The only living boy not on Facebook
July 18, 2010 2:22 PM   Subscribe

It's reached that point. I'm the last person in Britain who isn't on Facebook. I'm v. reluctant to digitise my social life but... I can't hold it off any more...

Not being on Facebook is now worse than being an old testament hermetic monk or a post-dwelling stylite recluse...............................Also I have no idea how to embed a line break in askmefi, sorry about the lack of paras.......deep breath................................................................

I am tired of getting emails saying "this is a special email for the few not on facebook - we are having a barbeque, do come, and spread the word to anyone not in our facebook bbq group" etc.

I guess registering is going to feel like the first day at a new school. There will be unwritten rules, confusion, secret handshakes and possibly cliques of mean people laughing at my uncool shoes.

Hopefully I will be able to make contact with some real world friends. Maybe get some Facebook integration advice before I am hung from the door of my profile by the waistband of my pants.

With this in mind, does anyone on MeFi have any advice on how to do Internet Social Networks? It all looks like a massive car crash to me, but I am going to try and be positive :)

What are the good points? How can we communicate sensitively without audio/visual contact ? How does one maintain boundaries in a great big social soup composed of your good buddies, work colleagues, ex-girlfriends and family members?? And what you would tell yourself four years ago before you were about to sign up for facebook?

Thanks, you lovely people!
posted by driftingclouds to Human Relations (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Easiest rule --- don't put anything on Facebook you don't want showing up on a web search about you. If you're very sensitive to that, you can also use the privacy settings to make it so other users can't post on your wall (since you can't necessarily stop them from saying embarrassing things). You can put a very small amount of info on it and then just use it as a networking tool. [Besides, they already may be talking about you online so it's not like you can totally prevent your name from showing up in other threads]
posted by wildcrdj at 2:25 PM on July 18, 2010

It's really not as bad as you think. If you aren't sure at first, you can always use it only for events, and only have a few photos and other details. There aren't really any unwritten rules, and people use it to very varying degrees; some post personal things, and others keep it as a purely professional page. It's really up to you how you use it.

The only thing I would warn you about is to set your security settings to what you are comfortable with straight away.
posted by nvsbl at 2:27 PM on July 18, 2010

The silent mass of people who are also not on Facebook will miss you!

For you, though, if you're determined to go through with it, I'd recommend a book. There are books on social networking at the bookstore. Books give you a linear, relaxing, thorough way of approaching a subject. Why not spend a pleasant hour looking through them?
posted by amtho at 2:41 PM on July 18, 2010

Make a fake account and just putz around a bit till you are comfortable with it. A lot of the horror stories are exaggerated, it's just a nice way to keep in touch with people and stuff you like. Do keep a close eye on privacy settings though.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:43 PM on July 18, 2010

1) You can make annoying game updates from your friends go away by clicking on the "hide" button on the update and saying "Hide all Mafia" or "Hide all Bejeweled" or whatever. That way you can still see the life updates from your friends without knowing that they just bought a cow in Farmville.

2) Whenever you add an app, frequently a window pops up that says something like "Would you like to share this with your friends?" Click the "Skip this step" button at the bottom, since those notifications are annoying to most other people.

Other than that, I would definitely get your privacy settings set like you like them and then chill. You can add your friends and (after they add you) browse through their pages to kind of get a feel for what info they have up and how the walls and the feeds work.
posted by wending my way at 2:49 PM on July 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have no idea how to embed a line break in askmefi

Hit the enter key twice.

Treat Facebook the way you would a party--you're talking to a wide variety of people, it's a very public environment, and you shouldn't say anything there that you wouldn't say to a complete stranger with whom you're making small talk over the cheese dip. If you're wondering whether to put some piece of information there--say, your phone number, or your relationship status--ask yourself if you would give that stranger the same information. If you would tell them that you're married, why should you care if Facebook knows it, or that someone can google it?

There's no reason not to share certain things about yourself on Facebook. Just remember that it's a public space, and nothing you put there will be truly private in any meaningful sense. With that rule of thumb, enjoy it. It's a great way to casually interact with a large number of people.
posted by fatbird at 2:53 PM on July 18, 2010

If it's any consolation, people seem to tire of facebook. I'm older and a rather late adopter. Like you, I joined mostly at the cajoling of my friends.. I found that once some of my friends joined facebook that was the only way to stay in touch with them (most of my friendships are long distance). I joined about 2 years ago and some of the very people who coaxed me into facebook now rarely use it.

