Don’t get me wrong I am a fan of social media. My family started a blog a few years ago to keep friends and family up to date on our lives. We figure why wait for the Christmas newsletter to announce our familial superiority, when a blog can do that for us all throughout the year.
In addition, I have my own personal website. I also have a LinkedIn profile. I have a couple of hundred “connections”, nearly a dozen recommendations, and I even stared my own group.
So when it comes to playing in the Web 2.0 professional sandbox, I bring my own shovel and pail and I invite others to get dirty with me. I am happy to maintain, renew and earn new relationships online. But I drew the line at Facebook.
I started my Facebook account at the behest of my wife, who is a social media maven. She told me I needed it to keep up with happenings with the extended family and to strengthen relationships with both personal and professional contacts. She pointed out that the Facebook revolution would happen with our without me. The choice was mine.
I jumped in and lasted three months. My first struggle was the word “friend”. LinkedIn lets me have “connections”. Connections are a pretty low hurdle to overcome. Meeting at a cocktail party, serving on a common committee, or someone who works down the hall are all connections, but not all rise to the level of my friend. Friends are pretty special territory in my world.
I found myself greeted with daily e-mails of people I hardly knew who had “friended” me and wanted me to reciprocate. One day I clicked on an invitation and staring back at me was a cell phone camera photo of someone who looked vaguely like someone I knew fifteen years ago, only now forty pounds heavier and sporting a soul patch. And all I could think when I saw the picture is, “why would one of my ex-girlfriends want to stay in touch?”
If I wasn’t fighting the internal battle with the friendly ghosts living in my memories, the friends I did let in to the inner sanctum wanted me to be a knight, or a vampire, or join the mob, or give me flair, or join a cause, or become a fan of The Office, or to challenge me with a quiz about my knowledge of the fourteenth President of the United States, Franklin Pierce.
If that weren’t enough, I couldn’t get a good conversation going. I quickly learned that trying to make genuine connection, tended to fall flat. Instead I was relegated to commenting when folks put up pictures of their new puppies, whereby all of their friends are obligated by state law to start typing in capital letters: HE IS SO CUUUTE!!!!. (I think the use of exclamation marks is a federal statue, and the three U’s is just a local custom).
But the final straw was when I began to realize that while some friends and especially family were very comfortable with chronicling every detail of their lives online, they were becoming increasingly comfortable in sharing mine, too.
While nothing too embarrassing about me has ever been posted, I thought it better not to rely on my friend’s better judgment. And that is because if most of my friends ever unwrapped a box of better judgment on their birthday, they would likely have left it at the restaurant where they received the gift. They would return the next morning to retrieve it only to drop it in a puddle on the way to the car and then accidently set it on fire when they got home. Here is an example used with permission:
A friend of mine was contacted on Facebook by an ex-girlfriend. After going through the basic catch-up (marital status, kids, job, location), my friend decided to scan in pictures from postcards that she used to send him during their courtship. These were pictures of landscapes and landmarks near where she lived.
But somehow it wasn’t enough. The reconnecting seemed incomplete. You see, the subject of each penny postcard was of her unquenchable love for him. Inexplicably, he decided to scan in what she wrote. And then he posted them on Facebook. And then he tagged them to her profile. And then e-mail alerts were sent to all of her “friends” notifying them that intimate musing from her early twenties was available for reading. And then she sent an e-mail telling him to take them down. And then he realized he was an idiot.
Some enjoy seeing the pattern of their life woven tightly together in a tapestry mashing together their personal past, present, and future in HTML. I believe though, that there is something to be said for moving on. There is something to be said imperfect moments evolving to become perfect memories. Some pictures are better left in a shoebox in a corner of the closet only to be discovered and enjoyed while you are packing for a move.
For Facebook lovers, enjoy the revolution. Be transparent. Share everything. Be joyful that you have a full life to share with friends. But as for me, you can find me on LinkedIn. We can connect. We can recommend each other. We can do lunch.