March 15, 2022

What are you really getting out of Facebook?

And the subsequent—and perhaps more important question—is: What is Facebook taking from you?

But we'll get to that later.

But first things first: 

What are you really getting out of Facebook?

If asked this question, I surmise that most people would reply, first and foremost, that Facebook enables them to keep in touch with loved ones and friends. And, sure, that's a valid (and quite convenient) answer. 

After all, this social media behemoth allows for an almost-instant connection to the people we see everyday or rarely, if at all. It's not unusual, for example, for someone to tag their spouse in the comment section of an amusing post so as to draw his or her attention to it. Or maybe a song comes on and reminds you of your seventh grade clique, and so you use Facebook to find them and see what they're up to.

I'm not talking about that.

In retrospect, I should be asking a different question:

What are you getting out of posting on Facebook?

Meaning, what motivates you to post what you post?

I'm of the belief that garnering attention—despite many people's inability to admit it—is what motivates us all to post.

Some people might beg to differ.

They'll say, "No! I'm not posting for attention: I'm posting to wish so-and-so a happy birthday." Or, "I'm posting in remembrance of Uncle Ed's passing."

And that person might legitimately believe they're right.

But I argue that that person is posting to get attention for wishing so-and-so a happy birthday, that they are posting to get attention for remembering Uncle Ed's passing.

Remember: A birthday wish or remembrance don't have to be made public.

Both existed before Facebook.

What I'm trying to say is, when people post on Facebook—and post things that often involve others, in particular, their post is just as much (if not more) about themselves as it is about the other person.

Me, personally, as an individual who has been self-employed since 2009, it was my intention to attain clients that eventually lured me onto Facebook in 2014.

I'm a bit of an anomaly because I've never used Facebook in the conventional sense.

I mean, yes, when one of my friends published a post announcing the adoption of her family's new dog, then, yeah, sure, I "liked" the post.

However, I characterize my Facebook usage as unconventional because I never posted on my personal Facebook page. The only reason I even had a personal page at all was because one needs a personal Facebook account in order to make a business (i.e. public) Facebook page. 

I launched my professional Facebook page so that prospective clients—those who might seek to hire me for my professional writing or yoga instruction services—could get to know me on a more personal level. So that they could see how my roles as a wife and mother have shaped and influenced me as a writer and yoga teacher.

I'm not going to lie.

Everything I posted was carefully considered prior to posting: Does the wording of this caption strike the right tone? , If I posted this photo, would I come to regret it later?, etc.

As a wife and mother, sure, I posted about my family. But I had strict ground rules in place.

I never posted anything that included the front of my home; I never posted anything that referenced where my children attend school; I never posted photos of my children that they might come to be horrified by later.

I always thought about safety and how things might be perceived down the road.

Furthermore, because the sole purpose of my page was to focus on me, personally, I made an effort not to post things that one would easily see posted elsewhere. That meant I decided against posting memes, celebrity news, funny YouTube videos, etc.

I also didn't give a hoot about likes. All I cared about was visibility. I simply wanted to grant a prospective client access to me, hence the reason I opted for a public, business page.

Again, I realize, that my Facebook usage differed greatly from how most people use Facebook. 

But I fully admit that my strategy involved turning attention into a professional boost.

So my real question is two-fold: 

Why do others seek attention on Facebook?

And why are they willing to post what they do in order to get that attention?

I am not judging. And I don't have the answers.

I wholeheartedly admit to being genuinely perplexed (and sometimes dumbfounded) by what people are willing to post...just to get attention.

And I am especially intrigued as to why people use three things in particularchildren, death, and sympathyas consistent Facebook fodder.

Let's take the topic of kids first.

It is not uncommon for adults to publish posts in celebration of a child's birthday. Parents do it all the time, which, for better or worse, is a parent's right.

These kids are theirs.

What I find odd, however, is when other adults use a kid's birthday as an opportunity to post.

Even when the kid's parents aren't active on Facebook.

Even when the kids themselves are too young to even access Facebook, and therefore will never have any knowledge of the post.

What is the impetus behind posting "Happy birthday, Johnny. Enjoy your special day! I love you so much!"...when Johnny never even sees it?

The only thing I keep falling back on is that the person who posts about Johnny is using the occasion of Johnny's birthday to draw attention to him or herself.

And I am simply wondering why that is.

The person posting may very well love Johnny.

And it can also be true that Johnny is being used as a pawn to gain fleeting attention on Facebook.

Similarly, some people think nothing of posting photos of children without the consent of the children's parents, which I also find bizarre.

Or how about when parents themselves post cringe-worthy photos of their own children that said children will predictably have a cow about when they reach adolescence, if not before. (Ironically, the people posting the baby pictures of others are often hesitant about posting pictures of themselves, at any stage of life).

I mean, let's face it: The internet is forever.

When people post messagesdirectly penned to the deceased—on Facebook, please, pray tell how that isn't a desperate plea for attention?

The dead, God rest their souls, won't ever see it.

I can (kind of) understand someone pouring his or her heart out about missing a loved one. I still see it as attention-grabbing, don't get me wrong. But at least the person is sharing his or her own personal feelings and not writing a message that the intended recipient will never see...but everyone else will.

In the same vain, Reddit has coined a term that describes when people post condolences for others who are grieving: it's called a grief vulture, and I find it eerily appropriate.

For example, Mary has a friend named Sue, and Sue's brother passes away. Mary then jumps on Facebook and posts about how sad it all is and how her heart aches for Sue.

Like I stated above about Johnny: It can be true that Mary truly is sad for Sue.

But it can also be true that Mary is using the passing of Sue's brother as click-bate. 

And, again, I am simply asking why this call for attention is necessary.

What purpose does it serve? What itch does it scratch?

I might be going out on a limb here, but I venture to say that many people who engage in this behavior aren't even conscious of it, that they just do it without thinking.

Like, for example, when people post prayer requestsPlease say a prayer for me or Please pray for my friend Shawn, he could use it!—but will conveniently leave out why the prayer is needed.

Listen, I believe in the power of prayer.

But I also believe that there's a thing called "performance prayer," which is when prayer is elicited simply for the means of seeking attention.

Posting a summons for prayer—in the absence of a reason—can be viewed as a passive-aggressive way of inviting people to ask "Why?," which then opens the door for the poster to seek even more attention by providing an explanation.

Just take a good, conscious look through your Facebook feed, and I'm sure you're likely to agree that people post things that are cavalier and incredulous—at best—and just plain irresponsible—at worst.

Which brings us to the question at the top of this post: 

What is Facebook capable of taking from you?

Is it dignity?

I saw an article the other day which detailed a hack for preventing Facebook memories from reviving our most awkward posts.

That article exists for a good reason.

What else might Facebook take from you?

A better job?

Speaking of articles, the internet—and newspapers—are rife with tales of people who—against better judgment, or in the absence of any judgment at all—decided to post something degrading, inflammatory, or downright stupid all in the name of getting attention.

It is true that we have free speech in this country.

But we are not free from consequences.

We do have the freedom to post nearly anything...but the supervisor at our dream job also has the right not to hire us.

And, adding insult to injury is the notion that something can come back to haunt us long after it's been posted.

The internet is forever.

How does one's insatiable quest for attention override one's concern for the long game?

Put another way: Why would someone chase likes at the expense of embarrassing children, damaging relationships, or ruining their chances of making a good first impression later on?

So, again, I ask: Is the attention really worth it?

© Copyright Courtney Conover, 2022


  1. Interesting post.

    I have been in "Facebook Jail" since November as Facebook/META Bots have determined that I violated their policy of posting sexual/explicit content from my pages - Never Have and Never Will!

    There is no customer support so I keep getting flagged!!! I don't care much about posting but it is affecting my business as a Social Media Manager.

    1. Facebook "Jail"!?!

      Well, that sucks.

      And it sounds like they've got the wrong woman: Out of all the years I've known you in this blogging world, I have NEVER known you to post anything inappropriate.

      You can probably tell by this post that I wouldn't exactly call myself a fan of Facebook--and your comment has done nothing to improve my opinion of Facebook, frankly.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts here, Antionette. I hope all is well with you and yours.