A few years ago I finally signed up for a Facebook account after several friends who post their photos online sent me requests to “JOIN!” I felt a bit strong-armed into it, but when I received yet another friend’s, “Either sign up or never see me or my photos again…” (Well, they really didn’t say that exactly), I finally relented and signed up. It only took about a week for me to realize that Facebook might just be some evil sociologist’s grand social etiquette experiment…it is just so prone to social “collisions”…read on.
We’re Friends, Yet Worlds Apart: Contrary Political and/or Religions Beliefs:
It didn’t take me long to regret a Facebook post; because it didn’t take me long to realize that my friends and family on FB were a very diverse collection of folks, especially relating to political and religious views. My friends list consisted of conservatives and liberals, atheists and strict fundamentalists, and everything in between.
I had decided to post a video of a gay-rights speech that a friend of mine had posted on his wall. I thought it was very powerful, moving and right on target so I immediately wanted to “share” it on my own FB wall. It echoed my strong beliefs on the subject, so I ventured out of my privacy zone and posted it. Just like that. Easy…and isn’t that what FB is all about, sharing your life and thoughts with people in your life?
Maybe, maybe not! Just minutes later, I realized that I had just potentially alienated (and apparently offended) some friends and relatives who had just as strong beliefs to the contrary. Oops. And after a few “private” comments from a few of them it took me awhile to attempt another post, and that one was a photo of a smiling cat or something much less controversial.
It didn’t take long for me to question what to post and what not to post based on my ever-expanding friends list. My various worlds were colliding….and that was just the start of it!
We’re Friends! (But I Have Multiple Personalities): The “College (or Current Party-Animal) You” vs. the “Parent (or My Boss Is On My Friend’s List) You”
How many of us did things in college that we don’t really want our kids to get documented proof of? How many of you don’t want your co-workers to see you dancing or tipping a few at that weekend party with your old college buddies or your group of lady friends from your gym class? Facebook has that annoying “tagging” feature, so someone can take a completely embarrassing photo of you (or have one from your past even!), tag it with your name, and then all of your friends get the photo (without your permission, by the way) and are also then just a click away to see the entire album of photos relating to the one you are in (which I have found sometimes can contain even more amazing photos, perhaps not tagged, but there you are nonetheless!)…
I actually had a photo sent to me because a friend of mine was tagged in someone else’s album (who was not a friend of mine)…when I clicked on that photo (which was a very cute group photo), I got the whole album, including an untagged photo of my friend flipping off the camera…bet that one wasn’t meant for wide distribution given she has young teens…
Bump up your privacy settings you say? Well, there is no such thing as rock-solid privacy on FB. If you think there is, you are kidding yourself…there are well known backdoors to your info and messages. If one of your friends doesn’t set their privacy just right, your posts can be seen, your photos shared. Photos in particular are just a bit too available, especially given the tagging feature.
Now in fairness to FB, there is a feature called “lists” where you can apparently assign different FB friends to different lists, such as “Real friends”, “People I Work With”, “Adolescents (maybe children of friends)”, “People Who I Felt I Had To Add But Who I Really Don’t Want As Friends”, etc… I haven’t tried using lists as I felt at some level that it was just too much work to sort my communications in that manner!
We’re Friends! (But I’m Also Friends With Your Ex!): Dealing with Friends and their Ex’s: Awkward!
Some of you who don’t use Facebook (are there any of you out there?) may not really understand how “effortless” adding friends can be, but suffice it to say that FB prompts a user frequently, suggesting new friends to add (by offering you potential friends from friends lists of your existing friends, for example). The downside of this “simplicity” is that you may not take time to really think about the social implications (or consequences) of adding a given person, you may just add people who are “offered” to you by the system because it is so simple to just click “invite”.
I realized the other day that I had added an “ex” (as in ex-wife) of a friend (in a very “unfriendly” divorce…but are there any other kind?)…the question of the issues that could come up from that (a lot of people have their accounts set-up so that “friends of friends” can read through most anything, etc) as well as just the awkward situation of having FB suggest to one ex to friend the other. I wasn’t sure what to do…delete one? (But which one? And how awkward to delete one without explanation of why their ex is preferred over them!) Ask them if they are comfortable with both being a friend? Yikes…way too much burden on me!
We’re Friends! (But Be Advised: I Can Still “Unfriend” You At Any Time…): Social etiquette rules of Friending, Unfriending and just Ignoring Invites Altogether
And speaking of burden…the whole social etiquette for friending, unfriending, ignoring invites, etc. can be daunting if you think too hard about it. Etiquette is defined as a code of behavior. I wonder what Miss Manners would say about the whole Facebook phenomenon. Everything is public, voyeuristic and indirect. Communication is just thrown “out there” for anyone and everyone. It stays out there, too. Public vs. private…the lines blur.
