Essay

Stuck on Facebook

I know someone who used to not only work at Facebook, but was in a position where she regularly spoke with founder Mark Zuckerberg. She frequently posted images and stories from within Facebook’s offices. I saw an energizing place to work and a company on a positive mission.

Being on Facebook was fun in those days. It’s not anymore, except for rare occasions when it is. As I’ve written before (here) this is like the abusive spouse who’s nice to you just often enough that you think maybe it’ll be different now and you stay.

Amid the ever growing negative news about Facebook — how they gather and sell information about you, their monopolistic practices — I think they’ve lost their way, if indeed they ever had it. I want to walk away. I don’t want to support them anymore.

Sites that drove traffic to my blog the week of Jan. 28 – notice what is #2

Yet I stay, because at the moment it is the best platform available to me for promoting not only this blog, but also the Michigan Road Historic Byway and also my church. I post on behalf of all three on Facebook and it drives more engagement and traffic than anything else I do. It’s not a life-changing amount, but without it my stats would be far, far lower.

I’m also over Instagram, because it’s a Facebook company and because literally every third post is an ad now. I’m especially frustrated with that because Facebook knows my search history and has figured out I’m looking for comfortable shoes thanks to my bum left foot, and keeps showing me lovely orthotically correct shoes and I keep clicking through because foot pain sucks. I hate it that I’m falling for this.

But I promote the Michigan Road Historic Byway there, and new posts there automatically post on Facebook too. This drives more engagement with our byway than anything else we’ve tried. It’s not an overwhelming amount, but we hate to leave it behind.

I seldom look at what my “Facebook friends” are up to anymore. I’ve hidden all the friends who post mostly political stuff, even when I agree with their politics. I’ve also hidden the friends who post mostly memes and share articles. That leaves little to see.

But in the last couple years Facebook’s groups have become a welcome replacement for the forums I used to frequent, about the kinds of arcane and esoteric topics I enjoy — old roads, neon signs, obscure cameras, and more. The Indiana Transportation History group is flat out amazing for the information its founder unearths in his research. I don’t want to leave that behind.

I keep thinking I ought to quit it all. But I hold my nose and stay.

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45 thoughts on “Stuck on Facebook

  1. Thank fully I’ve never much been into FB, and have only just started to use it as a networking tool. I don’t like it either but it like all things it has some good and bad points (mostly bad). I don’t like how it operates though – it’s like trying to wade through white noise.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jim, I don’t have any non-biased views to add – I didn’t like Facebook about eight years ago when I left!

    A guy I follow has been trying out MeWe and likes it so far. I haven’t tried it, and don’t really feel the need for any other social media myself, but it might be something you or others here might want to explore as an FB alternative?

    http://www.mewe.com

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      • Yeh I think people are becoming very jaded with social media in general. A social media lethargy that turns into social media apathy.

        Remember when it first took off a decade or more ago, and many were saying “I just don’t get it?”. Maybe they were right!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. DougD says:

    Well, so far I can see enough stuff that I have to (church, VW supplier) without signing up. So I am still staying out.

    And you’re still doing west park, I was wondering if that had changed since you moved houses. Outstanding.

    Like

  4. Not leaving Facebook is the right decision. Though far from perfect its benefits outweigh its weaknesses. I have a facebook account but use it only to follow groups I am interested in. There is not a better platform at this moment for that. I do not have to find separate websites that at times are not updated when I do find them.

    Like

    • I mostly follow groups and promote my blog, the Michigan Road, and my church on FB now. I agree — FB has replaced the old forums that each had their own addresses, and it is very good for that. Still feels bad to support a company that behaves as badly as FB does.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Heide says:

    I’m so sorry about the ads for orthopedic shoes, Jim. :) You’re right that Facebook remains the most efficient and effective way to reach a wide audience online — and I don’t see any other platform coming close in the foreseeable future. So every individual must do their own cost/benefit analysis and decide whether the privacy issues and dubious corporate practices are a fair trade-off for access to an audience. You’ve done a service to your readers here by providing great thought-fodder on the pros and the cons.

    Like

    • At least they make supportive shoes look sort of hip now, not grandpa shoes like in days gone by.

