Observations from the Field

Facebook Makes Me Feel Like Crap

A nice piece by Stephanie Rosenbloom came out in the New York Times today about the ways in which people are managing the growing number tools we have to connect with each other online.

It was fun for me to included in the piece, especially because being interviewed kickstarted a lot of thinking for me about which platforms I use and why.

It comes down to this:

Twitter makes me feel good, so I use it.

Facebook makes me feel like crap, so I don’t.

As Stephanie mentions in the article, I’ve boiled down my personal social media use decision making to one simple question: will it enhance my life?

Twitter gives me constant positive experiences on almost a daily basis: not only did it help me find the big things in my life (my job, an apartment, and my boyfriend – more on that whole story in an upcoming post), but it has helped me with small things too, from finding a mover to deciding which museum to visit on a rainy day.

Facebook just doesn’t do that for me. I get done with a session of scrolling through Facebook and not only do I feel like an hour of my life was just sucked into a black whole, but I usually also end up feeling worse about myself then I did when I got on.

When I really think about it, other than reconnecting me with a few key friends from my past and giving me occasional warm fuzzies over a baby or a cute puppy, Facebook really hasn’t done anything to enhance my life.

And apparently I’m not the only one who feels that way. In conversations I’ve been having over the past few days, as the words “Facebook makes me feel like crap” cross my lips, I’ve seen lights of recognition going off in the faces of the people I’m talking to. They’ve felt the same way, but couldn’t pinpoint it and didn’t know how to explain it.

Here’s why I think Facebook may make us feel like crap:

  1. It isn’t useful. It has never helped me solve a problem, answer a question, find something I’m looking for, or meet someone new.
  2. It’s too slow. I like conversations that feel like growing surges of energy, and that usually only happens when people respond back and forth quickly. Facebook to me is like watching a tennis match in which someone lobs the ball over the net and the other person just sits there and stares at it for a few hours before hitting the ball back, if they even decide to hit it back at all.
  3. It’s a socially acceptable form of bragging. Even when people are well-intentioned and are really meaning to share and not brag, sharing can end up feeling like bragging to the reader, just like a never ending Christmas update letter. Facebook’s slowness and lack of usefulness seem to amplify how much sharing starts to feel like bragging. I think what usually ends up making people feel like crap is that when they get off Facebook they feel like they just spent a lot of time finding out how inferior and less awesome their life is compared to everyone else’s. The picture isn’t accurate, but it feels crappy nonetheless.

I say all of this not to dissuade people from using Facebook. In fact, if Facebook makes you feel good, go for it.

But that’s exactly my point. Sometimes we start using these tools because we feel like we have to. And other than a few business cases where it may make sense to be on a platform you don’t love so much in order to reach your customer base, the majority of the time, what makes the most sense is to use a platform you like and that enhances your life and makes you feel good.  At their best, online social platforms facilitate and amplify building connections, both online and off. In the end, what we’re all actually striving for are meaningful relationships that help us have meaningful lives, so use the tools that help you do that.

13 thoughts on “Facebook Makes Me Feel Like Crap

  1. George Haines

    So true. I always feel obliged when I accept a Facebook friend to say “But I never use it.” i guess no one “uses” Facebook… people just “go there” or something. Reason #1 above is huge. Twitter is a tool, Facebook is something else. I think Google+ has a chance in that it has some elements of what makes Twitter useful, but the downside is the way it seems like Facebook. We’ll see if it has that “usefulness” of Twitter.

    Congrats on the Times piece, btw. Very cool (although I found this post more useful!)

  2. Once I started using Twitter I started having the same feelings about Facebook too. I edit myself more for Twitter, saying things I actually think people might care about and have stopped reading the endless wall on FB. It will be interesting to see how things evolve in the future, I too am having a hard time grappling with adding Google+ – I got an account just in case. See you soon!

    • jessicahlawrence

      Yeah – the endless wall on Facebook drives me nuts. I hate how as you scroll down the wall just keeps growing and expanding. Ugh. Can’t wait to see you!

  3. Couldn’t agree with you more, Jessica. I wrote a post a few months ago about why I thought Facebook was boring because of how BIG it has gotten (http://rachelbaker.me/2011/facebook-big-boring/)

    I originally engaged with not only my wife; but my best-friends, officemates, business clients, and more on Twitter. I don’t think Twitter is perfect – far from it, but I just find it to be much more useful.

    Congratulations on the NYT article and mystery man.

    FYI: Seeing the Facebook login button on the comment form made me laugh.

    • jessicahlawrence

      Thanks! Love your post – I think Facebook should capitalize on the utility of the status change a little bit more, making it something that stands out from the regular stream. That’s really the only thing that I like it for, but I often time miss those updates now too because I just don’t like being on it.

  4. Michael Barata

    Twitter is how I landed my DREAM career (working with CultureRx and the GoROWE movement). So, yay! And I LOVE the conciseness of Twitter. It forces the messenger to be direct, purposeful.

    I am finding I use Twitter to be informed and to inform. Whereas, I use Facebook to “be in the loop” and to share. To say, “I’ll just Facebook ya.” is so common for me now. Or when I learn an organization, a band, a movement, etc. can be found on Facebook, I’m there.

    • jessicahlawrence

      Totally love that you found your dream career via Twittter! : ) It’s interesting – I’m much more likely to try to sign up for an e-newsletter from an organization/band/movement (or look for them on Twitter) then I am to look for them on Facebook. I have actually really started to love e-newsletters because they are so low friction. I don’t have to go anywhere outside of my inbox in order to get the update.

  5. tracyrowland

    it’s funny, but I like facebook *because* of its slowness. having moved around for my entire adult life, I find myself missing those slow, easy moments between friends. hearing about an old friend’s day or seeing a picture of her kid’s soccer game makes me feel like we’re chatting over the back fence again.

    • jessicahlawrence

      Thanks for your comment Tracy! I do have to say that connecting with and sharing with long-lost friends is one of the only things I appreciate Facebook for. I do like that it helped me reconnect with a few people I haven’t seen since high school and knowing that they are there is kind of cool, but many of our conversations and connections have now moved to email or even to seeing each other in person and I don’t feel like I need to be on Facebook as much to stay up to date. As I say in the post, I think the main question to ask is whether a tool is enhancing your life, and it sounds like Facebook does that for you, which is awesome.

    • jessicahlawrence

      Great – I think it’s good when people make their own choices about what they use – choosing to use a tool or not based on how much it enhances or detracts from their life, instead of simply just using something because it is popular.

  6. Pingback: Facebook makes me feel like crap | paracletes

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