Why I deleted Facebook

Sometimes self-control is not enough. Sometimes you have to carefully position your own roadblocks to force saner living.

With the press of an “x”, I dismissed the vitriol that had become my daily breakfast, lunch and dinner. Not only have I found myself pining for past Republic administrations that now don’t “seem that bad”, I have also started missing those adorable cat videos and those pumped-up versions of themselves that people like to have us believe is true about their fabulous Facebooked lives.

no facebookI miss the tinge of envy I’d feel at pictures of palm trees in places I definitely was not.

I miss the giggles elicited from videos of furry animals, preferably baby ones, tumbling on top of each other.

I miss hoping someone will “like” my post because they like me.

I miss the Facebook I used to know that I’d sometimes playfully call “Fakebook” because we often use it to look better than we are.

But we have entered a new era now. Many of us have become activists, something I truly applaud. And what better way to broadcast sensible causes than the world’s largest online platform?

Unfortunately, there is a flip side to it. Facebook, in my view, has turned into a shouting match, a place of posturing and yes, at times, a platform to share invaluable information. But the more I’ve tried to digest the unfathomable messages, especially from politicians vying for fame and glory, the less I began to trust it as a source for anything real or true or good about this world.

What motivated me to finally hit the delete button on my iPhone app came after reading a post by a Kentucky Senator who mocked the women’s march, calling women “cute” in the most patronizing way possible.

In his eagerness to earn likes and commentary (at any cost, I might add), he has joined the legions of people who will do and say anything to attract attention. It is so sad.

A like is even more short-lived than a soap bubble on a hot July afternoon. It is meaningless if there are only words without positive action behind them.

It broke my heart to see how broken our system truly is.

Fighting against virtual reality is like trying to capture wind in your hands.

What could I possible do then, in the face of such powerlessness, to make a difference?

Then it hit me. I have invested so much time in conversations with people I don’t even know. What if I were to start conversations with the ones I do know? What if I were to reach out to someone in need, right here, right now, in front of my very eyes? What if I were to dedicate all the time I have spent clucking at the injustice online to a cause in my very own town? Not only would I feel better, but that person would too.

So that decides it. Less Facebook. More face time. In real life.

Yes, a new era has dawned and I am ready to take on the challenge. Will you join me?

 

Fakebook and the Confrontation with Reality

Facebook. Love it. Hate it. It’s here to stay.

Facebook has over 1.59 billion active monthly users, which translate to roughly 22% of the world’s population. If so many people are using it, there must be something good about it. Or addictive.

I think it’s a little of both.

I joined Facebook in 2007 during which time it was still required that you be invited by someone else (and identify which college you had attended). I giggled at the emoticon-like “gifts” you could give to your friends. I had about two friends. Then four. Before I knew it, I was friends with over 1,000 people.

statistic_id272014_global-social-networks-ranked-by-number-of-users-2016As a public relations professional, I know a lot of people. But I wouldn’t call every person I email, call or Skype with a “friend”. Facebook has termed connections friends because that’s what they were originally intended to be. And I don’t doubt that having friends or being friendly is a good thing. But are we truly friends with all the people we “like” there?

Aside from the inauthentic terminology, Facebook provides us ample opportunity to showcase our opinions and interests in other arenas. We can write tirades about reckless politicians, offer solidarity to the victims of terrorist attacks, post cute cat videos or moving snippets from talent shows in which 11-year-olds belt out operatic-like crescendos. For a moment in our day, Facebook makes us feel a part of a greater world. We can show empathy, sadness, anger or gratitude. We can even find love there (I did!).

Anything goes (well, almost anything) in the world Mark Zuckerberg created for us.

Pretty early on in my Facebook existence, I decided to be one of those users who doesn’t post many private things. I’d use it more to stay in touch with true friends and family, market my books and clients and stay low to the ground on anything too personal. I admit to painting a rosy picture sometimes when things weren’t going too well. But I refused to use the online platform as a stomping ground for all that was going wrong in my life. It seemed too public, too impersonal, too real. So I, like many others, turned Facebook into Fakebook, putting my best foot forward whenever possible.