      I think you are right, you have to weigh cost and benefit and decide what to do. So far the benefit still slightly outweighs the cost for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Heide says:

        Right on, Jim! The compression socks I bought through Facebook for my long transatlantic flights are actually very fetching (if you’re into psychedelic octopi and squirrels). I do kinda miss those offbeat ads, to tell you the truth. But not enough to rejoin.

        Like

  6. TBM3FAN says:

    If it wasn’t for Mercury Cougars, Minolta Collectors, Vintage Camera Repair and my Carriers/Essex Class carriers I wouldn’t waste my time on Facebook. Stopped posting personal pictures years ago and only post pictures directly related to Repair and Essex Carriers. Through their preferences and relentless use of “hide” I see just a few ads in my stream nowadays.

    Like

  7. Although I have a FB account I only get on about 3-4 times per year. I just don’t like the concept of letting everyone on the planet know what you are doing (like eating breakfast, washing the dog, trimming your toenails, trying on a new dress….etc.) I REALLY DON’T care about your dietary habits, your personal hygiene, or your dresses. Period.

    My son-in-law is a director at NSA. He has a lot of really bad things to say about FB and I believe him because of what he does. FB is just full of holes like Swiss cheese. All of your FB postings, likes, shares, etc. are readable by literally everyone, especially if they are serious hackers who can gather information on you and eventually hack your other on-line accounts. Having been hacked three times already I really do not want to have to go through that exercise in futility ever again.

    As mentioned by other, the ads are extremely frustrating. Ditto on MSN’s Outlook email client.

    OK, soap box back in storage. Flame suit on!

    Like

      • Ah you might not be sharing any more now, but how many years have you been posting stuff on there? This ties in with the post you recommend at the weekend about how the author found over 60% of her internet usage goes via the “Big Five”. Facebook, in number terms, were the lowest, and Amazon and Microsoft the most dominant. They’re becoming almost unavoidable.

        Like

  8. As a person who spends quite a bit of time working to drive traffic to retail websites, I think the thing you should be pleased with is all of the eyeballs that are coming from good old fashioned “search.” That’s how I found you way back when.

    Like

  9. jon campo says:

    Same here Jim. I quit cold turkey years and years ago, but I have to use it for work, and I enjoy some of the photography and film groups. So I rejoined (under an assumed name) and use it sparingly. I put my age as a hundred and five so I don’t get many ads, etc. I quit looking at some of the dedicated photography forums and blogs i used to read, they were just making me feel bad about being poor, and now I’m down to just a few blogs FB groups and I follow a few mostly obscure photographers on IM as well as my favorite goat rescue organization, and that’s it for my online life.

    Like

  10. Gregg says:

    I have heard SO many people say “If not for THIS, I wouldn’t waste my time with FB. Apart from whatever any given person’s THIS is, it is largely considered a waste of time (or, more recently, for many an unsafe place to share personal info and photos). I found myself mostly agitated by a few aspects of FB (largely users’ input) and suspicious of MZ’s intentions as warehouse for so much personal data. I deleted my profile about 6ish years ago and with only a few moments where I thought “I wonder what so&so’s kids are up to NOW” I haven’t looked back. Then again, I’m not trying to promote anything.

    (additionally as LinkedIn has become a slightly more vocation-based version of FB, I’ve dumped that profile too. Also additionally, I haven’t looked back.)

    Like

  11. It’s a cruel beast, isn’t it? I’m sick of it too. It’s impossible to dodge all the scandal and tough politics on there, but it’s also the easiest and fastest way to stay in touch with family and the almost twenty nieces and nephews that we have! :( I’m actually having some good networking experience on Twitter, if you’re ever interested in giving that a go.

    Like

      • LOL as is every social media platform which makes them extra hard to endure these days! I’ve had good luck with the hashtag #WritingCommunity for networking on Twitter, it has really nice and supportive people. If you’re interested in checking it out!

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Rick says:

    (Full disclosure: I don’t have a FB account, never got the appeal, and now like everyone else understand the fraught nature of the service and company.)

