The Facebook Conclusion

standard March 27, 2014 5 responses

I haven’t sworn off Facebook yet. I haven’t even taken a break. I don’t even think I’ve really reduced the amount of time I’m on there.

But, after a few weeks of really thinking about the issue, I am way more mindful of how I spend my Facebook time.

To start with, I’ve purged my following list. Gotten rid of all the people I “friended” because we had friends in common, because we were at the same conference, or because we met at some random event I can no longer remember. I was pretty callous. If I couldn’t remember meeting the person in the flesh or couldn’t remember any meaningful event that we communicated about I unfriended.

The result? A Facebook stream filled with information, comments, and anecdotes by people I actually know. Surprisingly refreshing.

But it’s not the only reason I decided to stick around for the duration.

I’ve already mentioned it, and it’s going to sound incredibly sad and shallow, but I know I’m not the only one for whom this is true, so I’m not ashamed to own it.

Facebook is where I get the bulk of my news.

OK, yes, I read the local and the hyper local papers (if by read we mean glance at quickly over breakfast), but the rest I glean from Facebook.

Why?

Well, first of all, I have a rather impressive array of international friends so people actually share international news. Second, it’s not all doom and gloom like the American televised news tends to be.

I don’t want to be scared by falsely sensationalized news reports. I want to be informed. Simple enough, right? And sometimes I want to read about the good stuff, the uplifting news, proof that there’s still good in the world.

So I read the articles my friends share. And I partake in the conversations they then have on their Facebook walls, or on mine if I feel moved to share the articles too. I drink my tea and nod my head, make a comment, and then I go on to the next article. For a minute it feels like I’m sitting at the bar of the local diner, having breakfast with my cronies, drinking coffee and pontificating on the state of the world.

I think I could live without the posts about my friends’ kids’ artwork (as cute as their creations might be) or about that lunch that those people shared last week, but the news thing will keep me coming back for a while yet. Without it I think I would feel disconnected from the world at large, and I find I like being connected.

In the end I think the secret to Facebook success is about finding a balance. Knowing when to turn it off and walk away. Realizing that you don’t have to be on there 24/7. You can pop in a couple times, see what’s being discussed, and move on.

With all the extra time I’m rediscovering, I’m making time to have coffee or lunch with friends, take the puppy on walks, and generally enjoy what the “real” world has to offer.

It’s not an either or kind of deal. It’s an “as well” deal. And I’m feeling a whole lot more connected and happy again.

*****
Want to follow my Facebook situation thought process? See below for the first two posts in the series:
What will we do after Facebook?
Is Facebook the reason we’re lonely?
 

Is Facebook the Reason We’re Lonely?

standard March 4, 2014 Leave a response

Since I wrote last week’s post about people opting to leave Facebook I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about Facebook and friendships in general. I had a cold and spent a couple days on the couch so I had lots of time to spend pondering relationships and how Facebook has affected them.

Granted, I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, but after all of my musings I’m left with one major question. One I have a sneaky suspicion I know the answer to.

Is Facebook the reason we’re lonely?

As of today I have some 900 people I’m “friends” with on Facebook. Another 200 or so “follow” me, which is to say they asked to be my friend at some point and for some reason or another (valid, I’m sure) I didn’t accept their friend request.

Now, I know a lot of people in real life. Sometimes running to the grocery store can take an extra half hour because I seem to always run into an acquaintance or two. I’m a gregarious person. It’s in my nature to connect with people.

That said, my Facebook numbers have more to do with the fact that I originally bowed to the pressure to join so I could build my online platform through which I would eventually be promoting my novels rather than from a desire to be able to connect online with a zillion of my closest and not so closest friends.

I spend an hour or more every day on Facebook. I read articles that people share. It’s where I get my news. I have conversations with friends, some serious debates, some frivolous chats about inconsequential issues. I have conversations in networking groups. It’s how I keep my finger on the pulse of the social media networking world, the writing world, and yes, my friends’ worlds.

When I shut down Facebook and move on to the next stage of my working day, I feel like I’ve checked in on my friends. I know that some are having a rough day, some are having a good day, and some are having their ritual cup of morning coffee. I can get on with my day with the feeling like I know how my peeps are doing.

But do I really?

I mean seriously. If you’re having a frustrating day because your car won’t start and your kid spilled his $5 hot cocoa on your brand new yoga pants, I’ll know about it and will have commiserated, but what if you’re really struggling? What if you woke up and the weight of the world seems heavier than usual? What if your morning cup of tea just isn’t enough to make the world seem alright again?

What then?

Because that stuff isn’t the stuff people are sharing.

So there I am, I’ve “seen” that maybe 0.05% of my 900 “friends” are online and chatting and it makes it seem like everything is fine with everyone. And it won’t be until two weeks have gone by that I’ll think “Hey, so and so hasn’t posted anything for a while.” A quick check of their Facebook Wall (to see if Facebook isn’t playing a trick on me) reveals that the friend really hasn’t posted anything in two weeks and that’s when I realized that just maybe not everything is right in the world.

I work from home. Day in and day out (except for the seemingly ever-present school vacations and teacher in-service days) I’m alone with the dog. And, I gotta tell you, I’m lonely. It’s hard being alone with my thoughts all the time. Until this very introspective week, I thought that it was silly for me to feel lonely because all my friends — the “real” and the virtual, the close and the not so close, the local and the not so local — they’re right here at my finger tips. I’m never really alone. I have 900 friends ready to chat with me at a moment’s notice.

But I’ve been lying to myself. I think many of us have. I think that Facebook gives us a false sense of connection and friendship. I might know how that one friend was dressed when she went out to have lunch with her high school posse, but I haven’t talked to her in weeks so I don’t know how she felt about going to that lunch, or how she feels about anything else going on in her life. I know that that other friend’s son had a fever last week, but I don’t know how the transition to his new school has gone, or how she’s doing with the changes in their lives. I never feel like I need to call anyone, or email anyone, because, hey, I checked in on Facebook and they looked fine!

