For months, I have been getting more and more fed up with Facebook and its hold on me, and I was counting the reasons to give it up. By now you have no doubt heard of the great debate over FB’s sketchy behavioral experiments, but for me, it was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back; I was already convinced I had had enough before I was MK-Ultra’d.
Reason number one: it breeds narcissism.
Now, I am quite aware that there are some good things about Facebook. It is a great way to promote yourself, to plan events with a large number of people, and track down people you have lost contact with. However, it is also a great way to waste time telling people who don’t care things that are of no interest. The joke is “no one wants to know what you had for dinner” but its also… kinda… true. Just because I am inspired and a witty quote pops into my head does not mean it needs to be shared with the rest of the world. There is art, there is expression, and there is banality. We like to think we are above the hoi polloi, that OUR content is more erudite and meaningful… but its not. Seriously, it’s not.
Reason two: brevity is not always the soul of wit.
I used to hang out on Usenet, and on several email lists. I still fondly recall the days- or weeks-long conversations that would bounce back and forth, each person carefully collecting their thoughts and laying it all out, not trying to be the first one out there with a hastily scrawled sentence or two. Then there was Livejournal, and people got even more erudite and interesting. i really got to learn about the soul of some of these people, and loved them and grew with them. Then came Facebook and Twitter, and now people just post puns and awful jokes and declamatory sentences and oh god the MEMES. Now, I’ve been known to laugh idiotically at several of these, but I despair that is it now the PRIMARY way some people express themselves. And even when someone DOES take the care to post something involved, at best it receives a few “likes” or a sentence or two in reply. The long ongoing, threaded conversations can’t and don’t happen anymore, thanks to FB’s format. I really really miss the Livejournal days.
Reason three: there’s a world out there, and I was missing it.
I was checking FB obsessively. At dinner, at red lights, while walking down the sidewalk. I used to enjoy sightseeing, finding little hidden historical treasures around my city, and watching the strange array of interesting people that inhabit it. And I was missing that. I also looked like a moron, crossing a street with my eyes on my phone.
Four: Facebook filters the newsfeed.
I tend towards obsessiveness. I like to collect things, I like to complete things. I have to skim all of my newsfeed, and I have to read all of my FB feed. I kept a concisely curated list of people I followed so I could keep up with it, but that wasn’t good enough for Facebook: FB decided what I should see and what I shouldn’t. “Hey, did you hear what happened to me yesterday at Pizza Hut?” “Um, no, I didn’t.” “Oh, that’s weird, I posted it on Facebook.” And to make matters worse, just how is FB’s algorithm supposed to improve? Apparently, I see more posts from people I interact with. but how can I interact with people if they’re never in my feed? Its ridiculous.
And it goes the other way as well. I have something that I feel is very interesting, important or memorable, and I have to share it with the world. And then I get… zero likes. Does this mean people hate me, or does it just mean they didn’t see it? Well in my case, probably both. but I at least want to KNOW I’m not funny!
Five: It’s not even GOOD at the one thing it has to do.
Facebook’s famous, amazing algorithm is awful. The thing that really made me few up was, I clicked a link about women’s body issues, specifically mothers not going to the beach with their children because they’re ashamed about being in a bathing suit, and how this is not healthy and how to get over it. It was a moving and important article. Returning to my feed, FB helpfully recommended three more links I may enjoy. One was about body-sculpting bathing suits, and one was an attempt at humor that was really just crass and hateful: “Top 20 people who look worse than you at the beach”. Well done, Facebook, well done.
Six: the elephant in the room.
And then, of course, there is the great experiment. I am aware it’s not as the media has portrayed it, I am aware I agreed to it when i clicked the EULA, and I am aware that Facebook, and most web sites, do things like this all the time. But a few things still left a bad taste in my mouth: The fact that there was government involvement, the fact that they manipulated peoples’ emotions- I mean, I’m not a dummy. i know that Facebook is free because I’m the product. I know they are selling my eyeballs in the form of ad impressions. I agreed to have ads pushed to me, but I did not agree to have my emotions manipulated. It wasn’t just deciding what I could see; it was intentionally showing me certain posts, not to sell me products, but to make me sad. Facebook was Intentionally pissing me off. Well, if that’s not a clear sign, I don’t know what is.
I know I won’t be able to give it up for good. I’ll still have to use it to reply to events some times, and I’ll still need to use it to message some groups I am a member of, and I will still be contacted by strangers and clients. And yes, I know it’s somewhat ironic that this will get published to Facebook, but that’s the way some people have chosen to follow me. That doesn’t mean I’ll give FB any more info about me than necessary- basically they’ll know that I’ve gone somewhere else.
I’ll still have to have a peek at times. But I’ve taken it off my phone, I’m checking once a day, and just for direct messages. I’m not posting pictures, I’m not posting any more messages, and I’m not even watching my feed. if I have something to say, it will have to be important enough to blog about. I know, that’s a matter of opinion. but you catch my drift.
Where you come in.
I’d really like to know there are still some people out there who care enough to read more than one line, and maybe even give a little back. I’d really like to know your opinion on where the line should be, between public and private. As a speaker and instructor, I use this blog to stay in touch with students, post links and class materials and updates. And I don’t want it to be a big mess of personal cat posts and recipes and such. But there ARE occasionally things I also want to share with family and friends or just get off my chest. This is, actually, the one thing that Facebook did WELL. Some of you probably didn’t realize I was posting to Facebook 8-12 times a day, because you weren’t on my “close friends” filter. (and some of you wish you weren’t 🙂 ).
But in this brave new A.FB. world, I don’t really know how much I should post here and how much to hold back. It would still only be occasionally- I’m moved to express myself once a month or so, and I will sometimes recap my trips or obstacle course races and training regimens. I don’t expect I’ll turn many people off- its a blog, after all. I’m sure people will just read the headline and move on if its something they aren’t pleased with, but I’d like to know everyone’s opinion. How do you manage your online life? Do you create a wall between professional and personal? Where do you think the balance should be? have you ever stopped following someone because they were two much of one or the other? Lets see if its actually still possible to get one of them old-school “conversations” going, or if we have all evolved away that muscle. Cheers.