Monday, December 18

What Lessons Can Facebook Teach Us?

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I first joined Facebook several years ago after my children decided to join. It was around the same time I joined MySpace. At first, I did it to keep an eye on what my children did online. Not understand the concept of Facebook, and not able to find many people on there that I knew, I rarely logged on, and moved on to other things.

When Facebook turned into something other than a place for college students to get together and socialize online, I visited again. This time I found many people I went to elementary and high school with, as well as friends who lived on the street where I grew up, and friends from around the old neighborhood. It was fun to share old pictures with former classmates, and I enjoyed sharing stories about the crazy things we did as kids.

Soon after I joined, I discovered my entire family was also on Facebook. Besides my children and my siblings, my in-laws joined Facebook as well. My husband joined to see why his family seemed to be having so much fun.

I enjoyed playing many of the games on Facebook. Part of the fun was sending friends’ gifts, and having them send gifts back to you. I also liked reading about the causes and issues that my friends felt were important. Soon, friends started to voice their opinions on various topics, and I decided to do the same.

I found out that it might not have been one of my better ideas. I realize that everyone has opinions, and that not everyone is going to agree with mine all of the time. I think most people can agree on that, at least. My problem is that I have difficulty responding to people who voice their disagreement of my opinions. I always remember my mother telling me when I was kid that my mouth would get me into trouble. I have not changed much, apparently.

I do not fare well on message boards, or in chat rooms, because of this. I get into heated discussions, and before I know it, I quit the message board, or exit the chat room, never to return. I found that it is harder to do that on Facebook.

If you are familiar with the character of George on the show, Seinfeld, you might remember that he once became upset because his close friends and his girlfriend wanted to start hanging out together. He explained that he was upset because with his friends he was a different person from the one he was when he was with his girlfriend. He compared it to “worlds colliding”. I did not fully understand what he meant until I realized the same thing was happening to me on Facebook.

Everyone knows religion and politics are the two worst subjects for anyone to discuss with others. Some of my family members are liberal, while I am a conservative. I am not aware of the opinions of my old school chums, because when you are that young, you do not care about those things. You also should try to stay away from those topics when talking to extended family members because you do not want to be alienated from them.

After getting into a few ‘discussions’ on Facebook, I then decided I wanted to be careful how I worded comments and posts. I would post something and before I hit the Share button, I would think to myself, “Ah…maybe I better not post this. I don’t want Jill to see this”, or “I wonder what Frank will think of me if I post this comment.”

This went on for a few weeks, until I decided that I would not post anything other than blurbs about the weather or the kids or the dogs, etc. I played the games, sent gifts back to those who sent me gifts, and then I would log off.

I realized then that I became what my kids call, ‘a Facebook stalker’. I would read what everyone had to say, look at friends’ walls, but I would not post or leave any comments. Then I thought how strange it was for me to react this way to what is labeled a ‘social network’.

For me, part of being sociable, is talking about yourself, your life, and about what matters to you. If I was going to let other people stop me from expressing how I felt about anything, I did not see the point of sharing with friends on Facebook. Then I thought if friends on my Facebook page felt they could say what they wanted in response to something I posted, I would simply have to let them know that what they said bothered me as well.

This has not been going well, but I will not give up. Just yesterday, I had a ‘friend’ reprimand me for posting something in all ‘caps’. It was a repost from another friend’s page. Her post was in all ‘caps’ and she instructed me to “copy and paste it”, then post it on my wall, so I did. A second friend jumped on me for it a few minutes later, and that friend wanted to know why I was so angry about what I posted.

I do not know what infuriated me more, the fact that they were correcting me as if I was a third grader, or they were trying to show that they knew something written in all caps on a social network, meant that you were mad.

I proceeded to explain to them that it was a repost. I politely told them that I posted it the way my other friend asked me to because I thought I was supposed to do that. I then could not resist adding, “Do not make something out of nothing”.

I took the post down, along with my comment, and did not post anything until late this morning, It was another repost, this time no capital letters, but I had to add a little dig in there anyway.

Maybe I will go back to MySpace and post my comments and opinions there instead. There were kooks on there that kept sending me half-naked pictures of themselves, even though my profile was a picture of my three dogs, but at least I remained anonymous.

Moreover, no one on MySpace felt the compelling need to correct my spelling or my grammar. No one criticized my online etiquette. Maybe I should post the following in my status, “Facebook, the anti-social network”. That should go over big.

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