Tag Archives: facebook

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.

 

The Problem with Privacy

I suppose the biggest news of the week has been that Cambridge Analytica has sold the data of fifty million or so Facebook users. Am I shocked? Not really. Do I think it was a good thing to do? Not at all. Am I surprised? You guessed it.

I was reluctant to join Facebook at first. I mean, who was going to use this system? Not somebody like me. It’s pretty obvious I changed my mind, and I have no regrets. My FB profile is public. To some extent, that’s because I write books, and if readers (YAY) want to connect with me, they can. But I’m careful about what I post. It’s usually pictures I’ve taken, or links to a blog post or two. I rarely, if ever, post pictures of people, and there’s very little private information in my FB profile. No address or phone number, no interests, no work history. All of that allows FB to target its ads. So old farts like me get ads about meeting suave seniors in my area, lots of weight-loss products (the nerve), retirement homes, beauty products, clothing, shoes… Those last three really show how little they know about me. 😀

I don’t play any of the games. I confess I occasionally weaken and do a quiz, but FB does warn you what you’ll be giving to the people who wrote the (usually stupid) quiz for the privilege of coming up with a stupid answer. If it wants my friends list, I suddenly decide I’m really not that interested in who I was in my previous life. Because that’s the thing. Innocently accept some of these external apps and you’re gifting a pile of info about OTHER PEOPLE to the authors. To me, that’s the bit that stinks.

Everybody’s heard the saying, “If it’s something you wouldn’t want your Grandma to know – don’t put it on the web”. It’s a good suggestion. And I am eternally grateful that mobile phone cameras weren’t around when I was in my ‘stupid’ years. You know what I mean – I look at the photos of passed-out young women during the Spring carnival etc. and shudder.

Will Facebook survive? Of course it will. Like the banks, it’s too big to fail, and it serves a useful purpose. In my case it allows me to keep contact with other writers who I met years ago in the now-defunct Authonomy. I’m also in contact with family and friends in distant parts, and FB can be a terrific source of what’s happening in the world through shared links. Provided you check what you’re told. On FB, Snopes is your friend. Here’s an example.  Bulldog bites pedophile’s penis off as he tried to rape sleeping chlidren. This story was shared on FB. Attracts all the feels from most of us, and comes complete with pictures. A lot of people were sucked in. I had my doubts about any bloke climbing through a window with his pants off, or for the dog waiting until he was undressed before attacking, so I looked it up in Snopes. And here’s the answer. Caution is always wise on any social media. Those stories about Russian hackers? Quite a few were fake accounts on FB, spreading misinformation.

There are risks, of course. Bullying and troll behaviour is rife. It hasn’t affected me, but I recently heard about one young cover designer who was driven to attempt suicide by a concerted attack on her – in cyberspace. It’s not an isolated case, and the perpetrators can hide behind a computer screen, secure in their anonymity.

However.

If you provide personal information to companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple – and let’s face it, you can’t avoid it – there is a trade-off. They can show you ads that might interest you, based on your browsing behaviour. (Ha. Just recently that would be self-defense courses – doing some research for the WIP). Amazon shows me books I might want to read, based on my previous searches. That’s useful. Google will show me restaurants where I am, and gives me directions on how to get there.

Social media is like most powerful gadgets – used with caution, it’s fine. If you have kids, please, please pay attention to what they’re doing on a computer.

And here’s a picture of an outback suset

Because it’s real

Ripples in a pond

Take a stone, any stone you like, Feel the weight of it in your hand. Is the surface smooth? Rough? Is it heavy? If you’re not happy with it, pick up another one. Because it’s going to be you.

Happy with your stone? Now find a lake, or a puddle. Somewhere with still water, and throw your stone out there. Watch the ripples surge away from the rock that is you.

Those ripples are the people you know. The closest circle isn’t necessarily your family, although for most of us it probably is, while we’re young. It’s the people you’re closest to, your very best friends, your partner, maybe your kids. The next ripple is friends and people you don’t see so often, but you share time with. Beyond that the ring widens to include people like your doctor, or accountant, people you know from work. And so it goes. The further the ripple is from you, the looser the relationship.

That’s just as true in Facebook as it is in real life.

Make no mistake, Facebook IS a slice of real life and for many people, it is a large part of their social life. I have Facebook friends all over the world. Some I’ve met, many I haven’t, and never will. The interesting thing is that where I have met people in real life, it has been exceptionally easy. I already knew them, you see. From Facebook.

