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Zak of All Trades: Facebook friends, followers and fans, oh my!

March 2, 2013

We live in a constantly changing world, don't we? Technology has made life far more interesting — in ways both good and bad — and we are frequently involved in the process of deciding what we want to take part in and what we don't.

There is quite a bit of talk going around about the hot new phrase, "increasing my online presence."

Businesses are saying it: "We need to increase our online presence to reach out to more and more customers."

Organizations are saying it: "We need to increase our online presence to let folks know exactly what we're all about."

And individuals, while they may not be saying it, they're certainly thinking it: "If I can increase my online presence, more people will know and like who I am."

It's not all bad. I get it. In fact, just this week I encountered a self-promoter in one of the cutest forms I've ever seen, and I loved it.

Robbie Novak — better known as "Kid President" — is a nine-year-old boy with a message he wants the world to hear: Don't be in a party. Be a party.

That's what visitors to his page encounter when they open it — well, that and a big ol' picture of Robbie beaming ear to ear dressed in a very presidential suit.

If you haven't seen his videos, I highly recommend his "A Pep Talk From The Kid President To You," video, as it's up there among the most inspiring speeches I've ever heard.

Here's a short quote from it to give you an idea what he's all about: "This is your time. This is my time. It's our time. If we can make every day better for each other, if we're all on the same team, let's start acting like it. We got work to do. We can cry about it or dance about it."

Kid President loves to dance, and by increasing his online presence and by giving his pep talk, he's inspired hundreds of thousands of people already — all at the ripe old age of nine.

Robbie's not the only one. We all follow folks who inspire us — favorite authors, favorite bloggers, favorite talk show hosts, the list goes on and on.

In fact, this column and my blog (zaklantz.wordpress.com — shameless plug) are my arenas for trying to "increase my online presence" and make the world a bit of a better place.

On my blog, I typically am debriefing some spiritual thoughts that I've had related to my faith. I went to seminary, and I consider myself a student of life.

Some days I'm not a very good student, but I'm a student nonetheless. And writing my thoughts helps me think about how I might be able to encourage and inspire others.

In my columns, I try to take a more holistic approach on life and just write about what's real.

There are two types of writing that I incorporate in my columns: informative and persuasive.

Through telling stories, I hope that I'm helping people open themselves up to a new interpretation of a situation they're in, and I hope I'm giving them a view that shows more hope.

And at the same time, I'm trying to persuade them to be happier, more optimistic and more free-spirited about loving life.

Robbie's aim is no different. He uses his humorous approach, and he tries to inform us where he's coming from and persuade us that his outlook on life is a better place to be.

The messages that we hear all around us on a daily basis can send us mixed signals.

I love Facebook as a tool to stay connected with people I no longer see on a daily basis or to share my thoughts with people who don't live right beside me, but something about Facebook has grown frustrating.

Just this past week, I did a Facebook purge.

The social site told me that I had more than 600 "friends," but it was using the term loosely, as I hadn't even spoken to many of them since college.

So, I went through and "decreased my online presence."

I share my columns and blogs on my site, so in a way, I was making it so that my message reaches fewer people. But I've always had a few Facebook friend rules, so I decided to stick to them.

• Kissy Face Rule: First of all, this one's not so serious, but it's certainly a pet peeve I have.

If individuals are either making that fishy face that looks like they're moving in for a sloppy one on their webcam or actually kissing someone in their profile photos, they are no longer on my friend list.

I don't desire to see that, and so I choose to remove them.

• The 60-40 Split Rule: If there's not at least a 60-40 split between the topics of their posting, people are removed from my list.

While I understand that your adorable children, your hatred for our president and his policies or your love of playing the latest (Fill in the blank)ville game, I shouldn't have to read about it on an ongoing basis.

Mix it up a little bit for all of our sanity's sake!

• The Positivity Rule: This is the one that's the most pressing, I think.

So many people pour out their problems — both real problems and perceived ones — to their Facebook community, sometimes without even considering just how many people are reading these very personal posts.

It'd be one thing if it was just your family and close friends on your list.

But be honest, you click "accept" to everyone who asks, so people who are practically complete strangers are all "up in your grill" when it comes to knowing your latest business.

First of all, if you're the type who's offended when removed from a Facebook friend's list, remember that your personal worth isn't based on how many lists you're on.

Just because someone doesn't want constant updates on your life doesn't mean they can't stand you.

Secondly, always remember that the number of Facebook friends, Twitter followers or website fans you have is nowhere near as important as how many real-life friends you have, ones you can turn to in the greatest time of need for the true person-to-person interaction.

I get it.

Some folks are far away, and some who we have that person-to-person connection with are included in that group.

My brother is a best friend to me, and I rely strongly on technology to aid our interactions, as he lives thousands of miles away.

But too many of us are spilling our guts on these social media sites and then not seeking the personal connections we need so badly.

So, to my Facebook fans, my blog followers (although, there's only one of you right now according to my stats page) and my faithful "fans" — or readers as you are referred to when I'm not thinking so highly of myself to assume that everyone likes what I write — thank you for reading and for allowing me to try to "increase my presence" in your lives.

I hope that you keep reading and that the writing, speaking and caring that you are living out is inspiring others, as well.

But I know there are people out there today who needed to hear that you are more than your Facebook friends count. You are more than your Twitter feed followers.

You're doing good things in your real life.

Stop worrying so much about your online presence, and start worrying more about your presence in the lives of those around you who care so deeply for you.

Keep up the good work you are doing in the lives of others!

And now, I leave you with the words of Kid President: "You've just been pep talked. Now, create something that will make the world awesome."

Zak Lantz is the editor of The Punxsutawney Spirit, and when he grows up, he wants to be Kid President.

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