Facebook Folly? That’s Up To You.

Recently Kristen Tillotson, a columnist for the Star Tribune, spent some time waxing on about Facebook and the distracting, even destructive, addictive behaviors we all engage in as Facebook members.  I admit, I am not a regular reader of her column.  In fact, I may never have known about this one had I not been headed to a meeting one afternoon, channel surfing on the radio, when I happened to stumble upon the Lori and Julia Show, featuring Kristen Tillotson as a call-in guest.  I didn’t know it was her.  I just know that I tuned into a conversation disparaging Facebook, specifically the “photo frenemies”.  According to Ms. Tillotson, “photo frenemies” are people who post photos (to FB) of themselves looking awesome and you, the hapless victim, looking like crap.  This makes them a “frenemy“.  In all fairness, the subhead for the column explained that “…Facebook imitates life in the realm of social faux pas”.  The problem with the essay overall, though, is the suggestion that life is still so much like high school, and “social faux pas” are the grown-up equivalent of the kinds of activities in which “mean girls” engage.  Frankly, the article rang familiar, much like the sort of defensive drivel I hear daily from people who are intimidated by Facebook and other social networks.  Instead of copping to the fact that they don’t feel equipped to navigate the unfamiliar waters of social media, they assert that the media is flawed by human pettiness and, as such, not worth their time.  In short — it’s bunk. 

I’ve talked about most of this in a previous post, so I really just want to address Ms. Tillotson’s take on Facebook in this one.  She talks about Facebook needing editors because of all of the “abuse”.  Here’s the difference between the world she’s used to living in and the world of Facebook.  If I don’t care about her column in the paper, it doesn’t matter.  If I buy the paper, her column is in there whether I like it or not.  Whereas on Facebook, if there are people I’m not interested in I simply delete them.  Or I drop them from my news feed.  Or I relegate their updates to the bottom of my pile.  They’ll never know. 

Ms. Tillotson calls out those people she calls the “oversharers”.  She suggests that there should be a status message filter that blocks out tedium.  I beg to differ.  That tedium really levels the playing field.  Frankly I think those people that are constantly hob-nobbing with someone cooler than you or updating their status from their spin class are full of balogna.  Humans are boring.  We have inspired moments, but for the most part we are all creatures of habit.  The important thing is to not try to prove anything with those status messages.  By suggesting there is something wrong with the average or the mundane, we’re rejecting authenticity.  We’re asking people to try too hard and that defeats the purpose.  Those status messages allow us little glimpses into the experiences we all share.  Here’s my advice: if you want to “overshare”, that’s fine.  Just keep it real.

As for the “exhibitionists”, they might bother you, but don’t be a prude.  You might not want to prance around in your boxers, so don’t.  That’s the beauty of it.  It isn’t necessarily exhibitionism.  I prefer “expression”.  Perhaps you should try it.  Your Facebook presence is a chance for you to express yourself in ways you may have never explored before.  Write a little, make videos, share poetry, update your interests, add photos.  You’re painting a picture of yourself, and adding depth to your brand, with every keystroke.  Take advantage of this opportunity and the blank canvas – and the 140 million others like you who are reaching out in virtual space trying to connect.

The “photo frenemies” aren’t frenemies at all.  Let’s face it, we all have those pictures of us in our scary mullets or the evil gingham prom dresses.  If getting older doesn’t allow you just a little bit of perspective, then throw in the towel.  This stuff is FUNNY.  Besides, when have you ever liked a picture of yourself to begin with?

Come on!  It’s not about labeling someone a “climber” or judging someone for the number of friends they have or don’t have.  It’s not about judging at all.  See, my thing is, if you can’t see the fun and value in Facebook; if you can’t really see that this technology is allowing us to reconnect with old friends, enrich current friendships, expand our communities and our views of the world, be more involved, network a little, have a say, express ourselves, share our stories and take some risks then I feel sorry for you.  If you think Facebook is just like high school, and not the good part of high school, the crappy-I-would-rather-forget-those-years part of high school.  Well.  Maybe the problem isn’t with Facebook at all.  Maybe the problem is with you.