Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hey! Facebook! Why do you hate me?

Oh Facebook. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Like most relationships, everything started off just peaches. So where did things go wrong? It wasn't when you let me see all those pictures of my crazy uncle's long haired dachshunds. No, that was a joy. It wasn't when you let me post memes of myself in photo-shopped Star Trek selfies. No. That was all fun and games. What? You'll let me make a page to promote my writing. You'll even help me connect to my friends. Many of them obliged. What fun! I'll post updates on my current work in progress. Publish some reading and book jokes. Announce milestones in my writing career. What could go wrong?

With 300 likes, my posts regularly reached a hundred people or more. If people commented and liked them, sometimes my funny pictures or words of wit would reach 400 or more. That's more than liked the page. Awesome.

This when things started to go awry. First you offered to let me advertise my page to get more likes. I tried it. I spent about fifteen dollars and gained thirty likes. Is that worth it? At fifty cents a like, I decided no, it was not. Fine. Then I found some author groups on the Facebook groups and started exchanging likes. Soon I had more than 500 likes. There was only one problem. My reach was not climbing along with my likes. In fact, it had decreased. Huh? How could that be?

Anyway, I continued to discuss writing on the boards and slowly increased my likes to over 800. This is when Facebook initiated the fateful algorithm program, which limits the reach of page posts. I realize my measly page is peanuts compared to many. Some people have thousands of followers. Some pages "purchased" thousands of likes. They had a reason to be angry. The grumblings sprang up all over the net. You can imagine their resentment. After spending hundreds or thousands of dollars to reach people, they find the same company they paid was now limiting their access to their fans.

I recently read an article in The Atlantic on how Facebook showed random users only happy, positive posts while showing others only negative or sad content. It's being called a "mood manipulation experiment." They did this without the users' knowledge to evaluate how it affected their experience. Of course, they've apologized but only after they were caught. You can bet that this is not the only experiment they've conducted on us. To Facebook we're all just a bunch of Guinea pigs with dollar signs painted on our backs.

Here is my dilemma. As my Facebook page inches slowly toward 900 likes, my posts are lucky to reach 20 people. If fans like and comment on a post it might reach fifty people. Hey! Facebook! Why don't you let the fans decide what they want to see? Let them like and unlike pages to control the content on their news feed. As a page creator, is it worth the nightly work of creating content? I've determined it is not. So, when the scheduled posts I have in queue are exhausted, I will not be going out of my way to create content for my page. I guess everyone will have to go back to enjoying their crazy uncle's dog pictures. Or maybe Facebook won't allow you to see that anymore.

What do you think? Did you know Facebook controls what they allow you to see? How does that make you feel about your Facebook experience? What would you think if you found out you were part of one of Facebook's tests? What if you found out you were only being shown negative material?