The Facebook Trials: Use Or Abuse?

As a keen social network user, I don’t allow much time to pass without liking, commenting, sharing or uploading something onto the internet – in fact I’m doing it right now. With accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google and now WordPress, ways in which I can interact with other users continues to grow and I’m loving it all the more.

Klout

Now with me being me, anyone is right in assuming that all of my accounts are nicely linked together, with tweets and YouTube comments appearing effortlessly on my Facebook wall, and naturally, they’re all connected to Klout, which provides real time analysis of my influence across my networks – very nice indeed, although I’m not yet as influential as the Post Office, which is a constant niggle.

With so much interaction going on, I have to ask myself whether or not it’s all just a bit much? When I like a video on YouTube, does it really need to appear on Facebook to let friends know that I’ve liked it? Is it wrong to have more than 800 friends on Facebook, knowing that I regularly interact with less than 100 of them? This is the topic of discussion for this no doubt very long winded post.

Prior to writing this, I asked a few friends to comment on which aspects of my behaviour on social networking sites they found irritating. I also took the time to reflect on previous discussions I’ve had in the past on the same topic, trying to form solid key issues people may have with the way I use, or abuse, social networking sites (primarily Facebook). For argument’s sake let’s assume that the varied friends I’ve spoken to represent the average Facebook user, and that their comments would reflect the collective opinions of most average Facebook users.

Lucky Charms

One point I hadn’t thought about which did arise, was that I tend to overuse ‘lol’, ‘hehe’, and smileys :-). This is true, and whilst my intentions are good and I use them in writing only to replace the intonation of my voice, it has to be said that an average comment left by me on Facebook contains about four ‘lol’s, nine ‘hehe’s, and a generous helping of smileys and emoticons – like a child had hurled a bowl full of Lucky Charms across the floor. I’ll admit, you’re lucky you never spoke to me on MSN, as it was more ‘words and pictures’ than actual letters.

  • You have too many people on Facebook. Come on, you can’t honestly tell me that you speak to every single one of them. It’s pointless adding people you’ve met like, once in your life. It just clogs up your wall. I regularly go through my friends and delete the ones I don’t talk to any more, that way I only have the people I want on Facebook.”

Sound familiar? As it stands I have *quick check* 842 friends on Facebook, of which I interact with about, say, 40 at best. So why do I have roughly 800 people on Facebook if they’re only acquaintances? That’s just it – they’re acquaintances. Facebook, in all its infinite wisdom, actually gives you the option to put certain friends into categories based on how well you know them. Set them as an acquaintance, and their posts won’t clog up your walls with stories that are completely irrelevant to you.

“So why not just delete them?” – Simply because if I ever I need to get in touch with one of them, I can do. Perhaps I’ll find something I have in common with an old acquaintance and start a potential new friendship. A few days ago I messaged an acquaintance on Facebook (a boy who went to the same school as I did, but we never spoke) as he is now in the Royal Navy, and asked him a few questions as I too am wanting to join. Had I deleted him, I would have had to find him again, add him, wait for him to add me etc. Who knows, perhaps you’ll meet someone one day and find you have mutual friends? It’s a topic for conversation at the very least.

  • You update your status far too often. Every two minutes it’s “Tom Fox is hungry”, or “Tom Fox is cold”. Every time you like something on the internet, or leave a comment, it’s there on my wall. Either stop updating it every two minutes, or I’ll delete you because it’s annoying. And stop using hash tags on Facebook, that’s just for Twitter, unlink your profiles if you need to.”
Choose what you want to see, and how often you want to see it.

Choose what you want to see, and how often you want to see it.

This is a personal favourite, but it also comes with a rather loaded response similar to the one above. Facebook actually gives you the option to customise the updates you see from each individual friend. Imagine, being able to say “Right, you’re boring, don’t want to see anything from you”, or, “He posts too much, so I’ll opt only to see the most important updates from him”. Above all, for reasons I mentioned above, don’t delete someone because you aren’t using the tools provided, simply choose not to have their posts appear in your news feed. Who knows when you’ll need that person for something?

For hash tags, again, I’m simply making use of the tools and options provided. Yes, when a tweet is posted automatically on my wall and subsequently then appears in your news feed, it does look rather odd. At this point I’m afraid I’m just going to refer you to the above and say that the option to avoid seeing it is there. Perhaps you’d like to comment on my tweet? Stranger things have happened.

And finally, it would be the one message I wish the entire internet would hear and take notice of. Here’s how it goes.

