120 posts categorized "Facebook"

Facebook Live Video Streams Limited to 30 Minutes For Regular Users

After experimenting with Facebook Live video last week, I encountered an interesting limit:
Regular users are LIMITED TO 30 MINUTES per live video stream.

When doing a Facebook Live stream this morning, I suddenly found I started getting warning messages at the 25-minute mark. I captured a few of them:

Facebook live time countdown

Naturally I had to let it run down to be out of time... at which point my iPad screen got all blurry:

Facebooklive blurred screen

and stayed that way for a minute or so when it seems the app or Facebook Live service must have been post-processing the video, because the next thing I saw was a screen telling me that my video was posted to my timeline:

Facebooklive video finished

And that was that.

Now... in Facebook's Best Practices for Facebook Live, they say (my emphasis added):

7. Broadcast for longer periods of time to reach more fans The longer you broadcast, the more likely fans are to discover and share your video with their friends on Facebook. We recommend that you go live for at least 5 minutes and we've seen some public figures broadcast for over an hour.

Presumably this longer time is for "verified" accounts and Pages.

Searching in Facebook Help, I found this page where down under "How do I share a live video to my Timeline on Facebook?" has this (my emphasis added):

During your broadcast, you'll see the number of live viewers, the names of friends who are watching and a real-time stream of comments. Your broadcast can be no longer than 30 minutes. When you end your broadcast, it'll be saved on your Timeline like any other video.

Now, in all honesty, I don't know that the type of videos I could see personally streaming live with Facebook Live would be longer than 30 minutes. In our days of "snackable video", i.e. it's kind of like a quick snack of food, you're generally looking for really short videos of a couple of minutes.

I could see this for quick "person-on-the-street" interviews... quick updates during events, etc. For all of that, the 30-minute limit is fine.


... for companies or organizations (or public figures) who might want to live stream a presentation, workshop, talk, etc.... those events might go much longer.

I would assume the path to longer video would be to get your page or account "verified" (and I may have to try this now :-) ).

First Look: Facebook Launches Live Video For All To Take On Twitter's Periscope

Hey Twitter... your Periscope is in for some serious trouble! On January 28, 2016, Facebook started expanding their "Live Video" to all iOS users in the USA - and it's definitely a strong offering! Naturally, I had to take Facebook Live Video out for a spin:

Experimenting with Facebook Live Video...

Posted by Dan York on Thursday, January 28, 2016

It was extremely easy to use. All I had to do was go into the iOS Facebook app, press the button to start writing a status update, and then tap on the new "Facebook Live Video" icon:

Facebook live video start

After that you get a screen where you can see somewhat of a view of what you are going to show in the camera - and the ability to switch between the front and back cameras:

Facebook live video go live

Hit the "Continue" button, enter in a quick text description... and then hit "Go Live" to begin. That's it!

During the time of the live video, you can move the camera around, switch between front and back cameras, zoom in, adjust white balance... and everything else you'd expect to be able to do.

You also get comments coming in from people that you see on the bottom half of your screen. As you saw if you watched the video above, I could then respond to those comments during the live video stream.

When it's all done and you hit the stop recording button, you then get some stats and nicely have the option to save the video to your camera roll:

Facebook live video done

All in all it was a very simple and easy to use experience.

UPDATE - 1 Feb 2016: It seems that Facebook Live video streams ARE LIMITED TO 30 MINUTES for regular users. I just hit that limit while doing a live stream. Given that the Facebook Best Practices document mentions public figures streaming for over an hour, I'm guessing that "verified" accounts and Pages must have a higher time limit. (I wrote another blog post with screen shots.)

Initial Thoughts About Using Facebook Live Video

Here were some of my initial thoughts about using Facebook Live Video:

1. VIDEOS ARE SQUARE - Facebook nicely gets away from the portrait/vertical vs landscape/horizontal debate by simply making the live video stream square. It doesn't matter which way you hold the camera... or indeed if you switch the position of the camera. It just works.

2. COMMENTS DURING THE LIVE STREAM APPEAR AS COMMENTS TO THE VIDEO IN FACEBOOK - The comments people post during your live stream are nicely captured as comments to the video inside of Facebook. They are all right there for you to see - and for anyone else to see later. I like this!

