What Does Your Facebook Page Say About You?

I have been both fascinated and repulsed by Facebook.

Strong words? Maybe. But let me explain.

I first began a Facebook account because my daughter wanted a MySpace account and I said, NO! I explored Facebook and tried to become adept at it, to stay one step ahead of my teen. Ha! She’s now had her account a year less than I have and she is light-years ahead of me in skill. We call her Tech-Support.

Sure, I connected with many people from my past that have been so nice to touch base with. Yes, it’s been so easy to check in with friends and family who live far away. I kind of like the little sound bites (every now and then) of what my friend is up to: how she’s buried in laundry or he just witnessed his daughter’s first step or letting me know of a great film I should see.

And then, an amazing thing happened to me with Facebook.

A dear, dear friend from high school and swim team popped up. We friended each other. We started catching up. And discovered that we live only 45 minutes away from each other, even though we grew up together 1000 miles away.

Freaky coincidence.

Our friendship is renewed. We crack each other up, just like old times. And marvel over the amazing thing that is Facebook.

I honestly don’t know how we would have found each other without it (or something like it.) Both sets of our parents have since moved away from our hometown. Friends are scattered far and wide. We may have been able to find each other another way, but it wouldn’t have been easy.

Not as easy as the click-type-click that it is on Facebook.

That’s the fascinating part.

What is repulsive is the self-absorbed culture it is turning us into. I don’t care about the minute by minute updates. You think you’re funny? But you are funny only about 10% of the time. In our neighborhood, Facebook has become a popularity contest. It reminds me of high school – the public bragging about vacations and which party you just attended and the great time you had with Biff, Skip and Buffy. 

I now hide certain people (because I don’t have the guts to unfriend them) so I’m not tempted to fall into their trap.  Wondering why I wasn’t invited to the girl’s night out. Or pool party. Wondering why we can’t afford the cruise or trip to Europe or new car. Reading their brag posts, I find myself slipping into a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses mentality that I abhor.

So I hide. I ignore their posts as if they didn’t exist. I stick my head in the sand and create my own little bubble.

And then there’s the trick of people finding you on Facebook when you don’t want to be found. A dark period of my past came up and almost bit me. I ignored the friend request and panicked. How much had he found out about me and my adult life? Did I have all the right privacy settings in place? Why oh why was it so easy for this stalker to find me again?

Tech-Support (dear daughter) assured me that he only saw my name. And then she taught be how to disappear from him and any of the close friends I could remember that he had by blocking him and the rest of his posse.

Close call.

Rogue Pictures

NPR had an interesting review of two up-coming films about Facebook. Catfish (about a Facebook friendship) and The Social Network (about how Facebook got started) They both sound very interesting and I look forward to checking them out. But what interested me more was the way in which Bob Mondello (the NPR reviewer) chose to describe his “like” of the films. It is a clever review that is worth the listen.

And like Bob, I don’t want to say much more than that. But it got me thinking about how our lives have changed forever with social networks and how we now operate. How soundbites and friending and unfriending have become normal, every day behavior that influences how we operate and what we expect. The sense of immediacy it creates. It cultivates impatience and unnecessary worry. Yet it connects us in ways we never imagined it would.

Facebook is here to stay. Fascinating or repulsive, we’re left to use or abuse its abilities. I only hope we become bored with the mundane updates and more sensitive about what we post on our profiles. After all, our Facebook pages are an extension of who we are and how we want to be perceived.

What does your Facebook page say about you?


Filed under How We Roll, Observations

36 responses to “What Does Your Facebook Page Say About You?

  1. That thing about people who leave updates all day long and think they’re funny…man, I hate that. Glad you avoided the stalker!

  2. I’ve heard a lot of people say similar things about Facebook, and I guess I would say I sympathize but don’t empathize. I take the positive things from it happily and I ruthlessly eliminate or refuse to friend anyone whose status updates and comments don’t make me smile the majority of the time that I see them. I have seen friend requests pop up that make me shudder, and I ignore them and block the person. I have experienced the exact same thing you’re describing at the bragging updates, and those people are no longer my friends. And I feel the people that I’ve reconnected with and the people it keeps me more closely connected with are more than worth the little annoyances. Does this sound like a tirade? I didn’t mean it to.

