Facebookian Philosophy

This blog post depicts my internal struggle to understand why and how I use Facebook.

I recently asked a pretty serious question on Facebook and received a very satisfying answer:

Q: Do your actions define who you are? Or does who you are define your actions?

A: It depends how you’re looking at it. If it’s through somebody else’s eyes, then its your actions that defines who you are. If it’s through your own mind, then its who you are that defines your actions as you think about what your going to do before you do it and your character helps you judge your actions. Other people cannot see your thoughts and only have your actions to go by.

In college, I was against using Facebook to share my day to day actions. On an intrinsic level, I was against the notion of needing to be “plugged in” to enjoy my life. It’s the same hesitation I have toward texting during a conversation or taking a photo of a beautiful moment. From a self-branding perspective, I felt that sharing information on Facebook was signaling to others that I was desperate for attention and had nobody to talk to other than those who weren’t really listening.

I then realized that the reasons I didn’t like Facebook were extremely biased, heavily guided by neophobia. Neophobia is the fear of new things or new experiences. Everybody is affected by technology-related neophobia in some way, it’s a simple fear of the unknown. I know plenty of people who hate cell phones, e-mail, Facebook, Foursquare, or Twitter, but none of them understand the technology and it’s benefit to the full extent.

Whether or not we like it, the way in which people perceive us is based on what they see or hear. Using tools like Facebook and Foursquare, you can signal information about yourself to those that know you. Deciding what to post on Facebook is no different than deciding what you want to wear in the morning. Checking into Venice beach is like wearing a tie dye shirt. Checking into a tanning booth signals that you like to “beat up the beat”.

It’s also true that the longer a person doesn’t hear about you, the less often they will think about you. This should be nothing new to people who’ve studied anything about behavioral psychology or the concept “out of sight, out of mind.” If you want to stop smoking cigarettes, keep cigarettes out of your sight. If you want to work out more often, keep your work out clothes out where you can see them daily. Similarly, if you’re afraid of people forgetting about you (who isn’t?), then put yourself in front of them.

Unfortunately, the way we view ourselves is heavily based on the way in which we believe others view and value us. Not only that, the way in which we view ourselves also limits what we are capable of. We’ve heard every athlete, actor and musician say, “I’d like to thank my family, friends, and fans for believing in me. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have made it.” This is true. We need people to believe we are something, for us to truly become it.

Then doesn’t it seem silly not to take advantage of a tool that allows us to control the quantity and content of the information about us that is put out into the world for others to see? Personally, I’ve decided to share information online that I find exciting and inspiring about my own life, that relates to both who I am and who I want to be. I hope my friends do the same. On one end, it’s a way for me to communicate with friends I don’t want to lose touch with. On the other end, it’s a way for me to commit to, by leveraging both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, an identity that I’m actively projecting into people’s mind.

Cheers to thinking. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

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