Why I left Facebook
There. Done it.
178 Friends dispatched to the electronic ether.
Hysterical fit of fizzing pique… didn’t ever really start.
I’d imagine that there’s going to be a lot of articles and blog posts about Facebook this month. For the record, as I write it is the 23rd of September 2011. That it 2 days since the latest redesign - the one that introduced the Top Stories system and the sidebar Activity Feed.
It is also one day after the F8 conference saw Mark Zuckerberg announce the probably massively controversial Timeline.
This is day 2 out in the cold. And I’m not feeling angry, or lost, or abused, or anything negative. I’m actually not feeling very much at all. I have merely unsubscribed from a single web service.
An egg. That’s about the size of it.
There are several reasons behind my actions. Some intrinsic to the human relations that social media facilitates and some specific only to the FB service itself. Depending on your interests and background, you will probably find one of those two areas much more interesting so I’ll deal with them in turn.
Firstly, people are bastards
What? Your friends these are!
Maybe but this is the longest running reason behind my departure. It started during the English riots a few weeks ago, a lot of frightened, panicking people started behaving just like frightened people always do. