Day 2: When it’s a bit too personal

It’s important to realize that while sharing secrets to a faceless screen might seem easier, the real-life consequences are still the same as they always have been. In fact in our super-google-powered world, these consequences have never been higher.

I often think about how terrifying it must be to be a teenager in this digital world. I was bullied so badly that my parents moved me to a different school for 8th grade. That move brought instant relief and I started anew as a totally different person. I remember how terrified I was when the following year in high school a girl from my original middle school showed up. I was sure that she was going to blow my entire cover and somehow get all my new friends to turn against me. Of course she didn’t and everything was fine. But I remember those moments of pure terror- a feeling like my escape had been a cruel dream. That I was destined to be bullied forever. Trust me- it’s a horribly dark place to be.

I can’t imagine what it’s like now- where school communities must bleed into others. Escape for the bullied takes much more than moving districts. There’s no ability to hide. No anonymity. It was this experience that led me to write this blog post a few years ago when some geniuses decided to make a burnbook app (yes it was as bad as it sounds). Eliminating privacy is not the same as “authenticity” regardless of how many misguided posts out there on personal branding proclaim the contrary. We do not live in an episode of Black Mirror.

Being “authentic” online is not about sharing your deepest, darkest secrets. It’s not about erasing the barrier between the personal and the public. Rather it’s about figuring out how you want to present yourself online in a way that is consistent with your offline persona. Your online personal brand should support who you are offline not undermine it. And remember- we all show different facets of ourselves to different groups of people. And that’s perfectly acceptable. Just remember that anything that goes online should be the lowest common denominator as far as what you’re willing to personally share. Because even if you have privacy settings in place all it takes is one ill-willed screenshot and your private views become very publicly shared.

That’s the point of a personal brand. You put out there what works for you. You figure out how to be authentically you- and no one can tell you how to do that but you.  I encourage you to sit down with a glass of wine, some soft music on and a sheet of paper. Start writing and see what comes out. Who are you? Who do you want to be? Then think about what type of content goes along with that persona and give it a whirl.

Honestly if you’re thinking of spending money on creating a personal brand you might consider spending some of that into a good therapist as opposed to a marketing professional (and I speak as one!). Because helping you to think through your personal narrative is something that they are uniquely suited to. And you might learn a lot about yourself in the process!

Like yesterday’s post, this is the point where I’d probably want to go back through an add some more links, perhaps do some editing to make it flow better. BUT I’m resisting the urge- so I apologize that it’s a bit stream of consciousness 🙂 

Day 1: Looking for the Right Words

Words have power. Enormous incredible power.  The right words in the right tone at the right moment can make all the difference. Something that I’ve been increasingly fascinated by is how this power gets translated into the online medium.

In this 31 day writing blitz I’ve said that I’ll reveal various bits of backstory about the Girl with the Red Hair. Well one of the things that many of you might not know about me is that my second language is American Sign Language. I went to a public high school that had a special program to teach sign language and integrated deaf students and interpreters into our classes.

Learning ASL made me think about all of the aspects of communication that I take for granted. So much goes into auditory signals- from tone of voice to pattern of speech- there’s so much additional context that gets added. In ASL all of this must be replaced by body language and visual cues- and that can lead some some gaps in translation.

My third year of sign, I started feeling like my teacher had something against me and I asked her if everything was ok. She said that it was nothing personal but she felt like I was constantly yelling at her because of the intensity with which I was signing. She said that she knew that I was a passionate and expressive person but that I needed to figure out how to moderate that when I signed. For the digital age the equivalent was as if I was typing in all caps constantly. I think back to that occasion often. I had no way of knowing that the words I was communicating were being perceived in such a different manner.

In ASL the auditory context has been replaced by body language. Training to become an interpreter includes how to translate auditory context such as tone of voice. But there’s no such analogue for the digital age- and what we’re trying to replace is much larger.  Sure there are emojis 🙁 , CAPSLOCK, underlining for emphasis, but still much is lost in translation. And this can have major consequences. I’ve been at several organizations now that have encouraged collaboration via text or chat tools, the problem is that when you have high stress situations you really need that tone of voice or knowing grin to mitigate harsh words.