3. COMMENTS DO NOT APPEAR DURING A REPLAY - My friend Tobias pointed out a down side with the comments... you don't see them in the video (as you do in Periscope) during the replay of the video. This means that comments that are made at a precise moment in the video no longer have the connection with the video. If someone is reacting to what you say by commenting "I totally agree", then I see it during the live stream and can react to that comment during the live stream. However, afterward there is now a comment to the video that says "I totally agree" ... that has lost all connection to its context.

4. LIVE VIDEOS APPEAR RIGHT IN YOUR FEED - When a live video stream is over, the video appears right in your regular Facebook feed... you don't have to do anything special, nor does anyone have to do anything special to find them. (In contrast to, say, YouTube where a live stream does go to your YouTube channel... but it's listed separately from your regular Uploads.)

5. YOU CAN SAVE THE VIDEO TO YOUR iPHONE CAMERA ROLL - When the live stream is over, you also have the option to save the video to your iPhone/iPad camera roll, so you can have a local copy that you can use in other ways.

6. FACEBOOK NOTIFIES PEOPLE YOU ARE LIVE - Similar to Periscope and Meerkat on Facebook, the people following you on Facebook get a notification in their NewsFeed that you are live. However, fans/followers can also subscribe separately to your live videos and get specific notifications whenever you go live.

Facebook live notifications

7. YOU CAN EMBED THE VIDEOS OUTSIDE OF FACEBOOK - If you use a web content management system (CMS) that supports OEmbed, such as WordPress, you can simply copy the URL of your Facebook video and paste it into your editor window... and WordPress will automagically embed the video for you. If you use a system that doesn't support OEmbed (such as TypePad, where this blog is still hosted), you can still get the embed code - you just have to work harder. When you display the video in Facebook in a web browser in the "theater" (lightbox) mode, you go to "Options" at the bottom of the window and choose "Embed Video". In some of the other views of the video there is an "Embed Video" link down below the video on the right side. Either way you wind up with the embed code you can post into your web site editor. One note: the live video needs to have a privacy setting of "Public" in order for the Embed Video link to appear.

8. YOU NEED TO REALIZE THE iPHONE HAS TWO MICROPHONES - If you listen to my first live video above, you can notice the drop in the audio level when I switch from the front-facing camera to the rear-facing camera. I honestly didn't realize the iPhone 5s had two different microphones. It makes total sense, but I just didn't realize it. The result was the difference in audio levels, something I'm now aware of and can compensate for.

9. LIVE VIDEOS ARE TREATED JUST LIKE ANY OTHER POSTS FOR PRIVACY SETTINGS - Just to build off of #4 above, a live video is just another post, so you can do things such as change the privacy from "Friends" to "Public" or vice versa.

10. LIVE VIDEOS ARE AVAILABLE TO FACEBOOK PAGES - If you have a Facebook Page, you can also stream live video. You have to have a "verified" Pages, but if you do, you can use Facebook Live.

After my initial test, I tried it out a bit more with zooming, adjusting white balance, etc., and was again quite impressed.

Are Periscope and Meerkat in Trouble?

In a word... YES.

First Meerkat and then Periscope made it drop-dead easy to stream live video and alert all your followers... but they're based on Twitter. As I noted recently, Facebook has an insanely huge number of users ... and so this brings that live video capability directly inside Facebook's shiny walled garden.

Keep in mind, of course, that this IS the end goal for Facebook - to keep you nice and happy sharing live video inside their pretty walled garden.

Just as Twitter wants you to use Periscope to stay inside their walls... and Google would like you to stream live video with YouTube to stay inside Google's walls. (As would Livestream.com and other sites offering live streaming.)

The game is to keep the eyeballs for the ads... and to keep growing the massive directories of ACTIVE users.

Regardless of motivation, Facebook Live Video is a strong new contender in the live streaming space. Right now it's only available on iOS in the United States but their announcement says it will be offered in more countries soon adn will coming to Android phones soon, too.

Note, too, that Facebook provides some tips/best practices for using Facebook Live that give some further insight into the product's capabilities.

I don't know that I'll be using Facebook Live Video all that often during my regular work weeks, but when I'm at events, conferences, etc., I could see this being a great way to add live streaming into the flow of content that I'm creating.

What do you think? Will you use Facebook Live? Or will you stick with Periscope, Meerkat, YouTube or some other streaming service?

