I first joined Facebook as a way to promote my book, The Orange Robe, and to inform people about book talks and signings I had coming up. Because my events didn’t take place all that often (well, not often in the world of FB posts, anyway), I found myself not posting all that often. I did, however, check out others people’s posts, and occasionally “liked” some of them. I started struggling with thoughts like, If I only post stuff about my book, will people think I’m narcissistic or overly self-absorbed? even though my primary purpose in being on FB was to do just that (post stuff about my book, not be narcissistic!). Concerned about this possible perception, I started branching out and putting up information about other topics (upcoming concerts of the choir I am in, for example) or sharing stories I think are important, inspiring, or funny.
I find myself feeling slightly disappointed when my posts (particularly those about my book) garner only a limited number of “likes” and comments. Why is this? I wonder. Why do my posts gets so few, and why does this make me feel disappointed? For one thing, I reason, I don’t have all that many Facebook friends. I have a reluctance to “friend” people I only know slightly, or the friends of friends that pop up all the time on FB. The one exception to this rule is my “friending” people in local media: columnists whose articles I particularly enjoy or producers of WHYY radio programs that I admire. (And truth be told, I harbor a secret hope that one of these local luminaries will see one of my posts about my book, get intrigued, read my book, and then . . . You get the picture.) The other thing is that I don’t “like” that many posts of others, even if I do, well, like them. You have to “like” others posts to get them to “like” yours, I figure. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. You like my posts, I’ll like yours, is the way I imagine it works.
A certain author friend recently posted information on his soon-to-be-published book. It garnered over 150 “likes” along with dozens of comments. Wow, I thought, if that could only be me! Well, it couldn’t, because I don’t have 150 FB friends. In addition, this author friend has written other books, and clearly has a following out there. I have no such following, at least not yet.
There is a certain feeling of importance and self-satisfaction to be gained from getting lots of “likes” and comments. When your cell phone starts pinging after a post, you get a jolt of something that can be compared to the Pavlovian response. A dog hears a bell that he has learned to associate with the appearance of food, and he salivates. You hear a ping from a FB posting, a sound that you’ve learned to associate with feeling important, and those feel-good hormones start coursing through your veins. You start to develop an addiction to those pings. You need more and more of them to keep you feeling good. When there are none, you feel a bit deflated . . . and disappointed. So you go on FB and post something, then go on again and post something else. You become a kind of FB junkie.
Despite laughing at myself for falling prey to such feelings, I do experience them, and I don’t let myself off lightly. (All those years doing meditation may have given me a far-too-acute awareness of my mental processes!) So will I remain on Facebook? Probably. I just need to put away my cell phone so I don’t check FB so often. What to do about those pings is another matter. I hear them even if my phone is buried deep in my handbag. Maybe I should disable them. Anyone know how?