ASL has rules and I think we need some for the digital age of communication. We need to be aware that long conversations occurring only via chat are at serious risk of misinterpretation. So care must be given to the word we choose to use in these communiques. The irony of course is that chat tools are there to increase productivity at organizations- designed to replace the need for long phone calls or even emails. They are meant to be short-form. But in the desire to streamline you risk loosing a whole lot of context- and really the humanity is all in the context. That’s what separates us from a chatbot.

Hmmmmm…. 

Okay so that was the post for Day 1. I think I said what I meant to say but it seems a bit preachy at the end. Doesn’t help that I’m finishing it up from the back of a car en route to a minor league Cyclones Game with my in-laws! But that’s the point of this exercise- to get myself writing out my thoughts with as little filter as is possible. So… I’m going to hit publish. 

Until tomorrow…. 

Day 0: So I was thinking…

It’s how all good announcements begin right? And the listener of course knows that, much as the speaker claims to the contrary, what they are listening to is in fact a well-formulated and thought out plan- not something that they were just thinking about.

Except in this case.  I literally woke up and started typing this post. Actually it started as a Facebook post but then I realized that rather than talk about this idea I wanted to actually DO it so it’s now an official Day 0 blog post announcing–>

I’m going to be publishing a daily blog post throughout the month of July.

I’ve never done anything like this before but I REALLY need to get back into writing and, knowing myself, the only way that’s going to happen is if I make myself do it daily AND involve my community.

I have no idea what I’ll write all 31 posts about- and that’s part of the reason I want to do this. As a strategist and recovering academic I think about what I write ad infinitum. But I’ve found that my best performing posts are always those that I put together in 30 minutes because they come from the heart.

I’ve been out of touch with that side of me for nearly a year and it shows. I’m frustrated. So VERY frustrated. I don’t want to blog when I’m like this because I want to create posts that are well put together- but the fact is I am a creature of passion. I FEEL social strategy- that’s why I’m good at it. My first foray into social strategy came when I built the online movement to reinstate UVA President Theresa Sullivan back in 2012. That translated into my first social strategy position working with UVA’s development team to try to understand what their alums wanted from them on social media.

The attraction of social media for me is not the tech part nor the marketing potential. It’s the ability to unify people online into into action offline. It’s inspiring each other to do bigger and better. It’s about taking risks. It’s about helping each other. I dealt with depression and social anxiety when I was an undergrad and I know that college would have been much scarier if I hadn’t been able to feel a semblance of belonging via Facebook.

I post on various social platforms because it’s where I interact with my community. So consider the next 31 blog posts an extension of that: I’m going to be sharing with you the backstory of the Girl with the Red Hair, about why I do what I do how it all came to be and what’s coming next. 

You can also expect to get an assortment of cat stories, complaints about the humidity in NYC in the summer, stories about teaching and no doubt the occasional rant. Warning: There will be little proof reading involved because the point is to write- not to strategize- not to edit. This is me. Unfiltered. Well mostly unfiltered- some secrets are good in any relationship 😉
Interested?
Well then I’ll see you tomorrow….
(and if you’re not interested well… sorry about that- but this is happening so… not really sure what to tell ya.)

The Danger of Creating Content Without Strategy

Every 60 seconds on the internet, 1,440 WordPress posts go live, 500 hours of video get uploaded onto YouTube, 65,972 Instagram photos are posted, 448,800 tweets are tweeted and a whopping 3.3Million posts generated on Facebook.

Sounds like a lot right? But here’s the problem- content is not consumed evenly. Rather it’s consumed in viral clusters as trends and algorithms push views of particular stories. So even while we find out that consumers view 1 Billion hours on YouTube each day (8.4 minutes per person!), there’s a good chance that much of those hours are focused on the same piece of content. And you can bet that it’s much more likely to be a video of a cat running from a cucumber, than it is to be your brand’s latest product launch. 