P.S. Here is another example shot with the rear-facing camera on the iPhone 5s and experimenting with zooming and white balance:

Listening to the Apple Hill String Quartet at Brewbakers In Keene, NH

Posted by Dan York on Thursday, January 28, 2016

Facebook's Staggering 2015 Q4 Results - Amazing (and Concerning) Numbers!

Facebook quarterly results 2015Q4This week Facebook released amazing quarterly results for Q4 of 2015 that truly show what a HUGE hub of activity Facebook has become. Mark Zuckerberg posted this "Comunity Update" photo with these staggering numbers for monthly active users (MAU):
  • 1.59 Billion monthly Facebook users
  • 900 Million monthly WhatsApp users
  • 800 Million monthly Facebook Messenger users
  • 400 Million monthly Instagram users


Consider that there are 7 billion people on the entire planet... 7.3 billion if we go with US gov't data... that's about 1/5th OF THE WORLD (21%) USING FACEBOOK each month!

And nearly 1 billion people using WhatsApp.

Amazing numbers!

Admittedly, I'm more than a bit concerned about all of this communication being centralized within one corporation. This gives a HUGE amount of power to one corporate entity to be the gatekeeper of content and communication. Already with the NewsFeed algorithms Facebook is controlling what we see and share. As these numbers grow, they continue to gain more and more control.

As I wrote about last year, Facebook's control of multiple "user directories" severely limits the ability for new entrants to enter the messaging and communication scene.

It's definitely concerning... but it's also amazing.

Congrats to all the people at Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram for hitting these incredible numbers! It will be curious to see what next quarter brings!

P.S. Those who want deeper details can dive into Facebook's 2015 Q4 Earning Report. LOTS more data...

FriendFeed Finally Fades... Farewell!

FriendfeedFarewell, FriendFeed! Goodbye! Ever since Facebook acquired Friendfeed back in 2009 we wondered what its fate would be... now we know. This past Monday, March 9. 2015, the FriendFeed team posted a simple note that said in part:
We wanted to let you know that FriendFeed will be shutting down soon. We've been maintaining the service since we joined Facebook five years ago, but the number of people using FriendFeed has been steadily declining and the community is now just a fraction of what it once was. Given this, we've decided that it's time to start winding things down.

Beginning today, we will no longer accept new signups. You will be able to view your posts, messages, and photos until April 9th. On April 9th, we'll be shutting down FriendFeed and it will no longer be available.

I saw some reminiscing on Hacker News and within FriendFeed itself... but I think we all knew this day was coming.

Before today I hadn't logged into the site for quite a long time. I only have recent content posted there due to the fact that TypePad is still set to post articles (such as this one) over to FriendFeed. But for most of us the conversations left the site... off to other venues and places. (But I've seen that there are still some very strong communities that have been thriving within FriendFeed to this day.)

FriendFeed was remarkable to me at the time for it's ability to aggregate feeds of all sorts of different services into one place. For quite some time http://friendfeed.com/danyork was the link I gave people to find "all of my writing in one place". Sometime after the Facebook acquisition I realized it may not be around and so I wound up building my own aggregation site - http://danyork.me/ - but it was FriendFeed that first brought that idea to me.

It was also a great place for group discussions. For quite some time it was the home of the For Immediate Release (FIR) podcast listener community and we would all discuss episodes and other topics there. That's all moved to the FIR Community on Google+ ... which hopefully will last a bit longer! :-)

The Wikipedia entry on FriendFeed has some good background. It was a great service back in its prime!

Farewell, FriendFeed!

P.S. If you'd like to export your data out of FriendFeed, there is a script available from Claudio Cicali on Github that may help.

An audio commentary is available:

How To Turn Off Sounds In The Facebook iPhone / iPad App

Do you want to turn off / disable the sounds that Facebook just added to the latest version of their iOS app for iPhone and iPad? If you are like me and find these kind of sounds associated with actions (such as "keyboard clicks") annoying, here's what you need to do.

1. Go Into The Settings Inside The App - First you need to tap on "More" in the lower right corner of the app and then tap on "Settings":

Facebook ios settings

2. Go Into "Sounds" - Next tap on "Sounds":

Facebook ios sounds setting

3. Turn Off "In-App Sound" - Finally, just tap the slider to turn off the sounds.

Facebook in app sound

Now, maybe you like these kind of sounds... but I personally don't. I'm the guy who turns off "keyboard clicks" because I do NOT want to hear a sound whenever I tap a key.

