Thursday, July 18, 2013
Me & Facebook: Part V - Controlling Transparency
One of the things that was unique about Facebook from other social media before it's time was that Facebook seemed to encourage transparency more than any other social media had before it.
Even before Facebook it seemed more common for people to have cryptic e-mail addresses that hid their identity (it was pretty common it seemed in the 1990s for e-mails addresses to read like KoolKat15, TubaDude78, No1SoccerStar04, Racecar111111). Yet somehow Facebook seemed to help ease people into using their real name online and trusting Facebook's security controls...at least initially.
A real name, a real picture, and real information about yourself. But it was controlled because only your friends could see what you posted - and what others posted on your wall.
Of course, everyone holds their cards a little closer to their chest then others. Some people are pretty open all the time, but others seem to find new openness when it's written.
Generally, as Facebook developed people began posting on more topics more frequently. And now instead of just posting their political and religious affiliation people often post on these topics. We've seen Facebook in this past election and depending on your friend group you might have seen it get heated at times. Or how about when Sandy Hook Elementary shooting happened - it seemed that Facebook was filled with very open and revealing thoughts regarding people's thoughts towards gun control.
Yet, despite all the new found openness, it seems that most people have established their own rules for Facebook. The rules are written and inconsistent but they are there.
For me, one of the ways I have controlled my own transparency on Facebook is in who I ask and accept at friends. Ask me to be your friend and generally I will say "yes." I only have two conditions...one is that I know you, and the second is that you don't work with me.
For me the mix of work and Facebook seems awful. Work is a place where I like to keep my cards a little closer, and while I might enjoy your friendship at work and even have interest in remaining in touch if we split paths, Facebook is not the place for us. Who knows what I'll write (or someone else might write about me) that could jeopardize my job, work relationships, or opportunities.
The other impact of the expanding realm of Facebook is the increase of family presence in the medium. I don't feel like I have two versions of myself that I would present to my friend circles and family circles but I do know people who do. This obviously plays a role with kids who still live at home, but it continues to play a role with adults who are independent but might not share similar ideologies or positions as their families.
As a personal rule, I try to shy away from contentious topics on Facebook. Generally, it would seem that Facebook isn't the place for the dialogue. Although, I know some who think it's the perfect place for it - whether it's to discuss ideas with like minded friends or attempt to spread their ideologies and beliefs.
It seems to me that Facebook has given us a concept of transparency -- a concept that people have moved elsewhere.
I must not be alone in my feelings about not-friending work friends, because I think it's out of that unique relationship that many people find themselves a social home on LinkedIn, a social network specifically designed for professional relationships.
Similarly, where Facebook includes a wide range of connections, it seems that part of the reason some people have migrated to social network sites like twitter is because it provides the freedom to discuss, share, and post thoughts with a audience that want to discuss social, political, religious, or other topical interest. Twitter seems to be a safer and more appropriate place to discuss controversy.
Like posting pictures about recipes, do-it yourself projects, furniture you like. Your Facebook network might care less about those cute cupcakes you want to make or the new project you have in mind using mason jars. And here is another place some people have found another second home.
► Other Sites and Applications (Like Google-Plus and Instagram)
Some other sites and applications have also sprung up with various degrees of popularity - one of the big ones seems to be Instagram. My wife and many of my friends use it regularly with great pleasure. I'm sure people have different reasons they use these other social networking sites, but often it seems to me that it's like they need a friend list reboot and instead of de-friending all of there facebook friends they find a new online home where the list is more controlled.
In general, it seems that we have become not only comfortable in recent years with online transparency, but we desire it (of course with people who share our same book of unwritten rules).
For me, I'm coming to a place when I'd rather find ways to have transparency in three-dimensional real relationships as opposed to those in cyber-land. Yet, I also realize that this part of a new reality and I need to figure out how to reconcile both a new world order and how to get past a fear of missing out (FOMO) if I opt to stay away.
I see some of the functionality - in addition to blogging, I'm on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. And honestly, it feels like a lot of online persona's to monitor - but more than that, undestanding which parts of myself do I express in each of these worlds. Or even wondering, do I need to have a virtual presence in each of these places.