Facebook – A Sense of Connection…and Betrayal

First of all, let me say I’m a fan of Facebook.  Yes, it has warts and there are aspects I dislike, but overall, I feel it gives us a sense of connection that is otherwise impossible to have in our geographically dispersed world.  In our hectic world today, most of us no longer live down the block or next door to our parents, siblings, aunts and uncles.  We may not even know our cousins, aside from their names.  Families are no longer nuclear or close by.

When I was younger, the Christmas letter was what connected people across the years – and each one was hand written in the Christmas card.  Later, when computers and word processing debuted, one letter was written, several copies printed and a copy put into each card.  People got offended due to the impersonal nature of the letter.  Times were changing.

Today, the Christmas card letter is nearly obsolete, in any format.  I haven’t sent cards in years.  (I know, bad cousin, bad cousin.)  I actually received an annual card and letter from someone I had no idea who was, for years.  And by that time I was too embarrassed to ask who they were and how we were connected.

So I was extremely glad when Facebook came along, because it allows us to have a sense of connection and continuity with our family, and friends….along with people who want to “friend” us who are unknown to us.  Yes, unfortunately, the world of “stranger danger” has come along with the connectivity for both children (who aren’t supposed to be on Facebook) and adults.

Facebook is also a wonderful way to get to know your new cousins, often found through genealogy and genetic genealogy.  It’s a lot more personal than an occasional e-mail or letter – and you get a much more balanced perspective of their life – their interests and who they are.

However, the way Facebook inherently works, or doesn’t, can sometimes lead to hurt feelings.  When you’re friends with someone on Facebook, you expect that they will see all of your posts and you will see all of theirs.  Right???  Wrong.  And that’s exactly what leads to hurt feelings.

Twice now within the past month, someone who I’m Facebook friends with has posted something expressing dismay and hurt feelings about what didn’t happen.  They had posted something serious, asking for prayers, and they did not hear from many of the people they expected to hear from.  That’s hurtful – especially if you think it’s intentional.  But, don’t get your knickers in a knot just yet – because it’s probably NOT an act of neglect or worse yet, a slap-in-the-face type betrayal from your family and friends. It’s all about how Facebook works, or doesn’t.

Facebook is not like mailing a letter or sending an e-mail directly to someone.  You can have some level of expectation that they received the letter or e-mail, although not 100% – but that’s not the case with Facebook.  Facebook SELECTS posts to display on friends newsfeeds.

How does Facebook do that and which posts?  Who knows – but they do.  In both cases mentioned above, the people later expressed how hurt they were that no one or few replied.  I went back and looked in my feed, and neither had been posted to my timeline.

I looked at their postings on their page, and sure enough, there they were.  I felt awful, and so did other people who also replied that they had never seen the prayer requests.  Just think how many people would have never mentioned how hurt they were and just suffered in silence.  The rest of us would have never known and they would have thought they were slighted.  This may sound trivial, but it’s certainly not when the topic at hand is something this serious.  If they had understood how Facebook works, and doesn’t, it would have helped a great deal and avoided those unnecessary hurt feelings.

How Facebook Works – and Doesn’t

So, how does Facebook posting work?  I’ve received permission to use my friend, Janine, as an example.  Janine and I have several common interests, genealogy, genetic genealogy, NASCAR and photography.  Suffice it to say, most of her posts are of interest to me.

Let’s take a look at some options you can check to see if you’re receiving the maximum about of information from another person – or maybe to tone it down if you’re receiving too much.

This assumes that you are Facebook friends with someone.  All of the setting we’re going to review are accessed from their page.

To see their page, click on their name or enter their name in the search box and then click on their name.

facebook profile

Following People

facebook friends

By clicking on the “Folllowing” box, “See First” gives you the option to always see this person’s posts at the top of your feed if you would like.  I don’t think that this means ALL of their posts – but when Facebook decides to put their post on your news feed, it will be at the top.


The small “unfollow” option at the bottom can be a lifesaver – but in a bit of a different way.

If you find that someone is posting things you don’t really want to see – you can click on “Unfollow Lisa.”  This does NOT unfriend her – so you’ll still be friends – and she won’t know that you unfollowed her.  Unfollow just means her posts won’t be included on your newsfeed.  And you can undo it quickly by the click of a button.

