This Post was originally published on July 11th, 2014
Some might say that I have a bit of an addictive personality. Whatever I do I tend to do it often and in large doses and find it hard to quit. Work, beer, and even social media turn from things in my life to things that run my life. After joining Facebook in 2004 I have become a social media addict where a majority of my interactions were not with people, but with online personas of people. I branched out into Twitter last fall (waste of time, except for tracking down beer) and snapchat last winter (waste of time, but with pretty pictures) but have mostly quit or cut down. Having other methods of connecting to social media was nice at first, but I found it to be even more of a productivity sink than Facebook is. As I have tried in the past I decided to take a break from Facebook for a few days in order to spend a few days living without that tether to the world. I try to take this break during summer since there are always ample diversions rather than being a shut in all winter. For a few short days I was able to live free, and it was pretty glorious, but after a week I started to miss my friends, even the ones that are only “friends”.
I have always found that the first 3 days of abstaining from anything are the hardest. Whenever I went someplace or did something I would think about how I could frame it to fit into the Facebook context. After the first few days of withdrawal I started to view things differently and was doing things just because with no rhyme or reason. I found that I enjoyed things more because I was living in the moment instead of worrying about how I would project things to other people. I like to think of myself as someone who tries to act the same on Facebook as I do in real life, but lets face it who you are in person is never the same. We all curate our online personas to match our ideals rather than the reality that we face, mostly because reality is boring. I find that Facebook exemplifies the extremes of everything being either stupendous or absolutely terrible. If you try to be real and go into the mundane aspects of your everyday life everybody finds it boring. Nobody wants to see the pictures of every meal that you ate this week, and the oversharing of your daily routine gets old fast.
When you live by yourself and don’t have many friends in the area it is easy to fall into the Facebook void. Hearing all of the fun adventures and lifetime milestones that your friends are hitting seems like a better alternative than meeting new people. It is much more comfortable to sit in your own living room and live vicariously through others than it is to get off the couch and and live your own life. On the flip side Facebook has allowed me to build some amazing friendships with people that I only see once or twice a year and build on the relationships that I had from college or high school. It has also given me a chance to be heard, which is an addiction in of itself. As with anything there are always benefits and drawbacks and far reaching effects on our lives.
Facebook is a very powerful way to build a “brand” and show the best aspects of yourself. I have developed a few rules over the years to try and keep myself relevant and present the best face. I learned most of these from my own misadventures or from mistakes that I have seen others make. These are not ironclad rules, but guidelines that I find helpful. That being said if I start breaking these rules please feel free to call me out on it.
1. Try and keep it light. I have at times been too self absorbed and depressed and nobody likes a Debbie Downer. By trying to brighten people’s day you are much better received than someone who tries to bring other people down. Plus if you say funny things then people will talk about it and then even more people will think you are funny, its a self perpetuating cycle.
2. Don’t attack people. I have learned the hard way that bitching about specific individuals is a great way to get people to hate you. Being a bully doesn’t get you anywhere, and singling out someone for whatever reason makes you look terrible. That being said making fun of groups of people or celebrities is ok (sorry people of New Jersey, I’m not going to stop now)
3. Don’t post too much, or too little. Your kid/dog is pretty cute, but a new picture every 15 minutes gets on my nerves, BLOCK. Oh you had kale for lunch, and then went on a walk, and then had steak for dinner, then watched Bad Boys II, sounds like you had a pretty epic day but 47 specific posts is a bit of overkill, and didn’t you detail everything that you did each day for the past week, thanks for oversharing, BLOCK. Thank you for liking every status ever, I’m glad that my life provides you soo much entertainment but you might want to consider joining the conversation, no need to BLOCK because you never post anything anyway. Another post about how Democrats/Republicans/Guns/Food Stamps/Global Warming is/are the Best/Worst thing in the world, It matches well with the 15 other posts that you did this week, preach on brother, BLOCK. I am glad that you are in SOOOOO IN WUV with your significant other, know what I need? Another couples selfie, BLOCK. Oh another Buzzfeed quiz, you somehow managed to score 47% on the how bitchy are you quiz, but wait you also scored 63% on how much of a princess you are quiz, bitch that is 110%, BLOCK. No I don’t want to join your farm or your guild or whatever else it is that you are hawking, leave me alone, BLOCK. These are not directed to specific offenders so if you fall into these categories I am not picking on you, hell I may not even have you blocked (but I probably do).
After playing with the ratio I have found it is best to average 1 post per day, with occasional binges or several day breaks. It keeps you relevant, but keeps you from being annoying.
4. Don’t say anything you won’t stand behind. Sometimes people get caught up in what they have to say and don’t realize how it may be heard. I had an experience this spring where something I posted was taken wrong and used against me. I stand behind what I had said and was able to explain my reasoning. It is hard to convey full thoughts through Facebook (or twitter or anything else) so things may get taken out of context, if you put thought behind what you say then sometimes a follow up conversation can resolve any difficulties
5. As a follow up to #4 don’t overreact. It is so easy to see what someone had posted and react poorly. If you have an issue with what someone has to say then open a conversation and try to get to the bottom of things.
6. Don’t expect that everybody is going to get what you are trying to say. As you might know by now I am a pretty eclectic guy and have a lot of inside jokes or strange things that I think are funny but sound stupid to everybody else. I don’t expect everyone to understand what I have to say, but if I target something toward a specific group then I am pretty sure that some people will enjoy it. If someone is on the outside looking in then it is their loss and they probably shouldn’t take it personally.
7. Don’t fall victim to your own hype. Not even I am as awesome as I seem (yes I know you are shocked). Just because you have a lot of friends or everybody likes what you have to say does not make you better than you are. Keeping things in perspective stops you from flying too close to the sun, plus people love self deprecating humor.
I like Facebook. It is a good medium for me to express myself and to keep in touch with people that I don’t see often. I try to add things to the conversation and hope that I can bring some benefit to everybody else. Some people might not agree with me but I feel that social media is a very useful tool, but you have to use it wisely and not let it take over your life. Now I am going to go out and enjoy being outside on this beautiful night, don’t worry there is Facebook on my phone so I won’t be too far away.
As an aside I wrote my first Facebook note two years ago today, it is still available and might make a good read. My pharmacy was robbed and for the first time in my life I was the victim of something more than my own stupidity. This was an extremely tough time for me and I was feeling extremely vulnerable. I found that by expressing myself in more than 140 characters was one of the best thing that I could do, and by using facebook as a tool for more than one liners I was able to do good things. I was amazed by the outpouring of support and the amount of goodwill that my vulnerability gained me. I also felt that after wallowing in my sorrows just putting metaphoric pen to paper was able to provide me with a measure of closure that allowed me to move on with my life. In retrospect getting robbed made me realize some of what was important and helped get me out of a bad job and a terrible place in my life while showing that writing was something that I enjoyed and was pretty good at. I am sure that I would not be where I am today if getting robbed had not given me the motivation to move on from a job that I hated. I guess it goes to show you that every cloud can have a silver lining if you look close enough.