  3. My kids talked me into getting Facebook a couple of years ago…I used to be one of those people who updated all the time, but now I just put a quote that I like up every morning (although today, I mentioned that Jim and I are having a Date Night and going to see John Hiatt tonight!). I use Facebook mostly to keep in touch with my distant relatives (who I haven’t seen in many years), and my college buddies (most of whom are 1000 miles away). I also admit being addicted to Scrabble, Lexulous, and Wordscraper.

    I don’t spend nearly as much time on Facebook now that I have a blog…


  4. angelcel

    I’ve had a FB page for a few years now (to keep in touch with daughters at Uni) but only started *really* using it recently, more I suppose to see if I like it or not. I almost immediately fell into two of the classic traps:

    1. Finding out rather more about some of the people who are my FB friends than I really wished to know (ignorance *is* often bliss).

    2. Getting all twisted up inside about social events from which I was precluded (conveniently forgetting that I actually wouldn’t have gone to them anyway because they’re just not my thing)!

    It’s definitely a double-edged sword and riddled with aspects of good and bad. People with ludicrous amounts of friends bother me and people who Tweet and FB update all day intrigue me. I’m afraid I’m just not interesting enough to warrant spouting forth all day!

    The jury is still out as to whether to continue a personal page therefore. What has intrigued me however is its clever use as a marketing tool – I had no idea there were FB pages for Things. Shows how out of the loop *I* am!

  5. It’s addicting, no doubt. I think with every user there is a trend to overuse at first because of the novelty, and then use as comfortable. The constant updaters I find annoying. Do we really need to know everything they think? There’s a reason we’re not supposed to read minds! The triviality, banalness and downright irritation of it has made me close down my account more than once. What keeps bringing me back is the ability to stay in touch with people so far away. I like the conversations that develop out of the more interesting and timely updates, or the actual private messages that get sent. On that note, however, my blog has inspired at least as many thought-provoking and touching conversations as facebook.

    On a more sinister note, I also had a previous stalker track me down. I blocked him so fast I’m sure he didn’t see it coming. (Isn’t it amazing how stupid stalkers really are? It’s like they think we WANT their attentions! What? Moving across the country to get away from them and/or restraining orders aren’t enough???)

    I would totally friend you on facebook, because I think we’re kind of on the same page here, but that would make me kinda creepy.

  6. Steven Harris

    A splendid account of the double-edged sword that it social networking. The people I hide are the ones who only ever update with negativity and bitching (and I have been brave enough to simply delete one or two of them entirely from my friends list). I have taken great care to make my profile as private as it can be – I’m all for finding old friends but, like you’ve discovered, some of the old associates out there are not necessarily friends. I do, however, love seeing the photos of my friends lives. That’s my favourite part of social networking. I don’t need to be sat in my friends’ houses with a cup of tea to look through their photo albums (althougb it would be lovely to sit down for a cuppa with them more regularly).
    I experimented with rendering my account dormant for six months this year, however, as I wanted to remember to live in the real world too. Now winter is coming, I am back in cyberland but suitably refreshed and energised by my sabbatical.

  7. I have to admit to being a bit of a Facebook junky. No, I don’t play any of the games (although I did play Mousehunt for awhile before I lost interest), but I do post at least once a day, and if I see a video clip I like or a news story that I think others will find interesting I post it. I like seeing what everyone’s up to and getting a few chuckles. I, too, have found and gotten to know again people that I would otherwise never have re-met, and with family so spread out, it makes it easier to keep in touch.

    I do have a couple of pet peeves, though. Constant updates (I’m at the store…I’m leaving the store…bought baby wipes at the store…home. putting away groceries…), new moms who have to keep us updated every time their new baby spits up, and techno junkies who’s statuses (stati???) make absolutely no sense to the rest of us (example from someone today: “Ooo, gotta testbed diaspora running.” Whaaaat?). The other stuff I can deal with. Blocking people? No problem. Blocking game updates? No problem. Not friending everyone who asks or who gets recommended? No a problem.

