Birthdays in the age of Facebook

Yesterday was my birthday. {Pause} Thank you. It was a nice day. All my Facebook friends knew about it.ecard-2

Ever since Facebook came into my life, or, rather, I came into Facebook, birthdays have become a cyber event of obligatory well wishes and thank yous to people you probably would not even know if not for the largest social networking site in history of humankind.

Almost every day at least one of my Facebook friends celebrates a birthday. An alert pops up on the side of my Facebook screen, and I can easily type a few words into a box, press enter, and wish a far-flung acquaintance a happy birthday. If I know something about that person that goes beyond our passive sharing of random information and photos on Facebook, I might add a personal flair to my post, like: “I hope you have a great day with the family” or “Make sure you get enough rest after your debaucherous extravaganza birthday celebration so you can function properly at work tomorrow” or “I wish we could celebrate together, I miss you!”

As I get older, I have grown more fond of strong connections than loose bonds with people. I can count the number of people I talk to on the phone regularly on one hand. Even with the continuously growing forms in which we can connect with others and our ever-expanding social networks, I am finding that those close friends and family members are the most valuable relationships. They are even more precious now that I’m reminded how man loose ties I have out there with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube…you know, social media. I am proud that I can remember a good friend’s birthday without being reminded by Facebook. {Aleza, yours is March 3.}

Don’t get me wrong. It feels good to get dozens of people wishing me a happy birthday, and I enjoy sending a good wish their way when it’s their turn. But what feels even better is a phone call or a text from a good friend, a card in the mail or even a great night out with those who matter most.

So, happy birthday to me, and to you, and don’t forget to like my post.

Politics and Facebook: How to survive an election and keep your friends

It’s been two weeks since the Nov. 6 election, and I have nearly overcome my feelings of defriending the people who disagreed with me politically.

My husband, bold and stalwart, removed those with vastly opposing viewpoints weeks ago with little hesitation. I struggled with it throughout the last three months of the election season. Why? I kept asking myself. Is it more important to hold on to a diverse set of people with varying points of view than to check my Facebook feed and not want to throw up or punch something (or someone)?

Early in the election cycle one of my Facebook friends announced that she would defriend anyone who posted a political post. I thought that was a bit extreme, but it entered my consciousness that I should be careful not to post anything that would deeply offend others who didn’t hold my views. Granted, the vast majority of my social circle off and online are similar in their political leanings to me, so it would only be a handful of friends (one of them an uncle) who would likely disagree with anything I had to say regarding the presidential race, Senate and Congressional races, ballot measures and the like, but I found myself holding back all the same.

During the first presidential debate, I left Facebook and turned to Twitter, where my network is less personal and more political. I felt free to rant and rave as much as I needed to in 140 characters or less. I did less screaming at the television and more poking at my smart phone. I felt part of a community as I read others’ tweets that made me laugh and shared my horror. And I was having so much fun on Twitter, that I posted to Facebook for those of my friends with Twitter accounts to join me on that site to discuss the debate.

Soon after, a Facebook friend whom I personally do not know very well, posted in acerbic language that people should keep their political opinions to themselves since not everyone agreed with them. I was taken aback by this post, not just because of the vitriol this friend exuded, but because she wanted to shut down people’s expression. I was much more offended by this post than my other friend’s post about defriending those with political ramblings, though the sentiments of the two posts were the same they were stated much differently. It started to scar my idea of her, and I wondered if I should defriend her.

We have grown quite polarized as a country. We can be divided into red and blue so easily, but what we sometimes forget is that red and blue make purple and that purple is our shared humanity. Facebook and other social networks bring us together in ways not imagined even 10 years ago. Yet, it seems we are more hesitant to share our views with each other and to find common ground. We are happier in our bubbles of like-minded people and the media that cater to our philosophies.

There’s a Facebook page called “No One Wants to Hear About Your Politics, Especially on Facebook.” It has more than 3,000 likes, which is not significant when compared to the millions who have liked political pages belonging to candidates or lobby groups. Yet, Mashable reported that 47 percent of those who took its poll defriended someone because of the recent election. That poll received nearly 3,000 responses.

