Hi everyone! Last month (Oct 2016) I deleted my verified Facebook page with 20,800+ likes. To be precise, I deactivated it, but the page is as good as gone now. Today I share the reasons why.
The truth is that Facebook hasn’t been adding value to me as a business owner for a while. While I had previously deleted my Facebook account in 2011, it was because the Facebook personal account was the wrong tool for me to use for my site and subsequently switching to a Facebook page solved my issue of the 5,000 friend limit among others.
But over the past years, I feel that Facebook has degenerated from being a potentially great seeding ground for useful content and positive discussions, to now a venting ground; a place for unsavory exchanges; a channel to get back at those who don’t meet a certain level of conduct (think citizen journalism); a place for short-form, “scratch an itch” content; and even fake news, which recently became a hot topic due to the 2016 US presidential elections.
Why has this happened? For me as a page owner and content publisher, my biggest grip with Facebook is how its algorithm has changed over time to prize content with the most engagement. Engagement meaning Facebook likes, comments, or shares — anything that triggers activity. When a content is able to gather many likes/comments/shares in a short time frame, Facebook regards it as newsworthy, after which Facebook will “push” it to more people (be it followers or non-followers of that page), which further drives engagement. In the meantime, the reach of other content on Facebook gets depressed, which is why if you have been a Facebook page owner since 2010, you would have seen the organic reach of your posts plummet from 100% to 1-2% over the past 6 years.
To me, using engagement as a measure of a post’s value is great when we live in a world where everyone takes time to thoroughly read/think through something before deciding whether to engage with it. But we don’t, not today. We currently live in a world that’s very fast-paced; where stimuli is constantly blasted in our faces; where people are constantly frustrated with various issues like living pressures; where anger, fear, and envy rule most people; where the income divide is greater than ever.
Given that, many people tend to use Facebook for a quick escape; not to think. They are not even aware of it too; it’s generally like this: Bored? Not sure what to do? Okay, let’s grab our mobile phone and see what’s on our Facebook feed. Oh, this looks interesting! Haha, this gave me a laugh! Let’s press “like”! Okay what’s next?
Because of that, the most highly engaged content on Facebook is usually content that provides some form of distraction and escape; that triggers anger, uproar, or indignation; that scratches an itch; that gives a quick tickle, not to think. Conversely, content that reminds people of their pain, that is meant to get people to look at hard issues, and that requires people to slowly think and process, do not do well at all.
- So when an immaculate selfie and a lengthy post are put side-by-side, the selfie will generally win based on Facebook’s algorithm, because it doesn’t take thought to process a selfie and its content is visual, where sight is a lower-level sensory.
- When a fake news with an absurd headline and a genuine, important, yet “boring” news story are put side-by-side, the fake news will win, because fake news is able to elicit quick reactions due to the nature of its headline. Case in point: NY Times shared how a recent fake news went into internet orbit with 350,000 shares on Facebook in just one day, subsequently getting reposted on popular social networking site Reddit and getting the attention of journalists. The corrected followup received barely any attention.
- And when an I’ve-seen-this-a-zillion-times quick tips post and a long-form article are put side-by-side, the quick tips will win (even if it’s the same repetitive content posted again and again by the page), because short form content is easier to process for the average surfer on Facebook.
It’s probably worth noting that most people who post reactions on Facebook, especially a linked piece of content that lies outside of Facebook, do not even read the post. People are just liking, commenting, and reacting based on the few words in the headline, based on their conjecture of what it means. This also includes uproars, criticisms of the author, recommendations, and even praises. I have personally experienced this for my posts, where people started criticizing my content when they didn’t even read what’s in the post, not even the first paragraph. Meaning the most popular posts you see on your Facebook newsfeed are generally voted up based on few-second reactions and probably by people using Facebook for a distraction to begin with, and not based on the actual value of each post.
And here lies the problem: I feel that my site content and direction are not compatible with Facebook as a platform anymore, at least not with how their algorithm works today.
- I have no interest to write posts just to elicit reaction. Many reactions are noise, not an indicator of a content’s ability to create change/action.
- I have no interest to deal with 2-3 second reactions to my writings, based on the headline.
- I don’t care if people “like”/ comment on my posts on Facebook. I just want people to think about how my tips apply to their life, which may take days sometimes weeks or months, not minutes to an hour, and perhaps pass it on to friends/family after they have read and found it useful.
But when Facebook heavily depresses a page’s reach unless it can gain engagement within an hour or so, it becomes a problem. When your posts aren’t “engaging” a big pool of people quickly (based on likes/comments/shares), your next post will reach even less followers of your page (think 1-1.5%). To reach more people, including the very people who “liked” your page to get your updates, you need to pay to use Facebook’s “Boost” feature, a type of Facebook ad (why? that’s just circular). And as Facebook’s algorithm continues to change based on what works best for
them their shareholders and what generates the most money for them (because Facebook’s goal as a publicly listed company is to maximize the time you spend on their site and their revenue, which is starting to run counter to people’s happiness/productivity), organic reach continues to get depressed as millions of content are posted every day, to the point where people don’t really see anything anymore except noise. Facebook just generated their highest earnings yet in the last quarter (Q3 of 2016), and this is in the face of growing user fatigue and frustration with their site.
