Facebook: Love It or Leave It?

April 16, 2015 | By | 25 Replies More

new profile photo copyBack in February a writer/friend, Donna Zukaitis Falcone, posted a question on Facebook:  Building a platform as a writer: Can it be done without Facebook in the 21st century anymore? Do the old tried and true ways still work in a digital age?

She sparked a lively conversation, and it struck an especially resonant chord since I’ve begun rethinking my own relationship with social media. Clearly I’m not alone.

The comments ran the gamut from a sense of obligation to post, to being rubbed the wrong way by writers who post only about their books, to unbridled appreciation for a particular writer who enriches us with interesting links that cover the waterfront in the world of letters and art.

If the world is too much with us—and it is—stepping back, pulling away, should feel easier than it does.

But before we blame the technology that has us tethered to our devices, consider this: Writers are forever straddling the fence of invisibility and visibility: we work in solitude and thrive in community. We sign onto the World Wide Web—blogging/websites, Twitter, Facebook, etc.—but inevitably find ourselves seeking out the comfort of familiar tribes that reinforce our sense of belonging, not to mention purpose. How do we extend our reach while making interaction more meaningful/less time consuming? There’s a reason a cottage industry has evolved around marketing and self-promotion in our social-media-driven world. Say good-bye to book parties. Say hello to blog tours.

But even that’s not enough. The medium is indeed the message, and the demands on writers—whether you go it alone or hire a pro or have the publicity department of a publishing house behind you—are greater than ever. Websites are a given if you’ve published a book. To blog or not is a choice. I know more than one writer whose blog has gone by the wayside, other writers whose posts are simply fewer and far between.

ShoesCoverlatest copyFor all our best intentions as writers, and readers, how much can we truly pay attention to? “I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again,” writes high-profile Andrew Sullivan, who blogged daily for some fifteen years, in his no más blog post: “I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged.”

My approach to blogging has never been daily, or even weekly but I strive for consistency, twice a month on average. If I could not tell you what my blog was ‘about’ back when I caught on to blogging fever, I can tell you what keeps me at it: those everyday things that trigger connections to what once was/what is/what is no more—a new CD, a provocative museum show, a family trip, boxes of old photographs. These days, there’s the added pleasure of alternating posts with my daughter, also a writer. We call it a diablog.

Blogging exposed me to those ever-evolving online communities of writers, and sparked my plunge into the world of social networking. It was daunting at first, that stream of tweets and newsfeeds feeling a little like ships passing in the night, so much demanding our attention, hashtags inviting us to engage; hook onto an interesting star, let someone know you saw/you read/you appreciated. Leave your digital imprint. Let the world see who you are.

The bottom line: some people post selfies, others say here I am with words, links, art that demands to be shared.

Twitter challenges us to get the point quickly. Facebook was intended for interaction, not marketing, a reality that begs the question whether new readers/fans find us in a way that feels organic (i.e., a natural outgrowth of what we share) or whether we’re strategic about platform building. Either way we build a presence. Call it what you will—the town square, a kitchen window, the water cooler. Doesn’t the pull of Facebook speak largely to the need for connection in a world that pulls us further and further from the fold?

All of which brings me back to my original point. To be a writer means to want to be read. In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield’s very clever spin on Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, he makes a strong case for the artist’s commitment to daily work. On some days that may mean getting back to a new story I started; on others it means taking more time to connect. Ask any writer: keeping up with it all can be exhausting.

All the more reason to be amused by a David Sedaris post on his Facebook page : “I have never written anything on this page before, but it’s a new year, and one of my resolutions is to try more new things. ‘Engaging on Facebook’ was on my list between, ‘1. Visit Poland’ and ‘3. Experiment with turtlenecks.’ Yes, indeed, someone else manages his page.

Deborah Batterman is the author of Shoes Hair Nails (short stories) and Because my name is mother (essays). A native New Yorker, she is a Pushcart nominee and took 3rd place in the Women’s National Book Association 2012 Short Fiction Contest. Her work has appeared in anthologies as well as various print and online journals, most recently Every Mother Has a Story, Vol. 2 (Shebooks/Good Housekeeping) and Open to Interpretation: Fading Light (Taylor & O’Neill).  She has completed two novels, one YA and one in the women’s fiction realm, and maintains a blog, which has evolved into a collaboration with her daughter. She can’t say she invented the word, but a ‘diablog’ it is.

