My Fear of Facebook

A paralyzing inability to decline “friend” requests. Lots of professional colleagues able to view my personal posts. The resurfacing of an unstable individual who had stalked me in high school.

I thought I had left the traumas of high school behind when I left Phoenix, Arizona, but the magic of Facebook brought them back.

These are the reasons I left Facebook three years ago.

My background is in communications, and I occasionally use this blog to provide advice on how social media can be a useful communications tool. But my own use is woefully incomplete.

I’m not a digital hermit. I created my first web site in 1995. I’ve been blogging on various fora since 2004. I have a LinkedIn account. Last fall I joined Twitter and have embraced it with a passion.

And now — finally — I’m back on Facebook, with a personal account and a Patrick Ross page.

I’ve attended panel discussions on social media and read many blog posts on the subject. Here’s the advice on Facebook I’ve absorbed:

  1. Create a “page” to keep your promotional social media separate from your personal account.
  2. Interact with anyone commenting on or liking something on your “page.”
  3. Um, I guess that’s about it.

Are you on Facebook? Do you have a page as well as a personal account? How do I (or should I) distinguish my page from my Twitter account? What is your criteria for friend requests on your personal account? I’d welcome advice on maintaining and promoting a page, anecdotes on how you decide who your “friends” are, or any other wisdom you can share!

UPDATE (5/5/11 10:40 am ET): I just read that Frito-Lay set a Facebook record last month, generating 1.5 million new likes on its page in 24 hours. I’ve been on Facebook about 24 hours; I’m sure I can beat that record on my page by tomorrow, without giving away potato chips.

26 thoughts on “My Fear of Facebook

  1. This is a cyclical issue for me regarding what I post, and with whom I share my personal and professional pages. While I do utilize Facebook privacy settings to restrict access to family news and photos, my personal page is open to most of the people I know — personally and professionally.

    Despite periodic moments of hovering my cursor over the all-powerful “X” to remove certain people, I have learned that my uneasiness regarding who sees what I post is more about how I view {and value} my pursuits and associations and ideas. {And then there is also a wee bit of a personal annoyance toward lurkers and gossips!}

    When allowed, via journaling or conversations with trusted friends, the emotions I experience regarding my privacy faithfully guide and direct me to inspiration and discovery — and eventually to resolution and decision! {That is, once I recover from the initial rush of adrenalin when they flare! Ha!}

    Bottom Line: Everybody doesn’t need to know everything. And each of us gets to decide who gets to know what.

    P.S. I appreciate your authenticity to publish this post. Often times people shrug off — or boldly deny — that discernment or fear are elements of being on social media. But it is important to note that without fear there would be no need for courage. It is all part of the adventure! 😉


    1. Thank you for this comment and for your encouragement. I love social engagement but am also a fairly private person. It’s probably what drew me to journalism, being able to ask questions and tell others’ stories. It’s helpful to know I’m not alone in wrestling with these issues.


  2. I’ve got the personal page with a gazillion friends (and I assure you every single one is a close buddy – all 1200+ of them…) OK to be honest I haven’t really figured out the Facebook thing either.

    I’ve got a blog and Twitter – Facebook is icing, I guess. But I “liked” you (and you can do the same for me 🙂


  3. Bravo, Patrick. I share many of your apprehensions regarding Facebook and I appreciate your candor. Like you, I love, love, love Twitter and LinkedIn has been a great way to keep in touch with colleagues. But Facebook just feels too open-book (no pun intended) or to coin a phrase from Seinfeld — worlds colliding. I’ve had many people advise me to get on Facebook as an author, and many who advised me to stay away. I recently choose a middle-of-the-road approach, by creating a page for my book only ( But I don’t get involved in conversations, nor will I post anything too personal there. I think everyone has to decide what’s best for him/her and for achieving their personal and professional goals. You really have to ask yourself (and be able to answer) the question “why am I here?” when it comes to social media. It’s something I’m still working at myself and I think it will always be a work-in-progress as new social media avenues open up.


