Smut Reporting

Facebook fan pages are kind of the worst

I am late to the party, I know, but the bookish world on Facebook (FB) is really something else. Social media and I are not friends, but I still have my FB account specifically for my book clubs (and theoretically to manage this blog’s account). Because I’m periodically on there for bookish reasons, I follow a couple of authors there, one specifically who isn’t active anywhere else and likes to surprise-release new titles. I’m not going to identify which author because (as with most reader groups) it’s a closed group, and I’m sure this isn’t the only place it’s happening, so I don’t want to be the seagull at this author’s picnic.

Anyway, I like this author, I binged all his backlist probably way too fast…and I am completely squicked out by this FB group. For the record, I am happy that this author is successful. He deserves for people to be excited about his work and to earn money writing books. People who love books deserve to be excited about these books and find other people who are also excited about these books. 

Here’s the thing, though…

Like other social media sites but unlike newsletters (in which communication only goes one way), FB allows for users to engage in dialogue about…everything. Unlike other social media sites, FB is insular, and the groups have a tendency to become echo chambers, because outsiders can’t see or call out insiders when they’re egging each other on. 

So imagine, if you please, a FB group in which mostly women (by a large margin) are talking about how their book boyfriends are queer men written by a gay man. And this is not low key book boyfriend happiness. It is like, “let’s expand on this universe like these characters are real people, but they live in my personal fantasy world of what’s cute and sexy and are not self-actualized at all.” 

For example:

Mod: Post your book inspiration pics for the latest book! 

One: Romantic scene of wintery outdoors

Two: Athlete in gear

Three: Athlete thirst trap gif of tree trunk thighs and bubble butt 

Four: Athlete thirst trap with no shirt

Five: Two men in a low-key clinch

Six: Pic of me [a woman] with [gay character] on our wedding day!

Two thru Five: 🤣🤣🤣

Or how about:

OP: This book (and its main character) belong to me!

One: How does the other MC feel about this?

OP: I pretend in my head they’re just good friends.

One: 🤣🤣🤣

Two: OP CLASSIC! 🤣🤣🤣

OP: 🤣🤣🤣

Or there’s the meme stuff:

I feel like I shouldn’t even have to explain the first two examples. It is totally cool to be soft for characters that evoke heart-eye emojis. It is wildly inappropriate for a woman to express this by saying she’s going to marry a gay man and/or that his love interest in the book is just his “good friend.” YIKES ON BIKES. That’s erasing his queerness and agency (yes, he’s fictional, but presumably we’re excited about a well-rounded character who makes his own decisions). For other posters to laugh at, condone, or one-up this type of talk is part of the echo chamber problem, too. 

The meme snipped from Romantically Inclined was non-specific, and she likes to laugh about common Romance Reader Things, but the tongue-in-cheek tone of her post shifts to voyeuristic fetishizing when it’s repurposed to be refocused on a specific moment for a specific queer couple. This is not, in fact, being a good ally. This is fetishizing queer men, and it’s the reason that parts of the romance community get tetchy about who is reading and writing these M/M romance stories. 

Plus, you know, there’s also the general online behavior that seems to presume an author is one’s personal friend and/or one is entitled to their time and energy (parasocial relationships). There is apparently a fine line between appreciating that an author created a book and demanding more of the same from that author. Who knew? We see that elsewhere, but hoo momma is it leveled up in this group page echo chamber. 

For example:

OP: This story was the most beautiful story I have ever read! @Author, was it autobiographical? It was just so deep! 

Author: Ah, no. 

Or perhaps:

OP: Okay @author, you’ve done this sport, and this sport. What’s next?! One of each sport?! 

One: Ooo, I really want another suspense book

Two: Sorry, he’s going to write about military dudes for me

Three: ALL I WANT IS MORE SEQUELS

Or how about demanding stuff that’s not even books?

OP: MERCH!

Mod: He said he’s in the writing cave but he’s planning on it…

In the first place, the reader is demanding personal information about the author, which probably feels terribly complimentary to the OP but feels pretty invasive to me considering that the comment is about the emotional depth of the writing, presuming that the author’s personal experience must be the reason he’s able to do that. Beyond that…is she gonna ask the same question of a woman writing deeply emotional MM? Women being overly-invested in the personal lives of queer men, treating them like things instead of people, is also an indicator of fetishization. 