  • You’re far too obsessed with your Timeline. Get a life! No-one wants to see on a map where you’ve been, when you were there, who you were with etc. Oh yeah, and when you tag yourself at a place, don’t tag me either! What? Just because I tagged you in Birmingham, USA by mistake you’re going to remove yourself from the photo so that it doesn’t look wrong on your Timeline? That’s ridiculous! I can’t be bothered to go through each photo and tag it correctly.”

Neglected TimelineWhere to start? Where to start? I guess I’ll start by showing you the map from a good friend of mine, who funnily enough was in several places on the planet all at exactly the same time; 1st January 2009! A lot of people complained about Timeline, annoyed that once they’d installed it, it was impossible to get rid of. Well to be totally honest when I see how most Timelines look, I’m not surprised people (well, the vast majority of my close friends at least) didn’t take to it. What could anyone possibly have to gain from a map with purple markers scattered randomly across it? But, for the few people like me who care and appreciate things looking organised, up to date, and tidy, Timeline is great.

I honestly do enjoy going back to it now and then, looking at the places I’ve visited, seeing who I’ve been there with etc. The dates are nice too, in that I can see how far I travelled in certain months. I can see where I was a year ago today! As much as I’d love for everything ever to be neat und organized, unless someone’s Timeline effects me (whether I’m tagged in it or what not) then I don’t really mind how it looks. Timeline is one of those things that, when used correctly, is wonderful. When used incorrectly however, is just a huge waste of time.

My response to the three issues all have one thing in common. I’d love to find a really great proverb that sums it up nicely, but I haven’t yet, so here goes – my message to the world;

“Whether it’s creating an online profile, setting up a phone for the first time, or even getting a letter in the post, spend just a few minutes there and then to input the right information, to set it up correctly, to file the letter away properly. Yes, it takes a few minutes , but it will save you so much time and effort in the future.”

Spend two minutes now filing the important letter away properly in order to save yourself five minutes each time you’re rummaging around your house and getting stressed trying to find it. Instead of blitzing through the initial option screens on your brand new camera so that you can get to the part where you can ‘just take pictures‘, spend a few minutes setting it up properly so that you know where your pictures will be stored, so that the photos are dated correctly. And when setting up a profile, set it up correctly so that if ever you lose your password, you can rest easy knowing that you set up a way to recover it.

In Facebook terms, I don’t expect anyone to sit for hours on end flicking through hundreds of friends, clicking on ‘acquaintance’ or ‘close friend’, and so I refer you to my little message. When adding a friend, just take an extra ten seconds or so to think “Am I likely to talk to them that much?” If not, say it’s someone you met on holiday, add them as an acquaintance there and then. Should they become a close friend in the future, you can always upgrade them to ‘friend’ (that sounds awful) and in the meantime, they won’t clog up your news feed with stories of absolutely no mutual understanding.

It’s been a long one, and my coffee cup is empty. But I’ve enjoyed writing it, and again, it’s primarily for me as a reference point for anyone who complains about my Facebook usage in the near future. I haven taken on board however, the comments about my use of smileys, lols, and hehes. You just can’t do emotion through written words alone. For example;

Whatever

Whatever 😉

Whatever hehe

lolololol whatever!

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3 thoughts on “The Facebook Trials: Use Or Abuse?

  1. Chris says:

    I find that clicking on Facebook is like opening the fridge even though you’re not hungry.

  2. Good post 🙂 – you enjoyed writing it, I enjoyed reading it.

    I agree with most of the things on here – I make extensive use of most of the features, such as making about 15 people close friends, leaving some people normal and shoving all of the rest as acquaintances whenever I notice. I am glad you have pointed that out to people.

    Regarding having too many friends, I have thought about this problem as well. I’m not in such as bad state as you, I have “just” 320, but only speak to about 40 or less, I only WANT to speak to even less of them haha. I agree with you, it’s useful to keep them on as acquaintances or people you hide altogether, just incase you want to contact them. It is terrible, but some of them I’ll just keep on as I want to stalk them in a few months time and keep up to date with everything. If you delete them there is always that worry of “what if”, what if they become famous, what if they become useful within industry, what if they post some naked pictures? If you delete them then it is all becomes a mystery. I probably do quarterly culls, getting rid of the people I actually dislike or think “this person will never be useful to me and never be my friend”.

    Many people who use Facebook really need to take 10 minutes to review privacy features and look at the other account tools on hand, they’ll have a better understanding of how everything works and how that 55 year old stalker is able to view your nightclub photos.

    We could discuss this further at length, but I should really be getting back to Facebook incase something surprising has happened, *checks*, sadly not. Facebook has become the replacement for looking in the fridge, even though you aren’t hungry.

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