To the content marketer this cycle can feel like a giant hamster wheel. This is particularly clear when you know deep down that the content your creating just isn’t going to get consumed. No matter how much we chant: “right content, right time, right place” we still find ourselves in the content creation/consumption vicious cycle. Podcasts to create, live videos to shoot, blog posts to write, because the content monster never quits. In this scenario, content becomes something that is created because you need content. It’s content for content’s sake. 

The_Marketing_Echo_Chamber_Marketoonist_6_7_16
As always, Tom Fisburne nails it perfectly.

As long as we stay in the content-for-content’s-sake creating area we can churn out professional-looking videos, well-edited podcast series and blog posts demanding disruption. We can call ourselves successful thought-leaders and behold, we are. “Look at the content!” we say, “With so much of it clearly our business is successful”. This is the approach taken by many brands (both corporate and personal!) and it’s leading to a massive race to the bottom where we will all loose out.

Social media transformed the marketing industry by created mediums where brands could interact directly with consumers in a nearly-human way. Unfortunately over the past few years, the practice has become polluted in a race to the bottom click-bait, fake news, bot-filled, world. Consumers are bombarded with far too much content created with no reason other to create content. Just as poor quality ads led to the rise of ad-blockers, the over creation of badly done content marketing risks leading to a  mass desensitization of consumers and the introduction of algorithms and newsletters to act as third party mediators to weed out the signal from the noise. 

Your audience should want to visit your website, social media page, etc. to get the latest content from you. A healthy social media marketing mix should not have to rely purely on paid media for ROI. For these to be true, your content marketing efforts must align with the consumption habits of your target audience. 

Here’s my challenge to all of you: Take a look at the type of content you create, ask yourself why you’re doing it, and whether you’re really seeing ROI from it. If you are- great! But if you aren’t, then it’s time to press pause and reevaluate. Don’t keep pushing out noise with no signal. 

My 50th Blog Post: What a Journey It’s Been!

I can’t believe this is my 50th blog post! It certainly doesn’t feel like I’ve written that much. In fact I actually thought that wordpress had it wrong- that maybe it was including my draft posts. But sure enough when I went back and counted, there are 49 published and this makes 50. I thought about various posts I could do to commemorate this milestone- perhaps something about how to build your own blog, what I’ve learned, etc. But I kept coming back to the desire to share the story of how this blog came to be and why it’s so significant that the 50th post happens to coincide with this week of all weeks. I’ve had a fairly unique path and it’s my hope that by sharing my story it will: 1. Empower others to take a chance on changing their path and 2. Help hiring managers and HR to recognize that non-traditional experience can be incredibly valuable to an organization. So here it is (and it’s a long post so buckle up…):

The Prequel: Living in the Library

I have a BA in International Affairs from GWU and a MA in Politics from NYU. My passion was studying post-communist transition and democratization. I’ve always wanted to understand what underpins motivations and why people have certain sets of  beliefs and subsequently take certain actions. In transitional societies most of the rules that people grew up with get thrown out the window. They are entering an entirely new system and form new communities. I worked to understand how and why these communities formed and why certain people moved towards nationalism while others moved towards more inclusive attitudes. I decided that a career in academia would be the most suited to pursuing this course of study. After a few false starts I was accepted into the Politics PhD program at the University of Virginia and moved to Charlottesville, VA.

Episode I: A Startling Discovering

I started my PhD in 2011 at UVA and couldn’t have been happier. Finally I was doing what I loved and my path seemed very clear. I would do 2 years of course work and then spend 3-4 years focused on my dissertation. Then came that fateful course: Spring 2011 I took a class on public opinion and participation. I became interested in several theories that looked at how the media and various “opinion-leaders” (as they’re called in political science) impact political beliefs. I began to see how social media, in particular Facebook, could have a very transformative impact on these studies. Specifically, the way that it could help us move from a broad brush-stroke depersonalized quantitative focus and towards a qualitative understanding of opinion formation that could be backed by analytics. Unfortunately at the department at UVA is quite invested in quantitative methods and I hit wall after wall when I tried to explain my theory. I might have gone so far as to drop it but then…

Episode II: 17 Days in June-What just happened?? 

