My experiment with Facebook and being more social, a look back over a year

Last summer, I began an experiment on myself. I decided I would begin to use Facebook as a way to become more “social.” Now, I’m looking back on the experiment after a year, and sharing my findings.

First, some background: I’ve had a Facebook account since 2005 – when you still had to have a .edu e-mail address to get one. But I’ve rarely used the site, as you can see from my timeline between 2005 and 2011. I knew how it worked (mostly), and would scroll through it on occasion, but it wasn’t an app that I used frequently. Mostly links to blog posts I’d written and the occasional photo.

So last summer, I began to use the site more. I began to comment on other people’s posts that would show up in my News Feed. I shared some stories I found on the Web. I posted some photos I took with my smart phone.

From the beginning, I had some guidelines. Most of the time, I was able to adhere to them. We all make mistakes.

  1. I would never ask someone to be my friend, but I would accept anyone (except for obvious spam accounts) who asked to friend me.
  2. I would not discuss politics or religion, no matter how much I might disagree with the sentiments expressed in a friend’s post or photo. (This has been the one I’ve been most guilty of breaking)
  3. I will not post blatantly inflammatory items related to politics or religion myself (see item 2). Although I have occasionally tipped over the line on this one, I’ve mostly kept my nose clean.
  4. I will not “like” thousands of pages/celebrities or their humorous/thoughtful image-quotes. Occasionally I will like an artist that I have seen live, or that I greatly admire (Richard Thompson‘s Page, for example), or a place I have visited or frequent (like Jackson Avenue Coffee), or a professional cause or organization (like the Student Press Law Center). I realize this seems hypocritical, or oxymoronic, but it’s a guideline, not a law.
  5. My Facebook profile would be public.

So those were the outlines. I have tried, as much as possible, to be creative and humorous with my personal posts. I started posting photos of my fortune cookies very early, because it seemed fun.

Around the same time, my interest in music was growing again (I had been in two bands when I was in college), and I began to play at Open Mic night at the JAC. So I began to share music that I’d written.

I also shared items that might be of interest to my professional peers – journalism or technology related articles. I even posted photos of my shoes on occasion, in homage to another adviser, Kenna Griffith (hello, Kenna).

Along the way, I grew to know more about the people around me, from work colleagues to professional peers, to former students, to friends from high school and college.

I also met or interacted more with people that I had “known” by name or face only, even though the interaction was usually “only” through 1s and 0s.

I have also “hidden” some people, for the simple fact that some of the material they pass along through Likes or Shares I not only disagree with, but find toxic to a healthy mental state. That’s my opinion, and I really don’t care what anyone thinks about it.

Overall, that has been the exception. I have considered it mostly a “good thing” to find out what’s going on in people’s lives that they care to share with us “friends.”

Interestingly, I still don’t get much “news” from Facebook unless a friend posts something I haven’t seen yet. I still get most of my professional research-related news from Twitter and Prismatic. The Facebook feed is more personal.

I will confess that I consciously try to keep my posts light-hearted, contemplative, or informative.

Facebook doesn’t show everything going on in my life, and it never will. There are some things that are best shared with the closest of friends. Even when I was stressing out about my tenure application this fall, I don’t think I let much of that seep into Facebook. I can’t say I’ve always kept my book closed, but I’ve tried.

The closest I normally get to opening veins of emotion on Facebook is when I post a video or lyrics to a song, since those are my creations. But I’d rather others see them and possibly receive some small satisfaction from them than let them gather dust in my mental attic.

I know others on Facebook who are much more open about their emotions or their life traumas and dramas. And that’s okay too. If you let people in, it seems that most friends on Facebook will respond in support.

I can honestly say that my life would be totally different today if I had not made the conscious decision to engage more “socially” on Facebook. Some has been good, some has been bad, but I would not trade the experience for another.

P.S. I know some people are worried about privacy on Facebook. I know I have been at times, and it’s right to be vigilant about things that concern you. But I’ve gotten to the point that it doesn’t worry me so much anymore. In no more than 30-40 years, I’ll probably be gone from this earth, and nobody will give a crap about my fortune cookies. And I won’t care either.

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