and the Devil himself...

and the Devil himself...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Why Facebook Doesn't Just Suck... It's Kinda Creepy Too

When I first discovered Facebook, I thought it was pretty cool. I also thought it was free (and always would be, I mean hey, they say that, right?), that the info on the page was my own, (being, you know, mine and all... photos, writing etc) and that it would be a fresh, new alternative to MySpace.

Sure, I missed having an mp3 player at the top of my page since I'm a musician, and I also missed having a blog right there... and my MySpace page looked way cooler with the whole background option and all but still, it seemed basically the same function-wise and hey, more of my family and friends from high school & stuff were on there. So, with a little wistful regret, I settled for a ReverbNation page to keep the mp3 player and blog function and a Facebook page for the social media function. I thought, (and still do) it was kinda ridiculous to not be able to just have both but, oh well.

I've gone from liking it to having a like-hate relationship with it to just plain hating it. Where's the new start-up that replaces it like MySpace did to Friendster and Facebook did to MySpace? Please come rescue us! And don't say Google Plus. You know you never check it and neither does anyone else.

Honestly, I think it's a great example of the Book of Revelation's warning that something will come and seem good but actually isn't. 

Why? It's not what I signed up for! Yes, you agree to abide by Facebook's rules and regulations when you sign up but what they don't tell you is THEY CONSTANTLY CHANGE THE RULES and they don't tell you. You're notified of these changes by losing functionality or, worst case scenerio, having your page just poof! Deleted. Again, without warning. So, no time to save your photos or notes or a list of your friends - just gone and no access for you to any of that any more. You know who DOES still have access? Facebook does.

So, since they don't tell you themselves, I'm listing the rules (or some of them anyway, as they're known to date - they may well change again tomorrow, or in a few hours...) so you don't have to learn the hard way, as I did.

1. Are you a popular artist or venue and you've already reached your 5,000 friends limit? Meet new people at shows or otherwise make new friends in the real world and want to include them? Don't want to delete existing friends, family and fans? Making a new page would be a time consuming but viable solution but no. You're not allowed to have more than one Facebook page. If you do, you run the risk of waking up to no more FB pages at all and starting from scratch.

2. Want former school mates to be able to find you by your nickname or are you an artist with a stage name and you want fans to be able to find you? Too bad. You must use your literal, actual name or, again, FB can delete you without warning. Actual stalkers who create fake profiles to stalk and be a danger to society have almost 0 chance of being caught with an 'illegal' FB page. Artists with odd stage names? They'll probably not let you start it with that name in the first place/it'll be too unusual to be an 'actual name'.

3. Facebook DOES offer an alternative to this, the 'artist' or 'business' page. Here, you can have 'fans' instead of friends and there's no limit to the number. Awesome! You as an artist or business may say. This way I can add as many people as I like (NOPE, they have to add you - no friend request function on an artist/business page)... ok well, that way I can invite my fans to my show! NOPE new rule says you can only invite 100 people to events. But you just invited a bunch more than that? Well, probably because they can't entirely control your ability to click people who already signed up for your updates, they have a back-up loophole - you can't have more than 300 invites pending - or, guess what, you lose the ability to use event invites.

So, if you love say, Neil Gaiman and love getting his event invites but don't always feel like clicking 'yes', 'no' or 'maybe'.... leave it un-clicked and you're potentially impeding your favorite author's ability to let his fans know about his next book signing.

4. But, they don't block it forever do they? Well, they say you can invite again once more people respond to the event. That's right. To the event that has already taken place. But don't they have a way to repeat the event? YES they do! But you can't do that under the above circumstances, you lose that functionality too. Weird right? And they already have a way for people to block invites from a user (with no penalty to the user) if they don't want to send them - so they're not doing this to prevent unwanted invites - there's already a way to prevent them. What's the point? I find myself asking that about most of Facebook's rules.

5. Now, back to the friend issue - which is, of course, the whole point of Facebook and which, as I've said above, Facebook nonetheless limits. New to an area and want to add people who seem like they'd be cool/like they would actually be your friend in real life/who are friends of friends/same interests etc? Are you a writer who wants to add friends of your magazine? Anything similar? New page and you want, you know, to have people on it? Don't add more than 30 a day or, guess what, Facebook takes away your ability to send invites.

How do they know? Well, they have this weird little thing that asks people if they know you outside of Facebook. Weird right? I mean, if people don't know you and don't want to add you the can just not add you. Why does Facebook need to be involved in the process in any direct way?

What happens then is, or in my experience, this - I'm a musician with a high-ranking ReverbNation page (it's #10 in Nashville for Americana so a lot of people see it). I write this blog, (which dizzy's me with it's monthly traffic) and also for Outlaw Magazine and Fine Art Magazine. My Great-Uncle was a well known Pulp Fiction writer, (he basically made up Spider Man) and I host a page about him too. All link to my Facebook page. Why? So that people who are into what I do can find me, of course. And they do find me - about 10 people a day in fact. I haven't sent a friend request in over 6 mos. And when I do meet someone I want to add, at a show or wherever, I can't because FB has blocked my ability to send Friend Requests, (that's right, even without my making any).

How? Well, Facebook asks me when I accept the requests I get whether I know the person outside of Facebook. I assume the other person is asked that too (I've forgotten since it's been so long since I could make a friend request). Not going through the thought process of yes, if they know my writing, or music, or my Great-Uncle's writing they then know me outside of this little site they click no. Facebook has some kind of limit on that, as with invites, that then penalizes me. Yep. I'm penalized because too many people find me outside of Facebook then don't understand what the weird question means or why it's there. So, when you see that, as a wise friend suggested to me, don't click it.

And when you get an invite - respond, even if it's to decline.

