I Have More Than 60,000 Subscribers on Facebook, and They Are Out of Control

Innovation, the Internet, gadgets, and more.
Feb. 1 2012 4:44 PM

“You Are God Gifted Honey”

My 60,000 Facebook subscribers are driving me crazy.

(Continued from Page 1)

While it’s great that Heron has found successful methods for managing her subscribers, the amount of time and effort she’s put in seem unreasonable. Though Facebook needs to improve its spam detection and comment moderation tools, the problems with Subscribe are more nuanced than they might appear. The comments I’m getting are coming from real people with a different sense of Facebook etiquette, not spambots or a few bad apples spewing porn. As Heron notes, the majority of the problematic comments she gets are “cheesy come-ons,” not outright offensive remarks.

Facebook has more than 800 million users, most of whom are outside the United States. Until Subscribe launched, everyone on Facebook stayed in their own insular communities—we connected with friends, or friends of friends, most of whom shared the same cultural norms. Subscribe, which opens Facebook’s doors to all comers, has revealed that American mores of interaction have not translated globally. Perhaps men who see that they can subscribe to me think it’s an invitation for them to hit on me. I don’t think the cheesy men are “spam,” but do I want them commenting on my posts? No.

Vadim Lavrusik, a program manager for Facebook, assured me that they take complaints of abuse seriously and they are working to improve their tools. In addition to better comment moderation tools, I’d love to see Facebook develop a “cheesy come-on” filter, to help limit not just the flagrantly horrible comments and the spambots, but the ones that are off-topic and annoying. As of now, many of the comments I find irksome aren’t in violation of Facebook’s community standards. A suggestion: Perhaps if someone has been blocked by more than three subscribers they should lose the ability to comment on all subscriber posts.


Until these issues are sorted out, it’s not just journalists who are left shell-shocked—it’s our Facebook friends, too. Since my subscribers started making their presence known on my page, at least 15 friends, co-workers and family members have asked me the same question: “Katherine, WHAT is going on with your Facebook page?” When you write online, you have to take nutty commenters, Internet haters, and creeps in stride as an occupational hazard. When those people are seamlessly mixed in next to your aunt and your friends from high school, it’s harder for everyone to take.

Ultimately, I’m still a Subscribe believer. With improvements, I think it can become a fantastic way for people worldwide to read the stories of American journalists, and for us to think about our audience as global and perhaps very different from us. But Facebook erred by dropping this cannonball of a feature into a pool of 800 million users without better targeting and filters. If the goal is volume over quality, Facebook’s recommendation engine is clearly effective at getting people to subscribe. The quantity, however, far outstrips the quality of thoughtful subscribers, and until that changes I have to shut the spigot off. For my own sanity, I’ve decided to limit who can comment on my posts to only my friends, and friends of friends.

Sorry, new subscribers. I love you and I care about you … but not in that way.



Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.


Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
Sept. 29 2014 11:45 PM The Self-Made Man The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
Dear Prudence
Sept. 29 2014 3:10 PM The Lonely Teetotaler Prudie counsels a letter writer who doesn’t drink alcohol—and is constantly harassed by others for it.
  Double X
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
Future Tense
Sept. 29 2014 11:56 PM Innovation Starvation, the Next Generation Humankind has lots of great ideas for the future. We need people to carry them out.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 29 2014 11:32 PM The Daydream Disorder Is sluggish cognitive tempo a disease or disease mongering?
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.