Why I don’t Facebook nor Twitter
I get asked all the time why I’m not on Facebook, nor on Twitter.
The short answer is that I like to keep my work life and personal life comfortably separated.
I have a 26 year career (as of this writing), that I’ve carefully built, during which, I’ve cultivated and fostered a professional reputation for technical excellence, as well as professional contacts who know me based on my accomplishments as well as my ability to execute.
My opinion is that Facebook doesn’t really offer the tools to allow me to control that separation adequately.
I primarily use LinkedIn (http://linkedin.com/in/justinparr) to cultivate and manage my professional connections. LinkedIn provides adequate tools for people to provide commentary, and for me to filter that commentary if it’s inappropriate. In addition, LinkedIn as a whole, cultivates a professional and collegial atmosphere.
What you see on LinkedIn, when you look at my profile, is a collection of facts and information about me that I’ve chosen to share, as well as others’ endorsements and recommendations based on specific situations, projects, or technical knowledge that forms the basis for how they know me.
People who know me professionally know me for the following:
- Wide array of technical skills and knowledge
- Reputation for bringing in large-scale projects on time and under budget
- Thinking outside the box to develop creative technical solutions to challenging business problems
- Building high-performance / high-velocity project and support teams
Even the way those bullet points are worded, hint at the image I want to portray, professionally.
People who know me WELL, either personally or professionally know the following:
- I’m proud of my family
- I’m a nerd, both professionally and personally
- I love to cook – barbecue, in particular
- I can fix or build almost anything
- I regularly acquire new skills and knowledge – I wrote a WordPress plugin, I read scientific papers, but I also do things like teach myself how to make sushi, or what a “good” year for a California red means.
- I have an eclectic array of personal projects, ranging from comp sci, to math, to cosmology, to this blog.
There’s nothing in the list above, that conflicts with my professional image and reputation, which is exactly how I like it.
Facebook creates opportunities for some random asshole to tag me in a photo (even worse: They can tag me, even if it’s NOT me), make some random comment on my “wall”, or go off on a rant about how they were pissed off at me since high school, or since I fired them 10 years ago.
All of these things erode how others perceive me, and they aren’t real! Especially if those things are taken out of context, which seems to happen quite a bit on Facebook!
Facebook doesn’t provide sufficient controls to prevent others from damaging my reputation (personal and professional).
At the highest level, employers, potential employers, and other professional associates make it a common practice to check Facebook and other sources, to at least perform a high-level check, to validate their decision to do business with you.
We’ve all heard the horror stories:
- Janie, straight out of college, applies for a job with XYZ corp. During the interview process, they ask for her Facebook ID and password. There are risque pictures of Janie dressed in swimwear, comments such as “I’m gettin’ trashed!! WHOOOO!“, and early in college, she had joined the Facebook group, “Little tree huggers’ association”. The XYZ corp HR department, who don’t really understand the nuances of an “online, digital” lifestyle, see this as behavior inconsistent with the image of XYZ corp, and her resume gets routed to /dev/nul, rather than the hiring manager’s inbox.
Side note: If your employer (or potential employer) EVER asks you for your Facebook user name and password, assuming that’s not relevant to your job, REFUSE the request. If they make your employment conditional, get a lawyer and sue them.
Most companies have a reasonable policy disallowing employees from commenting on behalf of the company on social media sites – this is completely appropriate. Saying “XYZ corp sucks” on Facebook might be a career-limiting move, but your employer has no right to limit your self-expression. Likewise, the consequences of whatever off-color comments you make publicly-visible, is your own
- After months of unemployment, Steve finally lands a job, but feels that he’s under-employed in his new position. He jokingly Tweets, “I start my new crappy job tomorrow”, to which his new boss replies, “Forget it, you’re fired!”.
I don’t want to be denied employment based on some stupid comment that I made 10 years ago.
Don’t say on Facebook, what you wouldn’t yell in a crowded room.
This is a great rule of thumb, but here are some ways in which saying something stupid on Facebook is worse than yelling it in a crowded room:
- Permanence. Something you literally yell, unless someone is recording it, is ephemeral. Sure, people remember what you said, but memory (along with the incident in question) fades, leaving nothing but a humorous story, infrequently recounted around the coffee pot in the break room. Conversely, anything you post online lasts forever. Worse, the more infamous the comment, the more widely it will be copied and propagated!
