I come across a lot of people who tend to use Facebook more to stalk people they meet or to check who is having a birthday today. I do that stuff but I have been using Facebook as my primary online social space for a while now and it is a terrific tool for me. While Google+ gives users the ability to share selectively, very few of my friends and family are using it so it’s a very limited option for me. With the exception of a couple family members who are still concerned about Facebook’s privacy controls (I think their privacy is probably better protected on Facebook that out and about in their neighbourhoods), my family and friends are all on Facebook and use it fairly actively.
Most of the stuff I share on Facebook is invisible to the public and to a number of people who I have friended but remain on a restricted list. Facebook is where I share details of my life with my kids, wife, family generally and friends and I took a decision to only share that more personal stuff with people who I have met, am friendly with and would invite to my kids’ birthday parties. I’ve set my Instagram stream up to be private by default and when I publish to Facebook from Instagram, it goes to “Friends” by default. In fact, “Friends only” is my profile default.
Everyone else can see my public updates and, in that sense, I treat Facebook like Twitter. My public updates are posts I am happy to share with anyone who can see them just as my tweets are. I don’t understand why anyone would use Twitter as their primary social network. To me, Twitter is the online equivalent of standing in a crowded room shouting over everyone else in an attempt to maintain a coherent conversation. Photos and stuff you shared may as well be Polaroid prints you pass around the room to people you know and don’t know. Some people are public by default, I prefer to be more selective with who gets to see my more personal stuff (although what I regard as personal may not fall within your definition). With all Facebook’s efforts to get us to share more publicly in the past, selective sharing is what Facebook is good for and perhaps what it is really intended to be used for.
The people who I friend and assign to my restricted list tend to be people I have met and know on some level but they may be business contacts or people I just don’t know very well. If I don’t friend someone or refuse a friend request, it is generally because I just don’t know the person beyond a passing familiarity with the person online. I similarly don’t accept Foursquare connection requests from random people or people I don’t know well enough to feel comfortable disclosing my locations. Facebook, in many ways, mirrors my life generally. It’s more meaningful to me because of that.
I’m not quite sure why I felt the need to publish this post. I suppose one reason is to present another perspective on Facebook as a user who does more than stalk people and check birthdays (Facebook is awesome for birthdays!). As more of our lives is online, it is really important to have a space where we can share selectively if we choose to. If Facebook fell away, that space may be Google+ or whatever comes next. Path is also an interesting option although not all that compelling alongside Facebook. Path may be a preview of what may be coming in the years to come but, for now, it’s tough to beat Facebook. At least, for me.