I’m writing this today because one of my Facebook friends lost her battle with cancer a few days ago. Jo was diagnosed early last year, and went through a harrowing round of chemotherapy and radio therapy before modern medicine could do no more. She died at home, surrounded by her close family. Jo had many more Facebook friends than me. She connected readily with people. And she shared her cancer experience via her blog. Her stoic courage shone through in her words, admitting to tears, but always being upbeat, always being sure she could win. In an incredibly brave move, she wrote her final post and told her husband to publish it after her death.

I first met Jo online when she lived in Victoria near Hanging Rock, not far from Greendale, where Pete and I had lived. We shared stories about gardening, and weather. Coincidentally, Jo had grown up in Queensland near where we live, then lived in Perth for many years. I had grown up in Perth and now lived in Queensland. When Jo announced she and Tim were leaving Victoria to move back to her roots in Queensland I knew we would finally meet. I visited Jo and Tim at their home in Maryborough before they’d had a chance to make the massive changes they had in mind. It’s a beautiful old Queenslander with its cool, elevated veranda, high ceilings, and horribly overgrown garden stuffed with palm trees and bromeliads. They set in to make changes, bulldozing a dilapidated shed, removing the palm trees and bromeliads, and getting rid of some of the trees. Now there was room for a lawn and a cottage garden – place for the daisies Jo loved. I recall Jo’s blogs about painting the new white picket fence – during which process she broke her wrist. Jo visited me at home while her little white terrier, Daisy, was having her coat groomed in Hervey Bay.

The next time I saw her was in a ward at Hervey Bay hospital, when she was finally on her way home to Maryborough after months of treatment in Brisbane. Sure, she’d lost her hair, she was thin and weak, but that spirit shone through. She hadn’t been in the hospital long, hadn’t had a chance to get to know the staff. Because she’d come from another hospital, staff had to take special care to prevent any bugs being transferred. I waited outside while two nurses carried out a procedure, and heard her talking to one of them, asking about him, where he lived, his job. The young man opened up, and Jo had made another friend.

To reach an understanding of this lady’s impact all it needed was a visit to her Facebook page. All through her ordeal people shared uplifting messages with her, pretty pictures, videos of cats and dogs, jokes. She loved jokes. I’m sure those messages helped to give strength. When she died, her page was flooded with messages of sorrow. For very many people, all around the world, that loss was real.

Say what you like about Facebook. Yes, some of it’s yucky. Some people are horrid. Some people believe things I cannot. Some of my friends are devout Christians. Some voted for Trump. Some loathe the man. But that’s life, a slice of real life with all its warts and troubles and people struggling with everything the world throws at them. For me, Facebook is a learning experience. Every day I read what people share about their lives. I know a lot more about autism because one woman has shared her journey. I feel for friends who lost their homes in floods, people struggling with mental health.

Much as I dislike some aspects of social media, I’ll stay with Facebook. Because it’s real.

 

4 points to consider before you join that Facebook group

GroupSince Facebook became a paying concern, author Facebook pages have become (in my opinion) pretty much a waste of time. Here’s my take on that issue. However, that doesn’t mean Facebook is a waste of time. Increasingly, as Facebook’s ever-changing algorithms weed out posts from our friends and replace them with sponsored ads, people are turning to Facebook groups. And they are a great idea, collections of people with some sort of common interest, such as a writer’s group based on genre, or a bunch of fellow indie authors, or cover designers, or people with a penchant for wildlife, or raunchy men. It takes all sorts.

Such groups can be a valuable source of new friends, colleagues, ideas, and opportunities. I belong to the Science Fiction Romance Brigade (SFRB), a bunch of people who write (wait for it) Science Fiction Romance. They’re a great group of women and men who realise that we’ll make much more of a splash together, than individually.

I’m sure there’s a group out there like that for all my author friends. Join up and feel the love. But bear these points in mind before you do.

Is this the right group for you?

Read the group description and look at the banner. There’s no point in joining every group around because you can. As an example, SFRB focusses on science fiction romance (SFR). That is, a story in a science fiction setting which has a strong romance arc.

