Wasting Time On Facebook

Does Facebook seem a bit bloated, lately? More ads than updates? More about politicians and less about families and friends? Yeah. I’m a fan of social media, in general, but I’m also a fan of spending time wisely. That’s the frugal part of me. Spending time with friends is fun. Scrolling past ads isn’t any better on Facebook than it is on television. Aw. Maybe I’m just imagining it. Maybe not. The geek in me decided to take data. Just how far has Facebook drifted from what I like most about it?

This was easy, and unscientific. I scrolled through one hour of posts on a Friday morning. Here’s what Facebook decided to show me that was “Most Recent” – a setting which I have to repeatedly set every time I use the site.

  1. ad for a yard sale
  2. ad for Verizon
  3. personality profile news item
  4. selfie
  5. list click bait
  6. video of old cartoon
  7. advocacy group
  8. ad for local event
  9. shared cartoon
  10. vacation photos
  11. someone’s birthday
  12. fundraiser
  13. ad for event
  14. selfie
  15. a message between two friends
  16. political post
  17. shared humor
  18. advocacy
  19. weather forecast
  20. shared humor
  21. ad for a movie
  22. ad for an event
  23. fun personal photo
  24. ad for a car
  25. someone’s birthday
  26. ad for an event
  27. art from a proud artist
  28. ad for an event
  29. meme
  30. personal insight into a cause
  31. shared news
  32. advocacy
  33. ad for an event
  34. ad for software
  35. ad for an event
  36. ad for music
  37. vacation photos
  38. ad for a yard sale
  39. advocacy
  40. ad for a business

That was 40 posts in about an hour. Only about a quarter of them were from friends doing something fun, casual, personal, and real. Of the other thirty, most of them were from friends, too; but they were advocating for a cause or funds – effectively ads, again. Ah, but the geek in me prefers to have more than one data point. I’m lucky enough to have one. I’ve been on Facebook since 2008 – back when there were no ads, the news feed didn’t try to reorder my life into Top Stories, and things like photos and links were relatively new. From 100% news from friends to 25% news from friends in under a decade. At that rate only about 6% of the posts will be news from friends in 2028. No wonder it seems like spending time on Facebook feels more like a chore than a pleasure.

I am one of the guilty ones. I teach classes about social media. Social media is a great enabler that doesn’t charge, significantly expands a network and community, and helps people and ideas reach further. I don’t advocate promoting ads. The extra reach seems to reach a random set of people, regardless of the filters. I do advocate using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. for artists, entrepreneurs, and advocates to spread their word. The various sites reach hundreds of millions of people. (Facebook reaches billions, but there’s some doubt about many of the accounts.) It would be silly to overlook such a venue. (Side note: the next class is part of the November 11 Madrona Writers Workshop on Whidbey.) Instead of spending money promoting ads, I suggest spending time engaging with family, friends, and followers. It’s social media. Be social!

While I may be guilty of posting ads, too, I also try to do so off to the side. That’s what business pages are for. Most of my consulting, art, writing, and teaching posts are first published on Trimbath Creative Enterprises’ web site and shared to Trimbath Creative Enterprises’ Facebook page. If there’s enough interest, then I share it to my timeline where it might show up on followers’ news feeds. Now that I look at that data, I wonder whether to be a purist and only post to my business’ page, or give in and post everything to my timeline like so many others. They seem to be successful, but that also may just be part of the Facebook facade.

And then some crisis or celebration occurs. My friends amaze and impress me with their response. I’ve seen support groups form before an accident victim has gotten home. Power outages are managed by a community sharing notes, reports, and offers of help. Groups of passionate people may be too hard to organize in the real world, but can come together in a group. I frequently visit the dance community and the writing community. Someone added me to a group of Bohemians. Cool.

At least in the groups, paid ads seem to be less common. Self-promotion is a balancing act, which means there’s always someone sharing too much and others that I wish would share more. I’m not sure where I sit on that.

