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Friday, June 22, 2012

Facebook Fraud: It’s Time for a Facebook Manual

So all the kids are doing it. And now the moms, dads, and grandparents, too.

I realized the other day that I’m kind of a hypocrite when it comes to social-networking. I’m a bona fide Facebook Fraud.

I don’t surf. I don’t post pictures. I don’t tag people or know what those sparkly-looking games are. I don’t know how to turn some things off and other things on. I don’t understand why people I don’t know can invite me to things I can’t go to and copy me on messages I don’t need to see.

I’m a flyby user who logs in when I get an e-mail notification that someone contacted me. If your headline pops up in that big box at exactly the moment I enter my username and password, I’m happy to comment, but it’s really nothing short of luck. It’s not that I don’t care about all the other things you’ve said, I just didn’t see them.

Call me a social-networking hypocrite, but Facebook is a tool for me. A way to contact people and disperse information at a viral pace. The thing is, it hasn’t replaced my real-life social-networking, which means I’ve been left in the dust.

It’s not hate, because I actually like Facebook in theory. I’m on board with the concept of being able to connect with almost anyone at any time. Even though I’ve never said a word to half the people on my friend list, there’s a certain security in knowing I could.

My real problem is that it changed the landscape of our culture away from the screen. It’s created several new problems and didn’t fix some of the ones it should have. I’m not a heavy user (as is obvious by the calendar months separating my wall posts), so here are some results of that deficiency:

  1. I didn’t send a card.

Remember when your friends use to call you with big news like they were getting married or having a baby? Some of you may even remember when news came through letters and postcards. Now, I’m responsible for staying up-to-date on other people’s milestones. The burden is on me to poke my head into their universe, not on them to push the highlights into mine.

When I find out a week after something happened, I don’t get an apology, I get an annoyed response because I didn’t add a comment to the original post(s). After all, they “announced it” in plenty of time.

That’s fantastic, but based on my usage pattern, the statistical probability of me seeing that post works out to about .78%. I didn’t see it, sorry.

Congratulations, by the way.

  1. No more small talk.

This one really hits home. I’m not great with small talk to begin with. I have this chip in my brain that insists people have things to do. They don’t want to waste time talking to me about the current humidity level and positioning of the sun. It’s not that I’m aloof. I’m not even shy. I love people and I love talking to them, I just can’t convince my brain that it’s ok to bother them with stuff like that.

If someone approaches me and wants to chat about whether or not it’s hot enough for me, by all means, I’ll give them my opinion until the bus arrives to take us to the airport. But my subconscious immediately shuts off my frontal lobe at the idea of initiating such a conversation with the Kindle-reader next to me.

I have the same issue at parties with people I know. Those close to me understand this, and are happy to discuss the socio-political ramifications of legalizing gambling in a small municipality or why a particular marketing campaign failed and what the Fortune 500 company should do differently.

With the rest of my casual friends and acquaintances, it’s “so how’s that new job working out? How’s little Suzy? I heard you were buying a house?” I just started getting good at that when Facebook came along. Now, those perfectly legitimate icebreakers are the equivalent of saying “so, I see you wore a yellow shirt.”

I get the look that says, “How can you even ask that? I’ve been detailing the entire correspondence chain with our realtor and narrated the play-by-play for Suzy’s trip to the dentist last week to fix her broken tooth. And didn’t you know I lost out to Jerry in Accounting for the job after all and am still formatting spreadsheets for the VP of marketing? My status update yesterday was that I wished I could stab myself in the eye.”

Some of them even utter nicer versions of “the entire story’s on Facebook if you want to check it out.” Yeah, I don’t. I just wanted talk to you.

But I really like your yellow shirt. Sorry about Suzy.

  1. No such thing as TMI.

A friend and I love to use the term TMI (too much information), mostly because we know it’s ridiculous that two women with careers and families actually use that term in serious conversation. But my goodness, Facebook has completely eliminated the concept from our lives.

It used to be that things done in the bathroom and bedroom were private. We didn’t broadcast our faults and moments of poor judgment. Now we have apps for that. Yep, you can stamp your name on your career coffin before you even leave the bar.

On a daily basis, we can watch people get heated about something or other and implode in front of hundreds of people. What would have been a venting tirade with a close friend over a glass of wine, now becomes a public display of insanity that will define you in the minds of thousands of friends and friends of friends.

I have a rule. When I’m tempted to post something, I first delete it, and then post it later if I still think it’s a good idea. It’s almost never determined to be a good idea.

  1. As if we needed to extend office politics to our personal lives.

Have you noticed we now have the term, “Facebook Etiquette”? The irony is that this lovely euphemism refers to a set of standard codes and procedures that doesn’t exist. We’re making it up as we go, and the process is governed mostly by trial and error. Here’s some Facebook math:

Nebulous rules + Public Persona + Permanent Record = Dramatic Apologies

“Ok, so that ruined four relationships and cost me my Christmas bonus. Guess I’ll add that to item 4.a. in what not to post on someone’s wall.”

  1. Wow. That is not my best angle.

This one ties closely to item #4. We’ve lost a significant amount of control over our own lives. You can be a hermit and click every privacy setting in your profile. You can use a picture of a bar of soap as your profile image and it still doesn’t mean your entire life won’t be slapped all over the internet for the world to see.

I don’t know how many pictures of me are on Facebook, probably hundreds, and I didn’t post a single one. Advice columnists love to respond to complaints with useless ideas like “you need to ask people to take them down if you don’t want them up.” Sure, like that’s gonna happen. 

For one, there’s no way to do that without making yourself sound like a complete tool to everyone you know and love. Second, I’m not even sure that’s possible. I know about the ones where people tagged me. What about the ones when they didn’t?

(And to those who are reading this and have posted some, don’t worry. I’m not upset about it. Just take down the ones where my eyes are half-shut and make me look like a drunk zombie.)

It’s the same with information. Thankfully, my friends are generally respectful and conscientious, but we all know there’s not much preventing a spiteful (or stupid) acquaintance from destroying your life with almost nothing but a Facebook account.

I heard a radio personality talking about the study that found the word “Facebook” in an astronomical percentage of divorce proceeding transcripts.

And what are you going to do to stop it? If you can answer that, please let me know because right now my best idea is to crawl into a ditch and wait for the Apocalypse. I can accept that for plan “H” but I’d like an “A” through “G” as well.

The scary thing is, I could probably add several more bullet points, but I won’t do that to you. You get my point. So yes, you will see me using Facebook. You will even see me seem to like Facebook when I post (I do). Just don’t get mad at me if I accidentally post on your wall instead of update my status, or deny your friend request when I meant to accept it. I probably didn’t see your post about anything unless you did something to trigger my e-mail notification system. It’s not that I don’t like you or care, I do, I’m just Facebook deficient.

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