There’s nothing wrong with maintaining privacy in a world that monitors everything. So-called cookies (why are they called that? They aren’t delicious, but rather leave a trail of our online activity) keep track of our likes and dislikes. Facebook has been known to do the same. It’s only natural to be slightly guarded online. And to think before you post. It’s something I hammered into my kids’ brains. Thankfully, they listened.

But not being totally real is comparable to exaggerating your work experience on your resume. It’s obvious to the people who truly know you, but most people won’t call you on it or even care.

Facebook does. Why else would it have the memory function?

Occasionally, you will see pictures from years gone by that Facebook suggests you repost. Those pictures, especially the ones a few years ago, confront me with my own reality. While I put on a good face, I wasn’t being real.

Facebook is like an elephant. In fact, the entire Internet is. It remembers. It reminds us of our inauthenticity. It marks how we spend our days and throws it back in our faces when we least expect it. It can be incredibly confrontational or just sad to be caught in a lie we told ourselves for so many years.

On the other hand, Facebook is an archive of who we thought we wanted to be. Sometimes we get it right. Sometimes we get it wrong.

Luckily, we have true friends — online and off — to catch us when we fall. Fakebook and all.

Facebook Fatigue: The Search for Less Input

Bing. Buzz. Ping. Riiiiinnnnng! The invention of the smartphone has altered our lives forever. But has it improved them?

On any given day, I will receive, delete and answer over one hundred emails. Newsletters I never subscribed to pop into my inbox, multiplying no matter how often I unsubscribe. Text messages come from all corners of the Earth through Facebook, WhatsApp or the conventional iPhone delivery service. And I know I am not alone.

Every day we are inundated with information. I daresay 98% of it is useless or simply annoying. It sucks our time and our energy.

And yet we continue to pursue the data flow as if our lives depended on it.

Many of my friends have expressed Facebook fatigue. They post stuff, some quite successfully. They get a quick high from yet another like, but that fades fast. I have found myself begging my kids to allow me to post photos of them (which they despise) in hopes I will draw attention. But for what purpose?

WhatsApp, the multi-featured messaging system that was acquired by Facebook in February 2014, has found an astounding breadth of users in a relatively short time. According to a recent Huffington Post article by Peter Diamandis, this highly disruptive service is growing fast. He reports:

Quick Stats on WhatsApp:

  • 64 billion messages processed per day – 20B sent and 44B received
  • 465 million users on platform
  • 1 million join platform every day
  • 70 percent of users come back every day

If the average text message takes even ten seconds to write and send, you can image how much time we spend with our devices.

Or try on this for size. According to the blog Digital Marketing Ramblings, 72% of online adults visit Facebook at least once a day. In Europe there are 206 million active daily Facebook users; in the US and Canada it is 152 million. And the average time spent on Facebook — per day per person — is 21 minutes.

Don’t get me wrong. I love knowing what other people are doing and keeping up with friends and family. I also adore receiving photos, audio notes and messages from loved ones scattered across the globe. But the pull to pay more attention to my iPhone than my real life has me disturbed.

So for the next week, I am trying a little experiment. I am not going to check Facebook. Not once. Thankfully my social media clients are on a hiatus so I won’t have to.

Time saved thus far: over an hour.

Number of nerves saved: countless.

I’ll keep you posted. Pun totally intended.

Out of Control

Our modern age has given us so many new tools to manage ourselves. iPhones, laptops, PCs, traffic navigators, you name it. In effect, these gadgets offer us a semblance of control. And feeling in control is necessary for our mental health.

And yet we really aren’t in control as much as we think we are. That is why Facebook is so intoxicating. Updating your status, checking in with others, posting feelings, thoughts and memories provide us with pseudo-connection with others. But we don’t really hear their voices, feel their feelings or see their faces as they express these things. In addition, Facebook is another way of controlling our image. I like to call it Fakebook because in reality, who is going to admit that they just did something less than reputable, yet perhaps very human?

As connected and controlled as our lives appear, it is a virtual world we create when we use these social media platforms. Our real lives on the ground are the ones we need to nurture the most because there is no substitute for a physical hug when you need it.  It takes a moment of thought. It takes a human touch. And it takes time.

Everything else is a neatly controlled world, a cartoon version of ourselves.

I’m for being real. Are you?

