Facebook used to be the place where all of the cool kids hung out. When it was new, I liked it because it was more private than MySpace, more focused on friendship than on popularity and much less cluttered. MySpace had turned into a mecca for music instead of an online gathering for new and old friends. It made sense to switch and try a new social network.
I’ve never been a “friend collector” and kept my friend list at a modest number, adding only those I actually knew in person or could verify were real people through other friends. My posts were private, and the online atmosphere of Facebook was great. It certainly didn’t seem to have the same problems that plagued MySpace, such as lack of privacy and slow loading issues.
Then Facebook grew as more and more people abandoned MySpace.
What’s not to love? You can post photos, link to articles and let the world know your every thought and action. Facebook is right in line with our reality television aspirations.
The trouble, for me, is that Facebook wants to own our souls. When its popularity spiked, Facebook kept changing its privacy and security settings. There were a few times when my private profile was made public without my knowledge, and a vindictive person I used to know pounced immediately. Not that I had posted anything that warranted blushing, but I do value my privacy.
In response to the sudden lack of privacy, I revamped my Facebook and decided to create a separate one for my acting and used my stage name for that account. So now I had two: one for my friends from church and another for my theatre friends. I used the theatre profile for networking and meeting new people. It required a different approach from my personal Facebook.
Some of my friends were offended that I didn’t add them to my theatre Facebook. If they pushed, I added them and thought no more about it. Then my brother texted me and asked, “What did you do to tick Marla* off?” I didn’t know what he was talking about and logged into my account.
On my wall, Marla had written a long, scathing comment accusing me of betraying her. Then she linked my theatre account to an even more scathing Note on her Facebook. Other people were also included in her angry rant. I deleted her wall comments and tried to smooth things over. Even after we worked it out, she never took down that note.
Until someone had attacked me on my wall, I used to enjoy reading the rants and arguments other people had online. It’s only amusing when it’s not about you. I also began to realize that although Facebook is a good networking tool, its casual social nature makes it an easy platform for people to act in ways they wouldn’t act in person. Sometimes nice people become bullies. Our obsession with Facebook makes it easier to forget that much of what we say and do online affects real people and leaks into our real lives.