People are confusing Facebook with a personal journal…including me!

Over the holiday period I had three weeks off work which gave me a lot of time to take my mind off the day to day of work, to read, to watch movies, to sleep in and enjoy everything. I found myself checking in on Facebook to see what others were doing between my plans out of habit.
The biggest thing for me was seeing over the holiday break how we are ALL too connected to our smart phones. We check it at dinner, in bed, on the toilet, on the sofa, pretty much everywhere. It’s so anti-social and also very rude.

I have heard many people complain about how much crap is on Facebook and I guess I just got used to the noise ratio and blocked it out…I’m certainly a culprit here of posting a lot. Not everyone needs to know what you’re doing every two seconds, you’re not that important ;-) I guess I reflected on that and realized the same. There are so many other sources I could consume information that would be more useful like my Feedly.com News, Tech & Sports feeds.

In my career I’ve leveraged the social networks to gain an audience that drives people to my blog, has allowed me to be part of discussions on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. My personal life and my technical voice got blurred along the way. I am absolutely grateful on the visibility and reach it has giving me and completely understand without it AvePoint probably wouldn’t have picked me up and Microsoft wouldn’t have awarded me an MVP. Do people in your line of work really need to see pictures of your vacations with your loved ones?
I’m originally from England and lived in Australia for 8 years and have been living in America now for 3 years, and I share a lot of what I’m doing with Facebook so my parents, grandparents and close friends can see. I think to a degree I was replacing human interaction with status updates which certainly has affected some friendships. I think a lot of people are probably in this boat too, sometimes a phone call to your friends to catch up is so much more important…rather than having nothing to talk about because they’ve seen what you’ve been doing. There is no excuses now with e-mail and Skype.
Although a lot of people add me as a friend on Facebook, often I’ve never even met them and they know me through my writing. I’ve been thrown off a few times where people have finally caught up with me and asked me about personal events and then I realize maybe I’m a little too open.

The other thing I’ve seen more of recently is people using Facebook to vent about relationships, work and all sorts of very personal things. We’ve all had huge things happen in our lifetimes, I’ve found myself at times catching myself before I post as I found myself having a feeling or a opinion and immediately wanting to share on Facebook. There is an element where you want to post something that gets liked or starts discussion as a sense of achievement, much like you would in a crowd of people having the attention focused on yourself. I think we’re all guilty of a brag on the social networks from time to time that maybe unnecessary too. I’m sure there is some psycho babble explanation for this and often this is replacing other methods to vent with friends, or a journal, or just thinking it through.

I love seeing photos that people share of what they’re up to or when I’m out them sharing photos of me out with them, but people shouldn’t see social networks as a way of documenting their life…as its being shared with more than just you and your family. I believe that if people stepped back from social networks and went back to personal journals so that you can express things in the privacy of your own mind rather than with everyone it would reduce the risk of sharing too much. The privacy settings on Facebook and how the apps work for posting to groups is just too hard, Google+ Circles have tried to rectify this but hasn’t had the adoption I thought it would have by now.
There have been reports recently of Facebook not being as popular amongst teens, I believe that part of that is because it has blown up in their faces more in such a focused environment. The reality is, right now, Facebook has the largest reach across generations and I don’t see it taking a dive like MySpace did…but I believe the usage will change and that people will come to the same conclusions (or already have) that I have.

So I’ve sat down and made some new years resolution rules around social that I am going to try to stick to:

  1. Digital Journal
    Start a digital journal to document events in my life and write down my thoughts privately.
  2. Privacy
    Lock down the privacy of social networks:

    1. Facebook – change privacy to “Friends only” so nothing is public (edit existing posts), have approval on all items tagged in
    2. Instagram – make posts private and approve friends
    3. Foursquare – make posts private (& turn off twitter posts)
  3. Limit content
    Limit Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn to work, tech, movies and sports talk and encourage my tech friends to follow me there.
  4. Clean up
    Purge Facebook friends to those who I have actually met and would want to meet again

There is a certain irony in blogging about this…but I felt the need to write this to make everyone who reads this also take a reality check on all things social for 2014.

22 thoughts on “People are confusing Facebook with a personal journal…including me!”

  1. interesting mate.
    i made the changes you are doing about a year ago and it revolutionised my social interactions. the hard part is being diligent in your criteria for agreeing to digital “friendships”. the habit of just hitting “approve” takes time to work out…
    :)

  2. I’ve kept Facebook as family, close friends, and former co-workers that I actually want to stay in touch with. I won’t add current co-workers and likely won’t add other community folks. I do tend to share my nerd posts there, including speaking engagements, but that’s about the only thing heavily work-related. Most tech posts are along the lines of emerging tech/new devices (nothing SP).

    Twitter, LinkedIn, and G+ are free-for-alls. I don’t post much on G+ anyway. LinkedIn is slightly more functional, but doesn’t get much other than automated new blog post posts and speaking engagements. Twitter is nearly 100% tech (95% of that is directly work/SP related). I only occasionally post something about sports or entertainment.