    Saw a story today that a university in Harrisburg is having a social media blockage this week as part of an experiment. I kind of rolled my eyes by the end (you’ll understand why) because we did all those things–setting up study groups and activites and such–long before cell phones, let alone laptops, and we did just fine at college! Story here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100916/ap_on_re_us/us_social_media_blackout

    And I KNOW that I was much more productive pre-Facebook!

    I also saw this little clip this week, which fits in with your post. The creators of “Greg and Donny” are from the town where I now live, and they parody the locals to good effect. Greg and Donny communicate with video calling, although they live on the same block. In the first episode, Greg is really suspicious of the internet. By this one, though, he’s on all the time playing Farmtown. The language is a bit rough, but oh my goodness it’s funny. Especially if you go back and check out the other episodes and come to Johnstahn fer a visit naht.

    OK. I’ve cluttered up your comment section long enough! sorry…guess I’ll go update my Facebook status now!

  8. I’ve had the same feelings about Facebook. I’ve connected with some friends I knew since grade school and that has been great. But also, there have been updates that you read and you wonder why you haven’t been included. I guess it is just part of the social networking paradox. I like how you presented this dilemma.

    Have a good weekend Jane! (Be very afraid – I might try and friend you on facebook 🙂

  9. I heard that NPR review too! I am sorry that FB turned into a popularity contest in your neighborhood. It’s like Christmas letter EVERY DAY (nay, every hour!)? Ugh. I don’t update my FB often other than to post kids’ pictures so relatives can see them.

  10. Janelle

    As usual Jane, I so agree with everything you have said. I had a facebook account briefly and then closed it as I determined it was just not me. I would love to reconnect with “lost” friends but I am not sure facebook is the way to deepen friendships. There is WAY too much gossip in my community over “did you see what she posted on facebook?!” and I just can’t handle it. I too would start worrying about why I wasn’t invited etc. etc. I’d love my extended family to be more in touch but I’d rather them be in touch with ME rather than just posting it for all their “friends” to see. I guess I’m a relationship snob…looking for true friends and family…not just a big group to gossip to. Right now I think I am one of a very few people that I know who say no to facebook.

  11. Penny

    I have a love/hate relationship with fb, too. I am glad to keep in touch with people that no longer live near me, but I really dislike all the updates – – especially ones about potty training your kid or stuff like that. Also, I’ve watched a few relationships completely crumble because of FB. I always go back and forth on keep it or deleting it.

  12. I think everyone’s got a different approach. I have friends who update every day, and others from whom I never hear…I despise the SAHM who posts the recipes of all the chocolatey, gooey things she’s making, but love the updates from my friend living in Abu Dhabi….Mostly, I think, you get out of FB what you want to. If not, you move on and post irregularly, and people still think they’re in touch with you.

  13. I agree completely. It’s a love/hate relationship for me. I have hidden a lot of people. Of course, now I want to be friends with you and BeingRudri…so I’m off to stalk! 😉

  14. FB has been an interesting experiment for me. I work in a hospital with a lot of truly amazing people who I quickly friended and/or accepted friend requests from. Except now? Now, I’m not so sure that I want them to be looking at pictures of my kids, etc. I have considered weeding my friend garden but worry about offending anyone. Yep, I sit on the fence about the usefulness of this social networking tool too.

  15. Wonderful post … I don’t think you missed even one thing that I have contemplated about Facebook every time someone wants me to join. For all of the reasons you have mentioned, I have not hopped on the Facebook train. My only little doubt about not joining has to do with missing out on possibly reconnecting with an old friend like you have been able to do.

  16. When my daughter was born (my oldest) was born, soap operas were my window to the outside world, to grown-up conversation. With my son, I had just joined Facebook and found so much solace in that immediate connection with other people.

    Now, as a harried mom of three, I’m not sure how I would maintain relationships with friends, colleagues, acquaintances if not for Facebook!

    But thank goodness for the “hide” feature, right??

