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The Right Forum or: I Don’t Understand Facebook’s Role Anymore

Posted on 23 May 2012

If you go to my homepage, you will see the following words:

“I have a blog for long thoughts, Tumblr for shorter ones, and Twitter for even less.”

I try to mean that literally. Occasionally I’ll put short thoughts on my blog and long ones on Twitter, but I do actually envision these as separate experiences. Twitter is stream-of-conscious stuff. I would never blog about having a coffee, but I might Tweet about it. My blog is meant for larger items. Things like how a condo could transform Prince George or the role of stereotypes or occasionally the news that I got married (OK, hopefully that’s only once). In the middle is Tumblr. It’s things that I find interesting that are bigger than 140-characters but not worth me writing a blog post about. It’s ideally suited for sharing recommended reading that’s less ephemeral than headlines I might tweet about, but less personal or original than things I might blog about. It’s also more audio-visual than the other two sites, in that I like to put photos and music tracks there in a way I can’t on Twitter and don’t on this blog.

It’s also worth noting that these things will trickle down from the larger mediums to the smaller ones. I’ll tweet most things I tumbl, but I won’t tumbl most things I tweet. Likewise, I always link to my blog posts on Twitter and Tumblr, but my blog will sit stagnant for weeks while my Tumblr and Twitter feed keep on ticking. This is less a comment on the general interestingness or importance of these things, and more on how I view these forums. Twitter and Tumblr are part of a conversation-based ecosystem, this blog is not (though it might seep into them occasionally). Conversation is important, but fleeting. I can’t imagine sending anyone to go read something I tweeted weeks ago. I would, however, like to think some of my blog posts will be worth reading a few weeks or even a few years from now.

Anyways, my point is that I have a clear vision for how each of these three mediums should work. Blog = long thoughts; Tumblr = shorter ones; Twitter = even less. What I increasingly can’t figure out is where Facebook fits in.

Opting in

Each of these services– blog, Tumblr, Twitter– has a pretty easy -to-understand set-up. I will write things and if you like them, you will choose to follow them. If you don’t follow them it doesn’t mean you don’t like me, and you may not like me even if you choose to follow what I write. It’s straightforward.

Facebook is a little more complicated. People write things on there, but they’re also friends (ok, maybe subscribers too, but I haven’t really seen that catch on). And different friends might have different expectations of how often they should be hearing from their other friends.

I may think it’s perfectly reasonable to post twenty times a day on Facebook. And this might include status updates, music, headlines, photos, and interesting things to read. Facebook certainly wants you to do this, that’s why it’s adding so much “frictionless” sharing in the form of those “so-and-so read four articles on Yahoo!” and “that guy you met once played Boondoggle Road” posts. But that doesn’t mean everyone feels that way. Some people hate, hate, hate seeing the fact that I checked in on Foursquare or played a new high score in Scrabble. And I’m aware of this.

Thing is, I don’t post things on the internet I don’t feel comfortable sharing. That goes as much for my blog posts about city hall as it does for the fact that I listened to N*Sync more than anyone else on Rdio last week. If you want to see that information, go right ahead. But what I don’t want to do is force people to see things they didn’t opt in to.

Which is where Facebook’s friends model becomes problematic. Because if you’re anything like me, you have a hell of a time unfriending people. It’s just not in my nature. If somebody on Twitter posts a bunch of irrelevant things then *click* unfollow. But if someone starts posting irrelevant things on Facebook– ugh, do I really want to unfriend them? Just because I don’t want to see all their status updates doesn’t mean I don’t want to know when they moved or be invited to their fundraisers or concerts or whatever. There’s lists and algorithms meant to alleviate this problem but, let’s face it, they’re imperfect. Even without meaning to, people can wind up spamming. But blocking them isn’t a good solution.

I don’t want to be the person clogging up the news feed with irrelevant information. Just because you “friend” me for whatever reason (maybe we’re actually friends?) doesn’t mean you want to be exposed to my stream-of-consciousness. Maybe you just want a few updates. But I also don’t want to just shut down my Facebook page altogether. I like sharing things with people, and Facebook, for its faults, is a good place to do that. It’s just a question of how much and what to share. My blog posts, for reasons stated above, will always be shared on there. The better status updates that go Twitter probably will be, too. But what about the funny pictures or interesting articles that go on Tumblr– the things that are not original thoughts, but things I find interesting and you might, too?

For a while, I had linked my Tumblr page to Facebook. Whenever I posted something on Tumblr, it wouldn’t automatically appear as a story on the Tumblr app. This works nicely because you can see it if you want, and if you hate it, you can block the app altogether. But not everyone knows this. And more to the point, not everyone WANTS to have to manage these things. It also didn’t help that this often resulted in duplicate posts: one through Tumblr and one through Facebook. But it’s not like I had an overwhelmingly negative response. In fact, people reacted positively to things I posted on Facebook via Tumblr that, in the past, I never would have posted there at all. There was some good conversation. It was nice. But if you didn’t like those things, it was spammy.

Which really brings me to the reason I started writing this in the first place. Two, actually. They are:

  1. If you like my blog, you may also like my Tumblr. It’s like my blog, but includes things other people write, more music, and more funny jokes. You can find it here.
  2.  If you think my Tumblr seems interesting but are more of a Facebook person, I’ve made a Facebook page that automatically updates whenever I post there. This way, the people who don’t mind getting music, links, and videos on Facebook can choose to follow it there, but those who would prefer less aren’t forced into unfriending me or blocking the app. You can find my Tumblr on Facebook here.

I put too much thought into these things.

Filed under: social media

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