- Context. Janie, along with several co-workers and her boss, are at the company Christmas party. Her boss buys a round of shots, and Janie, perhaps inappropriately, yells “WHOOO, I’m gettin’ wasted!”. Everyone stares at her, but in retrospect, it becomes a funny story. Everyone was there, everyone was doing shots, Janie made a funny comment. On the other hand, if Janie tweets the same thing, all her parents, friends, priest, and future employers see is, “WHOOO, I’m gettin’ wasted!”. There’s no context describing the situation.
- Presence. In order to yell something in a crowded room, you have to be in the room. What you yell in a room carries as far as the people who were there at the time (and the break room stories that follow). When you post something online, you’re yelling to everyone who was or wasn’t there at the time, and the “room” is suddenly a lot bigger!
I don’t want people who I didn’t even know at the time, to see some stupid thing I posted years ago, taken out of context.
When you bring Social Networking in to your home, you probably expose personal things that you would not normally share.
Like, airing your metaphorical dirty laundry. Here’s a hypothetical, but realistic situation:
- Janie and Steve both work for XYZ corp, live together, and have been dating for just over 2 years.
- Some companies, including XYZ corp, allow this, as long as there is not a direct nor indirect supervisory relationship, and sometimes even require the two to work in separate departments. Janie works in Accounting, and Steve works in IT, so they are complying with company policies.
- Janie and Steve get in to an argument, in the privacy of their home, and decide to break up.
- Janie does not take it well, and posts a litany of scathing, venomous comments about Steve on Facebook, accusing him of all sorts of things, perhaps both real and imagined.
- Steve responds by calling out Janie’s infidelity (real or imagined), and questioning her morals and ethics.
- Steve and Janie share the same circle of Facebook friends, both personal and at work, who now instantly get a snapshot of both Steve and Janie that, at best, they don’t like, and at worst, causes them to hold a lower opinion of one or both of them.
- At work, even though they work in different departments, there is now drama introduced in to the workplace via Facebook, and for practical reasons, either Janie or Steve (or both) is probably going to have to leave the company.
If this situation happened without Facebook, Janie will seek sympathy from her close friends, and Steve will seek his close friends. Some of their mutual friends will choose to be impartial – they don’t want to hear it. They prefer to remain friends with BOTH Janie and Steve.
At work, without Facebook, Janie’s work friends and Steve’s work friends know that they are going through a bad break-up, but they can choose to adopt the same position: Provide sympathy for Janie, provide sympathy for Steve, or choose to remain neutral.
If Janie were to send a department-wide or company-wide e-mail saying the same things she would have posted on Facebook, Janie would be terminated, and the company would have the IT department delete all instances of the message.
Only through Facebook and other social networking venues, does the argument between Janie and Steve become public and ugly.
Opinions change over time.
The old joke goes like this: “What’s the difference between a liberal and a conservative?”
Public education tends to create educational biases and blind spots, and results in some level of indoctrination, or at the very least, a predisposition toward a liberal position.
(This is a fact – if you can provide fact-based evidence to the contrary, we can debate it. P.S.: Contrary to what you learned in public school, NEITHER “everyone knows” NOR “scientists say” are facts.)
When you left high school, maybe headed toward higher education, maybe headed toward your first job, you believed things that were based on information provided by parents, teachers, and textbooks, and in the information age, wikipedia, and the opinions of your extended circle of friends via Facebook.
As time progresses, you gain real experiences, and you learn information from unbiased sources, which tend to even out the distribution of your opinions.
When you were young and stupid, if you grew up in the 1970’s and 80’s, had you had access to Facebook, you might have posted something like these comments:
- “Global cooling is REAL! We must take action to prevent a nuclear winter! Water vapor and carbon are our only hope!” The environmental scare-du-jour in the 1970’s was global cooling.
- “Support the Afghan rebels!” In the 1980’s the “rebels” were fighting the Soviets along the Soviet / Afghan border.
In a current context, both of these statements are ignorant and short-sighted. Even at the time, given sufficient information, a well-educated, well-rounded position might be significantly different.
For those of you who grew up with, or are growing up with Facebook, think about some of the statements you make today, based on things you were taught in school, or things your parents or friends simply repeated because they didn’t know any better.
Think about how STUPID those might look in 10 years, as we gain more scientific knowledge and evidence about the environment, economy, healthcare, or other hot topics.