On June 10, 2012 I received an email announcing the resignation of UVA’s President Theresa Sullivan with no real explanation. Sullivan was the first female president of a University that has had a strong history of intentional and unintentional sexism (some of which I was experiencing in the politics department) and had only served for 2 years at a University where Presidents averaged decades. She was quite popular and well respected by all. Subsequent emails directed faculty and students to just go with the decision and not ask any questions. I’m not one to take that lightly.

On June 13th I saw a petition going around demanding an explanation by the Board of Visitors for the resignation. I immediately signed and shared it. Then I began to read the passionate comments left by fellow signatories talking about how frustrated and betrayed they felt. I noticed a similar group under the single story the Washington Post had written about the sudden resignation. I realized that perhaps if these people had a forum to talk to each other we might be able to get the attention of other journalists to keep their attention on the story and get a real explanation. So I formed a Facebook Group- “Students, Friends and Family United for the Reinstated of President Sullivan”.

The full saga of what we accomplished can be found here. It was nuts. My group swelled to 17,000 members and served as a base of operations from which we held a rally at the University bringing out 2,000 attendees from all over the country. On July 26, 2012 President Sullivan was reinstated as President, a position which she still holds.

This landed me my first job as a social strategist- working for UVA. Apparently it was better to keep me inside than outside! But from a bigger standpoint, it made me see that those theories I had batted around in my political participation class had merit. Social media had the power to bring people together to created meaningful and lasting societal change. As such it was a challenge to much of what I was being taught.

Episode III: This isn’t going to work

During Fall 2012 I wrote several papers working to tie my theories to existing scholarship and demonstrating their validity. The last straw was when the professor who taught political behavior, who I knew I would need on my dissertation committee, looked over a paper I had written and said “just remove all mentions of the internet”. Winter 2012 I began to make my preparations to leave my program. I had put my heart and soul into getting into a politics PhD program and I was quitting. It’s the hardest yet best decision I ever made.

I started my blog in February 2013 to begin to work through some of my theories and also as an opportunity to begin to develop my voice. After lots of research I decided that the right position for me was that of “social strategist”. A position that would allow me to continue my research and analytics while also working to execute strategy. My blog was my outlet during that last semester. I sat in classes feeling everyone staring at me- the quitter. It didn’t help that my activities during the summer had made professors in my department wary and uncertain how to treat me. It was with a sign of relief that I got a position at Social Media Today and could officially leave after the Spring 2013 semester.

Episode IV: Do I really belong? 

My new position started June 2013 and it was a rough transition. I felt that I had to succeed to demonstrate to myself and others that I had made the right decision. This all came crashing down when, after 5 months, I was laid off. I turns out that the expansion of the company had occurred too soon and I was expendable. I was so humiliated. I put all of my former PhD cohort on a limited Facebook visibility. I didn’t know how I could face them.

But I kept blogging on my site. It was my outlet to explain to the world my strategies. I wrote a post called “Why a social strategist should be your next hire” that was basically a description of everything I could do for an organization. But I also felt lost. I didn’t have a degree in marketing and I felt that it showed all to often. I could understand and speak fluently in high level concepts but was befuddled by certain terms such as the “C-Suite” and “Integrated Marketing.” I felt totally out of place and while I still knew that leaving my PhD was the right choice it felt incredibly selfish particularly when I had to move back in with my in-laws and get financial help from my parents. What had I done?!

Episode V: It starts to come together… 

I was finally hired by a small agency called Purematter to work primarily on their new contracts with IBM. This was when I finally had the chance to build out real social strategy and implement new ideas. I worked on multiple influencer programs, constantly working to build better types of measurements and identification strategies. I built out tweet chats, and communities and all the while I kept blogging. My blog became my outlet. It’s where I wrote out strategies that couldn’t be fully implemented or, in a few cases, where I could be far more blunt than I could be in client conversations in terms of what would and wouldn’t work. But I still struggled. I felt that I had gotten lucky to find an agency willing to use my skills and I was uncertain whether that would happen again. There were still gaps in my vocabulary and knowledge.