    I do have a tendency to get on a rant on FB, though. I also sometimes go through waves of near inactivity or 10 posts a day although that’s usually because I shared a bunch of posts from Feedly.

    1. I’m trying to work out what i’m doing around posting what i read on Feedly.com. Not convinced yet on solution, my Twitter/LinkedIn (not so much Facebook) links get a lot of click throughs and therefore value to promote things I read from others. I’m tempted to do a weekly/monthly roll up post on my blog also based on what I bookmark on diigo.com (used to use Delicious).

  3. Jeremy, you’ve summarized it well, and your premise is also captured by this book that made it onto my reading list over the holidays: Alone Together by Sherry Turkle. I haven’t yet formed a concrete resolution out of it (and may never), and I may not abstain, but I’ll be on a smarter social media diet in 2014. http://alonetogetherbook.com/

  4. I take a different view on many of Jeremy’s points I like the ‘journaling’ aspect of FB as it gives me a glimpse into the lives of friends whom I only rarely see. Jeremy says that getting on the phone with someone who’s read your FB feed leaves nothing to talk about. I feel the opposite way. Consider this scenario: you talk a friend you haven’t seen for a few months. The conversation often goes like this: What’s new? Not much, how about you? Busy! Yeah, really busy!

    Too much has happened and it takes a while (maybe more time than you’ve got) to get a connection back. But if I saw your great vacation shots, and I know your child was ill, and you got a new job, we have the foundations of “continued conversation” at our fingertips. In person (or on the phone) we can talk more deeply about how we *feel* about these events.

    I consider the concept of “living out loud” (a term I learned on Yammer training) an interesting experiment and a shift in our way of thinking and working. I have blended my personal and social lives in ways that can be uncomfortable sometimes, and I probably over-share a bit, and boast a bit. But I enjoy hearing about my friends’ accomplishments and successes (and commiserating with their downturns or failures), so it gives me confidence that others won’t mind if I do it.

    I don’t think that reducing online social will force us into more face-to-face interaction. I don’t feel like I’ve given up on personal interaction; I prefer it. But I feel more connected to friends near and far by keeping up via social media. I’d be sorry to see people decide to cut way back and only post links to blogs, or cute cat videos.

  5. Really hit home “I was replacing human interaction with status updates which certainly has affected some friendship” I cannot believe the number of close friends whom now become ‘Facebook friends’ No need to visit, call – why should I – everything I need to know is on their Facebook page…

  6. Bro.. I got off FB in 2010 it was hard the 1st 2 weeks then I got over it. Last year on my birthday I went out and got a leather bound notebook journal where you actually write with a pen :-) I use it to collect thoughts, vent, jot down interesting things i see etc. Im glad i did that, its actually more meaningful i think than typing the first thing that comes to mind. I have reduced my social footprint down to linked in and twitter & 80% of what I do on those fronts are for professional goals. I guess I also have 4 square which does tweet my location by default, i guess i can fix that, but I can see value in that since i travel so much and often will meet up with folks that i know virtually or in person if they see that tweet. Great post but like @sebmatthews Ive crossed this bridge a long time ago :-) cheers

  7. I think your overall view of social networking is solid, but I think social media takes the place of an inherent need to communicate what we experienced for centuries but have lost to some degree in the current society. Hundreds of years ago the women of the village would gather to bake bread at a community oven, or at the well to fetch water, the men would congregate at the end of the day at the pub to relate the day’s activities. Women would share advice on child rearing, and bread baking while the men discussed old remedies for soothing a horse’s sore hoof. Everyone knew everyone’s business, and in some ways it kept folks ‘in line’ and socially responsible to maintain decorum. Now we bake at home, get water from the faucet, take the car to the garage to be fixed.

    I view Facebook in particular as a way to stay connected to ‘my village’ – whether I grew up with them or simply share a common thread of interest. My only mandate is that you participate. We aren’t friends if you only consume, you must step up and communicate. Every year (starting last year) I clean up my list and delete people who add no value to my stream. Ultimately that is what this is about: adding value. Pictures of you and your family add value to my life if only to make me smile and be happy for you/think lovely thoughts about you. If what you post has no value, don’t post it. Simple, if something I post adds value (even a smile) then I would hope you ‘like’ it and say so. Life is more fun when it is shared. You can’t see the awesome bread I pulled out the community oven anymore and ask me to share it, but I will show you the pictures on FB. The folks in my village seem to ‘Like’ that.

    Additionally, to my more emotional friends, those who use social media to lament about depression or anxiety, or both, I have asked to create a private support group so as to keep their potential vulnerable comments more private. They have appreciated this (when presented in a sensitive manner) and I participate with them there, as I do not think the majority of folks have the same compassion for their needs.

    I think one needs to assess the value of what this media brings to their lives and that which they are bringing to others when they post. It isn’t ‘all about you, or me’ – it’s more about being an inspiration to the village.

    Nice post Jeremy.