I don't want aural feedback.

Some of you may... and that's fine. I don't.

Someone at Facebook seemed to think that we all wanted this and so they added it in to one of the recent releases and... ta da... as soon as we updated the Facebook app on our iPhone or iPad we started getting clicks and swishes and other sounds.

This points to one of the larger issues with our new world of mobile "apps":

We are at the mercy of whatever the app developer wants to do.

If this were a browser-based "app" (a set of web pages), we could typically configure the browser to not play any sounds - and then all web pages would be subject to the settings in the web browser.

But we've left that land where the web browser serves as our window to content. Instead we have custom-designed apps where we have to figure out where the settings are in each of the different apps.

For instance, when the sounds first started in the Facebook app, I went into the generic "Settings" app in iOS to try to find out how to turn them off. I looked under:

  • Facebook
  • Sounds
  • Notifications

and couldn't any settings in any of those places to turn it off. Only then did I tap on the "More" inside the Facebook app to see if there were any settings there.

Now... the good news is that at least Facebook gave us a control to turn the sounds off! They didn't have to and could have just made that a mandated part of the app.

But that's back to the point... for the convenience and simplicity of using a mobile app, we've surrendered control to the whims of the application developers.

I'm personally not really thrilled about that evolution of the mobile Internet, but it's hard to see how we walk back to a different path...

An audio commentary on this topic is also available:

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

Why I Am NOT Always Okay Being The Product (Re: Facebook and Ello)

Shel holtz productSometimes I'm okay being "the product", sometimes I'm not. I just want the choice... and to know who has access to my data.

Today Shel Holtz published a piece on his blog, "You say I'm the product of services I don't pay for? I'm fine with that.", and after first replying to Shel on Ello and then starting to do so again on Facebook... I realized I needed to just write these thoughts down in somewhere more permanent (and outside the walls of social networks). You know... go "old school" and reply blog-to-blog like we used to do before social networks...

I certainly realize that you are always paying for services in some form, either directly in money or attention (i.e. watching an ad before seeing something) or through information that can then be monetized via some other way such as ads. I also realize there are hybrid services where you are directly paying for part of the cost while advertising (potentially based on your data) is covering the rest of the cost. This has been the model for newspapers and magazines for quite some time (and pre-Internet, of course). It's the model for TV channels now (since in at least the US you are paying for cable TV and being bombarded by ads). It's the model used for a zillion different services we all use every day.

I get that.

TANSTAAFL - There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

I get that. And much of the time I'm perfectly fine with that.

I use Gmail, for free, even though I know that Google is reading my every message and mining that for data to feed into their AdWords advertising machine. Like Shel, I use some "loyalty programs" where I know that I am getting a discount on my purchases in exchange for giving them my data.

Going Too Far?

But... I start to get worried about how that data might be used by others. For instance, Facebook's new "Atlas" advertising platform launches today (see also "Meet the new Atlas") and so now ads based on our Facebook data will be displayed on other websites we visit and also within mobile apps.

To Shel's point... maybe that's a good thing. Maybe we'll see more targeted and helpful ads that we may actually want to purchase.

But... who else is learning about what we are doing and saying inside of Facebook... and are we okay with them doing so?

Maybe I've just spent so many years in information security that I'm wary. I don't expect that advertisers outside of Facebook would learn my exact information... Facebook is far too protective of the actual data (for their OWN reasons, not out of any interest in protecting me). But there are ways that information can leak... or that aggregate information can be discovered. Our web browsers and other devices can leak a great amount of information about what we are doing and what we are seeing.

I'm not 100% okay sharing all that data with others.

I guess I don't necessarily trust Facebook to be careful with my data.

Choosing NOT To Be The Product

Shel mentions network television in his post, and certainly I, too, have seen some amazing shows that came about through the support of advertising. Similarly, I'm been a long-time fan of National Public Radio (NPR) and while it does not have "advertising", per se, it has "underwriting" which to the listener may wind up being similar (just less obnoxious).

But I have chosen to NOT participate in that process much any more. Our family doesn't have commercial TV. We are a "cord-cutter". What "TV" we watch comes at us without commercials through live streaming services. We are paying for a subscription. An impact, of course, is that we don't get some of the latest shows... nor do we get the current sports games... because those are all still ad-funded.