Episode VI: The Next Adventure

At the end of May 2016 the agency decided to switch to a contractor model and I was out of a full-time job. I accepted their offer to finish up my programs with IBM and Cisco as a contractor while I looked for other positions. I put together my resume and crossed my fingers that it would make sense to someone. After all I only have 3 years actual full-time”experience” and I’ve now been laid off from both companies I’ve worked for. But I have extensive training in research methodologies and their applications which allows me to create new types of strategies.

My blog was all I had to demonstrate this and so that became a major outlet for me. My number of posts increased and I made sure that when I tweeted them out they all linked to the Pulse versions so that those reading them would also see that I was on the market. And low and behold the calls and emails came in.

But it was Oracle that caught my attention. The opportunity to work with them as Head of Social Strategy, North America under Tami Cannizzaro whose work in influencer programs had inspired me in some of my early strategy work. This was the opportunity I had been looking for since leaving my program. A chance to innovate and stick with it in a way that you just can’t at agencies. I said yes.

Epilogue: 

I start my new position at Oracle next week. See why I said that the timing of the 50th post was eerie?! One thing I left out was that I also started teaching Social Media and the Brand as an Adjunct Instructor at NYU this past summer. I’ve always loved teaching and it’s what I missed the most about my program. The opportunity to do so once again is so gratifying and rewarding.

I always knew that I made the right decision by leaving my program but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t full of self-doubt. It’s been a very rocky road but I’ve met amazing people along the way who have inspired and assisted me to get where I am today. I’m embarking on a new adventure at Oracle and it’s going to be a big change. There will be new challenges and potential pitfalls but that’s how life goes.

There’s a lot of talk about taking a chance and changing paths. But the one thing that many posts don’t include is just how hard a road it will be and how much you need to commit to moving it forward to make it work. I’m so glad I took that chance but it’s taken me 3 and a half years before I’ve felt comfortable writing a post like this. Follow your dreams but be prepared for many sleepless nights where they feel completely out of reach.

So that’s my story and those are my words of wisdom for whatever they’re worth. Many thanks to everyone who has been there for me along the way. Your support has helped empower me to keep going and believing in myself and my dreams. Here’s to 50 more posts!

Creating an insightful analytics report and some free tools to help you do it

One of the first things I teach my students is that a social strategy is only as good as their ability to demonstrate meaningful results. We are no longer in the wild west of social media marketing where CMOs were willing to spend big on experiments. Teams are required to demonstrate results to justify their spend.

I’d like to say that this is a great news for social strategists but unfortunately it tends not to be. Many CMOs still see the world in terms of old-school marketing tactics where reach and impressions are what matter. They want quantitative results and have no time for the essential qualitative component that social strategists provide. Consequently the complexities of Influencer marketing, for example, often ends up being measured by the blunt instruments of clicks, retweets, follower count and Klout scores. A social strategist knows that approached in this way the promised results of influencer marketing will be severely diluted. Influencer marketing must be coupled with social network analysis.

However, given the power of the purse at play, many directors choose to run with this and consequently turn to analytics dashboards for their insights. This is why analytics companies are over-saturating the market and making a killing. Analytics companies tend not to work with social strategists, instead they work with software engineers and sales. The more fancy they can make their dashboards and complicated they can make their numbers seem the more they can say that they deliver real results. But all too often they are just smoke and mirrors. Numbers can be made to mean anything you want and analytics are no different. That’s why an accompanying qualitative analysis and overarching narrative are so essential to any real social strategy.

A useful analytics report cross references multiple tools based their their strengths and weaknesses and draws insights based on those findings. No analytics dashboard can be a one-stop-shop. There’s just too much data and ways to slice data. Rather each one offers a particular view of the greater picture of what’s at play. A social strategist puts all of the pieces together in a unique way to fit the specific ROI goals of the brand. The insights drawn are then applied to the next strategy iteration. This is how analytics reports should work.

