Monday, September 19, 2016

Why I Left Facebook (which may or may not actually END UP on Facebook!)

Two Months Away from Facebook….

What are the results?

It was two months ago, to the day, that I decided I’d had enough of Facebook. I’d had enough of the political sensationalizing, the absolute absence of manners--or even common sense, politeness, and decency--shown by the VAST majority of people who interacted with me and others, and I’d had enough of the time-drain that Facebook becomes when you check in to it more than once a day or so. And, let’s face it…most of us check in on it WAY more than once a day.  (!) After realizing that I was arguing senselessly with strangers--or with people who may as well have been strangers, for all the attention and courtesy they paid me--I decided Facebook was a bad, bad joke on most of us, but especially on me.

And I left.

What did I miss?

I missed connecting with people with whom I have little in common EXCEPT Facebook friendship, but whom I still consider friends. These people, I’ve encouraged to contact me independently via e-mail. Out of the invitations I issued, I got a couple of responses, most of which urged me to come back because they appreciated my insights and status updates. But it was sharing my insights that got me abused, harassed, and yelled at in the first place…so frankly, I’m in no hurry to go back for more of that. The rest of the people I invited to contact me didn’t bother. I understand we’re all busy, so there’s no indictment there…but it WAS discouraging to realize that I could drop out of sight with so little impact on people who claimed to be friends.

I missed a ton of book promotional “opportunities,” most of which go to the same half-dozen or dozen people repeatedly--and most of which, it MUST be said (and said and said), do no good whatsoever. Have I seen any sales from Facebook? I doubt it. Have I seen a marked uptick of sales at all, on anything I’ve written, despite repeated and faithful updates on the books and on different promotional sites? Not a bit. So, unfortunately, for me and for TONS of other folks out there, Facebook promotion is, quite frankly, a waste of time.

In that vein, I also missed a ton of book promotional info from complete strangers whose books I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. No offense to anyone being creative out there; I understand MY books aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, either. But when I see 10 or 20 soft-core porn books being promoted to every 1 book I might actually read and enjoy, it gets a little tiresome spending time “ignoring” a bunch of this stuff just to get to something that might actually provide me honest entertainment. Have I discovered a few new authors through FB? Yes. Would I have discovered them through other sources? Without a DOUBT, yes. I regularly scan Amazon listings for all sorts of categories, and that’s much more of how I’ve discovered some delightful things.

So is the advice we’re all given, and given, and given, about being “present” on social media all the time, valid? In my case? Nope.  

More importantly, it may not actually be a good idea AT ALL for some of us. Ditto for Twitter, or any other media form out there. Unless we’re a thoroughly participating member of all that is cool, hip, politically correct, and culturally approved today--and those parameters are getting narrower and narrower, belying ANY claims to the contrary--Facebook and other social media aren’t worth the potential damage they can do to our tempers, our peace of mind, and very real tangible assets.

I’m not culturally correct. I’m not politically correct. I was born without the tact gene, I’m a natural contrarian, and my B.S. detector has been working so hard of late that it’s in need of A Week at the Home. I am constitutionally unable to resist jumping into some arguments; hard as I try, when I see my faith being bashed, my principles being trod underfoot, or sheer stupidity passed off as scholarship and proceeding to lead TONS of people off into Neverland, I find it almost impossible to resist engaging.

And therein lies a double-edged sword.

If I do, I’m not only wasting time that could be better spent doing something else; I’m also laying myself bare for potential damage, either emotionally or in terms of very real things like book sales and potential writing gigs. That’s why they all tell us, “Watch out what you put on social media; it’s out there forever, and people will judge you on it.”

To which I say a profound and deliberate raspberry.

If you’re going to take my beliefs and trample them underfoot, and then get mad when I defend them…that says something about YOU, not about ME.
If you’re going to harass me for my political stances, my world views, or my moral compass…again, that says far more about YOU than it does about ME.
And if you’re going to refuse to read my fiction because you don’t like my opinion on something? See above.
Unfortunately, in the Wild West atmosphere of social platforms, no one--and I mean NO ONE--takes such responsibility to heart.

It’s a basic rule of human nature, especially online, that we’re way more ready to believe the bad about someone than the good; we’re all prone to operate under the old adage, “If you haven’t got anything good to say about someone…SIT NEXT TO ME.”  And all it takes is one person deliberately misinterpreting something I say (and yes, they’ve done it) to go viral, and the damage can have ripple effects that I have no way to refute or counteract.

No cloud-based medium should ever have that much power. But it does. And thus, it comprises a potential hazard that anyone with an opinion uses at his/her peril.

Because yes, you’re not going to please all of the people all of the time. But this goes way beyond that.
On Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media, all it takes is one loudmouth to make sure you never get the chance to even INTERACT with thousands or millions of others. There is no “verification of sources” check or balance here; its vast majority of participants’ idea of engaging in conversation seems to consist of, “What I say is true because I FEEL it. If you don’t agree, you’re a hater and a hateful person, and I will smear you every chance I get.”

THAT downside goes way beyond getting my dander up. That downside isn’t a healthy place to be…I suspect for many, if not most, of us.

Can social media be a valuable thing? Yes, if it’s truly social--and not just a graffiti board for people with foul mouths and even fouler minds. Unfortunately, it’s way more the latter than the former.  For me, that’s neither a place I want to spend time in nor a place that’s good for me. I’m a firm believer in “garbage in, garbage out,” and I didn’t like the person I was becoming from the many tangles I’ve gotten into on so-called “social” media, either.

Some of us just aren’t born to BE social, I guess.  At least not in this artificial, electronic way.

Which is why, after two months, I will probably stay gone.

With one notable exception:

I DID miss connecting with the Facebook Write-a-Thon group. Because it was supportive--and more than a little instrumental in getting at least one book done and another one generously written on already. Of course, I wrote regularly for a ton of years before Facebook came along, so I could more than likely do it again. But the competitive spirit of the sprints, and the cheerleading that goes on for each other? If I do stop in at Facebook AT ALL, it will be for this. And nothing else.  

For those of you who actually did miss me but don’t know where to find me--let me know that through a PM on Facebook. I haven’t permanently deleted the account yet, so I will get the message, and I can give you an e-mail address we can use to share all the wonderful stuff we need to share. OR, better yet, just comment here with contact info, and I'll get in touch with you!

As for the rest of it…leaving something behind has rarely ever felt so good.
Going further into Luddite-ville also appears more and more appealing by the day.

Have fun, all! But keep the bandages handy, nonetheless. Hang around the electronic street corners long enough and you’re bound to need them sooner or later.