Facebook: What’s Not To Like?

confusedI joined Facebook in early 2009, a respectable four years after the social media network gained popularity beyond the American college crowd. No early adopter, I wasn’t a bandwagoner either.

For the past few years, I’ve been immersed in Facebook for my job, and have developed a love/hate relationship with the platform – an occupational hazard. I spend several hours each day befuddled by the behavior of humans, when given the opportunity to comment, share or “like” at will.

I have so many questions.

For starters:

Image result for trump thumbs upSome Facebook users “like” their own posts. Why do they do this? Isn’t their favorable opinion of the content kind of implied, by the decision to post it? Maybe by liking the post they mean to suggest it’s especially worth a read – but I’ve yet to see someone like just SOME of his/her posts. If it’s thumbs up for some, it’s usually a thumbs up for all.

It’s a head scratcher, I tell you.

Next:

2015-04-22-1429736406-280835-Lizlemoneyeroll.gifFacebook offers several ways to reach out to individual friends with personal messages. Remember “poking” just to say hello? Poking still exists, although none of my friends (thankfully) ever embraced the feature. There’s also private messaging, and the Facebook Messenger app.

Nevertheless, posting a one-to-one message on a friend’s wall is puzzlingly popular. It ends up in the feeds of the recipient’s entire network of friends. Does the poster understand this, I wonder?

Posting to a friend’s wall is commonly used to wish him/her a happy birthday. It’s like an online party, and what’s not to like about that? Everyone deserves a birthday party!

Unfortunately, it’s also how the occasional newlywed lets his new bride know how much he missed her today, and that he’ll be home soon for dinner. (*Groan*) Or how a stranger tries to reconnect with an old friend: “It’s been too long! I’ll call you this weekend to schedule cocktails.”

Then there’s the user you don’t even know, who shares to a mutual friend’s wall daily. As a favor, I guess?

The thing is, if John and his friends wanted to receive Webster’s word-of-the-day in our Facebook feeds, we’d sign up for it, wouldn’t we?

Finally:

“Vaguebooking”. I knew it was a thing, but until recently didn’t realize it had a name. It’s essentially Facebook comment bait: “Today my life changed forever!” or “I can’t believe what just happened to me!”

Most of us have done it from time to time – accidentally — in a fit of self-pity after a bad day. In our hangdog state, we assume everyone on Facebook knows what we’re talking about.

But for some users it’s habitual and contrived. A concerned reply to the post is usually rewarded with a mundane, one-percenter-with-a-first-world-problem clarification such as, “Whole Foods ran out of organic vegan pesto.”

Vaguebookers are the reason we can’t have nice things.

I’m (sort of) joking, of course. Facebook is like any community. Most members do their best to co-exist peacefully. When a friend posts seven vacation pics in under five minutes, it pays to remember that the photos are not necessarily intended for me – but for grandma and grandpa who live 2,000 miles away. For grandparents, there is no such thing as too many Disneyland photos.

That said, if you’re a Facebook friend and someone is posting Kim Kardashian’s Daily Word of Wisdom on your wall every morning, might I suggest that you introduce him/her to Facebook Messenger?

Your followers will thank you for it.

Even On Facebook, Silence Can Be Golden

Cartioon of man zipping his lips, with the caption "Zip It!"Social media generally isn’t a place where things happen, at least for my friends and me. It’s a place where we share what has happened, is happening or is about to happen in our lives. We check in at our favorite restaurants and sporting arenas, post photos of kids and cocktails, and circulate links to our blogs.

For some users, Facebook is a platform for spirited debate — but not really in my case. That’s not to say I never share sarcasm or express political opinions. I do, but it’s not to provoke an argument. So if you’re looking to mix it up on social media, just keep on walking.

This week I witnessed a Facebook exchange that started out innocently enough, but went south in a hurry. It got me thinking about how the platform can morph as we expand our list of “friends” to possibly include colleagues (and former colleagues), old classmates, distant relatives, in-laws, and so on. Eventually, our posts can land in the news feeds of both close friends and distant acquaintances who have never met – with some unfortunate consequences.

My high school friend I’ll call “S” shared a bittersweet story about her daughter, who is around 6 years old and as smart as a whip.  The little girl missed out on her desired role in a school production of “Frozen”, in part thanks to the class bully. I don’t have particulars about how it all went down backstage, but according to S the bully followed up by calling her daughter a lesbian.  Her daughter replied, “I don’t think that’s a bad word, but I am not a lesbian, I don’t think, because I think I like [male classmate].”  Wasn’t that a great answer?  Didn’t I say she was smart?

