Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Social Media Mega Melee: The Flickring Twittering FaceBooking Googleplex -or- How I made FaceBook work for me!

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Monday, February 7, 2011

I have found a way to make FaceBook work for me!

Online Social Media, a relative newcomer to the computing world – as the saying goes – has taken the world by storm. A natural outgrowth of the Internet and the entire computing environment, cloud computing is also rapidly becoming integrated into the OSM mix, and amidst the pack is search giant Google, which is also rapidly “turning the world on its ear” with Google Voice, Docs, and more products. And right in the fray is good ol’ Apple Computer with their OSX, iOS and more. (I recollect that at least two decades ago many computer users – think ‘engineers’ – said to me things like, “Yeah… Apple is good for graphics.” Hello? What IS the Internet today? Apple had vision for the future – and still does.) Essentially, what we’re talking about is a means and method of communicating.

In the “virtual” environment, we first learned to communicate, or “chat” with each other through IRC, and continue doing so today through a veritable host of other online chat programs, some which are embedded within the websites we use, such as FaceBook, Google, Yahoo!, AIM, etc., while yet others such as Adium incorporate numerous hosts within one application.

And in the midst of this preponderance of communication tools, there have arisen a few leaders, such as FaceBook, for example. Certain public voices have decried numerous aspects of FaceBook’s operations, including its inherent insecurity of connections and log-ins, and the numerous warranted criticisms of FB as the promulgators of malware, for the preponderance of viruses and Trojan Horses, worms and spyware that infects unsuspecting users who fall prey to the various siren songs of “apps” within FaceBook that claim to allow users to see any type or kind of statistic associated with their online FB profile.

Face it… it’s a most imperfect platform, and for imperfect users.

Yet amidst those criticisms, there have arisen other criticisms, this one aimed also at FB, although for their direct attack upon their own unsuspecting users.

What is that criticism?

It’s a twofold criticism that involves spam and users’ time.

One – spam – is an inherent nature of FB, for FB allows – even encourages users to be bombarded with a veritable host of information about their contacts’ behaviors and actions. The FB patron cannot, within FB, omit or prevent certain information from appearing on their “wall.” In a very real way, to this point, FB patrons have had no choice about what they saw, and have, in a very real way, been subjected to, and inundated with a veritable host of things that collectively comprise “information overload.”

Adding “fuel to the fire” has been the preponderance of other applications, websites and online services that have begun to integrate a cross-posting feature within them. Those services include Flickr – a photograph hosting website owned by Yahoo!; Twitter – an Internet-based short messaging service; WordPress – a software development firm that sells blog & Internet site creation software, which also hosts their own blog site; and others too numerous to mention. For those whom may not be aware, cross-posting is the appearance of an entry upon FB from an external originating source – in essence, it is a duplicated entry, appearing on FB in addition to the original source.

Those familiar with FB will know that an interesting feature of FB is that it is blog-like in some respect, since it allows the patron to post a link to a news article while making brief commentary, as well as write “notes,” which are more detailed and lengthier posts not constructed around remarks about a certain website, or news story.

Combined with the plethora of “information” that assaults the FB patron, one can expend quite a bit of time on the FB website. That, of course, is completely ignoring the fact that many virtual community based games such as “Farmville,” “Mafia Wars,” and more… all which increase a patron’s online time, time devoted exclusively to FaceBook.

To be so absorbed in FB is simply not healthy – neither emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, nor physically. Being a solitary exercise – that is, one performed by oneself, albeit with others in a “virtual” environment, one devoid of face-to-face human contact – it tends to reinforce a type of isolation within us. In essence, it is a positive feedback, negative loop mechanism – the more time you put in, the less return you ultimately get.

This disturbing observation has been made by many. My observations are neither groundbreaking, nor are they exclusively mine.

Newsweek writer Steve Tuttle opined in “You Can’t Friend Me, I Quit!” on February 4, 2009 that “When I think about all the hours I wasted this past year on Facebook, and imagine the good I could have done instead, it depresses me. I was so addicted to my imaginary playgroup, I put the Facebook application on my BlackBerry. Once, I was so entranced reading my Facebook page on my handheld, that I lost sight of the actual faces of the people on the street around me, and came to only after I fell into the lap of a man in a wheelchair.