We made this choice in large part because we were tired of all the advertising. (And there are some philosophical reasons why I think the fact that our kids are growing up without watching commercials is a beautiful thing, but that's for a different article.) I've given up on most traditional radio, too, including NPR, opting instead to listen to podcasts in my car or use Spotify (which I pay for) or other streaming services in my home office.

Similarly, I have chosen NOT to participate in some "rewards" or "loyalty" programs offered by some stores or services. Oh, sure, I'm in various hotel and airline "frequent traveler" programs because I perceive that there are benefits. I am also in one for my local hardware store because I get a discount and I buy a significant quantity of products to where I'm okay giving up my data for a discount.

But there are other stores where I am NOT comfortable exchanging my data for a discount. Either ones I don't frequent all that often... or just ones that for whatever reason I don't trust.

I don't want to be their product.

Returning To The Topic Of Facebook and Ello

Shel concludes his post saying:

Ultimately, being “the product” doesn’t bother me, and I’m not inclined to abandon a network that works for me for a new one just because it doesn’t have ads.

He is, of course, responding to the Ello Manifesto and one reason Ello is getting a good bit of buzz.

I agree that simply "not having ads" is not a great reason to move from one network to another. And I don't expect that I will abandon Facebook... I still find it useful and enjoyable.

But I find I don't trust Facebook anymore.

Granted, I never really have trusted Facebook since I started using it back in 2007-ish... but maybe it's even more the case today. I just worry about the large-scale data mining.

THAT is a good part of why I'm continuing my explorations with Ello.

I'm looking for a place where I can share information with others - and yet feel that the privacy of my conversations and data are better respected than in other social networks.

P.S. And yes, I do realize the irony that all my Ello conversations are entirely public, which means that all of them can be picked up by that other master of data mining, Google, as well as any other data mining service... very much like all my tweets can be picked up, too. That's okay right now because I'm not yet intending to share anything on Ello that I'm not comfortable being public. But I am interested in what they may be able to do in the future to allow more private conversations.

P.S. And I also realize that I'm probably in a very small minority who care about data privacy and that the VAST majority of people out there don't even remotely care about what is done with their data...

Photo credit: Shel's blog

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

One Image To Show The Incredible Importance Of Sharing Web Pages Versus PDFs

So you have that report, infographic or other document as a PDF, right? And now you want to get that massively shared out in social media, right? So that everyone can see your document and learn from it?

Do you...

  1. Start distributing the link to the PDF and ask people to share it?
  2. Wrap the PDF in a basic web page, share THAT link and ask people to share it?

If you answered #1, read on for why you should think of #2.

This morning the World Economic Forum (happening this week in Davos, Switzerland) published an excellent infographic about the Internet as "The Innovation Engine" outlining a series of recommendations for leaders with regard to key Internet issues.

The only problem was that they only published the document as a PDF file on their site. The link that was being sent around was just for the PDF.

Links to PDF files do not "share" very well in social media!

Thankfully, someone on our (Internet Society, my employer) Communications team was able to put up a simple web page that provided a nicer link for sharing.

Notice the difference in the image of my Facebook NewsFeed this morning:

Sharing a pdf vs a web page

The first link, from LACNIC, was for the PDF-only link. It has a URL you can't understand and just the domain name listed. No preview image. No title. No text. Sure, I can know from the status update text what the link is about... but the "link preview" doesn't grab me in and make me want to click it.

The second link, from the Internet Society Comms Team, is to the web page wrapping the PDF. Note here it has a preview image. It has a title. It has some descriptive text. This "link preview" provides enough information that I may want to click on it right away without even reading the Facebook status update.

Ultimately, both links bring you to the same PDF file. The difference is that the second link is to a web page that provides enough "meta" information that the social network can use that information to build a "link preview". While my example here shows Facebook, it works similarly on Google+ and probably works the same way on other social networks.

Note, too, that the web page wrapping the PDF is nothing special. It's a very basic page with a preview image of the PDF, a couple paragraphs of text, a title and the link to the PDF.

That's it.

But that's all that's needed to provide a much better sharing experience when that link is passed around in social networks.

Something to think about the next time you are looking to share out a PDF of a image, infographic, report or other document. Wrap it in a simple web page and your sharing will be much more effective!

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

WAIT! Don't Delete Your Instagram Account Just Yet...

InstagramWAIT! Don't just delete your Instagram account!

