Learning how to use Facebook

I started re-thinking my facebook usage after reading this post in Relevant a few months ago. Why it’s time to Stop Facebook Lurking.  That article made me blush, laugh, and think.

I’m not quite a digital native at 29, but almost.  Sometimes it’s a toss-up which of my friends will text, and which won’t.  I remember that first cell-phone (at 20), it was a flip phone, and didn’t have a camera.  When I first entered college people still brought telephones to their dorm room and plugged in a LAN cable.

I knew from the moment I heard about it that facebook would be a time-suck. Which is why I held out exactly five months after what felt like everyone else at my college had joined.  Until November 2005. Then I dove straight in.

Creating groups like “I can only draw stick figures.”  Joining groups like “Myspace is for trashy hoes.”  In general I was embarrassing myself in ways that only 20-year-olds can do.  And it’s preserved for posteriority, which, in my case, now has a name, face, and charming three-year-old sense of humor.

Over the last nine years I’ve used facebook in a lot of ways. To invite others to events. To stalk others. To find babysitters. To find out both local and world news. To congratulate myself with how well I’m doing in life.  To feel as though my life is going nowhere.

But, lately I have decided to stop lurking on facebook. The Relevant article makes many points I agree with – that community is a two way street, that facebook takes up real time you can’t get back, and that facebook many create unattainable ideals of faux friendship.

However, I disagree with a few of the possible (but unstated) conclusions – that facebook is a) Generally a negative or neutral use of time. b) You should use it less.  The author leaves the conversation without suggesting positive ways of using facebook, of which, I believe there are many.

How to use Facebook to build Community:

1. Stop talking about facebook as a waste of my time.  After I did the quick calculation that I spend about 60 – 90 minutes on the site every day (albeit, multitasking) it’s still time spent. If I am intentionally choosing to do something for 90 minutes a day- I make certain to be mindful. No more scrolling through dozens of posts.  The recent tweaks to the layout helped me to be more intentional about this.

2. Share memes, blog posts and quizzes with specific friends that will enjoy it, rather than the entire facebook universe as much as possible or as often as you would like.

3. Use facebook for a specific purpose (like those listed above).  Double points to if it’s to make real life plans possible.

4. Try to engage multiple people in conversation through messages or tagged posts on topics that spark conversation and invite (polite) discussion.  Maybe this one only works for me, but I certainly enjoy using facebook in this way.

5. Remind yourself that the friends who pop up in your newsfeed are not necessarily your closest friends now, but that doesn’t mean in the past they weren’t meaningful people in your life who still deserve attention and care. Use facebook for what it’s good for reconnecting with past friends, as well as present.

6. But… Re-organize the people you want to hear from the most into lists and groups.  Although I personally don’t care to “de-friend” people, I also don’t care to see run-of-the-mill memes from people I haven’t seen in person in over two or longer years.  I have no qualms about hiding old friends from my regular newsfeed.  But I do love to see their babies!…

In general my latest facebook philosophy has been what most of my life is about – living according to my deepest convictions and beliefs – including ways to improve communication, authenticity, and deepen community.

What about you? Is facebook something you are intentional about? Don’t care about?  What other social media do you use to stay in touch?

PS: I’ve blogged about social media and the internet before, like when we didn’t have it for 79 days two years ago! (I’m still shuddering in horror), and how a theologian from the 1950s taught me something new about the internet. AND you could always follow All Growing Up on facebook too.

Why I’ll be continuing to use Social Media

You might have already guessed this about me, but I love social media.  Although last week I advocated for reading old books, this week I’m advocating for using new technology, and I think that’s totally consistent.  In fact, wrestling with internet usage is a big part of this blog, as you can read here, here, and here.
A few weeks ago I read this article which argues for the fact that you can no longer say the internet isn’t “real life.”  And I’ve seen an increasing number of posts and news articles about people disconnecting (like this freshly pressed post from october 31st).  It’s also not uncommon to run into news stories about extreme cases of people dying from too much internet, or simply becoming addicted to internet usage.

So, where’s the balance in all of this? (remember: balance is one of my core beliefs.)

If there’s one thing social media does well, it’s connection.  And the biggest factor for my continued social media usage is the exposure to new ideas, education, differing opinions, and clever crafts.  It’s information, entertainment, and travel at my fingertips for an extremely low monetary price. It’s the ability to check out online classes at Harvard Extension school, listen to TED talks, read new social theories, and yes, obsessively stalk my old camp friends on facebook.

