Perspectives on 2012: Putting Facebook In Its Place

This article is the first in a short series of musings about 2012, its opportunities and challenges, and how to best meet them. 

It’s a snowy, cold first Monday of January here in Indiana — and I’m sure I’m the better for it. After twelve days of holiday break, hours of wrapping and unwrapping, countless toy-assembly sessions, a few toy-repair sessions, and lots and lots of play time with the kids, I badly need a day off before the official start of the work year. I need to get myself squared away. From big picture thinking like setting my 2012 goals to fundamental necessities like clearing off my desk (I swear, the wood surface is here somewhere), I need a few hours to decide what is going to be important in the new year. And, what isn’t.

This second subject was the topic of a brief story by Zak Stone in yesterday’s Good (see the bottom of this post for the reference links). Stone relates an effort by web designer Ivan Cash to encourage us to take a bit of time off from the ubiquitous social networking site. It’s a good idea, at least for me, and particularly at this time of the year. It is so easy to get caught up in posting what I’m doing that I don’t actually focus on doing it. And it is equally easy to aimlessly scroll through my news feed, absentmindedly reading about what people are doing — without really connecting to anyone at all.

So, I’ve decided to take the challenge and take a week off from Facebook. The simple absurdity of writing that previous sentence as if it were a momentous decision illustrates why it is worth taking a FB sabbatical!

I’ll admit that the first few minutes were odd — I went to Cash’s link, posted the status update on my profile, and within a couple of seconds a few friends had liked my update. I unconsciously reached for the mouse to see who had commented, and then remembered that I was taking a week off. It is exactly this kind of impulse response that runs counter to accomplishing bigger picture goals, and is at the crux of what Cash and Stone are encouraging us to do.

In organizations and in our personal lives we put a lot of emphasis on setting goals, creating vision, painting a picture, and so forth. But we put far less time to deciding what we won’t do. Focus is a key component of good strategy, whether the strategy involves building a billion-dollar charity or losing that last stubborn ten pounds. And focus means making choices. You can’t be great at everything. 

Don’t get me wrong — I love Facebook, and I think it can be a great conduit for personal connections and for organizational growth. But for most of us, Facebook is just a tool towards a larger end. There’s only one organization which has a goal for you to spend more time on Facebook — and that is Facebook itself. For the rest of us, the goal isn’t to spend more time on the site, but to develop deeper connections. I’m interested to see if staying away helps me do that.

I’ve rambled through a few different topics in only five or six paragraphs, and perhaps that is fitting for a snowy, sleepy start of the new year. I look forward to expanding on these and other ideas throughout the next few months, and as always I appreciate your visit. I wish you the best as you start to outline your priorities for the year ahead.