Social Media

Learning to Like Facebook

I’ve never been a fan of Facebook.  Twitter has always been my social media drug of choice.

I have however tried to persist with it and have learned more about how it works (and doesn’t work) in recent months by setting up and running a Facebook page for those interested in writing (more on the page below).

This has led me to reflect a bit more on the things I like about Facebook (and the things I don’t.)

Things I Don’t Like

Over and above privacy concerns, I’ve always found it fiddly and counter-intuitive to use.  There are too many settings that you can adjust or that FB changes so you have to waste time trying to figure things out again.

I have always found the ‘friending’ aspect hard to fathom.  I started using FB as an extension to blogging, so most of the people I’m ‘friends’ with there are bloggers I’ve never met.  Do they go in the same category as friends I know very well, old work colleagues, members of my family?

(This doesn’t come up in the same way with Twitter… a connection is a connection.  The relationships build up over time through conversation - they’re not labelled as such from the outset.)

I’ve tried to get round this by using lists - so status updates about something bloggy would go to blogging friends but not offline friends who’d wonder what I was going on about, and more personal updates only go to friends and / or family. (Though nothing is ever that personal with me, see below…)

Privacy Concerns

There’s a lot of noise just now about the changes Facebook has made to its settings, and the implications this has for the information that it shares about you and what you like.

A lot of high profile social media users are talking about leaving FB as a result.  I’m not going to add to that debate here but you should be aware of it if you’re a FB user, and you should adjust  your settings so you are deciding what’s shared and what’s not (and keep up to date with changes that require you to change them again - yes, how annoying is that?).

This article talks you through how to do an audit of your privacy settings.

You can also run a quick check of your profile and what you’re sharing here: Profile Check

I have to confess: I’ve always been nervous of FB and privacy settings.  I don’t share anything really personal on FB - no information on family members, no personal photos.

Although you get a good idea of what I’m about from my Twitter stream, I don’t share much personal information there either… I’m a private person.

I also work on the basis that technology is as likely to go wrong as right.  I work on the principle that if there’s anything you’re writing, posting, sharing that you wouldn’t like to be more publicly available… don’t write it, post it, share it.

Time Wasting

I know a lot of people say they don’t like Facebook because of the time it wastes.  (I’m not sure if they’re the people who don’t waste time there but still fear that’s what happens, or those that do and enjoy both wasting the time and complaining about it ;-) )

I’ve never found it a great time suck - maybe that’s because I’ve never really ‘got’ it, and never really liked it.  If you want to just dip in and out once a day to check on a few things and say hello to a few people… you can, easily.

(I find Twitter soaks up a lot more time, though I wouldn’t call it wasted.)


Changes tend to come along without warning, and are not generally welcome.  Having spent a fair amount of time figuring out how to set up a welcome tab for the Writing Space page, I wasn’t that pleased to find out it’s not allowed any more unless you’re ‘authenticated‘ (which requires 10k fans… and I thought I was doing well with 300…!)

Some Facebook Positives

A lot of people use it.  A lot of people who aren’t generally that into technology, geekdom, blogging, or other forms of social media… use it, are there, and will continue to be so.

I can’t help thinking a lot of those who are leaving or talking about leaving just now will drift back for this reason alone.

You can reach people through it.  I ran an ad there recently for the writing retreats I’m running in Scotland.  It was easy to target those who might be interested (by age, location, having expressed an interest in writing) and the ad led to a lot of valuable leads.

Conversations and Connections

I mentioned earlier that I’ve set up a page for people interested in writing.  It started off as a way to spread the word about the writing retreats, but now it’s really a FB offshoot of Confident Writing.

I’m not sure I’m using it the ‘right’ way… I tend to ask questions, share a few writing ideas and prompts, and throw in some (hopefully interesting) quotes on writing, stories, poetry, language, authenticity… that kind of thing.

The aim is to create a bit of space for people to share their responses: experience, things that work, thoughtful ideas, useful links, some short quips and one liners, plus of course a few simple thumbs up.

I like the pace of the responses - it seems less pressured somehow than blogging (where there’s always too much to read) or tweeting (where the pace can be a bit fast (though I do personally like that) ).

Slower, and somehow more languid.

(Does anyone else notice that or have a way to describe / explain it?)

I also very much like getting to know some of the people who share words, thoughts and ideas there.  Thanks to all of you who’ve joined in so far :-)

The Writing Space

Promote Your Page Too
If you’re on FB and you’d like to join in, you can do so from the picture above.

