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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Social Network Fatigue #SociallyStrangled

Somewhere around 5 years ago, I joined in on the Social Network Revolution. While I came in a little later in the game on Facebok; for most sites I joined when they were still in their 'early adopter' phases... I cruised around, figured out where I fit and went.to.town. And I definitely wasn't alone. Facebook on it's own boasts 153 MILLION unique visitors and as of January of this year? Is still growing at a rate of a million more every month. That's a LOT of potential 'friends.' On average, my fellow Facebook friends, we spend around 6.5 hours a month updating our pals on our comings, goings, & innermost thoughts/feelings... and begging for farmville crops, of course (1). To put some perspective on this number? According to Neilson, that's over 3 times the amount of time Americans cruise around on YAHOO. For me specifically? I was pretty sure 6.5 hours would be a LOW estimate.

I kept track of the amount of time I was actively on FB for the last 60 days and tried hard not to modify it since I knew I was tracking it... I logged about 18 hours engaged. No wonder I'm tired.

You see, I'm what's "affectionately" (2) known as a "Super-User." My friends say I "Live Out Loud" and that's definitely true. I've always been one to say what's on my mind and had very little concern for whether or not it'd end up being embarrassing (3). The way I've seen it is that we all have our less-than-stellar moments; so, laughingly 'fessing up to mine might make it easier for someone else to laugh through theirs. Furthermore, people relate to people who are real. And in my line of business? That's a good thing. I'll tell you a lot of my posts are done to build relationships - frequent touches build recognition, which leads to interaction, which leads to network equity. That's priceless for me. Plus, I happen to actually LIKE my friends - every one of them, personal & professional... I can tell you how I know them, why we connected, what they do and something I like about them. So, all that about relationship-building is true... but, it's also because I get a kick out of sharing my thoughts and happenings.


Lately though, I've been feeling over connected. It's probably why I started keeping track of my FB time to begin with. While I was able to maintain and build on 'relationships' with people I wouldn't honestly have time to spend much/if any time with outside of the Internet; I was losing valuable interaction with those closest to me in my life. Because, what's the point of talking about that which I read about 30 minutes ago? I started noticing this about six months' ago when I realized about every 3rd or 4th conversation my boyfriend and I had revolved around something someone had posted on Facebook or something he or I had noted on our own pages. Since we were connected to a decent number of mutual friends; quite often we had both already read it prior it coming up. Out of politeness, we'd listen to one another rehash it; but I'd be kidding us all if I didn't admit it made for trite conversation 9 times out of 10. Because really, how deep and interesting could 'Guys shouldn't wear skinny jeans' be, anyway? (4) Bottom line, Facebook made it uncessary to pick up the phone or go over and see our friends 'Offline.'

And that's where our problems began, my FB friends - our relationships were taken to the 'online' level.

While it was a great day when I connected to some of my favorite people from when I was eight (Suzanne, Susan, Genelle, among others); and I was downright GRATEFUL for FB the day I was able to read about my Maid-of-Honor's major car accident so I could pray for her ... I was also annoyed. It bugged me when someone would tell me they didn't have time to call or spend quality time with me but had answered endless quizzes, commented on 50 different items on their newsfeed, and uploaded more photos of their car/kid/whatever in a day than I had over the last month. Hypocritical? Slightly. I recognized it; but it didn't change the way I felt. And then there was the narcissistic issue: we all have the friends who either have absolutely NOTHING to say but they can't just say that so they do the "I ate a lollipop" or "'sup?" status update; or found their own status so immensely entertaining that THAT is when they call you?! To tell you to go look at their FB page to check out the brilliant beyond brilliant thing they just wrote. I seriously knew someone who would go back and read their statuses over and over again like they had penned something at the same level as the witticisms of Mark Twain or Walt Whitman. Every.Day.

I realized I had begun to miss hearing about someone's day over dinner instead reading it on the FB app of my mobile phone.