I refer to this as the “political and religious filter.”  Unfortunately, I wish there really was a way to filter out only content of a specific type, but there isn’t, so if you unfollow someone, their posts will never be placed in your timeline.

Why do people unfollow others?  Mostly, because they have a difference of opinion on something and the person on the receiving end doesn’t want to see those specific types of posts.  These types of postings seems to increase exponentially during the political season or after something happens that is contentious and elicits strong feelings in either or both directions.  Like what?  Well, judging by today’s postings on my newsfeed, those topics would include refugees, abortion, gun control and of course the ever popular political candidates.   No, nothing controversial there.

Yes, I have opinions on all of these.  No, you will never know what they are unless you are a very close friend or a very close family member.  You will never find my opinions on volatile or controversial subjects on Facebook.  First, I don’t want to start a war.  Second, I fully realize that no one really wants to see any more of this stuff and third, none of it is going to change anyone’s mind about anything.

If you have doubts, just think Thanksgiving table when Uncle Joe and Uncle Ted had the “discussion” about Protestant vs Catholicism, or racism, or whatever that difficult topic was at your house.  That was the quietest Thanksgiving ever…until my mother jumped up and said, “Amen” to close the topic and asked who wanted pie.  The rest of us were greatly relieved and Mom had a little “talking to” with both of them later, forbidding them from ever doing that again at Thanksgiving.  Facebook is no different except Mom isn’t around to solve things anymore and to send the offenders to the adult version of timeout, which, on Thanksgiving afternoon was in front of the TV glued to football.

Worse yet, much of what is posted online as fact isn’t.  http://www.snopes.com is a good resource to figure out what is fact and what is fiction.

One of the best ways to get yourself quickly unfollowed by me is to participate in what I consider to be manipulative behavior.

facebook manipulation

Telling me that if I don’t do something it means that I “don’t love Jesus,” God and country, my children, or something similar is the best way EVER to assure that I’ll never do what you want.  This is pure and simple manipulation and I don’t play that game – no matter what anyone thinks it means.

Asking is fine – that’s “please share.”  Telling or subtly threatening is not.  Threatening includes inferring a negative interpretation of what my noncompliant behavior means to you (see above) – and by inference anyone else reading my timeline and seeing that I did not do what you wanted.  Sorry, no one gets to paint my world except me.  Most people intensely dislike other people trying to manipulate their behavior, whether they say anything out loud or not.  Worse yet, if you do pass it on by “sharing,” then you’re the one twisting the arms of your Facebook friends.

Often these things get passed on by well-meaning but naïve people.  Sometimes the graphics harbor malware like a highly contagious flu bug – which is why the original person launched it in the first place – intending to take advantage of people who will, by virtue of guilt or arm twisting, participate in this new rendition of the old-fashioned chain letter that tells you if you don’t send a dollar to the last person on the list within 48 hours that someone in your family will die within 10 days.  Oh yes, and pass the letter on to 10 more people because in just another 10 mailings, if no one breaks the chain, you’ll receive $10,000,000,000 in dollar bills.  So not only can you prevent your family members death, you’ll get rich in the process!  Yeah, right.  How did that work out for you?

So, if you have a Facebook friend who is over-posting, posting things you don’t want to see or attempting to twist your arm, you can unfollow them without causing a ruckus and without unfriending them.  However, if you unfollow them, you will NEVER see a post from them – which may or may not be what you wanted to achieve.  You can always check their page from time to time.

If you don’t want to be unfollowed, you might considered not posting about topics that are volatile, emotional, controversial or manipulative in nature.


facebook friends2

Next, check the “Friends” status.  You can see that I have Janine marked as “get notifications” and “close friend.”

Get notifications means that I will receive notifications of comments on her postings.  If I turn “get notifications” off, I’ll only see replies to her posts that I’ve commented on or things I’ve posted to her feed.  Since she and I have lots of interests in common, I have “get notifications” selected.

Facebook says that “Close friends get priority over people who you don’t designate as close friends.”  When you share something on your timeline, one of your choices is to share with “close friends.”  I tried to verify this but did not see this designation.  What Facebook doesn’t say is whether or not close friends receive all of our postings, although based on personal experience, it appears that there is nothing you can do to receive all postings from someone.  Facebook says you “will see more of them in your newsfeeds.”

Conversely, by selecting “acquaintances,” according to Facebook, “you’ll see less of their feeds.”  I don’t know if that means less than if you select nothing or less than “close friends.”

“Family member” used to be a category, but is no longer.  My daughter-in-law who posts pictures of my grandchildren used to be designated as a family member.  Today, she is listed as a close friend and with “get notifications,” but I still don’t see all of her postings.  I check her page periodically to see which of my grandchildren’s photos I’ve missed.  Bah humbug Facebook.

The default is that nothing is checked.


The “Friend” box also holds the dreaded “Unfriend” button, at the bottom.  Unfriend means that person can no longer see what you post and vice versa.  You, and they, can see in a number of ways if you and they are still friends or not.

So, if you unfriend someone, they will, or can, know about it.  They are not notified but if they check, it’s obvious.  I think I’ve only ever unfriended two people who were clearly toxic.  But then, I’m extremely restrictive about who I become Facebook friends with because spammers and scammers abound.

The only way to undo an unfriend is by sending that person a friend request again.

Blocking People

This brings us to the topic of blocking people.

facebook dots

If you click on the three little dots, there are more options, including block.

Block means just that – entirely.  They can’t send you a friend request and you won’t ever see their posts anyplace they post.  They won’t see what you post either – in essence, neither of you exists in the others world.  So if you and they are in a common group or have a common friend or family member – you won’t see their posts or comments and they won’t see yours.  Sometimes, this means that what you do see doesn’t make sense because posts made by them or replies from them are missing and are referenced by other people, leaving you scratching your head.

Other Options

Just out of curiosity, I tried “Poke.”  It just sent Janine a note saying I poked her and asks if she wants to poke me back.  Yes, some programmer had far too much time on their hands one day it seems.

facebook friendship view

The “See Friendship” tab shows things that we’ve done together.  It’s kind of like a diary.  You can see here that Janine posted something on my timeline about fabric.  This can actually be very useful if I can manage to remember that it’s Janine who sent me something in particular that I’m hunting for.  You know, like the recipe I want to use this week for Thanksgiving and can’t find.


facebook timeline

One last thing.  On Facebook, things change and aren’t always where you think they might be.  One day, I looked at my page and realized that posts people have posted to my timeline weren’t in the regular feed, but were on the left below all kinds of other things.  I’ve never seen this since, but just suffice it to say, keep your eyes open and look around.  The only thing that is constant is change – in life and on Facebook.

Private Messages

Check for private messages periodically.  The message icon is at the top of your page, next to the people icon which is where you see who has requested to be your friend.  If people message you, they presume you received, and read, the message and they are going to be hurt or offended if you don’t reply.

facebook private messages

There used to be a separate inbox that was relatively hidden where messages from people who weren’t Facebook friends ended up, but I believe that second inbox has been removed and all of your messages from friends and those not your Facebook friends are combined into one message box now.

In Summary

I hope this little spin through Facebook has helped a bit.  I hate to see something that can be such a positive tool to build communities and relationships cause hurt feelings because people don’t understand how to utilize their options to maximize their chances of getting what they want out of Facebook.  Just remember, no matter what you select, it’s Facebook and they get to choose.

Why?  Facebook is free, although I should put “free” in quotes because you’re doling out a lot of informatoin about yourself that is useful and valuable to marketers.  If you doubt this for a moment, just google some product and then watch ads for that product show up in your Facebook feed for weeks afterwards.  I wish they had an “I already bought it” button.  I saw children’s Mavis halloween costumes for weeks!

Facebook has never given us any indication they won’t change how things work, and they do change things often, and without notice.  So, stay vigilant, stay flexible, and don’t assume that your cousin is blantantly and willfully ignoring you – because there is a good chance they aren’t.  It’s just Facebook.



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13 thoughts on “Facebook – A Sense of Connection…and Betrayal

  1. This is excellent, so spot on. I wish people would spend more time considering the topics on which they post, and absolutely stay far away from the controversial–politics, religion, any topic on which what you think will matter not at all to anyone except the people who agree with you.

  2. Great post. There is one other tool that I use. If I do not want a person to see what I post, but do not want to unfriend him or her, I can put him or her in the “Restricted” list. That’s a built-in Facebook list that will only allow the people on that list to see what I post as public. They can’t even see that stuff if they go to my wall. So not only can I “Unfollow” annoying relatives, I can “Restrict” them as well. It keeps me sane.

  3. Thank You Roberta! Absolutely SPOT ON! Your passive/aggressive/Co-Dependent Mickey Mouse piece had me giggling and nodding at the same time. FB serves it’s purpose … but knowing the rules of the game plan (aka common civility and good old fashion social horse sense) usually minimizes hurt feelings.

    Keep us informed.

  4. Great Post!! Facebook has enabled me to keep in touch with many of my cousins I haven’t seen since the grandparents we share have passed on 15 or more years ago. It has also helped me to find some of my matches who have tested but who never received my msg via ANCESTRY. I usually only look at my Close Friends feed regularly but I do love the Genealogy & DNA groups they have. It is easier to talk someone into DNA testing if you send them a link to the site and can talk them thru it via chat(I think that is a big plus)

  5. Thank you for posting this. I’ve been on Facebook for almost 10 years in order to remain communication with my cousins – close or distant in relationship and miles. I don’t play games, gossip, or announce what I had for breakfast or where. I have discovered many of the same things that you mentioned, but several were new to me. Thank you for your comments on manipulative messages which I hate. It has given me an idea of how to handle them, not only on Facebook but in emails.

  6. Thanks for this good post. I have lately been really bothered by the amount of time I spend (waste) on fb, scrolling thru so many things I don’t care about, yet doing it because I don’t want to miss anything good. It seems for awhile now that EVERYTHING that someone who is a “friend” of mine “likes”, then shows up on my news feed. I’m fine with seeing their actual posts, I just don’t want to see everything they like or share, necessarily. So when I saw the “notifications” part of your post, I thought maybe that was what I needed to fix. Alas, when I started checking thru my list, I see I have only a few people checked on the notifications part, yet I still see everything they “like”, or at least so it seems to me. I do so wish there was a way to stop all of that. Too much “clutter” coming into my newsfeed. So frustrating. Like you, I hate the controversial topics and I post very little on any subject, myself. Most of what I post tends to be women’s suffrage related, as that is an historical topic I care about. I was surprised recently when someone I barely know, although I do know who she is (connected to me via her dad, who I interviewed for our local historical society’s oral histories),so I had accepted her friends request some time ago, sent me a pm to ask if all was well, as she looked forward to my posts on women’s suffrage and women’s rights and I hadn’t put anything up for awhile. LOL. I wrote back and said no problems, I was just busy.
    So many good things about fb–especially the groups, which are useful, but also so much I’d like to change/jettison.

  7. It’s good to see social media concerns addressed by you Roberta. Although it seems like a convenient method for staying in touch with friends, I’ve been frustrated by FaceBook as a platform for sharing history, genealogy research, or genetic genealogy discoveries. Unlike your blog or rootsweb lists and forums, FB conversations do not appear as Google search hits so only those in the FB network receive the information. Similarly, unless a FB profile creator includes a content search option, none of the earlier photos or posts can be discovered short of scrolling back through every post. Since genealogy is so much about connecting and collaborating I find that forums and lists reach more people than FB. For finding those elusive cousins however…better “friend” them!

    • One of my biggest concerns about Facebook is that anything posted is basically “gone forever” unless you are subscribed and remember it was there and attempt to go and look for it. Rootsweb and the old Genforum are goldmines but fewer and fewer people know about or use them. Participation is down and Genforum can still be searched, but it’s not active anymore.

  8. Thank you for explaining so much about facebook’s tricky system. As usual your blog is full of good, if not GREAT information. I got a good laugh out of your Thanksgiving story regarding your Uncles. I had Uncles as well and one memorable holiday two of them got into a heated discussion which ended with some hard feelings which sucked the cheer right out of the rest of the gathering. Finally one of the Aunts decided enough was more than too much so she decided to mend the quarrel. She sat on the arm of Uncle Ed’s chair, draped her arm across the back of his shoulders and using a great deal of tact began her concilatory efforts. “Ed, Both you and Harry are being ridiculous and you need to apoligize to Harry, tell him you didn’t really mean what you said. Harry, you need to apoligize for calling Ed Chicken S*** in front of everybody, even if he is Chicken S*** you shouldn’t have said it to his face!” My Dad and the other Uncles choked on their beers. We kids were quickly shuffled out of the room and out of earshot. The 5 of us were very familiar with the reprecussions if someone said a nasty word where Grandma could hear it so we waited exicitedly to see who she’d go after first. You can only imagine our disappointment when Grandma didn’t go after even one of them with that big ol bar of nasty-word soap.

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