Facebook Groups, Blocks, and other Awkward Social Moments — “The Empty Chair” Experience

Posted by on September 27, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments

Facebook Groups, Blocks, and other Awkward Social Moments  — “The Empty Chair” Experience

You know, I used to consider myself a social networking juggernaut. I remember college in the early 90’s when chat rooms were DOS based. No graphics before AOL and even then the ancient modems that made space machine sounds on dial up.

I won’t forget the day that I discovered Facebook sitting in a video store I was operating and a young employee introduced me to what would slowly become, the social community larger than nearly every country in the world. I had moved into the extreme “cool” customizations and epic music for my MySpace site and a large, admirable friend list.  Dare I move to this new concept only high school and young people at that time were embracing? What would it mean to me? Now the question is, what would it mean to the world? A lot…

My thoughts today are mostly in jest, take nothing personal or serious as I have wanted to, for some time, to explore what has been coined in the past as  “The Empty Chair.”

I’ll get to the “Empty Chair” in just a bit. I need to start with a bit of background and realize that all scenarios are just “scenarios.”  They could or may apply to any and all of the 850 million users.

My wife and I met in a Facebook group.  We both discussed this today in fact, how we were each in the “pack” if we can look at Facebook Groups as packs of individuals that often carry pack behavior or characteristics.  There is always going to be an alpha in the pack, just like nature, just like the real world.

Packs vary in size and balance based on the “Pack leader.”  Many Facebook groups shift energies as the pack leader changes, and so it is with life. I’m not implying in any way that these trends, these situations don’t translate into real life metaphors.  They do. This is what I love about Facebook. In nearly every possible way, it is a mirror to some aspect of human behavior.

I am a psychology and sociology guy in terms of education, so studying group behavior is the crux of what we did. It’s also what I find to be terribly fascinating in my own personal observations and experiences while on Facebook.

The group my wife and I met in has had a pack leader shift over the last year and what some may call a mass exodus as of late. Several of the key players got upset, left, and the original leaders are either silent or evaporated.  Much like a social circle from high school we all remember how these things ebb and flow. Just life, right?

Several alpha’s under the guise of unconditional love fell into what we human’s often do, let our egos run amuck. I am one of them. We all tend to think at times we know what is best for others. This instinct is stronger or more pronounced depending on where we are at on the spiritual ladder or astrological chart I think.    This, again, is a story deep in metaphors and scenarios but I will own the part I played.

I LOVE SOCIAL NETWORKING. I love it, because it constantly teaches me about me through YOU GUYS.  If you believe Carl Jung and his thoughts about what triggers us are things we see in others we either don’t like or understand fully about ourselves, than Facebook can be an amazing tool for self awareness.  On the flip side it has the power for tremendous illusion.  Jut like life, eh?

Now, to the “Empty Chair” aspect.  That comes from being blocked with a mutual friend who interacts regularly with someone you are currently friends with. This is where groups come into play.  Most of the groups I know have 200 or less people and those with 200 have about 50 active so you get to know each other really well in some ways.  Through chatting, Skype, text, phone calls, or even an annual get together it’s possible to get as close to somebody through this amazing medium as it is in real life. Remember, I met my wife on Facebook.

So, if Jane Doe blocks you suddenly for whatever reason. I’ve heard from people they were blocked because someone was rude, lied, stole, blasphemy, or simply doesn’t resonate anymore. It happens.

Where it gets weird is the “Empty Chair.”  We’ve all been there. If you are on Facebook and the odds are if you are reading this blog you are, it’s likely at some point even if you knew it or not you were part of the “Empty Chair” experience.

I’ll be honest, it’s strange. It moves past strange and into sad at times when it’s somebody you were virtually close to.  So if Randy types a status “I am so happy today I got outside!” and you see 8 comments from Randy and nothing else than you are …well, experiencing the “Empty Chair.” That person who blocked you and is still intricately involved in your social media circle is having a conversation but you see only one side.  These get tricky when you have 50 mutual and this type of thing occurs semi regularly. It’s just an interesting, bordering on odd feeling.

If you are like me you often want to comment something like this “Hey, I’m only seeing one side of this conversation and it’s odd! Tell John Doe I said hey!”

Imagine if you will this scenario. My wife and I are invited to a party with 14 friends.   I sit out the chairs and everyone comes in and is happy, has a drink, exchanging pleasantries.  Then all of a sudden, I see one of the guests visiting and laughing hysterically with nobody!

“Who are you talking to?” I ask.   “Oh, it’s Jane Doe and Mike D, check out these amazing photo they took in Washington DC this weekend?”

“Uhm, I can’t see them or the photo silly.  They aren’t there.” I say.  “The Empty Chair” scenario.

Facebook can be a marvelous place. I’m in groups where I cook, share, inspire, learn, study, engage, and I’ve been in groups that just got awkward. Awkward to see others leave, awkward and humbling to come back, awkward to watch how protective the core is of each other, and awkward to witness the “Empty Chair” more than one should.

Another new twist on the Twilight Zone’ish experience Facebook can bring is the new “Seen” feature in smaller groups. I am in several, or was, and let’s say for example you are in a group of 24, people you are either really close to or were, and post something really personal, or expressive.  Maybe the groups name is “Rise Up” and meant to help shine line light on everyone struggling to make it through this game called life.  Well, now, you get to see not only who sees it, but when they saw it and the brutal “They didn’t even hit like” while the person below you can post someone sneezing marshmallows out of their nose and get 8 comments.

Facebook is just intriguing to me. I have blocked as many as have blocked me. I think in our real lives as I’ve talked about in Lessons from Abroad and other writings it’s important to cut cords. Sometimes we have to let go to move on, to evolve, and to just keep pressing forward. Laws of human nature are if you are changing, things around you are and will constantly change.  But…unlike society where I quit calling the person, delete their name from my phone and disengage, in the FB world we’re often so intertwined it’s harder to do. You’d have to block 50 people to create a really new experience if you had some residual stuff in the past with so many mutual friends.  This is why people deactivate, create new profiles, or take long breaks.me, I now just get to write about it and poke a little fun at myself.

Yep, I’m human. I’ve blocked, unfriended, and sometimes with weeks of thought and other times without much thought at all and so it goes with life, eh?  The difference in life though is if we show up at that party and you are there, the chair isn’t empty.  We must see each other. We might even exchange pleasantries.  Gasp…we might even shake hands, hug, and realize why we were friends in the first place.

Facebook…. just like the atom.  It’s got tremendous power to link up, to connect, to share information and tremendous power to overreact, to divide, and to pollute our minds.

I suppose like anything we take it with a grain of salt, remember that your real life is the most important.  Coffee shops, the smell of leaves, the neighborhood soccer match…but never give up hope, even if you see plenty of “Empty Chairs” or awkward moments in Groups because you may just find the love of your life.  You might just find your reason for living…

I did.

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