In Conclusion: To Like or Unlike?

I think this post wins the prize for the most brackets ever used - and I guess that reflects my ambivalent attitude towards Facebook.  But in the end it’s pretty much like any other medium you use.  What you get out of it depends on what you put into it, what you expect from it, and how it fits with the other things you’re doing too.

I’m not sure I’ve quite learned how to like Facebook, but there are aspects of it I’ve learned to like.

I don’t think I’ll ever trust it… but to be honest I’m not sure that we should.

What about you…? Do you have a love / hate relationship with FB?  Are you a recent convert or someone who’s planning to leave?

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22 Responses to “Learning to Like Facebook”

  1. On May 20, 2010 at 12:20 pm Brad Shorr responded with... #

    Joanna, It’s extremely weird we post on the same topic with generally the same analysis on the same day. A Twilight Zone experience. Needless to say I concur with your love-hate assessment. I hadn’t really considered the languid response factor, though, which is a definite plus. Unlike Twitter, where if you snooze you lose, Facebook conversations can extend over weeks or months and it works out just fine. This aspect of FB could be its salvation.
    Brad Shorr´s last blog ..My Love-Hate Relationship with Facebook My ComLuv Profile

  2. On May 20, 2010 at 12:30 pm Martha Carnahan responded with... #

    Thanks for running through your likes/unlikes of Facebook. I have been on the opposite side of the fence — I have preferred Facebook and am now learning to like Twitter.

    To me, it’s about personal preference & style. Maybe I’m too old, LOL, but Twitter moves way too fast for me — even with my lovely filters and 3rd party systems and such set up. And it has been less natural to engage with new people. Whereas on FB, I have made important and wonderful — and REAL — connections with people I would not have met otherwise. (I know people do that on Twitter, too, but for me that has been easier on FB, with the somewhat slower pace and format).

    Like I said, I’m learning to like Twitter and have committed to learning more about it and staying involved.

    In the end, these are just tools — for me, it’s all about building mutually beneficial relationships, and Twitter/FB are just vehicles to help that along. Some other tool will come along soon enough, I’m sure, to keep things interesting!

    Thanks for provoking these thoughts today, Joanna.

  3. On May 20, 2010 at 12:41 pm Iain Broome responded with... #

    All sounds very similar to my thoughts on and approach to Facebook. It seems to me a naturally personal medium. And like you, I like to keep a pretty tight rein on the personal side of my online life!
    Iain Broome´s last blog ..A writer’s guide to feedback and writing groups My ComLuv Profile

  4. On May 20, 2010 at 1:13 pm Karen Swim responded with... #

    Joanna, you and Brad are definitely on the same wavelength this morning. I love your thoughtful, balanced approach. I have joined the one day protest but will not be deleting my FB profile. Like you, I treat everything online as I do in my offline life, private things are shared in true privacy and I don’t do or say anything in public (not intentionally anyway) that I would be mortified for others to see/hear. I never share my home address, have always maintained a separate business address and phone, never talk about my specific town, or share private details about family like names of schools, last names, etc. Bottom line is we all have a responsibility to be smart about online use. The tools all have flaws and I agree with you we should never grow too comfortable! By the way 300 fans is fantastic! I only wish I had that many!
    Karen Swim´s last blog ..4 Lessons from a 4 Year Old on Communication My ComLuv Profile

  5. On May 20, 2010 at 1:19 pm Meryl K Evans responded with... #

    Haha! I was thinking the same thing as Brad… I read both of your articles this morning. Joanna — you captured exactly what I love and hate about FB. The fact that so many people are on it makes it more than worth it as long as it doesn’t overstep its boundaries… I hope it doesn’t.
    Meryl K Evans´s last blog ..7 Easy to Miss and Fix Writing Mistakes My ComLuv Profile

  6. On May 20, 2010 at 5:18 pm Trina L. Grant responded with... #

    I have never been a huge fan of Facebook, but I fell in love with Twitter right away. Facebook’s privacy policies really worry me, so I too refrain from putting my kids’ pictures on there and such. I held out for a long time, but then everyone told me they were leaving MySpace, so what was I to do, right? Upon getting to Facebook I learned it’s a lot of stuff I still don’t understand, and I’m so tired of getting stuff for my ‘Farm’ and ‘Petshop’ it’s insane. I don’t even use those gaming applications and I receive requests and ‘gifts’ every day. I don’t know how to turn all that stuff off. I just want a big ‘party line’ to be able to talk to all my friends. I don’t use it for my business because I don’t trust them. I am SERIOUSLY considering participating in the event on May 31 where people discontinue their account.
    Trina L. Grant´s last blog ..Freelance Writers: Photo, Logo or Gravatar? My ComLuv Profile

