Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Last week I left Facebook.

It didn't seem all that big a deal to me-- the site was becoming more work than I felt it was worth. What surprised me was the reaction from real-life friends and acquaintances. Shock and denial were the order of the day:

'But how will you keep up with friends and family abroad?' 'How will you tell people what's going on with you?' 'You need it to let people know you're okay in an earthquake!' 'But now you won't know about events and stuff!'

The reactions were sudden, strong. I was amazed. Every one of the points above was raised more than once, by different people. Oddly, the wording was often quite similar. (Also odd, the cautions about losing touch with far-off people came from those friends I see most often!) It got me thinking...

I'm an intensely private person. I like to let my art and writing speak for me. The idea of sharing my business with the world at large holds no appeal. I went on Facebook to sell my work. To preserve at least a few scraps of privacy, my presence on the site was all persona, like the face I show at a cocktail party. And like spending too much time at a cocktail party, it made me weary.

At the point where I felt Facebook was neither a) fun, or b) effective, pulling the plug seemed only natural.

Friends and family have my email. If I want the world to know what's up with me, I've got a (sadly neglected) website, a blog, a twitter account. I can use any and all of these to let y'all know I survived an earthquake. Or you can simply remember that I happen to be Unbreakable... ;-)

And hell, events, you can text. Or kick it old school and, you know, just tell me.

Sure, Facebook puts all that in one place, but I'm not terribly fond of that place. The fault may be my own, but I'd say it's a fault common to all writers and artists on Facebook:

If you're trying to attract new customers (and I don't care if you call it 'marketing', 'leveraging', 'platform', whatever. We're talking about more customers), you NEED to have a profile full of strangers. After all, your mom's already going to buy your book-- it's new eyeballs you need.

This means 'friend-whoring' like crazy, then hoping your posts are entertaining enough to keep some of those new eyes coming back. Whether you go for comedy, politics, sex, samples, whatever, your goal is to entertain so you can slip those bits of self-promotion in there and, you know, sell! :)

My tattoo shop's Facebook page took over this function for my art. My art profile atrophied. My writing profile, I ended up with 500 friends, mostly other writers trying to sell to me. I freely admit, I never got the hang of marketing my writing on Facebook. ( A thought, writers: if your profile isn't full of strangers, ahem, new readers, it's social, not professional.)

At any rate, my profiles weren't selling for me, and without attracting new customers, I had very little use for sharing my life. It's got me feeling a little Travis McGee...

I'm not sure I fit into this Brave New, Thoroughly Public, World. I see no point in sharing day to day trivia and minutiae. When I don't feel like accepting calls (for instance, reading, writing or relaxing) I turn off my damn phone. If there's something personal I want you to know, I will tell you.

Seems simple to me. I do realize I've given up the pleasure of seeing photos of myself drunk and vomiting out the back of a bus, but hey, there were bound to be tradeoffs, right? ;)

Update: Angie pointed me to this link in the comments. Jason Scott is smart, eloquent and informed. His articulate hatred for Facebook leaves me thinking that little itch between my shoulderblades really was a target on my back...


Charles Gramlich said...

Facebook has changed their format once again and I'm getting tired of that. I do enjoy some aspects of it, and of course I do keep hitting the marketing angle, sometimes with success, sometimes not. So far it has brought me a few opporunities, but those require more work on my part to take advantage of and I'm about worked out. I'm definitely trying not to spend more than 15 or 20 minutes on facebook a day.

Angie said...

I'm with you in that I don't want that much of myself to be public. Especially since Facebook seems designed to make more of your life public than you ever intended. [cough] I never joined Facebook, and probably never will. I keep up with my friends and family well enough; some of them are on Facebook, but I've never been tempted. I have my blogs and my journals, I'm intermittently active on Goodreads, I read and comment and cross-link to and from other blogs; that's enough social networking for me.

If I ever find I have a big chunk of time and nothing to fill it with [smirk] I'll probably try Twitter. Until then, I'm fine as I am. I'm sure you'll be just fine without Facebook.


Steve Malley said...

Charles, I was pretty good at selling my art on Facebook-- simple enough to 'friend' anyone and everyone in sight and keep showing them pictures. Writing was harder for me, and I suspect it's harder for everyone.

Has anyone done well marketing fiction on Facebook? I know Konrath uses it to drive traffic to his blog, which THEN sells his books, but I wonder how many people find him on FB without having already seen his blog. Any success stories you know about?

Steve Malley said...

Angie, you hit the nail on the head. Near as I can tell, Mark Zuckerberg lacks any clue whatsoever as to WHY some folks want any privacy at all. Throughout FB's history he's treated privacy issues, not with actual malice and unwillingness, just a sort of eye-rolling 'whatever' until his arm is twisted hard enough to bother.

