books with Athena

books with Athena

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Has Facebook Peaked?


This week former agent Nathan Bransford asked the Nathanites if we thought blogging had peaked. I don’t see much evidence of that, although my own stats are down. But I think that’s caused by more blogging rather than less. More readers are becoming bloggers, and we can’t all keep up with each other’s sparkling cybermusings.

More bloggers means the readers—and advertising funds—are spread thinner. This means blogging for money is indeed fading. But as tech blogger Tom Johnson  pointed out, if you “let it accompany your career choice, your blog efforts always provide an indirect financial return on career growth.”

In other words, blog about books and you might sell a book someday—so blogs are still valuable, at least indirectly.

But I’m not so sure about Facebook.

Yes, I know Man of the Year Mark Zuckerberg and his brain-child are flying high. There’s the much-lauded film, and this week Facebook is even credited with bringing down the government of Egypt—which I guess puts Zuckerberg up there with Caesar and Alexander the Great.

What started as a college geek scheme to meet girls has burgeoned into a multi-billion dollar network where upwards of 44% of Americans meet, re-connect with old friends, and share photos of the grandkids. Recently, small businesses have discovered the new “like” pages are a goldmine for free advertising.

Facebook is even bragging it will take over email. 

But I’m not so sure. I’m getting inklings that Facebook is on the way out. Unlike other social media giants like Twitter and the various blogging platforms, Facebook is essentially an advertising delivery system. And a bully.

Facebook is hard for a newbie to learn, and its relationship with users is adversarial. If you can’t figure out how to get around the obstacles and traps the Facebook elves have set for you, they’ll invade every aspect of your privacy. They’ll spam you mercilessly with updates every time somebody "friends" a friend of a friend you didn’t even like that much in high school, and fill your inbox with blow-by-blow reports of your old college roommate’s kid's romantic woes. They constantly urge you to "friend" your stalker ex-boyfriend and the agent who sent the soul-crushing rejection last week. They try to bully you into turning over the names and addresses of all your friends with the voracity of a 1950s HUAC subcommittee.

And besides, Facebook just isn’t that cool anymore.

Photos of the family reunion, daily Bible verses, and advertisements for Joe’s Used Tire and Bait Shop aren’t exactly cutting edge. My 20-something nephews say they never look at their Facebook pages any more, and neither do most of their circle. After all, Grandma’s there. And their Aunt Anne. And when the cool people leave, the rest of the culture follows quickly. Remember MySpace?

A few weeks ago, CNN’s Douglas Rushkoff said, “the news that Goldman Sachs has chosen to invest in Facebook while entreating others to do the same should inspire about as much confidence as their investment in mortgage securities did in 2008.”

And he reminded us that “Rupert Murdoch's 2005 purchase of MySpace for $580 million coincided pretty much exactly with the website's peak of popularity.”

And before that. We had the AOL-Time/Warner fiasco.

When big corporations take over, new media gets old. Fast.

On Nathan’s blog, writer Neil Vogler said, “Everyone I know seems to be pulling back on their FB usage…I think we've gotten past the age of net-based communication as novelty, and what we're seeing now is the beginning of a new age of maturity. A whole bunch of early-adopters and previously heavy users are taking a step back and seeking more of a sense of balance in their everyday lives. Information overload is a real enough hazard, and the dangers of sharing too much detail about your day-today movements on the net are becoming more evident.”

Yeah, like the discovery that burglars are using Facebook to find out exactly when you’ll be out of town, leaving untended that fabulous new flatscreen you posted all the photos of, and perverts are helping themselves to those sweet grandkid pictures, photoshoping them, and selling them as kiddie porn.

Neil includes Twitter and blogging, too, but personally, I think they'll survive. Twitter is still trending, and although blogging will (I hope) settle down to a “more mature” pace as he predicts, I think it’s here to stay. It’s a free interactive website. What’s not to like?