  17. I do not have a Facebook page, and never will! I don’t twitter, msn or text.

  18. Do I have a Facebook page? Yup.
    Have I signed on in the last 6 months? Nope.

    Actually twice in that time. But only to pick up a message that a friend of mine (who is ALWAYS on) sent to me. She knows my cell phone#, she knows my home phone#, she knows my e-mail address…but she INSISTS on sending me messages via Facebook. I LOATHE it.

    Have I canceled my account? No. Why? You just never know when I might want to look up some of my past boyfriends just to see if they still have hair. Oh…and the mean girls to see if they got fat.

  19. Have a fb account, and have used it to find work, find old friends, stay in contact with the industry I used to work in…stay in touch with relatives. It’s why I know husband’s distant cousin is pregnant, and when his nephew is coming back to town after moving away two years ago. Stuff he’d never know but for me and my facebook..

    But I don’t play the games, and I don’t post every day. Nor do I have time to read all the posts. But I do peruse it every week or so. Kind of anyway.

  20. Great points. I tend to agree. (FB is both a marvel and a statement of our narcissism as a culture.)

    But I’d like to think the positives of social media will outweigh the negatives, over time.

  21. Mel

    I agree with you on so much of this Jane. I created a FB account initially to follow a favorite semi reclusive musician, then to keep an eye on my tweens, now teens, who I requested friend me, and they did. It is a wonderful window into their world, and I try not to make them cringe, but really enjoy knowing who their friends are, and who the nice and naughty kids are. As for my adult social network, in a word, Yawn. I am just not that into it. The need for self validation, the look how fabulous we are, or worse, look how much fun I’m having on Farmville drives me batty. Saddest of all, the few dear friends I have lost track of over the moves and years are elusive or not on FB, and I’ve already been found and friend requested by half a dozen people from my past I have nothing in common with and no desire to reconnect with. I am vague in my profile, but get found anyway, and I couldn’t live without the hide features to keep the silly games at bay. The thing I like the least is the silly return to high school for so many adults, the need to still be popular and relevant. I guess that makes me either a loner or appear stuck up when in reality, I just don’t get it, almost like in high school!
    Thanks for another great post. I hear you about the kids being tech support – why is new technology so intuitive for them? I think they don’t overthink it like we do, so it comes easier.

  22. I love facebook. I’m on a lot throughout the day. I work from home, its my office chatter. There is a pretty good group of us–we are very inclusive–one pain in the ass we all talk about–but we include her anyway. We keep in light most of the time. We do coffee. I like knowing if Bill shaved and if we finally shamed him out of white socks.
    Its not for everyone, but for me its fun…and well, I love it….
    If you want to be my friend and play with us—come along. We have a life….and part of its virtual.

  23. I just went back and read the comments–Sorry should have done that first…I’m not sure who your “friends” are but we don’t play that way. Everyone is included–from the little gal down in Alabama who prays for us and amuse us at the same time, to the couple in California struggling to find work, to the mom tearing her hair out because her kid is throwing a major Tupperware throwing fit–to the professionals who are “so busy.” We post pictures of toe nail polish and cheer each other sports teams and yeah sometime get hot about issues. Reading the comments—I can see how the wrong mix of friends could make facebook unfun at best and destructive at worse.

  24. I feel the same way about Facebook. I LOVE that I get snippets of other people’s lives that I wouldn’t normal see. I LOATH it because my own ex-stalker is on it and that Facebook has brought about a very dark part of my life. Stupid Facebook.

  25. I signed up for Facebook to have some contact with my grandkids, who don’t know how to write letters, email or make phone calls anymore. Rarely do I post my “status” – my life is not interesting enough to give blow by blow details (hmmm – but yet I blog?). I do comment occasionally. I have few friends, although I’ve added a few recently. People I know. I have one that wanted to friend me (a friend of my son-in-law),but eventually I hid him because he’s posting all the time. He has a family and a job, how does he have time? What worries me is that some people seem to lose all sense of decorum and share a lot more than I’d be willing to share. But I have that choice, just as I have a choice as to what I’ll read on Facebook, how often I check it, what blogs I’ll read, what email I’ll open and read; life is endless choices. And ain’t that grand?

