When I had my nursery, I used to really enjoy helping people solve gardening problems. The joy on their faces was clear, the gratitude was evident and we both felt good when they could succeed in their garden. Whether it was me scribbling down a quick perennial design they could plant that afternoon, identifying a plant or disease, or any number of questions and problems brought to me in those twenty-five years, it was good to help. The folks appreciated it and they showed that appreciation in both their faces and their continued support of our family nursery business.
When I turned my writing career online, that dynamic slowly changed. In the early days, people were still grateful but as the past few years have unfolded, there’s less and less spontaneous gratitude expressed. In fact, communicating on the Net has eliminated most of the social cues we use for communicating the subtleties of polite conversation (hence the rise and use of emoticons). 🙂
A few months ago, I re-installed Facebook commenting on my websites to tie my author page to my sites. This system replaced another system called “Disqus” that had turned into a spam trap – attracting all kinds of spammers and I’d spend a half-hour every morning just deleting porn links. There is no native commenting system on my sites as there is on WordPress so these kinds of plugins were useful.
This morning I made the decision to remove Facebook as well and to move forward with no commenting system. I will continue to answer a few questions every week in my newsletter but there will be no system on my websites to ask or get answers to questions.
One: By actual count, the number of people who thanked me for answering their question was less than 5%. Seriously, less than 5% of people would take the time to post a simple “thank you.” In the last 4 months, I’ve received one thank-you for answering a question in the newsletter.
Two: Spammers have found the FB commenting system and thank you very much, if I want a virus or flood of porn pics, I’ll visit your amazing site.
Three: Stupid garden salespeople think they can spam sites. “Please follow this link for the best grass seed in the world.” Really?
Four: Well, here’s where I do my best to stay away from snark and fail miserably. I get questions such as:
“Where can I buy oregano oil in Lagos?” (posted on the water garden page and really – what chance does some Canadian garden writer have of knowing this. How in heck did it wind up on a water garden area?)
“How do I grow daylilies?” (posted on the tomato-growing page – and you’re asking it here?)
“I can grow daylilies but need to know how to grow tomatoes (posted on the daylily page and perhaps I can introduce you to another reader to help you)
(see a pattern developing here)
“My poppies don’t grow. Why? (posted on the poppy page and she gets high marks for being on the right page but fails for not reading the article or asking any kind of answerable question.)
“Do you sell puppies?” Huh?)
I get a few of these almost every day now and I have to confess, it starts my day off on the wrong foot. It takes me out of my morning flow, of listening to the birds sing, of crickets ending their night chorus, it’s a good cup of coffee ruined.
While I don’t take it personally, I don’t need the distraction and the sense of “WTF” that all too frequently comes along. And when I find myself NOT wanting to open the commenting code box to see what’s in there – I know it’s time to pack it in. That time raised it’s head this morning.
So pack it in I’m doing. By the end of the weekend, the Facebook commenting system will be relegated to the e-waste bucket and I’ll return to the tried and true of answering a question or three every week in the newsletter.
Moral of the Story
If this is what the nature of social media for writers has turned into, then I’m no longer interested in being in this playground. I’m not sure what the alternatives are now, but I’m thinking about that as I move forward to this brave new future of ours.
I decided the lack of commenting was worse than some reader’s reaction. I changed the header to suggest comments should be relevant to the content of the page and gave a link to ask unrelated questions. Has cut abuse by 95% and both the abuse and my blood pressure have returned to normal. I’ve had two or three but have nicely said I’d add an article or suggested they check the search box.
Mind you – it’s all on a site “include” (I can take all forms down across the site by erasing one file) so I feel quite comfortable changing my mind again if things get out of hand. 🙂