To Facebook or Not to Facebook…

In Monday’s comments, my cousin CommonLoon posted the following:

OK, Sarah, need some help: Three unrelated people have approached me (all with a 10 day window) about how I really “MUST” join Facebook. What’s the deal???

And my friend Joanne replied,

CL–stay away from Facebook. Its just silly.

I don’t think that’s great advice, though. Facebook can be incredibly silly, but it is also a fun and easy way to keep in touch with people and renew old friendships, in my opinion. (An opinion I came to pretty much kicking and screaming, I might add. I did not want to like social networking.)

I joined Facebook a year or so ago for the sole purpose of starting a group for The Job, because we wanted to try social networking as a way to get our message out to a different audience.* Initially, and probably for six months or more, I didn’t find Facebook interesting at all. I had about 10 friends, none of whom were especially active.

Then, out of nowhere, it seemed, I started getting a handful of friend requests every week. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised; everything I was reading online about social sites said that 30- and 40-somethings were the fastest-growing demographic on Facebook. After a while, a few people started a group for my college’s theatre program (without which I probably would have graduated summa cum laude) and people are scanning and posting photos at an alarming rate — leading to a massive nostalgia-fest.

And that, I think, gets to the crux of why I like Facebook — it’s been really fun to reminisce about old times and re-connect with people I haven’t seen or heard from in years. While I am still close with a number of my college friends, I had lost touch with my wider circle. It’s nice to see that they are well and happy and to have a little glimpse into their lives.

So, CL, I don’t know if that’s enough to get you to sign up, but in case you do, here are my hints for having fun on Facebook:

  • Use the status update function. It seems weirdly self-involved to send out a one-sentence update on what you’re up to once or twice a day, but I know I really enjoy reading them — and I think most other people do too. And if you’re going read them, I think it is only fair to contribute your own.
  • Set up a couple of privacy groups. This will allow you to have more control over who sees what. (My co-workers, for example, can see my status updates but not photos other people post of me.)
  • Once you have a few friends, look at their friend lists. This is the easiest way to find people you know. Also make use of the classmate searches and the “people you may know” tool.
  • Don’t hesitate to ignore friend requests. You’re not going to like someone better online than you do in the real world, so if you’re “meh” about them, just pass on the Facebook relationship. And decide whether or not you’ll accept friend requests from people you don’t know — occasionally these requests make some sense (tangential professional connections or friends-of-friends), but it’s often “friend collectors,” which I find to be truly bizarre.
  • Avoid application spam. The easiest way to do this is to not accept every request that someone sends your way. Unless you’re heavily into vampires or zombies or the Oregon Trail, you can probably live without these cluttering up your profile. (SuperPoke is pretty fun, though, and not nearly as naughty as the name sounds.)
  • Be patient. It takes a while to build up a critical mass of friends.

* We’ve just upgraded to a page, so if you’re on Facebook, come be a fan!

Updated to tweak the next-to-last bullet. I’m not sure it made sense the way I originally wrote it.

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6 thoughts on “To Facebook or Not to Facebook…

  1. Joanne August 27, 2008 / 2:14 pm

    Maybe I’m just hormonal. But for the past few days, all the reminiscing on Facebook has made me feel oddly invisible. Wendy posted all those photos, and I’m not in a SINGLE ONE. And I look like a psycho in the pictures I am in. Sounds a little whiny, but there it is. I have found that when I start connecting with larger and larger groups from my past, I tend to not enjoy it. I need to keep my ties limited to a close group of people, apparently. I got increasingly pissed off when I started hanging out with a large group of women from my high school, because it just took me right back to the old dynamic that no longer suits me, if that makes sense.

    As for the larger mechanics of Facebook, there’s just so much CLUTTER. Superpokin’, quizzes, movie tests, Wall and Super Wall. I don’t see a huge amount of functionality for socializing there. I prefer straight blogs like this one, honestly. Or Mothertalkers.

  2. Sarah August 27, 2008 / 2:46 pm

    @ Joanne – Yeah, I can see where the lack of photos might feel like a bit of a snub, but I really don’t think that’s the case at all. I don’t recall you being a huge fan of having your picture taken, so I’m guessing people just don’t have that many. That, and almost all the pictures are either from shows where you were behind the scenes, not onstage, or from formal events, which you didn’t especially like attending.

    Going back to the old dynamic was startling for me, too, and initially really annoyed me. But then I realized that, just as I don’t know how people have changed over the last 15 years, they don’t know how I’ve changed, either. So we fall back into the old patterns because that’s our shared language — it’s what we know about each other. I’m guessing that, once this initial flurry of nostalgia wears off, some of us will have a chance to know each other as adults, which is kind of cool.

    And I agree totally on the clutter, hence my next-to-last bullet!

  3. Joanne August 27, 2008 / 3:03 pm

    Snub is a strong word, because I actually think most of those pictures Wendy posted are from the semester I spent in DC, so no duh, I’m not there. I just feel weirdly invisible. I don’t think Wendy hates me. 😀

  4. Sarah August 27, 2008 / 3:14 pm

    Yeah, I’m pretty sure Wendy doesn’t hate you. 🙂

    It’s funny, the thing that’s freaking me out about the photos is that they’re (with the exception of Wendy’s) from people who either were freshmen when I was a senior, or who started after I graduated. I feel like I need to get some photos up there to represent for my years, but I am way too lazy to do all that scanning.

  5. common loon August 27, 2008 / 4:02 pm

    Thank you! I will digest and let you know how it goes (via a friend request?#$%!). Not saying I will do it, but it’s nice to hear from someone I trust as opposed to just jumping in and then really questionning it after the first couple [hundred?] bizarre things occur.

  6. sprite August 27, 2008 / 11:44 pm

    Meh. Facebook just doesn’t interest me. I keep in touch with my friends; the other people were just background characters. Sure, sometimes their stories merit a novel, but usually a sentence suffices.

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