I started my Facebook profile around 2010 and since then have built up around 5,000 friends and followers. This has helped me enormously in connecting with people, and getting my Dhamma work out to people, but of course most of these I don’t know at all, and have virtually no contact with, and it seemed time to set up a page where most of the updates on my work could be posted, and keep a profile just for messaging the people I am actually in touch with (I probably use Messenger more than any other means of virtual communication).
I already have a few other Facebook pages (like Dharma Documentaries, Photo Dharma and others), which were set up earlier, and have attracted good followings, and again helped me reach out to people. But those were set up as new pages, and converting from a profile was something different and new.
Fortunately Facebook has a guide telling you what is involved, and there are a number of independent guides. There are also a good number of warnings out there about what happens when things go wrong. Here I will discuss my experience.
What I gathered from the guides was that my profile would become a page, my friends and followers would be people who had liked the page, and such things as photograph albums, etc would be carried over to the new page, and I presumed they would inherit the shares. That was the theory, and despite the dire warnings I did read about, I decided to go ahead.
So I first went through the preliminary steps of informing people of what was going to happen, so they knew changes were on the way, and so they would not be surprised when they found themselves having liked a page, instead of being friends with a person, I repeated this a few times so that it would be known and understood.
Then one fine day I thought I would see what is entailed at the start of the conversion process. So I went to the Get Started page, after all running through the preliminary steps is probably a good idea, to get an idea of how things work out and you will have to confirm before going ahead, right? Wrong.
As soon as I clicked on the Get Started button I got an error message, and I was immediately dumped unceremoniously onto a new page that had been created in my name. Start and finish in one click. Names and profile photos had gone over, but no friends or photos. I also found out something I should have known but didn’t: I now have a profile and a page, and could chose who I kept and who I moved. Important info that, and indeed the Facebook Guide includes it though the Make Use Of one is misleading on this point.
There was a link in the sidebar telling me I now had 14 days to transfer friends and photos from profile to page, so I clicked on that, and went through the amazingly tedious task of sorting out which of the 3,500 friends I wanted to keep on my profile, and which I wanted to transfer as likes. Basically the choice was a matter of sorting out whom I was personally in touch with, but that is an awful lot of people to have to review.
I then transferred around 3,400 people or more to likes, expecting to be 3,400 people short on friends. It also looked like a further 1,350 followers would go over at this time also. Well, most of the friends ended up as likes, but none of them stopped being friends.
This may be an advantage for some, but unless I now want to go through and unfriend 3,400 people I don’t know, then I am stuck with them. Also none of the followers went over, though they are actually the best candidates for being likes on the page, as they were only interested in my updates, and not in being in touch with me personally.
Also all the albums I chose went over, but virtually none of the photos they were supposed to contain. But then the albums and the photos had been deleted from my profile. It is just as well I keep backups of the albums, and I will be kept busy over the coming days uploading old albums I published earlier.
If I were doing this again, I might have done it differently. The photos I previously uploaded to my profile, and which in some cases had been shared over 500x, for example (and which are no longer available), I would have left on the profile, and then have uploaded them again over time to the new page. But that is spilt milk now.
I next needed to change the new page’s name, from my personal name to something more suitable like the name I give to my publications blog: Dharma Records. So I went through that process, got a new address: https://www.facebook.com/dharmarecordsnet and applied for the new name.
Which Facebook refused to give in an automated reply as it is not similar enough to the old name. The information about this is probably buried somewhere in their help files. I have now applied to them in person (if they are anything but virtuals) to get it changed, and explained the reasons why. But my experience with Facebook on these sorts of things isn’t encouraging.
Meanwhile I now have a profile called Ānandajoti Bhikkhu and a page with the exact same name. Confusing, eh? Yes. But try getting them to change it, and that is a bit more difficult. I am also stuck with the situation that I still have thousands of friends I do not actually know; my followers follow me, not my page, and the photos I have uploaded, and which were very popular, are no longer available.
I am still trying to work out my way forward on this, and it is still early days, but if things only worked in practice as they were supposed to do, then I wouldn’t be troubled with all this: after all computers just do what you programme them to do, right? Wrong.
Update: one week later. So Facebook did very kindly, and rather unexpectedly, change the page name to Dharma Records, as per my request. My followers are still following me, not my page though.
One very good thing is that the albums that had disappeared from my profile, reappeared for no known reason. I am glad of it as a lot of useful material there, and many shares.