My love-hate relationship with Facebook


I’ve been wishing I could dump Facebook for quite some time now.
My disaffection with the data-mining ogre has less to do with the fact that it seems to know when I even think about changing toilet paper and will hastily sell that information to the Russians so they can destroy the U.S. and overthrow free-market capitalism while stuffing my feed with different brands of toilet paper choices.
No, I was just tired with inanity of it all. Maybe I just didn’t like living in an echo chamber, but it seems, at least to me, there is less and less of interest on Facebook. And then, of course, there are the Facebook commenters who believe that insults and vulgarity are humorous and witty. They’re not. But they aren’t Facebook’s fault.
The problem is that I can’t deny, or ignore, the power of Facebook.
The news business, whether in print or online, is all about getting eyeballs on the page. We sell space on our pages because we convince advertisers people are reading our stories and, because of that, seeing their ads.
Here comes the power part.
Over the last week, 64 per cent of those reading the Prince George Daily News arrived on the site via social media (we post a link to every story we do on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+). Of that 64 per cent, 98 per cent came via Facebook. Readers see our post first on Facebook and, if they want to read the entire story, will click the link.
Simply put, Facebook is a very effective tool to drive readers to our site which, in turn, helps our readership numbers which, in turn, helps us sell ads which, in turn, keeps us in business.
Could we exist without it? Sure, but it would be much harder to get our readership numbers up.
We also, from time to time, boost our posts on Facebook. That involves actually paying Facebook to make sure our posts edge out the toilet paper ads in your feed. And it’s cheap and effective. A $50 boost can easily double your numbers. It’s also one of the reasons traditional media outlets are dropping like flies … Facebook is cheap and effective.
And that brings me to another reason I dislike Facebook. When you spend $50 on Facebook to promote your event or advertise your product, effective as it may be, the money you spend immediately leaves town. Not only does it leave Prince George, it leaves B.C. and it leaves the country. It goes directly to Facebook, which doesn’t support local jobs, local charities, or local organizations.
And yet, if you want to know what’s happening in your city, who’s playing at local hot spot, what restaurant has specials on tonight, or even what’s going on in own neighbourhood, you turn to Facebook. Once again, the power is undeniable. If you’re in business these days, a Facebook page is as essential as a website was 15 years ago and a phone number was 70 years ago.
While revelations this past week about how much of the information Facebook collects about you is bought and sold to the highest bidder (or perhaps any bidder) is disturbing, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Facebook, and other social media giants, long ago left the realm of being ‘social’ platforms and entered the realm of money and power platforms.
As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. Arm yourself with the knowledge of what Facebook is doing to you and proceed accordingly. For some of us, that may mean closing down our account. Fair enough. For others, (like me) it may mean taking the time to go into your settings and restricting how much of your information is shared. For others, it may mean nothing.
The choice is still yours to make.