A Facebook manifesto for my 2nd decade in the space

Are you easily offended? If so, you probably don’t belong on Facebook.

Almost nothing offends me, but even MY patience with the social network is wearing thin. Nevertheless, I’ve remained a committed Facebook user since August 2005, taking the Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 1.34.46 PMgood with the bad. Why? Because 4-5 times each week, I stumble into intelligent conversations, connecting with people I like and respect. I also love that Facebook is a time machine that connects me people I knew 10, 20, and even 40 years ago – people I still care about, including some 350 former students.

I probably dislike the same things you dislike: the constant barrage of political rage, bad memes, and those poor bastards who just can’t stop posting, and posting, and posting. (Last week, I counted 23 posts in 24 hours from one FB contact. Another had 19. But let’s not judge.)

I post or share something 2-3 times a day, and I enjoy when conversations grow from those posts. I try to be civil and fair, but I’m not above deleting a comment I think is out of line. I don’t fight or argue on Facebook. Why waste energy?

Yet even a mellow guy like me has his limits. For example, I don’t need more evidence that the leading GOP candidates are bigots and buffoons. Even their own party leaders admit it, so let’s move on. By talking about them, you’re just feeding the beast. Also, I don’t need or want a point-counterpoint on gun control, abortion or other lightning-rod issues that we’ll never, ever solve in a social media thread. Link me to a petition. Maybe I’ll sign it.

Am I sometimes offended by FB posts? Sure. In particular, I wince at the memes that disrespect women, minorities, sexual orientation or religious beliefs. Fortunately, we have the “hide” button for occasional offenders and the “delete” button for the habitual offenders. I’ll continue to use both.

I’m also using lists more than in the past. For 10 years I’ve blasted updates to my entire network and sometimes even into the “public” stream. I will do more narrowcasting in the future. Thus, if I know you’re one who’s easily offended by my messages or my style, you won’t see a lot of my content. Sorry to keep things from you, but it’s for the best.

I’m using the “restricted” list option a lot more, too. If you make this “black list,” it means the only posts you see are those I put in the public stream. I also restrict anyone who thinks insults and wisecracks are the core of conversation. If you join a discussion, have something to contribute. Be civil and engage.

Politics? Well, I’ve decided to avoid politics – at least until sanity returns to Facebook (unlikely in my lifetime). My friends already know my political views, so why bore them? I’ll share the occasional intelligent commentary, but only to stir meaningful conversation. I won’t share memes – rightwing or left – that perpetuate the echo chamber Facebook has always been.

No matter how hard I try not to, I’m going to offend someone from time to time. It’s the nature of human discourse, and it’s part of the mission statement of this blog (see tagline). If you work or play in the social space, you can’t let fear of offending someone censor your voice or your ideas. So for my second decade on social media, the plan is to say less and say it to a narrower audience.

We’re connected in social media by mutual consent. Either party can leave at any time. But the most important thing to remember is to never take yourself or Facebook too seriously. It’ll give you an ulcer.

5 thoughts on “A Facebook manifesto for my 2nd decade in the space

  1. One of the reasons I continue to be on Facebook is because it’s introduced me to good folks like you. The conversations (and piss-taking) that can ensue replicates offline pretty well.

    I take a scorched earth approach to politics and religion. If you’re posting nutty shit in either’s name, we’re going our separate paths. Same with bigotry of any kind.

    Other than that – have at it. 🙂

  2. Disagreement does not have to be disagreeable. Amen.

    Sadly, the sort of intentional sharing and thoughtful participation you promote goes against the grain of the needs of the social network. The technology has two elements that have made things measurably worse for discourse:

    1) Frictionless Sharing – the “Share Now” buttons that hit default audiences, and add no value of context or commentary other than the tacit endorsement of “I Liked this, so here it is.”

    2) Edgerank – the algorithm that makes the site “sticky” for users by feeding us back with more of the things we like and engage with. However, over time it balkanizes the community, leaving us stranded in concentrated camps of like minds. Those with fringe views are emboldened to believe they are more mainstream than reality will bear, and unleash their inner sphincter-nature. Those whose ideas and ideals need challenging the most find comfort in the great blue and white confirmation bias engine.

    • Ike: It’s clear from your comment why you’ve remained a thought leader in the space. In fact, you were one of the first people I paid attention to in the blogosphere and even today I’m connected to many of the folks I met via your online community. You raise an important point about the system and how it’s designed to balkanize. No surprise that 90% of the people whose posts appear in my FB feed hold the same opinions as I.

  3. Danny: I much enjoy our exchanges on Facebook, but we first became acquainted because of our blogs. As I was writing this essay, I saw many if the rules that guided those blog conversations in the early days. I miss the quality of those discussions and see little of it on Facebook. I can’t turn back the clock, but I can keep writing. And maybe I will.

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