Blogging in the Time of Facebook

I’m a fan of Facebook, for the most part. It’s one of the main ways I keep in touch with many people, and I know from experience just how bad of a job I did at that back in the days before Facebook came into existence. And I realize the company has a tough nut to crack: I’m friends with 698 people at the moment, and there’s no way I would want to see all the updates from all 698 of those people. (Except *you*, of course. I really care about seeing every update *you* make.)

On the flip side, there are some people that I really do want to see everything from. People whose writing I enjoy, or close friends or family. And Facebook allows you to see some of it, but not all of it. In the end, the control of your newsfeed is up to the algorithms, and that’s where I get most frustrated.

See, I write this daily blog, and I write it so that people can read it. But when you churn out a post a day, Facebook’s algorithms don’t like it. They don’t seem to want to show your stream of posts to everyone. Why would they want to do that when they’d rather use you as an income generator, instead. “We’ll show your post to even more people . . . if you pay us some money.” And that’s really frustrating.

I don’t pay to promote things on Facebook. That seems counterproductive. But as I’ve been blogging and posting to the site over the years, I’ve seen a lifecycle of a blog post on Facebook. There’s a tiny window, typically, where the post has a chance to “prove” itself. In that window, if enough people like it or (better yet) share it, then the algorithms kick in. “Aha!” Facebook says. “This is a post people like to read. If I share it with more people, then more people will like using Facebook, because people like to read things that other people like to read.”

In that case, the post goes on to have a happy little life. More people see it, which cause more people to like it and comment, and the cycle continues.

If, on the other hand, not enough people see or like it, then it quickly sinks into oblivion. Sure, some of that could be because I’ve just written a crummy blog post, but I’ve been doing this long enough that I usually have a good handle on what’s solid and what isn’t, and I know for a fact that some really solid posts have just tanked.

And that’s a problem. Not for me, personally, because it’s not like I count on blog views to earn me income or anything, but because of what it stands for. So many people in the world use Facebook as the prime means of staying connected and even just getting news, that this one company is beginning to have a greater and greater influence over what we think as a culture. Just look at how the Russians were able to manipulate that for their own designs, playing Americans off each other by fanning the flames on both sides of arguments.

I’m not sure what the solution is. For my posts, it would be to have more people just subscribe directly to my blog and cut out Facebook altogether. But I know that’s not going to happen, just as I know Facebook isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. They might get edged out eventually, but it’s going to take some awfully big market forces to do that. Facebook will have to make some major blunders (something it’s done before) at the same time that a real serious competitor comes along that offers some exciting changes. It’s the second part that has yet to really materialize. Sure, teens use other platforms, but for the majority of “grown ups,” Facebook remains the biggie.

Then again, how is this different than how things were before, when ABC, NBC, and CBS ruled the news? The biggest difference is that it was much harder to get lies printed and reported. These days, anyone with a keyboard and an internet connection can make a story that seems reliable *enough*, meaning it’ll convince a significant amount of people that they should believe it. Facebook is trying to police this more, but in the end, they’re not really motivated. After all, their business is eyeballs, and the more eyeballs, the merrier.

Just not for my blog posts, if they don’t cut it in the first hour or so . . .

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