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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Blogosphere

A new way to follow Down the Road

Some of you keep up with Down the Road through my personal Facebook profile. It’s public; anyone can follow it. You can follow it too, if you care; click here and click Follow. (I accept friend requests only from people I know personally, though.)

Unfortunately, starting Wednesday Facebook will block automatic publishing from outside platforms (like this blog) to personal profiles. That’s how I’ve been sending my blog posts to Facebook all along. I’d never get it done if I had to do it manually.

Blogs can still auto-publish to Facebook pages, however. So I created one for Down the Road. If you’d like to keep up with my posts on Facebook, click here or on the image below, and then when the page opens click the Like button.

DTR_FB_Page

So if you really want to follow me on Facebook, you need to like my new page. So click here and then click Like.

Or say to hell with Facebook and get Down the Road in your email every morning instead. You’ll never miss a post that way — if you follow me on Facebook, their algorithms probably keep you from seeing every post. Click below to get started. I’ll never spam you or give your email address to anyone.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Here are some other ways you can follow Down the Road:

Feedly — I use and recommend Feedly for following blogs. If you’re already a Feedly user, or want to try Feedly, just click this button to add Down the Road!

follow us in feedly

Twitter — I share new blog posts, and other updates, on Twitter. Just click the button below to follow me there, where I go by “mobilene.” (That’s a nickname my dad used to call me, and it’s never taken anywhere as a username.)

RSS — If you use some other service to follow blogs, try giving it either this blog’s URL (blog.jimgrey.net) or its feed URL (blog.jimgrey.net/feed).

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Personal

In case you were wondering why you don’t see me on Facebook very much anymore

I deleted Facebook and Messenger from my phone. They’ve been gone about ten weeks now.

Back in March I wrote this post about how Facebook is occasionally enjoyable, and how that’s been enough for me to keep coming back despite not enjoying it much otherwise. It got me to thinking: why do I spend so much time in something I don’t really enjoy? That’s when I said goodbye to the apps.

Until a few years ago I genuinely liked Facebook. It was great fun to connect with people from all phases of my life. My Facebook friends used to share more from their lives, writing a line or two about something they were doing, or sharing a photo they took. I know they shared only the portion of their lives they wanted others to see and framed it in only positive light. But it was fun anyway.

Now it seems that most people just share memes and articles. And I don’t usually enjoy the subject matter:

Your posts about the second amendment and gun control aren’t going to change my mind on the matter, or anybody else’s, either. We’re only going to alienate each other.

I consider myself to be politically conservative. Now, I weep for how far off the rails the Republican Party has gone. I pray for its restoration to sanity. Still, the basic principles of conservatism resonate with me. It genuinely hurts when you post things that put down my politics. I am not the monster you make out conservatives to be.

And to my conservative friends, I’m equally disappointed and offended when you put down the other side. They aren’t monsters either. Like us, they are people trying to figure out the best way forward.

To both sides, if you call the other side names (e.g., “libtard”), I’ve already unfollowed you.

I’ve been incredulous over how many shared so-called “news” articles in my feed are thinly veiled opinion pieces or have used poor, even deliberately manipulative, forms of argumentation. Do you actually believe this crap? Have you spent any time evaluating these articles’ illogic? Have you sought to understand these matters from other perspectives?

That leaves the cutesey and heartstring-plucking shares. And oh my gosh, are there ever a lot of them now. At least they don’t make me angry. But it’s not enough to keep me coming back.

In case you are one of my Facebook friends and now feel offended because I’m pointing a finger at you, I’m sorry.

I get it: we are all troubled by the times we live in. We wring our hands, we air our fear and anger, and we seek friends of like mind to help us feel better.

But it is hurting, not helping. It is alienating us, not knitting us together. It is making Facebook a wasteland, not a place where we can enjoy each other even if from afar.

View from US 50 in Martin County, Indiana

If I’ve offended you, here’s a placid landscape photo to calm you.

Even though the apps are gone from my phone, I still check Facebook on my computer once or twice a day. My blog posts automatically post to Facebook each day and I want to see if anyone commented on them there. Also, I follow a couple groups there that remain fun.

For the first couple weeks with Facebook gone from my phone, I was at loose ends when I had idle time. I’ve since downloaded the Kindle app and am reading more books. That feels like a giant win.

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Personal, Stories Told

Why I stay on Facebook even though I don’t enjoy it much

I’ve not enjoyed Facebook much for months and months. Especially since the election of our current President, the place has become so polarized and tribalized. Angry screeds and narrowminded memes. Siding up and tossing ad hominems.

It’s not fun. I keep thinking I should quit. And then something like this photograph happens.

Me in 2nd Grade

Me in second grade, 1974 or 1975

A fellow I knew in elementary school, someone with whom I’ve not spoken for nearly 40 years, shared it on my wall. It’s me at my desk in our second-grade classroom. The fellow’s mom brought cupcakes for his birthday and photographed the class. He came upon the photo his his mother’s things, made a quick mobile-phone snap of it, and posted it.

What a joy to see this photo! I’d forgotten what a mop top I was, and I had no memories of what that classroom looked like.

