Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Why I'm on Facebook, Revisited

With all of the privacy issues that Facebook presents, you may wonder "why bother?" Most Baby Boomers I know do very well with email. They email their pictures and their grandkids' pictures to their brothers and sisters. Maybe they remember that Aunt Sadie might like to see them too and that she has an email address. Most people I know these days don't get around to printing out their pictures and putting them in an envelope to mail, so anyone who isn't "on the computer" is left out of the loop.

Here is a real life example of how Facebook is better than emailing pictures. This week I went on Facebook and checked my friends' status updates. I found that my cousin had posted an album of pictures from his daughter's junior prom. I've kept up with this family pretty well, but really, the time had flown and I had no idea that his daughter was ready for the junior prom! It was great to see the pictures of how this little girl had grown up! It was even better to share her father's mixed emotions about seeing her in her prom dress with her date. Facebook had reconnected me to this part of my family in a way that an email never could. It would have been too much trouble for my cousin to remember to email me.

Facebook was also convenient for my cousin. He was able to upload his pictures once, for all of his friends and family to see. They can comment on those pictures and all the comments are in one place. He doesn't have to remember to post multiple emails.

I also learned that another cousin who lives far away from me was ill. She probably wouldn't have told me in an email, but she broadcast the news to her friends on Facebook so they wouldn't worry if she wasn't online as often as she normally is. I have many things I can do with this information: ignore it, comment on Facebook that I hope she gets better, give her a call if I don't see her online for a long time, or email her. But at least I know.

With Facebook, you can stay in the lives of the people you care about, without losing touch. Maybe a phone call is a little too much. But you can look at what people post, pick and choose what to reply to and know something about their day-to-day lives.  When you actually see them, you have more to talk about because you know what's going on. I mean, what do you say to young members of your family that you haven't seen for a year? Do you fall back on the standard "relative" questions like "How's school?" and "What grade are you in now?" Isn't it much better to be able to ask how that class trip to Disney went or if they enjoyed working on the science project they posted about?

I think Boomers who say they can't be bothered with Facebook are not seeing Facebook as a tool that can enhance their lives. You don't have to invite strangers into your world unless you want to. The privacy settings let you keep your close knit group, close knit. Many boomers probably think they will be "poked" and prodded by people they don't want to know or see. Maybe you really don't want to reconnect with that high school friend who got you in so much trouble. You really don't have to.

On Facebook, you can ignore anyone you don't want to let into your circle. You can "unfriend" people who become annoying or worse, but "unfriending" is a last resort. If you need to make your Facebook experience more pleasant, consider just hiding the posts of people who write crazy status updates. One of my unnamed relatives is young, curses quite a bit and says unsavory things on Facebook. I just hide his posts. When I want to know what he is up to, I go look on his "wall."

For a short course on how to "unfriend" someone on Facebook I suggest you visit this blog post on ROM Cartridge: How to Remove Friends on Facebook or this Brighthub article: Unfriend Someone on Facebook without All the Drama.

A recent NY Times Blog post by Elissa Gootman gave this additional advice taken from Baby Boomers and others interviewed for the article:

  • Don’t friend somebody you don’t know.
  • Don’t announce on Facebook that you are leaving home, or you may get robbed.
  • Only write about the barbecue you’re planning if you want 1,000 people to show up.
  • Don’t “poke” people — it’s annoying.
  • If you’re 54 years old, don’t post a profile picture taken when you were 17.
  • “Remember, there’s malicious people out there.”
I'd add: if you want to keep your privacy, don't "like" a lot of companies or causes. Also beware of spam on Facebook. Mashable recently posted this article on the subject:  HOW TO: Avoid and Prevent Facebook Spam.

Although there are dangers, I think that Facebook is worth it and  I suggest you give it a try. "Friend" people you care about, post a status report that says something about what you are doing, and see how it enriches your life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great examples of the benefits of Facebook over email. With email, you have to specify recipients, which can sometimes mean a very lengthy list of addresses. With Facebook, as you said, you can upload photos and everyone you are connected to can see them. I agree with your notion that sometimes a phone call is too much, and that with Facebook you can keep track of the little things - like junior prom! Thanks for sharing!