The Facebook Book Club “Disaster”

24 Mar

reading-nook-design-ideas-2A few months ago I came up with a brilliant idea (or so I thought). I love reading books and I spend way too much on Facebook. Why not bring the two together and form a virtual Facebook book club? (Isn’t that what Good Reads is, you may ask, and my answer to that is: Does Good Reads also have pictures of your friends’ kids, pets and vacations?)

So, on my list of 180 FB friends (I am not that popular after all), there were a few who responded to the recruiting call. They shared the news with their friends, but apparently they are not that popular either, because at the end we ended up with a book club of 35 people. While that is a pretty good number if you compare it to an “analog” book club.

The rules were pretty straightforward. We take turns picking a book, we read it till a certain date, and then we post discussions and reviews. Well, we lasted exactly two books. So what caused our bookish enthusiasm to wane?

When we set up the book club, we decided that we will also use the group to comment on what we are reading as we go along. Facebook gave us an opportunity to jump in and share an insight or question right away without having to wait for the end of the month meeting. But it turns out that while the real time-ness of it theoretically should have encouraged comments, as the novelty of it wore off, so did the real-time comments. The absence of ongoing conversation meant that one of the biggest potential advantages of a virtual book club was gone. Which really exposed one of it huge drawbacks—getting together with a bunch of friends, over wine and snacks, to discuss something you all experienced was not possible on Facebook.

Our book club was big, but as we did not know each other that well, our tastes in books varied. Perhaps that resulted in book choices that were more limiting than we needed to engage everyone. I can’t help but think that people felt a bit more restrained in their discussions with this group of people they knew only virtually. Would we have had a different discussion on Italy in the 50s, if we knew where each one of us was coming from and knew what other things we, the club members, had in common? This single shared interest was not enough to keep us engaged with each other, it did not inspire us to get to know each other better or outside of the book club.

This is not to say that a bad choice in books does not happen in a “real” book club. We’ve all had our fare share of book choices that make us secretly groan and roll our eyes. But having to meet with your club peers in a month makes you endure the book and forces you to either find some redeeming qualities or, if you like the confrontation, build an argument for why it sucked. And here lies the other weakness of Facebook – it does not create the strong bonds between people that are the foundation of guilt.

Perhaps we were all just a bunch of detached Northwesterners. But I can’t help but think that it is not just our aloofness that prevented us from making the Bookclub Experiment a success. And I must admit, I am sort of glad for that.

7 Responses to “The Facebook Book Club “Disaster””

  1. leah wolfe March 24, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    Very curious. I loved this. I wonder why people wane from book discussion, but continue to fight on Facebook over the same things from years ago.

    • epalaveeva March 24, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

      One of the reasons is that what the only thing we all had in common was book discussions. We did not go to college together, or meet socially, or even know which region/country we lived in. Some of my friends joined, and some of their Facebook friends joined, but there was no other bond to make us participate.

      That said, it is a great way to get exposed to books you otherwise would not read.

      • leah wolfe March 24, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

        I find that curious as well considering people meet online and get married, form business partnerships, stay Facebook friends for years, all with people completely out of their social circles.

        Now, that tenacity I might attribute to curiosity. I may not be from your world, but knowledge of it might be fascinating. That discussion might then spark new conversations. Commonality does not usually ensure cohesion, but opposites attract.

        Centering around just the book might certainly limit the conversation, keep it from expanding outward or deeper, but I’m not sure. I’ve been in brawls over character development, It might have just been the dynamics of the group. Another group might be different.

        Still a great thing to try. Well done.

  2. writeonce1770 March 24, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    Great idea, and FB is still a big waste of time.


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