Social networking–through Facebook, Twitter, and a myriad of other network forums–is here to stay. Assuming that the internet and electricity remain intact, networking will continue as a global community increases exponentially in the years ahead.
For those of us who use Facebook, we can do ourselves a great service by being thoughtful and safe about how best to get the most out of our time and opportunity to connect or reconnect. Here are five suggestions to help you get the most out of this helpful tool:
Choose your “Friends” carefully. Make sure you know them. Determine whether they are really family, close friends, or mere acquaintances. Permit me to take a stab at definitions. “Family” is family (those in your immediate and extended household). These are the people you live with and love, who (should) accept you unconditionally. “Close friends” are those who are in your life regularly and with whom you spend considerable time on a weekly basis (or at least did in the past. And with whom, when you get back together, you’re able to pick up right where you left off). They accept you and you accept them. You add benefit to each other by your close relationship. You have a history of memories and experiences with these two groups–family and friends. “Acquaintances” are those whom you know lightly. You have met, perhaps know of or spent some time with, but you do not know beyond friendliness and level one or two communication (weather and feelings about news and weather). You’ll find that it’s more fun and productive to limit your number of true “friends” on FB. Though FB relationships can deepen
and be mutually uplifting, it’s far too difficult to keep up with 438 friends. No way! Try to keep it trimmed to under 200. Decide a percentage for each category: family, close friends,
acquaintances. Some might even recommend that you go back through your list (now that you’ve had some time to see who fits in to the family or true friend category) and trim it to 100 or less. And determine what small percentage of “acquaintances” you will allow. You can do that by the next suggestion in our list.
Be thoughtful about WHAT you “share.” Only share those things that let family and close friends know something helpful to them, or insightful about you. People need hope. People need encouragement. People need tools for life. Your close friends and family deserve your best. Frankly, we don’t care if you didn’t shower or brush your teeth today. Of course it does give us more insight as to why we should probably drop you from our “friends” list, but it doesn’t add any benefit to our “relationship.” And if FB isn’t about relationship, then we’re wasting precious time that could be given to other things. We don’t care who you just killed in your Mafia game (although we become aware of how you use your time when you post new game logos at all times of the day). Do you work? Do you spend time with others? Get it? This is a good way to cull your “friends” list too. Drop those who don’t share meaningfully or thoughtfully in their overall postings. By the way, you can select the option that blocks most of these third-party game and application posts. Share only what you would not later be embarrassed to hear repeated. Once your words are out there, you can’t take them back. See an excellent blog by Peter Pollock, (tweeted by @MichaelHyatt) on responsibility at:http://blog.hafchurch.org/peter/index.php/2009/09/with-great-power-comes-great-responsibility/
Be More Careful about HOW you share information. Several suggestions in this category are:
- First, clicking on third-party applications compromises the privacy of your “friends.” Clicking on these apps always brings up a window that requires a decision. You are asked if you want to proceed knowing that you are about to not only give permission to connect you to their application, but are giving permission to submit all of the profiles of your “friends” to that application. In other words, you may be breaking trust with your friends. They are trusting you to keep their privacy between you and them. When you “confirm” or “allow” button, you transfer that information to a company that now has captured all of the friends (and their INFO) on your friends list. What kind of friend does that?
- Second, practice honesty. If one of your friends shares something that inspires or informs you and you want to pass it on, give credit as to where that came from. Don’t pass it on as though you were the source. Consider others and be truthful. Example: recently I read an excellent post by one of my “friends.” At the very beginning, he said, “My friend _________ shared this with his friends.” I appreciated his acknowledgement of the source. So my friend’s reputation went up on my scale of appreciation for him. I’ve had the opposite happen on FB News feed and I lost respect for the person who passed off a creative post as her own. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
- Third, if you have private or personal information to share with a friend or friends, you are safer if you use the “Inbox” feature. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, you can find it at the top of your menus on FB. It’s fourth from the left. This is really a great feature for those personal talks or for sharing information. Don’t put your phone number or other “personal” information up on your profile (unless your
“friends” are all family). Too many eyes can see your information. And you don’t know if some friend you trust has left his/her computer on and unattended at Starbucks while he’s getting his order and your phone number has become the desktop billboard. Not to mention, that
some people you may have indiscriminately added as “friends” in the past, now have that information. Few people need to know my phone
number and when they do, I send it through the private venue of “Inbox” messaging. Much safer.
Social networking can be safe, fun, even productive and edifying. For many of us, Facebook is the most user-friendly and flexible application for that networking. You can keep your experience safe and enjoyable by making some good decisions about practices that will help you get the most out of it.