Controlling Your Own Facebook Destiny: And other reasons not to accept that Friend Request

Monday, January 13, 2014 | 0 Comment(s)

I spend a good amount of time on Facebook.  Probably too much.  Maybe way too much.

Annnnnd look.  I'm already getting off topic.  Sheesh. Let's get back to the point.  If you, like myself, spend a lot of time on Facebook, your reality gets shaped by what information you choose to let into your news feed.  And these seemingly inconsequential "Likes" of TV shows and various organizations can have a dramatic effect on your internal life.

Facebook is the new Hotel California
Let me give you an example.  A few month ago, a bunch of rare and delicious whiskeys were released into the open market.  Now I like bourbon.  I like it Ahh-lawwwt.  And in an effort to be on the ball about searching for and eventually finding said whiskeys, I joined two or four or six different bourbon groups on Facebook, both to educate myself and to stay abreast of any goings-on.

Almost instantly my feed was awash with beautiful bottles of bourbon; Some that I was looking for, some I will probably never meet in person.  There were also photos and tales of other bourbon hunters, pulling dusty 1940's era bottles from the recesses of some liquor store basement that had recently come under new management.  Salivating stuff. Engaging stuff.

It should come as no surprise to you, then, that for the next few months bourbon hunting became foremost on my mind. I wanted to have pictures of my own awesome finds to share with these groups.  Not to mention that, after perusing bottle after bottle of delicious brown honey, I was begging for a pour of my own by the end of the day.   Usually I'd be more than tempted to try a bunch of the different pours that I had read notes about throughout the course of that day.  In a very concrete way, joining those groups on Facebook informed my actions going forward.  And so, "expense account" emptied, I had to leave the vast majority of those bourbon connoisseur groups.  For my own good.

This Facebook reality is also a solid argument why you shouldn't "Friend" people you don't like.  I realize that you can hide their updates and pretty much ignore them while still technically "being their friend," but that kind of upkeep management takes a great deal of energy and vigilance.  Tiring.  And do any of us really remember to change the privacy settings for each individual 'friend'?  Not to mention the number of times Facebook changes its security and sharing guidelines.  It's almost as ubiquitous as iTunes' changes in its Terms of Service.  The overall point being that, no matter how computer literate you are, if you Friend someone you don't actually like, you will see/hear/be confronted with more of that-person relevant material from that point onward.  And while one nuisance don't really taint the News Feed waters, 20 or so non-Friends probably will.  Then you have the whole bourbon fiasco all over again, except this time the bottles are guys who picked on you growing up.

It isn't always a horrible thing to manipulate your News Feed.  Often, I think Facebook's current utilitarian function is more societally beneficial than its social networking side.  With a little arranging, you can turn Facebook into your "menu drawer", your "AAA/map drawer", and your  social calendar.  All of these things can exist independently of the friend-watching, fear-of-missing-out feeling, middle school lunchroom side of the same website.

Look.  I don't really care how you use Facebook.  And there is no penalty for having no interest in the site at all.  All I want to point out is that these seemingly benign clicks have direct and immediate real world implications.  If you want to control your reality, you gotta start with your New's Feed.

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