04 November 2012


facebook button
facebook— People have a love-hate relationship with facebook. I have a hate-hate thing going. It doesn't like me and I don't like it.

Although I maintain a professional profile on LinkedIn and CrimeSpace, some of us aren't particularly geared toward social media. The phrase "my life is an open book" isn't my cup of tea; I value privacy too much.

But authors must reach out to fans, right? 'Yes' is the obvious answer and John Floyd advised me to give facebook a try. That… didn't… work out so well.

I signed up. It asked for my address book and I refused– I always refuse to allow programs access to my address book– too many ways trust can be misused and facebook is notorious for abusing trust. It has one of the worst reputations when it comes to privacy and security of information. It frowned at that.

Next thing it wanted me to join 'apps', things like the Birthday Book and Farmville. I carefully read the fine print which gave them and the 'app makers' rights to do pretty much what they want with my personal information. Not cool; I refused. The face of facebook glared at me.

I started looking for people– family members, friends, Criminal Briefers, SleuthSayers… I found a few. facebook looked at those people and offered me 'friends' of friends. So sure, I knew Margery Flax, James Lincoln Warren, Lee Goldberg, and I sort of knew J.A. Konrath.

face to faceless

So I picked out dozens of authors I'd met at through MWA and Bouchercon and blithely clicked them as they popped up. Then I clicked on Rhys Bowen. It asked "Are you sure you know this person?"

Well, yes. I hadn't danced with her or been there during childbirth, but I sat next to her at a conference and we chatted. I'd made her acquaintance, hadn't I?

I clicked 'yes'. Moments later facebook sent a message it was banishing me for claiming friends I don't know.

Uh-oh. They offered her as a suggestion, and now they took her away?  Maybe it had been a trick question. Did I know she was English but lived in California? Did I know her real name is Janet Quin-Harkin? Did I know about the mole above her third rib? But they didn't ask me.

Not for a moment do I think Rhys Bowen hovered over her keyboard waiting to pounce when I clicked her name: "There's that damn Leigh stalking me again, first at conferences and now facebook. I'll show him, ha ha!" *poof*

faceless Bureaucracy

I'd heard stories of facebook booting people off for little or no reason. The problem of such one-size-fits-all software is it has no 'heuristics', no sense of judgment, no way to fit square pegs into round holes. I don't take well to being told what to do and a peremptory decision by a software program galled me. It felt like a parental smack by an arbitrarily awful parent.

thumbs down
But okay, I'd try one more time with a different eMail address. I set up again but it must have picked up cookies from my previous attempt. It asked me if I knew my own niece. I clicked yes, and this time found myself terminated.

My niece! A facebook page said I could appeal but they don't have to give a reason for their decision, and they didn't. At least I didn't have crops spoiling in Farmville. Do people pay for that game? Does anyone pay for things they can't access when barred, banned, or terminated?

Well, fu2

Months went by and someone suggested I try facebook again. I tried to log in and there was that page saying I could appeal, but I'd already appealed and arrived nowhere.

But Velma could join! And so she did. She experimented and learned about using facebook. She's flip-lip, funnier and more gregarious than I am and she built a solid circle of friends. A few times a week new people clasp her to their bosom in digital friendship.

Naked Animosity

Vicariously, I followed Velma's exploits. Because anyone could say anything, odd conversations took place. For example, a woman berated an art page blathering on how offensive it was and that children were present. She complained about a mix of monochrome art prints, pin-ups, and romantic pics with less skin than Vero Beach.
art erotica

A couple of things struck me. When she first 'Liked' the page, what did she expect? It reminded me of the woman who said, "But officers, if you climb on the chair and peer over the hedge with binoculars, you can see he's stark naked!"

Frankly, hysteria more than nudity will damage kids, but I grew up in a family where art was understood and appreciated. If children were present, why wasn't the woman supervising them? Initially she claimed she'd lined up 600 people to complain to facebook then later said she'd formed a petition with 389 names to ban the page.

Okay, facebook was started for college students, but sometimes adults like to have adult discussions. For reasons beyond me, that woman didn't agree. I would come to remember that incident…


These days, facebook boils with election tirades. My eMail inbox overflows with political rants that when scratched, turn out to be falsehoods, dozens upon dozens. I hate lies but some people buy into them.

I find it equally offensive when people claim either candidate is a liar. While their facts might be a bit wobbly, a difference of opinion doesn't make a candidate a liar. If we wrongly over-use a word, the word become meaningless.