It hurts to see your child profoundly disappointed and bullied, so S turned to Facebook, where her friends offered words of encouragement and praise for her daughter. A few even took shots at the bully, who was not named (and neither was the school).  It’s safe to say S is not Facebook friends with the bully’s parents, so it was all pretty tame and low risk…until someone on the string called the bully the b-word. That’s when the s-word hit the fan.

I’m not big on name calling; even if I’m fuming I usually stick with “jerk”. Still, I was shocked when one of S’s Facebook friends became outraged and let the commenter HAVE IT. She was patronizing and judgmental, which only encouraged more Go-Team comments from the crowd.

S explained in a private message that these squabbling “friends” had never met, so the indignant one didn’t realize that the name-caller is gay, and perhaps extra sensitive to terms like “lesbian” being hurled like rocks by schoolyard bullies.

If S had met friends for happy hour and shared her story, someone would probably have criticized the bully and her parents, and perhaps even called the kid a name. If the outraged Facebook friend had been in attendance, would she have brought the hammer down on the conversation? She presumably would have known everyone at the table, so would she have held her tongue or tried to subtly change the subject instead?

Did the nature of Facebook enable her in some way? There was no anonymous handle to hide behind, but her combativeness may have been fueled by geographic distance and the knowledge that there was virtually no chance she’d ever meet the name-caller face to face.

S’s friend argued that Facebook is public, and therefore an inappropriate forum in which to criticize someone else’s child — even if you don’t use his/her name. But is it really public, if your posts are seen by “friends only”?  Is the issue that many of us have been too liberal in how we’ve defined “friend”? 

In social media and on my blog, my motto is: “Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your mom or boss to read.” That doesn’t mean they have to AGREE with what I write. What’s more, I don’t feel obligated to moderate comments to my posts to ensure that they are palatable to everyone I’m connected to. If someone did something nuts like use a racial epithet, I’d delete the comment and block them. Otherwise, I assume my friends will keep debate constructive and non-personal. If they just can’t manage that, there’s always the “hide” function.

While I’ve hidden a few “my life is so great, my spouse is so hot, my house is so large” types, I would never dream of chastising them. I accept that others may find them sweet or inspirational; I just find them annoying. No need to make a big fuss about it, though. Relief it just a click or two away. 

Facebook dislike buttonS’s friend was unwilling to just step away from her computer, and the confrontation did not end well for her. The next time she is similarly incensed, maybe she’ll choose to just be still. To paraphrase a line from the Hayden Panettiere song “Boys and Buses”, if you aren’t happy with what you’re seeing on Facebook right now, “just give it ten or fifteen minutes.” By then, the offending remarks will be long gone, replaced by a new set of posts and comments to judge.

If Facebook ever reaches a point where political correctness interferes with the ability to be authentic, in the spirit of “we’re all friends here” (or at least, we’re all civilized adults here)… that’s when I’ll go shopping for a new social media outlet.

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It’s Written All Over Your Facebook

Since its launch in 2004, many of us have developed a love/hate relationship with Facebook.

When I first signed up for the social networking service in around 2006, it served as a great mechanism for reconnecting with long-lost friends.  In particular, it helped me resurrect relationships from my days at University in Scotland, so I could meet up with former classmates when I travelled overseas.  Prior to signing up, all that legwork was, quite frankly, a chore.

I even used Facebook to reconnect with a friend from elementary school, who moved 2,000 miles away after the second grade.  That would not have happened otherwise.

Yet in some cases, I determined – as did many others – that I really don’t have a lot in common with some old friends from my distant past.  Our lives have taken different paths. Some of them have probably started hiding my posts (as I did theirs) while a few others have undoubtedly unfriended me.  Either way:  no offense intended/none taken.

In the past few years, I have settled into a pretty predictable, placid place on Facebook.  I occasionally add new friends, but the bulk of my interactions are with a group of 20 or so former classmates and colleagues I have worked with since I moved to the Bay Area.  I post to Facebook less frequently these days, and I comment less often on the posts of others.

I have also come to post fewer Instagram photos of alcoholic beverages, including exotic happy hour cocktails.  Eventually, one Manhattan looks pretty much the same as any other – regardless of the filter you choose.

