Before anyone thinks I think domestic violence is a joke, I’d like to point out that the recent outcries of the #metoo movement shows that we all, men included, know what it’s like to be with someone who maybe isn’t that good to us, but that we stick around for in case things improve.
This is that story. And I think we are all living it on Facebook.
At first, Facebook was the best thing that ever happened to me. Finally, I felt I could be myself, be humorous, be appreciated for who I really was. It was a place to reconnect with people who would otherwise be gone to us: college friends, camp friends, childhood friends, my parents’ friends, cousins I never get to see, the works. I could keep up with people and peek into their lives and their offspring without really having to put forth much effort. Life was easy.
Business Pages came around and people were excited, if not confused. They wanted a page, but not a profile, they were seeing too much business messaging, they were misusing their personal profiles. A page branding boost occurred. Designers like me were happy. Facebook was a way to keep things separate, but together. People could get to know and like your business in a whole new way.
Then the ads came. Facebook decided that in order to really allow your audience to see your messages, you had to pay, even a small amount. I went along with it, a lot of us did. A small price to pay for the glory of being in front of the curated group of audience we had carefully created there over the years.
Do you see where this is going yet? We are starting to see signs of things to come. But we shut our mouths, and hope for the best. After all, one tiny hiccup in a relationship is normal, right?
Algorithm is the word that every marketer and content creator needs to know and already despises. Facebook users start to wonder why they USED to see things in chronological order, based on what was happening to ALL the people they agreed to befriend, but now they are having these choices made for them. Something they never asked for and frustrated them. We complain. Facebook says, “You can see things how you want, just configure it properly, dummy. Also, you’re free to leave anytime you choose.” But, are we? We are in deep now. We have poured heart, soul, conversation, strategy into these relationships on Facebook.
And so we shut our mouths, slightly more uncomfortable, and sigh. Let’s hope this is all we’ll have to deal with.
The Page design changes, and changes again. Groups are formed. Moderators have a lot of people to manage and monitor. People meet business partners, lifelong friends, spouses, inspiring mentors, and get dream opportunities because of Facebook. It keeps changing, growing, tweaking, like all relationships. And we change with it, because we’ve become more dependent, more invested in it.
Facebook decides that they need to be a one-stop shop. Facebook chat becomes a thing. Sometimes it’s the only way to connect with someone important. We get a running activity update, a ticker at the top of the screen of what everyone is doing. We get trending news on the sidebar. We can spend our whole day in and on Facebook, and our lives will be perfect. They’ve made it easy and perfect.
Everything is perfect.
(It’s at this point that I feel I’m writing the technology equivalent of a Lifetime movie starring an actress that was once a huge star but is now obscure. Maybe Jane from Melrose Place or Daphne Zuniga as the girl who had the perfect relationship…..UNTIL….)
Fast forward to today. Facebook users have put up with a lot. We have mobile ads in our faces. Our business pages are literally useless without paying for exposure. We have curated audiences in the THOUSANDS but have no other way of marketing to them or reaching them WITHOUT FACEBOOK. I personally have a group of almost 9,000 women in a group of women podcasters, that I can’t begin to market to or monetize without Facebook. And our data is being mined, along with our browser history, to help marketers target us for the exact right products.
We’ve joked about it, we’ve discussed it, but we’ve also looked the other way because we NEED Facebook. And they need us. We are completely codependent. People threaten to leave, or take Facebook sabbatical, and I just laugh. In the back of my head, I think, way to fall behind the rest of us, you go ahead and take off, I’ll just be here filling in where your absence leaves a hole.
I’ve always quite enjoyed targeted ads, because I don’t necessarily need to see advertising for sports merchandise or teacher’s educational materials. That would be ridiculous. Target me, I’ve said with glee. Please send me all the things I love and none of the things I hate.
Little did I know that in the background, things like psychological warfare were happening. Little did I know that our president made the term “fake news” a thing because his own team invented it. I didn’t know that we were being experimented on like animals in a big ol’ lab, played with to see if our emotions would improve or worsen based on the depressing shit we’re being made to read.
Gross. Is that an understatement? I've gone from gross to no way, to HOW DARE THEY. I know many of you are there too.
So what do we do now?
In college, I majored in Communications. One of my classes, “Gender & Communication” taught me this theory about abused women. It states that women only stay in relationships not based on how severe the abuse is, but based on what they PERCEIVE THEIR OPTIONS ARE. So she could have literally the dumbest, meanest, most pathetic excuse for a spouse that ever was, but she'd stay in it if she thought that was the best she could do. And I know a TON of women who have lived in that exact same scenario, putting up with unthinkable nonsense because the person they were with was the best they thought they could get. They know the abuser is an abuser. But they think they don’t deserve better. And who gave them this idea? Oh yeah, the same dumb ass who’s been abusing them.
Facebook has twisted and turned the game on us a billion times, and we have stayed. And we will continue to stay because really, there aren’t many alternatives where ALL the people are. Instagram doesn’t have the same conversational capability and oh, yeah, they’re also owned by Facebook. Twitter can’t be sectioned off for safe spaces. Snapchat….don’t make me laugh.
You can threaten to leave, plan your exodus, sock away money in an account that only you know about and pack a suitcase sitting by the door. But until another nice guy comes to sweep me off my feet, I have to sit here and take it. Because I got myself into this mess, and we all are in the same boat.
Let’s just hope they make it better and promise not to do it anymore. Sigh.