I’m a fan of people, which is why I’m a fan of social media. But I find myself using Facebook less and using Twitter more (@tetrimbath). Twitter has fewer ads and it is easier to sort sources to follow. LinkedIn keeps trying to be the office version of Facebook; maybe I’ll engage there more if others did, too. Reddit is a wild place with few ads, but also a site for crazy waves of comments and occasionally immoderate moderators. There are hundreds of sites. They are competing with Facebook. While it may look like none of them can become bigger than Facebook, similar things were said about IBM, until Microsoft redefined the world, and then Apple redefined it again, and now Google, and now Facebook, and now – who’s next?

Frugality is about respecting resources and personal values. It isn’t about being cheap. Frugality is about spending time and money in ways that complement an individual’s goals and interests. Facebook is free, expect for the time spent using it. From my one sample, that time is only a quarter as efficient as it was when I signed up. From that logic, it can take four times the time to receive the same effect. I don’t want to spend time that inefficiently. So, I must find other ways to use it efficiently.

Using Facebook more efficiently for me means paying less attention to the content it pushes.

I already ignore Top Stories. That’s the default, so every time I visit the site it shows me the story it thinks is the most important. Sometimes it keeps the same story up for days. Get on with it, eh?

I switch Top Stories to Most Recent to see if anything new has been happening with my friends. But, I don’t scroll down far. One great example was a report of a meteor the other night. Instead of a flash in the sky it turned into a splash in the water. I saw the post come up, jumped over to Twitter to contact the National Weather Service, USGS, and NASA to get the official story, and posted some details.

To get more efficient, I dive into the groups. Fewer ads, passionate people sharing news, and a more congenial atmosphere are attractive.

To get the best stuff, I head over to my friends’ personal and business pages. Facebook filters what it shares from them to my news feed. That just means I have to grab control back to find out about a friend’s new house, or recovery, or awesome painting.

Facebook, and all social media sites, are tools. Knowing how to use a tool best makes using the tool more successful and more fun. In the case of social media sites, the tools decide to change themselves. Every time I reach into that drawer for that tool I’m aware that I might have to use if differently, or reach for a different tool. Facebook is useful, but not as useful as before; so, I am also reaching for Twitter and LinkedIn. For now.

One of many ironies is that, soon after I publish this post I’ll share it to Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter. I’ll keep using them all, but not as before. They’re changing. I’ll change. And, I guess I’ll continue posting my business ads on my business page – and occasionally to my news feed and groups. Of course if you want to share those around to your news feed, well, share freely and often. Just don’t be surprised to find that we’ve all drifted over to some other site within a few years and have to play by a new set of rules.

Stay tuned.

About Tom Trimbath

consultant / entrepreneur / writer / photographer / speaker / aerospace engineer / semi-semi-retired More info at: https://trimbathcreative.wordpress.com/about/ and at my amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0035XVXAA
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3 Responses to Wasting Time On Facebook

  1. Jo Meador says:

    Sounds to me like it’s time for some discussion, and some education, on social network ethics to save more of us poor souls from the big time suck! Looking out for more suggestions…

  2. Pattie Beaven says:

    Ugh, Facebook has become the bane of my existence. It’s like a drug. I know I’m just going to get infuriated over the latest idiotic thing someone in government is doing, but I can’t seem to help myself. I get sucked in and spend hours scrolling through, you’re right- ads, political posts, and more ads.
    On a side note, I opened an author’s page for my books. I’m getting close to self publishing a couple in the next couple of months, and I’m working on a second book.
    Stupid social media! Can’t live with it, can’t kill it either.

  3. The irony of your FB description is discovering for the first time in months why I haven’t seen any of your blog posts. I thought you had quit writing it and now realize that it simply doesn’t appear in the first several pages of my “most current” newsfeed posts. I agreed with all you say here and am currently on the edge of giving up FB. I find it interesting and frustrating at the same time, and it will only be getting worse from now on. I feel like they’ve abused their own product and it’s disappointing.

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