The difference is that there was no Facebook in 1970 / 80, and therefore all that stupid crap basically washed out of everyone’s memory.
Conversely, everything you write today (including me, writing this post) will be available years from now, for someone to look at and criticize. Running for office in the future? I hope you don’t have any dirt on your Facebook page from 20 YEARS AGO. Future CEO of a Fortune 500 company? I sure hope you didn’t post anything about “Occupy Wall Street” back in the day.
Similar to the context problem, something you post in the past, might not make sense, might be stupid, or might be inconsistent with your current views. BUT, it’s there for all to see.
No insulation from the “unwashed masses”
I know this sounds elitist, but the last thing you need is some random asshole making an ignorant, bigoted, misspelled, inflammatory comment on your “wall”.
The problem is, most of the people on Facebook (and the internet in general) are ignorant and / or bigoted, and there is a ceaseless supply of trolls who don’t do anything productive, don’t care about anything, and take pleasure in screwing up someone else’s groove just to make themselves feel better.
I have no problem engaging in reasonable debate based on facts, and I admit when my position or point of view is wrong.
However, you can’t argue with two types of people:
- Idiots, who assume they are always right
- Zealots, who assume you are always wrong
Thoughts of comments like, “THAS IS MURICA. WE SPEKE ANGLUSH.” or, “God has blessed this day just for you, and you should praise him every minute in all of HIS glory” make me ill.
Or, dealing with throngs of “like this post, or you will get cancer.”
My favorites are comments from COMPLETELY clueless assholes that don’t have a fundamental grasp of the world around them – they don’t seem to understand history, geography, space, and simple laws of physics.
- “It’s hard to believe that the earth is only 2015 years old”
- There are only 7 countries in the world (they mean CONTINENTS)
- They assume everything is in the same place on a map. Anywhere they haven’t heard of, is in Europe somewhere.
- “When you throw stuff in the air, it comes back down. But what about on the bottom of the planet?”
Most of these people GRADUATED FROM HIGH SCHOOL.
Most of these people VOTE.
- Keep in touch with friends and family. Most of my family are deceased, and I have a very tight-knit circle of friends. E-mail is sufficient for me, at this time.
- Keep in touch with associates. I DO, through LinkedIn.
- “Follow” someone. I don’t really care to “follow” anyone.
- Daily updates. I don’t want micro-updates about what my friends are eating, nor what their kittens are doing. Nor do I care to share that level of detail with ANYONE except my wife and kids — this is normal and natural when you all live under the same roof. As previously stated, I don’t want events in my home out there for anyone to see, nor do I want to “invite” people in to my home to see what I’m doing every 5 minutes.
- Promote. When I have something to promote, Twitter makes the most sense, but I don’t currently have anything to promote.
- Games. I play the same games (or clones) on Android for “free”, without social updates and data mining.
- Post and share content. I have my own website. I can and DO post anything I want! Moreover, most social networking sites force you to give up certain rights TO YOUR OWN CONTENT when you upload it. I retain rights to my own content, in perpetuity.
Reasons against using Facebook (and other social networking)
- A constant, unending, highly-preemptive stream of updates is more than disruptive, it’s annoying. When my wife turns on her phone’s data connection, she gets about 2 minutes of “alerts” from Facebook. Getting a Facebook alert during dinner, or while enjoying a day out, or worse, while at work, would annoy the crap out of me.
- I’m a private person, and I don’t really have anything to share. I don’t want to bring that level of transparency in to my house. I even segregate “untrusted” devices on my home nework, to their own VLAN, so that their ability to intrude on my private life is extremely limited. I don’t want “Universal Plug and Play” to allow these devices to integrate with everything in my house. I want these devices to sit there, idle, until I need them. I CERTAINLY don’t want them integrating with Facebook.
- The stuff I do online is private (as private as I can make it). What I buy on Amazon or what I watch on Netflix is no one’s business. Integrating with Facebook or Twitter means that, unless I’m careful, I might “micro-share” that I’ve just bought 240 rolls of toilet paper, or that I just watched a kid’s movie (My wife, babysitting the neighbor’s kids). It’s nothing BAD, it’s just NO ONE’s business, and I certainly don’t want comments or feedback about my purchasing and watching preferences.
I literally have no use for Facebook nor Twitter at this time.