Newer social media platforms have edged out Facebook for me, in certain circumstances.  For a running commentary during sporting events, I’m all about conversations with strangers on Twitter (much to the relief of friends who could care less about baseball or the NBA).  If a San Francisco Giants game goes to extra innings, my fingers fly.

Recently, I’ve noticed friends on Facebook getting a little riled about the posting habits of others, which has been fascinating.  Users seem to see this public forum as also very personal; if you post something one of your friends doesn’t like, you didn’t do it to your timeline… but to HIS newsfeed.

In the parlance of Facebook… it’s complicated.

Every Facebook member has his/her peeves.  Just before the sequester kicked in, a former colleague took issue with one of my shares making fun of Congress, by directing a jab at House Speaker John Boehner. While my intention was to express contempt for politicians on both sides of the aisle, I make no apologies for having shared plenty of left-leaning opinions on my timeline in the past.  It is, after all, MY TIMELINE.

I am happy to discuss politics with anyone if we can keep it friendly, but for me Facebook is not the place for heated debate.  It’s like conducting a shouting match at a dinner party, while the rest of the guests are trapped at the table until after the cheese course.  My motto for Facebook is… live and let live.  Believe it or not, since one or two Republicans have slipped past my complex Facebook screening model, even I am forced to do it from time to time.

Some of my friends get seriously ticked off at parents posting kid photos, and endless milestones, sports awards and academic achievements.  Maybe because I’m not a parent, this doesn’t bother me at all.  I actually like it.  My friends have some pretty amazing offspring, and I am forever trying to figure out how I can take even a little bit of credit for that.

I’m not a big fan of gaming results on Facebook.  I am honestly not terribly impressed that you beat your six-year-old at Scrabble, and I am a proud member of the Facebook group “I don’t care about your farm, or your fish, or your park, or your mafia!!”  But again, if you want to share that stuff I’m not going to call you out for it.  I may hide your posts after a while, though.

My biggest peeve is the thinly veiled ads asking for likes.  You know what I mean – the huge images of disfigured veterans or abused farm animals or white-haired grannies holding American flags.  The message is, “Like this if you are grateful for veterans/like animals/love your grandma”.

In other words, “I like this… and you should too or else everyone will think you are a very terrible person.”

If you check out these ads, they are often sponsored by dubious-sounding organizations — so if you like the photos, you are in fact liking these organizations.  For the kind, soft-hearted among us, I would just ask that you check out the sponsoring group before clicking that little thumbs-up icon, lest you wind up showing support for something you really don’t like very much at all.

Facebook is a tool that allows members to express themselves, and we should feel comfortable posting information that reflects who we are.  As in any other conversation, we all have a choice.  We can be tolerant of our friends, and turn a blind eye/deaf ear (either through selective reading, or the handy “hide” feature) when we disagree with them.

If that doesn’t work, maybe we aren’t really “friends” at all.  In that case… I think you know what to do.

Tending To My Spiritual Chakra: There Must Be An App For That

Yoga with an iPadBay Area yoga instructor Alice Van Ness was fired from teaching on Facebook’s Menlo Park campus last month, because she discouraged cell phone use during class. Before class began she asked students to turn off their electronic devices – a pretty standard request in the yoga world. However one student apparently felt she couldn’t unplug for a whole hour, and began texting midway through. So Ms. Van Ness shot her a look.

“I’m sure my face said it all. Really? Your e-mail is more important than … taking time for you? It’s more important than everyone else here?”

The student excused herself for a few minutes to take care of her business, but later complained to the fitness center’s managers and Van Ness was fired.

My first reaction when I read this story was… CRAP, you can get fired in Silicon Valley just for giving someone the stink eye? As my friends and family can attest, I don’t play poker for a reason. Let’s just say I don’t have the face for it. This could be trouble.

Next thought: There is one in every class… as well as every movie theatre, concert hall and restaurant. Regrettably, these days there even seems to be one in every public restroom. (Icky, right?)

Actually, there’s probably more like five in every restaurant – at least the ones I go to. This baffles me. It’s true I am an introvert and have a high tolerance for solitude, so grabbing lunch on my own isn’t a big deal to me. In fact, I love lunch-for-one when I’m running errands; Wasn’t that why Kindles were invented?

Are the solo eaters who talk on their phones throughout their meals extroverts, in medical need of conversation to aid digestion? Or is theirs a compulsion resulting from extreme self-consciousness, like “I am not a loser who needs to eat alone. Can’t you hear my nonstop chatter? I have FRIENDS, damn it!”

