How Facebook Can Improve Your Relationships (Or Ruin Them)

Okay, I’m not what you might consider a “Facebook expert.”

And I never really intend to be. As I mentioned last week, there’s a lot I’m still learning about social technology. While I think it’s important to understand how it works in business, parenting, and even church communities, spending time on Facebook is not high on my priority list.

I am, however, pretty serious about relationships. The ability to build and maintain relationships is a crucial life skill for everyone, and it’s also been a huge part of my professional career.

For me, the real key is trust.  Trust is what transforms acquaintances into friends and professional connections into real relationships. Trusted relationships are the richness of life on earth. They make life go easier and work go easier.

Because I care about relationships, I’m interested in any tool that can help me to initiate and nurture connections with other people.  I see Facebook, Pinterest, and other social media platforms as great tools for relationship-building. But if misapplied, they can be harmful to relationships and even to your own reputation.

First and foremost, when it comes to relationships, Facebook is a means, not an end.  It’s a handy but imperfect tool, and you should always treat it that way.

To get the most out of Facebook:

Use it to connect– What an incredible way to connect with people who share your experiences, faith, and interests! I’ve enjoyed seeing Facebook connect professional Christian women through 4word. We’ve created private 4word Facebook groups in many cities and they are proving to be a terrific resource for like-minded women to share thoughts, form Bible study groups, and plan social and networking events.  If you’re interested in learning more about these groups, check out 4word’s cities page.

Use it to encourage– Facebook is an easy and effective way to thank or encourage someone publicly with “likes,” supportive messages or complementary comments and posts. You can use it to acknowledge a birthday or anniversary, or celebrate a friend’s special accomplishment.

Try to keep your online communications positive and sarcasm-free, especially if you interact with coworkers, clients, or potential clients. We all need to blow off steam sometimes, and that’s okay, but Facebook is not a good place to do it. In fact, it’s a really bad place to do it. Written words cannot convey body language or voice inflection, making it too easy for words to be misunderstood, blown out of proportion, or taken out of context.

Make a rule for yourself that if you need to say something negative to someone, you must say it in person. You’ll find that it’s much harder to “go negative” in person, and that’s generally a good thing.

Use it to learn– Learn more about your friends and acquaintances, and then put that knowledge into action in real life. That second part is crucial.  The danger of interacting only on Facebook is that it can create a sort of false sense of relationship. You may read a lot about what people are doing or feeling without ever communicating directly with that person. But that kind of interaction doesn’t do much towards building the kind of trusting, meaningful relationships that really enrich your life.

Instead, seek to take Facebook live. Make a professional introduction to an unemployed friend, send flowers to a new mom, or offer to take a friend out to dinner to celebrate a recent success. Knowing about people’s lives is one thing. Acting on that knowledge is how you show them that you care.

You’ll find that this kind of intentional relationship-building takes some real time and effort. I promise that the investment is well-worth it. Just this week I was blessed by an email from my long-time mentor and sponsor Don Williams, who was the CEO at Trammell Crow Company. Over the years he’s become a trusted and valued friend. We never would have reached this point without investing time and energy in knowing and supporting one another.


What do you love or hate about Facebook? Has it helped you develop and nurture meaningful friendships? What are your best tips for online social interaction?