Jan/Feb 2019  •   Reviews & Interviews

A New Year's Retrospective

Commentary by Gilbert Wesley Purdy

New Year's Day is approaching. Facebook continues putting up incessant offers to "Boost" the posts on my pages. A little over a year ago, the price to boost posts was $3.00. As I recall, one was tempted with the possibility of as many as 1800 views. That is to say 0-1800 views or a per-view rate of .0167 cents to ∞. Last year the price went up to $20.00, and, on at least one of my pages, a boost was just now offered for $30.00 promising up to 3211 (0-3211) views (or .0934 cents to ∞ per view).

A few months ago I was offered to boost one of my page posts at $20 for up to approximately 20,000 views. I'd been waiting for the right moment to test the post-boosting feature and the time seemed to have arrived. My post was approved. Some eight hours and 800-and-some views (a handful of page likes and no book sales) later, I began getting messages informing me that my ad was discovered not to have properly formatted to meet the requirements of boosting. It was all on me. I'd submitted an improperly formatted post. I could continue and accept whatever the results would be, or I could abort. I aborted and was billed for a partial boost at more than 10 times over the optimum per view rate. Nevertheless, I did receive "up to" 20,000 views, a.k.a. 0-20,000 views.

However many "Page Likes" one garnered in the old days, by boosting, or by the organic means that were already well on their way to being phased out, around 30 percent of them were shown any given page post in their News Feeds. Two years ago it was more like 20-25 percent. This past year it was about 10-15 percent—more depending on the number of post "likes" and comments that initial viewers left on the posts.

Like many people, I'm sure, I made up for some of the throttling by posting about my pages and books on my personal page. Last year personal-page views went down from about 50 per post to the somewhere in the low-30s. Posts that get considerable friend interaction can get considerably more.

I also sold a paper copy of one of my Kindle books today, in spite of the Facebook impediments designed to force me to buy advertising. Amazon shut down its Create Space subsidiary a few months ago and brought the on-demand publishing in-house. As part of the change it increased the production cost that it charged per unit. The book I sold now made me about two-thirds of the royalty it had last year.

None of the books shows up nearly as much as they used to on the screens of browsing Amazon book shoppers. The "Related Books" section is fast becoming an advertising space available at a sliding auction-rate based upon bidders' competition. The same would seem clearly to be the case with the higher listed books on Amazon search pages.

While I was pondering these matters, a Facebook friend announced to the Facebook world that she was letting go of her anger. She was no longer going to keep score. "If you angry with me, you won—I've let it go." "If I've wronged you, I apologize—it wasn't intentional." Etc. This was announced via a text on a black scroll that—judging from its repeated appearance in my News Feed—is one of the New Year's minor memes. To this she added that she could detect that many of her so-called friends didn't see the need to support her and her children. She was over putting up with it. We were to expect her friend list soon to be much smaller. Those to whom she was referring would soon know who they were.

This does not only happen around New Years. Cut-and-paste announcements that large numbers of us are about to be stricken from the friends lists of irate Facebookers occur on and off throughout the year. Facebookers regularly announce their departure from the platform. Some even disappear... generally for about two weeks after which they sheepishly reappear or boldly announce that they climbed that Everest and feel cleansed.

Others post sayings generally of no more than a dozen words presenting wisdom or an excruciatingly bad pun. Others post stories by purported news sites claiming that a public figure they don't like committed some horrifying crime or ate pizza with a knife and fork or told young children that Santa Claus didn't exist (for my young readers, of course he does).

It goes without saying that these tropes appear in the context of photos of children, pets, the evening's repast, and this or that friend smiling a movie star smile in front of a Mayan temple upon which hearts were once torn, still beating, from the chest of the victims of human sacrifice, or from the fake plush velvet seat of a Venetian Gondola.

And, once or twice a day-or-so, while I am trying to find a basis for optimism amidst all of this—like a finger-hold on a sheer, towering cliff face—that rational content will survive, someone clicks on one of my essays or buys one of my books. Perhaps he or she gives it a thumbs up.

Best wishes to all for the Happiest of New Years.


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