Wednesday, November 03, 2010

How to Trash Your Professional Image on Facebook in One Easy Lesson

Some writers are much better at fiction than they are at real life.  I was reminded of that last night.
Thousands of professional writers and performers use a Facebook page to sell books and music, and most of them do an effective job in balancing what they display of their personal lives with the image they want to project to potential customers.  Others, though, manage to insult or offend so many potential buyers of their wares that their Facebook page does more harm than good.  That is particularly a problem around election day for those who get so caught up in the emotion of the moment they forget why they started a Facebook page, in the first place.
East Texas author Beth Fehlbaum fell into that trap last night, a trap she had come dangerously close to falling into several times over the last month or so.  Not long after it became obvious that Rick Perry had won another term as Texas governor, I noticed that Fehlbaum was not taking the news well, and that she found it hard to believe that so many people had voted for Perry rather than for former Houston mayor, Bill White.  I posted a brief comment on her page that my vote for Perry was actually more a vote against White than it was a vote for Perry because I was unhappy with the way that White, as mayor, had transformed Houston into a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants.
Her first response was this generic rant (not, I think, aimed specifically at me):
"What's sad is, I am related to a bunch of the people who voted this prick into office again.  I've changed the channel because I am in disbelief that JOHN F'ing BOEHNER, Captain Suntan, is going to be the *!?!@! SPEAKER OF THE #!?!@ HOUSE!!! He's an obnoxious twit. Alright, Republicans, you've done it now. Great job. Fan-f'ing-tastic. And I'm also disappointed that the Democrats couldn't pull their shit together.  Wave bye to Rick, y'all, cause he's headed off on his damned BOOK TOUR now to kick-start his presidential campaign. Maybe he and Palin will team up and all the sheep that voted him back into office will vote that team into office, then our country will truly be screwed. I will never, never, never, never, never understand how people can watch shit like Fox News and actually believe it. On that note, I am going to bed. Do me a favor, by the way. DON'T TELL ME IF YOU VOTED REPUBLICAN, because I don't think I will be able to scrape together enough self control to use symbols like *!?!@! to express my feelings."

This was almost immediately followed by one for me, personally:
"@ Sam: bullshit. That is all."
One minute later, there was this:
"Know what, Sam? Vote Green or Libertarian then. At least be able to look at yourself in the morning."

I responded something to the effect that I would be fine in the morning and would be able to shave with my eyes wide open.
Seven minutes later, Beth posted a link to an editorial in the Austin newspaper that defended Bill White from charges that he had made Houston into a sanctuary city.  The crux of the editorial was that since no city ordinance doing so had ever been considered, White was innocent of the accusation.  I responded that an official ordinance was not necessary for Houston to have been transformed into an effective sanctuary for illegals and that politicians were not suicidal when it came to protecting themselves from the voter- so, of course, no ordinance existed.  White was more subtle than that. I also indirectly quoted friends I have within the HPD who described a culture within the department during the White years that discouraged them from doing much to determine the legal status of anyone they came into contact with during the course of their duty.
Next up, was this reply from Beth:
"So your problem is with Mexicans living in the U.S., then? Is that it? I teach exclusively Mexican-American and Mexican children. My teaching partner and my compadres in the program I teach in are Mexican Americans and Mexican citizens. My brother is a police officer.  I don't have a problem with Sanctuary cities. I definitely have a problem with what Rick Perry stands for and the way he has consistently F'd over education."

At this point, I stated this was certainly not “my problem” and that she should not so loosely play the race card.  I suggested she stop while she was ahead because she was starting to embarrass herself.
Within seconds, I was blocked as one of the woman’s “friends.”  That’s no big loss since I have only communicated with her two or three times in the last two years, but I do believe that she did, in fact, embarrass herself.
Beth Fehlbaum wrote a novel two years ago that moved me, a novel I reviewed here on Book Chase as one that could help ease the pain of young victims of sexual abuse.  It is a sensitive novel that has now turned into a series, and it was being promoted on the author’s Facebook page in a very positive way.  Now, for me, and probably for more than a few others who have read the recent political rants on that same page, it has all been tainted by a display of foul language and hypocritical self-righteousness on the author’s part.  And I doubt that I will ever be tempted to read anything she writes in the future.
An aside: (Why do people who curse on forums like Facebook do it with a few real letters and a bunch of cute little comic strip symbols, anyway?  That reminds me of a 7-year-old trying to impress his teenage brother.  Either have the guts to spell the actual curse words or refrain from using them at all because you are only kidding yourself that this kind of self-censorship makes you less guilty of stooping to that immature level.)
I didn’t see this one coming and wish it had not happened but I do find it a bit humorous – in a sad kind of way, if that makes any sense.
It is not true that there is no such thing as bad publicity.  Facebook is dangerous in many ways and for many reasons.  This is just one example.