    1. Thank you, Jessica. It’s clear you’ve given this a lot of thought, and your thinking sounds similar to mine. I’ll check out your novel page, as you know I really enjoyed your book.

      What do I want from social media? What a great question! With the page, I guess I want more of what I have on Twitter and this blog, a tool to pass on resources on my passions (such as creativity and writing) and connect with great people. I’d never have become virtual friends with you without social media. As to the personal account, I’ll confess I have no idea. Hmm.


  4. Liz Massey

    I’ve had really good experiences with almost all social media. I “mute” people who are bothering me with their posts – nice alternative to defriending. Haven’t had to do that a lot.

    It for some reason doesn’t bother me to be relatively transparent with my Facebook content. I try to think before I post! But if I were to write a book or grow my business to the point where I was feeling weird having the personal/business entities merged, I would probably get a page (or whatever it’ll be called when I get to that point).

    Your work is great and I’m glad I’ve encountered it, in whatever media channel!

    –Liz 😉


    1. Liz, thank you for your kind words and insight. On the personal/work combo, I need to reflect on that. This post is an example of my new willingness to share a bit of myself (a new type of writing for me) but I also want to decide what I share and with whom. It seems Facebook is engineered for more sharing than my other social media outlets, thus my apprehension.


  5. Thank you Patrick for airing something that should be strongly considered when posting anything on the web no matter where it may be. Bravo to you!

    With the many issues surrounding privacy and the Internet, specifically Facebook, personally, I feel it necessary to highly restrict my involvement. However, I must say that in the practice of doing business it is important to have a presence there.

    The short of it is this – only post publicly those things you have no concern over or those details about your life relevant only to your purpose for being there in the first place, using caution and discretion.

    As far as marketing for business is concerned, I think this is somewhat over-hyped. Before there was Facebook, Myspace or any other space there was a lot of business going on. What makes a person think an absence of your presence on Facebook would prevent ongoing business? Yes, to a degree, being there opens up some possibilities however, do you have the time to develop a network on the Internet over spending that time to further develop one in “real life”. As long as Facebook and other social marketing sites, balance is the key to building and maintaining business on all levels.

    Don’t get me wrong, social networking is important but it should not supersede or exceed direct people to people contact. Just how you go about doing social networking is just as important. Limiting the information you place there to the same degree as you would real life human interactions makes sense to me.

    I was taught that airing my dirty laundry was uncouth, airing it on the Internet is no different. Discretion is of vital importance as is what you post relevant to the audience which you are addressing.

    There is my two cents to this issue.


    1. Great advice, thank you, Don. You are dead on with dirty laundry, the importance of interpersonal connection and your other points.

      You’re also right that commerce existed prior to Facebook! I know people I’d like to reach are on Facebook, though, and of course I’m not selling them anything, so I don’t have to worry about “monetizing” like these goofy SEO folks are always talking about.


  6. Here is a link to some information that might be helpful: .

    Facebook is a really great way to develop relationships and make connections. Twitter is good for that, but you can have more in-depth conversations, see more information about a person and even see pictures that helps you get a better sense of who the person is … in personable soundbites that don’t limit you to 140 characters. 🙂

    Need to run for now, can talk more on the subject any time you would like.




  7. I love you for writing this, Patrick. I am so not a Facebook fan. I have a personal page that I usually ignore, and a professional page I haven’t looked at in a month. I know I need to be better about this, but the whole thing just confuses me. Give me Twitter any day. But now that you have dived back into the FB world, maybe it will give me courage to do the same.


    1. You know, I was at a social media panel at the writing conference AWP earlier this year. Five successful authors who excel at social media offered advice. Two loved Facebook, three loved Twitter. Each was on both, but really only focused on one. I want to be reachable across social media, but I’m not going to beat myself up if I favor one technology over another.

      Thank you for your love as well!


  8. Kate Arms-Roberts

    I am huge Facebook user with my personal site. I only accept friend requests from actual friends. It used to be only people I know in real life, but I have started adding a few people that I only know online but that I have come to think of as friends.

