When I first joined Facebook in the early summer of 2007, only a handful of people I knew were using it. Unlike Myspace or Friendster (remember Friendster?) I was really impressed with the ways it actually could be used as a social tool. I found people I hadn’t talked to since high school or college, and I had meaningful communications with them on a regular basis. I was able to keep in touch with people I rarely saw as if we still lived on the same block, and to me that is the entire purpose of social networking. The “networking” aspect is misleading. The “social” part is what I think is most important.
For that reason, at first I vowed to keep my FB “friends” only to people I was actually friends with, or at least had been at one time. But then something happened later that Fall that sort of ruined that. I published a book. Now that I had a product to push, I was willing to friend anybody and everybody on the offhand chance that I’d make another two dollars of royalties as result. It’s ludicrous. I probably set status updates for 75% of them to “ignore” so I wouldn’t have to look at pictures of their babies or whatever else they had to say that had nothing to do with me.
I could still use Facebook to keep up with the people that mattered most to me. I made “friend groups” so I could filter status updates based on who I was interested in hearing from or interacting with at any given time. This is useful, but it’s gradually gotten so it’s hard to tell if anyone is really paying attention to anything anybody else does on there. I know I’m missing a lot of interesting things that other people post because it’s harder and harder to sift out the content. So mostly I either feel like I’m missing something or I’m speaking into a vacuum.
So this is what I’m proposing–between now and Christmas, I plan to leave a personal message for each of the 626 (and growing) friends I have on Facebook. Just a quick connection, which I hope will spur a lasting conversation. If it’s somebody I don’t really know, I hope to learn something interesting about them. If it’s someone I rarely see or talk to, I hope to reconnect in some meaningful way. If it’s someone I see all the time anyway, no harm in saying hello.
I guess I will approach this systematically, contacting my friends in alphabetical order. I’ll need to contact about 15 people a day to finish by Dec. 25. I don’t know if I’ll use the wall or send private messages. That may depend on the person. Anyway, I hope that this will catch on and others will have a desire to make Facebook about positive social interaction.