Tuesday, December 22, 2015

On and Off

One Door Closes Another Opens

The irony of using one social media platform that became so unmanageable and unprofitable I jumped ship to announce that I am now jumping the ship I subsequently jumped onto is not lost on me.  Nor that one of my last acts on the new ship will be to announce this return to the old ship. Facebook was a hard sell back in the day, and now I realize I was right all along to hold off as long as I did. I’ve been at it only two and a half years, and as often happens with instincts I override, I was right in the first place. It turned out not to be a cool way to connect with people but one more popularity contest for me to lose and then have to devalue for my pride’s sake. 
Fortunately I have already been through the whole “is anyone really reading my posts?” dilemma right here on Blogger, not to mention a lifetime of being generally overlooked and eventually not caring anymore. It seems, even moreso than in the ego brutalizing real world, one has to go to great lengths to stand out and be heard online, and thanks to a glut of content by a glut of users, it is pretty much always the loudest and most persistent voices that get the most attention, leaving the rest of us to be content with a small but appreciative audience, the benefits of which don’t always make up for the annoyance of watching the popular posters attract attention like those kids you hated in high school who didn’t have to worry about their following, because they just kind of always had one and always would. 

As if that weren’t bad enough, Facebook decided to rub it in, by not even leaving me alone to watch the likes and comments accumulate on other people’s posts while mine languished unrecognized, but beginning to reward popularity with increased visibility, and unpopularity with increased unavailability.  The less attention you get, the less attention Facebook deems you worthy of, the harder it makes it for anyone actually interested to find you. To be seen, you have to prove you’re see-worthy, and then on top of that, you get a spotlight thrown on you that casts everyone else in shadow. 

Instead of stepping up my pouty selfies and clever memes production, I decided to learn as much as I could about where when and how Facebook was making these decisions about what to show when to whom and see if I could work the system.  That worked about as well as my attempt to “work the Etsy,” yet another overgrown popularity contest not worth the effort it takes to win. I started with my business page, which was how this uneasy alliance with Facebook began. Early on I realized that business pages did not work the same way as personal pages, in terms of access and flexibility within the FB world, and that I actually needed to create a personal profile just to use my business page most effectively.  I didn’t have a lot of likes on my page, but  I presumed that if someone found my page and “liked” it, all posts I made would be delivered to them automatically. 

That changed a while back when FB decided that only followers who had either specifically signed up for notifications or demonstrated “engagement” with my posts would be shown all subsequent activity on my page. Not only that, but the more engagement by the more followers, the more deliveries to the whole group.  Of course, this also means the opposite – once your engagement slacks off, you are caught in a downward spiral of diminished delivery. That’s when the desperate strategizing starts. I have actually begun liking, commenting upon and sharing my own business posts in order to trick FB into delivering them to more people. Yes, absurd and icky as it sounds, this actually works. It’s sort of like inventing an imaginary boyfriend to get someone to ask you out. Or throwing a loud party by yourself to get passersby to come hang out with you.

As I did back in high school, I am once again finding that working this hard to be noticed isn’t worth it. I would rather have a few connections than work that hard for more, and if I have to work that hard for those few, or force them to do so for me, I’d rather be alone.  I write poems and take photographs hardly anyone ever sees. I think thoughts and feel feelings that do not leave the premises of journals I discard at the end of the year.  Mostly I do this to work through things I need to learn more about, for my own sake. In order not to become too isolated and self-absorbed, I want and need to share some of what I’m going through wth others, for their sake, or what’s the point? 

Blogger failed me in this regard, and now Facebook has failed me too. Not only have I been lost in a sea of newsfeed content in which some flotsam and jetsam rises to the top while mine remains buried, but I recently discovered that my own personal page, which I was holding out hope would be under my control, there for anyone who cared to come by and catch up on everything I was posting, was also being subjected to the same process of random sorting, with FB deciding what would be available for view and how. So, not only am I languishing in the corner of the classroom while everyone gathers around the prom queen, but if someone decides to come looking for me, Facebook makes them work that much harder to get there by standing in their way and telling them “oh, no need to go any further, here’s what we’ve heard she’s been up to.”  And the sad thing is, most FB users don’t even know they aren’t getting the full story.

So, as of 2016, I’m done. I still have to keep my business page up and running because of the 500 newly printed business cards that say I am on Facebook. But once I am no longer re-posting my business posts on my personal page, that space too will become the social media equivalent of talking to myself. If anyone wants to know how I’m doing, there is always email, not to mention using that handheld camera, GPS, video streaming, and internet surfing device for its now seemingly obsolete function of making phone calls. My few real friends already do that. Maybe I will only lose an audience I never had, lose touch with friends who weren’t really friends, and miss out on information I didn’t really need anyway. I’m willing to take that chance. Perhaps, as the photograph at the head of this post suggests, one door closing will lead to another one opening. Let’s see what happens.