You should never draw from just one tool. Think of it as a journalist relying on a single source for an investigative report. Or a medical study basing significant findings off of a single instance of an experiment. Data must be sliced in various ways in order to draw real insights. This is then what can be synthesized and presented to the CMO with accompanying insights and you can do so knowing that should she or he challenge the numbers you can stand behind them.

Figuring out your analytics spend:

Unfortunately the way that the current social media economy works is via the Firehose. The big 4 charge lots of money for access to their historic data. Consequently spending money with a company that has access to that data is important. But make sure that they give you access to the data as well in downloadable formats so that it can be verified and analyzed by hand to draw additional insights. To figure out which tool to use take time to think through the types of questions you will want to ask your data and which platforms you need access to. Analytics companies will try to sell you the most expensive dashboard but there’s a very good chance that you only need access to their firehose because you can use other tools to add texture.

This is because I’ve found that the big dashboard-centric platforms often offer less analysis than some of the free ones. I’m not entirely sure why this is. My hunch is that it’s because the free tools tend to be put together by people who are looking for specific data points and are based on the desire for answers rather than turning a profit. But that’s a fairly cynical view. There are certainly some excellent tools out there that can provide unique analysis such as LittleBird. Although once again do not view this as a one-stop shop for influencer identification.

To this end, I’ve compiled a list of 23 free tools (trials don’t count) that I recommend for data analysis and research. All of them offer different view points and can be very useful particularly for those of us who have limited (or no) budget. I advise using these in conjunction with any paid tool. You may not end up actually using their visualizations in your final report BUT they will provide a different and useful perspective as you crunch the numbers.

Tagboard Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Vine, Google+, Flickr
Research: Monitor hashtags across many platforms, engagement, and visualize
Free (Limited Functionality)

Cyfe Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest
Analytics: Lets you create a custom dashboard filled with stats from dozens of marketing tools.
Free

Hashtagify Twitter, Instagram
Research: hashtag use on Twitter and Instagram.
Free

UnionMetrics Free Checkup Twitter, Instagram
Analytics: Instagram and Twitter account check-up
Free (Report only)

Social Rank Twitter, Instagram
Analytics: An analysis of followers for Instagram and Twitter as well as an overview of posts
Free (Limited Functionality)

Stats-for Twitter & Instagram Twitter, Instagram
Analytics: Overview of basic Twitter and Instagram Stats. App (iPhone)
Free

Discover.ly Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn
Research: Cross-reference social sites as you browse. Chrome Extension
Free (Daily Limits)

Followerwonk  Twitter
Analytics: Analyze twitter account relationships-followers and bios
Free (Daily Limits)

Riffle Twitter
Research: Get social analytics for other sites through Twitter. Chrome Extension
Free

Filta Twitter
Research: Search Twitter bios for keywords
Free

DoesFollow Twitter
Research: Simple tool to check twitter user relationships
Free

Mentionmapp Twitter
Research: hashtags and the top 5 associated users with them
Free

Tweet Topic Explorer  Twitter
Research: hashtags used by a specific user
Free

Social Bearing Twitter
Research: Twitter analytics tools including individual profile analysis
Free

Twitonomy Twitter
Research: Twitter profile analysis including recent tweets
Free

TwitterCounter Twitter
Analytics: Detailed analysis for a specific twitter handle including a graph measuring Tweets to following
Free (Limited Functionality)

Twitter Analytics Twitter
Analytics: Native platform providing unique insights including the actual number of impressions and link clicks
Free

Klear  Twitter
Research: One stop analysis of a Twitter profile to understand community influence and content
Free (Limited Functionality)

Viral Woot Pinterest
Analytics: Monitor Pinterest account, analyze, schedule pins
Free (Limited Functionality)

Pinterest Analytics Pinterest
Analytics: Native Pinterest analytics available for business accounts- no payment is required to do so.
Free

Command  Instagram
Analytics: An advanced Instagram analytics and tracking tool that empowers you to see very insightful stats on unlimited accounts. App (iPhone)
Free

Social Bakers Free Instagram Tool Instagram
Analytics: Limited tool provided by Social Bakers to analyze a personal Instagram account
Free

Facebook Insights Facebook
Analytics: Native Facebook Page Analytics available for page administrators
Free

Let me know what you think and also if there are any I’ve missed! 

