Why You Could Be Wrong To Hate Facebook

iStock_000035142008_MediumAbout three months ago, a friend of mine commented on social media that she was scaling back her activity, allowing her some refreshing anonymity. Because we’re friends, I know the life events driving her choice. Yet, it also occurred to me that we wouldn’t be friends today, if it weren’t for social media.

Of course, while meeting new people and developing meaningful relationships is still possible, social media has changed.

Based on a recent eulogy of twitter, as well as from personal experience, it seems we’ve left Twitterville behind. It sure seems that social media is different, and it’s future ain’t what it used to be. [Tweet this] Certainly, my friend continues to maintain presence on the social media platforms she’s been on, even if she’s scaling back her participation. Yet, there are whole groups of people who do choose to opt out of various social media platforms – especially Facebook!

 No Names Required

Let’s face it. Lots of people hate Facebook. [Tweet this] Not only is Facebook merely hated, but there has emerged an alternative social media platform that seems to hold itself morally superior. That platform is Ello. Actually, I base my sense of the founders’ lofty sense of self-worth on their manifesto which, among other views, states:

“Your social network is owned by advertisers. Every post you share, every friend you make, and every link you follow is tracked, recorded, and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold. We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce, and manipulate — but a place to connect, create, and celebrate life.”

I told you it’s lofty. It’s also idealistic. But it makes Ello seem detached from reality. [Tweet this]

So much of what Ello rejects about Facebook are the kinds of social hooks that help people identify common views, interests, and activities. And no matter what your feeling on the ads and commercial elements on Facebook, we actually get to know about people by seeing what pages they like, the content they share, videos they watch, the products they buy, and more. Which I think is a lot like how we get to know people in “real life.”

Nor do I think Ello’s position on privacy is based in reality. After all, if you have a credit card, have banking and investment accounts, fly on airlines, shop online, or join loyalty programs, the data you generate is already being sold. What’s more, you don’t need to be on Facebook to get ads displayed to you. [Tweet this] They already show up in your e-mail inbox. So, it seems to me you face a challenge to stop it all; that is, unless you want to go off the grid.

I’ve tried Ello, and am not particularly thrilled. Valuing simplicity, Ello presents a very clean (if poorly designed) environment. Perhaps too clean. Unlike Facebook, Ello makes no suggestions. Since it doesn’t track my activity, it doesn’t know me. Nor does it know anyone else. In this sense, Facebook is like that friend who introduces you to new people. Ello is a disinterested bystander. [Tweet this]

Perhaps, though, the biggest objection I have is Ello’s no name policy. Specifically:

“You have the right to be anyone you want. You’re safest when you control what you disclose on a social network. You should not be required to give your real name, age, sex, race, marital status, sexual orientation, religion, education, home address, or any other personal information which could be sold to third parties.”

While there are some people for whom this may make sense, it makes it really hard to build relationships with others. After all, if I don’t get to know who you really are, how can I trust you? If I don’t trust you, how can I feel comfortable sharing with you information about myself? [Tweet this]

A World That Doesn’t Exist

I don’t want to imply that every one who gets fed up with Facebook skips over to Ello. Some simply chose to delete their accounts. In fact, the author of a LinkedIn post I just read, as well as many of the commenters, have simply deleted their Facebook accounts. Why? Well, in the case of the author: “I’m tired of wasting my time and energy interacting with a world that doesn’t exist.”

He goes on to explain that his decision was based on a recognition that Facebook had become an addiction for him, saying he found himself checking it constantly. Worse, he says:

“Facebook gave the illusion of engaging with others. Of course it allowed me to engage with a vast audience comprised mostly of people I never see and don’t care all that much about.”

He’s okay with LinkedIn, though, where he has 500+ connections. Of course, it made me wonder about the actual existence of his LinkedIn world. Yet to be fair, based on the balance of his post, my impression is that he’s more oriented to publishing his ideas than he is to building relationships. I’m actually okay with that.

Real People, Real Lives

What I’m not okay with, though, is the dismissal of Facebook as a “world that doesn’t exist.” [Tweet this]

Whatever you may feel about Facebook – or LinkedIn, or Twitter, or Instagram – it’s populated with real people who lead real lives. FriendsPeople who have challenges and aspirations, just like you do. If you don’t care about them, it’s really your issue. It doesn’t make them less real. Yet, if you regard them as real people and take an interest in them, you may find that you can make real friends in a digital world.

Still, if you find that Facebook – or any other platform – doesn’t bring you joy, break it off. But you may also need to acknowledge this: “It’s not you, it’s me.” Because it usually is.

Comments

  1. Natalie Green says

    Another well-reasoned POV, Walter, and centered on two things I know we both care a lot about – relationships and personhood.

    Build Bridges
    Silence breeds distance in any relationship and – whether it’s with our more periodic contacts, our social or community-minded circle of friends, or our more committed, deeper relationships – social media helps us stay connected in ways that have the opportunity to shrink distance and create/maintain closeness of spirit in our world’s time of greatest mobility and geographically dispersion.