But Facebook has a lot not to like. Take the case of loyal Facebooker David Fagin, who, instead of ignoring all those suggestions of people to “friend” went ahead and sent requests to the proffered names. The next day, Fagin was blocked from Facebook for being a spammer—just for following Facebook’s own suggestions.

And there’s the vacationing couple who friended a fellow RVer in order to exchange photos. The RVer turned out to be a wildly proselytizing Christian fundamentalist, whose hourly religious outbursts were plastered all over the couple’s Facebook page—much to the irritation of all their friends at their synagogue.

And there’s the time I stupidly clicked on one of those quizzes to find out what famous writer, Disneyland ride, ABBA song, or whatever I most resembled. I filled out the quiz, but couldn’t get the answer without agreeing to give the quiz-makers access to my email. OK, I was idiotic, but I clicked yes—and when I was finally informed I was the incarnation of Kurt Vonnegut, or Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride or Super Trouper or whatever, the answer was randomly sent to ten people in my e-mail address book—two of whom were agents I’d just queried.

I got instant rejections on both queries. Arrgghh.

Who wants to hang with people who would do that to you?

Twitter can be a time waster and has its own annoyance factors, but it has never once undermined my career, insulted my friends, or blocked me from my page to punish me for following their own directions. Neither has Blogger.

I still have a Facebook page, and it’s great for things like quickly exchanging design ideas for my new book cover, getting news of local bands, and finding out who’s teaching with me at September’s Central Coast Writer’s Conference  (shameless plug there.)

But mostly I’d rather blog, thank you.

What about you, writer-friends? Have any Facebook horror stories? Do you think it’s fading? Will you still use it when it’s as dorky as an AOL email address? 

46 comments:

  1. I deactivated my Facebook account a few months back after downloading a virus just by clicking on a Photography page post I was following. It took several hours to identify and clean the virus from my computer. That was enough for me.

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  2. Thank heavens that I never needed a Facebook horror story.

    No... I just backed off for the simple reason that I just don't think it is that cool any more.

    I grew out of it.

    And for all out there:

    SENDING IMPORTANT MESSAGES VIA FACEBOOK = NOT PROFESSIONAL.

    Thank you.

    ;-P

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  3. Hey Anne, great post. To clarify, I'm certain Twitter and Blogger will survive too, and Facebook is too humungous to keel over anytime soon. I just think we're reaching a saturation point, a point where all of the hyperspeed interconnectedness that was so novel at the beginning has started to wear on those who so eagerly embraced it early on. Social media fatigue syndrome is real enough, I reckon. But what I love about blogging (and I'm still a relative newbie, at least under my real name) is that the pace is far more relaxed, and the interactions seem to - on the whole - have more value than those on FB or Twitter. And that's my main problem with social media in general -- it's too easy to fritter away my free time on frivolous distractions. And free time, these days -- as with privacy -- is something I believe we should all hold very dear.

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  4. Glad I'm not on Facebook! I'll stick to blogging. And the occasional Twittering. (When I remember.)

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  5. Hi Anne, I'm a Facebook hold out. I was put off by the intrusive sign-up questions and never completed the process. Something about Facebook creeps me out so I've stayed away. Perhaps to my detriment but now that I'm hearing all the negative stories, I'm glad I did what I did -- which was nothing.

    As for blogging, I'm part of a group blog but the fact is 1) I don't have the time to sustain a quality blog of my own and 2) bottom line: I don't have that much to say altho I admire people who do.

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  6. I think they all have their uses depending on your purpose for using them. I just started twitter and wasn't really getting it until everyone was live twitting from the SCBWI conference in NY a few weeks ago. I know lots of people who routinely take a break from FB which I think is a good idea. Interesting post!

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  7. Cathy--Wow. You got virused just from clicking on a Facebook photography post! Yet another reason to stay away. Thanks for the warning.

    Misha--As a 21-year-old who carries a sword, I'd say you're cutting-edge in all senses of the word, so when you say something isn't cool, you speak with authority.

