Proper Facebook Etiquette

#251 Is it unfortunate that I can’t do Facebook eight hours in a day?

Thursday 15th April, 2010

Dear Mariann,

Forgive my intrusion onto your blog. But it’s brought out the best in me and the worse in me.  I would, if truth be told, prefer to be doing other things than being on Facebook. But you seem to champion engaging in this way.  Is it unfortunate that I can’t do Facebook eight hours in a day?

(From Nigel via a quite charming (and lengthy) email)

You can’t? Whilst I am an academic and can digress into the pleasures of Le Book frequently during one day – sometimes as much as six or seven times. I check at lunch. I linger over friends at breakfast. In between times. I test for  updates. I dip my toes into the melting of stuff and digest the results. You add all this up, and the hours start getting on. But this is my ‘work’. This is my life. And not yours.

So I don’t recommend that you start to have double log-in’s over lunch, double updates over dinner. I’ve had days that began with a Status Update and ended with touches of Wall postings followed by Pokes, with double-checked messages and slick quips in the middle of the day. Just for the shear hell of it. Has this got me into trouble? Perhaps, but there’s a strong social element. Facebook can add intimacy and closeness. It can re/secure those you want in your life stronger.  It can also give you square eyes and screen burn out.

So far you’ve probably experienced failed engagements and tastings.  Don’t force it. There’s plenty to do. But no point in wasting time. I would try not to log on without a purpose. I’ve known friends to stop mid-conversation over dinner, put down their knives and forks, take out their phone and update in your face there and then. Not the best of etiquette’s. Avoid all public displays of Facebooking. It’s impolite, doesn’t add value and makes you look like you’re trying too hard. There’s a careful balance to be made.

And here is, truly, one of the emptiest things: Facebooking all the time is spectacularly unhealthy and unfulfilling. Being a professed engager is complicated, for both the casual sense of whats ‘o ‘currin’ and the mind.

First, you take in a lot about what other people are getting up to. Add to this that Facebook stuff can be more about a display rather than what’s really going on.  Someone says they’re skydiving. Really they’re on the sofa, stroking the cat. But you feel like a failure all the same as they are seen to lead a more exciting life and times than you.  They’re out doing stuff. You’re not. You’re just updating your status. Why? You don’t. Or rather you don’t want to go into that.  BUT this is WHY we like, nay love social networking. Once you begin to check on friends, its easy to do it all the time, it’s all you ever want. So you think.

So is it unfortunate you can’t do Facebook ‘eight hours in one day’? Certainly not.

I fight. I turn everyone to OFF over the w/e. Madness? As this is when most people are at their most active. Perhaps. But then remember this is my work life. It can’t be all there is to my social life and times as well.  So i get out and about. Like you. Sometimes on the order of friends who have Poked me via some digital want. I make sure to  stay off the radar (deliberately) at least three or four times a week, sometimes more often. Then there are those days that I’ve eagerly awaited some message. And I run home and check my updates. I tell myself, I’m NOT over-engaging. The academic in me wants to over-process everything anyway. This is the nature of that engaged sensibility. Many of us share this habit/sickness/information fatigue.  I’m just switching On a lot.  But then I’m also switching off.

The reasons I do the latter is to continue with the former. But they are also as much about levelling a professionalism with a socialism (non-political). No one wants an unengaged ‘expert’ and critic. One who hasn’t experienced the same wants, anxieties, who is still feeling the smart of embarrassment over ‘that’ message sent at 00:00 hours (These moments tend to come out at the most unexpected of times). The best Facebook effects surprise, add humour, delight. An engaged sensibility ought to be open to the good. The bad. Sometimes the down right ugly.  She should not get overwhelmed, fogy or fatigued. Even if she feels that way.

So log in anywhere. In good times and in bad. I’m still negotiating / weighing up the good idea/ bad idea scenario of syncing everything in real time via some new fangled gadgetry. For now, I quite like going off the radar for interludes of networks ‘silence’.  But I’ll still be updating when I can.  An amass of contradictions in itself.

And on days switched to Off, I make it good for me. This is my social networky tic. My outlying moment/s. I turn Off because this sound like the right thing to do. Of course my Off days can also be not very unengaged. Ive been known to spend afternoons nosing over people’s shoulders in coffee houses to peek at their laptop screens. Take in their mobile noises.  I’m still being ‘good’ right?…

Other people addressing advice?: mix it up a lot. Start with close friends. If there is an unexpected turn up for the books (someone out of the blue lets say) you might add a comment here and there on their Wall.  You might not hear back from someone for days.  Don’t worry this is about distribution of friendships. Play around with it for a while.  It keeps you on your toes. It keeps you engaged.

Whatever the situation, I make a point of replying directly when I can. if they have taken the time. So you should you.  Which is why I’m replying to your email now.  And – whilst we’re caring and sharing – offer your time to others. Reaching out to one’s friends, even through the muddled and grey areas of Facebook can be one of life’s little pleasures.  I don’t suppose it makes for particularly healthy living to be on it eight hours a day. But that’s OK.  That’s what switching Off is for – this adds to a social momentum and expectation, which are the most delightful occupations of engagement of all.

Elsewhere in moments of fleeting anxiety about a message sent or reply not sent, I rate these moments on the basis of our splendid ability to roll with the unforeseen and hope for reciprocation. When it comes doing Facebook, I think we’re working it out as we go along. And that’s the whole social situation right there.

4 Responses to “#251 Is it unfortunate that I can’t do Facebook eight hours in a day?”

  1. Stonk says:

    I’ve used Facebook to tell everyone I’m stuck in Italy as no UK flights. A nice person has found me a place to stay who is a friend of a friend – the power of Facebook!

  2. Hairy says:

    Always on or you is out of the house. I’z has to keep the eyes on me links

  3. Prrrr says:

    My iPad does Facebook real well – always on

  4. Display says:

    I always make a show of using Facebook on my new MacBook in public as I like the admiring glances I get….

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