Sunday, March 17, 2013

Facing Up To It


Facebook has been around for a few years now and I still have mixed emotions about it. Like many, I struggle with how much time and attention it deserves and how I choose to act on that perception. A bit of history on my use of might paint a better picture of this struggle.

When it first came out, I was cynical and hesitant to get on board with it. My wife was an early adopter and I thought I would see what it became. Eventually, it looked harmless enough so I created an account and got sucked into the hype. The early days were reckless and fun. People didn't understand the etiquette, in part because there really was none. It was a bit of a free for all, and people only stepped over the lines of decency because they didn't know there was one. 

I rolled with it for a while and quickly realized after about 6 months that it had become a time-suck for me. I was spending too much time on it and couldn't seem to manage it very well. On top of that I think enough people had offended me with their posts that I bailed. I closed my account and got off of it. 

As I started to have some success with my writing, I realized that without Facebook, I was missing out on a decent forum for building an audience of followers. While I don't claim to have a big following, I think it is important to take advantage of tools and venues at your disposal in order to be successful. As bad as I maybe felt about it, Facebook needed to be a part of my platform.

So I recreated my account about a month or two after having deleted it. I even went so far as to create a "Fan Page". (Search for Writer Jim Landwehr on facebook). The fan page is where I focus announcements about my writing projects, publication successes, events, training opportunities, etc. As I refer to it, it is my writing chum bucket. 

The rest of facebook is a mixture of good and bad. It gives me a glimpse into many friends and families' lives that I normally would not have. This is not always a good thing, mind you, but usually is pretty benign. It has kept me in touch with the writing (and other professional) successes of some of my friends in and out of my writing circle. At the same time, I know when people have sniffles, hacking coughs, gout, kidney stones, bad attitudes and drinking problems. Frankly it's usually more than I want to know, but it comes rolled together with all the good stuff. In a perfect world there will be a Facebook filter by subject to weed out these kinds of things.

There's political rants and inappropriate jokes, offensive religious slams - regardless of the denomination or faith, stupid videos, hilarious videos, sad videos, inspiring videos and videos that make you go "Huh?" 

The saving grace is that while I still spend entirely too much time monitoring Facebook, I've learned a few key things. 

1. Hiding people who offend, bore or upset me is a beautiful alternative to defriending them. I use hiding with great regularity.

2. My phone has allowed me to use what would normally be "downtime" to catch up on checking in with FB.

3. I've learned to whiz by anything that looks like it should be whizzed by. For every good post, there are 7 posts that I have no time for.

4. My personal mantra is: If you don't have anything to say, that's OK. Really. It's fine. Don't say anything. People like you more if you're silent on the sidelines than forcing the issue and looking dumb.

That's my two cents on Facebook. It's a necessary evil. It's great fun at times and has allowed me to reconnect with friends and family in ways I'd never dreamed of. At the same time, I (and you) need to keep it in check, as it will take as much of your time as you're willing to give it, and always a little bit more.

Blogging off to (check my status)...

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