Upon rare occasions, a message crops up where Velma can't keep her mouth shut. Most are good things: How can you not applaud Margery Flax volunteering to help others in need? How can you not appreciate the Hair Plus Day Spa in Hillsborough, New Jersey offering free shampoos and showers? How can you not like a Republican governor and a Democrat president working together?

In Your face

But not everyone likes the positive. From crime writing, I developed a nose sensitive to bullshit. Thus it came to pass, a picture popped up that offended sensibilities. The photo from an account called 'Tax Payer' purported to show Muslims rioting in Michigan with comments ranting about freedom versus satanism and the usual tripe that the liberal or libertarian press is covering up this important story. A familiar alarm went off: another lie, photographic hate speech.
Dearborn fake

It took only a few minutes to discover the photograph was not taken in Dearborn, Michigan but from news agency file footage shot three to eight years earlier in Afghanistan. In fact, there's a recent Radio Free Europe Afghanistan story using that same file photo.

Velma posted a single comment, one and only one: "This is hokum. The photo is real, but taken more than 3 years go in Afghanistan, not the USA. Check your photo source, you may be in copyright violation."

Before they deleted that comment, one guy actually wrote back: "It may not be accurate but it represents truth."

What? How can compounded lies reveal truth?

thumbs down
Velma's comment was quickly eradicated as I suspect were others inconsistent with the lie, deleted and barred from further commenting.

And then a funny thing happened. A facebook message popped up saying due to complaints about spamming, Velma was barred from sending messages and contacting people she didn't know.

Okaaay. That punishment thing again, for what? Daily messages about colleagues surely didn't imply spam. One single message to 'Tax Payer' didn't constitute spam, did it?


But I remembered an article about author Deborah MacGillivray and her coven who manipulated Amazon with 'clickies', negative reports of abuse they used to ban critics. facebook has a similar 'click abuse' button. I recalled the woman who claimed she'd gathered 389 people to take down the art page. Had 'Tax Payer' and his sycophantic cronies ganged up and clicked the abuse button to silence the truth?

Due to facebook's lack of transparency I'll never know for sure, but the site certainly doesn't treat people like adults, especially those who act adult. It's ironic that the teens facebook was created for are fleeing to other social networking sites where they can converse out of the shadow of parents while we're stuck on a site with rules for children.

face down

I sometimes see messages like "I'm back from my most recent 30 day ban." This raises at least three questions: Why were they banned? Why did they return? Why do I suspect they're going to be quickly banned again?

SleuthSayers readers are fine, upstanding citizens but have you faced facebook problems? What is your experience? Tell us face-to-face.


  1. Hey, that'll teach you to take MY advice.

    Sorry for all the problems. I actually kinda like FB, although I use it mostly to contact longlost buddies from high school, IBM, the Air Force, etc., that I honestly doubt I could locate any other way. I have absolutely no desire to find out what so-and-so had for lunch yesterday, or whether such-and-such just got back from a dental appointment, etc., and I can't imagine anyone else wanting to know that either. It's a wild and crazy world . . .

  2. I'm glad someone else has problems with FB. I can never seem to leave posts and comments.

  3. I avoid Facebook except looking to see who my sons are "in relationship with," but I was advised not to turn down any friend requests because they could be readers who wouldn't buy my next book if I didn't accept them. A friend offered to "maintain" my social media for a minimal fee, but I declined. Leigh, I've never been kicked off Facebook, but in my youth (you know, back in my forties) I was with a group that was thrown out of the Waffle House at 3 am. Does that correlate?

  4. I joined FB some years back when I needed (in an emergency) to contact someone whose telephone number, email and address I lacked. Then I sat their and did nothing and FB sort of happened all around me.

    One of the things I find most strange is all of the high school cheerleader types who would have nothing to do with me THEN and now dote on being my friend. What a cruel joke -- popularity denied in the 60s granted when I am IN my 60s.

  5. Leigh, I use Facebook without liking it much. Biggest plus: I can go to my daughter-in-law's page to see the latest pix of my grandkids. I'm not allowed to post them on my own page or on Blogger, but that safety rule comes from the parents, who prefer to have full control of the list of folks who can see them. If you're publishing a novel (or trying to), agents and editors will want to hear you have a Facebook page and preferably Twitter too. Whether it sells books is an open question (or the answer is "It depends"), but it's still expected as part of the author's responsibility for doing everything he or she can to market the book. As for the combination of infantilization and manipulation by Big Brother, Aaron Sorkin's movie, The Social Network, illuminated how come Facebook is what it is: created by adolescents and run by a narcissistic and ruthless businessman.

