Staying friends with facebook

Like most people, I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I recently considered breaking up with facebook.

All the major social media platforms – facebook, twitter, etc. – are designed to attract our continuing attention, to make us turn towards them and away from whatever it may be that we previously decided we should focus on. Social media companies make money when they have our attention, so they employ scientists who know how to appeal to our “lizard brain” and keep us coming back.

Social media distraction is a challenge lying in bed or sitting at a desk and it is a challenge in life and politics. There is a lot of evidence that social media can distract people from more meaningful relationships. Social media encourage us to live in a digital echo chamber instead of engaging in meaningful dialog, contributing to the proliferation of “fake news” and isolating people from alternative perspectives.

As a servant of the people, I try to listen to people in every way that I can. I’ve invested a lot of effort in creating my own web presence that allows me to inform my constituents about emerging issues and engage in focused dialog.

I’ve struggled with facebook. I haven’t been sure what kind of posts are appropriate for me on facebook. I don’t feel that personal news about my family and our latest food experiences is appropriate for my official facebook page. Nor have I felt that facebook is a good platform for the deeper analysis that I like to put on my website. So, I’ve ended up just facebooking links to new posts on my website and sharing pictures of myself and my constituents at various events.

Speaking as a citizen, I know that I’m really not interested in pictures of other politicians and I’m guessing citizens aren’t very interested in pictures of me either. I assumed that most of the people actually viewing my facebook page were probably also on my email list and they didn’t need to also get the links on facebook. So, I was about ready to just shut the channel down. I have no desire to be part of the distraction problem.

My millennial chief of staff argued against me doing that. So, I paused. I posted to facebook and just asked people whether they were getting anything out my page. I was surprised that a number of people pushed back and said that the page was the main way they heard from me. Most of them were not on my email list and some were people I didn’t know.

I shouldn’t have been surprised – over two thirds of American adults use facebook. It is by far the most-used social media platform in every age group. Three quarters of facebook users check it daily and many Americans look to it for political news.

At the same time as I was reassessing my relationship with facebook, facebook has been reassessing itself, acknowledging the dangers of distraction, and trying to move in the direction of more meaningful interaction.

So, maybe there’s a future for our relationship. I’m going to try using my facebook page as a focused discussion venue. My website will remain the repository of my extended thoughts on issues that are central for me. My facebook page will be a secondary channel for notice and discussion of those issues and a primary channel for sharing information on some additional issues. I’ll only post to it two or three times a week.

So, please consider following the “Will Brownsberger” page on facebook.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

39 replies on “Staying friends with facebook”

  1. I am not a user of Facebook, precisely for the reasons you outlined.

    I agree that using it as a communication medium for people who do use it makes sense, but all the addictive and advertising features are of no interest to me. I will stick with your website and email.

  2. I do not use social media as I feel there is too much fake news out there. Print media can be held accountable for what they say in print but individuals can be putting fake news out as they wish. The Internet is a wonderful tool for data collection, research and information. We need however to avoid getting “addicted” to being on line or believing everything others tell us to. This could be dangerous as many can be convinced to act on false truths. Better to stay alert and check all types of media rather than being “controlled ” by one. Our minds deserve better.

  3. There is also another aspect of Facebook to consider. The fact that many of its “impartial” algorithms favor white men over PoC and women. There have been many cases of PoC and women posting about the harassment they have gotten on Facebook, but then getting banned for violating the offensive speech policy, though their harassers are left untouched.

    An example:


  4. I don’t and never have used Facebook–they want to know too much about me. Emails have always worked fine for me, keep them coming.

  5. I am not on social media except for email. Have been on Twitter and Facebook. Life calmer and more peaceful without it. You don’t have to use your real name or identity. Both have too much writing and responses from inane to disgusting and hateful. There is no reason for using it. I believe the world would be better without these 2 modes of communication. There is no doubt that many people are on, but these include ultra right wing and worse. News and content shows that both companies are irresponsible , though it has taken a push to even take responsibility. I don’t even want my name used for this.

  6. It’s good to use all channels available. People are receptive to information at different times, based on their own lives rather than on your schedule. So even if you’re presenting the same information everywhere, it’s useful.

    I’m not sure how the recent changes to the FB feed will affect people seeing your information. The Belmont Citizen-Herald editor wrote a post asking people make a setting change to be sure to see their posts more often; that might be useful for you, too.

    But I agree that your professional FB page should be used for professional activities. Unless you’re baking a *really* great loaf of bread…

  7. I’m not on Facebook. The old adage is that if you are getting something for free, it isn’t the product, you are the product. I don’t like my relationships and other personal info being tracked, packaged and sold to whoever pays for it, or demands it, or hacks into it.

  8. I do not participate in any form of social media.
    I read your blog. I comment when I feel it is warranted.

  9. Speaking for myself, I detest Facebook. But I don’t have a Millenial staffer (or indeed any staffers at all).

  10. I don’t participate in any social media. I do read these posts with comments as much as possible.

  11. I don’t use Facebook or Twitter. I value my privacy and want to control it.

    I had a Facebook account years ago, but I quickly found it a waste of time and I never went back. But others use social media to connect with people.

    If it helps you better reach your constituents, and it doesn’t distort your message, keep doing it.

    Your communication with me is important.