 Website/blog:  http://deborahbatterman.com     Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/deborah.batterman

Twitter: @DEBatterman

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Category: Contemporary Women Writers, On Book Marketing

Comments (25)

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  1. I came across this article in my Twitter feed. It caught my attention because I left FB last year. I agonized it for a year. I read articles about leaving FB. Yesterday, I read an article by Dr.Mercola about the new FB changes. I’m just not going to be a part of the centership that appears to be taking place. Although it’s true that there is a lot “fake news” on FB and social media, as a writer, I am disgusted when spam sites get promoted over the original source, and over good, useful information. After an article that I wrote was stolen by spammers, I tracked them down an reported them. It was removed. I’m not eager to share now. Currently, my priorities lie elsewhere. I never liked FB. I tried to like it, I really did. But, in the end, it just left me cold. I haven’t deleted my account yet because I haven’t had the time. But it’s on my list. I have three books I want to finish. Clearly, that can not be done if I am writing more on social media than working on those books! Facebook had to go! No regrets!

  2. Skilbey says:

    I started a blog last Christmas to build up an author platform and Facebook was inevitably on the ‘check’ list but I have never liked the social comparison malarky that hovers around FB and still find the whole experience similar to suffering from indigestion. I wrote a blog post about my dislike (called it ‘Biting the hand that feeds’), so that if anyone was curious as to why I was not terribly active on it there was an explanation. I find it truly uncomfortable and conforming in a way that I would rather not. I am an optimist and truly celebrate other people’s achievements -it is, after all, a platform – but don’t want entire family lives rammed down my throat, neither do I want to know how fast you can consume a plate of crackers. I know I’m losing out here, somehow, and will have to change track at some point. Perhaps (sigh).

    • Facebook was intended as a friendly communication platform, built on interaction. In some ways it’s really out of control now re: what people are willing to put out there, but I do enjoy, in a more limited way than I used to, looking at what friends are up to and also being exposed to interesting links, etc. Using it as a marketing platform is a whole different story. Some people seem to do it so well naturally, but there’s every reason to see why others hire professionals to do it for them.

  3. Roy Murry says:

    I have had two novels published by two different Publisher’s (Black Rose; Tate.) Neither promoted the books. It was up to me.

    Therefore, I started my Blog (Above,)opened a page on Facebook, and Tweeted. It took a few years to find my way in self marketing. Because of that endeavor, I am now the Social Media Director of American Indian Veterans Memorial, Inc.(Facebook,) aivmi.org (Website,)and Twitter’s @aivmi.

    During this experience, my writing has improved, because of cross promoting and diverse writing. I book and movie review on my blog,write interesting content on aivmi.org, and promote all with FB and Twitter.

    What has gone by the wayside is my novel writing. I am 60% into my third ‘Homeless in Homestead,” with an agent and fans waiting.

    I enjoy what I am doing, but to find a balance is the most difficult hurdle that I have.

    To promote or not to promote, is the question. Our art must be the number one item on my ‘To do’ list. This I have now put as my priority, as all of us should.

    If it means putting Facebook on the back burner, so be it.

  4. Great post! Social media can become an addiction that pulls you away from reading and writing. That said, I enjoy Facebook as a way to stay connected with different groups of people, from dear to distant friends, to fellow alumni, to friends of my deceased son. However, as an author, Facebook has adjusted their business page algorithms so that keeping an engaged group of followers takes constant, calculated engagement. Ugh. If you slack off, your views drop, and the only way to get your posts back in your followers’ Facebook feed is to pay for them. For this reason, I decided not to bother with an author page!

    • A couple of years ago I took a workshop re: Facebook marketing for writers. I learned a lot but it mostly confirmed my instincts re: the social nature (the importance interaction) of social media — which I do enjoy even if I need to back away from time to time. I do maintain an author’s page and I do my best to keep it current (putting aside the ‘wisdom’ of algorithms)

  5. What a timely post for me as I examine my love/hate feelings about Facebook. The only reason I joined is because most of my email from friends dried up. I couldn’t figure out where everyone went until I found them again on Facebook. I love the ease of keeping in touch, and even if it’s random, seeing an occasional post or photo brings warm feelings about old friends who have moved away, or relatives who have never lived close. I do like to read articles, especially those from pages I’ve liked. It does feel like it has morphed much more into a platform for marketing and for political posts of late, nearly all of which I hide/unfollow. One thing I find fascinating is that it makes me like some friends better as I get to know more about who they are, but it makes me like some less, which saddens me. As for marketing my own writing, like most here it is not the part of the job I enjoy, but it must be done, although I’m so reluctant to turn people off that I don’t do it as much as I should. Thanks for some interesting thoughts on a topic we all probably think about quite a bit.

    • Here’s the (un)simple truth as I see it: Facebook is not going away. The pleasure is in the connections it makes possible. And when it feels overwhelming, I simply back off.

  6. Niamh says:

    interesting – it eats and eats into my time so I try to cut back facebook, but I enjoy interacting there, and the artices I come across – this for example. But for me its not really part of any campaign, its just an alternative way of being socialble, sharing thought, getting information, its definitly woven into the fabric of my life rather than being a tool. Saying that I got a lot of support from facebook friends when my book came out. Twitter leaves me cold, and people dont interact through blogs as much anymore, its hard to believe that ten years ago I didnt even have an email address!

