Peter Stringer
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Why a Social Media Junkie Gave Up Facebook for Lent

A few months ago, I read a Facebook status update that said, “Twitter makes me like the people I don’t know more, and Facebook makes me like the people I do know less.” (Editor’s note: I have no idea how LinkedIn makes me feel. That’s probably another blog post by itself.)

It’s an interesting take on social media, and relationships, both online and offline. And I couldn’t agree more. While I’ve found Facebook to be less enriching by the day, I continue to glean new information and insights from the people I follow on Twitter. And I’m a very social person by nature, one who’d likely be better suited to live in the Midwest where people are just naturally friendlier from birth than we are here in the Northeast.

When I first casually joked to a friend that I’d “quit Facebook for Lent”, it was a sarcastic/ironic statement from a non-religious digital marketing cafeteria Catholic, but the more I thought about it, it wasn’t much of stretch to actually forsake my own personal activity on the social network. I rarely share anything on Facebook anyway, but I certainly spend plenty of time checking it to find out what my Facebook Friends (contrast this with the smaller group of people I actually associate with on a regular basis) are up to. Almost without exception, I am regularly underwhelmed with the stereotypical updates we’ve all learned to lament (or just click to “hide” them outright) when discussing the service’s merits, or lack thereof.

(No, I don’t care that your kids aren’t taking to potty-training, I’m not jealous that you’re in Cozumel – OK, yes I was, but I’m over it – and while you may think you have the best boyfriend in the world, I’ve got 24 other Facebook friends who think their boyfriend is the best in the world.) What the hell happened to the last 10 minutes of my life? I can’t get those back can I? Ok, cool, I’ll be back in 45 minutes to check again.

About two weeks into going dark on my personal Facebook, I’m not sure if I’ll ever go back. I don’t think I miss Facebook much. In fact, if I didn’t do digital marketing for a living, I’d probably quit cold turkey like my brother did when he realized that he found the service as addictive as nicotine.

I’ll give it some more thought when Lent is over, and ultimately, I expect I will maintain a Facebook presence just so I understand how it continues to operate, but I’m guessing I’ll find little motivation to log on. I don’t even miss the blue and white “F” icon on my iPhone, and while I’ve gotten a few emails from Facebook wondering where I’ve been, and a few friend invites from people with whom I attended high school but don’t remember ever interacting with as a teenager, those missives which once led me to drop everything and log on now ring insignificant. Even for a casual Facebooker, letting go has been liberating. If anyone I actually know really needs to get a hold of me, I’m pretty easy to find anyway.

That said, I won’t be giving up on Twitter anytime soon. I already know the people I am associated with on Facebook, and frankly, given what Facebook expects you to share – photos, your personal taste in entertainment, etc – most of us aren’t going to be comfortable with strangers “following ” us on Facebook.

And while there’s almost a certain stigma to having too many Facebook friends – “How can you have 988 friends? I don’t even know that many people in real life?” – Twitter by its nature encourages you to collect random/unknown followers, and the more you can amass, the more credible you become (although, as I’ve said before, Klout carry negligible real-world relevance) in the online world. And it doesn’t matter if you’ve never met most of them in person; people (oh yeah, and bots) follow you on Twitter because you bring something to the table. Maybe they want to network with you offline, maybe they want to learn from you, or maybe they just want to hear what you’re up to, but whatever the motivation, I’d guess they absorb a lot more real-world information by following you on Twitter than they’d ever get from being your friend on Facebook.

And hell, despite the fact that the Celtics have 3.7 million fans on Facebook (as of March, 2011), the responses we get to our posts are mostly nonsense, noise, and the trading of “Lakers Suck/Celtics suck” barbs. I’m not sure I need any social media monitoring tools to tell me that while people may be absorbing our messages – typically 33% of our audience is counted as an “impression” for an average Celtics status update – they aren’t typically interacting with us in any meaningful way.

Last week, I spoke to a college class about digital marketing, and asked them a few questions. Despite the fact that all but one admitted to checking Facebook throughout the day, they all seemed to be pretty confident that they could give up Facebook for a day. Most said they could do it for a month. But only one seemed confident that they could give it up for a year. “It’s how I communicate with my friends and family,” said one student. Almost all nodded their heads in agreement.

When I suggested that they could still text or call each other, it seemed to them that I was asking them to withdraw cash from tellers at actual banks rather than use the ATM. The idea just seemed crazy.

Maybe college kids post more meaningful things to their walls than my peer group does, but I’m having a hard time believing that’s the case. Perhaps I need to do some research after Lent. You know, if I ever go back to Facebook, that is.

So, could you quit Facebook?

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About Peter Stringer

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Peter Stringer is in his ninth season with the Boston Celtics. Currently serving as the team's Senior Director of Digital Media, Stringer manages the the team's interactive and social media marketing and strategy.

Opinions expressed herein represent those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the Boston Celtics.

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