Most systems are abused by people. I think that Facebook has been the catalyst for the majority of the social problems that I’ve experienced in the past five years. Actually, I take that back. It’s only been a problem since late 2008, when it gained popularity with more than just the high school/college crowd.

Someone I know asked me if I would invite my entire friends list to a party. (She only has 40 friends). I wouldn’t dream of it. There are too many people running around on Facebook who have radically different ideas and backgrounds. A party with all of them would quickly descend into chaos. Maybe I’m too cynical and should have a little more faith in people. I’d submit that the controversy that occurs on Facebook often happens because of the odd mix of friends all looking and commenting on the same things.

The internet causes us to lose the human element. I know that it causes me to dehumanize others, and I know that I’m dehumanized by others. When I see one of those ever-popular religious or political flame wars, I pull out the popcorn and diet coke and watch the chaos ensue. (Yes, I’m not really above that. Maybe that should be a New Year’s resolution…)

After many hard lessons (and amusing observations), I’ve found enough redeeming aspects that prevent me from deleting Facebook permanently.

Currently, I use it to:

  1. Interact with *close* friends (in a heavily controlled environment)
  2. Re-connect with people I’ve lost contact with
  3. Network with or contact someone who I don’t know well
  4. Communicate for school-related purposes
  5. Operate this blog’s fan page. It’s much more fun than the personal page, because only the people who want to be there are there. There’s no obligatory friending.
  6. Watch what other people are doing

I will comment on Facebook if it’s a fun or entertainment-related status, or I’ll chime in on close friends’ statuses. I’ve learned to stay far, far away from religion and politics on Facebook, except maybe liking a good Bible verse or Bible-related quote. Getting involved in those discussions is the easiest way to reflect poorly on yourself. I used to deceive myself thinking that I was inspiring fun discussions on Facebook when I posted a Biblical or political status. In reality, I was creating a forum where contributors could exercise a desire to proselytize and tout their opinions. While proselytizing is never acceptable, discussion has its place in forums, not Facebook.

I’ve realized that I’m heavily limited to what I can say on Facebook. There are easily 20 things a day that I think about posting. I might end up posting one of them. Realistically, you can’t say much to 600 (or 200, or 900, or 3,000) different people. Maybe an inspirational quote or a personal fact, but those become sticky, too. If I’m being honest with myself, I don’t have 20 profound things to say on Facebook each day. I don’t have 20 personal things that are of significant interest that I can say every day.

At least for right now, this blog is a safe place. Any day now, I expect that to change, but I will enjoy it while it lasts. Part of the reason it’s been safe for so long is because I’ve implemented lessons I’ve learned from Facebook. Though I don’t cater to my audience, I do heavily take it into consideration. I think about the impression that I give and the attitudes I want to reflect. It would be easy for me to rant endlessly about specific issues, but that’s a destructive attitude. I want to build and create, not tear down, unless I am tearing down something that is evil.

Additionally, I use the comment moderation feature, which was first suggested to me by Miss Demure Restraint. I’ve only rejected a comment once, which would have spurred unpleasant and unnecessary discussion, but it’s there in case I need it. Since I won’t be able to check this blog every day, it’s a great safe-guard. If only Facebook had such a thing…

Jon said, “I think that as long as people think of Facebook and other online media as a permanent and public (whether you have already shared it or not) and that they don’t rely on social networking to offer more than it can, they begin to see it as a tool.” It doesn’t offer us deeper connections or profound insights. Social media doesn’t give us anything. In order to gain anything from it, we must learn to use it skillfully, and our agenda must be clearly defined. Ignorance and misuse of any tool can only lead to our undoing.

What do you like about Facebook and social media? What do you dislike? What works for you? What doesn’t work for you? What have you learned through using it or watching other people use it?