    Neil--thanks for clarifying your thoughts further. I'm so with you on all of it, especially this: "free time, these days -- as with privacy -- is something I believe we should all hold very dear."

    Alex--you've got a great blog. I don't know if I follow you on Twitter. I should check. But I ignore Twitter for long periods, too. It doesn't seem that important.

    Ruth--I love the idea of group blogs and I think more of them will be springing up. Yours is fantastic and I hope to join it myself pretty soon, if it doesn't get too crowded. Lots of fascinating people.

    Jan--I agree that Twitter can be really useful for specific things like conference news--kind of a group bulletin board. And breaking news is there first.

    I like the idea of taking a break from Facebook.

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  8. I love Facebook, but I don't put personal things on there that I wouldn't want the whole world to know.

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  9. Anne:

    Anne--I agree with any and all of the comments abou FACEBOOK but am
    ambivalent about its value. An increasingly big yawn yes, BUT, as an itinerant writer, consistently changing locale and contact mediums, I have found it a boon and great benefit in finding (refinding?) and being found by old friends, loves, family, etc..... and nary a bill collector---yet.

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  10. Anne,
    What are you teaching at the conference? How exciting.

    Judy Guarnera
    SLO NW

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  11. Nathan seems to be on the edge of what is or what is not about to implode in publishing. Considering there may be more writers out there in TV Land than readers...what is one to do??

    I suspend Facebook often as much as six months a year. I don't actually use it to network for my writing, but to keep up with the photographs of the kids I worked with in Washington Heights in Manhattan. Speaking of shamelss self-promotion:

    Read my interview today on Romance Writers on the Journey.

    http://romancewritersonthejourney.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/meet-novelist-florence-fois/

    Great post as always, Anne :)

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  12. I went straight to Facebook and closed my account. I think I was only on it once after I signed up...LOL I had trouble figuring how to leave but finally managed it. Was amazed at how much stuff had accumulated that I didn't even know about. I can barely handle my email and read a couple of blogs...never found time for FB. Thanks for the push....

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  13. Facebook is just one tool in my social media tool kit. I have never totally embraced it, but the fact is that many people do and will continue to.

    The horror stories that I hear about usually could be avoided by being a bit wary or ignoring some of the options/features.

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  14. Tunisia uses Facebook to call together an actual revolution. They paint “thank you facebook” on walls after their dictator flees. Egypt takes the cue. Despots are being overthrown in the Middle East by the PEOPLE for the first time in HISTORY. And social media is a huge part of it, the only way in those countries to get the photos, the movies, the TRUTH out. That…is…amazing! In America we use it to gossip, complain, play games, reconnect with actual friends, share photos with far away family. Some of us use it to share petitions that need to be signed and articles that should be read. It is what we make it. I do wonder if there are ads on Facebook in Bahrain.

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  15. Hi Anne...I loved this post. Yep, having an aunt or uncle on Facebook can be a bummer. I have both: my aunt and my nieces. So its a double bummer for me.

    I am a bit wary of everything on Facebook, so I play it extra cautious. I actually do not overdo on Facebook and as for Twitter, I am yet to be bitten by the Twitter bug.

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  16. I have had this problem with Facebook - "They constantly urge you to "friend" your stalker ex-boyfriend...", so I had temporarily disabled my account. But now I'm back though I don't use it that much.

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  17. I have a Facebook account, but I keep forgetting to post to it, so I've inadvertently backed off before it was "in" to do! LOL And I never post anything I wouldn't want to see on the front page of the newspaper. I'll keep the account because it's just one more way to let people know when a new book comes out, but I rarely read all the posts, just skim. Not really that interested that someone's off to bed, or watched the game, or went grocery shopping. Got enough bore in my own life, don't need anyone else's...

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  18. im not a very big fan of facebook, either. the whole constant 'friend recommendations' and advertising through invading your privacy really turns me off.
    id much rather blog. :)

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  19. I keep a minimum presence on Facebook and check in maybe 2-3 times a week to see what my friends are up to. I've found a lot of value in it - I reconnected with a lot of long lost pals. I ignore the ads and don't ever play the games or click on those 3rd party apps.

