What else do I use Facebook for, besides communication with friends and family?

Right up there near the top must surely be this: as a writing platform. Writing is to a large extent the way I think, and I like getting my thoughts out of my head and onto some external medium. Moreover, I'm enough of a writer, or perhaps "performer," that I want my words to be seen. My writing is also my brain's equivalent of an external hard drive: a place to store wildly eclectic information for later retrieval—made possible in large measure, I must grudgingly admit, to Google's excellent search capabilities.

Searching is why Facebook is not a good place for writing: retrieving what I have once written is difficult to impossible. Finding what someone else has written is even harder. Facebook's place in my writing habit is primarily threefold:

  • What someone else has written will often stimulate thoughts, which I often publish in the form of a comment. The danger of this is that it can all too easily be much too long for the medium, and it's all too easy to hijack someone else's post for my own ideas. (A little of that is good, but I tend to take it too far. One reason I never got hooked on Twitter is that I can't say anything in fewer than 140 words, let alone characters. I tried for a while....) But sometimes the seeds planted develop into posts of my own.

Is Facebook the best or only tool for this use?

Certainly not. Inspiration for writing is everywhere, and there are far more thoughts stimulating my brain than will ever make their way into print.

  • Linking to my blog posts from Facebook has opened my work to a greater audience, despite the fact that my blog is public and my Facebook limited to a relatively small circle of friends. Years ago, Facebook had a facility for cross-posting that didn't work well for me, but for a long time now I have been posting to Facebook links to individual blog posts, with maybe a short comment (because I hate it when people just post links without a few words of introduction to tell me why they think the link is valuable).

Is Facebook the best or only tool for this use?

I already know that it can't replace my own blog: I have Faithful Readers who do not use Facebook. And if that weren't enough, I would be thoroughly convinced that I need my own platform by a recent incident in which Facebook deleted my 9/11 tribute, saying it violated their community standards. Is that a community I should remain part of?

Certainly anyone who clicks to my blog through Facebook could get there directly. But it would remove some of the convenience, and eliminate the readers who might be intrigued by a particular post title here and there, but not enough to visit my blog itself with any frequency. It's still an easy way to make my words available to more people.

It also provides more feedback. Those "Like" buttons make it easy to let someone know you've read what they've written, and there's no way to do that on my blog except by leaving a comment, which many people don't like to do. Plus, even of comments I usually get more on Facebook. But that can be part of the problem, too. I'm human: I like to hear when my words have been well received. Not so much when they haven't—I'm not getting paid so I can't be like the columnist who insisted he didn't mind getting hate mail, because it meant his column was being read, which was all that mattered to his employers. But after I've posted a link on Facebook I do find myself checking the app more frequently, to see who has read and reacted to my post. I like those little dopamine hits as much as anyone. But it's probably not a good thing.

Conclusion? If I were to abandon Facebook altogether, I could manage without this. My blog was never about getting widespread publicity anyway. I like for my words to be a blessing to people—as some have said they are—but flying under the radar is more my ambition than going viral. If my decision is to keep Facebook but greatly reduce its hold on me, howere, I think this is something I would keep. If, that is, I can convince myself that I don't need to know now when someone has reacted to my post—a day or even a week later will do.

  • Finally, Facebook provides a place for the small, off-the-cuff comments that are fun but don't seem worthy of a blog post: "Hi, everyone! We're enjoying the Food & Wine Festival at EPCOT!" "Here's an inspiring quote I found." "The president said WHAT?" More chit-chat than conversation. I don't mean to belittle it; there's a place for chit-chat in the glue that holds relationships together.

Is Facebook the best or only tool for this use?

I have to admit that it's a good one, and I would miss it. With family I could (and often do) substitute WhatsApp, since we have a lively group there. But when deprived of personal contact, by distance or pandemic, there's some value here that I don't know how to replace. For many, even most, of my Facebook friends it probably doesn't matter a bit, but there is a subset for which I think it does. Maybe not enough benefit for the cost, however. And of course there's always the possiblity certainty that some such comments (e.g. the political ones) do more harm than good....

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, September 23, 2020 at 8:17 am | Edit
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Facebook is so great for staying connected with family and friends, especially this year. I joined because I was working in Kansas, temp job, and wanted to hear from local people. I didn't realize how many people were on Facebook and how many I was connected to would ask to be friends. I now have about 10 friends from 8th grade (a 32 person class), 50 of my former students (many who live across the country), 10 people I have been connected to by email (who live in other countries), and 40 people I have met in meetings I am unable to currently attend. But, some of them post stupid web page links that are annoying. And some post lies that circulate around, but I am a fact checker.



Posted by Phil on Wednesday, September 23, 2020 at 10:40 am

When things locked down in spring and church went online, I suddenly got a lot of friend requests from people at my church. Most of them were people I didn't know very well, who were unlikely to call me to see how I was doing, but who wanted to stay in touch at least a little bit. I think having Facebook was comforting for people going through that.



Posted by Kathy Lewis on Wednesday, September 23, 2020 at 4:36 pm
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