CNN reported a study that showed one in five people on social media admit to blocking, defriending or hiding someone because of a political post. An author of that study was quoted saying that the findings were not surprising, as social mores dictate not discussing sensitive topics, such as politics, with certain people in the real world.

“We know not to bring up politics around certain friends or family members. We try to avoid people who are constantly looking for an argument or trying to sell us on their pet ideas,” said Aaron Smith, a Pew research associate.

“Since blocking, unfriending, hiding people is the closest social analogue to those real-world examples, it’s not necessarily surprising to see people taking these steps in the virtual space.”

I refrained from political posts until the final days of the election. Before that, I made a point to comment and “like” others’ posts that I found interesting or agreed with. But I was not interested in placing my views on others. That’s what Twitter was for. Facebook was for making nice, for sharing photos of the kids and congratulating a high school friend on the birth of a baby. Yet, my true self felt stunted, and I finally posted a few articles to Facebook that lined up with my political philosophies, and on Election Night, I showed my hand and changed my profile picture to a campaign sign.

It was met with a little hostility from the vitriolic friend, but otherwise I received a couple of positive comments and about a dozen likes. Even so, the next morning, happy and relieved the election was finally over, I changed my profile picture to an innocuous photo of me and my family. I got a lot more comments and three times as many likes on that one.

And I feel ready to go back to the simple, carefree world of baby and wedding photos. Looks like I won’t be defriending anyone after all. At least not until next the election.

The Facebook problem

Last week, my family and I traveled to a Caribbean island for a spring break vacation. There, for the first time since I’ve had a Facebook account (2009), I went without access to the site. I spent an entire week off Facebook.

It felt good. Actually, I didn’t even miss it enough to think about how good it felt. It was only after I came home, opened my laptop and checked my account that I realized how much I didn‘t miss Facebook.

I have a habit of checking the site intermittently a few times a day. If something a friend posts strikes me, I’ll leave a comment of give a “like.” But mostly, I scroll through the last 10 or so status updates, wonder why it is I have a compulsion to check Facebook, then close the site. Facebook does little for my own social good. I don’t feel deeper connections to my Facebook friends. I don’t feel compelled to post updates about my every move. I didn’t even post photos from our spring break trip, much less announce that we had gone away. I figured, those who cared already knew. Why bother anyone else with these details?

So the question has since arisen, do I need to keep my Facebook account? And if so, why?

I read a personal account of a social media writer who defriended 90 percent of his Facebook friends. He did this because he was having trouble filtering through his myriad of friends’ status updates to find the ones he really wanted to keep in touch with on the site. He cut down his list of 650 friends to just 65 friends. He described it as a tedious process, especially when he got close to the 90 percent goal. But, in the end, he said the purging was worth it.

Hey says:

Because as I look at my news feed this morning, I’m finding updates from people I like, miss and am actually interested in. They’re not lost in the clutter of a hundred different status updates by half-forgotten strangers from high school or ex-bosses that I never socialized with in any real sense of the word.

Since reading his account, I have had that little fly buzzing in my ear, every so often bumping into my cheek and asking me why I have not done the same. Who would I let go? Who would I keep? Would I care if I missed an acquaintance’s announcement of her new baby? Would I have reduced my social capital by condensing my network?

This is a topic we have discussed on this blog a few times. We have even talked about clearing out Twitter followers to streamline that feed. That exercise proved to be well worth the energy.

The question remains, however: Streamline or cast a wide net and wade through the chaos? Is social media about being social, interacting with those you care about and who care about you, or is social media about meeting new people, gathering information and connecting with as many people, brands and ideas as possible?

For me, the verdict is still out.

Our virtual life does not reflect real life

A Facebook friend of mine, also a former colleague, posted this comment today:

Ways in which FB is not like real life: You can like everything, you can’t dislike anything, and you can’t like anything (or anyone) more than once.

This status update didn’t get much of a response; some of her updates get dozens of comments and likes. But it inspired me to think deeper about this virtual life we have created on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn, YouTube…and the list goes on and on and on.