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  20. Facebook requires more 'savvy' than Twitter, to create groups that would prohibit an Aunt from visiting, etc. This is more effort, and many people want it 'easy.' Twitter is 'easy.' Facebook will continue to appeal to those willing to put out the effort, and use it for a specific purpose. Lenore is spot on, and said it best.(Feb. 21 post)

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  21. I never started a facebook page because when I was thinking about it, I found out my mom had one LOL. I imagined she'd bug me to put pictures of the kids up all the time annnnnd just decided I could live without it ;P

    I agree with you about twitter and blogger. Blogging lets writers WRITE, so for us I don't really see it losing it's appeal, though it may slow down. And twitter is just too EASY! Great post Anne!!

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  22. I have two fb pages. One that I've had for the last couple years as a way to keep in touch with family and friends back in the states. The other is my 'writer's' fb page that I hardly ever use and only update with whats on the blog or a quick look at whats going on with my writerly friends. I do feel as though its peaked though. I see it on all the network shows, everyone knows about facebook and I think the novelty is about to wear off.

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  23. I'm trying to cut on Facebooking also and yet, I still end up there everyday. They are trying to take over email because Google has the monopoly and they are ahead of them at No.1 Internet Site with Gmail.

    It became a habit to humanity, like smoking. It's pretty bad.

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  24. Great post and comments.
    I use FB to keep up with the family, relatives.

    I have always used the privacy settings. No one can post on my wall, only friends can see photos, etc.

    I block most of the auto-posts of who is friending who and prefer to click on a Friends page if I want to be updated.

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  25. It's fascinating to get all these opinions. There seems to be something of a generational split--the older folks are into Facebook and the younger ones are mostly over it.

    But everybody seems to agree that you've gotta go into it wearing lots of armor, knowing people are trying to manipulate you. Kind of like those "free" vacations where they try to sell you a timeshare condo you don't want.

    But I fear most new users don't know that, which is where the problem lies. They think it's like email (Ben, I see what you're saying about Google. Fighting any monopoly is to be lauded.) But newbies don't realize it's not just about learning the technology, but protecting yourself in what is essentially a hostile environment.

    Today the NYTimes ran a piece saying what Nathan said, only more so--that blogging is waning and Twitter--and Facebook--are on the rise. But the Times stats don't quite support the premise. They say Blogger is down 2% in the US, but UP 9% worldwide. Um, the US is not the whole world, NY Times! I love it that this blogging community is so international.

    What the article does show is that blogging has become more thoughtful and grown-up and Twitter is more attractive to people with short attention spans who want to talk about lunch. And that is as it should be.

    Facebook is increasingly a political forum, as Christine points out. That is so far, a good thing. And it will be as long as we're overthrowing tyrants. But if they stay in power, Facebook--with its privacy-invading techniques--will also be the first place to look for evidence against dissidents. Twitter and Blogger don't have access to your email address book, or force you to name names of your associates. Facebook does. Let's hope that doesn't backfire. It could get really ugly.

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  26. I use Facebook more than my tween daughter and her friends. Although they all have FB accounts, they are rarely on it, preferring to text or post YouTube videos. I take breaks from FB all the time, and I've noticed my friends' chatter is WAY DOWN this past year.

    After looking at a friend's pictures of a recent trip, I thought 'hey, I'm just as bored as if they'd shown these to me in person, why the hell am I looking at them voluntarily?', it was then that I decided not to post any more pictures.

    No one in my family is on FB and I'm choosing to spend more face to face time with them, rather than on a world that exists behind a computer screen.

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  27. FB's fan pages seem relevant enough, but personal ones are becoming redundant thanks to blogging, texting and twitter. I find FB's constant changes frustrating, the privacy invasion worrying, and all the ads and apps annoying. To top it off, my FB personal account was hacked recently, and now I'm seriously considering deleting it.