You can use facebook however you like. As some have said you can set your privacy settings so that no one can even post to your wall (I have one friend who does this - she joined mainly to keep tabs on her niece and nephew, one of whom unfriended her). I have "friends" who set up a profile and never went any further and I have friends on the other end of the spectrum who don't seem to have a waking thought without posting it (although even they have scaled back their postings quite a bit in the last 6 months). The most important advice has already been mentioned; don't post anything that you wouldn't mind anyone (including current and future employers) reading about you on the web. I'd also add, don't get into the facebook friends numbers race. I only friend people that I am legitimately friends with. The test for me is, "if this person was in town, would I want to meet up with them in person."
posted by kaybdc at 2:55 PM on July 18, 2010

Mod note: Fixed the formatting up a bit.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:55 PM on July 18, 2010

My experience with Facebook is that it was very exciting at first: It was like someone had taken the phonebook & integrated in the concept of datasearching. Imagine being able to find your middle school best friend without knowing his current whereabouts or her current last name. Very cool in terms of outreach potential, although frustrating when you *know* someone is out there & still can't find them.

I'm actually a very minimalist user & not very technologically adventurous, so in practical terms I'm finding that Facebook is a very fun, if limited, window into the lives of people I care about. Basically, I'm getting digital post-its all the time about their lives & what they're thinking & feeling. It makes me feel much more "in the loop."

It also makes me feel much more connected to people who, in practical fact, I have *barely* any contact with --because I feel like I know what's going on with them. That's a tricky one: It actually makes me (YMMV) much less likely to reach out. I've already had the update; why call/write? And as a person (like you) who was slow to join the club: I KNOW it cuts down on their tendency to reach out to me, because I've already seen the drop in my e-mails since all my friends joined Facebook. Apparently they've already notified the known universe about everything, and getting in touch with Far Travellers like me...meh; too much like work to repeat themselves.

It's really weird, actually: Suddenly we've all turned into publishers, and everyone else needs to subscribe to be a part of our lives. I remember when staying friends was a mutual activity! Not sure I'm crazy about this latest trend.

And then there's this: Facebook, at least in my circle of friends, is not a medium of conversation. People check in & comment, maybe even check back & comment again, but for all it's touted as the new medium of "keeping in touch," that concept doesn't seem to encompass anything so deep or sustained as an actual conversation. At best, you'll get a thread. I find it very disappointing in that respect.

And third major con in my ideoverse: I get too aggravated by the lack of response to things I post. I came here to start a conversation about something that interested me. But not only does no one actually want to give an in-depth response, apparently they aren't even looking me up because they're too busy with their facebook farms & blogging & general empire-building to actually be interested in anything I have to say. Or they click the "Like" button & leave it at that. Grrrrr!

Fourth: It's a cool toy. But checking it dilligently is a *HUGE* time-suck if you. It can turn into a life-eating obsession without you even realizing how much work you're putting into this very superficial contact.

Fifth: Get a free throw-away account with Yahoo or someone to handle the e-mails Facebook churns out. It's probably because I suck at reading "how to" documents, but the amount of worthless e-mail Facebook is generating caused me to stop using my AOL account altogether. People tell me that's easy to fix, but until they come over & do it, I'm just going to ignore the influx & tell everyone to use my other address.
posted by Ys at 3:08 PM on July 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's very easy to be a minimalist user of Facebook. Just sign up and let people add you as friends (ignoring friend requests from people you don't know or don't like), then sit back and do nothing else. You don't actually need to post photos, personal information, status updates, events etc. or play any of the stupid games, and you can just 'hide' anything annoying from your news feed. Treat messages like emails (albeit emails which are stored forever on servers owned by a pretty nasty bunch of people). As you get more comfortable, and get more of a feel for how the people you know use it, you can start doing more stuff. Or not; people are unlikely to judge you for exhibiting a lack of engagement in Facebook.

Personally I just use it to keep in touch with all of my old friends who live around the world, and occasionally to post interesting photos. It's actually pretty useful like this.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 3:15 PM on July 18, 2010

If someone is annoying the crap out of you with their Farmville updates or maybe just their updates in general, you can "Hide" updates from an application or a person without defriending the person. Just hover your mouse to the right of the update and the Hide button will appear.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:25 PM on July 18, 2010

I was a relatively late facebook adopter. I've been active on it for maybe a year or so, but I really like it. Facebook makes it really easy to keep in touch with people.

fatbird's advice is excellent. Especially this: "Treat Facebook the way you would a party--you're talking to a wide variety of people, it's a very public environment, and you shouldn't say anything there that you wouldn't say to a complete stranger with whom you're making small talk over the cheese dip." Excellent excellent excellent advice.