 

How to Tend to Your Secret Garden

We all hold secrets inside. My family makes a game out of it. It’s called the “Little Known Fact” game. So at dinner parties where the guests don’t all know each other, my mother introduces the game for everyone to play. We are called to reveal a little something about ourselves that no one at the table knows such as “I won a singing contest in Italy once,” or “I know how to tame a horse.” Playing a game like that today can be hard in the age of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

My daughter insists on keeping her face off Facebook as much as possible. It may seem strange to my US family, but she wants her privacy. And rightly so. I don’t want my neighbors knowing my business so why would I want 1,000 FB friends to know the same.

In early August my PR colleague told me not to post any more vacation photos on Facebook during my trips.

“You are there to enjoy yourself. You can tell us about it later!” And so I refrained from posting anything on Facebook at all. She was right. Enjoy it now. Share it later. That’s true Slow.

Such social media abstinence feels really good. Just because it is available to me doesn’t mean I have to share every detail of my life, my pets’ lives, or those of my children, with the world. Like the Native Americans who believed taking a photograph of someone was the equivalent of stealing their souls, it is okay to tend to your Secret Garden by yourself.

I am careful who I let in to those secret spaces inside. It’s good that way. It makes those true connections all the more sacred.

And besides, I will admit it may just help me in playing the “Little Known Fact” game a little while longer.

Not Without My Facebook…or The Next-Gen Workplace

According to a recent report by Cisco, one in three college students and young professionals ranked the Internet as important as food, air and water. These under-30 folks don’t have a working memory of Life Before. Like television, it’s just always been there.

But it goes deeper than that. Two-thirds of colleges students admitted they’d ask about a company’s social media policies during a job interview. The sticky question “What will this position pay?” has been replaced with “What are your thoughts on Facebook during work hours?” Fifty-six percent wouldn’t even consider a job offer that banned social media. Wow.

And it appears the next generation is willing to forgo a higher salary for more flexibility. One in three prefer mobility, social media freedom and device flexibility over more pay.

Give me Facebook. Or give me death.

Forty-one percent of those companies surveyed claimed they used attractive social media policies and device flexibility to attract new talent. Four in five college students want the freedom to choose the device they get to use.

Amazing.

As a freelancer, I work with several computers, an iPhone and even a GPS. I’m just as saddled with devices as the next person. And I’ve never considered the restrictions others may have who work in an office setting. It appears the next generation prefers a work-at-home solution. Three in five believe they have the right to work remotely.

Corporate learning and development professionals could benefit from this intelligence as they devise training programs for the next generation. These are exciting times full of possibility.

If given a choice, how would you prefer to work? Remotely? In an office setting? A combination of both?

The Heartache of Instant

It was bound to happen. As you know, I’m a recovering speedaholic and there are days when I fall off the wagon and do something too quickly. In our 24/7 world, we often feel the crush of the rush. It’s as if a little black cloud nestled above our right shoulder is whispering our doom if we don’t hurry up and finish. Hurry up and react. Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up!

But our inner tortoise says, “Hey, you! Slow down and breathe….”

So I sent out a notice on behalf of a client, then got an astonished response from them that I sent it already. It was supposed to go out tomorrow. They had hastily read their e-mail from me confirming the release date and agreed on Wednesday, although they were thinking Thursday.  But Thursday to me, who travelled 1,000 miles in the last  four weeks, meant last Thursday. And I thought I was late.

Turns out I was a day too early.

In the PR world, that’s heady stuff if you send out an announcement before it’s time. Like grounds for dismissal forever.

And whilst the black cloud to my right was telling me to hurry, my sweet and wise turtle was plodding unnoticed to my left.

But then the air cleared once the client admitted confusion and we all made up. In record time.

Instantaneousness can lead to heartache. That hasty e-mail sent without thought, the fierce text message dashed off without care, the flaming Facebook rant for all eyes to see.

We live in a transparent, harried world. My dear slow, I love you so. If I ever leave you again, you have my permission to give me a nudge.

Slowly, of course!

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The Daily Stretch ~ Day #2 “Learning to ‘Like’ It”

Diane Johnson and I are in the same age bracket so for those of you who don’t remember when there was no Internet, you may snicker at the following stretch. But believe you me, when it comes to persistence, Diane Johnson has it all.

Recently charged with establishing a Facebook fan page for her $10 million heavy client, she was reminded of the time she was challenged to kill a snake her daughters had found in the garden.