    • I like the way you phrased that, Niahm — ‘an alternative way of being sociable, sharing thoughts etc. . . , woven into the fabric of my life. . .’ That about sums up a sensible approach.

  7. I just wanted to let you know I shared this on Facebook 😉

  8. I’d rather not have to post on Fb, and Twitter, etc., blogging I enjoy–it’s a venue to play with voice and try out things. The other stuff is tough for me but only because of the day job and other challenges that confront the working woman. I am working on a marketing plan as my first full length novel will be out at the end of the year. I just tell myself it is like everything else I once did not have time for but somehow managed. Right now I am sitting in an airport waiting to board my plane home trying to catch up on blogs and stop by read the words of others who kindly read mine and took the time to share. We somehow find the time. Well said, Deborah.

    • Yes, we do find the time . . . and I agree wholeheartedly re: your thoughts on blogging. For all the rules of engagement we can read about, doesn’t it boil down to making the forum your own?

  9. Well said, (as always), Deborah! After all the ensuing hoopla of publicizing my book, I am exhausted by all things having to do with social media. But I must admit I do like the occasional visit to Facebook and being able to keep up with friends in a way I wouldn’t otherwise. And then of course, there are the wonderful friendships I’ve made through Facebook that I feel might fall by the wayside if not for that connection.

  10. Deborah, this is really on point! Every time I learn of others who struggle and move in and out of the blogging/facebooking/twittering planes of existence I feel a little bit relieved, actually. Being kind of new to the scene, I thought it was only me and my green-ness. More and more people are sharing about the experience of creating an online presence, and the pull of privacy needs and feeling over exposed. Your words here are so perfect: Writers are forever straddling the fence of invisibility and visibility: we work in solitude and thrive in community.

    Great piece, Deborah! Thanks so much for carrying the conversation forward.
    I’m suddenly wondering how many turtlnecks I own. 😉

    • As more and more writers bring their thoughts to that table in Cyberspace, maybe a new paradigm will evolve. If nothing else, we can take some reassurance in knowing we’re in (and out of) this together,

  11. I think about how profoundly Facebook has changed my life, not only reconnecting me with old friends, but establishing relationships with incredible people whom I would have never had to chance to otherwise meet (you’re included in this category, Deborah!) Being a newbie in the world of writing and publishing, I’ve learned so much from the blogs posts of other writers–experienced and not so experienced, and it’s helped me navigate my way through uncharted territory. It’s also quite wonderful to get to know other writers and realize that they share the same insecurities, doubts and joys that I do as they go through this crazy experience of writing. Great post.

    • There’s no arguing . . . when Facebook is good, it’s very very good, and I’ve made some very profound connections 😉 What I may be questioning most is its ubiquitousness as a paradigm for the way we communicate, on both a personal and professional level.

  12. MM Finck says:

    Before I go, I also want to say that facebook works for me. I used to blog a lot. Now I don’t. Too much time away from my work. I guest blog regularly, but maintaining my own blog stopped working for me. You already said it so well, but to underscore, writers should write first and foremost. After that, we should do what works for us and only that. You blog. A good writer-friend of mine journals. To each her own and good fortune to all. 🙂

    • I appreciate your thoughts, Margaret . . . and I think you’re absolutely right re: a writer’s need to figure out what works best for her. I’m not ready to leave Facebook — I enjoy the interaction, and the discovery it brings. But writing this piece allowed me to give more thought to my own priorities.

  13. MM Finck says:

    I went onto Facebook reluctantly, years after most of my friends and family. I feared the great “time suck.” I was already so short on it. Now I am one of facebook’s greatest proponents. It has been nothing less than a gift to my personal relationships near and far. However, I would not say that it is the best platform for attracting new readers. (Though the ones that do connect with you on your page are invested in you, you can interact with them, and both of those things are wonderful.) What I truly appreciate about facebook is the forum it provides to forge and deepen friendships with my fellow authors. I know that there are authors who don’t use facebook, but for anyone in the early stages of their career, I highly recommend it. Having behind-the-curtain personal relationships with other authors is instrumental in arranging book tours, word-of-mouth spread of your name/titles, gleaning blurbs, etc.

    • Very comforting to see this post! I’m a complete schizophrenic when it comes to FB and have exactly this fear- that my FB friends are sick of me posting about writing! But really the truth is that I don’t want to comment on everyone’s children’s achievements or their holiday pics and I fear too that they will think I don’t reciprocate with their posts!
      I suppose it’s all about a balance and perhaps a break from FB is a good think- especially so that you can stop procrastinating with the real book of writing!
      Thanks for another super post on this great site !

      • How we spend time on Facebook is about balance . . . and I couldn’t agree more re: the issues brought to light via Women Writers/Women’s Books. Funny thing — since I wrote this piece, I feel a little less compulsive about time spent on social media.

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