For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a recently-retired English teacher and a writer with an aggressive plan (I intend to publish 10 books between now and Christmas 2022).
Like many of you, I’m not thrilled with Facebook. They’ve taken too much information, too much control, and not shown enough restraint. I’ve read about the ways that Facebook radicalizes QAnon followers, supports racist groups and generally does not act like a good local or global citizen.
More and more, I’ve come to the conclusion that the world would be a better place without Facebook.
And yet, I’m still there.
Well, that ‘author’ part is a big reason why. There are too many resources that exist on Facebook alone. Facebook has gained a monopoly on certain communities, and I need three of them for my career.
There’s a group that’s specifically about how to market your writing when you’re an author. The group is run by authors for authors and is a great example of the philosophy that “A rising tide lifts all boats.” They offer so many free resources and lessons, help anyone who has questions … it’s an amazing resource for a new author and one that I’d want to contribute to once I’ve got some successes to draw lessons from.
There’s another group that’s specifically for my genre of writers. All it does is track which short story markets are seeking submissions. Now a lot of this information can be found elsewhere, and I know a few places that it appears in, but this group has the value add of writers who have worked with those markets before telling of their experiences. Again, a great tool for an ‘emerging writer.’
There’s another Facebook group for my genre of writers that’s solely focussed on craft. This is an essential tool for a successful writer. Again, there are other places, Codex may be one of them, or Scribophile or the Online Writers Workshop (the latter at least is a paid membership group).
The combination of these three resources, not available in any one other place, but probably replaceable across a broad spectrum of online communities, is one of the main reasons I’m still on Facebook.
The other is advertising. If you’re a writer, there are (too) many options to attract new readers. The two most impactful options are advertising on Amazon and Facebook. You can’t advertise on the platform if you’re not a member.
You’ll notice what’s absent from this list of reasons to stay – the personal social reasons. They’re fading rapidly.
Yes, I have many social contacts on Facebook it’d be hard to keep in touch with through other means. First, I’m an ex-pat, living on a different continent from my family. Second, I’ve taught students from well over a hundred countries, and met people from many more. Facebook is the standard way to keep in touch with these people.
But it’s the economic potential, the stranglehold that Facebook has on my career, that keeps me there.
As much as I may try to limit my interactions with the Facebook group of companies, they’re planning ways to force me to play by their rules.
Have you noticed anything odd about the new redesign? There are a bunch of functions that have become less than what they were, unless, and only unless, you are using either the iOS or Android app.
So on my desktop, I can no longer control what shows up in my favourites list (now called shortcuts). I can if I’ll download the phone app and give Facebook access to my phone. I won’t do that. I can no longer see which of the few visible favourites have had recent activity, something especially important for following story submission markets. Those counts have disappeared. Facebook controls that.
I won’t allow the Facebook app on my phone, nor Messenger. I’ve getting wary of the Instagram app and just waiting to hear the bad news about the WhatsApp app. On my desktop, I can still maintain some control, by installing the FBPurity and Fences plug-ins. This somewhat hinders Facebook’s ability to gather data on me, or push their unrequested content onto my screens.
But that doesn’t feel like I’ve done enough.
As part of my developing marketing strategy, I’ve purchased a few domains. I’ve seriously considered adding the Open Source Social Network plug-in as a sub-domain and starting my own little echo chamber, free of Mark Zuckerberg’s minions. But everyone I’d invite to use it would also want others there; others I don’t know or don’t like. Pretty soon I’d have to bear the costs of running a full social network, or start losing the attention of my desired members as they sought interactions with people I hadn’t allowed in.
So I’m here for now, biding my time, watching for alternatives, building routines that don’t include Facebook.
_ _ _
Stephen G Parks is the author of A Godless Man, due in December 2020, and the soon-to-be released short story collection, The Maiden Voyage of Novyy Mir. He lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with his wife, his cat, and too many fish to name. You can learn more about his books at Skrap Books.