  7. On May 20, 2010 at 5:23 pm bookfraud responded with... #

    the key sentence in your posting being I’ve never found it a great time suck – maybe that’s because I’ve never really ‘got’ it, and never really liked it.

    agreed, though not for all writers. it is my humble contention that facebook is the biggest enemy of writers since the first book burning.
    bookfraud´s last blog ..Ni hao, Kai lan: One Man’s Insanity My ComLuv Profile

  8. On May 20, 2010 at 5:40 pm Techquestioner responded with... #


    At the right side of every FB post there is a “Hide” button. If the post came from an application like Farmville, when you click the “Hide” button, you get a choice of two more buttons; “Hide ApplicationName” and “Hide FriendName”. I hate the silly game apps, too, and this option lets you hide all posts from the selected application (no matter which friend sends them) without hiding your friends.

  9. On May 22, 2010 at 8:31 pm Davina responded with... #

    I still haven’t joined Facebook, Joanna. A couple of weeks ago I was considering it, but with what I’ve been hearing lately I’m just not into figuring it all out yet. Twitter remains my playground and connection place of choice.
    Davina´s last blog ..Dial-1-2-1-Muse My ComLuv Profile

  10. On May 24, 2010 at 6:07 pm George Angus responded with... #

    Oh Joanna, I wish I could get on board with FB. I just can’t find the stomach to do it. I find the interface cumbersome and all of the little apps and games inane. I have a FB account because I HAVE to, not because I want to.

    I love the way you have laid this out. Great stuff for sure.

    George Angus´s last blog ..Vintage: Finding Your Writer’s Voice My ComLuv Profile

  11. On May 24, 2010 at 9:43 pm Tammi Kibler responded with... #

    I use Facebook to connect with real life friends and family. I have connected to cousins and classmates I hadn’t seen in over thirty years. I am very uncomfortable with the way Facebook changes things up all the time (for example, Joanna, it is my understanding that the welcome tabs which were suddenly revoked were just as suddenly restored).

    I think it is well and good to say one shouldn’t share anything private online, but I feel Facebook’s bait and switch tactics are mean spirited. Facebook lured people with the promise that they could choose privacy settings and now twice they have changed those settings to new defaults that require you to reset your settings to retain your original level of privacy. This is very unfair for senior citizens and others that don’t have daily access to Facebook. They signed up with a certain expectation of privacy and now their information is public without their consent.

    I love Facebook for all the people with whom I have been able to reconnect. I hate that they can’t be straight forward and above board.
    Tammi Kibler´s last blog ..Write Now – What If Perfect Never Arrives? My ComLuv Profile

  12. On May 26, 2010 at 6:58 am Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Brad this was definitely one of my stranger blogging moments - but then I remembered how often we’ve been on the same wavelength ;-) There are definitely things like the different speed which I think will be FB’s salvation, plus the fact that there are just so many people there, plus - it seeems - they are now finally listening on the privacy concerns

    Martha I agree with you about the preferences - also that we should think of these things as tools to build relationships - or to entertain and distract at those moments of the day when distractions are needed… ;-) Twitter is strange - it does take time for it to really ‘click’ but when it does… well, I think it’s worth it. Hope you enjoy your own explorations of it.

    Iain I know, I’m more than happy to share my ideas, perpsectives and things I’m writing, but my personal life is my personal life, beyond the few snippets I choose to share.

  13. On May 26, 2010 at 7:08 am Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Karen your approach to online privacy sounds v sensible. I’m glad our posts prompted you to write your own, which I thought was a great summary of the issues.

    For others who are interested: Facebook, the illusion of privacy and loud mouth quitters

    Meryl it seems the most recent debacle has caused them to think twice - good to see they are capable of reacting to pressure / good sense and maybe they’ll stick within better boundaries from here on. Like you say though, the fact that so many people are there (and will no doubt stay there) makes it something it’s hard to avoid.