To friend or not to friend? Oh, I imagine Miss Manners would be horrified over how people answer this seemingly simple question! Ignoring invitations, in particular, would horrify anyone with manners, except that on Facebook, manners apparently don’t matter. When someone invites you to be their friend, recipients of that request can simply ignore the request. Or delete it. There isn’t a message that goes back to the sender that says, “Sorry, I don’t EVER want to be your friend!”…There isn’t any proof that the recipient even got the invite…that’s the evil beauty of the FB system…you only hear the good things…the bad things (getting your invite ignored, being unfriended, etc) just happen without any fanfare or notification! If real life were only like that! I did just hear that they were adding a “dislike” button to FB, though, which somewhat surprised me…up until now, FB has been very “stroke” oriented…everyone strokes everyone else, including themselves!
Initially I was very open to anyone who invited me to be their friend…and I have to say that everytime I added a new friend I liked to go through their friends list just to see who was there…and I added a lot of people just to find out what they had been up to over the years…
I wish there was a polite way to send a message to someone just to see what they are up to (like someone I worked with 20 years ago) without having to actually ADD them…do you see that there is a difference? I want the option to be voyeuristic without making a longer term commitment.
I actually went on to my own FB recently a deleted a bunch of people I had originally added (the FB application asks to go through your contacts to add them, and because you are new to FB you might be inclined to add more people than you later want to have join in your daily life and thoughts!). They probably didn’t notice until now! Oops…it isn’t that I don’t like you, it is just that I didn’t feel you probably needed to hear my daily 2 cents…but, does anyone????
We’re Friends! (But The World IS Watching!): Being evaluated based on your Facebook posts
I tell my older teenager that his wall shouldn’t be public, but he comes back with a bunch of “free speech” and “it’s my wall” nonsense and basically reminds me that my thoughts are so stupid that that is why he ended up unfriending me after about a day of being his FB friend. I tell him colleges & businesses who are hiring are starting to use FB and other social networking sites as a place to gather more info on applicants. In looking at some of his peer group’s posts I immediately need to ask the question: Why post nonsense about “beer pong” on a site where everyone can see it, especially if you are only 17? It is bad enough that teens might be experimenting with beer pong, but must they tell the world! Teens today don’t understand three things: 1) what people think about you does matter, 2) anything posted on the internet should be viewed as permanent and no longer in your control/possession, and 3) some day you might regret posting a given photo or commentary…really.
I have talked to several people involved in either recruiting for companies and/or making decisions on college applicants, and there definitely is a focus now on doing a quick search on social networking sites. If I were hiring, why wouldn’t I spend 5 minutes to search on a candidate… nowadays, it is the equivalent of not checking references.
We’re Friends! (But I Don’t Care About Your Farm!): Those annoying applications and people sharing your info
After I started using Facebook I saw there was a new group circulating, “I Don’t Care About Your Farm, etc….” (These same people will be heavily utilizing their “dislike” buttons, I’m sure). To be honest, it doesn’t really matter to me that you need something for your barn or not…I just want to hear a hello or see a picture, or hear something from you personally, from time to time. The problem with a lot of those cute apps is that all of your friends’ info gets shared with the application owner, who I’m sure uses them in some marketing sense…and those farm graphics really do take up a lot of space on the screen… So I imagine I am going to be unfriended by many of you farmers after your hearing this…but, don’t feel you have to, as I do hope that in the midst of the farming you provide a personal note from time to time… and most of you do, thankfully.
We’re Friends! (But When Do I Get My Privacy Back?) Today, info on your life isn’t leaked, it is flowing full-force through vast networks of both friends and foes, stalkers and who knows who else…
The world is different for today’s teens. Communication has become instantaneous. Everything is public and widely broadcast…and is permanent (even if my son thinks this is not so). Internet-based media can be manipulated, distorted, rapidly re-distributed, downloaded and taken out of context. Even innocently so.
When I was young, if you hated someone, you told your 3 best friends, who may have managed to tell one or two others. That was it, and it took some time for even that limited communication to occur. And there certainly wasn’t documented evidence of the conversation and facts involved. By the time 9 people knew that you hated that individual you were friends again.
Now, you tell your 3 best friends, who post it on their FB, and instantly, there is documentation broadcast to a very large – and public – group. Worse, you don’t even have a way to retract it or to post a comment to the contrary that will for sure get to all of those who received the info in the first place! Gossip spreads much faster than the subsequent clarifications and declarations of innocence, unfortunately.
It is just a bit unnerving. Where will it all end? I wonder…will privacy go the way of cursive writing and become extinct? I hope not. Because at the end of the day, people need their secrets and the ability to “share” their thoughts with a few special friends vs everyone they’ve ever met (Or worse, even those they haven’t).