Making the Most of Facebook


I don’t know about you, but I’ve been trying to get my online time parred down to a minimum. It’s hard to do! The biggest problem is not wanting to short-change my “Friends” on Facebook. And not wanting to short-change my household or ministries.

So I feel as though I’ve learned a “flow” for getting the most out of Facebook in the shortest time:

Use your own time. As a matter of integrity, I use my personal time to interact with friends on Facebook. Employers trust us to do their work on their time. We’re free to do our thing at other times–lunch breaks, days off, before or after work, vacations, etc. These are the times I go on FB. My only exception is if FB links with my work–maintaining my readership here at David’s Place, Frontline, or for our church conference (mcacc).

7-10-Friend Focus. Working from broader to narrower. Though I have close to 400 “friends” only about 240 are people I know fairly well. Then I have an “Inner Circle” of about 30. These are people I know very well and have regular contact with so include in my closer circle. Then comes “Family,” which for me includes those who are like family or are in my spiritual family (usually they have lived in our home or we have led them to the Lord). It also includes natural family. And they are included in my inner circle. Then I have Marcy. This is how I have grouped “friends.”

I hate to offend anyone, but I can’t possible relate meaningfully to all these “friends.” So what do I do? I SCAN. I begin with “TOP NEWS.” I scan down for about 5 minutes, liking or making a quick comment as I go. Usually I hit a number of people who are daily in communication with me. I spend the most time on 7-10 people who tend to respond daily to links and shares I post. If I don’t see them in my 5-min. scan, I purposely look for them. That is made easy by the list on the left of my profile page. There you can make groups for quick linking to those posts. I don’t often visit friends (or family) who don’t post much.

Scan 3-7 sites. Some of my “friends” have websites or blogs. I am subscribed to 3-7 sites that I regularly read. Others I look at weekly or bi-weekly on Google Reader. Great place to gather all the blogs you want to read without having to go out to each one of them. NOTE: When I find a post I really like, I go to the original post on the site. Sometimes the author has other interesting posts or helpful options in columns or navigation bars.

Comment and Share. When I read something that someone has posted and I feel that my comment could be encouraging or helpful, I take the time to comment. I make sure to pray for those I say I’ll pray for in a comment. I try not to share my opinions unless I feel that they in someway confirm or encourage. In most cases, I just want to communicate that I’m interested and will pray or ponder what was shared. We all like it when someone takes the time to leave a comment. We know how valuable peoples’ time is. I also “Share” those posts I find helpful or inspiring or funny with people I think will appreciate them. I NEVER let my “friends” think that something someone else shared originate with me. I ALWAYS give attribution (assuming I know where it originated).

Follow links of value. Many of my friends send links of value. They are links that inform, encourage, engage, entertain, or otherwise help me or inspire my faith or life. One such “friend” is Michael Hyatt. This is the kind of friend I try to be. I want to be a friend of value to others. I want to build their lives and make them better for having known me or followed some link I send them.

Hide game scores. Unless, of course, to you they’re interesting. I don’t really have time for or care about people’s scores for online games. So I hide all games. I don’t hide the friend’s profile unless that “friend” sends game scores often or offensive shares. At that point I hide the person’s shares.

Limit your time I try to limit my time to 1hr. That can be all at once or a half-hour in the morning and then a half-hour at night (some interesting things happen in the course of a day. If you limit your viewing to once a day, you may miss important updates–like results of the latest biopsy on your friend’s little boy. On the other hand, I know people who devote WAY too much time to FB. They even have to check it on their phones and iPads while trying to have conversation with others. Avoiding extremes seems the best approach.

Deepen Relationships. Probably the best thing FB has to offer is that of deepening relationships at a distance. Often, I’m in touch with people that are geographically far removed from me. I love it that I can find out how they’re doing and what things are important to them. I would not otherwise be able to know if it were not for Facebook. As a busy pastor, author, and spiritual formation coach, I simply can’t relate to people who are not on my radar because they’re distant in time or geography.

For me, making the most of Facebook includes all the points above. The one I might add to it is. BE SAFE! Only give personally identifiable information to those “friends” who are really friends–you KNOW them. And then, give it ONLY in a private message, not in a comment or “What’s On Your Mind?” post. Make good decisions about how to approach Facebook and you will be making the most of your Facebook experience.

QUESTION: What guidelines have you put in place for your own use of Facebook? What helps can you suggest?

©2011, David C Alves

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