I paid Facebook to promote my content. They claimed they would “Customize your audience to reach more people who may be interested in your business.”
These are comments I received from that audience: “Phreak show with mental issues!! “Perversion… God protect these children. “Repent.” “By all means, warp the minds of more children.”
On the heels of the Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen’s testimony to congress, I can’t help but wonder if I’m seeing what she was testifying to congress about in real-time.
I’m the co-host of a podcast called If These Ovaries Could Talk and co-author of a book by the same name. Our mission is to normalize, celebrate and highlight LGBTQ families. We’ve interviewed almost 150 people, including the CEO of GLAAD, Rosie O’Donnell, and lots of folks who just want to share their journey to parenthood.
Sharing our episodes on Facebook and in Facebook groups is instrumental in spreading our content.
We’ve built a community of nearly 3000 followers, and one would think most of those people would see our posts, but that’s not the case. On average, our posts are organically served to anywhere from 20 to 100 people. That means that approximately .025 percent of our followers see our posts.
So what’s an independent creator trying to spread the word to do? The answer feels a lot like pay-to-play. You must boost your posts so they appear in more people’s feeds. Now, we have a small budget, but even a $15 boost will get our post in front of a couple of thousand people. Historically, that’s been money well spent because a portion of that audience clicks our link, listens to our podcast, and joins our community.
But Facebook is constantly tweaking the system for boosting ads, and they are increasingly pushing creators toward an automated system where Facebook chooses the goal and/or the audience for the post. The subtext is that their algorithm knows best. “Trust us. We got you. You’re moments away from going viral!”
I began experimenting with their automated system because the audiences I created were nothing more than a mishmash of people in a certain age range who liked Melissa Etheridge and Ellen. I trusted Facebook’s system and believed it would bring in more clicks and would help surface our content to more people.
Instead, our boosted posts became plagued with hate-speak from ignorant zealots informing us we were going to burn in hell. We also received a lot of negative comments from red-state folks screaming that our posts were filth in their feeds.
I’m not blaming Facebook for homophobia or ignorance. We’ve always gotten some trolling comments. But those were usually on topics that are triggering to the right, such as trans folks having babies or LGBTQ people talking about religion and spirituality. But these days, every single post we boost gets trolled. I now spend a large portion of my day banning users who post hate-speak on our page.
Here’s what I don’t understand, Facebook must see all the banned people on our page. And, I’m not stereotyping here, but they’re the same type of person — white dudes in flannel with a confederate flag as a backdrop. None of these people want to see our LGBTQ stories. So why does Facebook’s finely-tuned algorithm, worked on by Stanford Graduates, continue to send those people my content?
Is Facebook aware they are doing this and perhaps encouraging it through their algorithm or is it that they have a lack of safety protocols?
It’s difficult not to assume sinister intent on Facebook’s part. It seems like Facebook wants this conflict. They want the click-throughs. They want folks to be up in arms because angry people comment and interact more, thus staying on the app for longer periods of time.
Those numbers are monetizable.
During her testimony, the whistleblower, Frances Haugen said, “The result has been more division, more harm, more lies, more threats, and more combat. In some cases, this dangerous online talk has led to actual violence that harms and even kills people.”
She also said that their mission is all about the pursuit of growth and “astronomical profit.”
What angers me beyond the fact that Facebook seemingly wants a giant divide in our country because it’s good for their bottom line, is that I am paying them to serve our content to folks who want it and will benefit from it. I am not paying them to get me into fights with people who hate me and want to light something on fire because I brought kids into this world.
I haven’t been a huge proponent of Facebook for many years, and I don’t let my nearly teenage daughter use Facebook or Instagram because I believe it’s not healthy for young kids, girls in particular. But I’ve always told myself that I’m using Facebook for good–I’m sharing positive stories about the love and intentionality with which LGBTQ folks make their families. The platform is a necessary evil in helping us get our message to the masses.
I’m not ready to log off of Facebook for good, yet because I think it is still helping us spread love stories in this angry and divided world.
But I am starting to wonder if Facebook is eviler than it is necessary.
Featured Image credits – People vector created by stories – www.freepik.com