Other Facebook rules you might not be aware of - including you have to use a 3rd party App to do a promotion - this is giving me a headache, I can't write about it anymore without becoming too overwhelmed with anger. And I wouldn't be angry if I'd known all of this when I signed up for it. Or if Facebook sent emails out telling us about the new changes so penalties could be avoided. But no. I guess that would be too, well functional for users. 

5 Things You Probably Didn't Know Are Illegal on Facebook

3 Things You May Not Know About Facebook

What No One's Talking About in the Abortion Debate - The Economic Reality and It's Impact on Society

I rarely discuss my personal experiences or political issues here but the recent reactions to a 14 year old girl's protest sign (read her statement here) in support of a woman's right to choose to terminate pregnancy struck me to the point that I feel I need to say something.

Too many people seem utterly unaware of what pregnancy and the subsequent care of an infant entail for, considering the economic crisis our society has been facing for quite a while, I'm sure a growing number of women. That is not even the main point of the abortion issue, but it is a point that I don't even hear being raised in the discussion and so it's the one I'm going to address. Maybe my story will open some eyes. I hope so. I was not poor, I was fairly middle class. I was not uneducated, I completed college and had a career commensurate with my background. I still don't quite see how we survived.

Here's what happened.

When I discovered I was pregnant with my super amazing son, (and this was 11 years ago when the economy was actually good),  I knew it would be life-changing and was excited about how marvelous those changes would be. And, of course it was! However, in retrospect, I don't see how either of us survived.

I would have never thought that would be the case, nor would anyone who knew me. I had a fantastic paralegal job with a firm that was discussing sending me to law school. I was surrounded by close friends who were also having their first children. The father and I were not together but he lived a block away and also had a very stable job/owned his home. I had great insurance. Everything seemed like it would be just fine.

But it wasn't. I became very seriously ill with toxemia, which effected my ability to work. This resulted in the firm (Civil Rights firm mind you) pushing me out of my job when I was 7 mos. pregnant (maybe 8, it was so traumatic I've blocked it out). Good luck fighting it, most of their time was spent on cases just like that so they were realllllyyyy good at pushing me out. Validly afraid I was dying and jobless at 7 or 8 mos pregnant I, of course, didn't know what on earth to do. And trust me, no one hires a pregnant woman; especially one THAT pregnant.

I wanted to be with my family, (in part because I wasn't sure I'd be around much longer), so moved from Louisville to Virginia, where they were. I, thankfully, kept my insurance. How I managed to find and pay for an apartment I don't know but somehow I did. I did have some help from my son's father, who, thank God is a really great person/father, and from family members but believe me, things were nearly impossible. If my Aunt, for example, hadn't covered the enormous cost of all the things needed for a new baby, (crib, stroller etc -- altogether it's thousands, even if you're frugal - not to mention an entire new wardrobe every 3 mos), I have no idea what we would have done.

Both of my parents have cerebal palsy so were not physically able to help or to provide child care. The father was in another state and there were no other relatives to help with it either really. This raised an impossible question - how on earth was I going to work? I was beyond qualified to earn 50,000.00 + a year but, see above for why that with paid maternity leave wasn't the case.

Now, that I had the ability to earn that much or to have paid maternity leave, (which should be a basic thing because it's absolutely a basic necessity), was not a situation most women find themselves in. It was, sadly and frankly discgracefully, an exception to the norm. So, what I found myself facing before and after the birth of my son is, unless I'm very much mistaken, a common experience.

Child care for infants is extremely, or shall I say prohibitively (to the point that I wonder if it's not as costly as it is to prevent women from being able to utilize it) expensive. I wound up paying $150 a week. Because I had been out of the work force for several months and because my experience was in another state, and also because finding someone to watch my infant while I interviewed was nearly impossible, it took a long time to find a job in spite of my qualifications, (I started in the field in the President's law firm, had fantastic references and, with a professional writing background and a typing speed of 100wpm was more qualified than many, if not most applicants).

My first position was part time, (30 hours - enough that the firm enjoyed a nearly full time employee without having to pay full time benefits). I think I was paid $11 an hour, maybe $13. Whichever the case, my check was about $200 a week. I applied for child care subsidy, which I felt was ridiculous considering what my salary history had been but there was no other choice. I made $1 an hour too much to qualify. So, I worked for $50 a week after paying for child care.

This continued until my son was about a year and a half, when I finally found a job similar to the one I'd been pushed out of in the first place. I was not able to pursue music, theater or comedy, all of which had supplemented my income at other times in my life when my job situation was less than ideal because I didn't have family help with child care and with $50 a week after paying for day care certainly couldn't pay a sitter. The same situation prevented my getting a 2nd job bartending or waitressing, which in normal circumstances I surely would have done if my day job income had only been $50 a week.

So, this is what can go down when you DO plan a pregnancy based on your (perceived) ability to support your child. Our society pays attention to the needs of mothers in a really glossed over, superficial kind of way  - and basic needs here folks - I'm not talking handouts I'm talking the ability to earn enough to live on. Hell, I'm talking about the ability to even go to work. I believe the WIC program was cut in the last go round of food stamp eliminations. 

Making abortion illegal will place God knows how many more women and children in the above situation and far worse. I was lucky. I had the support (albiet from a state away) of  a great Dad, am overly educated and was on a solid career path. Men, whether they have children or not, always have the option of education and establishing a career path. Women do not if we are not able to plan our pregnancies. That's not only profoundly screwed up, not only does a great disservice to women and children, but to society as a whole.

Like I said, there are a lot of other very important points in the argument for reproductive rights. This one, however, is as fact based as it gets. Maybe that's why it's so over looked. I hope I helped change that just a little.