To What End Facebook?

Let’s affectionately call it “FB”, shall we?

An FB Wall thread that I read a while back had me asking myself some questions. The thread started with a young woman complaining about her personal state of affairs and how hard and unjust life had been to her. Comments from her FB friends started out with the usual, “Oh, no. What happened?” and then steadily degenerated into, “You’re irresponsible and always have been so you have only yourself to blame.”

Taking the voyeur stand on this thread, I read the comments and said, “This is not a discussion one should have on one’s Wall.”

Or is it?

When FB first made its appearance in our lives some eight years ago, I’m sure few people imagined it would be the all-pervasive social media platform that it is today.

I started my FB account in 2007, about two years after it was unleashed on the world outside of the US. I hadn’t used other platforms before then – no Myspace, no Friendster – so it was a virgin experience for me.

Perhaps it was just me, and may be a cross-section of internet users in a similar predicament in terms of frame of mind and head space, but I wasn’t schooled in the art of how to use a social media platform.

What did I want out of it? How was I to use it to get what I wanted out of it?

I didn’t know. I’m guessing, though, neither did the creators of FB. Rules and codes relating to proper behaviour, etiquette and conduct were, to my mind, cobbled together when the first instances of “improper” usage surfaced. And shortly after, the “social media expert” – from the petri dish to cyberspace – was born, seemingly to “properly advise” companies how to utilise social media as a business tactic.

With FB having carved for itself an almost life-support-machine presence in our lives in multiple languages – let’s be honest; many FB users would asphyxiate if they weren’t able to check in at regular intervals – it is always an exercise filled with wonderment to see how users get what they want out of it.

Posts of babies and children, with supporting comments from users themselves, friends and family about how gorgeous their children are, are aplenty, much to the chagrin and irritation of many more others who don’t share the fascination for children.

Animals, too, are a popular feature on many a Wall post and note; sadly, not always in a pleasant manner. I remember seeing a photo of a young man strangling a dog. The poor dog was dangling in the man’s vice grip with its back up against a wall. Animal-loving FB users bayed for the man’s blood.

Then there are users who rant – often – about government policies, the relevance (or irrelevance of the UN), and/or lament the appalling state that our planet is in, courtesy of unbridled human activity. The ranting isn’t always harmless; a great deal of hate and anger is dished out at others; organisations, individuals, certain communities and whoever else isn’t a part of the ranter’s camp.

There are still others who talk openly about their sexual escapades and post lewd photos supported by lewd comments. But whether or not they constitute lewd is subjective.

From a business standpoint, it’s almost de rigeur for companies to have an FB page. There might not be much or any information on the page, or any Likes for that matter; but still there’s a page. Just Google “social media for business” or something along those lines and you’ll get a slew of articles on the subject. Here’s one from Walter Lim you might enjoy, “Is Social Media Marketing Full of BS?”

Six years on from my first FB foray in 2007, I acknowledge that it has become a significant social and business networking tool for most people in many countries.

But, let’s jump back to the question at hand: Am I getting what I want from FB?

Ask me again in six months. And for those who have resisted FB and continue to do so because they’re waiting for it to go away, that seems unlikely in the near term.