    Trina indeed, Twitter is a totally different kettle of fish, and much more rewarding (for me, though I know everyone has different preferences). You can probably adjust some of your settings so you’re getting less noise. There’s a great suggestion from another commenter in this stream as to how you can hide notifications from particular applications - that might help.

  14. On May 26, 2010 at 7:18 am Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Hi bookfraud… that has probably been my salvation, indeed. I enjoyed your post on FB but have to admit… I’m not sure FB is in the same league as the burning of books. It’s a tool, and we’re free to use it or not as we please.

    techquestioner thanks so much for that suggestion - I’m going to use that to switch off Farmville notifications too.

    Davina there’s much less to figure out than on Twitter (though maybe that’s because I still haven’t ‘got’ it). But your point is interesting - would I encourage you to join up if you haven’t yet? Probably not. More just sayin’ that there are things you can learn to like about it if you happen to be there.

    George it is very fiddly to work with that’s for sure. I hardly ever update my own profile but I have got more into the habit of seeing what other people are up to, and that can pass a pleasant five minutes or two… It has been interesting to see how you can develop the page though, and I guess more writers will start to do that as a way of connecting with readership who are on FB.

    Tammi you have hit the nail on the head with your assessment of the way FB changes the rules, esp the impact that can have on some users like older people who wouldn’t necessarily have the savvy or the access to keep changing along with FB. Hopefully they’ve listened and leared this time…

  15. On June 1, 2010 at 2:33 am Christine Mattice responded with... #

    Facebook and Twitter both tend to make me nervous. Once you get so many “friends” or contacts, it’s hard to really keep up with anyone. That said, it is a good way to reach a wide variety of people with your message.

  16. On June 3, 2010 at 6:41 am Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Christine hi, and sorry your message got stuck for a while in the spam filter. I guess it depends on how you’re using them or what you’re using them for… if I really want to keep up with someone I need to go to their wall / stream… but generally I just let the whole collective stream wash over me (esp in Twitter) and keep up with that flow of conversation at that moment in time.

  17. On June 7, 2010 at 7:37 pm Debbie Yost responded with... #

    Having used both Facebook and Twitter, I have come to the opposite conclusion of you. I have all but left Twitter. I could never really figure it out. I’ve tried to come back a few times, but it just doesn’t have the same appeal as Facebook does.

    I like Facebook for many of the reasons others don’t like the stupid, worthless banter of status updates. It’s my guilty pleasure and I enjoy reading and commenting on other’s updates. My family doesn’t understand it, but I don’t care. I enjoy the community. I like the pictures. I do not, however, like all the games like farmville.

    So, for me, Facebook is where it’s at. It’s where I go to play. :-)
    Debbie Yost´s last blog ..Bracelets My ComLuv Profile

  18. On June 13, 2010 at 7:30 am Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Debbie the more I use FB… the more I get what you mean. I enjoy following you and seeing how you use it. I find it hard to work out what kind of updates to post myself, but I do like following other people’s. Now I’ve worked out how to switch off the updates from the games and applications my stream is more enjoyable too. I do still love Twitter the best (though I can understand why you and others don’t), but I’m starting to see more of the possibilities of FB… not least the gentle way you can get to know folk a bit better.

  19. On June 18, 2010 at 2:41 pm Debbie Yost responded with... #

    I keep thinking about this post and since I last visited and commented, I’ve made a return to Twitter. I’m still at Facebook, but one problem I’ve had with Facebook lately is too many people know me. I mean, family, friends, co-workers, etc. This can cause a problem if you want to keep some things “private”. Yes, I see the irony in that. But, even in life we have different groups of friends that we discuss different subjects with. I can block some people from certain status updates, but I don’t always want to do that. So, I’ve cut the connection between Twitter and Facebook so they updates don’t show up at both places and I can pick and choose where I want to say something. Sure, sometimes I have to repeat myself at both sites, but it’s worth it. Hope to see you around Twitter more!


    Debbie Yost´s last blog ..Let Me Help!My ComLuv Profile

  20. On June 25, 2010 at 5:53 am Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Debbie gald you’ve come back to Twitter :-) I know what you mean about different people and different conversations, and I think it’s better to be deliberate about that (ie by cutting the automated ties) too. Actually it’s one of the reasons I find FB awkward, never being entirely sure who I’m talking to. Whereas on Twitter I feel a lot happier burbling away knowing that’s what others are doing too. See you there soon!



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