Facebook has been touted as this amazing tool that brings people closer and unites friends over many miles. I thought it is pretty cool that a simple programme or website can serve such a simple function of making communication even easier on so many levels.
However what really amazes me is the layer of social rules and norms that exist in real life, has also been brought over to online life. I’m not just talking about the basic courtesies and niceties that one observes when interacting with someone, but the added level of unspoken rules that seemed to have developed as facebook grow.
1. Unable to post your opinions freely on your own wall
A friend was lamenting that she cannot post freely her opinions on her own facebook wall anymore. She used to do it frequently and rather vehemently about how she felt about her family, friends and colleagues without using a filter. suffice to say, her comments have enraged a few within her circle and they have expressed their opinion regarding her conduct. This in turn enraged her as she truly felt that her facebook wall is her soapbox and she had every right to say what she felt.
but does she?
Personally, if we were to adhere strictly to the right to free speech, then yes everyone has a right to say anything they wish, provided they are prepared to suffer the consequences of their words. This is applicable on any platform; your blog, tv, face-to-face, over the phone, and yes Facebook. then the question is whether is it truly the fact that one cannot say what one wants on Facebook, but rather one cannot handle the criticism one may face in reaction to one’s words. A small, but vital difference.
What can anyone do about this? Facebook allows you to control what different groups of people are allowed to see. I have 2 different group settings; one for those I trust, and one for those I don’t care to share my opinions with.
Alternatively, don’t use facebook as your soapbox. that way, you don’t have to worry about other people’s opinions of your thoughts.
2. when relatives add you on facebook
A cry I hear often are people lamenting that a person they do not wish to be associated with or give access to personal information to, have added them on facebook. This is often a relative you don’t care for or an acqunaintance you met for barely 5 minutes. like any social setting, the norm is or return the favour out of courtesy. However for some strange reason that we so willingly release our information on the Internet, we balk at the thought of sharing it with someone we actually know in real life. Do I add the person? But I don’t want to. But if I don’t, would they get offended? Why do I care if they get offended? Aww I hate that they put me in this position. I hate Facebook.
There are times I’ve come across facebook friend invites of people I barely recognise, those I ignore. there are 1 or 2 who i clearly know, like my aunt, but I refused to add because I know she would probably spy on my every move and report them to my mother. God forbid. then there are those whom I know which I shouldn’t be so openly rude to such as my fiance’s aunt, who is a nice lady and added me on facebook but I’m not sure if she’d appreciate it if I linked a funny video of Homer Simpson baring his butt on youtube. So I didn’t add her.
Did I feel any remorse? Not a bit. I cannot explain why some people do, just as I cannot explain why I don’t. I just feel that Facebook is such a trivial matter than there really isn’t any point worrying over whether you would offend someone’s sensibilities if you didn’t add them back. if they actually asked you in real life why haven’t you added them back, you can just tell them a white lie “oh I didn’t see any invite. Perhaps a coding bug?”, while you mentally store them as LOSER in your head.
3. when people ask if you’ve blocked them on facebook
This is a simple case study on perceptions of human relationships, amplified by the connectivity of facebook. In any relationship between 2 people, what person A perceives of this relationship is different from what person B perceives of it, in terms of closeness, intensity and so on. I realised this a few years back when in our girl group of 4, I have always thought myself closest to girlfriend E, but she felt herself closest to girlfriend V, who felt herself closest to girlfriend M, who felt herself closest to me. it was a right ring of friendship but it exemplified what I mean about different perceptions.
this could be the case for facebook when you start setting boundaries on which group can or cannot see your information. next you decide who falls into which group. Once that’s done, you’ll be pleased that everything is clear cut, right up to the point someone from the “not so special” group realises he is not given access to some of your most intimate details online. So now you have to handle someone’s bruised ego. my take on this? if the person is not important enough to you to share your life details with, he’s not important enough for you to care too much about.
4. Forced to read about lives of people you don’t care about.
Facebook populates your newsfeed based on some algorithm that factors in the people in your circle, the popularity of the person, and the number o f times the post has been talked about. even then, some of your friend’s posts never see the day of light on your facebook so I guess it is also dependent on whether you’re remotely interested in that friend in the first place (if you’ve clicked on his posts or profile before, high chance you’re at least a bit interested). now if you’re sick and tired of reading about an acquaintance’s life stories, facebook has a solution for that. they used to have an option that allows you to “BLOCK USER” but they have since changed it to something more PC “Edit subscription from user”. this allows you to hide any posts from user so that you don’t have to put up with his or her inanities anymore.
Surprisingly, not many people know how to use this feature. judging from the number i complaints i hear and read about people getting upset that other people keep posting about their babies, their children, their tennis games, their animals, etc etc etc. Take control of what content you see on our facebook newsfeed. Don’t just sit around and whine about it as if you’re helpless and left with no options. You just end up looking rather inept, like the person who calls IT help desk to ask where is the “any” key.