Across a wide range of social networks today, I'm seeing people deleting their Instagram accounts after Facebook changed the Instagram terms of service in a way which allows Facebook/Instagram to potentially use your photos in advertising. At issue in particular are two clauses under "Rights" in the new terms of service (my emphasis added):

2. Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf.

3. You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.

The first of which is the serious issue, while the second is more just annoying.

UPDATE 19 Dec 2012 - Instagram has responded with a post about the new terms of service. I think it's an open question whether that will help or whether people will continue to take a wait-and-see approach as Neville Hobson is doing (as am I).

I completely understand why people are deleting their Instagram accounts, particularly when directions about how to leave Instagram are published on Wired and being widely circulated - and also when other services like Flickr roll out new mobile apps that rock!

But think about what you are losing:

  • ALL THE LINKS WILL STOP WORKING that are to your Instagram photos. All those links floating around out there in Twitter, Facebook and other sites will no longer work. Presumably they'll all now be 404s.

  • YOU WILL LOSE YOUR ACCOUNT NAME - and someone else may be able to get that name. Maybe your name is unique enough that someone else won't come along and want your account name... but I know mine is NOT unique, and so if I were to give it up, some other Dan York could come along and take it.

  • INSTAGRAM MAY CHANGE ITS TERMS as it deals with all the backlash. You may find yourself wanting to get back in... and someone else may have claimed your username.

  • INSTAGRAM IS PART OF FACEBOOK... and love it or hate it, Facebook is a big player in this space. We don't know how they will (or will not) evolve Instagram. It may be worthwhile to have an account there at some later time.

Now it may be that there is a very simple way to keep your Instagram account yet not fall under the new Terms of Service:

Do not USE Instagram starting on January 16th!

I am NOT a lawyer, but I've seen multiple notes that this Terms of Service only applies to photos you post as of January 16, 2013. I don't know if that is true... but if it is, this may be a simple way to keep your account and links intact. Keep the account, but just stop using it and switch to some other service instead.

Of course, if it is NOT true, then I might be joining you all in deleting accounts... ;-)

Seriously, though, please think carefully about whether or not you want to lose all those links and your account at Instagram before you just go and delete the account.

Links are how the web is constructed... and by deleting your account you'll be tearing a hole in your own personal web of content!

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

The Challenging Intersection Of Facebook And Religion - And The Blurring of Public and Private Lives

Facebook religionFacebook creates a challenge when it comes to religion (and politics) for many of us who also use Facebook in a professional / work environment. I fervently believe that a person's religious views are their own private matter. Each of us should have the right, in my opinion, to hold whatever beliefs we want and to practice (or not) our religious views in whatever manner we wish.

For us to work together in a business setting, our religious views shouldn't come into play. In an ideal world, your choice of religion (including "none") shouldn't bother me - and mine shouldn't bother you. In the real world, of course, where we are imperfect humans, these choices, when known, do very often have impacts.

The reality is that there isn't really any reason for us to know the religious views of the other people around us in a professional setting.

Of the hundreds of people I've worked with in the corporate world over the past 20 years, before the world of social media I probably knew the religious views of only a very few. Usually it only maybe came up in a side conversation - or it was someone who was very open, or who was very involved in church fundraisers, mission work or other public activities. In a few cases I have worked with people who were also ministers and were public about that.

But for probably 99% of the people, I have had no idea - and that's perfectly fine.

Facebook, though, makes this complicated.

The Twin Taboos

Way back in 2007, I wrote about how the twin taboos of politics and religion were entering the workplace because of the many people who were then signing up on Facebook and "friending" other people at work... and filling out the various form fields on their Facebook profile with their politicial and religious views. I wrote in part:

A strong "born again" Christian may see that the problems of the world are because people have not accepted Jesus Christ as their lord and savior and need to do so. A strong atheist may see that the problems of the world are because of the very existence of religion and that it is the root of all evil. These are deeply-ingrained views:

Politics and religion are part of our core identity that helps form who we define ourselves to be.

When that part of our identity is confronted by a polar opposite, we naturally react. Conservative Christians will have second thoughts about atheists, and atheists will have second thoughts about conservative Christians.

Five years later I still see that article as on target. You can substitute, of course, any religious affiliations in that part I quoted. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists... pick your religion. Even within a "religion", different sects may have widely divergent viewpoints and deep emotional attachments. (Ex. Protestants/Catholics in Northern Ireland or Sunnis/Shiites in the Middle East)

With the emergence of the TimeLine replacing the "Wall", Facebook moved those religion/politics fields a bit. You have to click an extra link to actually find them, so their prominence is much less... but the TimeLine also created new challenges I'll mention below.

