Friday, June 6, 2014

Do I need to be on Facebook?

For as long as I've known about the existence of Facebook, I've steadfastly resisted joining it. At first, it was because I simply couldn't see the point of it. The main use of Facebook seemed to be for keeping in touch with friends, but it seemed to me that if I really wanted to be in touch with people, I could easily do so via e-mail, telephones, and what's now known as "face time," but back in my day used to be called "getting together." And if I didn't really want to be in touch with them, then what was the point? (True, there are lots of people these days who never seem to communicate by any means other than Facebook—but it seems to me that if they can't be bothered to contact me personally, or respond when I contact them, they're not really friends.)

That was just my initial reason for staying off Facebook, but as I've learned more about the company, I've felt less and less inclined to be a part of it. First there was all that news about privacy breaches and the use and possible abuse of users' personal data (though Facebook seems to have made some improvements in that area recently). Then there were all the stories I kept hearing about how much of your time Facebook eats up. The blogger on Live Like a Mensch estimated in this post that for her, it came to 2.5 hours every day. That's half as much as the time she spent each day on her job: writing and "legitimate Internet research," which she defined as "not Facebook." I already know how easily a simple Internet search can turn into an hourlong exploration of Internet wonders (case in point: I spent about half an hour just now trying to track down the blog post I just cited), so I figured I was better off staying off Facebook and putting those 2.5 hours a day to more productive use.

There have been times, however, when not having a Facebook account has proved to be a serious inconvenience. Retailers, for example, frequently offer coupons and special deals through their Facebook sites, requiring a "like" to unlock the deal. If you're not on Facebook, you can't get the coupon, period. I often get around this by borrowing the account of "Ordinary Human Smith," which my husband set up as a joke. The idea is that it belongs to an alien gathering information on us humans by posing, not very successfully, as a perfectly ordinary human, who enjoys all kinds of things that ordinary humans like. So it sort of makes sense that Ordinary Human Smith is perfectly willing to like any company that asks for a like in exchange for a coupon; if ordinary humans like it, Ordinary Human Smith likes it too.

More recently, I've also been running into the problem that many blogs and journals will no longer allow you to post comments on articles unless you sign in through Facebook. I occasionally borrow Ordinary Human Smith's account for this purpose too, but that means that I've left a lot of comments scattered across the Web under Ordinary Human Smith's name that really don't fit in at all with Ordinary Human Smith's persona. Besides, I'd really rather be leaving those comments under my own name, so that I could increase my visibility on the Internet and maybe help direct some traffic toward this blog.

Moreover, the freelance-related blogs newsletters I read, like Freelancers Union and The Freelancer, are always posting articles about the importance of social media for "building your brand" and connecting with potential clients. Some of them practically make it sound like these days, social media is the only way to attract business. I already have a LinkedIn account, but Facebook and Twitter are the sites that these blogs tend to talk up the most, presumably because they're the ones most people are using. So if I'm not using them too, apparently, there's this vast audience that I'm not reaching.

Then, today, I bumped into what may have been the last straw. I came across a blog called The Alternative Consumer, which seems to have a lot of overlap with this one (recent posts cover such topics as cordless electric lawn mowers and apps to help you recycle), and I noticed a link at the bottom that said the blog was #1 on this list of environmental blogs. So I started checking out some of the others on the list, and I found that there were several blogs right in the top ten list that don't even get as much traffic as this one. A site called Pays to Live Green, for instance, was listed at #5, and it's only had 845 page views in the last month, compared to 1,417 for Ecofrugal Living. In fact, Pays to Live Green hasn't even been updated since December 2010. Surely, I thought, if a site like that can make the Top 10, mine could do it. So I clicked on the link for "submit a blog," and I found that in order to submit your blog, you have to join the site as a member—which you can only do through, you guessed it, Facebook.

So now I'm truly torn. I find it easy enough to waste time on the Internet already, and I certainly don't need the massive time sink that Facebook is reputed to be. But is my resistance to Facebook actually hurting my career? Do I need to be spending those 2.5 hours a day on Facebook in order to attract readers, find clients, and "grow my business"? And perhaps most important, is there any way I can get the benefits of being Facebook-connected without having it eat my entire life?

What do you think, readers? Is it worth holding out, or should I just give in and be a rhinoceros?
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