Thursday, September 11, 2014


One night, back before I essentially de-activated my Facebook account, I was at home drinking a beer.

Yes, I am a Facebook detractor now. I always knew they used my data for marketing, that was the the true price of the 'free' service, but then I read in horror about the secret psychology experiment they did on a million users.

That kind of insidious manipulation is something I want no part of.

But, once upon a time, I was addicted to this digital barbiturate, just like you.

So there I was, on the couch. Hugged by a mild humidity. Pleasantly warm, but on a knife edge between comfort and sweating. I'm not as skinny as my early twenties anymore, you see. We thirty-somethings have to waste brain capacity on personal climate control.

It's a formula. Tshirt, plus shorts, equals too warm. Add cold drinks to adjust.

Something was flickering across the television. I was mostly in my own head anyway, but I need the quiet background murmur. It's a pathos earned from a suburban upbringing. Suddenly, my phone called out to me, like it does. "Pay attention to me".

It was a Facebook notification. Narcotics for the social animal.

I was skeptical. Facebook had become a never ending advertisement carousel. I kept coming back though because, amongst the blatant product placement and self-promotion, there were still the seeds of community.

In the Facebook of not so long ago, it was still worth trawling though the weeds to get that joke, feeling or idea that gets your brain humming and makes you feel connected again. But there is a lot of scrolling required to find the gems.

This fragmentation in quality is to be expected. Anything driven by so many disparate people is bound to have a bubble and squeak of motives. Some people want to sell. Others to buy. Some, just to be seen.

The ones crying out for the most attention are creative's Facebook pages. Emerging and established artists, of varying quality, who will do anything for that thumbs up. They want to know you are there. That their efforts cause at least a ripple, if not a wave.

But waiting to earn this ripple?


And so, the wave does indeed arrive. A Facebook tsunami of unabashed expectation of recognition.

"You should pay attention to me! Like my page!"

Because nothing is more appealing than commanding that a crowd assemble.

I sipped my beer. The iphone thumbprint scanner rejected me. Twice. Sweaty thumb. Should I open a window?

Then, success. Swipe to the Facebook app. Visit 'planet notification'.

'(Filmmaker I know) has invited you to like (their new creative company) Facebook page'

I checked the person. An acquaintance rather than a friend.

Beige status on the friend chart. Because this is how we rank people these days. Would they help me move? Would a friendly phone call seem like breaching a personal boundary? Tally these answers to determine their place on the 'friend to well-wisher' scale.

A sudden thought struck me. I checked the 'likes' on my 'Opening Act Films' page.

Mr Beige was noticeably absent.

And now a dilemma. I pondered. Should it matter that he hasn't supported me?

I hadn't sent a request to like 'Opening Act Films', after all. I am a firm believer in 'Permission Marketing' you see. You earn attention, with your work, rather than demand it. Then, if your creative output is good enough and it breaks through the cacophony, you ensure you have a repository of your work somewhere, easily accessible, for anyone who wants it. The ultimate goal, of course, is that those who enjoy and believe in your work feel compelled to share it with others. Too good to be kept a secret.

Mr Biege, however, was nowhere near that subtle with his approach.

So, I had an internal debate.

Was not 'liking' someone's Facebook page, because they had not reciprocated, akin to forced marketing?

I sipped my beer.

I researched the concepts of 'Direct' and 'Permission Marketing' a little more.

I had a meal.

An idea crystallised.

I considered the pages of creatives I had 'liked', who have reciprocated with me. I contrasted that with the pages for those simply demanding an audience, like Mr Beige. Two things became instantly clear.

The people who engage with your creative work, and then ask you to engage with theirs ('the reciprocators'), also tend overwhelmingly to try and create a sense of community online.

They are the ones who share ideas, prompt discussion, and support other creatives that they interact with (including me). 'The reciprocators' realise that we are all in this together, and the more filmmakers thriving, the better off we all are.

They pay it forward.

Creatives like Mr Beige, who simply try to accumulate 'likes' for the sake of their own reputation, are the ones who add little value to your consciousness online. Mr Beige and his kin want to 'sell' themselves to you, not to interact with you. Bizarrely, they don't seem to understand the meaning of the words 'social' or 'networking'.

But they're on Facebook, none-the-less.

It's the growing tectonic problem with Facebook. What was once about a sense of online community has evolved into another channel for advertising and self-promotion.

Which is another reason why I am barely using the service anymore. The marketers have run away with the asylum keys, and Mr Beige is not the kind of person I want to be in a creative community with.

And I'm not alone, it seems.

Because what is the point of online social connection without community?

On this particular night, however, I still believed in Facebook.

I stared at the notifications list, full of neglected invitations for pages from 'reciprocators' and 'non-reciprocators' alike. I took up the challenge.

You can guess which pages I 'liked' and which I ignored.

After I finished my beer, of course.

- - - - - - - - -