On Giving Up Facebook (Or, Living the Dream)

At this point I consider Facebook to be a necessary encumbrance to modern life.

First, the bad:

  • Facebook does not “connect” us. It separates us.
  • Facebook is not good for political discourse in any way, shape, or form.
  • Facebook facilitates the Internet Outrage Machine that is so poisonous for everyone who is exposed.
  • Facebook hasn’t saved media companies. It’s made them serfs in Facebook’s empire.
  • Facebook is an addictive time suck.

The good:

  • Facebook incontrovertibly gives businesses an amazing advertising product with a reach and targeting ability the likes of which have never before been seen.

In my version of “living the dream,” I am not on Facebook. In this life, I share pics of my son with the extended family in one of several other perfectly obvious ways, I get my news by visiting actual news sites, and I keep up with my friends by actually visiting with my friends.

So, why don’t I quit?

Reason 1: I’m in marketing. I can’t quit, for obvious marketing-related reasons.

Reason 2: I can’t think of a more effective way to let people know what I’m doing with my film projects. My audience wants to know about what I’m up to, what movies I’m working on and such, but not all of them want to sign up for an email list. They actually do prefer to receive their updates via Facebook. It is without a doubt the most effective way to spread the news.

One day though I will quit. Either Facebook will cease to be the effective marketing tool that it is right now, or I will leave marketing and leave film and leave everything behind that requires me to “spread the word” in order for it to succeed. I would become a farmer, but that requires me to work 14-hour days in one place for much of the year, so that’s out.

But… one day.

Am I doomed to always make my living from writing?

There were those three Summers I was a camp counselor and the one I was a sailing instructor. For a few months each I also worked at a grocery store, a movie theatre, and as the guy who wrote down people’s sandwich orders at the grill in my College cafeteria.

Other than those, however, I have always made my living by writing. The first way was writing business profiles for an industry & market research company at $10/hour. After that I wrote news stories for the daily newspaper for some years. Since leaving the newspaper it’s been more writing: ads, tag lines, marketing plans, case studies, white papers, press releases, media advisories, news alerts (three different phrases for basically the same thing), editorials, blogs posts, more blog posts, tweets… the list goes on.

Who counts as an expert

The New Music Box has a story on that very question from earlier this year. It crystalizes for me a key problem with both the wider world, and with my personal efforts at both career advancement and talking about my own creative work. More on that in a sec.

Here’s there key part of the story, as they explain why things tend to get oversimplified (this is all in the context of a debate over the future of music industry, btw):

A parallel factor may be the trend towards “explainer journalism” sites, which “have built their core identity around explaining complicated issues or situations to a well-informed general public” as Henry Farrell, um, explains. The inherent claim to expertise in this mode of writing doesn’t exactly encourage intellectual humility or the weighing of different theories, but encourages boldly assertive claims as an exercise in self-branding and generating traffic.

This is an era that rewards simple explanations: TED Talks that prescribe neat solutions, the ability to learn “everything you need to know about X in one chart.” It’s nice when such things exist, but it’s easy to lapse into a preference for falsely totalizing narratives, and “expertise” is awarded on the basis of whether you can offer such a narrative (bonus points awarded if you can work in an affirmation of entrepreneurial progress that’s basically compatible with our prevailing neoliberal power structures).