And this is really the same when it comes to the content on your Facebook newsfeed. Most of your newsfeed posts are there because they get people’s reactions the fastest (selfies, quick tips), trigger the most emotions within minutes (social injustices, outrageous news), and/or tickle people’s fancies (like cat videos). It’s not based on the real value of the content.
Which is a question you need to ask: Are you okay with constantly receiving content that’s voted up and placed in your newsfeed based on few-second or knee-jerk reactions, or are you looking for something deeper when you use social media? Because in the former scenario — which is what is happening today — what you keep seeing is noise, a feeling of user fatigue, and an unhealthy draw/addiction to the platform, because the updates you keep seeing do little to change your life, which is why you constantly return to Facebook more often than you should, in a quest to get something more, to fill some sort of gap.
As a Facebook page owner, I can’t help but feel like I’m in a merry-go-round, where I’m pushed to write content in a way that gets the most reactions, where I’m pushed to “compete” against millions of pages and page owners in a “who shouts the loudest” contest, just to reach the very people who subscribed to my page to begin with.
This is not what I want. Rather than engage in noise matches, I rather focus on creating deeply thought out content and serve my readers who read and implement my material. My goal of managing a platform isn’t to create stickiness, which is about lengthening a user’s stay beyond its necessary length, but about giving them the value they need to think and act. IMO every Facebook page owner should work on creating content that matters, not engage in like/comment matches to get more engagement to get more exposure, which usually means nothing as the average Facebook user flits through updates. Even if you do get the most engagement after much effort, it’s questionable as to whether the views you are getting are of the highest quality and from the right crowd.
So I deleted my Facebook page. As the issue has been brewing for years, I guess this move is a long time coming. The problem became so ridiculous that continuing to run my page was becoming more costly and painful with little for me to gain as a business owner. There were other signs that contributed to this decision, such as ongoing spam; pointless analytics and a cluttered admin layout designed to push you (the admin) to buy Facebook ads; and pointless, endless notifications that again prompt you to buy their ads, that you can’t opt out of. But the fundamental issue is that I created my Facebook page to connect with you guys, but now I can’t even do something as basic as this without going through hoops and being blasted with noise. I much rather build my relationship with you through my website and mailing list, where I know my emails will always be sent to you, where I know those of you who are really interested to follow my updates will be reading my mail, as opposed to being subjected by an algorithm that filters what I want to share with you.
Now the issues I just mentioned are specific to a Facebook page for businesses/personalities. As a private Facebook user who deliberately chooses to have zero connected friends, I find Facebook quite useful for connecting with friends. Their chat messenger is handy, especially after they finally released an option to disable push notifications permanently. Unsolicited messages go into a different tab, so I never see them. I don’t have any friends connected so I’m free from filtered content based on Facebook’s noise-driven algorithm. I only join groups I want to be a part of and leave when they’re not a fit. I check people’s profiles directly to read their updates, if they are public. I message friends directly if I want to see how they are doing, not rely on the newsfeed to get a faux connection.
Just to be clear, Facebook’s algorithm works well for certain pages/content. Basically,
- Content that elicits reactions or drives discussion
- Short tips, simple advice (even when it’s the same thing repeated over and over)
- Short quotes
- People’s stories
- Posts that create uproar, criticisms, and things that drive shock/emotion
But beyond quotes and simple advice, I think what the world needs now is deeply thought out material that tackles big questions, big issues; not content that repeats itself and caters to the monkey mind. I have no wish to take part in these noise matches but to create my own path to serve and connect with you.
On a side note, I’m finding Quora is a great place to learn new perspectives, though the platform is very much dominated by people who are left-wing and in a way more privileged than the average person. As with any internet platform, it can only be used by people with internet, so tech illiterate users and people in rural communities without internet/computer can never get their voices heard. So this is something to take note when reading any online discussion — there is almost always bias based on the audience profile, and as such risks being an echo chamber. In particular, I find some sub-Reddits a big echo chamber that creates a one-sided discussion platform that reinforces members’ biases. Our goal as a learner should never be about seeking only views that support ours, but about exposing ourselves to different lines of thinking and understanding people’s suffering, so that we can build a more inclusive world.
As for why I deactivated my Facebook page instead of deleting it, it’s because Facebook can always change. If one day it becomes a positive ground for sharing conscious discussions and deep content, then I’d be happy to rejoin as a page owner.
If you used to be on my Facebook page, do subscribe to my newsletter to get my updates, including messages and special announcements that I don’t post on the blog.
Some other posts where I wrote about today’s noise-filled world:
- Regarding Distractions
- Busy vs. Productive: 7 Tips to be Productive, Not Busy
- Online Negativity: How to Create a Better Internet for Everyone
New Release! Live a Better Life in 30 Days Program
As shared in my previous update, the new version of Live a Better Life in 30 Days Program (30DLBL) has now been released! This is just in time for you to do the program in December as you round up for the year. Those of you who haven’t gotten your copy, head over to my newly revamped 30DLBL sales page to read about 30DLBL and get it there!