Day 22: Facebook is not just Facebook

I’m using yesterday’s prompt today, because it’s quite an interesting topic, and it got me thinking: do you feel like you “get” social media, or do you just use it because that’s where all your friends and family are?

I started my social media journey off with face-pic and face-party accounts. I kind of got into them through crappy chatrooms and Habbo Hotel (pedo capital of the social world). I signed up for MySpace, for music forums more than anything, for a couple of years before I joined Facebook. I’ve never “got” Twitter for anything other than following celebrities, and for the stuff I do at work and plus I’m just too lazy to update it, so for all intents and purposes, when I talk about “social media” I will largely be referring to Facebook.

Lately, people have told me things like “it’s only Facebook” and “Facebook…is a shitty social networking site” and “don’t say [insert generic issue here] on Facebook!” whilst at the same time, being really offended by Facebook statuses and comments, and then deleting people with the excuse that they just put “negative things on Facebook.” One person told me “yeah, there’s this guy who’s always saying how shit his life is…it’s really depressing.”

Granted, if I notice someone on my newsfeed and I don’t know them very well, I might get annoyed because they’re posting too many rants, too many depressing things, too many body-building posts, too many pictures of their kids…and so on. But I never delete them, because this annoys me as long as it takes for me to scroll to the next story on my newsfeed. I don’t care. People can put whatever they like on their own social profiles, with exceptions to rules abiding by Facebook policies and the law. Mostly though, I see past it. I know my friend doesn’t have her kid attached to her hip twenty-four hours of the day, so her personality in real life is more than kid pictures on her profile.

The thing with Facebook is that because when you go to your newsfeed, that’s what the social networking site is doing – feeding you news. Because of this, we therefore feel like we can somehow filter this news so that posts that we like are the only ones shown. We can do this, it’s called filtering, but then you have to decide whether to remove that particular news off your feed, because if it’s a personal status, picture or video, this action is likely to remove that friend off your newsfeed…forever. (Or until you decide to add them back to it).

For people who don’t really “get” social media, they don’t know how to use this feature well. Or they refuse to, because perhaps that particular person isn’t that bad, just that occasionally they post something you might not like. Instead of filtering, they leave this news on their feed. It’s left there. It’s there everytime they scroll past it. It’s there, and it bugs them, so they delete you instead.

Facebook isn’t just a “shitty social networking site” for lots of reasons. It has helped me connect with people I have met all over the world, removing the need for long-distance phone calls and emails. I can see what they’re up to in real-time, so even though I’m not that into sport, I enjoy seeing what my Aussie friend Ross is doing at the other side of the world (usually watching cricket!), I enjoy seeing what my college friends are doing, even though I think it’s safe to say I don’t really know any of them anymore. I can connect with celebrities like Ricky Gervais, television shows and films, actors, authors, groups, pages. I can inform myself, without the need for actually going out there and seeking this information. I can inform myself about pretty much anything, just by clicking a button. I can do all this, without the need to contact people I have on my friends list.

Lazy relationship building? Perhaps. But Facebook shows you what your friends are doing, while highlighting things that are specific to what you like. I may not like that friend who posts her diet and workout regime every morning, but I like her evening posts when she’s talking about motivation and writing. I might not ever really see what my college friends are doing, but when one of them says they just got a part in a play, I congratulate them, and I am genuinely happy for them. When my friends ask questions, and I have an answer, I comment so they can get some advice.

The thing with Facebook, is it’s a written (well, typed) form of your memory. Can you remember the last time you had a decent conversation with a friend? Now can you recall that afterwards, you remembered something you forgot to ask them, or forgot to tell them? Facebook reminds you. It reminds you that you have stuff in common with people you barely know, with perhaps people you’ve never met. It connect you to things you didn’t even know you were interested in, and it connects you with people in ways that face-to-face just doesn’t.

I’m not saying social media should take over face-to-face conversations, because these are also important (hey, I hate ebooks. I’m a paper-book kind of girl!) but we should not dismiss social media. It is important.

But more importantly, Facebook has shifted. It has shifted to a place where people take their newsfeed as their own personal profile and it’s not. Sometimes, other people will post things you don’t like. Sometimes, people will post things that you feel are downright offensive. Facebook is not a gateway to a person’s life, but it is a part of their personality. If you reject them as a Facebook friend, you are essentially rejecting them.

Think about it. You’re sat around a dinner table with friends. You’re all having a good time, laughing. You all get along. Then suddenly, one of you starts talking about politics, or religion, or other sensitive issues. Maybe they just make a funny joke, and people just don’t understand it because their tone didn’t come across in the right way. Would you just put up a hand in their face and say “no, I don’t want to hear this. I am going to remove you from the table”? Well, you might if you’re a child, but real life doesn’t work this way. Someone you like and know, you just move past it and move on. But for some reason, people think that Facebook is only for them, that other people don’t use it to connect only with their group of friends, and they just so happened to get involved in something not meant for them.

The thing with Facebook is, not everything you see is meant for you. You might find it offensive, or crass, or just a little bit annoying (you can actually report profiles for being “annoying”) but sometimes it’s worth seeing past this, like you would see past it if your friend was a little bit sad a little bit of the time, but was fine the rest of the time.

Social media is not there just to portray rainbows and flowers and sunshine happiness. Social media, and especially Facebook, is there to portray personality and interests. It portrays real life some of the time, because many people only socialise through the internet.

I “get” social media. But the question is – does it get you?

Luna

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