I sometimes get so sucked into my computer, that is, my own virtual reality, that I  neglect what is happening beyond my screen and outside of my online networks. Certainly I know the weather in San Diego is beautiful because my Facebook friends who live there told me so. I also know a friend who just had a baby in San Francisco is looking for recommendations on how to get her baby on a good sleep schedule.

But what is going on with my neighbor? Is it actually sunny and warm outside of my house?

It’s not that I don’t participate in the outside world of real life, but sometimes the virtual world is just so much more accessible and interesting. But it is also limiting.

There is nothing more fulfilling than having a wonderful conversation with a friend who is actually sitting across from you, moving her lips and talking. Maybe it involves sipping on tea that I steeped in my own kitchen. There’s no way I could get the satisfaction of watching my kids play with each other in harmony while staring at my computer screen.

Some things in real life are invaluable. But still, I wouldn’t trade the informative network I’ve got on Twitter, or the ability to sort of keep in touch with my myriad friends and foes on Facebook. And sometimes, too, I get looped into a YouTube feed that is inspiring or funny.

What I’m saying is it’s great to have both, and the virtual world and the real world have their own rules and quirks. Maybe I can’t unlike something on Facebook, but I can unfollow someone on Twitter and never hear from them again. It’s not so easy to do that with a pesky neighbor.

Enter “The Timeline”

Thank you, Aleza, for making my new Facebook profile look oh-so…spiffy. I do give you full credit, dear co-author, because you told me to do it because I was complaining about the new FB changes.

Here’s what I did in just nine easy steps presented by Mashable.The New Facebook Timeline

And now I have a new toy to tinker with.

The big question that looms now is whether my new Timeline on FB will lure me away from the 12 seconds I spend on Google+ every day. I would bet not. But that is partially because there is no one on Google+. Everyone is still on FB and loving it.

It reminds me of the time when I tried to get my friends to join Friendster. No one listened. Then came MySpace. No one listened. Then, all of a sudden, Facebook comes along and sweeps people off their feet. Even their parents are getting in on the action. This time around it wasn’t me who was inviting my friends and being rejected, it was them inviting me. I took the bait.

So here I am, faced with the behemoth of Facebook and this spunky little engine called Google+. Can both be juggled? Will FB continue to one-up G+? It’s still early in the game. But, right now, my money is on Facebook.

Love triangle or circle of love? Facebook vs. Google+

As I’m finishing up the original Star Wars trilogy with my son, I am feeling a little combative. I miss the Facebook of old, and am hostile to the new revamped site that is harder to navigate and gives me only a smidgeon of the information I would like to see.

Google+ vs Facebook

The war is on! Image/GeekWord

But do I turn to Google+?

I joined the other day, and, admittedly, with all that is going on in my life. did not spend much time there. Few

of my friends are on there, and there seems to be a general lack of community.

I do not run in techie circles. My friends are normal people spread out geographically, but for the most part are not part of the media elite. We are faced with a conundrum here, much like the olden days when people were trying to decide between MySpace and Facebook.

All we want to to is keep in touch and maybe share a few photos or article links. Sure, we want to do it simply and efficiently. But we want to be where our friends can find us and where we can find them.

It’s still early, and time will tell if Google+ goes the way of the 8-track or becomes as ubiquitous as, well, Facebook. But today, the jury is still out.

What’s the likelihood?

Posted by Shebshi

It was a warm summer day when the power of Facebook reared its head. Yes, back in a little sprawling town outside of Sacramento, I sat posting for all to see that I was heading to Nevada. No sooner had I posted that status update when my collaborator piped up: “Where in Nevada?”

And connection was made.

About 20 hours later, she was standing outside my hotel room in Ely, Nevada, her curly-haired toddler by her side. My curly-haired twins were in the room, and soon I found myself outnumbered by curly-haired boys under the age of 6.

If it hadn’t been for Facebook, there would have been no connection. No troupe of curlies. No train ride through the high desert. No fried chicken. No adventurous road trip conceived in a moment of inspiration.

And people say social media is dead.