Well, here’s my revelation for the year. I miss those deeper conversations. I miss knowing more. And no, I don’t need to get emails from those 900 people, because frankly, I’m not that close, nor have ever been that close, to most of those people. But my friends? My true friends? I miss them. I think that these superficial conversations and check-ins which give me that false feeling of having connected with people are the reason I feel lonely and dissatisfied as I sit here at my desk. Because I’m sure that every single friend I think I’ve touched base with feels the same way about me. And really, nobody knows how I’m really doing over here.

I think that next time I think “Hey! I haven’t seen any updates from that person in a while!” I’ll send an email instead of popping over to their Facebook wall. I’ll ask for a real update. Maybe for a coffee date. So that we can really catch up. Really connect.

Maybe after a few such interactions I won’t feel so lonely and disconnected any more.

One can only hope.

What will we do after Facebook?

standard February 27, 2014 3 responses

Any long time reader of this blog will remember that I came to Facebook kicking, screaming, and dragging my heels all the way. I wanted to believe that Twitter would be the winning social network and had some serious trust issue with the big blue thumbs up.

Clearly, as the friends who have renamed it the JessicaBook will tell you, I’ve adapted.

I finally joined because I had to. From a social media marketer perspective, I couldn’t realistically do my job well without being active on the number one social media platform. And, bit by bit, I started using the site more and more.

You see, it became fun.

It became fun because my friends in England, Australia, Iraq, France, Nova Scottia, and other far flung places were sharing photos of their kids, kids I’m likely to never meet, kids I’m only ever going to see through these photos. They’re sharing tidbits of their lives with the world, with me. Sure, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter that my friend in Germany had eggs for breakfast, but for that split second it made me feel close to her, made me forget that I haven’t seen her in 15 years and probably won’t be seeing her any time soon.

It became fun because more and more of my American friends were joining. Blogging friends I only ever get to see at conferences. Writer friends who live in towns I’ve never even heard of. All of them, right there, in my computer. Sharing encouragement, stories about their days, highs and lows about working in our field.

It became fun because even my local friends were logging in. I know that I can walk up the street to see how my friend and her new baby are faring today, but how much more fun is it for me to see that she’s having a bad day so I can pop over with a comforting latte?

What was once a chore has become a lifeline of sorts. When I feel lonely sitting at my desk, I just have to open up a browser window and I have friends to talk to. When I’m struggling with something, I just have to share and soon enough I have lots of helpful (or not so helpful) advice. When friends inform me that they’re moving, my soul feel a hair less crushed than usual. They may be leaving, but I’ll still be able to “see” their kids grow, still be able to have them in my life.

Or will I?

More and more of my close friends have decided that they need time away from Facebook. They’ve recognized that, beyond being just a fun distraction, a quick way to check in with friends and family, it’s become an obsession, one that’s taking them away from their families and their face to face friends. And they’re stepping away. Deleting the app from their phones. Only checking in once a week or less.

A few years ago people were declaring a “time out” from Facebook, leaving for a couple days, and then coming back, lured back in a very tangible “Fear of Missing Out.” These days, people are saying they’re taking a quick break, walking away, and… not coming back.

I’m seeing the trend grow. It’s starting among the less tech savvy of my friends. Those for whom a cold turkey break hurts for a few days and then is easily replaced with something more wholesome. But I’m sure it’ll keep growing. I can easily imaging a time in the not so distant future when the only people who will remain are the lonely marketers like myself who will be struggling to figure out how to operate in a post Facebook world where paid marketing no longer has the reach it used to command and free marketing seems to be failing.

Soon enough, much like Twitter, Facebook will be a marketing wasteland.

And what then?

How did we keep up to date with our friends before Facebook?

Will we go back to writing letters? Emails? Sharing photos on Flickr?

Will I have to hope that the Europeans catch up and start sending photo holiday cards so that I can “see” my friends’ kids at least once a year?

Will we go back to the way things were BF (Before Facebook) or will we head off in a totally uncharted direction?

Will we have to go back to signing up to receive blog updates via email? Or keep links in bookmarks and remember to go check daily for new posts?

GASP, will people actually start commenting on blogs again?

One thing’s for sure. I doubt anyone at Starbucks wants me to stand around randomly saying things that pop through my head just to see if someone will be interested enough to reply. The JessicaBook is going to have to go back to living inside my head.

Summer Fun from GreatSchools

standard June 8, 2012 Leave a response

Tuesday night I sat at the kitchen table while the kids ate dinner and I ripped pages out of books. No, don’t worry, I wasn’t desecrating great works of literature, I was simply preparing summer worksheet packets for the kids.

There won’t be any summer sliding here!

I know my friends at Greatschools.org would approve of the amount of work I’ve organized for the girls. It’s just enough to keep their minds sharp and ready for next year, but not so much that the worksheets will become an endless chore.

School and learning are important, but so are having fun and enjoying the summer months! That’s why GreatSchools is inviting everyone to enter a fun sweepstakes!

Enter here to win one of 3 awesome grand prizes from Kiwi Crate.

And how are these grand prizes guarantors of fun you ask? Easy, they’re each a 3-month subscription to one of my favorite services ever: Kiwi Crate. Once a month for three months (Fancy that! Just enough time to get you through the summer!) your child will receive a box filled with the coolest crafts imaginable!

Hurry over to the Great Schools Facebook page to enter, the sweeps ends on June 14th!

(Please note, I’m being compensated to share this contest with you, but I am a huge fan of GreatSchools and have used them more than I should admit in my many searches for the ideal schools for my kids.)