Monday, June 16, 2014

The Facebook Diet (or Listening with Intent)

Last week, except for a few Fathers' Day photos, I didn't post on Facebook.

You could say I went on a Facebook diet. Cut out the starchy, empty carbs (also known as "clickbait.") Got away from the screen, took longer walks. De-listed myself from pointless pages I'd once liked.

I did share a few responses to others' posts on Facebook. But for seven days, I refrained from sharing links to other stories and videos, or leaving pseudo-pithy observations of my own. Mostly, I eavesdropped on the din of discourse on the world's largest gossip website.

What happened when I stepped back from the "scream of consciousness" of Facebook?

  • I spent less time fretting over what to post. No pontificating on the missteps of public figures. No hunting for decades-old snapshots for "Throwback Thursday." And, I got more stuff done.
  • I thought friends would take note of my absence, message me, and ask if I were OK. I was mistaken.
  • I blew past the outright commercial posts. They didn't matter. Real friends matter. 
However, I listened and read more of my friends' posts. Yes, about half of those posts were either self-absorbed, vain, or supercilious. (Guilty as charged; some of my posts fit these categories, too.) When I waded past some of these, I discovered a few posts that reflected genuine challenges in their lives, and made me think of how I could help.

Listening with intent
(original artist: Benjamin Vautier Koller Auktionen )
via Wikimedia Commons
Saying less and listening more are sound communications practices, whether on Facebook or in business or personal relationships. That's how you learn to listen between the lines.**

My Facebook diet taught me that it's not the quantity of posts or "likes" that matter. It's the authenticity of the messages that count. 

In PR, we obsess over "content," and many social media websites serve up meaningful content to help build brand awareness and reputations.

But the real value of Facebook now appears to come from listening with intent, responding to friends in need, and dialing back from re-posting excessive clever wordplay or baby/cat/dog/ferret videos. From a communications viewpoint, we'd learn more by observing what others post, and incorporating these learnings in our communication strategies. 

So, if you see fewer posts from me, don't be concerned. I'm on the Facebook Diet: consuming less, listening more, and trying to build meaningful relationships.

**Listen Between the Lines is one of David's PR Rules.