The psychological and emotional price is, of course somewhat higher, even my schoolwork is affected a little bit, but I’m going to talk about some solutions to that more on Friday.

Psychologically, I’ve noticed with increased internet usage my thinking becomes hectic, fragmented, and completely unable to self-regulate.  Everything seems to lead to one more thing. I didn’t really notice this until we went without the internet from February to March this year.  That’s when I realized it’s important to consolidate my internet time.  Limits are very very important when it comes to the internet-fascinated, like me.

Emotionally, many bloggers (women especially) have noted the general feeling of pressure to keep up with social expectations perpetuated on pinterest of the perfect house.  Or of constantly presenting your best face on facebook.

Another project on pinterest I might get around to this year… or next.

My personal tendency is to become obsessed with duplicating an exact replica of my life on the internet.  If I “like” something in real life, I NEED to “like” it on the internet.  Obviously, this is not really necessary.  And, as most people do, I do can fall into the trap of thinking that other people really do have it together and have a million friends if I only believe what I see on their facebook wall.

I love that many people are able to give up the internet (or at least the parts that are the most addicting to them).  It’s a little worrisome to me when everyone falls lock step into a particular belief without questions whether this particular technology is good for them.  (Cars, cell phones, TV’s, etc). One part of my continuing to use the internet will be the continuance of it being a “good” thing.  Something morally beneficial, useful, and of course, fun.

Are you a Social Media Zombie?

Is The Breakfast Club Irrelevant Now?

The Breakfast Club was an 80’s cult classic, but if released today would it still be relevant? Probably not, and here’s why.

After salaciously consuming breakfast for lunch, a coworker and I popped in the 1985 movie The Breakfast Club. I remarked to her, ‘ I haven’t watched this movie for at least eight or ten years.’  For her, about four years had passed.

In case you don’t remember the premise I’ll refresh your memory.  Five teens from wildly divergent cliques are forced to commune in the same room for nine hours without any normally socially sanctioned barriers between them.  In this space of time they probe beneath one another’s masks and discover what really motivates them.  According to wikipedia, it’s heartwarming and inspirational.  If I hadn’t just watched the movie, I would have agreed based on my remembrance of it. However, recent viewing has considerably changed my opinion.

Setting drives the drama second only to concept in this movie. The faded brown and tan and beige and buff school definitely draws a drab atmosphere.  The library is the primary scene and it’s depressing, that’s for sure.  The linearity of the shelves, tables, and desks invoke those classic stereotypes and it’s easy to judge each character like a book, by it’s front cover.  However it is the concept and conversations that unfold which are the real action.

Unfortunately, in these conversations what I hadn’t recalled are the aggressive speeches peppered liberally with expletives. The profuse profanity surprised me, but I was more surprised at the sexual harassment as well as the physical and verbal abuse each character undergoes.  Without comment.  Much of it at the hands of a teaching professional.

In the last two to three years the target of much extracurricular education and media attention has been about bullying.    This morning there was The White House Conference on Bullying Convention where Barack Obama let on that the knows he has big ears.  Last summer one in a series of teen suicides occurred in Hadley, Ma, ultimately traced to bullying.  A social worker friend of mine interns several times a week in a local town where one of her primary responsibilities is teaching elementary-schoolers about how to notice and stop bullying.

It surprises me then that The Breakfast Club seems to carry in it an implicit bullying message which isn’t addressed.  There are surface attempts at psychoanalyzing each of the characters, and the root problem is misunderstandings.  With a far-too-trite and glossed-over message that bullies are often the subject of bullying, it presents little in the way of solutions to its viewers.  The movie limits itself to stereotypes, which are being focused on less in the media.  The underlying message seems out of date, showing every one of it’s 26 years.

I wonder if this is because the Internet has given people the ability to be “your best you,” or an idealized façade of who one is.  Facebook allows one to carefully present oneself by either displaying interests and hobbies.  If it removed the friend count, such stigmas as popular or unpopular might disappear as well.  At the very least, it would be more difficult to tell based on numerical values.

In a world where an online persona can present one image, occasionally contradicting real life personality is there a need to stereotype people so vigorously?  Will stereotypes continue to be reflected in films?  Or will the problems, like bullying, that arise from these, and the solutions be presented instead?  I don’t know, but maybe a summer blockbuster will deal with bullying.  I’ll have to wait and see.