Friday, December 16, 2011

New Frustrations with Facebook

When it comes down to it, Facebook is not really that difficult to use.  A few clicks here and there and you are on your way to communicating with friends, family, colleagues and the world at large. Human nature, on the other hand, can be very complicated.  Combine Facebook and human nature and you have a potential recipe for disaster.

Here are my latest conundrums.

1) Lists

Despite the fact that Google+ is touted as allowing you to keep your "circles" separate, I've been doing this on Facebook since the beginning using lists.  The tricky part about Facebook (which you don't encounter so much on Google+) is that everyone uses Facebook differently.  Some people use Facebook to connect with a closely guarded group of family and/or friends.  Others use facebook to connect with a wide group of friends or old acquaintances from high school or college. Others like to connect with their colleagues or people who share similar interests.  Each person uses Facebook in their own way and staunchly sticks to that.  With so many people using Facebook in so many ways the human nature factor gets complicated.  For instance, you want to friend someone who is a colleague but then you get the awkward "I only use Facebook for family" response or something similar.

I use Facebook primarily to connect with colleagues and other people who have a shared interest in genealogy, history or something similar.  The challenge is I also have Facebook friends who are family and plain old regular friends. Up until now I have used lists to keep them separate.  I know for a fact that my friends and family are not going to be interested in seeing my historic gravestone photos.  So I've displayed those just to my genealogy friends.

This system worked pretty well until Facebook took away my genealogy list. In fact, it's worse, Facebook taunts me with it.  On the left hand side of the main page, Facebook lets me see that my list still exists but no longer can I actually select it as a target list when targeting my status updates. 

What should I do?  Display all my posts to everyone and potentially annoy my friends and family. On the other hand I can just post less, leaving out those really specific genre posts.  Needless to say Facebook is messing with my lists and it's affecting my ability to communicate. 

2) Subscriptions

After Google+ started, Facebook reacted by introducing subscriptions.  This means that people can start to follow you without friending you and thus eliminate some of the human nature difficulties mentioned above.

I've been thinking about this a lot and it's not as simple as you think. At least for me.  Over on Google+ nearly all of my posts are public.  I have no problem with that.  Neither do the people who follow me over there because they are used to a more open environment.

On Facebook, however, I'm feeling a bit like a protective mother hen.  Typically people comment  a lot on my status updates.  In the safe, closed environment of my wall people have been free to have discussions without having to worry about it being open to the public. (Maybe I'm wrong to feel so protective?)

I toyed with the idea of using public posts.  I even tried it a few times.  I found that my Facebook community continued on as normal with their discussion.  The disconcerting thing for me was that I was not sure any of them were aware that certain posts were public.  And this is where I get very protective.  I want to maintain that freedom to discuss what's going on within the genealogical community without anyone having to worry whether their friends or family or non-genealogical associates can see their comments.

So I've opted on my own not to do public posts on Facebook.  It really has nothing to do with Facebook and everything to with the trust I've developed with my Facebook friends.

The Conundrum

So here's the conundrum.  Between the lists that are getting messed with and the upcoming change to timeline I'm losing faith in my being able to control and target certain posts to certain people.  It's getting to be too much work.

And with the trust I've developed with my Facebook friends I'm not willing to make my wall public.

The Solution

To make my life easier I did what I never thought I would do - I created a Marian Pierre-Louis Page on Facebook.  That way anyone who wants to subscribe to my posts can find them all there.  And now I have a place where I can dump all of my professional thoughts and writings without having to worry about friends and family.  Anyone who wants to keep up with my blogs, lectures, etc can "like" my new page.

Nothing is going to change as far as what I'm posting on my facebook wall. So I wouldn't necessarily recommend any current Facebook friends to head over there or else you'll see duplicate posts from. It's simply being offered as a way for people to follow me on Facebook without actually friending me.

I'm not sure how this experiment is going to go. Time to wait and see.  If anyone has any better suggestions let me know.


  1. Just when I'm feeling slightly more charitably toward FB....

    No suggestions that improve on your strategy. I actually have two FB accounts - one that is exclusively far-flung family and personal friends, and the genealogy one that I only recently returned to. I never had confidence that the two communities would not bleed together, either as a result of my carelessness, my childrens' carelessness, or FB's capricious changes.

    I'll be interested in what you think of your strategy in a couple months.

  2. I'm curious, Marian - have you tried just creating a new genealogy list and see if it will let you post only to that one? I don't know how many lists you have, but when I post an update, I get the little dropdown list and I have to click on "see all lists" before it gives me all the options.

    Alternatively, you can do a custom post which allows you access to your lists by typing the list name (and you can specifically NOT include certain people as well).

    I'm interested to know why it stopped letting you post to it though. Very strange indeed.

  3. I guess I just never understood Facebook. If I have something I want to share with like minded people, I post it on my blog. If I want to tell colleagues or family, I just tell them in person or via email. But I know I am in the minority.

    I do admit that I do have a facebook page that I keep on inactive status when I'm not on it which is most days of the year. I keep it because facebook is a good tool for locating people, especially among the younger generation these days. Once I find them I send them an email and suspend my account again.

  4. What a shame that they've messed up your system with "improvements". I have a personal FB page and also an "Our Scots" business page as I wanted to keep my personal page for friends and family only. I think I'll start using Google+ more, and will follow your experiment with interest.

  5. My new problems with FB are that my ability to post a status update and the top of my page disappears now and again. Well, more now than again. And now the list of my friends available for chat is at the top of the page and the ticker has disappeared. Frustrating that it changes so frequently and without warning.