Having my real life in a marketing environment strikes me a bit like that person at a cocktail party (and FB *is* a cocktail party-- sparkling chitchat, vapid nothings, jokes good and bad and the odd morose drunk in the corner)... anyway, it's like being that person at the party who wants to tell you ALL about their operation, their children's bowel movements, their problems with their marriage.

It's just like, don't.

Since quitting, I've got my Goodreads account up and running again. Readers and writers getting together-- MUCH more my speed! :)

Angie said...

Zuckerberg's made no secret of the fact that Facebook users are the product he sells to his customers, who are the corporate advertisers. Letting the users maintain privacy is actually contrary to his business model, if you think about it.

And hey, it's not only us. :) Coincidentally, Jason Scott linked to this post of his from a few months ago, a reply to someone who asked him about archiving Facebook in the future. He makes you and me sound like raving Facebook fans. [grin]

I've heard writers saying they love Facebook, or that Facebook is essential, or whatever, but the truth is that no one knows exactly what does or doesn't work when it comes to marketing your fiction. Unless you have a few hundred thousand to spend, in which case you saturate the media, but even that doesn't always work; see Snookie's bestseller that wasn't. But if you're working on a shoestring like most of us, and social media and other internet activities are the biggest chunk of your promo, we're all just flailing around, trying whatever we can do or want to do or have time to do. Sometimes a book catches on, sometimes it doesn't. No one can really say that THIS works and THAT doesn't; there are way too many variables, starting with the quality of the book itself.


Sphinx Ink said...

Hurrah for you, Steve. I agree. I signed up for Facebook to be in contact with some relatives who are scattered around the country, never realizing that anything I posted could end up with all kinds of other people. I haven't posted anything there for a long time, and I'm working my way around to either "unfriending" a lot of people, or perhaps dropping FB completely. I just don't get why people love FB so much.

Sphinx Ink said...
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Steve Malley said...

Angie, I enjoyed that post so much I linked to it in an udpate.

There's an old adage that half the money you spend in advertising works, the other half is useless.

The trick is figuring out which half. ;)

Steve Malley said...

Sphinx, personally I think of Facebook as the social equivalent of jellybeans:

Tasty, enjoyable, easy to keep popping into your mouth without thinking about it. They'll even make you feel full, as if you'd eaten a proper meal.

You can completely wreck your health on jellybeans.

Facebook's no different. Bright colors. Immediacy. A chance to snoop through other people's lives (of course, when we do it, it's 'finding out what so-and-so's been up to'). Gossip.

Using Facebook can make you feel like you're enjoying rich social connections. It's easy to load up on the exhibitionism of yourself and others and confuse it with real intimacy.

That's why I think people like it.

Angie said...

Steve -- glad you enjoyed the link. :)

The trick is figuring out which half. ;)

Exactly, LOL!


RK Sterling said...

But...but... how will I know how you're doing?

Actually, I missed your rich blogs while you whoring on Facebook. Good to see you back here.

RK Sterling said...

That was supposed to be "while you were whoring" ;)

Steve Malley said...

Hey Kate, now I'm free to blog more, so you'll get something more than my two careers bickering over sharing one body. ;-p

cs harris said...
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cs harris said...

I am sooo with you on this. I joined Facebook so I could access the photos of friends who'd tell me, "I put it up on Facebook; go look." Then I started getting people wanting to "friend" me. Then my publisher told me I needed a fan page rather than a personal page, so I ended up with both. Then they twisted my arm for MONTHS to give my fan page a vanity URL (finally setting up an appointment with a techie to walk me through it and make certain I finally did it). But it's all for naught because I can rarely think of anything I want to say on there, let alone something to say every day, as I was instructed.

An agent friend recently told me Facebook is good for marketing your friends' books. (Lightbulb moment: Something to post about!) In other words, the people reading your site already know you and buy your books. So someone please tell me what the point is?

And I've been meaning to ask: Are you still coming to New Orleans? Because Steve and I thought it would be fun to get together with Charles and take you to dinner out at Bucktown. Interested?

Steve Malley said...

Candy, I am most definitely coming. And I'd love to have dinner with y'all! Barring catastrophe, calamity and natural disaster (all of which have interfered with previous travel plans), I'll be in NOLA from the 27th-ish to somewhere around the 2nd or 3rd. :)

Now, I'm going to amuse myself imagining Thomas Pynchon's publisher-insisted Facebook page... -_-

cs harris said...

Steve, that's great! Is that October 27 to early November? And Sphinx Ink just read your post and the comments and emailed me to say he/she is coming, too.

Angie said...

Figures, I've never been to New Orleans before, but I'm going to be there two weeks before Steve for a writing thing. :( Insufficiently lucky timing, that.


Malley Family Tree said...

I am your long lost cousin. (Not sure who is lost in this scenario)
I live in Los Angeles and just finished reading Crossroad Blues.
I hope all is well and I hope we can connect some day.

Erik Donald France said...

Roger, that ~~ however, I'm sticking with it at least a bit longer just to see what happens with the "Occupy" movement, and so forth.