Social media – force for good or time for a rethink?

What if your Facebook isn’t all it seems?

I’ve been a fan of social media for about 6 years now, first MySpace and then Facebook. I’m also on Twitter and Linked-In. I must be doing everything right then, mustn’t I? Seemingly not. In the last few weeks I’ve had cause to really look at my social media strategy and what I’m going to do about it. You see, if someone takes a dislike to you, for whatever reason, then it’s up there on your Facebook wall or Twitter feed and you have to combat it. Even worse, if someone decides to make a fake profile you don’t even know who it is that is spying on you. With that in mind I’ve recently had a cull on Facebook deleting over 650 ‘friends’; what I found out surprised me and what I learnt is worth consideration.

Why so many?

Whilst clearing through the flotsam and jetsam of people I didn’t know, people I no longer wanted to know and people who probably no longer wanted to know me I came across something I hadn’t considered. Literally hundreds of deactivated accounts. That is people who no longer existed except as a name in my mix of Facebook friends. Getting rid of them considerably weeded out my list of the unwanted. As I trawled through the hundreds of profiles attached to my name it was both liberating and really made me think. At the start of the exercise I had in excess of 2400 ‘friends’; by the end of the exercise I had 1774 friends, of which two more have deleted me. Isn’t that a hoot? My thought was why was I building such a large group of people? Was it my ego? What if I didn’t know many of the people, surely that’s the point? The more you meet, the more people you know. Except that isn’t true is it? Of the 1772 people left there are many that I have no interaction with as Facebook decides I don’t need to see their updates. I don’t feel that at all and would like to see more variety in who I see. Zuckerberg and crew decide what we want to see and who we want to talk to. It has also made me think about the number of friends. I have many friends who are linked to 250 people or less; equally I know quite a few who are up to their limit of 5000. What’s the point of so many?

Who do you delete?

You’ll find that almost everyone with large friends lists have their own business or have developed a following through some form of of work or entertainment media, whilst those with smaller followings are usually regular folk who really do know all of their friends. Do I claim to know all 1772 people? No, but I do know a surprising amount of them. I deleted people from outside the UK who I don’t know or am never likely to meet; I deleted people who I know longer have a working or social relationship with; as mentioned before I deleted the dead profiles, and sadly in some cases, people who really had died; finally I deleted people I thought were either fake, didn’t like me and were just being nosey and those who kept sending me games requests, no matter how many times I asked them to stop.

What’s it all about Alfie?

Now I have my criteria. The people I have on my Facebook are the people who do like me, who I think like me, the people I find interesting, my family, my nearest and dearest and the ones who make me laugh. In the spirit of sharing I hope these people share similar interests, like to read my posts and blogs and blimey, one day, (by the end of the year if I do things right) will want to read my book. No more chasing the big numbers, no more massaging my ego with my great body of ‘friends’ and no more competing with other people to see who can have the most friends. It’s an easy trap to fall into but without engagement, without connection and without a real feeling of being social then you’re setting yourself up for a fall.

Don’t do it at night!

Here’s something I’ve seen over the past couple of years. People who spend a substantial amount of time building up large followings on every social media platform and then something bad happens in their life. Social media is not the place to tell people. You can destroy your reputation really fast if people think either you’ve gone mental, been drinking or taking drugs. In one instance the rumour went around that one particular chap was doing just this. It’s akin to Gerald Ratner’s famous quote about his jewellery being ‘crap’. Ratners disappeared almost overnight and reputations can go just as fast. What do you do if you are being attacked? Definitely, definitely don’t reply and then block the person concerned. Some people will believe it, but if you’ve followed the criteria I mentioned above you’d like to think that most people will know it’s a spat. Social media good or bad? It’s simple really. For the most part it is an amazing tool for communication, for promoting a business or staying in contact with friends in faraway place. If you use it when under the influence of negative forces don’t be too surprised if those late night ramblings come back to haunt you.

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