“Ken” – a member writer of the blog Popehat.com (the name of which was derived from “an inside joke not particularly funny to those not in the know.  It is in no way intended to mock, disparage, or praise the Roman Catholic Church or its pontiff, a subject on which we remain officially agnostic.) wrote on May 14, 2010, that he was quitting FaceBook because “User control of privacy has been steadily decreasing on Facebook for years, and that process has recently accelerated. Facebook has slowly made more and more of your information public by default. Its privacy policy has repeatedly grown longer and more complex, and the various settings one must find and manipulate to defend privacy have grown more numerous and unmanageable. Facebook has increasingly forced you to decide between making information public or not hosting that information at all — for instance, by making you choose between either having your interests, background, location, etc. networked and linked, or leaving those pages blank.

On May 24, 2010, “Bert” in the UK wrote on the blog TheBCEC.WordPress.com “Why I’m Quitting FaceBook,” that FaceBook is “something that is occupying mental space and physical time, that as my offering to God, I’m giving to Him instead. I cannot go to facebook as my place of refuge. It will never satisfy or fulfil. I’m asking God to speak to me in new ways, and challenge me in new ways as well.” The BCEC is a “growing community of Christians who worship in the city of Birmingham, UK.”

Interestingly, there is a website dedicated to anti-FaceBook expressions. (It does seem that folks “love” to hate FaceBook.) A quotation on TheAntiFaceBookLeague.com reads, “This… nicely catches the nuances of the ‘Facebook addict’ type: an anti-social, agoraphobic, ‘low maintenance’ lurker who is also a passive-aggressive and voyeuristic stalker accumulating useless social capital.” (Meaghan Morris)

It seems there a complete range of reasons that folks loathe FaceBook and have decided for one reason or another to quit patronizing the site.

And yet, recently His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, recently wrote a message which will be delivered June 5, 2011, on the 45th World Communication’s Day, which contained great wisdom concerning communications and online behavior in this digital era.

In part, his message reads:

… the possibilities offered by these new media and, at the same time, urgently demand a serious reflection on the significance of communication in the digital age. This is particularly evident when we are confronted with the extraordinary potential of the internet and the complexity of its uses. As with every other fruit of human ingenuity, the new communications technologies must be placed at the service of the integral good of the individual and of the whole of humanity. If used wisely, they can contribute to the satisfaction of the desire for meaning, truth and unity which remain the most profound aspirations of each human being.

“Entering cyberspace can be a sign of an authentic search for personal encounters with others, provided that attention is paid to avoiding dangers such as enclosing oneself in a sort of parallel existence, or excessive exposure to the virtual world. In the search for sharing, for “friends”, there is the challenge to be authentic and faithful, and not give in to the illusion of constructing an artificial public profile for oneself.

“The new technologies allow people to meet each other beyond the confines of space and of their own culture, creating in this way an entirely new world of potential friendships. This is a great opportunity, but it also requires greater attention to and awareness of possible risks. Who is my “neighbour” in this new world? Does the danger exist that we may be less present to those whom we encounter in our everyday life? Is there is a risk of being more distracted because our attention is fragmented and absorbed in a world “other” than the one in which we live? Do we have time to reflect critically on our choices and to foster human relationships which are truly deep and lasting? It is important always to remember that virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our lives.

“… there exists a Christian way of being present in the digital world: this takes the form of a communication which is honest and open, responsible and respectful of others.

And so, we see that there is great wisdom to be used in employing these new tools of communication.

I too, have a FaceBook page – which I also keep rather tight reins upon. That I am aware of, no one but I and those I authorize, can see it. I am a rather gregarious fellow, and am blessed with a great number of friends, the vast and exceeding majority of whom whose friendship I have made in person. There are some whose friendship I have made online, and with varying levels of communication. With some, I have telephone conversation, while with others, it is through e-mail, while with others yet we see face-to-face. And with my “online” friends, many, if not most, have been made based upon the strong common denominator of our shared Christian faith. I would estimate that of all the people with whom I’ve “connected” or “reconnected” through FaceBook, there’s probably less than 10 whom I have not met in person. (The corollary to that is, if I do NOT know you, chances are, I won’t “friend” you, or request to “friend” you.)

I have been judicious in such a way in large part to prevent fraud. And my online behavior is similarly circumspect. However, I am keenly aware that nothing is by any means perfect – and especially FaceBook.

Over a period of time, I too became aware that I was using FaceBook more than I felt I should. That is to say, I was spending more time on FaceBook than I felt necessary – it was that positive feedback, negative loop mechanism about which I’d earlier mentioned.

