Finally Quitting Facebook
06/04/2010 03:46 a.m. | Internet
Facebook has boomed in the last year. New features, controversies, applications, and millions of new users. However, you can no longer count me in that group of people. Follow along as I detail my reasons for leaving the most popular social network of all time.
Early yearsI signed up for Facebook when I was a college sophomore at Texas A&M in 2004. This was when it was university students only and they were regularly updating the homepage to list the new schools that were available on Facebook. I refer to this period as the Good Ole Days of Facebook. Call meelitist, but I loved when Facebook was only for college kids. There werent as many features back in those days, and friend lists were a manageable number for most, hovering around 200 on average.
The basic features were pretty simple. You could write on someones wall, or send them a message. There was a really cool feature where you could see your extended network (friends of friends). It was a perfect way to connect with kids I knew in other states or at other schools. And at that time, anyone that wasnt in college couldnt spy on your wall or photos or anything else you did on Facebook.It was ours and ours alone, and that was the best privacy controls we ever had. Then things started to change.
Middle YearsIn 2006, Facebook introduced theNews Feed, and it freaked everyone out. You could now see how many times Sally updated her favorite TV Shows, Quotes, etc. in a day. Some of my friends have 50+ updates in a span of 20 minutes, and they were allthoroughlyembarrassed to see them listed next to each other on their friends news feeds. I loved the news feed, as it kept me from having to visit everyone's page to stalk them. This also marked the first privacy concerns for Facebook, as the controls for what showed up in the news feed were not added until later.
As Facebook became essential for college students, I began to fall out of love with the service. I would get important messages sent through Facebook instead of email and would end up missing out on things. The email forwarding for messages or other invites were not around at that time, and is nowfodder for viruses. The photos and tagging came about, which is probably the only useful service from Facebook, and immediately everyone was tagged at their best and worst.Un-tagging yourself was now added to the to-do list for finding a job.
I enjoyed keeping up with my friends, but their was and still is large social pressure to friend anyone that you have met in person, even if it was for 10 minutes at a party. I, along with most people, had grown my friend list to a point where it was now full of more people I wouldnt consider close friends than with my real friends. It had become anacquaintancemanager, but most of the features like news feed were only really useful for your real friends. I began logging in less and less because the news feed was filled with a bunch of crap I didnt really care about. Then came applications.
The Application MadnessThis was the beginning of the end. When Facebook applications first surfaced in 2007, it seemed like a breakthrough that was moving Facebook into a real platform. What really happened was much different. Thousands of developers created applications that you probably didnt care about at all. Then,one of your 400 friends who you didnt really know would try to get you to sign up for them. Mafia Wars, Dinosaur eggs, 50 different birthday calendars. There was no end to this stream of useless and distracting invites. All of this encouraged me to login even less. While you can now block all application invites from a friend, these controls did not exist at the time.The push of features without the necessary controls in the backend was starting to become a horrible trend. Next was theprivacy concerns with applications. Developers were making cash hand over fist by offering in-game points for your information. Sometimes it was a harmless form that took your email address. Other times it was with a credit card sign up that could mar a freshmans credit if they werent careful. And all so you could grow grapes faster on a make-believe farm.
There were little things likeFacebook Beacon andPhone numbers in the iPhone app, and the recent additions of connecting with websites automatically that I truly despise. I eventually removed most of my friends because I couldnt remember who they were. I blocked all applications from everyone, and tried my best to block many of the emails, but I wasnt very successful at that. Then, in the last few months, I just got fed up with the privacy errors that Facebook was making over and over. I decided to weigh the pros and cons of staying on Facebook, and it was clear that it was time for me to leave.
- Being tagged in photos I didnt take
- Hearing news and updates from people I didnt keep in touch with very well
- My information was being sold to the highest bidder
- The distractions and noise of applications, news feed, and messages/emails
- The social pressure of friending anyone I may have met
- The time-suck that is all of Facebook
Advertising and PrivacyThese two pieces together are what really contributed to me leaving. The privacy settings are frustrating, mostly because I don't know who has access to what. To my understanding, even if I mark everything as private and only I can view, I can still be targeted by advertisers.
First, advertisers still have access to my fan pages, likes, groups, etc. They can't actually tie them to me, but I am still counted in a group of 25 year-old men in Houston who love both Tennis and Scrubs. I understand this is great for the advertisers, but I'm not really concerned with their interests. I'm looking out for my own. And it seems that the advertisers and I are pitted head-to-head.
Second, for every friend that I have, I am subjected to advertisers for all their fan pages and groups and events and such. This means that if I have a friend that likes Glee on Fox, I can be targeted by Glee to be show ads. Facebook advertising allows advertisers to target people who are not already fans, but have friends that are fans. Again, great for advertisers, but really crappy for me.
Ads on Google work well because I go to Google.com hoping to leave the page as soon as possible. Google.com is rarely an end destination. This goes for almost all search providers. Facebook (along with other content sites) are destinations. I am not looking for products, services, solutions, or anything else. All of that gets in my way.
Even in a perfect Facebook where I could lock down everything including advertisers, then I would just have a directory of my info for me to see. This is pretty dumb. Why do I need someone else's website to store my favorite books and movies? If I have to exercise all the security, then Facebook itself becomes pretty pointless.
BottomlineIf I were a college student, things might be different. For now, I think Facebook gives you a false sense of staying in touch with friends.Reading online that Joe just got engaged because her status changed is far different from a phone call or a real-life hug and high-five. I spend a bit of time on the internet, and for me, interactions with other people are best done offline. If someone is looking for me, theyshouldnt have much trouble finding me. And if I am looking for someone, I can use Google or ask my girlfriend to look them up on Facebook.
The privacy concerns continue to get bigger and bigger. Its not that I dont want people to know who I am. Its that I want complete control over who sees what, and I dont want things turned on in the background without my explicit knowledge. Facebook has always tried to fix things, but never before they needed to be fixed.
You have to understand thatFacebook sells attention and information. Facebook users, their data, and their attention are the products that Facebook sells to advertisers. Id prefer not to be sold to when trying to relax. I consider myself a pretty savvy web user, and jumping through all the Facebook hoops to block things is taxing for me. I cant image that the average Facebook user monitors or even understands much of this.
Back in my engineering classes we talked aboutPeak Oil and what it meant for the world. Now, Ive been thinking much more aboutPeak Facebook and what it means for the internet and social networks. How much longer are you prepared to remain on Facebook?
AlternativesI have been very happy withtwitter as a service. The relationship (follower) is only one-way, meaning I can followCocos updates without receiving a reciprocal follow from him. I also useTumblr andGoogle Reader for finding interesting things on the web,Flickr for photographs,YouTube andVimeo for video, anddel.icio.us for social bookmarking.
Imaintainmy own website on wordpress to hostmy info and content, and it has a simplecontact form (and Google Phone number) for people to get in touch with me. I keep up with my friends through email and the other services mentioned above, and do my best to see them in real life as much as possible. In a long Kevin Kelly article aboutAmish Hackers, he quotes one Amish-man describing the problem with PDAs, smartphones, and other devices being that you got messages rather than conversations. I have made it a goal of mine to have more conversations and send/receive fewer messages.
I think Facebook sends many messages and offers very few conversations. This is true of many of the services I use, however Facebook is (was) the only one that bills itself as a platform to connect people. Messages (status updates, photos, likes, links, notes, etc.) from hundreds ofacquaintancescannot replace conversations with people I care about. Facebook doesnt help me to connect with my friends, and instead feeds me ads, invites, messages, and other things that take time away from my day. Im choosing a different route than most, and Im very comfortable doing so.