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Matt Beem
President and COO
Kinetic Fundraising, Inc.

Facebook is messing with me

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Independence, MO – Go ahead: Call me old-fashioned.

Now firmly rooted in my fifth decade, I suspect I’ve earned the moniker.

Here’s my rub: Facebook has accelerated the rate of social discourse to a pace that dilutes the power of personal dialogue.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve always been an early adopter of technology. In 1999, I outfitted my university fundraising team with first-issue Palm Pilots, and I’m typing this column on a BlackBerry as my Delta flight descends toward Memphis International Airport.

What I don’t like is the way Facebook rushes and reduces conversation. Social networking is purely transactional, but life isn’t.

I’ll admit I don’t watch my Facebook inbox with an eagle’s eye. Yet my BlackBerry keeps me posted.

And about once a month, I respond to an attention-catching note. Like Thursday.

That’s when I noticed a post from a high school chum – the same person with whom I dissected a cat in 11th grade in Mr. Stewart’s William Chrisman High School anatomy and physiology class. Uncertain if it was a male or female, we named our flayed feline Lola after the Kinks song by the same name. (Listen to the lyrics, and you’ll discover why.)

So here we are, reconnected friends trying to have a meaningful conversation on Facebook. She shared a quick life update, and I gushed about Tom’s pinewood derby debut.

While I’m responding to her initial note, several subsequent posts – from people I’ve comfortably ignored for months – show up. Aaarrrggghhh.

Notwithstanding the noise, we go back and forth a bit longer. Ultimately, though, the static of the Facebook free-for-all became too distracting. I wasn’t sure to whom I was responding.

So I committed the ultimate Facebook sin: I responded via e-mail, and we continued our conversation the “old-fashioned” way.

Worked great, thank you.

I know what you’re thinking right now: I bet this guy still carries a bag phone.

You’re wrong on that, though I do still have my old Rush LPs and cassettes.

Sneer as you will, this journalist-gone-fundraiser believes a conversation’s most powerful words are its unspoken ones. They’re the keys to understanding and insight.

I received my journalistic training long before the dawn of social networking. I never would have understood the persecution suffered by Abdulatif Bagegni, an Iraqi graduate student who lived with his family in Columbia, Mo., during the Gulf War, had I not eaten dinner in his apartment and accompanied him during a day’s activities.

I cut my fundraising teeth when pink “while you were out” slips were the norm. Had I not spent time with the late Ray Neevel in his California home, I would not have understood his passion for endowing access to music education, a dream that stemmed from a childhood without such luxuries.

I’m not against social networking. With three children and a job that relies on technology, my eyes are wide open.

I simply value the grit of life that’s only evident when we interact personally with each other.

Let me know what you think. You can try to reach me on Facebook, but you’re probably better off with an e-mail.

Or, better yet, let me know when I can buy you a cup of coffee.

> Matt Beem Bio