facebooktopusRecently a friend told me that “Facebook is like opening the refrigerator door when you’re not hungry, and just staring inside.” We both laughed, made plans to see each other again, and said our goodbyes. Then, once out of sight, I pulled out my phone to check for new notifications.

It’s popular to bash the world’s largest social network. Hipsters are quitting their accounts in droves, seeking the ever-elusive lure of the cool. Those bothered by Facebook’s privacy policies are scaling back their usage. But while the number of naysayers and skeptics continues to grow, my Facebook usage has increased. It’s become a vital tool both personally and professionally. With that in mind, I’d like to break from convention wisdom and share with you five and half reasons why I still love Facebook.

1. Decreases feelings of isolation

I work from home, running a collaborative bookmarking platform and resource marketplace for sustainability professionals. As any entrepreneur knows, succeeding means overcoming feelings of isolation. Facebook fills the void. It helps me get through the day when I know 22 people “like” that I enjoy waking up before dawn and hearing the steady rhythm of the ocean waves rolling in. (True story, I live in Santa Monica). Meeting someone at a networking event or party that doesn’t “get” my sense of humor or doesn’t seem to respect my business feels less disappointing when I know people who do are just a click away. The biggest gift is that it’s reciprocal – having a way to easily provide support and encouragement to others feels good. Sure, this may sound high school-y, but entrepreneurs are human and while work can isolate us from interpersonal contact Facebook can, to a certain extent, restore it.

2. It’s a trusted focus group that can be leveraged for insights

I spent my previous career conducting consumer research, so when I was struggling to decide which logo to use for my startup, after crowdsourcing the design on CrowdSpring, it occurred to me that I could use my Facebook friends as a focus group! I pulled my top three choices into a PowerPoint slide, added letters next to each, saved it as an image, and posted on Facebook, asking friends to vote for the one they liked best. In total, I received 96 comments and I ended up going with the majority vote. I also write poetry and dabble in songwriting, and Facebook has been a helpful way for me to gauge receptivity to my words. If I’ve learned nothing else in my 36 years, it’s to minimize decisions made in isolation. Facebook makes this much easier.

3. It triggers emotional reactions that encourage self-reflection

Entrepreneurs are, by nature, hyper competitive. We have to be. I’ve found that Facebook can work as a mirror, forcing me to look within myself, get in touch with what’s really going on (hint: fear) and work through it so I can begin to act normal again. Think of it as Facebook as a spiritual force in our lives. If I find myself purposely not liking or commenting on things, or I don’t want to “like” an article written by a fellow writer friend that’s receiving a lot of attention for her work, perhaps I need to adjust my attitude. Or let’s say I post something and spend the rest of the day obsessing over why only two people liked it.

Facebook is far cheaper than a by-the-hour (or 45-minute) psychotherapist and definitely can help you keep your life/work in balance.

4. It can be a useful launching pad for action

In September of 2012 my company launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo with a goal of raising $30,000 to develop the beta version of our website. Every piece of news we put out, including some paid PR near the end of our run, showed up within our feeds, driving people to our campaign page. We reached our goal with only a few hours to spare, and I dare say it wouldn’t have been possible without Facebook.

I’ve also used Facebook to rally donations for other friends’ crowdfunding campaigns (a karmic pickle with no end in sight) and non-profits, to encourage people to sign petitions aimed at progressive social and environmental action, to rally support for my friends with creative pursuits, and to further establish myself as a writer and poet. For anyone trying to make something happen, Facebook can help.

5. It allows me to practice self-restraint

Social life? What social life? I’m an entrepreneur.

Nevertheless, I tell myself I’m not allowed to use Facebook as a research tool to find a future husband. Past experience has shown that I end up knowing far too much about a guy to allow for a natural “get to know you” process, or tears due to unmet expectations; people often seem way cooler on Facebook than they really are. The same goes for past boyfriends or their significant others in an attempt to make myself feel better about things not working out.

Mind you, this is an imperfect practice. I sometimes miss stalking people, and visit the profiles of men I used to stalk just to see if there’s any emotional charge (there usually isn’t). I’d like to proclaim enormous leaps forward in emotional maturity and healthy detachment, but am wary of such over-confidence, believing it tends to invite forced humility.

Which leads me to this point: sometimes the best way to use Facebook is not to use Facebook at all.

5 ½. It makes me feel like a celebrity on my birthday

Come on, admit it. Facebook makes birthdays way more fun…

[Image courtesy nickgatens]