    I have not set up a professional Facebook page because I haven’t figured out how to keep Facebook and Twitter both active and different.

    One thing I know as a reader: I get very irritated seeing hashtags in Facebook.


    1. I’ve been concerned about the idea of having my tweets also on the Facebook page, what with the hashtags and the at symbols. I fear it will look like I’m treating Facebook as second-class, just getting reruns of Twitter. So much to think about.

      Thanks for sharing how you use Facebook, that is quite helpful.


      1. Kate Arms-Roberts

        I think the key to not pissing Facebook users off if you post your tweets is so tweet judiciously and to create unique content for Facebook. Also, tweets that use abbreviations to fit the Twitter character limit usually read better on Facebook if they are fully written out.

        I am okay with people who send some tweets to Facebook. What drives me really crazy are people who auto-DM me to join them on Facebook and then post all their tweets to their Facebook page. The idea that I want to see anybody’s content twice by default irritates me.


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  10. I agree with Kate about hashtags … if you are connecting your Twitter to your FB, I recommend deleting the tweets with hashtags from you FB page as soon as you get a chance. Not a life or death thing, but more of a courtesy that only takes a moment or two.

    I think there is too much worry about keeping your Twitter and business page on Facebook different. There are people on FB who don’t Tweet, and vice versa. So those people don’t care one way or another. Folks who are on both will expect overlap. Just be yourself, Tweet when you think Twitter makes more sense, and use FB when it makes sense.

    Since you are deleting the Tweets with hashtags, you will need to repost those on FB. Take the opportunity to say something a little different … or not!

    There is no magic wand or frightening social media troll who will eat you if you don’t do it just right. Just do it … it will sort itself out. 🙂


  11. Oop, one more thing that differentiates Twitter from FB …. GROUPS of people can engage in conversation on a topic, like you have going on in blog comments. But the difference between blogs and FB is that you can post things you might not take the time to write a full blog about, or as a teaser to an upcoming blog post, or to just get a feel for whether people are interested in a topic. All kinds of uses for it, other than just chatting about your day. 🙂


  12. For me, Facebook is purely personal drivel. Sometimes clients message me via Facebook; the less savvy leave messages on my wall for everyone to read. This is disturbing; to me, Facebook is for baby pictures, philosophical Cheeto discussions, news of the wierd and gossip, not business. I don’t hesitate to ask that professional contact be done through appropriate-to-me means. (Misuse is much rarer then the friendly updates or serendipitous reunion with lost contacts.) I realize that my particular business is easier than some to separate in this fashion; this would not work, say, for an author who is using Facebook as a fan page.

    As to ‘friend’ criteria: For this separation to work, I have to know you AND TO LIKE YOU more than ‘somewhat’. I have to keep this tidy: 1) Ignore unwanted requests and then 2) go into the request area and Delete. Deleting posts or comments I don’t like is rare but I have no qualms. I’ve once deleted an ill-considered ‘friend’. It’s a very sanitary process — they don’t get an official notification, their access to your stuff is merely eliminated. A few ‘what happened’ or ‘what did I do’ messages ignored, and problem solved.

    I can’t comment on the Facebook vs. Twitter debate. I don’t use Twitter. One thing: for folks who use 1 or the other like me: a disclaimer for us Luddites would make it clear that you are not sloppy or making some social post hierarchy, but creating equal access to This Very Important Info, under God, for Richard Stands, can I get a ‘Thank you, Jesus,’ Amen.


    1. Dan the Man! Commenting on my blog!

      You know, Dan, during my Facebook 1.0 period, I was often surprised that professional colleagues would use Facebook to contact me with work matters. That seemed, well, odd. Another thing that bothered me was that I follow my daughter Marisa (who is now 16; when’s Max going on Facebook?) and it seemed weird to have her existential rant wall posts mixed in with professional stuff.

      Like you, I want to keep the personal account purely personal. Good to know you’ve managed to make the technology work in terms of who sees what and what you see.


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