Up until recently, it had been my preference to leave Facebook to the youth of the world. Quite frankly, it sounded too gimmicky, too personal, and too invasive. While there is a certain portion of my life that is public, there are some portions that I very much prefer to share only with my family and a small group of close friends.
I was convinced by a colleague to open an account as a way of exploring its business uses.
Right away, I realized that Facebook was as I had suspected, and for the first part of my use of it, I stayed under-the-radar. I included no photos of me, no descriptions of my interests, no active searches to find friends and business colleagues. I didn’t POKE people or write on their walls. I didn’t IM during work hours. I was actually surprised by the number of people from around here who connected with me who I wouldn’t say I knew much beyond a name. Then one day a friend of mine from Kindergarten found me and e-mailed me to say “hello” and to get back in touch. I hadn’t heard from her in 10 years. When she moved we lost touch. Through some e-mail exchanges, I discovered that half of my high school class was on Facebook and searchable through the Classmate Search feature, and that some people had developed a group which focused on “memory lane” type entries. Intrigued, I jumped in and decided to check it out.
Not long thereafter, I was, and I mean this in the nicest way, barraged with e-mails and requests to connect over Facebook by old friends and acquaintances from back home. Over the years, moving out of the country has been a hindrance to staying connected with the old gang. I have had a ball and this process has given me a better appreciation of the powers of social networking sites.
One person who wrote me recently was a guy named “Dave” (not his real name). Dave and I went to high school together. He wrote to say hello and to ask me why I had chosen to move to Canada. His e-mail was nice enough. Over an exchange of several e-mails, I learned that over the last 25 years he had lost more than 90% of his hearing (he wasn’t deaf when I knew him although looking back I think there were signs of a problem). He had been fitted for cochlear implants about 7 months ago, and he was still adjusting. Through his writing, I caught a glimpse of what it is like to be isolated by deafness and how social networking sites have helped him to stay in touch. He also mentioned that he married a woman he met on Yahoo Personals (side note, I recently read an article which said that in 2006 1 in 8 couples married met online in the U.S.). I also learned that he looked after some Canadian business issues for his company which is what prompted him to write me initially.
In the course of the discussion I mentioned that I had written a blog about growing up in suburban Chicago and frugality. He asked me to share it with him, and then in response he wrote something I thought the readers of this blog might find interesting. It gives some insight into the “environment of frugality” in which I grew up. I wasn’t kidding when I said I thought that the way I was raised was pretty much like everyone else around me. He wrote, “My father has owned the same house since the month J.F. Kennedy was assassinated. After he retired, he cashed out his 401k and bought the house next door as well. Talk about frugality–my dad never made more than $40k a year and now he’s sitting on half a million in real estate equity! My wife and I are both champions of frugality. Especially now.”
Catching up with those from long ago is truly the gift of Facebook and other social networking sites. I am not ready to use it for business purposes but I finally see its value.
Do you have a good business case for Facebook? I’d like to hear about it.