  1. Wow. I had to actually get off Twitter last night because people say completely shocking things when it comes to politics. I do not understand why politics are so deeply in someone's blood that what would previously be regarded as inappropriate behavior becomes acceptable.

  2. Religion and politics, people....just leave it alone. As a former Houstonian, I am in sympathy with her frustrations, but you're right that this was an entirely unprofessional way to express those feelings.

    Anyone who promotes themselves professionally on social marketing sites should give up venting any personal rants/opinions because it is, indeed, unprofessional and may ultimately cost them work in the long run. If I were her agent, I'd be having a stroke right about now, LOL.

  3. Amy, I'll never understand human nature. It is what it is, but there is a time and a place for a rant like that one. She chose the right time, I suppose, but certainly the wrong place.

  4. Michelle, I had a certain amount of sympathy for her anguish as well. That's precisely why I made my first comment about not so much voting for Perry as voting against White. Wanted her to see that Perry is not nearly as possible as his numbers would indicate. The rest is history.

    Because I am blocked from Beth's Facebook page now, I have no idea whether she deleted the whole string of comments or not. She was sure quick to kill my access...that's why I can't quote my own comments verbatim.

  5. Sam, I have been surprised at how much political seething I have noticed making it into novels lately. In the cases I am thinking of, politics have nothing to do with the plot, but the author throws in a jibe at conservatives and Republicans as shorthand for mean, stupid, selfish, etc, etc. (I have not noticed any writer make negative comments about liberals.)

    It makes me roll my eyes, but it's also a bit annoying: this presumption that conservatism = bad and stupid and that all the readers will share the author's view.

    I noticed this in, among others, a Laura Lippman novel and in an Eleanor Lipman novel. (What an odd coincidence!)

  6. For me it comes down to respect. There are some authors I have stopped reading because I can't get beyond their politics and how they treat those of different beliefs. Then there are those I know I disagree with but still talk about things respectfully if it comes up (which it only does occasionally). Those people I have no problem reading because their political rants don't cause me to stop enjoying their books.

    I said it comes down to respect. The author you are talking about obviously has no respect for anyone who disagrees with her. The authors I still read and enjoy do. When I get into a discussion about politics, I try really hard to be respectful of others, remembering that they hold their beliefs as firmly as I hold mine. If all I get back in name calling and hatred, I'm out of there. I have better things to do with my time and money.

  7. This has certainly been a source of irritation and a little amusement for me over the years. I myself am a Republican but try to be open minded. I don't see the point in getting into arguments over politics since there is never anything changed by fighting amongst ourselves about something that is already done. I have several friends and coworkers that are very argumentative like that and I must confess to baiting them once in a while just to get their goats! :)
    The former assistant manager of one of the hotels I work for is a hard core Republican and would fight her views to the death if she was given half a chance. We didn't get along so I didn't spend much time talking to her but when Obama's health care reform bill passed, she told me she wanted the flag set to half mast. She said it was "the death of our country and we should mourn". I did what she wanted to avoid an argument and it came back to bite her. She had several people come in and yell at her and one threatened to call the police on her. Needless to say the flag went back up by the end of the day.
    I do my part by trying to vote knowledgeably and by supporting the candidates I believe in, but when a candidate is elected, I believe that they deserve my respect and I try to put my opinions aside and continue on.
    As far as Facebook is concerned, I fully agree that there are way too many people who seem to think it is anonymous and what they say won't be associated with them. I have a young college friend who is currently looking for a job that was so worried about it that he changed his name on Facebook so it wouldn't show up in a search by potential employers. For me, I just make it a point to keep my Facebook page clean with just fun chit chat and links to my book reviews! :)

  8. Factotum, I've noticed the same thing and it always irritates me, especially when it comes from a writer I've liked and/or respected for a long time. I seldom, as you say, see shots taken at liberals that way (Vince Flynn is an exception but that's what his thrillers are all about anyway).

