Why I’m not giving up on Facebook

Everybody who uses the internet has heard about how Facebook collects private information and uses it to target advertising. Nobody likes it, especially when email addresses and telephone numbers are sold off to other parties. I’m with you – something needs to be done to prevent this abuse but if it’s a choice between giving up some of my privacy and giving up Facebook (FB) – I’ll stick with FB.

My Facebook profile provides as little personal information about me as I can get away with. Facebook’s goblins know my date of birth (although I could have fudged that) and nothing else. No address, no phone number, no interests, no religious views etc. I use FB Purity to remove sponsored posts and advertising. This doesn’t mean FB knows nothing about me. Of course they know I’m an author and an amateur photographer, and that I’m interested in science. I’m okay with that. The system collects data from what I post and my reaction to what others post. For instance, I mentioned that Billy Dee Williams is to appear in the next Star Wars movie, so he’s listed as somebody I’m interested in. Frank Oz is another – because I quite often refer to Australia as ‘Oz’ so the goblins got that wrong. You can find all this stuff by digging through your FB settings and clear it if you wish. They use it to target ads. Before I got onto FB Purity I used to get ads for older men wanting to meet women, weight-loss options, beauty treatments and the like. Everything an elderly woman might want from life.

I use FB because it gives me a whole new, real and vibrant, social world. I wasn’t an early user. I guess I started using the app regularly after the writer website Authonomy became a snake pit. Quite a few of us retired hurt and joined up again on Facebook, so it’s no surprise to know that many of my friends are fellow scribes. Pretty soon I connected with family members I hadn’t seen for years, old friends from the Palaeolithic I’d lost touch with decades ago, people I worked with in Perth and Melbourne and a few (a very few) locals. They were joined by extended family in the Netherlands and then, over time, people we met on holiday.

I don’t accept every ‘friend’ request I get. For a while I got a whole slew of American military officers (generals and such) and medical doctors. They were all older gents, either widowed or divorced. I was flattered, of course I was, but none of them had any other friends (poor souls) or if they did, they seemed to be either all women, or African. Somehow I wasn’t convinced they were genuinely interested in ME.

In some cases I met people before we became FB friends. In others, I got to meet FB friends in real life. In each of the latter cases, it was as though we already knew each other – because we did – through Facebook.

Through FB I learned what it was like for people affected by the floods in Townsville and cyclone Veronica which hit the Karratha area, or the effects of the Californian fires and the American floods and hurricanes. I’m hearing all about Brexit from the people who will be impacted, and from both sides. I hear opinions about Trump, Bernie Sanders, Pence, Mitch McConnell (and in the past Obama et al). I discuss writing and publishing with my author groups and recipes and cooking with quite a few, especially those getting great results from the keto diet.

And just like any other community, I hear about births, deaths, and marriages. I’m sure MM Bennetts, who was invaluable to me when I was writing To Die a Dry Death, was ill for a long time but that was never shared with the FB community until she died. The outpouring of grief when we heard of her passing was remarkable. At the moment we’ve all been watching one of our colleagues as he undergoes a heart transplant. This very healthy man in his late fifties had a pacemaker fitted a year ago. When it failed about a month ago doctors diagnosed him with a very rare, incurable heart condition. His only option was a transplant – although, this being America, his name wasn’t added to the transplant list until his insurance company undertook to pay the bills. He was lucky he had insurance. Many Americans don’t. He discussed his situation with humour, sharing the tribulations of being in an intensive care unit as he waited for a donor. He endured endless tests, IV tubes, providing stool samples, blood samples etc at all hours of the day and night. A suitable donor heart became available remarkably quickly and our patient shared the ordeal of waiting for surgery. Then his wife took over and kept us up to date while she sat in a waiting room for hours on end. The doctors had him sitting in a chair not much more than a few hours after the transplant. And we’re all thinking of him – and the nineteen-year-old whose heart is now beating in another chest.

Some people died suddenly, or without fanfare. I knew two ladies who were struck down with cancer and blogged about their treatment. They both used FB as a place to connect with people and share their stories. At the end, surrounded by family, one of them shared posts with her online friends (I guess one of the family did the actual typing). The other woman was someone I met online because of a shared interest in gardening. At the time she lived in Victoria but by then we had moved to Queensland. She later moved to Maryborough, 40km from Hervey Bay, so we finally got to meet. After she was diagnosed with cancer and sent home for the last stages, I visited her in Hervey Bay hospital. She wrote a last blog post, which her husband posted to FB after her death.

I hear about new pets and the loss of much-loved pets. I see pictures of people when they were young and fit. One lady’s husband passed away, another lost her daughter, aged in her late twenties, to cancer. I’ve known three men who decided to become women, had the operation and everything. They’re still the same nice people they were before. I’m friends with men who are married to other men and women in relationships with women. I know people suffering from depression, anxiety, and fibromyalgia among others, and know people who have Asperger’s or who are autistic.

Sure, I’ve removed a few ‘friends’ who turned out to be not the sort of people I want to share my thoughts with but not very many. And I’ve run the occasional ‘purge’ where I removed people whose names I don’t recognize because I’ve had nothing to do with them.

But all in all, for a confirmed introvert Facebook has been a great way of staying out in the people world. In fact, that incredible mix of people from all walks of life would be impossible for me in the real world.

So I won’t be giving up Facebook anytime soon.