Sunday, August 25, 2013

Facebook Collecting and Other Misadventures Online

First a disclaimer: I realize that everyone has a different approach and perspective to Facebook so no hate mail. I respect that and have used/engaged with Facebook in an evolving way as well. This is just about some of my own reflection from this summer and my journey to redefining Facebook's place in my life. 

It was seven years ago when I signed up and created my Facebook profile. I did it deliberately but with reservation. I did it because I was a pastor's wife who was working full-time, raising a child, and trying to connect with a high-need congregation that was about 45 minutes away. I wanted to be involved, to be present when I could not actually be there in the flesh.

I believe I started well. Facebook was for friends, not for work associates. LinkedIn was for business; Facebook was personal.

Somewhere along the way I think I lost my way. Thousands if not millions of potential friends joined Facebook since my first status post was written. It was fun to "connect" with friends and acquaintances; new and old, including those from 30 years back in a pre-Internet world.

I watched others have friend lists that topped 1,000. It was a great broadcasting platform for them. I have friends that are single minded in their posted; they are passionate about a certain topic and FB is a great broadcast media for them. I have other friends who link their Twitter feed with FB so there are a lot of short and sweet posts.

At my most generous, I had probably 460 "friends." And I really tried and wanted to be a friend - high interaction with all they posted. It was a daily ritual to get on FB - peruse the latest in the world of my diverse circle of friends from all walks and seasons of my life.

This past year I confess to experiencing, well, hurt feelings from my cadre of Facebook friends. I began to suspect that in fact I was part of some obligatory FB friend collection because regardless of what I posted ( lost job, illness, etc.) they never post a comment or interacted in any way.

Was I hidden or no longer on their feed? Was it something I said? Was it something I had done?

Ouch, it was starting to feel very much like rejection. Okay, I think I have reentered high school!! Yep my expectations had changed. And I think the real thing was, I actually needed/wanted friends.

Now I know that everyone has different FB habits, motivations and expectations. I accept and applaud that - but am hoping it is deliberate. I think it's important that we access how social media impacts the quality of and even nature of our relationships.

So once I was able to reconcile all those crazy emotions, I realized I am no longer impressed with Facebook friending in my life. It's a shortcut to the real thing; a counterfeit of the real thing: real interaction. At some point I simply wanted more than Facebook could give. I wanted real friends.

If I were to gauge friendship by Facebook over the past six to nine months, I think I have three friends (thank you my unnamed friends, you know who you are!). I have never been someone who collected friends. Regardless of what I may appear I am an introvert living a very extroverted life. I'm a deep with a few versus expansive with many.

So the net, net is that two weeks ago, I trimmed my Facebook "friends" by 25 percent. I suspect I will cut it even further in the future. I want to focus my attention on people that I actually have relationships with or those that I want to stay in touch with over the miles (whether they are active on FB or not).  In fact, I am convinced that the 100 people I cut don't even know I cut them; I think I was part of their collection but we really didn't have any real relationship. Again we all have a FB personality type, mine is simply changing.

I considered getting off altogether. That is certainly a choice. But I love connecting with family in Europe and throughout the US; I enjoy seeing my friends' pictures and reveling in their vacations; and I love keeping dialed in throughout the day to the two loves of my life whom I life with. Truth be told I love the birthday alert!

So for now, I will continue dealing with the tension this personal yet impersonal channel affords.

I have much more I could say about Facebook; so much I love about being able to create an awesome news feed that I can customize based on my clients and interests. In fact the news feed function is the one I spend the most time with at this point. I love following my favorite bloggers via FB.

But friends, well I want a strong emphasis with face-to-face or over the phone or via text, or even via Facebook chat. I want real engagement. Pure and simple.

I'll have more on this topic - friendship - in the coming days. It's been such a great thing to explore and be deliberate about. Friendship is worth it; worth the effort.

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