The Blurring Of Our Lives

The underlying issue is that we are engaged in a grand experiment of blurring all the various facets of our lives together, something I wrote about in 2009, asking whether this improved co-worker connections or just felt creepy. We all have many different contexts in which we interact with people. We maintain various different personas for each of those contexts. How we interact with our co-workers in the office may be very different from how we interact with our friends at a local bar which may yet again be very different from how we interact with people at a church or in a community group. As I said then:

This is particularly true with the divide between our "work" and "personal" lives. Sure, we've always shared some parts of our personal life inside the walls of our "work" environment. We've talked to our co-workers... gathered at water coolers or in break rooms or cafeterias. Some people have shared very openly about what they are doing and we've learned much about their overall personality. Others have remained very private and shared virtually nothing. To some degree, we all have a facade that we construct that is how we appear to our co-workers.

Yet the fundamental problem is this:

We have ONE Facebook profile.

All of those different people see one common Facebook profile. (Similarly they see one common Twitter stream.) And so when we write about religious issues or our religious views, or when we "share" images or content from our church into our NewsFeed, all our "friends" see the info.

There are more subtle, ways, too. When a friend posts a set of photos from a recent church service, I now learn of his affiliation. Or when another friend "checks in" at their church, I learn of her religious views.

Interestingly, the Google+ social network tries to solve this by letting you set up many different "circles" and then sharing information only out with certain circles. While a great idea in theory, choosing the circles with which you wants to share info adds time to a posting that most people don't seem to have... pretty much everything I see posted to Google+ seems to go to all of someone's circles and often even is posted as "Public" for all to see.

I asked in that 2009 post these questions:

What if the person sharing the "revealing" information is a co-worker? Do we understand yet how (or if) this changes our relationships? Do I gain more respect learning of a serious childhood illness now overcome? Do I lose respect for that co-worker when I learn of the drunken binges they go on each month? What if I don't like their politics or religion? Does any of this change the way I interact with the person? On one level, how can it not change my views of that person? - but can I/we move beyond that?

Have our "culture" and "conventions" caught up with the degree of information our tools now let us share?

Where is the line between information we share with co-workers and our "personal" lives? Is there even a line? Or is the very concept of such a line just a quaint anachronism of another era?

Three years later I'm not sure we're any farther along in answering those questions. Perhaps we will not be for many years to come.

"Frictionless Sharing"

In fact, in the last couple of years Facebook has made this even more complicated by removing the "friction" from sharing information... in other words, they have started sharing information about you without you being involved.

The classic case of this is sharing when you "Like" a page. Click the "Like" button on a page, such as that of your church, and... ta da... that will show up in the NewsFeed of many of your friends - or the "Ticker" running in the upper right corner of their Facebook window in a regular web browser.

Similarly, if you "Like" or comment on an item on your church's web page, that action, too, goes out into your newsfeed.

And if you've linked any location-based applications into Facebook, like FourSquare, that activity goes out into your NewsFeed:


The end result is that from all sorts of angles you wind up passing information about your religious views and activities out into your Facebook friends - sometimes consciously through postings, check-ins, etc.; and sometimes more inadvertently "leaking" through likes, comments, etc.

The Professional Challenge

The challenge, as noted earlier, is that if you use Facebook and connect with people from your work, sharing your religious (or political) views can potentially impact those relationships. We certainly saw this in the most recent U.S. election, where many people posted (or shared info/images) very passionately related to either the Obama or Romney campaigns. Those posts, at least the more venomous of them, may have caused some people to block others... or to unfriend them... or to simply lose some degree of respect for others.

This is particularly a challenge, too, if you are a "public" face of a company or organization. Whether you are an executive, a spokesperson or even just someone writing online for a company or organization, you become connected to that entity. Now if you are also sharing your religious views in ways that are easy to find, it could become problematic - do you wish to potentially alienate some % of your potential customers?

Moving it to a global scale, there are many parts of the world where religion plays a much larger role than others. Given the current conflict in Gaza, how well will parties from the other religion be received? If you interact with people on a global scale, you may need to have an even more heightened awareness of cultural sensitivities around religion.

