and one I didn’t?
Are the 10-year acquaintances wanting to renew contact with me because they genuinely like me (and if this is the case, why were we not better friends when we lived/worked together), or do they want me on their list of friends to boost numbers?
Then there is the reverse situation. I have seen that there are people on the site with whom it might be nice to renew contact – but so many years have passed without any interaction that it might seem a bit late now to try to catch up in such a superficial way.
The whole thing is complicated by being a member of a professional networking site as well. When colleagues see that you are a Facebook friend with a mutual colleague, they want to link via this medium too. I try to keep work and business separate but inevitably there is some overlap.
I came up with the rule of thumb of Christmas cards. If I send a Christmas card to the applicant, they are sufficiently acquainted and may magnanimously be included on my Facebook page.
The whole thing is a bit of a minefield. I have rejected applications from some would-be friends and although I haven’t had to say anything direct, it must be obvious that I have ignored them as they will see my comments on mutual friends’ updates. I am rather self-consciously aware that my chattier friends are those with vast numbers of friends. Any comment I make there can be potentially read by hundreds of complete strangers. It all feels a bit too public.
Interestingly, in the case of one or two people, I have found out more about them by their being on Facebook than I may otherwise have done. One example is with the forthcoming election. I rarely talk about politics with friends but updates have revealed their political allegiances. There is one person, whom I would describe as very gentle and mild but whose political colours have shown them to be more feisty than I would have ever imagined! (Which just shows that one doesn’t know much about even those one considers to be relatively close friends…perhaps one should spend more Real time with them, rather than wittering on Facebook?)
I have been considering removing myself from Facebook but one of the unexpected advantages is that I get to read lots of different languages. A lot of my friends post bi-lingually and so I see posts in English (obviously), French, German, Danish, Spanish and Afrikaans. I quite enjoy this, so I might be around for a little while longer.
Here endeth the ramble (for now).