In the second example, the posters might feel like they’re all being enthusiastic supporters of the author’s work, but when the ask is for something that will require significant new research or tie the author to stories that are already finished, it’s actually putting pressure on the author not to follow his creative muse. Also, see above re: overly invested. Not wanting to let go of a story that brings joy is one thing, but it is possible to take it too far. 

And finally, everybody loves some merch that makes them feel like they’re closer to their beloved characters, but commissioning merch and running a shop on top of a full-time writing job is…a whole-ass other job. Demanding that an author do more work is not, in fact, the enthusiastic support that some readers seem to think it is.

Yes, there are plenty of “Thank you for writing this book! It made me so happy!” posts. The requisite author giveaways. And, of course, the reason I’m still there (though for how long…?): news that a book is going to be published a week before it just surprise drops. There’s lots of joy, and maybe that—plus plenty of personal boundaries—is why this author is okay with this particular forum for engaging with his audience. 

But, ugh, please stop fetishizing gay men. It’s gross.


Update: I stuck it out maybe two more weeks and left the group.

5 thoughts on “Facebook fan pages are kind of the worst”

  1. Erin, as a beginning writer I think it would be cool to have a reader love my work so much she’d want sequels. I think I felt the same way about hero’s when I was reading J.R. Ward. ( Don’t get me started on Laura Kinsale.) So maybe the author is just shaking his head. I’ve always thought it was weird when straight women started writing M/M, and I’ll freely admit, I’m writing one myself. But I’ve been in the community for 30 years and my brother is gay. I have a lot of friends/checks and balances and have gotten a lot of “Oh, Please, take that out.” from them, so I know I’m not messing up. Other authors, I hope they have someone they can ask or talk to. Thank you for giving me Alexis Hall. I wouldn’t have known if it wasn’t for this blog. You guys are awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I’m glad we helped you find Alexis Hall; he’s fantastic!

      I think people definitely have different levels of what they appreciate or don’t (with just about anything), and even that that changes over time, so of course I can’t speak for everyone. I would also love for readers to be so enthusiastic they say they want more of my work, but I can also see that appreciation becoming more shaded over time if I were to develop a fan base that turns into a clamor. My point about reader demands is more along the lines of “I would love…” vs “Gimme…” because some people forget to dial back their enthusiasm and playfulness and we only get that “gimme.” I’ve seen popular authors post reminders along these lines to their fans on their socials when their popularity surges, but not the author of this post, so maybe he really does like it. But that “gimme” attitude does rub me the wrong way, even though I’m not the recipient, and the FB group pushes it more to the surface than my other socials.

      As for women writing M/M, there are definitely writers who care enough to do the work, and I’ve loved many of their books! But I’ve also read a couple doozies lately. :/ But so it goes with just about any book. We’ll keep trying to highlight all the good stuff here!

      Like

  2. This is interesting. Usually I just skip over the comments I find stupid on social media. There’s no point in engaging in that anyway, so why bother even reading it. But it is a bit crazy how people can get so immersed in something fictional. The same thing happens with celebrity crushes, where people feel they “know” these famous people. Of course, I would love it if my favourite authors kept writing sequels to my favourite books, but it’s never occurred to me to ask for it. I assume they have a plan for their books and their publishers probably also have a big say.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s nice of you to have a generous expectation of authors and their plans! I agree with your social media approach, and I know there’s a degree of that feed function on Facebook, but because I really only use it for specific groups, I don’t end up scrolling, and everything is amplified. Everyone doesn’t use it that way, but it is a uniquely FB option. I don’t have the same experience on Twitter or Insta. I suppose there’s no perfect experience, but for my part I think I’ll try to curate mine a little better in the future.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yikes! I’ve never enjoyed “book boyfriend” talk, since the whole point of a romance is that the main characters are in love with *each other* but that is truly extra squick.

    Liked by 3 people

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