Now let's be honest, though, and note that MANY (most?) work connections on Facebook may not even notice or remotely care about your religious views. "Meh, whatever..." is a commmon enough view. Particularly here in North America or in western Europe where the strength of religious concerns in society is nowhere near what it once was.

But what if someone who does care about your religious viewpoint happens to be your company's largest customer? Or your manager? Or your employee? Or CEO? Are you willing to take that risk?

Splitting Your Personality

In reaction to all of this, some people use multiple Facebook accounts. I have friends who have one Facebook account that they use for all their professional/work "friends" - and a completely separate Facebook account that they use for their close friends and perhaps family. One Facebook account is their "work persona" while the other is their more open and candid persona.

While this works, it does require a rigorous degree of discipline. You have to make sure you are in the right account before posting. On a mobile device, where I'm often posting to Facebook, this may require using separate apps for each account. For instance, one friend uses the Facebook app on an iPhone for his "work" account and the Hootsuite app for his "personal" account.

It can be done... but my worry, and the reason I don't do it myself (yet, anyway), is that it seems FAR too easy to mess up. Forget which window or app you are in and... BOOM... that more private post gets seen by all your work colleagues.


The Counterpoint

The counter-argument to what I made above is that by being open and talking about your religious views (or at least not suppressing them) is that you may find new opportunities and connections. Rather than finding a percentage of people alienated by your views (or perhaps in addition to that %) you may find a % of people who actually embrace your religious views. Work connections may come forward with the information that they, too, share your views. Or they may be curious and want to know more. A learning experience may emerge that may lead to greater understanding.

Others with whom I've had discussions along these lines in the past have pointed out that by sharing, even if only through Likes or comments (i.e. nothing direct like posts), you are allowing yourself to be "whole" and true - that you are thereby giving yourself the permission to be who you really are both online and offline. Others have argued that if someone is not willing to work with you due to your religion, do you really want to be working with them?

Another group contends that the "Millenials" and others entering the work force today just expect that sharing of this kind of information will occur... and they are just going ahead and sharing it all, while we of the older crowd are writing over-analyzing articles like this one.

All good points, certainly, although I would note that in work contexts we don't often get the luxury to choose who we will work with as customers, co-workers, partners or vendors. Sometimes we do - often we don't.

What To Do?

I don't know.

I struggle with this myself. I've been online for over 25 years, since the mid-1980's, and have been writing prolifically since around 2000. Yet in all those many years of writing, tweeting, podcasting, etc., I don't know that you could find many, if any, references to my religious views in any of my writing. Ditto with political views, although I will admit to being a bit more forthcoming on that front in this past election within the walls of Facebook.

I don't believe either of those viewpoints should have any role in my current professional and work personas.

Yet I'm a pretty hardcore political news junkie (living in New Hampshire it is hard NOT to be!) and have had a lifelong passionate interest in religion and spirituality. Offline, I'm active in my local church, yet I don't bring any of that activity online - and I do struggle with that.  On a simple level, I would like to "Like" my church's Facebook page... but in doing so I start crossing that divide and blurring my own lines.

I have had any number of colleagues who are very open about what they believe and what their religious views are.  I've had many, many more who have kept that information to themselves.

As we continue this experiment in merging our lives together, this kind of information sharing will become increasingly unavoidable. Unless, of course, you choose simply to not participate, but even that will become harder as more of more of our communication moves online and into "the cloud."

There is certainly the potential that this increased sharing can lead to more connectedness between people and better communication and understanding... yet the potential is also there for increased division and fragmentation.

In the words of Facebook, "It's Complicated."

If you've read this far, what do you do?

Do you keep your religious and/or political views offline and/or private? Or do you not worry about any of it and just let all of that information hang out there? Will this kind of sharing become more expected and "normal"?  How will it change how we interact with each other? Or will it not? How will our cultural norms evolve?

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

My Report Into FIR #678 - Facebook Mobile Sharing, Barriers To Blogging, and Social Media with Israel/Hamas

In this week's For Immediate Release episode #678 on Monday, November 19, 2012, my report covered:

If you are a FIR subscriber, you should have the show now in iTunes or whatever you use to get the feed. If you aren't a subscriber, you can simply listen to the episode online now. There is a TON of other great information in the weekly episode relevant to those involved with PR, marketing and other forms of communication, so I'd encourage you to give it a listen.

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either: