Very few things have impacted my world and the way I interact with my circle of friends more than Facebook.
By world I mean personally, professionally, and even spiritually.
I’ve connected with friends from high school, and remarked about how communication worked on such a profoundly different level now than it did in 1982. Questions left unanswered in the state of confusion that can only be described as adolescence have all been answered. Many of those friends have gone on to become business partners, mentors, and leaders I admire 25 years later.
Like most new business owners, I struggled for a year get my wedding videography company off the ground, and it wasn’t until I learned how to game the SEO and take out as many Facebook ads as I could afford, did I learn the truth behind what a bride is looking for, how the groom isn’t looking, and what that bride is probably thinking about the moment she clicks the Facebook ad. Blush Wedding Films is now a profitable summertime business that I thoroughly enjoy being a part of.
This spring, when my dad passed away, Facebook lit up with condolences but more importantly without picking up a phone, my family and I were able to plan a beautiful service with visitors from as far away as Texas, and with students I haven’t seen in over 30 years. All thanks to Facebook.
The Walled Garden
Facebook was a lovely walled garden, home to me and my most intimate friends and family. It was also home to a number of companies that serviced my needs: geeky rack mounted servers, 3D animation software, and lately the never-ending stream of kick-ass mountain biking films.
And I gave back to my community. People would tell me that they looked forward to my hand-curated stream of nerd PR, cool animation, and the odd conspiracy theory. Logging into Facebook was like throwing a party several times a day for a few seconds, and with every little red notification I felt like I belonged there.
The problem is that I was preaching to the converted. Like most, I struggled to get above 300 ‘friends’, and in fact many of them I had not met in person for many years. I was starting to add on spouses of friends, just to keep it fresh. And of course the company pages really took off over the past few years, and I got hooked into a few of those.
I was beginning to think of Facebook AS the Internet. The more I thought of it, the more this really disappointed myself as a card-carrying geek, so I took steps to change things.
The first thing I did was make a commitment to my website at dolish.com. It lamented in the web 1.0 world of ‘hey it works in Pine’ and ‘I can see it on my WAP browser’ for years. I know when I was looking for work a few years ago after the broadcast crash that my site did me more harm than good. I needed something that put myself back on a pedestal and declared to the world who I was. The problem with Facebook is that you can’t really open yourself up in that way. It’s very strange how it’s exclusive, but profoundly public at the same time.
The other thing I did was revisit the most intravenous connection you can have to the public: Twitter. Twitter up until now served very little purpose in my life, but it was the earthquake in Toronto this summer that woke me up to the possibility of hyper-micro-marketing. Searching for #earthquake and getting remarkably salient results, I started to think about how I could market myself in this way: not to everyone at once, but just to the people who need me at that precise moment in time. Luckily, I was planning a move to Peterborough from Oshawa, which involved pretty much severing my ties with he GTA. I refuse to commute daily. But my Facebook pals were mostly GTA and doing the same thing we’ve all been doing for years.
Using Twitter I discovered what can only be described as a remarkable microcosm of creative energy and talent in the Peterborough area. After following a few prolific posters, I discovered a healthy and inclusive creative industry and culture unlike any that I’ve ever seen in North America, aside from maybe Vancouver. Toronto events are often very crowded, involve parking and driving, they’ve always very expensive, and I’m left with a hollow feeling that can only be experienced sitting in the 500 level of the Rogers Centre that I’m just not a part of the event I’m experiencing.
Twitter has opened me up to the MarketHall, where I took my wife to see a lovely concert by the Good Lovelies. I shot parts of their first music video “Lie Down” but it wasn’t until I saw them live in an intimate setting that I was able to actually connect to them. This summer, we saw three concerts at the Little Lake Music Festival, including my doppelgänger Steven Page. In Toronto I’d be too busy worrying about getting a parking ticket, or how the kids were dealing with the babysitter, or work the next day. Here I just enjoyed life and meeting new people.
Twitter has re-introduced me to proper old-skool get-outside networking. I’ll never forget the event called #thinkPTBO hosted on the shore of Little Lake at the Silver Bean Cafe. A few tweets went out that there was going to be a creative meetup, and it was happening now. I stopped by and shook hands with people that would go on to be close acquaintances and friends including Evan at ptbo_Canada, Michael at the New Canadians Centre (among other gigs), the guys at WildRock (where I won a prize for being the 100th Twitter follower), many photographers, small business owners, and the guys at Page.
Paul and David at Page Design get it. They really understand networking, social, inclusiveness, and the creative process. In Toronto I would never have a chance to walk in the front door and sit around drinking coffee and blue-skying ideas and pitches, but that’s precisely what I did after the most recent Twitter-fueled #creativeCocktail earlier this month. We closed the place talking about the broadcast business, my obsession with font kerning, and road biking. That reminds me, I have a few more pictures from New Zealand to post.
It’s not just Twitter; after all, there will be something new around the corner. But what I knew for certain was that I wasn’t getting anywhere reading the same rant and posting the same clever video to the same people just for Facebook. And Twitter just acted as a catalyst to get me thinking about my brand, the image I project to new people, and what I want to be when I grow up.
So I went to purge my Facebook profile and spend some time on my blog. The dolish dot com site redesign ended up taking me weeks to refine. The purging of my Facebook profile was going brutally slow, by design I might add. Facebook doesn’t want you to remove friends and work hard to prevent that from happening every step of the way. I couldn’t delete my account completely, because I’m the admin of a number of group or business pages including my wedding site. But the more I cut the more I was free. Free to do what I wanted with the Internet. Free to create my own space where people could pop in and pull whatever content that catches their eye. Near the end, I started getting concerned messages from good friends (via Facebook of course) asking if they were the next to be culled. If they took the time to email, the cut didn’t happen immediately. But in the end, everyone but close family and the businesses I administrate remain. My list went from almost 300 friends to about 25.
It’s important to point out to those that are reading this blog wondering what happened, that I’m not severing any relationships I’ve built over the years, some that have been with me my entire life. I just needed to expand my horizon a lot. This blog, Twitter, and old fashioned RSS is your key to keeping in touch with me.
The new friends I’ve met at Peterborough’s Nata’s Cafe for a coffee, the creative community I’m bumping into at the ATM or at the Farmer’s Market, and the Kawartha business owners who I’ve met through my work with the Yellow Pages, are now my neighbours and join my circle of precious friends. My quality of life hasn’t been just improved: it’s been completely re-written. By leaving the veiled garden of Facebook and meeting new people and having real conversations and setting real goals, I’ve never felt so alive and excited about life and the opportunity that’s out there.
And the fact that I left the ‘share this on Facebook’ social button below has not gone unnoticed.