Is "less is more" a good motto for Facebook?
One of my Facebook friends, Brenda Christensen shared in her FB updates this week an interesting article from the WSJ that described "How Facebook can Ruin Your Friendships." WSJ Bonds Columnist Elizabeth Bernstein opens her piece by telling all of her friends she loves them dearly, but her column goes on to complain that she doesn't love all of their narcissistic updates.
"Like many people, I'm experiencing Facebook Fatigue. I'm tired of loved ones—you know who you are—who claim they are too busy to pick up the phone, or even write a decent email, yet spend hours on social-media sites, uploading photos of their children or parties, forwarding inane quizzes, posting quirky, sometimes nonsensical one-liners or tweeting their latest whereabouts. ("Anyone know a good restaurant in Berlin?")
One of the big problems is how we converse. Typing still leaves something to be desired as a communication tool; it lacks the nuances that can be expressed by body language and voice inflection. "Online, people can't see the yawn," says Patricia Wallace, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins University's Center for Talented Youth and author of "The Psychology of the Internet."
But let's face it, the problem is much greater than which tools we use to communicate. It's what we are actually saying that's really mucking up our relationships. “Oh my God, a college friend just updated her Facebook status to say that her 'teeth are itching for a flossing!'" shrieked a friend of mine recently. “That's gross. I don't want to hear about what's going on inside her mouth."
And multiply that issue when the friends you may be turning off are actually business contacts, colleagues or even existing or prospective clients. Many of us have a mix of personal friends and business acquaintances on our Facebook pages, which makes what we share even trickier to manage.
I remember well the fight and ultimate breakup of a relationship I had with a former journalist colleague who had been writing a column for one of the newspapers I edited. The entire battle between us was waged over email, which made it more brittle and escalated it more quickly than if we had talked through the issues I was having with his columns face to face or even over the telephone. To this day I don't have the same relationship with that individual because I chose the wrong medium to discuss my issues with his work.
Bernstein suggests that everyone police their own entries in Facebook to make sure they aren't committing any cardinal sins like boring their readers, causing them envy (go easy on the fabulous vacation updates) or over-sharing personal details that people would rather not know about you. I would take it a step further to think about what we put on Facebook when our updates are read by business associates who may or may not be close friends. Think about what updates on Facebook or Twitter you find interesting and try to offer the same things. For myself, I love it when someone shares an interesting article that's relevant to me, as Brenda Christensen did by flagging the WSJ article about Facebook that I'm blogging about today. I also enjoy funny quips, like another FB friend, Paul Santinelli's recent update, "In my mind I'm goin' to Carolina."
I personally lean toward a "less is more" style with social media, just as I always believed all communication that is short and to the point is preferred by most readers. If you really don't have anything amusing or really interesting to share, sometimes it's best to just say nothing.