About once a year (or maybe more), an article makes the rounds across the interwebs about annoying Facebook behavior. Classic examples of bad Facebook behavior are things like over-posting, posting vague statuses (sometimes called vaguebooking), posting things to make yourself and your life look better, bragging on your kids, saying lovey-dovey things about your spouse or significant other, and myriad other irritating things. Usually, I read the article, and then, I find myself feeling self-conscious about posting anything else for the next few days. If I click “post,” will I have posted one too many times and made myself an “over-poster?” If I am having difficulty in my life and really need support, but because of confidentiality or the sensitive nature of the problem, I really can’t give details, does that mean I can’t post that I need support? If I do, will I have become a vaguebooker, and worthy of being “throat punched” by one of those bloggers who has mastered the realm of Facebook etiquette?
Yesterday, yet one more of those “what not to do on Facebook” posts made its way onto my newsfeed. I read it, but this time it hit me differently.
Facebook is social media. It is a virtual space. It is a place where we can choose which parts of our lives we broadcast to the world. In that regard, it is very different from real life. We can ignore that our sinks are overflowing with dirty dishes when we choose what pictures to post on Facebook, but if someone came to our door, those dishes are there – stinking, dirty, and begging to be washed. We can choose only to upload profile pictures that are flattering, whereas anyone who saw me in the grocery store at 8:30 yesterday morning will have seen me in my running clothes with my hair pulled back in a messy ponytail. Social media and real life have their differences, but Facebook has one major thing in common with real life – something that we often choose to ignore. We are still in control of who we allow into the personal places of our lives.
For whatever reason, the internet brings out the passive-aggressive side in many of us. If one of our Facebook friends is an over-poster, we block him/her from our newsfeed without ever doing the difficult work of telling our dear friend that we worry about how much time he/she spends online. If someone constantly posts pictures of themselves engaging in behaviors that we would never be able to accept our friends doing, why don’t we do the difficult work of telling that person how we feel? Or, why don’t we ask ourselves why we accepted a friend request from someone we would never spend time with in real life. Instead we click “block,” or we write the next passive-aggressive blog post that makes all of our friends feel insecure about the way they conduct themselves online. Passive-aggressive is easy, but it isn’t life-giving.
So, I decided to write a different kind of blog post about Facebook and its annoying users…or, about one of the annoying users: me. If you would like to steer clear of annoying social media users, I would recommend against adding me to your Facebook friends list.
Confessions from a Bad Social Media User:
1. I post. A lot. I could come up with a lot of funny excuses or justifications for my over-posting, but it is what it is. I love to write, and Facebook is like a free little blog for me. I type quickly, and it doesn’t take me much time. So, I post a lot. There. I said it.
2. I take pictures of food. For some, I know this is one of the most annoying things someone can do on social media. But, here’s the thing: cooking and baking is something that gives me a tremendous amount of joy. I put a lot of that special ingredient (read: love) into each thing I make, and almost nothing brings me as much joy as hearing my two kids say that mom made a great meal for dinner that night. I take pictures of food because, like anyone, I want to share the things I do that bring joy to my life with the people who also share their joys with me. Sometimes I feel proud of the food I made. Sometimes I share because I want to share and swap recipes. I have a lot of foodies on my Facebook friends who also post food pictures. But, I know for as many as who post food pictures, there are probably more who are annoyed by it. Rather than feeling guilty for posting food pictures on my personal Facebook page, I own the fact that cooking and baking bring me a tremendous amount of joy and satisfaction. I like to share that joy and satisfaction with the world – just like I am guessing many of you like to share those things, too.
3. I talk about my kids. It seems a little silly that anyone would expect parents to talk about what’s going on in their lives and conveniently leave out some of the members of their family. Sometimes I post things that my kids say or come up with that I think are funny or insightful. For me, it is a way to file those memories. I come back when I have a bit more time and write some of the ones that I want to treasure forever into a memory book. For me, talking about my kids is just part of sharing my life. It’s not about who has the best kids, the wittiest kids, the most insightful kids, or the smartest. Kids have a way of engaging the world that most of us as adults could learn a lot from. I share what they say because they teach me – and honestly, I love when my friends post about their kids, too, for the same reason.
4. Sometimes I post about my workouts. I don’t share every workout, and sometimes the website I log my workouts on shares my workouts for me, but sometimes I share them. I don’t feel bad about it either. Truthfully, I know of at least three people in the last few months who have taken up running because I shared with my Facebook friends how tough running was for me at first. It made them feel like if I could do it, they could do it, too. Exercising is also something that it is extremely easy to fall off the bandwagon with. I post my workouts so that I can create a community of others around me who will kick me back into shape when I get lazy. I have joined a separate fitness group on Facebook where I share more of my workouts, but I’m not going to keep my workouts completely separate from my personal page just because a few people are annoyed by it.
5. Every once in a while, I post a comment on my husband’s Facebook page. Yes, we do live in the same house. Yes, I could just tell him. But, we keep very strange hours with our church ministry sometimes, and many times I’m asleep before he gets home. I could leave him a note on the kitchen counter, or I can post it where I’m certain he’ll see it – on Facebook. Sometimes, I chat with my husband on Facebook because it is funny, and we both get a kick out of it. But, I promise we still know how to talk to each other in real life. Thanks for the concern. 😉
I’m sure I do a lot of other annoying things on social media. So, really, if food posts, kid-funnies, and workout posts are too much, I’ll understand if you choose not to add me – or if you want to delete me once you see the kind of Facebook user I am.
All this is to say that social media is new enough and fluid enough of a reality that the rules are still being created. And we are the ones who create them – we, the users. We can pretend that we have a handle on proper Facebooking, but I promise that some other annoying trend will crop up – and probably soon. It’s just the way of the internet. Bored people staring at screens will come up with nearly anything to keep themselves entertained. But, I do hope that as we socialize more and more online that we won’t lose our ability to be honest with our friends. Own the social media space you create. Be who you are. Be honest with your friends, and patient, too. We all have rough days.
Blog posts of everything that is wrong with Facebook and its users remind me a lot of anonymous complaint letters designed to “enlighten” one or two people but posted openly as an interpersonal projectile that makes pretty much everyone feel at least a little bad about the way they conduct themselves. Anonymous complaints aren’t helpful, and widely broadcast anonymous complaints are even less so. Broadcasting our disgust for our friends’ behavior is really nothing more than socially-acceptable humiliation of the people we care about.
Sometimes I see things on Facebook that I could have done without seeing. Now and then I get inundated with something that really bothers me. But, usually, I just scroll by and let it roll off my back. Perhaps it is the annual “fall crabbies” coming out in all of us that makes us less able to roll with those things we would normally move beyond without much of a second thought. Or maybe it should serve as a warning sign that our lack of face-to-face time is turning us into impatient, self-centered, people who are increasingly becoming incapable of maintaining meaningful real-life relationships. I hope it is the former.
This past Sunday, we got to have a mission speaker at church. He spoke to our congregation via Skype from the country where he is serving – across the ocean and thousands of miles away. Technology can be a wonderful thing. It connects me to my family who lives across the country from me. It lets my parents watch my kids grow up. It allows me to remain in contact with dear friends I haven’t seen in years. It has been greatly helpful to me in my church ministry. But, every now and then, when I read one of these “what not to do” posts, it makes my old typewriter look more and more attractive.