Monday, May 31, 2010

Bye-bye Facebook

I started composing this post a while ago and at that time I was only considering leaving Facebook; my intent was to list what I felt to be the pros and cons and to solicit the opinions of others as to whether or not I should leave, but as time went on and as some of the more recent interface changes and security failures began happening I became more resolved in my decision to leave.  And once someone started the Quit Facebook Day movement it gave me a definite date to use - May 31st.

One of the first things that irked me about Facebook was making you solicit your friends to add a certain application when you went to add it to your own profile (not to mention all the people who started soliciting me to join Farmville... Sheesh.)

I also noticed that there were certain friends who didn't show up in my news feeds anymore -- presumably because they were people who were not linked to any of the other people in my friends list. You used to be able to set the level to which you wanted to see certain friends within your news feed, but now you could only hide them completely or not at all.  And even people I never hid, I still didn't see anymore.  Facebook decided who was important to me for me.  How nice of them.

Then there were the recent changes they made to the lists of one's favourite music, books, films, etc., on one's profile page.  Once you selected to go to the new version you couldn't go back to the way it was.  Information which you may have decided to only make available to certain friends were now linked to public pages that anyone could see.  Just cuz I like a certain band or movie doesn't mean that I want to be added to a public group about it.  And some of the notes I had added to my favourite lists just disappeared because statements like "any band that includes Damon Albarn" or "wow, this makes me sound like a misanthropic hippy nerd" didn't link to any particular existing group subject.  Instead Facebook suggested I link to groups like "any band" and "hippies" and "nerds" and "Damon Albarn", but gave me no option to just type something random.  I don't like having my creativity taken away from me like that.

I also don't feel comfortable with how Facebook feeds into my self-indulgent, validation-seeking side.  Like, why should anyone care about what I thought about a movie I saw, or what animal just appeared in my yard, etc... etc...  How does this enrich anyone's life?  And then there's also the BS that goes on in my head such as "Why didn't he/she respond to my message?", "Why do most people have at least X number of friends and I only have X number?" "If I don't accept this friend invitation, will I seem like a bitch?", "Why didn't anyone comment on my post?  Did they think it was dumb?"  It's like fricken highschool on a computer.  Yuck.

I also acknowledge that blogging basically caters to the same "look-at-me" syndrome, but at least in a blog format people can choose whether or not to visit it in the first place. I think there is a lot to be said about actively seeking information rather than passively absorbing it.  On a blog I'm not constantly throwing my random thoughts at people regardless of the time of day or whether or not the reader wants to know.  And if people want to read and/or comment on my blog they aren't forced to register any of their own personal info first.   There also isn't this expectation of a response from anyone, or the feeling that something might be wrong with what you said just because no one responded.

I also don't like the idea of having my personal info being tracked and sold.  I used to be of the opinion that if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear by posting personal info, but my view has vastly changed on this subject over the past year or two.  Just think about all the information about ourselves that one could garner from Facebook data: We post everything from our birthdays to our political views and affiliations to our sexual orientations to our relationship statuses. There is just a goldmine of info in there for marketing and intelligence gathering. And what alliances or responsibilities does Facebook have towards you? If someone wanted this data for nefarious purposes, would Facebook care? Is it even Facebook's responsibility to find out what this data is being used for by third parties? Of course not; they will simply sell that info to whomever is willing to pay. And that doesn't even cover people possibly hacking into Facebook.

You might also fully agree with Facebook's current policies, but if they change and you want out, do you really think everything you did in Facebook disappears into thin air, never to be seen again?  There have also been more than a few publicised situations where info on Facebook was "accidentally" leaked.  It's not like I have any confidence that any of my personal information will be any safer once I deactivate my account, but at least Facebook won't be able to sell any more of my info to anyone else going forward.

And yes, I do realise that I am being tracked every time I do a google search or use a credit card or Airmiles card; that my searches and purchases are being logged and stored somewhere and that this data is being sold to the nasty corporations and banksters.  But you gotta start somewhere right?

Then there are the scary stories about Mark Zuckerburg's own personal lack of ethics.  This really isn't a guy I want to support, no matter how groundbreaking and useful a tool he has created.  Anyone who knows me well is also well aware of my hatred for Walmart and how I refuse to shop there.  (I will enter the premises with someone else, but that's only because by entering their store and not buying anything I am actually costing them money.)   Well, Facebook is beginning to look a lot like the Walmart of social networking.  Yeah, Walmart has great prices, and Facebook allows for some great social interactions and networking, but at what cost?

That being said, I did have one big reason for sticking with Facebook which strongly made me consider staying:  I'm a hermit.

If I didn't have to drive into the city every so often to go to the office, I would rarely leave the house.  I also keep my cellphone off most of the time these days - mainly because I get crap signal up at my house and, well, let's just say I've "fallen behind" on a few bills...  I also have crap VOIP for a home phone which is basically useless during high traffic hours (I really, really don't want to give any more money to Ma Bell, but I might have to go crawling back eventually.)  But truly, I'm not big on talking on the phone anyway.  I can't do the whole forced conversation thing.

So, my point is that I'm not a social butterfly, but I am constantly on the internet, so Facebook did give me some sort of connection to the outside world (cuz lets face it, not much of the outside world is reading this blog...)  But on the same token, I realise it would be a lot more healthy if I actually physically went outside and met with people to do things, instead of using Facebook as my interface with most people.

I will also readily admit that there are people with whom I am thankful to have had the opportunity to reconnect, as well as those with whom I have had the ability to stay connected after they moved to another part of the globe.  But, the hermit in me also knows that there are those in her friends list who she really had no interest in hooking up with again, but did accept as friends on Facebook anyway, simply because she didn't want to seem cold or appear to be someone who had something to hide.  It's this very type of thinking that bugs me about Facebook -- yes, this is all in my head, but it obviously isn't healthy, so maybe Facebook just isn't right for me.

You know what happens when you go to deactivate?  Facebook actually shows you a page of random friends' profile pics and beneath them it says: "Jack will miss you."  "Jill will miss you."  Creepy.  And the final confirmation message reminds you that all you need to do is to log back in and "you will then be able to use the site as before," (i.e. everything you did in here belongs to us and will be here whether you log back in or not.)  Creepier.

1 comment:

  1. yeah it's pretty creepy...but I decided to stick with it because of your second last paragraph....too many people I'd never talk to again. Not to mention that there are a few people I either can't schedule to meet with or simply don't care enough to see but whom I enjoy briefly interfacing with via the net...basically there's only room in my *real* life for 6 or 7 friends tops and after that it's a scheduling nightmare, so facebook solves that dilemma...

    But I'm glad you were able to save yourself before it was too late :D

    and yeah that whole "miss you" thing is extraordinarily creepy....