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  28. This is a fabulous post Anne, and so are the comments here. What I'm getting from all this is that Facebook can really be difficult to manage, and part of the reason is that it doesn't make it easy for you to put up barriers. But you must, I think. We all want some distance between us and casual friends, and Facebook doesn't really allow that.

    Last week I got a friend request from a kid I went to elementary school with, who was later my first boyfriend. I deleted the request. It made me feel bad to do so, but I was under NO obligation to connect with him, and the short answer is that I didn't want to connect. That's just how it is: Facebook makes me feel ruthless about things like that, and I've had to be uncompromising as a result.

    As to the whole question of Facebook replacing email--- absolutely NOT. Facebook, as already mentioned by a commenter, is NOT professional.

    And as to Nathan's question about blogging peaking, I have to wonder: whose perception is that? Bloggers who have blogged more than a year and gotten to know their communities? When I started blogging, some bloggers had peaked because they'd been doing it for a while. But there are new writers and new bloggers every day, and they all need information. So no, I don't think in the grand scheme of things it has peaked.

    Sorry for the super duper long comment :)

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  29. Interesting post. I got a shock this past weekend when I found my telephone number on my Facebook profile page. Of course, I deleted that. The worst thing I ever did was to give FB my credit card info. to purchase ads. Some time after I bought the ads, I got some free fb credits from my web site host, but Fb charged my card and despite my protests through several email, the money was never refunded. I have another horror story that happened this past weekend, but it's a loooooooong story I won't bore you with. Fb does have its uses, but I limit my time on there.

    I like blogging lots better than both Fb and twitter.

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  30. Of course, if we all quit FB how will we share all our Christmas in June photos....just asking...

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  31. I feel like Rip Van Swinekle, having slept through this whole Facebook and Tweeter phenomenarama. No Facebook "presence" have I? Horrors, that must mean I have no friends! And how in plu-perfect Hades did the concept and reality of "friend" get so demeaned? I'm going back to sleep.

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  32. An extremely thought provoking post Anne. It made me realise I have, in fact, pulled back from Facebook (and twitter too) I use them minimally now. But they're time thieves, which blogger is not. I can manage my blog and the time spent. Yes, I do struggle to keep up with comments and visiting blogs, but most mature bloggers (I like that description!) understand because they're in the same boat. So my blog has become my cheap and easy to manage webpage, and twitter and facebook are becoming less important to me. (I get so irritated with FB's constant updating and changing of things, I'm less inclined to visit there these days)
    Judy (South Africa)

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  33. Anne,

    Yes, I think you make some great points. I've been creeping towards more usage of Facebook recently, but doing so has shown me the problems with it. Too many adverts, a layout that's too noisy and confusing. Plus it's for ever getting confused between family members who share the same computer. I still kinda get it - but, yes, give me Twitter and my blog!

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  34. I don't think FB is fading but I do think its newness has worn off. Many of the posts are equally as pointless as the ones I see on Twitter, only longer. I don't get why people would think that anyone would care what they're doing every minute of every day.

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  35. How on earth did Facebook find JL Campbell's phone number? What was that linked to?? Very scary.

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  36. Facebook is how I keep in touch with people around the globe. I don't do the quizzes, etc., but I admit a serious addiction to one of the games. I've never really been a 'cool' person anyway. But without Facebook I wouldn't 'know' many of the people who have been incredibly supportive as I continue my writing journey.

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  37. Gloria--Face time instead of Facebook time--what a concept!

    Carol--your FB account was hacked! Yet another reason to beware.

    J.L--and they got your phone number. Scary. They POSTED it. Way scarier. BEWARE!

    Sierra--I love your sooper dooper comments. Facebook probably got the phone number from J. L.'s email account. FB insists on having access.

    Rrrandy--you've been blogging longer than anybody I know--so you probably don't need Facebook. Enjoy the rest.

    Richard--I'm sure you'll find a way. Didn't really mean to scare you off FB entirely, but if you weren't using it, then definitely, leaving that big door wide open to privacy-invaders didn't make sense.