That affects your relationship; you can't help but let it. Right? In many cases, I know I couldn't. A slow-build resentment would set in - especially after the 100th message I had to send of "seriously, the Farmville posts; could you stop posting those on my wall??" I'd find myself ducking their calls or neglecting to invite them out. Fortunately, this was a very small group of people; but still.. how many does it take for it to be TOO many? And then there was the more... unhealthy? ... insecurities Facebook unearths for many. I found I wasn't immune to those, either. February of last year, I was dating what I thought was a very nice guy. He'd asked for our relationship status to change to be 'Facebook official' (5) - to which I declined, laughing as my 'ultimate' single/divorced status hadn't changed and I thought it'd be confusing for my kids. A few weeks later, I noticed he was untagging himself from our photos - I've always been big on photo documentation of events - and shortly after that, I realized he'd stopped interacting on my page entirely. Oops. I thought he was crazy at the time; but I have to admit when the shoe was on the other foot? It made me darn near paranoid.. and that was something that was hard to admit to.
Who on earth ties their value to someone else based on FACEBOOK?? Oh, and let me not fail to mention the massive argument that cropped up as a result of the 'fashion album' I have on Facebook with my children's father about whether or not his child support was going to fund my shoe stores. (6)

I didn't realize I had allowed social networking to actually play a part in causing damage to some of my closest personal relationships; but once I did? It was something I could no longer ignore.

So I did some digging... As it turns out? That's something else I wasn't alone on, either. As of January 2011, 40% of Facebook Users have reported that the social networking site had negatively impacted relationships in their life. Their "relationship status updates" seem to be a popular instigator - as FB kindly heralds the news of your changing status as quickly as you click 'save.' This wreaked havoc on one couple whose relationship ended on FB due to a glitch of all things. Petty arguments took place over who forgot to take out the trash and well... you get the idea. It's not been all kittens and roses for the FB community... and I had found myself among the walking wounded. I had to do something... but what? I started by 'band-aiding' the situation; I'd hide offenders from my news feeds and gave people freedom to hide mine without restraint nor condemnation. I've never been a massive 'stalker;' so, that helped. But, that didn't really fix the problem, did it? The underlying aggravation was still there.

After a little bit of thought and self-realization? The solution was clear... if the damage came from putting the relationship 'online;' the healing came from taking it back 'offline.' My dating relationship(s) didn't need to happen online - it's not like I went on virtual dates... so, why spend my days virtually interacting?? I don't (7) - and won't from now on. In the future, it's quite possible I won't even BE connected to the guy I share my time with. I didn't ask for 'friend approval' when I decided to go out with someone - so why does my relationship status need to be broadcast, exactly? Because FB says so?? I don't think so. I really think my original decision to "change my status when I need to explain a new name" was the right one. At least for me. My girl friends and I (For the most part) don't get together via webcast; so, why not call them instead of posting on their walls? Ladies, start expecting a text or a call. When I want to talk to my Mom, I certainly don't post "Call Me, Chicka!" So, why do that with candidates, clients, and/or Friends?? So, what does this mean? Am I going to deactivate my profile?? Nope. Does that mean you'll see a little less of me? Probably. I'm feeling a little socially strangled; and I'm pretty sure that I've been strangling others, too. So, I'm opting to add some oxygen back into the room and attend to both my sanity & relationships. In 3-D; where the only smiley-faces? Are attached to people.

(1) I will admit to having kicked this game's butt when I was highly medicated after surgeries (can't remember which one). It's dumb, but darn right - my farm was SO better than yours. Just sayin'
(2) read= lamely The official psychological term, from what I've discovered, is 'HYPER-USER' and I think that's probably more accurate.
(3) Once you've had to admit that you've broken your ankle simply walking down a level driveway, your toe on a laptop, and a Dr's note to excuse you from dating? Seriously, what's left to get embarrassed over?
(4) Just kidding, J - I actually liked that status update. :p
(5) Since when did Facebook become the authority on relationships?
(6) Which, of course, it wasn't. Not even close.
(7) go on virtual dates, that is

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