Facebook & Friendship: It’s Complicated

I talk a lot about the positive aspects that social media brings to our relationships. It allows us to explore facets of our social network in ways that were hitherto unlikely. My generation feels less need for traditional high school reunions in part because there’s no need to re-union. We’re already in touch with our old friends-the question “so what have you been up to” has little bearing. Yes Boomers, here’s where you can lament the old ways but I know for a fact that you were the reason classmates.com is still around and that many of you are now on Facebook chatting with old classmates!  As I’ve written elsewhere, Facebook more than any of the big 4 platforms mimics our offline social network the most and as such is where we maintain and are able to grow our offline relationships.

But there’s another side to all of this. Just as much as Facebook amplifies the positive of our offline relationships and can facilitate growth, it has also brought a way to completely end a relationship once and for all in a very clear and public way through unfriending. I’ve been racking my mind for a pre-Facebook offline equivalent. The closest I can come up with for adult relationships is removing someone from your address book or more recently deleting someone from your phone. But even that’s not really analogous because the other person doesn’t know that you did that and other people have no way of finding out unless you tell them. What it really reminds me of is a playground pronouncement of “You’re not my friend anymore”. But once again given the fluidity of relationships at that age even that’s not really a great example. A shared fruit roll-up tended to repair all wrongs.

The bottomline is that all of these actions were private. For the other person to know you’d have to have a very uncomfortable conversation making it clear that they were no longer a part of your life. There’s a reason that this tends to only occur within families (estrangement) and of course significant others (the breakup). The discomfort and awkwardness of that conversation with a friend is a high price to pay. It would take a massive occurrence for an adult to have that conversation. Consequently we tend to get colder in our relationships- perhaps a bit more formal. But the key is that that has always left an opportunity to renew friendship because ultimately no “you’re not my friend, get out of my life” had actually been said.

Facebook has changed this. Now with the simple click of a button we can signal that we no longer want someone in our lives. There’s no cost to us. Facebook doesn’t even send a notification so the only way someone might notice is if they come across your profile (or of course if they use an app to check which, let’s be honest, is a bit excessive). In fact the actual cost occurs if you did it in the heat of a moment because then you have to request to be added a friend once more which triggers the “why did you unfriend me?” awkward conversation.

I guess my message through this post is to think twice and even thrice (yes it’s fun to use that word!) before unfriending someone. Right now Facebook is full of heated and opinionated posts. It’s scary time around the world and everyone reacts in different ways. But there are several steps you can take to distance yourself from someone before taking that final act.

  1. Unfollow them. This means that their posts won’t appear on your feed. They have no way of knowing this- no harm no foul.
  2. Break your friends up into various lists that you use to filter post visibility. Are you tired of having a few of them get super opinionated and confrontational on your wall? Then limit their ability to see certain posts on your wall. It’s the same as the decision we all make not to discuss politics or religion with many of our friends and family.
  3. Add them to your restricted list. This is a bit of a bigger step but still not at the unfriending level. It makes your feed appear as if you don’t post very often. But, once again, they don’t get notified and you can always remove them. It’s similar to acting colder to someone offline. Yes it can be passive aggressive BUT the opportunity is still there to keep the friendship alive.

Check out Facebook’s tutorial on how to create and manage lists here.

Above all I urge you to stop and take a deep breath before deciding to unfriend anyone. Recognize that by doing that you are sending a very powerful signal that will require a major conversation to undo. Friendships matter. They are so very valuable and most of the time Facebook can bring out the best in them. So don’t let it bring out the worst.