Last night, I saw that I was going to lose another friend.
This was vexing, but not as vexing as it might have been. The friend is a friend on Facebook, a friend I have some positive feelings about, but also a friend I don’t actually know, even by the standards of social media. She’s a writer, and I’ve enjoyed her posts and had an occasional bit of casual interplay with her, but that’s about it. So, little lost, except perhaps the opportunity to actually become friends down the line through further interaction.
The reason I’m losing her as a Facebook friend? Because she’s switching from her personal account, which is limited to 5,000 friends, to a fan page, which has no such limits. By doing this, she opens up her page to many more potential readers she can talk to, and hopefully sell books to, which is completely understandable.
The thing is, the key words in that last sentence are “talk to.” She can talk to them. And when she does, they can even respond, getting into pleasant chats on her page about whatever it is she wanted to post about. Nice, right?
What’s lost by doing this is the very thing that elevates Facebook to something more than solipsistic whining and self promotion: community. My writer friend is removing herself from the community of friends and acquaintances she has built so far in order to better advertise her brand. Before making this change, she could see the posts made by all her friends, and they could see hers, and many a discussion could occur. Now, community dialogue will be replaced with authorial monologue.
Her current friends will be automatically converted into fans. Facebook will add her page to the things they have “Liked” without letting them know it’s doing so, or that there has been a change. They’ll still see posts from the writer in their feeds, as if she is still their friend, but she’ll see nothing they post unless they comment on the things she posts on her page. They will be diminished from equals to advertising targets who’ve been opted in without their consent.
Me, I’ll probably un-Like her. Nothing against her, but I accepted her friendship in the first place not because I’m a fan, but because she was a peer I thought I might like and learn something from. I thought she might become an actual friend. It happens. Now, I’m forced to be a fan, and as interesting as her posts might be at times, apparently my posts, and the posts of all her other friends, are worthless to her. Frankly, I’m on Facebook for dialogue, not monologue.
I interact daily with people who found me through my writing, and with writers I’ve been reading most of my life, people who entertained me even as they taught me bit by bit via osmosis how to write. Some of them have become pretty good virtual friends, commenting frequently on my posts even as I comment on theirs. Am I interested in the latest news about their work? Yep. But that’s not the gold in them thar Facebook hills. The gold is the friendship, not the marketing.
The irony is that not only is there a better way to deal with Facebook’s lousy friends list limitation, but switching to a fan page is going to actually narrow the field of contact she’s going to achieve with her fans.
If she’s at the friends limit, all she has to do is enable Subscriptions to her account. This would allow an unlimited number of fans to subscribe and follow her posts, just as they’ll be doing on her fan page, but it would keep her current friends list as is and fully interactive. And subscribers would all see everything she wants them to see.
By switching to a fan page, however, she makes herself subject to Facebook’s latest innovation, which is severely limiting the number of fans who actually see any post she makes and then charging her an elevated fee structure so that more of her fans will see her posts. She’s giving up her community of friends and fans to instead pay Facebook to advertise to her fans.
Have I said “fuck that” yet? Well, I ‘m saying it again.
Facebook is overrated as a hub of friendship, mostly it links strangers to each other. I won’t touch it.
I’ve made several really good friends and loads of good contacts on Facebook. Like any tool, it’s all in how you use it.