What Scares Me about Facebook LiveJanuary 17, 2017
Technology does not stand still. Practically every day, there’s a new hot thing that promises to change our daily lives, revolutionize the way we communicate, set the earth on a new axis, etc. I’m sure there are certain people who find these changes exciting and invigorating. If those people are called early adapters, I’d be best described as a reluctant adapter — I understand that you can’t (and probably shouldn’t) stop technological progress, but I usually greet each hot new thing with an eye roll and a sigh.
That doesn’t mean I don’t try them out. Social media can be a powerful force; its socio-political impact is obvious, and in my own life it’s been helpful in promoting the ideas and causes I believe in. I don’t get truly excited about a new format until I find a way to use it to contribute to the conversation in a (hopefully) meaningful way, but I do think getting out of my comfort zone to explore new technology is usually worth the effort.
So for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been experimenting with making videos, primarily Facebook Live and Instagram Stories, and it’s been … uncomfortable and weird. Everyone who’s watched has been positive and supportive, and I haven’t had any truly embarrassing moments, but here’s what’s scaring me anyway:
I Worry about Overexposure
Posting a blog feels very non-confrontational, even though I usually promote each post on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. It’s easy to ignore a blog if you don’t want to read it. But Facebook tends to heavily promote Live posts (in hopes of encouraging more people to post Live), so when I post a video, it basically gets jammed to the top of your news feed for a day or more. I guess I should be happy about that as far as publicity’s concerned, but practically forcing people to watch my videos seems pushy, and that’s not the tone I’m going for.
I’m afraid that if I blog AND go live frequently, people are going to get sick of my opinions. When I make a video about a blog I’ve written, I’m supposed to come up with a whole video’s worth of stuff to say. According to Facebook Live best practices, a video should last at least TEN MINUTES. That’s a really long time to hear one person talking — and then you’re supposed to go read my blog on the exact same topic? Really? Seems like overkill.
I Worry about Seeming Vain … and Being Vain
Self-promotion feels a little icky at the best of times; I already post a lot of selfies. Now my face is all up in your newsfeed even more because I’m videoing my head all the time. It seems like a lot of Carrie to force on people. Also, video is a scarier format because it’s harder to control than a still image. It’s pretty easy to take a cute selfie — all you need is one nice moment (or one okay moment and some emojis). If you don’t catch that moment at first, you can take 40 more pictures until you do, and nobody will know! To shoot a non-embarrassing Facebook Live video, you actually need to be looking cute. And have good lighting. And a flattering angle. There are probably other things, too, but I haven’t really mastered this yet, so I don’t know what they are.
Rambling Seems Self-Indulgent
Apparently, you’re supposed to ramble for the first couple of minutes of a Facebook Live video because Facebook is “building your audience,” and you don’t want to start off with important information when only a couple of people are watching. But you can’t just sit there silent, either, so you’re basically supposed to either talk about nonsense while you wait or repeat yourself a lot. It’s not that I can’t spew some nonsense, but I feel like it’s wasting everybody’s time to do that. I love writing in part because it’s edited; it’s not unusual for me to cut out half of my first draft, and the work is much better for it. Being asked to fill up air with empty words is contrary to what I want to be putting into the world. And even when I get past the first rambling minutes, there’s always a point around the middle of the video when I go off on a tangent, feel stupid about it, and just want to throw up my hands and say, “Sorry, guys! I know you have more important things to be using your precious phone batteries on!”
Should I Quit Trying to Make Videos Happen?
Absolutely not — at least not yet. I like the opportunity to learn to communicate in a new way, and I think that if I keep trying to make videos, I’ll find a way to make them valuable. It was hard for me to decide what to blog about when I first started blogging, what to tweet about when I first started tweeting, and what to Instagram about when I first downloaded Instagram, too, and while I wouldn’t say I’m a master of any of those ever-evolving formats, I feel comfortable with them most of the time. I’m hoping I can find a path that makes sense for me in video, too.
Part of finding that path means accepting the rules of the format — to be a little less controlling, a little more comfortable with rambling, and a little more certain that my opinions are worth listening to (basically, tap into teenage Carrie). Part of it probably means being more accepting of myself and worrying less about what I look like (basically the opposite of teenage Carrie).
It’s frustrating to learn new technologies. It’s embarrassing to practice something publicly because it’s inevitable that you’ll look stupid at some point. But when it comes to technology and social media, just putting yourself out there and trying it is usually the best way to learn. I’m not really sure what the trick to truly embracing Facebook Live and Instagram Stories is going to be, but my hunch is that I won’t know unless I keep experimenting. That doesn’t mean I should stubbornly keep at it if it’s just not working for me (which is why you haven’t seen me Periscoping in awhile), but it does mean that I want to give it a real shot before I write it off.
Find Carrie Rollwagen’s Facebook Live videos on her Facebook page; she’s @crollwagen on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and most other social media channels. Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist, a book about buying from locally owned stores. She’s also reviews books for Southern Living and BookPage and is Communications Director at Infomedia, a web development company in Birmingham, Alabama.