Why You Won’t Find Me on Facebook

facebook-logo_rotatedFacebook and I have a tenuous relationship. I read incoming posts. I almost never put posts on online. I’m a consumer. Not a producer.

The reason? Because, to me, Facebook makes it too easy to generate misunderstanding by breaking two important rules of communication —

  • Rule 1: Know your audience; and
  • Rule 2: Encourage understanding by delivering the whole story in context

Let me clarify with a story:

Recently, I saw a post from someone I was Facebook “friends” with. This person is a public figure in the community and I respect his work — a lot.

This post told a story about a situation that he and his friend experienced. It was a lot like other typical Facebook posts. A photograph with the two of them smiling and a brief description about the experience. Taken as it was (which was the only way I could take it) without a back story caused me to dramatically misinterpret its meaning. I read the posts and the comments and it didn’t make sense given what I knew about the person who posted it.

I thought of replying to the post on Facebook but decided that a personal email with some questions was a much better way of helping me to understand. In the end, it was. We had a phone call, we talked for about 30 minutes, both of us approached the situation not as a disagreement but as “seeking to be understood”. In the end, I understood. I may not have agreed but I understood. He an I dealt with it. Not he and I and all of our friends.

Back to the problem with Facebook. When I post something to Facebook, it ends up being seen by a lot more than my friends. When someone comments on something I post, it ends up that there are a lot of people who don’t know me who see my stuff. I can’t assume that any of these people (even my friends) know enough about me or the “backstory” that they don’t make assumptions about what I am writing. In this case… assumptions lead to misunderstanding and misunderstanding is what gets you in trouble.

I also don’t like Facebook because of the undocumented “look at me” feature. This unadvertised feature is part of every post. It adds an assumed “look at me and what I am doing — it’s important” flag to every item on your Facebook page. Add that to the fact that your content and this flag is being waved not only to your friends, but also to people you don’t know (friends of friends) and will show up when someone searches you online.

Humility and humbleness is not a feature of Facebook.

Lest you conclude that I think Facebook has no value at all, let me set your mind at ease. My most valuable use of Facebook is for me to connect with organizations. If it wasn’t for Facebook, I wouldn’t be able to connect with my neighborhood organization, many outstanding non-profits or other organizations that I am interested in. It’s a valuable took for communicating “real” news. In that mode — communicating events and opportunities — Facebook shines. Real news is valuable. Organizations who post don’t tend to “brag”, they strive to deliver facts like what’s happening, what they need and so on.

Communication is a touchy thing. When it’s done right, it works and fosters new ideas. It’s informs truth. When it’s done wrong, or it’s incomplete, the opportunity for damage is huge.

Don’t get me wrong. Like many other things in this world, the technology is not the problem. It’s the way we choose to use it.

Think about this next time you decide to tell the world what you did last night using a Facebook post.


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