It was a couple of months ago or so, I suppose. I lay in my bed, near midnight and close to crossing over to Dreamland. As I do every night out of fear that I've missed something that couldn't wait until morning, I picked up my iPhone and disinterestedly began scrolling through my Facebook timeline. Not really paying attention, my finger continued flipping the page upward when suddenly I heard a woman's voice. I dropped the phone beside me on the bed and sat up, my ears perking up like a Doberman contemplating an attack. I listened intently to the silence, pondering my next move. Should I reach for my twelve gauge shotgun loaded with double ought buckshot? No, I thought, perhaps the woman that voice belonged to was nothing more than lonely...as lonely as me on any given night. With no further sounds to be heard, I settled back down and resumed my thoughtless stroll through Facebook. Suddenly the sound of a raging bull elephant once again jerked me upright. There are no elephants in west Texas, I told myself and glancing down at my phone I observed a video of, yes, a charging elephant.
For years I have had my Facebook settings set to 'Do Not Auto-play Stupid Videos' and for years, my phone had obeyed. That night something had changed...well, namely Facebook. Not only did videos take on a life of their own, but there were thousands of them and nestled inside nearly every video were ads. Unlike Youtube, Facebook gave me no option to 'Skip Ad.' I had to endure them. I knew then that Facebook was up to something.
Soon afterward, Facebook made an announcement that they 'were returning to their roots.' Facebook's valued customers would now see posts from their friends and family, rather than countless corporations, news outlets, and celebrity gossip mongers. Yes, Facebook was kicking all those folks to the curb. And you know what? For the two weeks following that announcement, I actually began seeing posts from friends I had forgotten I had. Honestly, I've never met many of my Facebook friends, but it was refreshing to see something other than cat videos and 'people expressing their political beliefs' videos.
So, how is it going six weeks later? I'm going to saunter over to my Facebook page and see which of my friends have posted something...be right back.
Okay, here are some folks who have posted in the last few minutes: AARP, Southern Living, Sports Illustrated, Governor Greg Abbott, NBC News, Silver Singles, Yahoo, Netflix...none of these people are really my friends. So, what happened? Money...buddy!
All of these entities pay Facebook money to show their posts. Apparently, the video ads just aren't pulling their weight. To hell with your friends and family! If they want you to see their posts, they will have to pony up the money because Facebook is greedy, greedy, greedy! How much money is enough? Well, in July of last year, Facebook hit the 500 billion dollar mark, so apparently, that's not enough. No sir, they are going to force us to watch thousands of videos with advertising inserted inside them and shoot for 1,000 billion dollars. Is that a trillion? I don't know. I still have a jar of pennies on my dresser.
So here's my beef. I have three Facebook pages where I promote my books, websites, etc. Somewhere along the way throughout the years, folks have stumbled across these pages and 'liked' them, indicating that they wish to see content from these pages on their timeline. Facebook has continually put the squeeze on Facebook pages such as mine, choosing to only allow around 5 - 7% of the people who apparently wish to see this content to actually see it. After this recent change, it has dropped to around 1 - 3%, that is, unless we pay their ransom money. Now, in all fairness, it's Facebook's social media site, not mine and if they wish to charge me and millions of others money, it's their prerogative. But the fact is...it just doesn't work. Here's the other side that most of you don't see:
Facebook: Boost Your Post for $10
Your post "This week's story..." is performing better than 95% of posts on that Page. Boost it for $10 to reach up to 3,900 more people.
Now, my very best post ever was one I paid Facebook twenty dollars to 'boost' on their promise that I could reach up to 13,000 more people. A whopping 493 people were reached through paid advertising. And the results were heartbreaking. I made not a single penny, but Facebook made twenty bucks off of me.
So, how does this affect you? We let the privacy issues slide a decade ago. We overlook Facebook's facial recognition technology. Not only can they put a name to your face, they know where you work, where you live, how many kids you have. They know your friends and family. They know whether you swing right or left, or gay, for that matter. They know if you attend church and where, and yes, they know whether you are happily married or not, and if not, they likely know who you're sleeping with on the side. Yes, they know everything about you, all two billion of you. That's not the worst of Facebook, though.
Former President Obama even touched on it in a conversation with David Letterman on his Netflix talk show 'My Next Guest.' He mentioned that social media decides what America sees and hears, which is obviously whatever they want us to. With all of that information Facebook gleans from our pages and profiles, they determine what they want us to see, or not see. Think of such a powerful sword they swing! And with that sword, they swing the American people whichever way they wish. Welcome to the America that Facebook created.