This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY and Art Fag City. Disclaimer: This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
I've decided that Facebook groups have become annoying both for the admins who run their groups as well as for Facebook site users who are members of said groups. In fact, I'm finding it difficult to find anyone who is happy with the most recent changes to Facebook groups. The new Facebook group format is arguably better -- from a visual standpoint -- than previous versions. There is also a group chat window that can be helpful depending on how involved site users are with the group. However, the change came with a lot of unnecessary digital baggage. The two main problems: 1.) Facebook decided to turn all group notifications on by default. 2.) your Facebook 'friends' can add you to a Facebook group without your consent. In my opinion, these two problems have hurt artists because art groups on Facebook tend to be extremely active -- and thus are apt to suffer from the mentioned problems.
Facebook has long been a staple of marketing art online. From day one artists have used the site to promote their art -- I can remember the early days when the site was only open to college students. Art students took advantage of the sites capabilities in order to spotlight their art. That momentum continued when Facebook opened itself to a world beyond dormitory doors. Today there are thousands of art related groups on Facebook -- millions of artists use the site to promote their art... all posting with the hope that someone will like their art enough to comment. Things change -- and now those same posts are more likely to turn someone off. After all, you can't expect feedback about your art when so many Facebook users are annoyed by group notification changes. In a sense, the changes are 'killing' groups that are active... and art groups happen to be some of the most active groups on Facebook.
Let us take a look at Facebook problem #1 -- Facebook decided to turn all group notifications on by default.
The Problem: You might be asking yourself, "Why is that a problem?". Simple. It is a problem because for whatever reason Facebook decided that it was best to change your group settings for you (insiders have suggested that Facebook did this in order to improve interactions on groups for their own marketing needs). Thus, if you had selected not to receive group notifications in the past the choice you had made for your account is void. In other words, you will receive notifications for every Facebook group that you are a member of until you change your group settings again. Needless to say, the open notifications have annoyed many Facebook users -- and the problem has been amplified by the fact that Facebook did a shoddy job of informing site users of the change.
The problem with this change is that the average Facebook user is being bombarded with dozens of group notifications per day. By default a group member is notified every time a member from the same group posts on the group Wall. Those Facebook group Wall posts add up throughout the day -- especially if the group happens to be an art group. Unfortunately, many Facebook users don't understand why they are suddenly being 'hit' with notification after notification -- which has spurred some users to accuse other users of 'hacking'. Again, Facebook is the blame for the confusion... they should have done more to inform site users of the change OR simply turned all group notifications off by default. The unexpected change has made group admins a target for Facebook users who are confused as to why they are receiving group notifications in mass.
I've ran into this problem due to art-related groups I maintain on Facebook. Within the last two months I've been contacted by three individuals asking that I stop sending them notifications. I explained the situation to each individual... and offered them step-by-step instruction on how to change their Facebook group settings. Unfortunately, only one 'heard' me out. The other two went into hostility mode -- again, all because Facebook failed to adequately inform all site users of the group notification changes. Point blank -- I've been blamed for issues that Facebook caused AND have had to try my best to clean up their mess.
In dealing with my accusers I have had some interesting discussions. One went as far as to accuse me of "hacking" her account. I explained to her what to do in order to change her group settings -- she refused to do it claiming that I was going to further "infect her computer". She then informed me that she had reported me to Facebook for abusing group notifications. She claimed that I had turned her notifications on without her consent. You read that correctly -- she reported me for something that Facebook did. I'm certain that Facebook customer support had a few laughs that day.
Another angry Facebook user demanded that I remove her from the groups I maintain -- she was annoyed by notifications. She continued to make that demand even after I offered her a step-by-step on how to remove herself from the groups (it is not that difficult to figure out -- it just takes a 'click'). She threatened me with a "lawsuit" if I did not comply with her request. I informed her of Facebook group policy and reminded her that it is her responsibility to remove herself from a group. She responded with more 'lawyer talk'. By that point I was frustrated -- I told her that I'm not her secretary and informed her that if she is capable of logging on to Facebook one can assume that she is more than capable of removing herself from any Facebook group she is a member of. Point blank -- I had become just as annoyed as her... the only difference is that I knew who to blame. For whatever reason she refused to accept that Facebook had changed her group notification settings without her consent.
In all my years of utilizing Facebook I never thought that I would be working as customer support for free. Don't get me wrong -- I'm more than happy to help someone out. That said, my appreciation for Facebook has greatly decreased due to the fact that I've had to clean up their mess. True, I have only experienced a few issues like this -- but what if it were to become a daily hassle? What if everyday I had to explain to a fellow Facebook user how Facebook works and the changes Facebook has made? True, I could ignore them -- but that only leads to further accusations against me from Facebook users who don't understand that they should be taking their aggression out on Facebook... not me. Case in point -- one of the angry Facebook users I dealt with felt that I did not respond to her request in a timely manner... thus she took it upon herself to publicly accuse me of 'hacking' her account. She posted on the group and on my personal Wall. Again, Facebook group admins are becoming targets due to the choices of Facebook.
Facebook needs to be careful when making major decisions like this. After all, I know that I introduced thousands of artists to Facebook during the early years. Furthermore, I have stated that Facebook can be a powerful tool for exposure -- and have advocated that for several years now. That said, why should I promote Facebook if Facebook is going to slap me in the face by implementing changes that turn me into a target for ridiculous accusations? Is it my fault that some Facebook users are confused about the situation? No. Facebook needs to do more to inform users of these changes. Period.
In my opinion these recent changes will 'kill' Facebook groups for many Facebook users -- groups that are active will be hurt the most... and art groups on Facebook tend to be extremely active. After all, if I'm being accused of 'hacking' I can only assume that other Facebook group admins are as well. Your average Facebook group admin does not want to deal with this confusion. The accusations are ridiculous -- but not as ridiculous as a website implementing major changes with little to no explanation. The problem could have been prevented had Facebook been more clear to site users overall... or if they had simply chosen not to turn all notifications on. Facebook groups for artists will all face these problems if they have not already.
More to come...
Take care, Stay true,