    There are one or two authors I've quit reading because it's gotten out of hand with them. There are quite a few others I don't enjoy nearly as much anymore because, frankly, I am sick of people taking cheap shots at people like ME. They don't know me or what's in my heart - thus, they expose their own limited experience and bigotry. Their problem, not mine.

  9. Mark, you are absolutely correct. It is the lack of respect that Beth Fehlbaum has for those who disagree with her own rather extreme politics that bothers me most. In today's literary market, I can't read all the books I want to read, so she's done me a big favor. She's pretty much off my list now...that means I'll have time to read someone else in her place.

  10. Some folks will never get it, Andy. This country is divided right now into almost equal halves of people on the right and on the left. Anyone trying to sell something who does something stupid like Beth did on Facebook is immediately limiting potential sales to half of what they might have been - at best. That's just stupid. I hope she feels better about herself now that she's called half the country and most of her relatives morons. Her approach is wrongheaded but she does not seem to be the type that would ever admit that.

  11. One of the problems with instant information is that we click send and don't give our missives (as well as our heads) a chance to cool. Many an angry letter I wrote never made it to the mailbox.

  12. I hear you, Susan. I have one of those letters (in my Word software) sitting around right now. I doubt it will ever be emailed to the offender but it sure made me feel better to hammer it out. :-)

  13. Wow! I must say I'm shocked. I don't know the author in question but, well, yes, shocked.

    It's all well and good having a platform but, when you have one, you've got to be very careful about what you say. And I'd have thought that not alienating readers would have been high on any author's list of priorities.

    It's a shame.


  14. There are one or two authors I've quit reading because it's gotten out of hand with them. There are quite a few others I don't enjoy nearly as much anymore because, frankly, I am sick of people taking cheap shots at people like ME.

    I used to really like listening to Prairie Home Companion, but Garrison Keillor has gotten so obnoxious in the past few years that I just can't stomach it any more. He doesn't know me and he doesn't know (or seem to care) why I think what I do. It is possible for people to hold different opinions and still be thoughtful and intelligent. I don't think liberals are stupid. I just think they are wrong. :)

  15. Nik, what she is doing is absolutely foolish - especially for a writer that largely depends on self-marketing to the degree this woman does. She didn't just shoot herself in the foot, she shot the damned thing off, IMO.

  16. Keillor is another great example of a person I no longer care to be print or on radio...for exactly the reason you described.

    These people talk down to people who think differently than them to such a degree that I have lost all respect for them. Another author who comes to mind in that regard is Jane Smiley. I was never a big fan of her writing style but I did enjoy some of her work. Now I don't even bother to pick up anything new she writes...can't forget some of the things she has said about conservative-minded people.

    Disagree with me without laughing at me and I'm with you. Ridicule does not serve these people well. Just because they have a more public forum than most conservative voices, they have actually come to believe that they are in the mainstream of America. Luckily for people like them, I don't enjoy ridiculing people who are so obviously delusional about themselves and their images.

    They do a good enough job embarrassing themselves that we don't have to do it for them...why don't they understand they are not in the majority and that they are just a loudmouth minority of opinion (something near 50%, maybe, but still opposed by slightly more than half the country)?

  17. I read your previous review of Beth Fehlbaum's book and thought it sounded good. Then I read this blog entry and was really put off -- particularly when I compared what she said about herself on her website with what she said on Facebook.

  18. Thus, the illustration posted at the beginning of the post, Syndi

  19. I generally try not to talk politics with too many people - in most cases, it seems that people's minds are already made up, and "talking politics" is just a nice way of saying "yelling and screaming." I'm also not a huge fan of lumping people into "liberal" and "conservative" categories. That puts people into boxes defined, usually in a negative way, by the speaker, and takes no possible overlap of beliefs into account.

    As far as Facebook, like email, blogs, and other electronic means of communication, is always has the potential for danger. As Bybee said, it's too easy to click "post" or "send" before we've had a chance to think about whether it's really a good idea. And all that stuff has the potential to be accessible by others for a very long time.

  20. Library Girl, it surely blew up on me this time. I was only trying to make a "soothing" comment about the likability of the candidate the writer so obviously detests...saying that lots of people only voted for him because they disliked the other guy more. Of course, it turns out she is equally passionate about her love for Mr. Sanctuary City...loves him as much as she hates the other guy. I couldn't win for losing...deck was stacked.

    But she really showed her ass on this one, IMO, and destroyed a good bit of the hard-won credibility she built up over the past two years or so.