As an author or thought leader it used to be that you were viewed as…
In the last few weeks I’ve seen some pretty amazing, bizarre, interesting, joyful, life altering and stressful things transpire to myself and several friends because of how they or those close to them use Facebook. I’ve also been deluged with mindless banter that seems typical of how most people choose to use Facebook. Is it me or does anyone else feel like those that have the least to say now have a medium to say it to more people, more often than common sense should allow? Does anyone really care that the turkey sandwich you had today didn’t have enough mayo on it? I doubt it. (feel free to send me the dumbest Facebook updates you’ve seen- Email me)
Which leads me to the things that do matter most. The birth of a child; the death of a loved one, reuniting with long lost friends and colleagues and an array of other things that happen everyday on Facebook. Human nature hasn’t changed because of technology but new technology meets old needs in new ways and the results of those interactions are fascinating. Let me give you a few real examples that I’ve been privy to over the last few weeks.
First, from the “Holy *&#$, I don’t believe it category. A dear friend of mine emails me to see if we can get together for lunch, but being the hypercompetitive guy he is he doesn’t just invite me to a boring lunch. It becomes a bet; he’s got something to tell me that I won’t be able to top. Loser buys lunch, venue is a neutral place and the waiter or waitress decides the winner. We needed some clarifying rules, like neither of us could get there early and interact with the server and if the server couldn’t decide any random person on the street would serve as judge and jury. The rules may seem like overkill but we still argue over a bet we had 15 years ago at a steak house in Chicago. It was a group of 12 guys and the bet was that whoever guessed closest to the amount of the check with out going over would have his dinner paid for by the rest of us. As coffee and dessert were being served we all scribbled down a number and tossed it into a bowl. It was at that point that a server came out and brought each of us three cigars and brought out 4 bottles of Crystal for the table. This added about $2,000 to an already expensive tab and my friend laughed and laughed as he thanked all of us for a fine meal. He’d ordered all of the goodies after putting in his guess and won hands down. Rules are now in place during every friendly bet.
I figured I had a pretty good shot at winning as I had just gotten engaged a few days before and I had asked him some questions to eliminate some obvious things that I thought would top an engagement like a sex change operation, his wife being pregnant, him moving to a far off place and a few others that I won’t share. Game on.
We meet for lunch and like gladiators entering the arena stared each other down before being seated (or at least the middle aged version of wise ass gladiators entering a coffee shop in New York —“Hey did you put on a few pounds? Wow you’re really losing your hair. Nice sweater, I remember when Reagan was in office people actually wore those Bill Cosby looking things.”) My friend is unusually confident that he will win and at this point I start to worry just a bit that I may not win this bet. The menus are placed in front of us; we mention to the server that at some point during the meal we need to ask him his opinion on something as he seems to feign interest as he may think it can help him maximize his tip.
We order lunch and now its time to put our respective cards on the table. I go first and he chuckles and asks me if that’s all I’ve got. Now I’m curious and annoyed and tell him that’s it, I’m engaged, I’m in love, I’m happy and life is good. It was like turning over my cards and having a 5 of clubs as my strongest card. He proceeds to tell me the story of how a woman he knew a long time ago recently “friended” him on Facebook. They chatted online for a bit over the course of a week but it was all pretty mundane. She than tells him she’d like to speak to him and it’s kind of important. He agrees to speak and they set up a time to chat for later that week. She calls him and proceeds to tell him that as a result of the one night they spent together in college (in 1984) she became pregnant and put the baby up for adoption, the child recently contacted her which is why she reached out to my friend and that she would like to introduce him to his long lost son. Wow. My friend has been married for about ten years and has three children all under the age of seven. Now he has a son that is 25 and recently married. Life altering. Amazing. Mind Blowing. I pick up the check as there’s no need for a waiter to weigh in on this one. The story has a happy ending as my friend and his long lost son are spending time getting to know each other and building a relationship that is special and they are both thankful that they’ve had an opportunity to become a part of each others lives.
So what is it about Facebook that people find so appealing? Is it Curiosity? Voyeurism? Narcissism? The need to be connected to others? Something tribal or genetic in all of us? Yes. And probably more than that. Basic human needs can now be met (or at least some basic needs, some of the time), we can be connected to people from our past, from different stages of our lives, from different jobs we’ve had, places we’ve lived in a way that was never before possible. We can easily track down an old boss, a best friend from childhood, a neighbor or an old flame and interact with them in a safe and comfortable way. We can see with our own eyes what their current lives (and spouses, and kids and dogs) look like at the touch of a button. We can share what we choose to share with little effort and in return be taken back to various times in our lives in a robust way. It is like no other tool we’ve had at our disposal, ever.
While my friends story may be pretty rare (or maybe not- if you know of a similar story let me know) what I find interesting is that in the last few weeks I’ve had friends learn of the death of an elderly aunt that they lost touch with; friends sharing the news of the birth of a beautiful baby boy (pictures and all), and I was reunited with an amazing team that worked for me 15 years ago. We all got together for drinks last week and had an opportunity to catch up and reminisce. I’ve had people from near and far, people I’m close with today and people I was much closer with in the past reach out and congratulate me on my recent engagement.
I believe that Facebook enables people to have certain universal human needs met that they may not even realize they have. It allows people to share ideas and life events, to snoop and ultimately to be more connected to more people than ever before. How do you think Facebook meets human needs? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.Email me