  8. Agree. I use Facebook to connect with family, friends and acquaintances, all of whom I’ve met. LinkedIn is similar but for business – also limited to people I’ve met or at least with whom I have a business relationship. Twitter and my blog(s) are soapboxes where aside from Twitter-bots and comment spammers I don’t actively block anyone. I like OneNote on my Surface Pro (i.e. with a stylus) for journaling, though I don’t write as often as I’d like.

    I’m still considering separate professional & personal accounts on Facebook, but wish I’d done so from the start. It seems useful to have a professional presence there, but I can’t justify the hassle of reconnecting colleagues to another account, or duplicating FB content with LinkedIn. Status quo most likely for 2014.

    I’ve seen MSFT tweeps use the “@Name_MFST” pattern to separate work tweets from personal – thankfully Tweetdeck supports with ease what Yammer makes impractical.

    In 2014 I’ll be thinking about the return on investment of my time. I want to blog more, and getting back to more and varied projects will help with content. Twitter is a time sink – I need to learn how to filter or group my feed into people I always want to read versus the background chatter. Facebook is okay, but might be better if scheduled into one hour per day so it can’t become a wormhole.

    Speaking of, that’s how I arrived here. Time to cut the cord and get back to work!

    Cheers,
    -Eli.

  9. Agreed 100% JT… My close friends and family actually APPRECIATE my facebook posts, as it helps them know where I am and what I’m doing with work & travel and such… And I have three HUGE and active alumni networks that I’m part of, each of which have their own reasons for being well supported on facebook…

    What is making the difference for me on Facebook is heavily utilizing two “facebook lists”: CLOSE FRIENDS and ACQUAINTANCES. When someone friends me after an event, or is a “fan,” they’re an Acquaintance unless and until there’s a real relationship.

    My posts’ default is “FRIENDS”, which means “ACQUAINTANCES” don’t see them. That helps me minimize noise, politics, and other rants and raves to “fans”…

    CLOSE FRIENDS (and yes, you are one) is a group I broadcast more personal stuff too; and is the “newsfeed” I actually follow almost daily. I also have notifications set to “close friends” so I get badge icons about activities only by close friends.

    When I launch my new site, I’ll be doing a clean-up of Facebook contacts to move some “friends” into acquaintances… And I also NEVER take a friend request unless I know the person or they include a message that sounds viable… Too many scammers now, and my old rule of “mutual friends with…” [you, Joel, AC, Michael, etc.] just doesn’t work any more. So either they tell me how I know them, or don’t get accepted.

    For me, these two lists: CLOSE FRIENDS and ACQUAINTANCES have made a huge difference in both the inbound and outbound efficiency of facebook for me. Twitter, LinkedIn and G+ are all work.

    1. This is very similar to what I do.. I actually have a SharePoint list, a lot are on my friends list too, but means I can easily communicate about “boring/geeky stuff” without bothering my close friends & family who have no interest in SharePoint. Also means I don’t have to be as selective when accepting requests from people I’ve met at conferences, personal updates go to real friends & family.

  10. Sooo agree. My posts are purely for family that lives away from me. I like seeing what others are up to (prefer pics, and check-ins). I think venting on Facebook is almost rude these days. Keep it cheerful.

  11. Great post Jeremy! I’ve been using social media as you suggested and additionally have a “family only” list on facebook and have taught them how to do the same. I enjoy the group interaction my family has on these threads – it seems better than email. Although I am not sure I would have figured out the permissions if I wasn’t a SharePoint person!

    I also keep facebook locked down to only people I consider to be friends (people that are mutually supportive and have good intentions). Because of this I’ve shared some deeply personal moments, such as losing a family member. I was thankful for the digital communication in that case. The messages of support really helped and it would have been exhausting to get that many phone calls or emails. Of course, my best friends stilled called and came over. So while I agree that digital communications aren’t a replacement for real relationships I do think they have a benefit and a place, even in personal situations.

  12. The whole “social network” stuff is complicated – I’ve made a lot of friends via T/FB which have translated into real life (you ! And countless others w/ MTB’ing).

    And then – lots of nasty shit from a sister-in-law. WhingeBook is a problem too – for some people – AND stuff that they wouldn’t say in person (gutless).

    For me personally, I wear my heart only sleeve – and that’s the way I am online, and in person – you would agree, eh ? :-)

    Meaning – I don’t think “too” much about sharing – and I’m ok with that. (Great blogpost – thanks !)

    1. Another consideration (for me) is that I don’t have time to get out and socialise as much these days – we have three young kids, and it’s often work+home for weeks on end – and keeping ‘in touch’ with people online makes me feel more connected.

      Having said that, we had a family holiday during the year, and went ‘offline’ for an entire week – felt wierd at first, but it made me focus on kids & fun – disconnecting is good-for-you… (I dare you to try it, Jeremy !)

      1. Ha, I did switch off once last Christmas, I went on a cruise for ten days. Was great!
        Looking forward to catching up with you at some point fella, been too long!

Leave a Reply