Archive for May, 2011

Face-Down in Facebook

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Even though I don’t think of myself as a “chronic Facebooker,” i.e. someone who is compelled to post on this giant of the Social Networking Machine several times each day, I do find the site somewhat addicting. But like a drug, it can affect my moods and emotions, and not always in a positive way. As the high-tech version of a real-life community, Facebook offers yet another stage on which I can soar like a meteor or fall on my face. Only in this particular venue, everyone I know, along with many I don’t know, get to witness my hits and misses!

I resisted as much as possible to even check out Facebook, but was finally worn down by the constant references to the site, and admonitions of business advisers that if I wasn’t “visible” on Facebook, at the very least, my small writing and editing business was sure to wash up on the shores of Never-Heard-Of-It Land. What choice did I have?

Since it was relatively easy to set up and navigate, Facebook seemed interesting and potentially entertaining at first. Of course, being a grown-up adult with actual work and responsibilities, I immediately rejected any involvement with Mafia Wars, Farmville, or the other gaming possibilities. Heavens! I have enough problems keeping my kids from running amuck, food in the cupboard, and my pets from destroying our house, without worrying about managing a farm.

It was exhilarating, though, to see people I know accept my “Friend Request.” My list of friends grew in number to the respectable double digits. I am not a triple-digit-friend-list person – this I know. But I tend to be more into quality not quantity, so in my world, less can be more. My little and overly-utilized brain can only handle so much, after all.

Being the somewhat reserved type, I didn’t post anything at all for quite some time. I didn’t know what to say… I felt like the new kid on a playground, wanting to join in but not knowing any games! Observing the site’s rules of engagement took some time, but eventually, after reading what my “Facebook friends” were contributing, I became bold enough to “post a status.” I tried some Wise and Profound Quotes first, wishing I had been the deep thinker who had thought them up. To my surprise and delight, others clicked “Like” on a few of these witty one-liners.

The most exciting moment, of course, was when I posted the link to my latest blog entry, after which three people actually posted complimentary comments, and a total of five clicked “Like.” To me, that was like an audience throwing roses onto my own personal stage. Is there any more potent tonic than an artist feeling appreciated for her work?

Talk about instant gratification for a show of approval! I was hooked and wanted more of those virtual strokes. In my imagination, people – friends, friends of friends, perhaps friends of friends of friends – would like my posts so much, they’d start looking for them, waiting for them… I yearned to be a Facebook favorite.

But like the high from a sugar-binge destined to end in a crash, it was inevitable that my dreams of Facebook fame would wear off and I’d be let down. This, of course, came quickly when subsequent posts drew minimal or no response on the part of my so-called “friends!” Even my darling boyfriend neglected to bestow his virtual praise on several of my posts. More of that, I thought, and he’ll be my real-life ex-boyfriend!

Status updates, a link to a new article I had written, even my favorite Taylor Swift music video got no “Likes,” and no comments. Had anyone even looked at them, I wondered? Was I not the amusing wit I thought myself to be? Self-doubt began to seep into my insecure psyche…

And then, it happened. One of my network of Facebook friends disappeared off my list. I had been “de-friended!” What? Was it something I had posted? Maybe everyone secretly despised my obnoxious remarks! My head reeled. It was too much. I felt rejected in the Facebook world, and it hurt just as much as in the “real” world.

In dealing with the anguish over this situation, though, a tiny light of sane thinking shone through my murky haze of self-absorption. Had I been so focused on my own status that I had ignored other people’s comments and posts? Somehow I had overlooked a basic tenet of all relationships: whether in a live community or using social media, one has to give as well as receive. Translated to Facebook, that meant I needed to pay more attention to what my friends were posting, instead of focusing only on what attention my statuses were getting. The thought of contributing to my Facebook community instead of simply drawing ego gratification from it began to take hold. It was yet another experience with humiliation leading me to humility.

To redeem myself in part, I have made some other notable observations after my first year of being on Facebook. It has become apparent to me that most of my friends respond more favorably to the visual – photographs, videos, or graphics – than to the time-consuming challenge of reading. Perhaps it’s just faster, easier, and more fun to look at a nifty picture than to have to concentrate on digesting the written word.

Whatever the reason, when I’m feeling ignored, I simply post a particularly adorable picture of one of my pets, and I get plenty of “Likes” every time. So if my goal is to play to the crowd, I may as well give them what they want: cute animal pictures seem to do the trick and are far less intellectually taxing than writing something. I’ll leave my writing exploits to those who care to put in more than five seconds on a topic of interest.

Perhaps I was missing the most significant point of Facebook. Readers want it to be entertaining – and instantly so – more than anything else. Posts should be supremely sweet, shocking, or dramatic. But most importantly, short! What I need now to help my business is a colorfully animated graphic of pens dancing on a piece of paper, or books with arms and legs blowing kisses. Hmm… perhaps I can find a graphic designer through Facebook.