Granny Knew Best about Facebook before there was a Facebook.
My sainted Granny was a wonderful lady. A feisty Irishwoman who had a beautiful head of red hair until the day she passed. She left us far too early to even conjure the concept of the Internet and what would come to be known as “Facebook” and “Facebook Friends”
Despite the fact I was merely a child in the years we were together, she passed on plenty of sage advice that I can only imagine there was a hope I was paying attention and would use at least some of those words over the span of my life.
I listened. I paid attention. And little did I know how prescient she would be in many of her admonitions.
The one I find a way to use everyday in my personal and professional life is one that has become a cornerstone of “The Undefeated Image” training, thanks to the modern marvel (or mess) that is social media.
How many of your “Facebook Friends” do you really know, and how many are truly “friendly”?
Granny told me many times, “Whether you like it or not, whether you agree with it or not, people will judge you by the company you keep”.
The manner in which she qualified the statement made it all the more powerful. Throughout our lives, we will all make many friends. When we’re together, we know them, enjoy them, share with them, and bond with them as a manner only human contact can deliver. But in the current world of social media, specifically Facebook, we call people “friends” whom we have never met, will likely never meet in person because of distance and lack of opportunity, and are more than acquaintances than friends.
And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. At it’s core, Facebook is a marvelous engine for social change, discussion, discourse and sharing ideas from around the world. Sure, it may be ridiculed by many as “that place where we can always watch cute cat videos”. but anyone with that opinion is missing the power this platform has. And I will happily admit two of my favorite pages to visit are those where people talk about and share pictures and videos of their beagles. I’ve shared several posts there extolling the virtues of our Lady Bailey, and the “conversation” on these pages is always light, uplifting, sometimes sad as people talk about the passing of their 4-legged friends, but always casual. And friendly.
As a matter of fact, one friend made through those pages inspired me to write about her beagle “Squints”, a story which has many more layers and will be turned into a chapter for a forthcoming book. A chapter about integrity, responsibility, and the honest love we have for those who need us every day. For those who haven’t read it, this is what a simple friend request on Facebook can become.
I have a few thousand friends on my personal page and interact with them frequently. I could have thousands more, but I choose them carefully. It’s a great source of discussion and allows me to still be the “conversational firestarter” I’ve been over the media years on both television and radio. I am very careful about those I allow access to my posts, and have turned down thousands over the years for any number of reasons. Those who I have no idea who they are, those who have opinions I certainly don’t share, and those who have opinions that are more evil and hateful than anything else.
But I know there are many I have friended and have asked to be friended I will likely never “converse” with. Some of whom merely use the platform to feed their ego by being able to point to several thousand of people as friends and followers, most of whom click and accept just to make them feel better about themselves having so many “friends”.
Nothing wrong with either one. Having even phantom friends can make someone feel better about themselves and give them a sense of confidence. I applaud those always seeking out new people and good discourse. Personally, I truly enjoy the conversations and am satisfied I am creating a solid group of “Friends” that I’m happy to share with.
But I also know and have experienced those who are not friends, have never been true friends, or those who simply seek to agitate and use the platform as a way to disperse messages of hate.
The kind of people Granny warned me about long before there ever was a Facebook.
When the opinions of others are mistakenly (or correctly) seen as your opinions.
Here’s one that happened just today and encouraged me to write about this subject.
The topic was former NFL player Aaron Hernandez, who was convicted of murder, sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison, and committed suicide not long after being sentenced. Following an autopsy, it was discovered that he suffered from severe CTE, the often debilitating brain disease that has been linked to the playing of football and other sports where the head is constantly in jarring contact, thus in effect killing brain cells and often altering the psychological makeup of the individual. The discussion was about how and if CTE could have been a small part of him turning to a life of violent crime. All speculation, of course, but worthy of an intelligent discussion.
It was a lively discussion with a number of good points. Until this individual became involved. Someone who uses Facebook to be as outrageous and as insulting as possible, an image he has long cultivated and enjoys being marked with. As I’ve noted many times in other places, that’s his decision and welcome to it. But when it begins to infect others, it does indeed cross a line. I have redacted his name and picture as I do not wish to give him any publicity.
I don’t appreciate foul language in my posts, as I want them to be safe for everyone to take part. This person knows it yet doesn’t wish to abide by my requests. The word blacked out was “f******”, which prompted my request. Instead of being an adult, this person answered back with “GFY”, the acronym for “Go f*** yourself”.
This person is no friend and no one I wish to be associated with in any fashion. So I deleted his comments and will continue to delete everything and anything he posts. Soon I will just unfriend him, block him and be done with him forever.
Because I have a reputation and brand to protect. I also have a standard of morality that has followed me my entire career. I do not wish those years of work to be sullied by someone like this, nor do I wish anyone to believe for a second I would be friends with someone so insulting and so crass. That is MY decision.
The “Guilt by Association” clause.
Employers around the world now spend millions of dollars and plenty of time vetting their incoming and current employees. Checking your FB page is easy and part of their investigation. It’s part of being certain the person they hire or is representing their brand isn’t someone they regret down the road. And I will tell you I know of dozens of companies who have dropped potential employees and fired others after seeing who they associate with on Facebook. Certainly, everyone is entitled to their own opinions and may say whatever they wish, within legal and certain other boundaries. No one would take the away from them.
But when you work for someone else, when you are cultivating your brand, when you are presenting yourself to the world on what is a global platform, then you must be cautious of those you associate with on Facebook. Because how is anyone else to know if someone who is so crass and easily insulting is one who shares your opinion? Who influences your opinion? And who may one day bring you to a point where you embarrass or put your workplace in legal jeopardy.
When faced with someone who seeks to insult, degrade, or just be a raving jackass, get rid of them. Censor them. Delete their comments and top allowing them to hijack a thread or be a disruptive influence.
Do what I do. Delete their comments. Don’t unfriend them or block them. Just delete them every time they write something at the level of a 10 year old seeking attention. They’ll get the hint. Or, if you must and it becomes troublesome, block and unfriend. Report anything dangerous to the proper authorities. Remove them from your life. If they have “jackass” tattooed on their figurative forehead, they were never a “Friend” to begin with.
Facebook is a voluntary act. It’s a place meant for whatever level of discourse and conversation you want it to be. For those with a sense of common sense and being an adult, don’t let people such as these world potentially change how others feel about you.
You never really know who’s watching. More important, it’s your brand. Your image. It’s who you are. Protect it at all costs.
Thanks to Granny, I have one of my own favorite sayings.
There is nothing more important to protect in life than your image. Absolutely nothing.
Choose your “Facebook Friends” carefully and wisely.