Sign up. Post a few pictures of yourself. Friends love that - especially old friends. Then, spend some time just browsing around to see how your friends use facebook. At first, it looks confusing, but after a while, it makes sense, and it's a lot of fun.

Following fatbird's party analogy, you'll notice that some of your friends are quiet on facebook, not often posting status updates or comments, and you'll see that other friends are more talkative.

Status Updates are basically just short blurbs to let your friends know what you're up to - if it's something you want to share. Some of my friends use their status updates to crack jokes. Others link to cool stuff that they've found online.

My favorite thing about facebook, flickr and other social media sites are that they make it easy to keep in touch with people, and they make it easier for people you don't want to lose touch with to keep in touch with you.

Sign up.
Add photos.
Find your friends and add them.
Then browse, browse, and browse some more.
It'll all start to make sense and you might find it a lot of fun too.
posted by 2oh1 at 3:25 PM on July 18, 2010

Don't do it!!!

I joined friendster YEARS ago as a bleeding edge social networking adopter, and tired of it quickly. Myspace, and later facebook, came along, and by that point I had done all I wanted to in the social networking scene.

I am happy not having one. If people want to stay in touch, they can pick up a phone, or send an email.

I just realized I'm sounding curmudgeonly (even though I'm only 32), but I don't care for cell phones either- just another way for me to be connected.

So hold out, it's just a fad. Okay, okay, it's not.
posted by TheBones at 3:34 PM on July 18, 2010 [5 favorites]

Oh, hai, nice to meet you. I was the last girl in the US to sign up for Facebook. I think that makes us siblings.

I'm glad I did it (at the insistence of my sister and my friend) though here's me #1 caution: the first two weeks will be NUTS as your account will be full of all the other people of the world posting things like, "OMG, you're finally here!" and sending you friend requests, messages, etc. This has a crazy, exponential rate for about 10 days or so, and then it tapers off quickly. Just brace yourself for those first days.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:21 PM on July 18, 2010

I signed up, found the friends I liked, then fixed up my privacy settings and now I'm unsearchable. I don't put in likes or interests as I don't want my data mined as much as possible. I don't have my full name up there. I have limited profile views set for people I either work with or want to add but don't want to show pictures to. Privacy, privacy, privacy. It's a great communication tool, but now I add who I want and can control whether potential employers etc can find me. Not that I have anything to be ashamed of up there, it's just a preemptive strike.

But I like it because in the closed network I've set up for myself, I can easily stay in touch with friends, organise hangouts and, you know, it's kind of fun. Just don't fall victim to Facebook's weird privacy settings. It took me aaaages to figure it out, and now that it's set I can enjoy the best parts of Facebook without having to worry about being too out there. Sometimes I check people out online and it amazes me how exposed they can allow themselves to be to the world.
posted by mooza at 4:23 PM on July 18, 2010

One thing that's nice about facebook is that you get to know other people in your friends' lives, at least a little bit. A friend of mine is getting married soon, and I feel like I've "met" some of her out-of-town friends and relatives by seeing them post on her status updates. It will be nice to meet them in person and have a little bit of an idea who they are!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:53 PM on July 18, 2010

"you shouldn't say anything there that you wouldn't say to a complete stranger with whom you're making small talk over the cheese dip."

or the cops, your boss, or your loan officer.
posted by ovvl at 6:40 PM on July 18, 2010

You can use Facebook without actually putting anything up on the site. You can have a wall no one can write on, and have privacy settings so you are more or less invisible to most of the site. You can also set things so tagged photos are only visible to you. Before I killed my account I had a few friends whose profiles were like this. More or less totally empty pages.

Back when I was on the site, I was Fumio Funakoshi, which was a name I stole from Fist of Legend. I only posted up nonsense. The only information I was leaking about myself was who my friends are, which is probably more information than people think.
posted by chunking express at 10:37 AM on July 19, 2010

consider fb a tool to consolidate friends and acquaintances and as an extension to real life socialising. It should neither replace real life or be an output for innermost feelings. Under no circumstances use whilst drunk. Whatever you post in your own wall should be suitable for all the types of people you've consolidated. Avoid posting about generic life occurrences unless they are of particular note. It's generally advisable not to add your parents.

You'll find your wall a mess of stupid application posts but you can hide them and never see them again. of course you have to do it on an individual app basis but after a bit all the most common ones are covered.

People will generally pay you as much attention as you pay them. If you're single it can be a good place to get dates but too much public flirting can cause wierd jealousy behaviours and status stalking.

if you don't want it to take over your life, turn the chat off and never go on it and don't add too many friends or the ones you're most interested in will get lost in the forest of posts and youtube links.
posted by browolf at 5:57 AM on July 23, 2010

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