  26. I created a page when Apprentice was a freshman in college. It was the only way I could successfully get a hold of her as phone calls and emails went unanswered. But post on her wall, and *ta-da* I would get an answer the same day! Plus, it kept me informed on what she was up to in college! It proved to be a good way to stay connected with Army Wife in Alabama as well. Today I am *friends* with relatives (hi mom), former students, former teachers, long lost high school classmates, bloggy friends and even in-person friends. It’s like anything else…okay in moderation. Granted, you have to be careful, set your privacy settings and be aware of their ever-changing policies. And post smart. It’s really not unlike blogging in taking precautions to protect yourself. And make sure you balance it with plenty of face-to-face time with those closest to you.

    PS: Remember when you tagged me last year? Yeah, I thought so. Well, I’m returning the favor! TAG, YOU’RE IT! 🙂

  27. I have a similar love-hate relationship with Facebook, but thank goodness, I’ve never become an addict. I check profiles and pictures and the like once in a while, but not every day and definitely not ten or twenty times a day like some people do.

    I think you really said it all. There are simply two sides to this new culture that’s popped up, but it’s here to stay in all probability.

  28. Despite constant urging from some of my friends and my children, I absolutely refuse to join Face Book. Guess that’s what my Face Book says about me. I spend quite enough play time on the computer reading blogs and emails. I do not want to get caught up in Face Book or Twitter.

  29. FB is fun, for me. Being far away from home, it keeps me in contact with my friends there. I use more personal means to communicate with my family, but FB is great for friends! I had a creepy thing happen this week, though – a random guy sent me an email on FB, said he’d seen my “lovely profile” (could only have been the pic, as my privacy settings block everything else), and asked me to reply to his private email. I was totally creeped out by that …

    Just visited your blog courtesy of lovely writerwoman, Wendy! And enjoyed what I read, thanks!

    Sunshine x

  30. OK. My truth is that I hardly ever get on-line. There are so many people I don’t really want to connect with, they are part of a very painful adolescence; thus, I have unfriended and denied many friend requests. I use my FB to keep family members and close friends updated with what we are doing.

    Something that really bothers me is those who use FB as political campaigns. Or, more accurately, to call those who disagree with them (which is usually 90% of their friends) ignorant. Very arrogant, if you ask me.

    Like it or not, I guess FB is here to stay. : )

  31. I am on FB to watch what my kids are doing on it. I have also connected with some old friends and enjoy seeing what others are up to. The things that freak me out are the invites from people I don’t know and there are quite a lot of them.

  32. I’ve had a similar mixed bag of Facebook experiences. Ex-boyfriends and long lost friends, family I wouldn’t stay in touch with any other way, sad wonderings over why I don’t hear about engagements and new babies unless I remember to check my facebook feed.

    Like you said, it’s here to stay. And as long as I focus on the good parts, I guess that’s something I’m willing to be glad about.

  33. Love this topic!! I try to encourage my students to think about this often. They post so many ridiculous things on FB and never think about the consequences. We (as a society) need to create and follow new rules of demeanor for FB so that it can operate in a positive way!

  34. Missed this post last week, so I’m late in commenting. My FB page says basically, that I blog. I rarely post status updates. I have a few of my favorite books and movies posted, but that’s it.

    You may be interested (relieved?) to know that studies have been done that found that insecure and narcissistic people tend to be the heaviest users of FB. And those who are confident and more active in the real world are less active on FB. It is definitely a sticky wicket, but it sounds like you’re navigating it carefully. And I’m glad for your reunion. That is when FB is at its best!

  35. At the moment, my FB page says … nothing! (I don’t have one, for precisely the sorts of reasons you mentioned you didn’t like it.) But it’s tempting to get one for the reasons you do enjoy it. How cool that you found a long-lost friend! I know there are a few people I’d like to reconnect with who were friends of mine before the Internet was accessible to everybody.

    Perhaps I’ll wait till my future children are interested :).

  36. My husband called in the middle of that NPR interview and I missed the rest. Guess I’ll have to go watch the movie instead.

    I resisted FB for a long time, but my sister talked me into it and I love how it keeps me connected to my far flung family.

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