Today I will highlight a colossal crime being committed on Facebook. This is a crime that I have known about for many years, and unfortunately, it has become more rampant over time with no end in sight. Most people are aware of crimes on Facebook like Russia meddling in the 2016 U.S. election or even more commons ones like cyberbullying and stalking. But, this crime is not being committed by Russian hackers hidden in secret, it is being committed by ordinary people to their closest friends out in the public. We do not need the CIA or FBI to find it, this crime is so common that I confident you or someone you know has or is currently engaging in it.
Why am I speaking out?
I have personally fallen victim to this crime and know many others who have been as well. I sadly have friends who have perpetrated in it and witness it taking place on Facebook all the time; therefore I know there are millions of victims out there each year. Each time this crime has happened to me, it felt like a knife taking a little stab at me (and therefore in totality across all users of Facebook, that is like millions of little stab wounds per year). By the time you finish reading this story, thousands more will be affected.
Before I share with you the details of this crime, I would like to give you some context.
When Facebook launched in February 2004, I was interning at Lehman Brothers in Menlo Park, CA. During my internship, I made some friends at nearby Stanford University who signed me up with a Facebook account in June 2004 (Stanford University was as one of the first three schools that expanded Facebook outside of Harvard, where Mark Zuckerberg first launched it). After my internship I went back to school, Indiana University, for my senior year, becoming the first student at Indiana University to have a Facebook account, introducing Facebook to my friends at school for the first time.
Facebook is a great way to keep people posted on what’s new, like the press, progress, and updates we have for WindowsWear. I always valued Facebook for its ability to allow people to engage online and can meet them offline, as it is an easy tool to create large events and invite thousands of people. But, Facebook is also constantly changing its policies, and now limits the number of people you can be friends with and how many you can invite to an event (to counter this, I had to create a second Facebook profile, Jon Harari II, just to be able to connect with more people). Over the years as Facebook has grown, it has shown a preference to keep people engaged through its platform online vs. in-person offline.
Further, communicating through social media is usually non-visual and written, both of which are arguably the worst methods human beings can communicate with each other, as they lack the body language, nuance, and visuals (facial expressions, eye contact, body posture, gestures, tone of voice, etc.) which are critical to accurately communicate a message. Social media prefers to engage people online and not offline, as well as relying on addictive algorithms and notifications to continue to keep us communicating through their platforms.
Therefore I believe it is even now more critical to get people together and not be stuck on solely interacting with people on social media. As a society I know we are craving more and more of these offline experiences as we spend more and more of our lives online.
Organizing events is a great way to do this, but, organizing an even takes a lot of effort and time and money. Hosts take their events very seriously, as it is a moment to engage with the people they most care about in a big way. The biggest worry for a host is not to have anyone show up or care about the event he or she is hosting. That is a primary reason why people do not host events often. On the flip side, if you are invited to an event, it is a very special honor, because you know of all the effort being made and how important it is to the host.
What is the colossal crime that is constantly being committed on Facebook?
The crime of a ‘person that is invited to an event that posts publicly a comment stating that they cannot attend that event.’
Each time someone made a comment like this on an event I was hosting, it felt like that person was inflicting a little stab at me. It took me so much time, effort, planning, and energy to create the event and invite you to it. I then personally invite you to attend it, and instead of privately expressing to me that you cannot attend, you publicly proclaim to everyone that you cannot. Each comment also triggers automatic notifications to all the other attendees that are also prominently displayed on the event page.
Take a look at an example below (click on the video), and you can see all the carnage taking place.
In the video below, I highlight a Facebook event of a friend of mine that is turning 40 years old, and he has invited his closest friends to attend his birthday bash. He only turns 40 once in his life and reserved the private room of one of the top venues in New York City. I was honored to get the invitation to this once-in-a-lifetime event, as it is not to be missed.
Now take a look at the below video of his Facebook event page. Look at many of the guests publicly commenting they cannot attend (highlighted by my cursor in blue). There are in fact many people who have RSVP’ed that they can attend, but these people do not understand that no one actually cares that they cannot make the event, and by making a public comment they are sabotaging it.
