May 2015

Line in the Sand: Is facebook a major time suck?

Author: Barry Kaufman & Courtney Hampson | Photographer: Photography by Anne

Barry Kaufman
I’ve thought about it, and instead of writing a column this month I’m just going to post a bunch of pictures of my lunch, tell you all about my awesome new phone, share a mind-blowing news story that probably isn’t true but reinforces my political beliefs, then end it all with something really mysterious and passive aggressive like, “Some people just don’t have any respect for other people’s feelings.” I may also let you know that I am shaking my head over that last statement.

Oh, you say you don’t want to read any of that? Your Facebook feed would beg to differ, since that’s pretty much all it shows you over and over again.

As a professional media-type person, my position in the following article is pretty much tantamount to blasphemy, but let it never be said I’m afraid to put myself out there in my endless pursuit to prove Courtney wrong. Despite the fact that it will forever mark me among my Technorati peers as a neo-Luddite, I still feel compelled to point out one inescapable fact of 2015: Facebook is really starting to suck, you guys.

I first signed up for Facebook in 2008 or so, back when it was essentially “Myspace but with fewer glitter fonts.” It may be hard to remember all the way back seven years ago, but at the time that was basically the main difference between the two websites. So even though it meant filling in all my personal information again and seeking out the same group of people for friend requests again, I did it. Because glitter fonts were, and continue to be, awful.

Then a funny thing happened to Facebook. It stopped just being a way to keep in touch with all the boring people you’d never keep in touch with in real life, and it became an addiction. You’d check Myspace once, maybe twice a day. How often do you check Facebook? If you didn’t answer that right away, it’s because statistically you stopped reading in the middle of that sentence to check Facebook.

I’ll admit that I’m usually fairly tongue-in-cheek in this column, but when I call Facebook an addiction, please know that I mean it. I know of one couple who I’ll call “Definitely Not Me” and “Definitely Not My Wife” (not their real names) who share a 3-gig Verizon data plan that, ostensibly, lets them check vital work-related e-mails and use Google Maps anywhere in the world so they don’t ever have to remember where things are. Instead, this 3 gigs of data regularly goes almost exclusively to the purpose of Definitely Not My Wife checking Facebook.

When Definitely Not My Wife was shown how much data goes to viewing the same photos everyone takes of their children and/or lunch and finding out which one of our friends and families has horrible political views, she immediately went on the defensive. It was because we had switched phones. It was our new data plan. The weather app was soaking up data, because the damn weather kept changing every 12 minutes.

It was exactly like the third act of every episode of intervention you’ve ever watched. I have it under control. It’s not like I’m spending all day huffing glue. I only take meth to keep me awake after all the cough syrup I drink. The lines were the same, only the drug was blue, perfectly legal, and is delivered straight from your smartphone every minute of every day.

Look, I get it. It’s fun. It’s interesting. You learn things about your friends, your neighbors and your vague acquaintances that brings you closer to them in some way.

But there are so many fun and interesting things you’re missing. Go to any school play or youth softball game; you’ll see every parent there getting that one perfect shot of their kid, then ignoring everything else that happens while they run filters over the photo, post the photo, tag their kid’s friends’ parents, and monitor the comments that come in.

Parents are an easy example, but they’re hardly the only ones. Down here, especially, the examples are everywhere. Go out on the beach during the summer and see how many visitors are practicing their selfies rather than just unwinding and enjoying the surf and sand. Realize that getting away from it all is exactly what brought them here, and they still can’t turn it off.

Social media is a beautiful thing, and there’s no way that genie is going back in the bottle. But I think it’s time we all took a step back and realize that maybe we’re all getting a little too into this whole Facebook thing.
Remember, the first step is admitting you have a problem. The second step is sharing this post on Facebook so your friends can all see it.

Just make sure nothing more interesting is happening in the real world while you share it. 

Courtney Hampson
If you’re Facebook friends with Barry, I have some bad news. He probably doesn’t even like you. He’s found himself posting less and less because as he looks through his feed, he realizes that you’re kind of a tool and he doesn’t want to share his life moments with you. (I’m loosely paraphrasing here, but you get the gist.)

When Barry asked where I stand on the growing social media backlash movement, I was a little taken aback because, well, I didn’t know there was a backlash movement. Admittedly I am likely in the dark because I get all of my news via social media, and they probably aren’t reporting this.

I attended two weddings this weekend. (Yep not a wedding in four years, and then boom two in one weekend.) I joked with bride number one, who happens to own a public relations firm, asking if she had a hashtag for the occasion. She told me I could start one (and I did), but she felt “too old” to make that part of the nuptials. Bride and groom number two are about 15 years couple one’s junior, and they had signage at the big event with their hashtag details and asked all of their guests to share the wedding photos on Instagram. (They had 74 posts by mid-wedding.)

So, this begs the question. Is Barry just old and cranky? Or, is he (and, okay, me) aging out of social media? I say no. Like everything, social media has its extremes (hello naked selfies), but the practical applications and perks far outweigh the People of Walmart and other bare-assed atrocities.

As I type, Hilary Clinton announced her bid for President via Twitter. (#Hillary2016) She posted her announcement at 3:27 p.m. By 4:10 p.m., the post had 46,000 retweets and 38,900 favorites. If social media plays a role in presidential elections, does that validate the platform?

Almost as newsworthy (some would argue more newsworthy), Jordan Speith’s Twitter following grew by 57,000 on the same day (#Masters2015), growing to 288,000 as he dominated the field, breaking records along the way.

Is influence everything? The folks tallying your Klout score are measuring your social media presence to determine if you are driving action and whether or not people respond to what you are sharing. The more influential you are, the higher your Klout Score. On a scale of 1-100, President Obama has a score of 99. Justin Beiber’s score is 92 (which may have just killed my argument.) The average score is 40. My score is 56. (#baller) Hmph, I am not as losery as I thought. Apparently pictures of dogs, CrossFit and food do resonate (#hatersgonnahate).

How long before employers start looking at candidates’ Klout scores to determine their value? I’d argue not long at all. Last spring, when I was hiring, I looked for each candidate across social platforms to see what they post, cross-checked for inappropriate selfies, and ISIS allegiances, and stunned a couple of them during the interview by asking, “Is your Twitter handle XYZ?” In fact, the candidate who got the job was an avid blogger. I’d been reading her blog for about a year and asked her to apply for the position. Social media got her the interview and eventually the job.

In March, I spent six days in Austin, Texas attending the SXSW Film, Music and Interactive Conference. A convergence of 250,000 hipsters, cool kids, CEOs of major corporations, actors
(#IstoodtenfeetfromWillFerrell), Al Gore, and nerds like me attend to get the skinny on creative and compelling content, new media, thought leadership, business growth, etc. Hundreds of sessions are held each day; if you are lucky, you manage to whittle the options to a manageable number. Every stinkin’ session I attended prompted participants with social handles and hashtags. I live tweeted from each session—as did my colleagues—and watched my Twitter followers grow with every tweet. Clearly, I struck a chord and was sharing content that was quite different from the details of my latest workout. Suddenly I was an #influencer, with a voice, and complete strangers, interested in what I had to say, were sharing my ideas.

One specific session really resonated with me. Dubbed “Unfiltered: Do Women Need to Get Real on Instagram,” the hour-long discussion was hosted by the editor in chief of Real Simple magazine, and she moderated a panel with BuzzFeed.com writer Ashley Ford, actress Busy Phillips (think Cougar Town, and if you’re super cool you’ll also remember her from Freaks and Geeks), and Stacy London, former host of What Not to Wear and style expert extraordinaire. They talked about how Instagram (and all social channels really) distorts our reality.

Well sure it does, because we edit our pictures, and our comments, and our lives via this public lens. If I post a picture to Instagram, I have dozens of editing options to make me look better. And, of course, I use them. We all do.

As the discussion evolved, the moderator showed us the “womenIRL” (#WIRL) Instagram account. Here, women post their unfiltered moments as a mom, as a wife, as a boss. (#likeaboss). Picture vomit, dog poop in the bathroom, kids wrestling, the dinner casserole upside-down on the kitchen floor—all of those moments that make us human. And exposed. Real life.

So perhaps what has Barry chapped about social media is that what he is seeing is fake. What if we all got real?

With great power and influence comes great responsibility. Use it wisely.

Tweet Courtney at @ieatandrun 

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