“I’m a divorced mom of two. There was nobody else who could do it,” she remembers, wanting not to harm the snake, but knowing her dog might get hurt if they tussled. So, shovel in hand, she muscled through the scariest day of her life, whacking the snake with her garden tool until it slipped into eternal slumber.

“That was the scariest day of my life…until the moment I had to set up my client’s Facebook page.” Once again she was stretched beyond her perceived limits, literally learning the ropes by doing it. She learned:

  • You need 25 fans to register a username.
  • Her client didn’t have 25 fans.
  • She had to come up with a marketing email requesting people to get them to ‘like’ their existing page.
  • She even had her daughter ‘like’ it.  Her daughter asked Diane to tell her when they hit 26 fans so she could unlike it—she didn’t want her friends to see that on her Facebook page.
  • Then once she obtained the fan count, the username registration process was a whole new can of worms she had to untangle.

And she did. While her learning curve was steep, she carries a new confidence about her. “I did it. I really did it!”

Soon after, another client made the same request of her. And you know what? She said, “No problem!” Only this time she meant it!

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Show me your digital face and I’ll show you mine

A tag cloud (a typical Web 2.0 phenomenon in i...
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“Never write anything down that you wouldn’t be proud to show a nun,” my mother once advised me. Curious advice for a then seven-year-old, but she saw the sparks of my word-smithing passion early.

To divulge or not to divulge. That is the question in our Web 2.0 lives.

Lately I have been fascinated with the concept of our digital selves as social media and the notion of transparency continue to shape the public relations industry (of which I am a part). We reveal what seem to be our deepest secrets (I prefer dark chocolate) and stay in touch with people via Facebook that we haven’t seen in twenty-five years. We create a false sense of familiarity, as if we really know what’s going on with the other person, only to be shocked when we see that person in the flesh to realize all is not well in the State of Denmark.

In truth, through our online self-branding management efforts, we develop a pseudo-reality for ourselves and, along with it, pseudo-selves.

Roaming about as the avatars of our own creation, we have reached a Brave New World of information exchange at the highest (and lowest) level. But much of what gets belched broadcast out onto the Internet has the life of a match. It fizzles out of existence as quickly as it was written. All the while we self-soothe, thinking someone might be listening or care what we write. We yearn for connection and get it in some way ~ oftentimes through people we don’t know. We meet on a virtual plane for a passing moment at a cross-section in time that can be instanteneous or time-controlled, should we choose not to respond just yet.

I have ambivalent feelings about the very medium that has granted me much of the freedom to pursue my life’s work. The Internet is more powerful than most of us realize.

Despite its influence (or perhaps because of it) transparency and authenticity are great challenges in today’s 24/7 world. As a human race, we may be more connected than ever before, but our digital existence is merely a part of our greater selves.

Will our children realize there is a parallel universe beyond the screen? I am optimistic that they will.

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Remains of the Day

The Internet is a place of great complexity. You can be as close to someone in Shanghai via Skype as your partner in the next room. You can interact with someone via Email and have a sense of familiarity without ever hearing the person’s voice. You feel united with all of humanity without touching a soul.

I would argue that the very act of connection is touching our souls more than we think.

This morning I received the saddest news. The editor of several trade publications for which we have offered our PR client’s stories passed away. Did I know that he had cancer? No. Did I know that his email to me on October 21 would be our last ‘conversation’? Never.

It makes me sad that he is gone. I never really knew him. And perhaps it wasn’t meant to be that we would ever get to know one another beyond the “Great story. It will run next week” chat. But I sense a loss that is deep and surprising. And it causes me to reconsider how much we really ‘know’ about each other.

While I may be on the up and up about certain aspects of my friends’ and family’s lives via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, I don’t really know how they are doing. Phone calls and Skype chats bring us closer, but nothing replaces the touch of a hand, a full-body hug and a smile. While we may be informed about certain things, the Internet lends us a false sense of security and intimacy.

Remember AT&T’s slogan, “Reach out and touch someone?” Perhaps it is time for us to do that in person. So go ahead and reach out, touch someone’s soul. If you can’t in person, give them a call, then listen ~ really listen to what the person is saying. You never know if it might be the last time.

What will you do with the remains of your day?

 

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