Unfriending Facebook Un-Friends

I’ve been doing a series of posts on the effectiveness of Facebook as a promotion tool for authors, based on my research and my experiences. Some people have taken these as complaints and negativity, but I’m just trying to make sense of a confusing world.

There are four billion users on Facebook, yet most authors seem to be shunted off into a corner of the FB world with other writers. While I’ve gotten to know a lot of great authors this way, I’ve found few readers, which makes sense when you think of it. Authors want something — readers — so we frantically add friends in an effort to reach readers. Readers, on the other hand, don’t frantically friend unknown authors. Most readers stick with previously read authors, or find books by word of mouth, blog reviews and book websites, local bookstores, online stores, the library. (This information is from an informal poll I once did: How Do You Choose the Books You Want to Read?)

When I first joined Facebook, I was guilty of adding as many friends as I could since I thought that was the purpose of social networking. In fact, I almost reached the cut-off point of 5,000 friends. (I’m sure you’ve noticed that some people have more than 5,000 friends. That’s probably because of inactive accounts. I go through my friend list periodically and delete inactive accounts. The only serve to swell numbers and make FB even more unwieldy than it already is.)

When I realized that social networking is about being social, I stopped sending friend requests, and started trying to get to know the people I am connected to. In the process, I am gradually culling my friend list. If someone has four or five thousand friends and has never once bothered to respond to anything I have done on Facebook, I unfriend them. If someone whose friend request I have accepted (I have not sent a friend request to a stranger in over three years, so I know that any friends made in those years are at their behest) spams me or ignores me, I unfriend them. If they are multi-level marketers or any other such blatant scammers, I unfriend them.

This sounds harsh, doesn’t it? But if Facebook hasn’t created a mass of readers for me, then it’s mostly for fun, and if it’s mostly for fun, there is no point in being connected to people who do not enrich my life. (I hope you don’t think I am unfriending everyone. I still have almost 2,000 friends, a good percentage of whom I actually talk to.)

Of course, some people think unfriending is silly, because what difference does it make how many friends you have, especially since you see so few of them anyway, but it does make a difference. When I had close to 5,000 friends, every time I tried to individually invite friends to an event, it crashed my computer. (Except for the Suspense/Thriller Writers Self-Promotion Extravaganzas on Saturday, I don’t bother to do events any more. Where hundreds of people used to respond, now only a handful do.)

Also, too many friends clogs the news feed with posts I have no interest in. It is possible to hide those posters from my newsfeed, but if I have no interest in people’s posts, why am I connected to these un-friends? Why not just unfriend them? So I do.

People do the same to me. One woman told me she unfriended me because I never participated in any of her events. It was a valid observation. At the time, I had 4,000 friends, and couldn’t keep track of them all. All I did on Facebook at the time was keep my writing discussion going, so the people I was most interested in were the people who participated in my discussions. (I hate to admit it, but I still don’t participate in other people’s events; there are simply too many. And anyway, I still prefer to spend most of my time with my discussion group. It’s a small space of sanity in the choatic FB world.)

Perhaps none of this matters. Perhaps unfriending is just a game or a phase I am going through. But the truth is . . . hmmm. I don’t know what the truth is. Maybe I don’t like being ignored. Or maybe I have had a surfeit of inanity and negativity. (What many people consider as positive thinking, I often see as inane, and inanity feels to me like negativity.) Or maybe I’m fighting a system I have no way of beating. Or maybe I’m getting curmudgeonly. Or maybe I’m trying to do FB over, and do it right this time. Or maybe, just maybe, I’m positioning myself for success, making room for the thousands of new friends I am going to make through my writing.

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6 Responses to “Unfriending Facebook Un-Friends”

  1. jeffo Says:

    Hi, Pat. Just started reading this, found you via Joylene Nowell Butler’s page. The irony here is that only famous authors are likely to attract a big Facebook following–and those are the people who least ‘need’ it. Honestly, I think the whole social media as attracting readers thing is a case of putting the cart before the horse. Except for the rare bloggers who are good enough to attract a big audience, most people are going to attract a big following AFTER they’ve hit it ‘big’, not before.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Hi! Any friend of Joylene’s is a friend of mine. She was my first real facebook friend, so I am grateful to Facebook for that, if nothing else.

      I used to coach people on setting up the various social networking sites, and they’d often be disappointed at the results. They expected a direct ratio between their efforts and book sales, so I would tell them it was all about creating a presence on the internet. I still think that. As you say, people will attract a following after they’ve hit it big, but first you have create an online presence they have something to be attracted to.

  2. beasleygreen Says:

    Ooh it’s a tricky business the whole adding and unadding of random strangers on Facebook. Take a look at this post which was lifted off a [real] friends wall:

    http://beasleygreen.wordpress.com/2012/09/01/random-adds-of-madness-phantom-friends-on-facebook/

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Interesting. That’s a good example of why I only add people to my group who request to join and why I never engage in such exchanges. If someone offends me, I simply unfriend them. Chances are, they would never even know since with the new Facebook, they remain as subscribers. (I am finding people I’m subscribed to in my feed, so I can tell who unfriended me, though not why.)

  3. ROD MARSDEN Says:

    You are right when you say that new authors are not likely to get their big break through Facebook alone. The library is of course a good place to go if you want to check out some writer you have heard of but whose writing you haven’t touched upon. You get to check them out for free. If you like what you read then you might go on to buy and build up a collection of his or her work.

    I don’t often participate in events. Usually these events take place overseas and I couldn’t get to them even if I wanted to. If someone wants to un-friend me for that reason then it is okay with me.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Most events are online events, but still, they often are cumbersome to do. (And generally, an “event” is nothing more than an announcement.) If a person isn’t lucky enough to hit the big time soon after pulication, then all we can do is keep plodding, trying to have fun along the way.


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