But what happened next was truly special. Because I’m connected on Facebook with so many of my elementary classmates, many of them commented and reminisced. And we discovered together that we all felt like our elementary school was a truly special place where we felt safe and cared for. We shared memories of our teachers, of walking to school together, of after-school snacks at each others’ homes, and even of summer fun on the playground. We experienced community in our neighborhood through our school, and we agreed that it was wonderful.

This wasn’t just sticky-sweet nostalgia. We Monroe School alums had a joyful shared experience thanks to this photograph. We compared our notes to find that we all privately felt the same way about our long-ago experience. It validated that experience, I think, for all of us.

In this way, Facebook is like an abusive relationship. It’s good just often enough that you don’t leave.

This gorgeous school building underwent a thorough renovation in 2010. See interior and exterior photos here.

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Blogosphere, Photography

Chasing fake Internet points

The primary reward I receive for what I publish online is interaction with you.

Some of that interaction is of high quality: namely, when you leave an interesting comment, especially one that teaches me something I didn’t know or helps me see something from a different perspective.

But most of what I get is in the form of likes. Or hearts or upvotes or favorites or claps or whatever it’s called on whichever platform I’m on. It’s a form of acknowledgement that whatever I posted resonated somehow.

One of those platforms is Imgur (here’s my user page), where Imgurians call them “fake Internet points.” Being Imgur, there are memes.

wonderfulFakeInternetPoints

It is fashionable now to pooh-pooh chasing after fake Internet points. Chasing them is, at the end of the day, a waste of time and accomplishes little.

hateFakeInternetPoints

Yet each fake Internet point delivers a small dopamine hit. In moderation, what’s wrong with that?

dayBrightenedByFakeInternetPoints

The primary place I go for fake Internet points is Instagram. I have tried to use it as a way of promoting this blog’s film-photography posts, but it’s not really working. I might get one or two clickthroughs from each Instagram post.

But my followers keep clicking the little heart on my posts, and it feels good to get them.

When you chase fake Internet points you need to consider return on investment and opportunity cost. Do the good feelings you get from likes, favorites, et. al., seem like a reasonable reward for the time you spent posting? And would that time you spent posting have been better spent doing something else?

make time to write in this blog: I get up early and write in it each morning. It’s because the reward I’ve received for doing it seems to be worth it. Your comments have taught me so much. They’ve also affirmed me as a photographer. Also, it’s just smashing fun when one of my posts gets shared around the Internet and gets a lot of visits. But most importantly, I’ve found community through this blog and many other photography blogs.

I post to Instagram opportunistically, that is, when I have some downtime that I couldn’t profitably use in some other way. When you find a new Instagram post from me, you can assume I had five minutes between appointments with little to do but wait. It’s a nice use of my wait time for the return I get in those sweet, sweet fake Internet points.

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Personal, Photography

Online privacy for children and why you’ve never seen photos of my sons here

It wasn’t some higher motive that has kept me from posting photos of my children online, at least at first. It was their mom, who was afraid of online predators. Overafraid, if you ask me. Sharing photos of my sons playing at the park or blowing out their birthday candles was never going to invite that kind of trouble. But she was pretty direct about it: don’t post anything that identifies our sons or there will be a fight.

It was not the hill I wanted to die on. In the decade since, I’ve never named my sons online, never posted a photo.

My older son is 19 now, an adult in society’s eyes. So after a portrait session with him this summer, I just asked him if I could post a couple of the shots on my blog. “Knock yourself out,” he said. So here, for the first time: my son, Damion.

Damion

Yashica-12, Kodak E100G, 2016

He was in a reflective mood on this overcast day. I thought Crown Hill Cemetery might provide some fitting backdrops.

Damion

Yashica-12, Kodak E100G, 2016

It feels great to finally show you my son! If you’re a parent, you understand: this young man is my heart.

It’s been frustrating for years to speak of Damion only indirectly and never to show his photograph. I’ve felt jealousy over the years as my friends and family shared photos of their kids on their blogs and on Facebook.

But sometimes they’d post awkward situations and unflattering poses that I thought must embarrass their kids. I wondered how those kids would feel about those photos when they were adults. It’s led me to change my views on how parents should manage their kids’ privacy online.

As an old-school parent I think children aren’t responsible enough to manage their rights on their own. It’s our job as parents to manage our kids’ rights for them, allowing them to make more and more decisions on their own as they mature.

I don’t think routine family photos that cast a kid in a reasonably positive light are any violation of the kid’s privacy. I don’t think sharing a kid’s name makes him or her any more susceptible to online predators. So if it were not for my ex’s strong words years ago, I would have been sharing my sons here and on Facebook all along.

But you can’t predict how your kid is going to feel about privacy as they grow up. By every stereotype, my millennial son should be Snapchatting and YouTubing every moment of his life. But he doesn’t. Damion grew to be a deeply private young man. You’ll be hard pressed to find him online. A year or two ago he canceled his seldom-used Facebook account because his mom and others kept tagging him in photos they shared there. (Yes, I know she was doing what she didn’t want me to do.) He wants to tightly limit how and when any information about him is shared. I was surprised that he gave me permission to share these photos.

Now I’m glad I haven’t been sharing about Damion all these years, that my externally driven moratorium ended up serving him well.

So before you write about your kids or post photos of them, consider how might they feel about it when they’re adults. You can’t predict how they’ll turn out and what they will care about. Just as I could never have guessed Damion would become so deeply private.

 

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