    Jim, I’m going to quote you here from the post following this one (https://blog.jimgrey.net/2019/02/20/this-cup-is-already-broken-4/):

    “About 15 years ago I needed to sell almost everything I owned. That was super hard. Yet after it was all gone and I carried on with my life, I was surprised by how little of it I missed… I can’t even remember some of the things I owned. It was, I am stunned to have learned, just stuff.”

    Of course, people aren’t “just stuff,” and deeply personal hobbies and groups and relationships aren’t some shirt you never wear or an album you’ll likely never play again. But it feels like you and other commenters here have reached a point of inaction equilibrium: you have a collection of things that are only important enough to keep around if the effort is low, and you passively support a service you distrust and dislike because the effort to change is too high.

    (I’ve got a zombie website I haven’t updated since like 2010, that still costs me a few bucks a month, so I’ve got my own inaction equilibrium too.)

    I’d challenge you to take the thing you still use Facebook for (hobby, discussion group, relationship) and say to that thing, on Facebook, “I value this and want it to continue, but I don’t want to support Facebook. I’d like to move on. Will you join me? Can we find a new way to keep this going?” It’s not an ultimatum, it’s not a threat, and maybe if the answer is No, you can stay put. Nothing changes.

    But wouldn’t it be interesting to have that answer? How might it change how you view the hobby/discussion group/relationship if it generated no responses–zip? What if the response was “Thank you, we’ve been waiting for someone to make that suggestion?” What if the hobby/discussion group/relationship has a collective energy to move on that no one individual has?

    Can it hurt to ask?

    Like

    • You make a really good argument here. The killer goodness that Facebook offers for hobby/interest groups that old-style forums will never be able to do is discoverability. Facebook has become the ultimate forum system, kind of a forum of forums. If you’re in a group for 35mm SLRs Facebook shows you groups for medium-format folding cameras and subminiature cameras in case you are interested in those, too. If I set up a 35mm SLR forum using regular forum software outside of FB that discoverability — in and out — is gone. Really, you have the best reach by far on FB. If I were to take my 35mm SLR crowd with me, that group’s growth would essentially stagnate.

      The real matter for me is: is FB evil enough that I need to exit so I don’t support the evil.

      Like

  13. jon campo says:

    The real kicker for me is that I rejoined Flickr last year and now it seems to be deader than a door nail, so where else to communicate with other photo geeks?

    Like

  14. SilverFox says:

    Thanks for the post Jim and even more for the discussion that followed. I’ve been a low-level user of FB for a few years mostly to see what my family in teh UK (heavy users) are up to and to communicate with them. I browse occasionally, and mindlessly, the memes and updates that friends have posted like things sometimes and post rarely. I have to admit that recently (partly due to my wife who is a regular user) I have been on there more but still nothing like my friends and family. I guess I was never really aware of these groups you and others have mentioned so perhaps I missed something there but I can’t see me stepping into that area now.
    Ricks point above is well made and for you (who already has a very strong following) perhaps leaving and taking on your own URL to host a bridge to your blogs, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs from FB might work?

    Like

    • I set up my FB page for this blog very reluctantly. I have had terrible luck getting FB people to follow my blog the normal way and setting up my page was how I thought FB people might do it. Sadly I was right. It seems for many FB is just how they do the Internet.

      Like

  15. Yeah it’s sad but for any sort of fan outreach seems to be a necessary evil. I’ve been on FB since 2005 and remember that it was a great way to connect with current fellow students and also all your high school friends too. Of course back then you actually needed to be in college to sign on! Then they started including more and more people, and catering to the lowest common denominator. Once they started posting ads I lost all faith, and hardly go there anymore.

    Like

    • I don’t mind ads. I mind too many ads, and ads that they could only know to show me if they were physically listening to my in-person conversations (which has happened to me).

      Like

  16. SilverFox says:

    One other point. If the main concern is their business practices and use of your data then even leaving FB may not remove your connection to that (depending on what mobile apps you use). I understand that as a sideline to their app writing they offer tools to other app builders which as well as helping those other vendors build apps also siphons data into Facebook’s realm. So you can’t win really, it’s up to Governments to clamp down on these things like Germany just did.

    Like

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