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.