Last week we had an important conference-call with the Asia head of a luxury brand of hotels. The connection was a bit dodgy. I already knew why. I also knew that this call was important to him and I appreciated that. How did I know? That morning I saw pictures of him holidaying with his family in Bali on my Facebook feed and we had had a light-hearted banter-exchange on some aspect of the holiday.
Rewind to 2007-2008 when we all had just learnt our way wading thru Facebook “posts” and “DP’s” Back then privacy was such a big deal. It was a great way to connect with family and friends (mainly because it meant no more uploading pictures on tedious websites like Picasa and then distributing links to friends who gave up after trying to download 4 pictures) Facebook was way easier!! We found long-lost school friends and there were many happy reunions. Quite a few relatives and cousins who never spoke to you for years suddenly started “liking” your pictures. A warm, general fuzzy bonhomie was created. But along with it came the dreadful feeling that you were exposing the very personal side of you to the world at large and it was a big no-no as a professional in case there were “trade people” out there. So one would never send a friendship request to a professional contact and actually frown upon such requests that you received. I would politely search out such reach-outers on Linked-in and add them there to assuage any hurt sentiments hoping to drive home the point subtly as well.
Then came the phase where the boundary started turning slightly hazy and you had to decide who was a business contact; and if that person also qualified as a friend; one who could be privy to your family photos and hence to what you did in your personal time. Facebook addressed this problem by allowing you to categorise your contacts. I diligently classified contacts into “close friends”, “family” “industry people” (yes, that is what I call some of you), “clients”…. It is a different matter that it was so difficult to keep classifying and then editing the privacy settings of your posts that I gave up on it quite early.
The only way forward then was to mind what you say and express. Some of us continued going berserk but the rest of us started controlling our thoughts and not writing whatever came to our minds. Facebook has this memory feature showing you your old posts. Some of mine are so immature and inconsequential that I’m quite ashamed of the person I was just a few years ago. (I found one that explained the lyrics of a song that I was humming all day – 3 likes to that! – I mean WHO cares!? But there it was!)
Then we turned intellectuals – we could share smart, well-written articles from the Wall Street Journal with a little intro note on why we loved it hoping the choice of the article would reflect on our personality. We became the jokers on the timelines and our humour was appreciated in our circles because “Oh she posts such funny stuff” – never mind that it was a share of jokes already shared a million times on twitter. We also became photographers, punners, politicians, runners, gymmers just by pushing certain kind of material that we put out. In all of this, we forgot how to remain private as people.
The boundaries between friends and business contacts began breaking down further, and we started accepting more and more people from the darker side into our lives while we slowly started controlling most of what we posted. This extended to even clients – I still hesitate to add clients to my list but it has happened.
We have now reached a point where Facebook is one large, beautiful spa pool with everyone in it. Friends, family (more and more of the older generation – now who the *#$@ gave them the iPads?), acquaintances, business contacts, friends of friends, friends of cousins, contacts of contacts – (ah… I have 2 people common with this person, bring it on!) and even clients, all mix in and make Facebook a complete contact list holder for us. Is this good or bad?
Here are some advantages that I can think of:
You don’t need ‘Out of Office’ responses anymore J
If nothing else, all of us meticulously update our travel status, so one knows not only the other’s travel plan but also the time zone they are in.
It brings out the Human in you
Just like the page “Humans of New York” brought people’s personalities closer to us, Facebook brings out our personal facet to our professional contacts – what we like, dislike, our fears, and our passions. I find that this only makes doing business easier. You are now dealing with a person and not just a name and designation.
You can do subtle business promotions
If you use it intelligently, one can turn this platform into a subtle form of promo ads of your entrepreneurial business & work. Remember those “friends of friends?”
Gives you a better global insight
Have you ever had that very good & special feeling when your business contact in Rome or in Istanbul has invited you home and you have a close-encounter of sorts with all things cultural? – this is similar. You see pictures of your global business contacts spending their weekends with their families, going on holidays, eating their food (food pictures abound!!), celebrating their parents and sharing their local community concerns (American friends and Trump – savvy?) and it takes you closer to them and makes you open your mind.
It also surely has its disadvantages too – you can’t be seen partying & wasting time writing about Facebook being the next Linked In when your emails are due for instance but then again, you are human!
After many years of holding back, I have now embraced Facebook wholeheartedly. If it is true that you have a different persona for different circles of your acquaintances, friends, family and colleagues – isn’t your Facebook persona an average of all these personas?