The Facebook Identity Crisis

25 04 2009

“I had heard rumors around campus of other people developing the habit, but I was skeptical it would have power over me. After all, how bad could it be if some Ivy League kids discovered the formula messing around in their dorm room. I thought I could stop anytime I wanted. I was wrong.

Nothing beats that first time but now that I am really hooked, I spend countless hours trying to find that feeling again. There’s been times I swore to myself I would never go back to it. Whatever “friends” I have made through doing it are purely superficial. They are all just suffering from the same problem….

I used to be ashamed of myself when I started to sneak off during parties to get my fix. Now, I need it first thing when I wake up in the morning. I even do it at work. Really, I don’t think I could get through the day without it. It’s nothing like it used to be though. They keep making it stronger and more complex now that big business has gotten involved. It’s been all over the media and I think my boss is hooked which is the most unsettling part about it. I feel like I have relinquished my identity to it and now everyone can see. Should I fight it or just give in? Part of me feels like if I quit now I would be losing a lot, but I also don’t want my past to get exposed.”

Does this sound familiar to anyone? This quote is purely fictional but my hope is that it helped some people come to terms with what so many are experiencing. Now that I put it out there, let’s talk about it…

The Facebook Identity Crisis

What is exactly is it? The Facebook Identity Crisis is struggling with balancing Facebook for work and play. So many of the first generation of Facebook users have now graduated and entered the working world and are being presented with a dilemma. We have accumulated a social network of contacts that is incredibly useful now that we are in “the real world”. With a click of a mouse we can call upon these contacts for just about anything, and because of the close relationships we have built and maintained over time, we can expect an incredible response.

Now, this was ideal in college when you needed to find a party for Thursday night and the lecture notes for the following Friday morning. But now that our newly budding professionals careers are at stake, do we want to risk the chance of accepting our boss’ friendship request in the morning and getting an obscene wall post in the afternoon? Is it ok to contact someone you haven’t seen in three years with a sales pitch? What amount of transparency should your profile posses in order use Facebook as a tool? I think what it all comes down to is acknowledging who you are and where you came from.

What do I mean by this? Well, go ahead and ask yourself the question “Who am I?” Chances are you will say something like “accountant”, “sales exec”, “caring friend”, or “loving family member”. You wouldn’t say “Watermelon”. Everyone who knows you knows you’re not a watermelon. So why would they trust you if you came to them for anything claiming to be a watermelon. They would think you’ve lost your mind. What’s my point? If you are going to be visible on Facebook don’t try to be someone you’re not. You have maintained friendships by being yourself and that is the only way to hang onto them. Work it to your advantage by being genuine. Invite your network to events and include a message of how much it would mean to you if they showed, because it should.

On the flipside don’t feel guilty if you don’t keep your photo tags public. Everyone has a couple of moments caught on camera where they acted out of character, myself included. I won’t get into the specifics of my own, but I will say that my friends know who I am deep down and that’s why they find those kinds of pictures so amusing. But there is a risk involved when people who don’t know you, like potential employers, have access to those photos and get the wrong impression. They’ll think you’re a watermelon. (Are we picking up on the analogy?)

These are just two examples of an infinite amount I could cover. As I type this I am realizing that my intent on writing this was not to tout myself as a Facebook expert, but rather to generate a dialogue about an issue that so many of us face. I sincerely hope that after reading this you leave a comment to let me know your thoughts. Whether you agree or disagree I think the topic needs to be brought to light. If you would like to contact me personally I encourage you to do so by catching me on Twitter (@StrickerOnline).