As well, I experienced increasing frustration over the consistent spamming and “information overload” that was junking up my “wall” demanding my attention, about which I had no interest, and quite frankly, was seriously decreasing my overall enjoyment and effective use of FB as the tool it is. I too, was fed up.

So, I decided to do something about it.

Rather than quit FaceBook, I decided to make FaceBook work FOR me, rather than vice versa.

This is what I have done:

1.) I began to use FBPurity; 2.) I began eliminating cross posts; 3.) I began Twittering.

Allow me to explain how this has helped.

First, FB Purity.

FB Purity is a browser extension/script add-on designed specifically for FaceBook. It eliminates “the stupid quiz messages & other silly application spam from your FaceBook homepage, leaving behind just the message types that you wish to see,” and “is customisable to your taste.”

FBPurity allows you to manage and modify your FaceBook page “to show only the most relevant information to you, by filtering out the annoying and irrelevant messages in your news feed/stream, such as application spam etc., and also giving you the option to hide the boxes you don’t want to see on the right hand side of the homepage.”

It is highly customizable, works, and works well.

Second, I began eliminating cross posts.

Flickr, WordPress and Twitter are all capable of cross posting to FaceBook. That is, a post from Flickr, WordPress and Twitter may also be posted to FaceBook at the discretion of the patron. However, there is a particularly problem which is well-known, and highly documented, which FaceBook has refused to correct – duplicate posts. To clarify, cross-posts are different from duplicate posts. Cross-posts originate from a source and post to another site or location purposely, and do so with the patron’s express permission. Duplicate posts do neither. Duplicate posts appear mysteriously from within FaceBook and duplicate cross-posts from WordPress, or other text sources. (It’d be kinda’ like pressing the ‘2’ on a copying machine and getting THREE copies.)

Historically, I allowed WordPress to post to FaceBook – which meant I had numerous pages of duplicate posts – all which also appeared in the “Notes” section, in addition to appearing on my FB wall. Even more frustrating was that I would never know when the duplicate posts would appear. For example, one day, I found 15 duplicated posts that ALL appeared on my FB page. As well, they duplicated themselves THREE separate times, on three separate days! I had to remove all 15 of them… THREE times.

It was troubling having no control over when, where, how many, etc., in conjunction with the numerous times such problem has repeatedly occurred, and made for a very irksome feeling.

I have never had any problems with duplicate posts from Flickr or Twitter.

Here’s how I began to further pare down.

Fortunately, Flickr and WordPress both have URL shortening services. For Flickr, it’s domain is flic.kr, while for WordPress it’s wp.me. The Twitter URL shortening service domain is t.co.

Rather than completely eliminate sharing the posts from Flickr or WordPress, what I have begun to do is share them with a wider audience via Twitter. As well, rather than log into, or use the FaceBook mobile app to share a thought, idea, or news item, I use Twitter, because it cross posts to FaceBook. Hence, my FB page now appears as a collection of Twitter posts, some with urls – which are the ones that contain news items I want to share, my Flickr photos or WordPress blog entries, while the ones without are my sharing my thoughts. All of my contacts in FaceBook are free to see the posts, and since the URL is an external link, anyone whom clicks on the link will be able to see or read the item.

The only other item is that, within Twitter, the “hash tag” – the #, or “pound sign” does not appear as a link on FB, while it does on Twitter. And frankly, that’s no problem, either, because the link to my Twitter account accompanies my Twitter “tweets.”

Occasionally, I briefly scan my FB account via the iPhone mobile app, for activity, or responses to my posts, or for things my friends or family are saying – as well as check to see if FB has duplicated any posts, and then promptly eliminate them.

Why again, do I eliminate those duplicate posts?

It’s because they are duplicated, and they’re already listed on FB via Twitter!

By so doing, I have significantly reduced the time I spend on FaceBook, and have increased my enjoyment of it.

While this strategy may not work for everyone, it has worked for me. And, I would encourage you, if you’re thinking about the large chunk of time that FaceBook seems to demand from you, and the drudgery that it has become to trudge through spam, junky and worthless information, spam and utter information overload, I wholeheartedly consider encourage you to FIRST and foremost, consider the benefits that may be derived from using FB Purity, and secondarily, to consider using Twitter.

In summary, I have found a way to make FaceBook work for me!

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