  6. Like Liz, I was encouraged to join Facebook by my publisher. Since sales of my books are in the single digits I doubt that it has been of much help.

    I use it sparingly. Reading unfunny crude jokes, scrolling through reams of political opinions, pictures of nude and half nude men and women, (depending on your sexual persuasion), experiencing aches and pains--I have enough of my own--is not something I want to spend a lot of time doing.

    In short, Facebook is of no use to me.

  7. There will always be people who subvert the system (whatever the system is) and get away with it if the system allows. These people think their view is the only one that counts, and see the system as a game. What's right or wrong doesn't really matter, only that they win, even if the system in place loses in the end.
    As for the systems themselves, if they aren't well monitored for fairness, then those type of people mentioned in the above paragraph end up running (ruining) that system. There are some posting boards now where I have to search for the 10% of good posts and use the delete button for all the rest. It's too bad that the rotten apples sometimes win.

  8. These are helpful comments. It will be interesting if I do get a book out there if FB will let me back in. Strange feeling to be chided by software.

    Dale, I know what you mean, but I think it's wisdom come lately.

  9. Leigh, this is my second go round with Facebook. I didn’t like it the first time, and still don’t. The first time I kept getting email messages supposedly from a friend whom I had known since the second grade. Only problem was they didn’t seem to come from him. He always contacted me directly through email or phone. When I contacted him, the invitation to do something with the farm game didn’t come from him.
    Biggest problem the first time was I forgot my password and when I hit the “forgot your password button,” I was asked to input my email address, which I did. Then I was told to input my old password! When Velma signed on, persuading me to return, I was able to do so by signing up as a new member. Lo and behold, there was my old Facebook page.
    I still don’t know how to navigate the site; I don’t know many of the folks they suggest I “friend.” Hell, I’m not sure just what I’m suppose to do on the site.
    I also feel the site’s security is unreliable, so I don’t give personal information anymore. I did the first time but no more, not this time.

  10. I'm confused about all the discussion concerning being locked out, having to use a password to sign in, etc.

    Whenever I post on FB, which is very seldom I click on the icon on the toolbar, write my message and press "enter". No passwords, no interaction with anyone or anything. Any response to my post appears under my message and I am notified by email that a response has been sent.

    Am I doing something wrong?

  11. The main reason I'm on Facebook is because we have a bunch of relatives in Ireland, and, with the time difference, it's the easiest way to stay in touch with them. Other than that, I find myself alternating between obsessively scrolling through everything on my home page and just not going there at all: can you tell (to refer to Elizabeth's piece) that I'm in Al-Anon?

  12. Eve, I wasn't going to mention the Eve-in-AlAnon page. (grin)

    Herschel, you probably gave it a password long ago and your computer and theirs still remembers it. Some systems require you enter a password every couple of weeks, systems like Yahoo's usually in the midst of a critical eMail which it promptly obliterates.

  13. I joined FB to keep up with Kids and grandkids. I continue with it because it's one way that I'm able to hear from friends around the country almost daily. And at my convenience and at their convenience. I'm not sure it does help book sales but I try to do my shameless promotion when I have one...lol. I've actually never had problems with it...knock wood.

  14. I got on FB to find an old army buddy, but couldn't. Then, a few months later, he found me on FB. I like the way it works for reconnecting with old friends, and have used it that way.

    I don't particularly care to share meal information with folks, or to read about the minutia of their day to day life. On the other hand, it's nice to learn it's somebody's birthday -- although it seems very odd when I get a TON of Happy B-day wishes from loads of people I haven't spoken to in decades.

    Lately, I too have been running to the password problems Louis mentioned. And, other problems -- such as FB refusing to let me sign on unless I reveal information I don't really want out to let out into internet-land. So, FB seems to be a bit of broken tool, as far as I'm concerned, at the moment. I can (and do) recieve email alerts when somebody messages or friends me, but I can't currently seem to get onto the site. LOL


Welcome. Please feel free to comment.

Our corporate secretary is notoriously lax when it comes to comments trapped in the spam folder. It may take Velma a few days to notice, usually after digging in a bottom drawer for a packet of seamed hose, a .38, her flask, or a cigarette.

She’s also sarcastically flip-lipped, but where else can a P.I. find a gal who can wield a candlestick phone, a typewriter, and a gat all at the same time? So bear with us, we value your comment. Once she finishes her Fatima Long Gold.

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