    Value Engaged Citizenry
    Setting aside the issue of data analytics that permeates most transactions in the modern world and so is impractical to avoid, how does one remain a passionate, engaged citizen these days without including social media as a one mechanism for learning, sharing, and deciding? Social media, especially Facebook, helps us learn views of those more distant as well as those with whom we interact with regularly in our community – and affords us the opportunity to follow up with them to deepen the dialogue, maybe even move the needle on one another’s perspectives and expand the ways we engage in the world. The speed of information dispersion & debate along with the number of global voices call out for us to find better ways to curate online content and filter the noise around us. But how do we hope to do that if we walk away from the discussion entirely?

    Make It Work For You
    Like many, overwhelmed by information, I have at times considered deleting social media accounts, lamenting about how to use it effectively without losing either myself or massive amounts of time. At each decision point, I realize that I am blaming the medium for how I choose to use it. As with television and gaming, it seems the question really is: how do we discover the meaningful elements of tools available to us and gain & provide value while not losing ourselves to the void? In our fast-paced world and decreasing personal attention-spans, is what we really need some self-discipline and focus connecting who we are, what we care about, and ways that we can leverage cool stuff to be our best, not worst, selves both as individuals and as members of society?

    • says

      Hey Natalie!

      Not only am I glad your found this post, but also appreciate your awesome comment!

      Clearly we are of the same mind on this because we both do value relationships and personhood. Yet, from what I see in your comments, I think our agreement goes deeper.

      So, I want to extend the conversation! To avoid one run on comment, I’m going to take this in three separate responses!! Hope that makes sense!!

      • says

        Build Bridges.

        Yes, silence breeds distance! Most people know this, and in my coaching work, I find people often cite that distance as a reason not to rekindle old relationships; and come off awkwardly, when they do. Fortunately, I’ve been able to help people get past that resistance, and find ways to reconnect more smoothly. Based on my experience, I believe knowing how to reconnect is a set of skills we all need to maintain.

        In fact, because I’ve done a pretty good job of staying in touch, I’ve not really had the distance problem as much as some people. Yet, recently, Facebook allowed me to reconnect with many of my high school classmates – most of whom I’ve not seen in 50 years!!

        The other blessing of social media is the potential empowerment for building and maintaining relationships! And Natalie, I love the way you’ve put how it allows us to “…create/maintain closeness of spirit in our world’s time of greatest mobility and geographically dispersion.” So true!

        As you know, I’m a big fan of reaching out over multiple social media platforms to meet and get to know people. As a result, I’ve gained lots of new friends. Yes, these relationships exist in a virtual space, but the people are no less real. I value these relationships and know, again from experience, that when circumstances allow for meeting up via phone/Skype and/or face-to-face, these relationships become even richer!

        • says

          Value Engaged Citizenry

          Awesome observation, Natalie!

          Yes, I do believe social media has a huge role in helping people to learn, share, decide – and yes, remain passionate and engaged. Sometimes, I’m tempted to say it may work a bit too well, as I witness the “culture wars” being fought on social media (most especially Twitter). And yet, it is precisely the exposure to divergent viewpoints that helps us understand and find the common ground to address issues. And yes, even move the needle on one another’s perspectives (even if we sometimes have to move discussion to a private space from time to time).

          While I think this learning can come from multiple social media platforms, I agree that Facebook is uniquely suited to this. First, I think because many people have a diverse array of Facebook friends, there is a broad exposure to varying views, often from people around the world. Second, I think, even among our closest Facebook relationships, we can find differing views and interpretations of events that can help us critically examine our own!

          You do hit on a key challenge, however! Because of the speed of information dispersion & debate along with the number of global voices, we do need better ways to manage it all. As well as enhanced ways to curate and filter online content to reduce the noise/clutter and keep us focused.

          Yet, there is another dimension, and that has more to do with enhanced skills in discussion / debate. Because, yes, there are too many people who walk away from the discussion entirely! There is an array of reasons to explain why people do that, of course. Yet, a rew that most immediately strike me are: (1) a new hypersensitivity to feeling threatened when challenged on one’s personal views; (2) surrendering to the views of reference groups who validate us; and (3) inability to think in more granular and individualized terms, that is (dare I say it this way), to discern the shades of grey! ;)

          • says

            Make It Work For You

            This is the mixed blessing of social media. While it has the capacity to expand and enhance our world, it also can drain big amounts of time! Then, again, so can e-mail, television, books, gaming, or other media! So, yes, it really does come down to how we choose to use it, and often that means careful allocation of time. There really is such a thing as social media addiction, and it can become all-consuming. But I think for most of us it’s a matter of goals, choices, and discipline! And you have formulated this question well:

            “In our fast-paced world and decreasing personal attention-spans, is what we really need some self-discipline and focus connecting who we are, what we care about, and ways that we can leverage cool stuff to be our best, not worst, selves both as individuals and as members of society?”

            I love it, Natalie!

            The only thing I’d do to expand this is to add a couple of practical tips: (1) Keep relationships alive and growing with small conversation and acknowledgements; actually, likes and small greetings can go a long way in this regard. (2) As Dale Carnegie long ago advised, use people’s names when you converse with them; and focus more on them than you! (3) And finally, as you begin to develop richer relationships with people, it can make good sense to connect with them on other social media platforms, via phone or Skype, and where possible in-person meet ups. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, this can save time, since the more points of connections we share with people the deeper the felt sense of relationship.

            Thanks, again, Natalie , for further sparking my thinking on this! Look forward to staying in touch! :)

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