In public places where even more quiet is expected, and requests are made to silence cell phones, there is still always someone who “forgets” to do so. Then when his or her ring tone pierces the air, disturbing everyone in the room, they pretend to be shocked – SHOCKED – that they are the culprit. Can someone actually be too lazy and/or self-involved to use the mute or vibrate-only features available on every modern cell phone? It would seem so.  Or perhaps we have all grown unaccustomed to waiting.  For anything.

Technology has provided us innumerable ways to stay connected, and get information whenever we want it. That’s tremendously powerful. Remember when you had to check your home answering machine – from a pay phone! — in case you missed an important call?  How about when you had to wait until after the game to tell your friends how much fun you had at the ballpark?

Unfortunately common sense, judgment and manners have not kept pace with technology. Just because you can get (or send) information anytime you want, doesn’t mean you need to do so. And just because something can be addressed immediately, doesn’t mean it can’t wait. Yet these days, you’ll raise eyebrows if you tell someone you are going offline for one hour, or one day, or (gasp!) one week – especially in the corporate environment. But… what if you miss something really important?

But shouldn’t we all be asking, what are we missing today by not being in the moment? In my case, what might I be missing at the ballpark when I am hunkered down, updating my Facebook status in the middle of a San Francisco Giants game? (You know, like a foul ball fired straight at me?)

When was the last time you had a meal with a friend and gave your undivided attention, without checking your smart phone even once? I have to admit, it’s been a while for me. My friends deserve better, though. We all do, don’t we?

Random Chapters From Facebook

Facebook LogoI’ve been thinking plenty about Facebook recently – random thoughts, mostly.  Perhaps this stems from the IPO fiasco — the fizzling stock price, and accusations of shenanigans by lead underwriter Morgan Stanley – that has kept the company in the news day after day.

Random Thought #1: Amid so much IPO media buzz, there was a subtle sign that maybe – just maybe – analysts and investors are getting a little smarter, and more scrutinizing.

A day or two before the IPO launched, I saw several news stories openly questioning how Facebook could generate revenue, and shareholder value, long-term.  (These came just after GM announced it would no longer advertise on the site.)

I am not a keen follower of IPOs, but this struck me as encouraging.   In the 1990’s, most of us didn’t ask these sorts of questions about Enron, or mortgage-backed securities, or faddish internet startups whose value propositions we couldn’t quite put our fingers on.  Such analysis would not have appeared in mainstream media, either.  If a company with a charismatic 25-year-old CEO had a foosball table in its lunchroom and let employees bring their dogs to work… we all wanted a piece of it.

I once heard a banking executive speak about the heat his firm took for not engaging with Enron.  He had been mocked for his conservative stance at the time, but explained that since no one could show him how Enron made money, he felt it was just too risky.  And of course, he was absolutely correct.  Maybe that type of thinking is finally catching on.

Brian BanksRandom Thought #2: Have you heard about Brian Banks?  As a 16-year-old high school football standout with hopes of attending USC, he was falsely accused of kidnapping and raping a classmate.  On the advice of his attorney, he pleaded no contest, and served five years in prison followed by five years on parole as a registered sex offender.  His dream of playing in the NFL was, seemingly, over.

Here’s the part that, surprisingly, hasn’t received much media coverage: Enter Facebook.  One day, out of the blue, his accuser sent him a Facebook friend request.  It essentially suggested that they let bygones be bygones. Are you freaking kidding me?  Banks couldn’t believe it.  He suggested a meeting with the woman, and invited a private investigator to tag along and secretly record the conversation.  His accuser readily admitted that she’d made up the entire rape story, for reasons that remain unclear.  The videotape of the meeting was presented in court, and Banks was completely exonerated.

Someone who falsely accuses another human being – especially a friend they have known all their lives – of a heinous crime, and watches that friend’s hopes and dreams fall to pieces, is obviously a very troubled soul.  Perhaps she suffers from mental illness.   Regardless, she is very dumb.

We’ve all received an unfortunate Facebook friend request or two, and wondered “Why on earth would this person think I want to reconnect with them, given our history?”  They all pale in comparison to this.

More good news: Brian Banks has been invited to work out with several NFL teams, including the Seattle Seahawks and the San Diego Chargers.  I suspect social media may have played a part here, too.  Banks’ story spread like wildfire on Facebook and Twitter.

This is probably the most egregious misuse of Facebook I have ever encountered.  I’m still scratching my head about it.  If you have an eye-roll-worthy Facebook story, let’s hear it!