    Judy-Congrats on your new book and yes, I think the blog is the best place to promote--and it's Free! And no Ads!

    Simon--it's not just the ads on your FB page--it's the ads in your email and pop-up ads that follow you around the Web--all from companies they've given your info to.

    Liz--You're right that boring people can be boring anywhere. FB just gives them more room to do it.

    Elspeth--it's great FB has worked for you, but it's good to be aware what you're giving away.

    Like today a friend sent me a "birthday card" on FB. In order to read it I would have had to give the birthday card people access to my address book and personal information. No doubt so they can spam me. Seems sneaky and slimy.

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  38. I still like and use Facebook. I deleted all of the "apps" on there besides a couple games and Visual Bookshelf because, yes, they do spam, spam, spam you and yes, it did take forever to figure out how to get rid of everything.

    Twitter I'm new to, but I think it'll stay popular because it's very quick and easy to use.

    I don't see blogging going out of style anytime soon, at least not for the writing community.

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  39. No horror stories, thank goodness. I do find it annoying when they change settings and I have to find out how to (re) protect my privacy from my facebook friends. I have always used it judiciously and don't see any need to drop it anytime soon. And if someone's posts are bothering me, I simply block them.

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  40. I didn't have any horror stories, thankfully. I deactivated my account because FB doesn't appeal.

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  41. I don't use Facebook often, and I'm finding that one problem that arises from this is that the layout keeps changing, and I'm now almost continually confused about where to find things. I find it handy for keeping up with my family overseas--I get a lot more pics of their children, etc--but otherwise, I'm not a big user.

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  42. I've ranted about Facebook so many times I've lost count. I said I'd stick with it until they allowed me to log in as my fan page, and then when they finally did, the functionality is... well, sort of half-a**ed. I'm not impressed. I've stopped using my personal page to post anything, because every time I did someone on my friend list would get pissy or preachy or obnoxious, and I don't have time for that drama in my life. But I can't deactivate my personal page, because it's the only way to interact with those people, even if they're also my fans on my fan page. In other words, even if I'm a "friend" with a "fan," I can't log in on my fan page and go to that person's wall to post something. I can only be logged in as me or wait for the person to post on my fan page.

    That's really convoluted, but isn't that pretty typical of Facebook?

    All that said... I'm keeping it for now, but I'm not using it much. I'm kind of sick of the drama, the games, and the stupid "post the color of your bra to support breast cancer research" messages. Seriously? But as an independent author, I don't really think I can afford to completely shut off a whole potential audience, so at the moment, it makes some sense. I'm constantly reevaluating it, though, and I'll drop it the minute it no longer makes sense.

    Great post, Anne. Very informative. Ironically, I think I'll go post it on Facebook... ;-)

    Amy

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  43. Kittie, good for you. If you don't need it, boot it.

    Amie, Beth, Elena, I agree FB has its uses. Especially for exchanging photos. But why do they have to constantly "update" things to launch new attacks on our privacy?

    Modicum (Amy) You're so right. Facebook is kind of required right now for selling books. But I'm hoping that will change. A choice will emerge. Something more like Twitter that's not all about a corporation trying to rob you of your free will and privacy.

    I've decided that right now Facebook is the Borg. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated. But it's a tyrant and tyrants are getting toppled, too.

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  44. OK, I guess I have to eat some of my words. Turns out FB DID work to protect privacy during the Egyptian coup. There's an article in the Daily Beast about it at http://bit.ly/i3i2GN

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  45. Anne, I'm a Facebook holdout. Something about it has just never appealed to me, and I don't think I have time for one more thing anyway. I do a little with Twitter, and I post to my food blog just once a week--on Friday morning. And I have an AOL email address. Didn't even know that's "dorky," which I suppose shows just how dorky I am!

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  46. I agree with you that Facebook seems to have peaked and might be on the decline. I think it's great for social interaction but not for social media for writers, businesses, etc. It's just not set up to be user friendly in that way.

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