Changing my approach to Facebook

Note: As I’ve mentioned previously, I challenged myself to write 30 posts in 30 days. I’ve not been as consistent with my blogging as I would have liked, so I’ve got to get a lot of blog posts published in the last couple of days. So, you’ll see several more posts than normal in the next couple of days. On Feb. 17, I’ll return to a normal schedule of three to five times per week. Please bear with me. Thanks!

Last year, I wrote a post called Why I’m becoming more promiscuous online, which explained my personal approach to social media and networking. Re-reading that, my philosophy and approach to social media hasn’t changed much, but I am making a tweak to it. I’m going to close off my personal Facebook account to people I don’t have some sort of real relationship with. Later this week, I’ll start unfriending people who I don’t know in real life or haven’t had some sort of interaction with. Here’s why.

Lately, I’ve started getting more and more friend invitations on Facebook from people I just don’t know. In some cases, they are friends with someone else I know, so there’s a chance I could run into them in my day-to-day life. In some cases, we don’t have any friends in common. I think some of them come from this blog. I’ve had my Facebook link posted prominently (the icon over on the right) for a while, in the last few weeks readership here has gone up dramatically. Some of those new readers have asked to connect on Facebook (and in some cases, I have).

But something else has happened in the last few months, also. My personal interactions and communications — information about my kids, my family and my connections to them — has increased. More relatives have connected with me online, and a lot of my Facebook activity has become more personal. I’m not feeling as comfortable about having that open to anyone who comes along. So with Facebook I’m altering my “promiscuous” approach and becoming more conservative.

The new fan page on Facebook

Still, I know a lot of people I might encounter online will still be interested in opportunities to interact on Facebook. So I’ve set up a Facebook fan page for that. The Facebook icon over in the right-hand column of this blog already points to it. I’m afraid there’s not much there yet, but I’ll start to gradually populate it with content over time, and I hope it becomes another place where we can talk about the topics and issues that this blog covers. I also plan to treat it as a kind of laboratory for experiments with Facebook marketing and Facebook fan page customization.

My LinkedIn and Twitter accounts will remain very open, so I’d still love to connect with you there. And if you know me from someplace other than this blog, there’s a pretty good chance we’ll remain friends on Facebook. See you at the fan page.

Helping girls get educated

Warning: This is not a typical blog post.


One of my daughters.

Let me tell you a personal story. I have two daughters. They were both born in Guatemala and lived there, in foster homes, until my wife and I adopted them. I still remember seeing children — whole families of children — standing on a sidewalk during rush hour with their hands out, hoping for a little money from the rush of strangers around them.

Guatemala is a beautiful country, where many people still speak languages that date back to the pre-Columbian Mayan culture. It is also one of the poorest places in the Western Hemisphere. This is what the U.S. State Department says:

According to the World Bank, Guatemala has one of the most unequal income distributions in the hemisphere. The wealthiest 10% of the population receives almost one-half of all income; the top 20% receives two-thirds of all income. As a result, about 32% of the population lives on less than $2 a day and 13.5% on less than $1 a day. Guatemala’s social development indicators, such as infant mortality and illiteracy, are among the worst in the hemisphere.

So almost half the population lives on $2 a day, or less. Most of us will drop more than that at Starbucks without thinking about it. This strikes me powerfully, because that is probably the kind of economic circumstances my daughters would have been consigned to had we not adopted them. But adoption is not a solution to Guatemala’s poverty (and adoptions in Guatemala have sometimes been problematic for other reasons).

I don’t think there’s any question that it will take decades of sustained effort and investment, from both inside and outside the tiny nation, to raise the standard of living. And, sadly, Guatemala is not the only country in this situation. Globally, about 2.5 billion people live on $2 a day — or less. I don’t know how many of those 2.5 billion are children, but it must number in the hundreds of millions.

I’m not going to claim that I know how to end global poverty — I don’t. It’s a complex problem, and there are difficulties both finding effective solutions and implementing them. But I do know that one of the most powerful things you can do to reduce poverty in a society is to educate girls. As of 2006, at least 73 million children of elementary school age [PDF] were not enrolled in school (the numbers were probably higher, given the way the data is collected). Girls account for 55 percent of children [PDF] not enrolled in school.

That’s why this week I added a new widget to the sidebar of this blog. It’s a fundraising widget from Kintera, an online charity site, to support Room to Read. Room to Read does not work in Latin America (yet; I wish it did), but it works in Africa and Asia, helping set up schools, provide books and support education in some of the world’s poorest communities. If you have a little extra time I encourage you to visit Room to Read’s Web site, learn more and perhaps contribute. If you want to contribute through the widget on this site, then we’ll have a way, over time, of measuring how much money we can send to the organization. I have a pretty modest goal of $500, but if we get there fast, I’ll raise it.

If you want to direct money specifically to programs in Guatemala that help girls, you might consider the New York-based Population Council, which is working with some of Guatemala’s poorest and most marginalized groups. They’ve sponsored a program designed to help girls stay in school longer in Guatemala.

Whatever moves you, or doesn’t, please let me know what you think by sharing your thoughts in the comments below or sending me an email.