Monday, August 10, 2009

Facebook and accountability

I've been avoiding this topic like the plague since it's been analyzed repeatedly for the past few years. But then I realized that most of the conclusions have been negative, while I have a slightly different perspective; a positive one.

I like how Facebook keeps me in check. That's a potentially frightening statement. Do I want Facebook to know everything about me and control my life? Do I want all my time consumed by online interaction? No. But the lack of privacy online makes me constantly evaluate my relationships and priorities. And this, I think, is a good thing.

The "potential employer" scare has caused some people to edit what they post on their Facebook pages. There are still plenty of pages that are fairly risque, and I find myself thinking "how foolish." But wait a minute. Who wants to live a double-life? The foolishness refers to displaying one's wild exploits for all to see, and not to the activities themselves. If that's the real you, why hide it?

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It might be a bit far-fetched to be out at a party and think, "I'd better not have another beer. I don't want this going on Facebook." No, the worry of our actions being publicized should not be the incentive to toning it down. Rather, we must ask ourselves why we would engage in such behavior that we would want to hide it.

I have to admit that I was a bit nervous to have my blog posts show up on Facebook. Of course my blog was public before that, but being read mainly by some fellow missionaries, family members, and close friends. People that agree with me, for the most part. Now it shows up on Facebook, and can be accessed by former classmates, some professors, extended family, old family friends, etc. I don't know who reads it, but I am aware now that I might have some readers who don't agree with a lot of my standards. Am I ready to open up potentially controversial topics with them? I guess so.

I'm also aware that people see how I relate to friends and family through wall posts, etc. They see how I respond to helpful (and not-so-helpful) bits of advice. They see how I offer helpful (and not-so-helpful) bits of advice in return. They might notice how often I post and wonder about my priorities.

And I am in no way implying that I'm exceptionally popular or interesting, since the newsfeed publishes my updates to an audience, whether they care about my life or not.

My point is that, for all the vices of Facebook, some of the intimate details displayed give the world a little snapshot of your life. And this has some benefits. I agree that it's important to be careful about what you reveal to the world, but it's also important to think about what kind of life you're leading in the first place. Maybe you need more than a "facelift" to be on the path you really want to be on.


  1. I doth agree. I think that people have developed an idea that everyone is entitled to a 'wild youth', and this idea has sort of spilled over into an expectation that everyone, family and employers alike, simply overlook such antics, almost regardless of degree. In any case, the attitude shared by the 'potential employees' is entirely inconsistant. They're proud of their drunken photos enough to display them publicly, but oh wait, actually not really publicly? Or maybe they think that it ought not to matter, when they apply for that security position, that they have 10,000 pictures of themselves totally sloshed.

    It may be that before tools like facebook, people were more easily able to lead double lives. And now, people are upset that they are more often keep honest, like you observed. I wouldn't go so far as to say that facebook 'keeps me in check', as it factors little into my decision making process, but it definately does serve as a reminder that the eyes of my ancestors, both dearly departed and still living, not to mention the eyes of the big man upstairs, are on me at all times. And that's the way it should be, because how else can you say that you've lived an honest life?

  2. Very well put! You're right, it is too strong to say that Facebook influences decision-making. But when I rely on God in decisions, He uses things like Facebook to remind me of how my actions look to other people. And that makes me evaluate how I'm living my life.

  3. Interesting perspective! Because I post a lot about my children, I don't put my blog on facebook, as I don't want all and sundry knowing about it. But, that said, blogging does "keep me honest". Perhaps it is a way some people live a dishonest life, but I have become so close with a number of my fellow bloggers that I know it is quite possible that I may meet them someday...and that perhaps does help me "curb" any tendency I might have to "leave out" significant things that people need to know to - well, know me.

    Facebook does not "grab" me like blogging does because it is so "lightweight". Nothing of too much depth or value can be shared there. It is just a step above twitter.... Yet - having said that, I will say that I think I know you better, since we became facebook-connected. That's because on facebook you do share more of the light and passing business of life which gives a more well-rounded picture of you. Your blog is more often than not very thoughtful and serious. On facebook I learn that you cook and go to the library and so forth just like everyone else. Maybe fb is like running into someone in the street, whereas blogging is more like a long letter or a serious talk. Time taken. Both give a different but valuable idea of a person.

    BTW, I had a few fb "friends" that I had to "hide" because I could not stand their language... I'm not really prudish (I don't think) but crude words written are so much worse than spoken. Some of these are people from church. It's true! If they volunteered to be a religion teacher, or called me for a recommendation....I'd sure think twice just because I now know a lot more than I wanted to about the tone of their discourse.

  4. That is exactly what I meant; it "keeps me honest."

    I do like your description of Facebook as "running into someone in the street, whereas blogging is more like a long letter or a serious talk."

    I don't know much about Twitter, but with Facebook what's interesting is the interaction. No one really cares if you're "doing laundry" or "cooking dinner," but when your friends make jokes about it or offer advice, it is fun to see the response. You really do learn more about a person by seeing who his/her friends are.


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