Using Facebook versus being used by Facebook

If you’re reading this you’re probably on Facebook. You may use Facebook for personal, social reasons or you may have to use it for business reasons. But are you in control of how you use Facebook – or are you being used?

For personal Facebook-users

Most Facebook-users lose part of every day to Facebook and don’t even know why they’re using Facebook, apart from the reason that everyone else is doing it. Why do you use Facebook? If you mainly use it for personal/social reasons, you could consider taking a break from Facebook to free up your time and allow you to look at how much time you’ve been spending on it, and whether other activities woud make better use of that time.

If using Facebook makes your life happier, more relaxed, is the most personal way you can communicate with close friends and family, builds positive professional relationships, inspires you to have good health and exercise, makes you a better person, or helps you earn your living, then it’s probably a good idea to keep Facebook in your life.

But if the time you spend on Facebook doesn’t do any of those things, why are you using it? Are there any benefits? What aspects of your life are you missing out on while you’re spending that time on Facebook: face-to-face family time? Work? Exercise, art, writing or other relaxing activities?

Give yourself a break

What about taking a total break from Facebook? If you suspend, or even permanently delete, your Facebook account, you’ll suddenly have more free hours in your day.

You could spend that newfound time doing activities that  make you happier, more relaxed, closer to your actual (as distinct from virtual) friends and family, more skilled, or a better person.

If you can’t, or don’t want to, stop using Facedbook, stay posted for my next article about how to find a better Facebook/work/life balance.

Alternatives to Facebook

If you want to take a total break from Facebook but your real family and friends (as distinct from virtual ‘friends’) don’t live in your area, here are some ways to communicate with your most important people without using Facebook:

  1. Visit them. Nothing beats this old-fashioned method of communication. If they live far away, plan for a future visit.
  2. Communicate one-on-one by telephone or Skype (or other audio-visual technology). Or with a whole group of family/friends via teleconference or Skype. It’s private, personalised, instant communication.
  3. If you don’t have enough time or energy to have a voice-conversation with the person (or group of people) via telephone, text messages are a great way to communicate short ideas, reminders or just to say hello. (Just as effective, at any rate, as a ‘poke’, ‘wave’ or ‘PM’ via Facebook.)
  4. Instead of using Facebook to let your friends and family know your inner-most thoughts, use email. Most people have an email address and read their emails instantly or at least daily. Send private emails to individual friends and family members, or group emails to whole groups. Attach photos or articles, or include links to videos and other large files. If everyone in the group email communicates with one another via ‘reply all’, everyone gets to see and respond to what everyone has to say. It’s a really good way to communicate as a group. It’s also relatively private.
  5. This will be way too radical for most people: write a letter. Write your friend’s (or family member’s) name and where they live on the envelope. Buy a stamp and lick it and put it on the envelope. Put your letter in the envelope and seal it. Put it in a big red box outside Australia Post (which you can Google to find out what it is). Your letter will be collected and sorted by a combination of machines and real humans. This may take days or weeks: it is impossible to know. Finally, your letter will be transported by a ‘postie’ riding a tiny motorbike to your friend’s neighbourhood. The postie will pop your letter into a little box in front of your friend’s house. Note: remind your friend to check their mailbox daily until your letter turns up.

For business Facebook-users

Some businesses and freelancers use Facebook as their main shopfront and marketing tool. Other businesses, like mine, use Facebook as just one of their online marketing tools.

My marketing strategy includes Facebook, LinkedIn, my website and blog, and advertisements in Sensis and other online registers. I use Facebook for subtly promoting my scribing and editing business by 1) keeping it updated with relevant material, 2) sharing interesting articles, 3) linking posts to my blog and 4) by all those methods, opening the way to creating links and relationships with new clients. To be honest, using Facebook has never directly won me any new clients. However, my overall online marketing strategy has. As a business operating in 2017, I can’t afford to not be on Facebook.

If you use Facebook for business purposes, you need to keep your social media communications current and relevant. Unlike someone who uses Facebook for personal reasons, you can’t take a total break from Facebook. So, you need to manage the risks of using Facebook.

The risks of using Facebook

Due to the nature of the Facebook beast, when I pop into Facebook to quickly check my private messages or share an interesting article, my attention can easily be captured by others’ remarks or articles and be diverted from my original task. Then I’ll suddenly surface from Facebook and realise I’ve been reading and listening and chatting and wasting time, and money. Because this is my work-time. I run a business and if I don’t actually work during my work-time, I don’t get paid. When you’re your own boss, this is one of the greatest risks of using Facebook and you have to manage that risk.

Another risk of using Facebook is you may forget that Facebook is one of the shopfronts of your business because, well, Facebook encourages you to say what’s on your mind now, rather than think things through. In the environment of Facebook, it’s hard to always be professional, tactful and apolitical. My ongoing attempt to maintain a consistent, professional Facebook presence is definitely a work in progress.

If you run a business, I would love to hear your views on whether it’s important to be connected to Facebook, and if it is, 1) should you keep your Facebook communications professional and completely apolitical, and 2) what sort of image or ‘brand’ do you try to present on Facebook?

Image: S W Kane (as a younger woman).

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