A late adopter’s survival guide to Facebook: Part 1 of 3

A good friend asked me for some thoughts on Facebook this week. Like many people, he’s resistant. But, as he put it, it’s the standard for personal, non-professional communication these days. As a Facebook late adopter, I understand the hesitancy. As someone with a couple of years’ experience, I’ve weathered some storms. So he asked me for my thoughts on its pitfalls and avoiding them.

Arm your system’s defenses

I went something like 16 years without catching a virus, until I caught something earlier this year. My antivirus software minimized the damage, but this was embarrassing. Whether it came from a rogue ad on their site or some rogue app, I don’t know. But if you intend to participate, protect your system from known malware domains. whether at the operating system level, or by using Adblock Plus.

Even if Facebook is completely benevolent (which I doubt), it’s a huge, attractive target for malware authors, and it has a history.

Games

Maybe the games are fun. I don’t know; I stay away from them. I get tired of hearing about casual acquaintances’ game activity, and I really don’t care to annoy all of my casual acquaintances with them. And frankly, before I learned you could hide these games by hovering over the update and clicking the ‘x’, I really wondered about certain people because it looked like they were spending their entire lives playing games.

But there’s an even better solution…

Filtering

Several filters exist: F.B. Purity, Better Facebook, and FFixer are popular ones. I use F.B. Purity and I’m pretty happy with it. It blocks the games and the stupid link-sharing apps, which eliminates at least 50% of the noise. At least now I don’t see waves of “Click here if God ever answered a prayer!” and similar posts that tend to percolate up every so often–and it seems like once one of your friends posts one of those, 30 of them follow.

I don’t know why people see the need to use Facebook apps to say things like that–I could go through my friends list and tell you who would say yes and no to that particular question, probably with greater than 90% accuracy–but it’s not my problem anymore. Every time I sign on to Facebook, all I see is that FB Purity hid 10 superfluous updates. I can see them if I click on something, but I never bother.

Politics and religion

There’s a growing disrespect for differing views in these two arenas. I suspect it’s because today’s popular opinion makers have no respect for differing opinions and encourage their fans to behave similarly, but whatever the reason is, I have less and less interest in participating in it.

My view seems to be a minority view. I have some acquaintances who seem to have plenty of time to post 15 updates every day about these things. You probably already know who you can safely talk about these things with and who’s just going to call you an idiot. (Hint: the more extreme the view, whether left or right, the worse your chances.) Unfortunately I’ve had some conversations on these topics that damaged relationships. A better approach is just to hide the status updates of people who post 15 inflammatory updates per day. Then you can still keep in touch, without being stuck reading a ton of stuff that gets under your skin every day.

And since you probably don’t want to read that kind of stuff, you shouldn’t be one of those kinds of people. While there are things I believe in, I realize it’s counter-productive to post updates about those things multiple times a day. Posting obnoxious links and status updates isn’t going to convert my atheist friends to Christianity. It’s more likely to make them dig in. Posting obnoxious links or parroting obnoxious pundits isn’t going to convert my friends’ political views either. And on the latter, I’m not certain that it’s productive.

If you feel the need to talk about such things, do it in a targeted fashion. Confine it to the people you know you can have productive discussions with. Not all 999 people you know. But I’m getting way ahead of myself–I’ll cover that in part 3, when I talk about lists.

Parts 2 and 3 will follow later in the week.

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