I know from organizing hundreds of events on Facebook, that having someone publicly comment that they cannot attend is a terrible feeling and it feels like that person stabbing me. Every time these guests post a comment, all the other invited guests receive a notification about the comment and everyone can see it publicly on the event page. You not being able to attend as a guest is not that important to any of the other happy guests that are excited to actually attend.
Why are so many guests sabotaging the host?
Now scroll up and watch the video again, and you can see all the outreach and encouragement from the host to entice people to actually attend the party. The host says he “can’t wait to see everyone”, and that “everyone is welcome”, and to “please add anyone to the list!”, and to “please RSVP as soon as possible”. He is doing everything he can to encourage people to attend, but unfortunately, his message is being diluted and extra efforts are sabotaging it by the comments from everyone else saying they cannot attend.
No one cares about your excuses.
If you cannot attend the event then no problem, no need to explain publicly with reasons like you cannot attend like you spent “11 hours last night getting a tattoo and cannot put on a long sleeved shirt”, or that you “just recently saw this FB invite”, or that you “are in LA”, or that you are “hosting friends from out of town”, or that you “are really hoping to work it out but can’t”, or even that you “don’t think the doormen will let your pregnant belly in the door”.
Do you really think the host really cares for you to actually be at the event if you really cannot make it?
The host was the one to invite you to an event. The host just wants to efficiently invite all these friends to the event through Facebook. If you cannot make it, then just say nothing and do not RSVP. If you feel enticed to let the host know, why not send the host a private message? If you really feel the need to let the host know you cannot make it through the Facebook event page, there is a button that clearly states “X Can’t Go”. Can you not see this? If not, see below exactly where this button is, jut to the right of the “✓ Going” and “? Maybe” buttons.
Why do you need to spend time publicly posting a comment?
You might think you are being nice to the host by explaining yourself through a comment, but in my experience, it actually achieves the opposite, as you are communicating to all the attendees of the event that you cannot make it, and what is your goal in doing that? It is like taking a big megaphone to let everyone know that you cannot attend the event that the host graciously invited you to. This event is the host’s big moment, that is why the host invited you. You are hijacking that airtime away from the host and the host is trying to get people to attend the event and you are doing the opposite, you are proclaiming you want to stay away from the event and not attend. The other guests do not care that you cannot make it, as everyone is busy, and no one expects 100% of the people that are invited to actually attend the event.
Why aren’t the guests actually attending the event commenting on how excited they are to attend?
The only public comments that are worth posting are for guests that are actually attending the event to publicly commenting that they are excited to attend. If you get an invitation to an event, and you are excited about going, then publicly share that! By doing that, you are giving encouragement to the host and also getting other people to be excited to attend as well.
I will always pre-approve any comments on my Facebook events.
For me, for every event I create on Facebook, I actually disable the ability to anyone to automatically comment on the event page without my approval. Each time I previously would create an event and allow guests to comment, at least one person would make a public comment that they cannot attend, and this felt like a little stab wound. Just think about all the millions of events on Facebook per year, and all the public comments being made on those pages by guests that cannot attend, and all the little stab wounds that are being inflicted. Further, these public comments may serve to dissuade others from attending the event and meet off Facebook, which is a further crime being committed. Facebook wants to keep you in its world, and the more we get sucked in, the more we need to actually get out.
I encourage you to actively support people who use social media to host and create experiences outside of it and to make others aware of those that are sabotaging them.
One of the definitions of a “crime” is an action or activity that, although not illegal, is considered to be evil, shameful, or wrong. I truly believe that engages with the behavior highlighted above is evil, shameful, and wrong.
Facebook is also at fault, as it is through the design and structure of their system that we act and communicate with each other like this. They have all the abilities to design a better system, and I do believe their ability to have people comment and engage through Facebook is part of their design, and I don’t actually think they want people to spend time away from Facebook.
For anyone reading this that I highlighted in my above article, I do not know who you are, and I am sure you are great human beings. I was using you as an example of what not to do, and I wish you never even made any of these public comments. You were the ones giving me content for my article, as you were the ones who put it out there. I also wish I did not ever have to write this story, but I did so because people like you who do not stop making comments and discourage people from creating or attending events, but your comments make people more stuck in the social media world. I make mistakes, everyone makes mistakes, and I hope you can learn from this mistake and never do this again.
Share this story with anyone who creates these comments and let’s stop the carnage.