Recently a friend of mine whose opinion I greatly respect, told me that he had quit Facebook. Now, all of us have heard people say that, and then their posts magically start appearing a few days or weeks later. But this friend isn’t usually like that. When he says he is taking an action, he does. When he told me, he said that he felt safer than he had felt in years.
Today I was cruising through the news feed and noticed someone complaining about the genre of posts she has been seeing. She referred to Facebook as having becomes an animal rescue because it seemed to her that there were a growing number of lost pet posting. I chimed in and commented on her status, as did many other.
These, and other events, have caused me to wonder whatever happened to Facebook? How has it changed over the years? And how do I feel about what it has become?
I joined Facebook around July 15, 2008. Thanks to the timeline feature, I was able to go back and see what my initial posts were. Back then I shared some pictures and started rekindling some acquaintances that had gone by the wayside over the years. If you were on it back then, you might remember taking tests about various aspects of your life, or movies you had seen.
Over time I came to use Facebook as a way to mass communicate with a large number of people. Giving updates to the events of my life, sharing stories and pictures, making social commentary, etc. I have enjoyed many hours of surfing through the events of other peoples’ lives also. I have gotten to know some people better because of what they have posted. There are some friends, including one from my High School days, with whom I would probably never interact anymore were it not for Facebook.
Recently, though, I have seen several trends in posts that have come to annoy me. I want to talk about them a bit, but I don’t want to become that guy who uses Facebook to complain about Facebook. So, I will do it here on my blog instead (I can actually hear my children rolling their eyes and sighing right now.)
Here are five categories of posts on Facebook that I personally could stand seeing a whole lot less, and tips to avoid them
Lost pet alerts. Like the friend I mentioned above, I have noticed an increase in the number of postings about people who can’t find their pets. They give a description, where they last saw them, even a picture. All in hopes that someone on Facebook will find fifi for them. Maybe I am not the norm, but I have friends who are in a wide geographic area. There are friends that are clear across town, in other states, even other countries. I have friends on Facebook who live in India, China and the UK. If I were to post that old fido was on the lam, do I really think that people who live ten, twenty, a thousand, or ten-thousand miles away would care, let alone look? When did Facebook become the grocery store bulletin board where people post their photocopied lost pet notices?
A corollary to these are missing person reports. I see many of these as well. When I have time I actually try to find sources to corroborate them. Too often they are outdated, or just plain inaccurate. But sometimes they are quite informative. I am all about finding missing souls and keeping them out of harm’s way, so I give a broad path to these.
Bobby-C Facebook tip #1. Use that grocery store bulletin board to look for you lost pet. And, if you must post on Facebook, create a group of your friends who live closest to you, and limit that post so only they see it.
Urban Legends. Now, I don’t mean actually posting something and saying “hey, this is a cool urban legend”. I am talking about people who post long missives, usually copied from an email chain or another person’s Facebook post. These tomes will go on and on about anything from how the government is wasting my money, to how to prevent violent crimes, to origins of words and phrases. Each time I see one of them, my first instinct is to go check them. A simple google search of the key words usually shows that they are rife with inaccuracies which render them useless at best, and dangerous at worst (like the one that tells you if someone has a gun in your back you should use your debit card pin backwards).
Bobby-C Facebook tip #2. Check your facts before posting something. A simple google search on the topic, or a trip to snopes.com can usually do the trick. You’ll save yourself the embarrassment of posting drivel, and save us the time of reading it.
Manufactured memes. Sometime in the last six months or so someone came up with the idea of manufacturing memes that look like retro greeting cards on which you can write a semi-humorous statement. I will admit, the first hundred or so of them that I read had about a 30% chance of making me smile. Now that I have seen ten or twenty thousand of them (slight exaggeration for dramatic effect), I rarely even read them anymore. When I am in the mood to see such things, I can just as easily go to reddit.com, where I will see some that are much more clever. And, I can see them anytime I like, without clogging up everyone’s news feeds.
Bobby-C Facebook tip #3 Let memes be memes. If you must post one because it made you belly laugh, keep it to one or two a month, not 8 or 10 a day.
Sappy love pictures and poems. I am not talking here about actual pictures of you and your loved ones. Those are really cool and something I personally enjoy seeing. I am talking about the ones that start of something like “Sisters are your first friends. Blah blah blabbity blah… post this if you love your sister”. People feel the need to use someone else’s words to espouse their love of their siblings, spouses, parents, grandparents, turtles (personally, I like turtles), and on and on. When I read them, I always wonder, will my sister think I don’t love her if I don’t post this sappy crap? (I actually feel quite confident that she knows how much I love her, even if I don’t plagiarize to show it).
There is a glaring set of exceptions here. If the person in question is suffering from disease, has died, or died on this date in the past, all rantings of mine go aside. You get my full support and prayers.
Bobby-C Facebook tip #4. If you love someone, TELL THEM! Oh, and here is an idea, pick up an actual telephone and call them so they hear your voice say it. Or…let me go out on a big limb there, if they live close enough go visit them and tell them. That call or visit will mean far more to them than reading something that someone else said that you re-posted.
Check-ins. Does everyone you know on Facebook need to know that you are the mayor of the third floor men’s room where you work? Unless I am a professional thief looking for an easy mark, I probably don’t want to know where you are on a minute-by-minute basis. “But Bobby-C, don’t you want to see the cool pics from my vacation?” Actually, yes I do. Just as I want to share mine with you. But, here’s an idea… post them when you get back. Create a nice little album to share so we can all see. And, if you see something while you are out that you just must share, go ahead and share it. But, please…make that the exception rather than the rule.
Bobby-C Facebook tip #5. Keep your check-ins to yourself. Save the narrative of your trip for when you get back. You will be safer, and we all will have the joy of anticipation to hear your stories on your return.
In the interest of full disclosure, let me be the first to admit that I have violated every one of my tips above. Like a friend of Bill W, I will stand before you and say “I am Bobby-C, and I have clogged up people’s new sfeeds”. But, part of starting this blog was to put things where they belong. Before I started writing “Just some thoughts I have…”, I would have been writing this all in a Facebook note, annoying even my most die-hard friends in the process. And, like any set of arbitrary, unilateral, unenforceable, nonsense rules, there are exceptions to everything I have written here.
I guess what I am saying is that I would love for me, and my friends, to use a bit of judgment when posting on Facebook. Let’s let it get fun and informative again.
In a future post I will talk about how I feel regarding having debate on Facebook, but we will let that be another topic for another day.