One of the curious things I have noticed from my six years of participating in social media is that your online persona is not very good at adjusting to change. You might move to a new city, marry a new spouse or find a new job, but social media refuses to let go. Unless you take some drastic, cold-blooded measures, your accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. will operate under the assumption that the 2015 version of you isn’t a whole lot different from the 2009 you.
But how many of us have not gone through a significant change in our lives over the past six or seven years?
I’ll give you a personal example. From 2006 to 2013, I worked for the same great, big corporation in Kansas City. When I reluctantly joined Facebook in 2009, I began “friending” a lot of my coworkers, because it seemed a good way to keep up with colleagues I didn’t see or talk with every day. It also seemed like a savvy way to network within a large organization. A lot of people I worked with were aggressive in connecting with their coworkers on Facebook, perhaps for the same reason.
Long story short, I left the company for a new job in Kansas City at the end of 2013. Changing employers after so many years was stressful and challenging, but I eventually adapted to my new environment.
My social media, however, has not.
I still have all those old co-workers in my digital world, many whom I have not seen in the real world in nearly two years. LinkedIn is always encouraging me to connect with other people at my old company, even though LinkedIn knows damn well I don’t work there anymore. My news feed on Facebook is filled with posts by former colleagues. Many of the posts recount amusing things that just happened with coworkers at the place where I used to work. Back in the day, those posts were kind of funny. Now, they just make me nostalgic.
I have since blocked a few of those Facebook friends.
I know what I need to do. I’m not stupid. I need to sit down and coldly, calmly assess which friends from my past I want to keep, and which ones I need to cut loose. Many of them would not notice or care if I unfriended them today.
So I will do that sometime, after my child is put to bed and the laundry is done, and I am not exhausted from all the other things I had to do on that particular day. I will sit down, crack open a beer, and start clicking those little gray boxes next to some of my Facebook friends’ names.
It’s a small, almost silly problem to have, all these people in your digital Rolodex who are no longer an active part of your life. Still, given how big a role social media plays in many of our lives, I wonder what it does to our psyche? Even after you’re ready to move to a new chapter of your life, your social media accounts remain firmly rooted in your history.
And what happens when you make the ultimate move, to that Big Social Network in the Sky? Should your accounts be deleted, or should they be used to memorialize your life? These are questions that are being taken very seriously. Facebook recently unveiled a new policy that allows users to designate a “legacy contact” to manage their wall when they die. Many wills and trusts now contain similar language about what to do with all the social media accounts when the trustor passes on.
Like it or not, these are the kinds of things we have to deal with today. Makes me want to go delete my Facebook account right now. I would do it, too, if it weren’t such a big part of my life.
Stephen Roth is the author of the humorous novel, A Plot for Pridemore. Be sure to “like” his author fan page at https://www.facebook.com/StephenRothWriter