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Etc - The Facebook Situation
03/06/2012 - By Steve Froias

Etc - The Facebook Situation

Steven Froias examines
The Facebook Situation

Hello. It’s 9:00 a.m. The plane has suddenly gone into a nosedive. As we plummet towards the Earth, it dawns on me  that sun spots are causing the electro-magnetic pulse of the atmosphere to go haywire. To stop our descent – and save 300 passengers – the right combination of minerals must be aligned in our pressure-controlled compartment. I snatch a diamond off the supermodel sitting in first class and, combined with the lead Indian arrowhead I carry with me at all times as a lucky charm, the polarity is reversed. Mere inches from the ground the 747 rights itself and ascends back to the heavens. We are all now sitting by the beach in Tahiti sipping Daiquirís.

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Hello. It’s 9:00 a.m. I just showered and then cut my toenails. I’m about to make some pumpkin pancakes before I get busy editing for Living in Media.

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The first paragraph had you at hello and most likely held through to the Daiquirís (coconut!).

The second no doubt had you wondering...

Why the hell am I reading this?! But, it’s typical of what we digest everyday on the great egalitarian social network called Facebook.

On Facebook, there is no such thing as too much information, or TMI, in today’s lingo. So how come a web platform that’s ostensibly used by over 500 million people (give or take a 100 million) achieves the impossible result of telling us  much less than we really ought to know?

You probably would like to know, at this point, who I am and what qualifies me to write a column for this esteemed publication. I can tell you without false modesty that, after twenty years in the media business in Monmouth County  writing for various publications, I have been designated by some the Andy Rooney of the Garden State. Albeit, with Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino - style eyebrows. And a reasonable approximation of his six-pack – when I stay away from those pumpkin pancakes.

That may constitute the first time the late “60 Minutes” commentator and the star of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” have been mentioned in the same paragraph. Yet, they share one important attribute, which brings me to my point.

Ol’ Andy and unruly Mikey both share a talent for branding themselves. Rooney wouldn’t be the same without his famous bushy brows, rumpled suit and cluttered desk. “The Situation” wouldn’t be anything without his infamous abs. Both defined themselves in the popular imagination using these simple tools of recognition.

Now, as individuals, members of a family, group, organization or commercial enterprise, Facebook has entered our lives and given us the opportunity to brand ourselves every day – even without our own TV shows!

However, how we use this new-found power is up to us. With great power comes great responsibility, Peter Parker was told before he rebranded himself as Spiderman and, what’s important for a superhero to know is equally valuable to all of us.

Especially in the crowded cacophony of geography known as New Jersey, even Monmouth County. With more people per square inch – and, it seems, a township to go along with each one of them – standing out requires almost superhuman marketing. Facebook is only the latest cyber-savior to hold out the offer of personal salvation in the form of personal relevancy in the larger world.

Yet, like Rooney’s eyebrows and The Situation’s stomach, Facebook must be viewed in its proper context. It is a tool – not an end in and of itself. The wise acolyte heeds the better angel on his or her shoulder before pressing ‘post’.

Savvy insiders know that social media is serious business, whether you engage in it for fun or profit. Done right, it can create a base of thousands of followers. When you get right down to it, Facebook is the technological equivalent of coal. It may be necessary but it should be used carefully and burn cleanly.

Which leads me back to the dawn of the digital revolution - the once almighty website. Remember them? Perhaps not.

Your own website – the creative expression of your personality, business or service – has for too many of us become irrelevant in the age of Facebook. In cyberspace, we have gone from being mortgage holders to sharecroppers.

Once upon time we all controlled our own destiny and were Masters of our own Domain – in cyberspace anyway. Whether you had a .com, .net, .org or a Blogspot, it was largely your own. Now, we post with wild abandon to Facebook but with heedless regard for what once was and what comes next. While it may be awesome to share your ‘likes,’ your event invitations and maybe even your hopes and dreams with 300, 400, 500 folks and counting, don’t forget: You are also branding yourself everyday and, except for deactivating yourself completely, there is no way out of  your Timeline. You have ceded your sovereign territory to a higher power and just maybe too much of yourself, too.

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