  12. I broke up with my cellphone long time ago (mostly budgetary reasons) just have landline now. I am in walking distance to the public library and that is my internet access. Facebook is virtual version of the supermarket tabloids. It is chewing gum for the mind, chews up intellectual bandwidth with no value to show for it. Now as far as your millennial chief of staff, delegate Facebook/Twitter to him/her to manage and sort out what is important that is why (s)/he gets the big bucks and tell you what is important. Now about twitter, that is worse. I don’t think you should follow the Potty-mouth of the United States as how to use it. Either give your Blackberry to your chief of staff and let him/her word and execute your press releases or next time you are near the commode, drop it in and pull the chain.

  13. I guess it’s the problem of network effect again. I wonder what proportion of facebook users are in this boat where they aren’t particularly fond of the platform but feel they need to be there because either family is there or some mass of people they need to reach is there.

    Myself, I like your website and find the frequency of emails you send pointing to items here exactly right in frequency and the best way to reach me. I wish other representatives had similar systems and really wish the Democratic party in general would be as thoughtful about how much they email. (I feel fortunate we have the federal senators we do, but, sorry, I really don’t see the need to read emails from them every day, and they’re wasting their time asking for money until there’s a scary enough poll!)

    Myself, I’m in the You Won’t Find me on Facebook crowd. I feel compelled to mention the social media sites set up to not have certain problems Facebook does, but I don’t use those either, so I’ll only namedrop two in case you’re curious: GNU Social and Mastadon. But while they might have features useful to you, I suspect that they lack the main feature, that of being where your constituents are in numbers.

  14. Personally. I usually ignore Facebook as it is so filled with *Junk Mail*. Love to receive your emails which focus on important and relevant issues.

  15. Think you have made the best decision, and see how it works. I seldom look at political leaders’ Facebook pages, but maintaining that presence may be the best way to maintain contact with as many people as possible. And the more issue-oriented the page is, the better.

  16. Will, I completely agree with Mike.. Butbthere is definitely some merit in remaining onFacebook for those who do use it for news(yikes!) but that may be a generational thing.
    I prefer your posts, they are thoughtful and full of detail and discussion from the district is also thoughtful and meaningful to me.
    Thanks for your continued efforts to keep us all engaged, something the rest of our legislators should consider.

  17. Will … thanks for the review! I enjoyed getting your GIS info on flooding in inner Boston. The CAP sure was a waste of taxpayer money. I read a recent article in The Economist how Japan is using trolleys to bring older citizens into city centers! It seems to be a real win-win.

  18. My husband and I do not use Facebook, just because. However, I would never want you to use our position as a reason to use or not use this tool.

  19. I deleted my Facebook account years ago and I’m never going back. I realize the rules are bit different for a public figure. My best wishes for your successful communications.

  20. Please Will don’t use Facebook as a primary platform and thereby diminish the information and contact you have with those of us who don’t use Facebook and never will. Thanks

  21. Will,
    I understand your dilemma. I also have a love-hate relationship with facebook, and understand every reason to use it, and every reason NOT to use it.

    Unfortunately, it’s a reality of the 21st century, and we have the burden of using SO MANY platforms to communicate.

    Thanks for your thoughtful input, as always. Keep up the great work at the Statehouse. The omnibus bill for justice/corrections systems reform might never have happened, or so soon, without your leadership.

  22. I am not on Facebook. I was on it for a short period, and felt it wanted to suck all my free time. So I left. I get your e-mails, which I appreciate. I try not to be judgmental about people who are on Facebook!

  23. Will, I try to stay away from Facebook as much as possible, which means almost entirely. Aside from all of the other downsides which are detailed herein, make no mistake, social media sites are searching your hard drive and stealing personal information. That is how they make money.

    The stores of personal information collected by these sites are just waiting for a malefactor to use them with bad intentions if that has not already happened.

    Yes Will, you and I are both on the Google platform and I have grave misgivings about that. I suspect that we would be astounded and appalled if we were privy to the information that Google has collected. The potential for grave misuse is frightening.

  24. Will,

    I prefer your emails as a means of staying in contact. They have useful links for further reading.

    One fault that I find with Facebook is the lack of investigating the Russian posts and misleading anonymous news. FB does not merit use by a legitimate politician because FB has not proved to be operating in good faith.

    I have read of recent changes in FB administration, so I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt for now.

    Responsible journalism is needed.


  25. well, I hate FB….but if your reason to stay there is to provide intelligent input for those who love it, I think you are honor-bound to continue.
    My condolences!
    sue sheffler

  26. Facebook : may skew to older demographic..while some of your vocal supporters are wary, there are many more to reach than the base you already count on for votes.. Just copy and paste your essays. Also useful for looking up photos to go with names (not me I have used an alias since creating my account) younger demographic uses it primarily for IMs or photos. Not politics.
    Twitter, sigh, is where you need a presence for your younger voters especially but others as well.. Progressives are posting and more importantly reposting.. This will increase your reach.. I’m not on Twitter but I get sent many political articles this way. I checked with five voters under 30 and they agreed.

  27. Hi Will,
    Do you still want to hear from us even if we are not your constituents any more? I do appreciate all the work you’ve done on the airline traffic, very much!!
    I don’t use Facebook for privacy reasons for myself, just to occasionally check a msg from a friend. I am trying to simplify my life, too many real distractions that need attention without adding more chatter.
    My mantra in going forward to reduce clutter is: Do I really need this (even if I may want it?)
    I’m on your email list and that works fine for me.

    Cynthia Tollen

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