  • If you write SF without any romance, this is not the group you’re looking for.
  • If you write paranormal romance, this is not the group you’re looking for.
  • If you write fantasy, with or without romance, this is not the group you’re looking for.
  • If you write historical romance (without a time lord, or something) this is… get the idea? SCIENCE + ROMANCE

This is not to say that everyone in the group writes only SFR – I’ve written paranormal romance and historical fiction. But even my two novellas (Supertech and Ink) which are spin-offs from my SFR Morgan’s Choice, are never mentioned in the group’s discussion, or on its website, because they are not romance.

Abide by the rules

If the rules – and/or the banner – say ‘no promo’ then please understand that means you. If you do go ahead and post your promotional material spruiking buy me, vote for me, pick me, read me… if you’re lucky the admins will delete your post and send you a polite message pointing out your violation of the rules. Increasingly, patience has worn thin and not only will your post be deleted, you’ll be kicked out of the group. Without notice.

That rule is there because most of us are sick of endless promotion. Besides, what’s the point of promoting to other writers? What you want is readers. There are a besquillion of FB groups which allow, indeed encourage, self-promotion. Here’s a few I belong to.

There are plenty of others.

It’s not about you

Okay, you fit the profile, you join the group. Treat it as you would going to a conference. Let’s say an agent is there, somebody you’ve never met but does have a stable of authors writing your genre. You charge up, pushing past everyone else, your MS thrust out like a sword, and insist she takes your wonderful book. Right now. You’ll wait while she reads it. (smile)

Do you think that’ll work? She’ll remember your name all right. She’ll probably delete anything you send her, ever again. That’s how it works in online groups, too. Abusing the admins isn’t a good idea – not if you want to stay. Take some time to learn the group dynamics, ask questions, introduce yourself. Get to know some of the other members, visit blogs, read the shared posts. If you become a part of the group, you’re sure to benefit.

Get involved

Groups work best where people are committed. The SFRB has a lot of great activity to support its members.

  • We have an annual mid-summer (northern) blog hop with great prizes.
  • We have our own fan page on Facebook, where authors advertise their free offerings, new releases and the like.
  • We have blogging opportunities on our website.
  • Apart from that it’s a great place for ideas, asking for beta readers or critique partners, or hosts for blog hops.

But it all depends on members taking part.

Remember the old saying, ‘together we stand, divided we fall’. If you’re a participating member of a good group, you have a much better chance of getting ahead. Just make sure you know what you’re getting into, and become a part of the team.

 

I just un-liked your author page on Facebook

smiley_thumbs_downThis morning I logged onto a group I belong to on Facebook and read a post from an author bemoaning the fact that a friend had stopped ‘liking’ their author page. It’s not something Facebook notifies a page owner. This person simply noticed the number of people liking the page had gone down. In fact, it happened twice. Yep, hand up. One of those was me. And I’m going to be doing a bit more of that in the future.

It’s not meant to be hurtful or spiteful. It’s simply a reaction to Facebook’s new, bigger and better, privatised structure. I don’t have an author page anymore. Pages only work if you can get a LOT of fans – by that I mean in the thousands, not the several hundred I managed to muster, and that was in the days when FB shared everything to everybody. Now, a handful of people see what a page posts – unless you pay for the privilege. Boost your post. Buy advertising. Get more likes for just a small outlay. Want to know what buying FB likes really gets you? Check out this video.

And the advertising? You can find lots of positive spin in a Google search. But maybe read this one, too. Mind you, a simple google search will bring up pages of tips and tricks for attracting ‘real’ page likes and real interaction. I’ll admit I didn’t try terribly hard to get followers. Even before the Big Buyout I had to wonder how much fresh, new stuff you can post about your author persona. And herein lies the reason for my defection from a friend’s page. This person pretty much duplicated the posts on the author page to their profile page, which means I got most of it twice. These days it’s hard enough to keep up with what really matters to me on FB, as opposed to what FB thinks I ought to see.

Why do I stay on Facebook? Because I interact with friends there, mainly in focussed groups. And the emphasis is very definitely on FRIENDS, not potential customers. Anyone who likes what I write is welcome to follow my FB account, or ‘friend’ me. Here I am. https://www.facebook.com/Greta.J.vanderrol Most of my posts are public. I share my photos and discuss my writing with like-minded individuals. Sometimes I’ll post about my books, do a bit of promo. Hey, it’s what I do, it’s a part of who I am. But I’m not very sociable, even on-line. There’s only so much time I’ll spend on ‘marketing’. I’ve found it works much better if I just go write the next book.