Just like Albert Einstein’s theory of Relativity or Sir Fred Hoyle’s Big Bang Theory, I have a hypothesis of my own. I’ve coined my theory “The 5 Stages of Facebookification,” which explains the common growth phases one goes through as they begin to use and create a presence within the most popular social network in the world.
As one uses Facebook over time, they sequentially advance from Stage Zero (Resistance) to Stage Four (Total Acceptance) in their level of comfort and acceptance in acquiring friends and interacting within the online community. Let’s be clear, this has little to do with the technology itself but more to do with psychological and social factors related to interaction with online friends. I am not a doctor. I am just a person on Facebook. These are my observations.
Stage Zero – Resistance
I was resistant to Facebook at its inception. I had protested MySpace prior to that, and vowed never to become a member. I viewed those online communities that were popping up in the late 1990s and early 2000s as childish, cliché versions of quasi-dating sites which simply gave people an outlet for posting sexy pictures of themselves and flirting with complete strangers. At that time, I felt there was no value or relation to having them in my life. Translation: Good for teeny boppers or people trying to get laid. Not for me.
People would send me links inviting me into their special Facebook world. They dangled the carrot, but I didn’t bite. I was at Stage Zero.
A few years later, my sister-in-law, who lived overseas began saving pictures of her new baby and family members with Facebook’s photo album feature. I urged her to use Shutterfly, Snapfish and a couple of other sites instead, but she refused.
Eventually, I had to break down and join Facebook—just to see pictures of my nephew. I entered Stage One of Facebookification.
Stage One – Private Sharing
Stage One can be described simply. This is when you swear you would never join but you somehow end up joining anyway. From that point, you set limits to your usage.
For example, a person in this stage may say, “I am only going to get on Facebook to see pictures of my nephew in Italy.” Your Facebook friends are ONLY family members or very close friends.
Other common remarks made by Stage One users include:
“If you aren’t my friend in real life than you shouldn’t be my friend on Facebook.”
“If I haven’t spoken to you since high school you shouldn’t be my friend on Facebook.”
There is nothing wrong with that. But, if you have uttered either of those phrases, you were or are currently in Stage One of Facebookification.
I know a woman who has a strict rule that at any given time she keeps no more than 100 friends. If she accepts a friend that may cause her to exceed the 100 threshold, then she deletes another to compensate. The maximum friend limit for her is 100 no matter what. For whatever reason that helps her sleep at night.
Some people are successful at staying in Stage One by “quietly ignoring” requests from people who are in Stages 2-4. But, it is not easy.
Stage Two – Community Building
Unless you are like the woman who kept strict rules related to her Facebookification, it is difficult not to advance into Stage Two at some point. Ample time may pass between stages. But, eventually —even years later—the day will come when someone you know, or used to know really well, will request your friendship. At that point, you contemplate.
“Well, I haven’t spoken to them in ages but we used to be good friends…”
Whether it’s because you are interested in reconnecting or because you just don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings, you accept the friend request.Then the flood gates open.
With that one click of “ACCEPT” your life changes. You advance to Stage Two and out of the woodwork come other friends-of-friends. Almost overnight your small, family photo-sharing group transforms into a page from your high school yearbook.
Then you ask yourself, “ Well, I accepted him so should I accept her?”
You begin comparing the similarities in your friendship, evaluating how long you knew this person compared to that person. Or, you consider how much benefit each friend could bring to your life now. A slew of other factors may be weighed to keep the playing field even – for a while. During this time you may get requests from people that you don’t recognize but believe you should know. After all, Facebook said you share 34 mutual friends!
“How can I not remember this person?” you say to yourself. So, you accept this friendly stranger that you and 34 others have in common.
Finally, the process of careful consideration for each and every friend prior to accepting them becomes too exhausting. Any sort of guidelines that you once had have gone out the window by this time. And if you haven’t already, sooner or later you let down your guard and accept…gasp…a COWORKER.
Stage Three – Networking
According to my theory, the moment you accept a friend request of a coworker you enter Stage Three. It is possible to go from Stage Zero to Stage Three and pass through Stage Two altogether. It’s like doing 0 to 60 mph on the freeway. You missed the exit and didn’t see the signs.
Because even if you are friendly with your colleagues, work is work. News flash: It is unprofessional to have pictures of yourself doing a keg stand at a bachelor party or posing at the beach in your bikini. All those photos that your Stage Two friends tagged you in from senior year 1969 must come down if you know what’s good for you.
Status updates should be carefully scrutinized before posting and PLEASE, oh PLEASE, don’t be dumb enough to talk about the great concert you went to last night on Facebook if you called in sick this morning! T.M.I. will be used against you.
I hear people all the time say, “But wait a second, that’s my boss’ problem if he friended me on Facebook and didn’t want to see info about my private life.”
I get the argument. Really, I do. But do you really want your boss recalling all your drunk Facebook status updates during your annual review? Sorry, life isn’t fair. Get over it or don’t accept a friend from work. This also includes clients!
Stage Three users should take Facebookification seriously and use the privacy settings available to them. Enough said.
Stage Four – Total Acceptance
Once you’ve overcome the initial hesitation to put your life, photos and daily routine out for all the universe to read, you enter Stage Four.
Stage Four users accept friend requests of people that they’ve never met. Often, it’s for business or networking purposes. Sometimes, it is just to meet new people. At this stage, the user has no reservations about requesting friendship or accepting friendship from everyone and anyone. Their goal could simply be to build a huge base of friends. However, they generally have thoughtful posts and status updates. (Again, they aren’t tagged smokin’ a doobie from Spring Break 1992.)
Stage Four users become the unknown, annoying people that Stage Two users phone their friends about to see if they really know you — because they sure as heck don’t recognize your profile pic!
I am a Stage Four user.
It’s taken me years to get here and I didn’t evolve willingly along much of the way. Facebookification is a journey. Every user experience is different. There is no right or wrong way to find your way through the social network. There are just a few best practices.
I still know people who vow they’ll never join. They probably won’t.
There may be one other stage to mention, but technically it’s not a stage because it stops instantaneously. As opposed to progressively growing and evolving, a Stage Five user just totally drops off the grid.
Quasi-Stage Five* – Deactivation
This can happen at any part during the Facebookification sequence. Either because the user was too overwhelmed, felt it was too much hassle, or just fell out of interest, the person stopped using the social network. I know people who have deactivated and even re-entered the scene again with a new outlook on why and how there were going to use Facebook the second time around. They were more prepared the next time and had a better experience.
I find it fascinating in today’s world a social web application has sparked its own vernacular, its own community following and inspired its own theories. I am sure mine probably isn’t the only one out there.
But just in case it is, Facebookification should be defined in Webster’s Dictionary as:
Noun: The psychological process one goes through when growing their presence and participation in the Facebook social network.
Verb: To be Facebookified (ex.) “That girl knows everyone! She’s definitely Stage Four Facebookified.”
Stay tuned for a future post when I will discuss my other theory, “The 10 Personas of Facebookification.” Here’s a hint. They include: The Socialite, The Lurker, The Enthusiast, The Comedian, The Elder, and a few others…
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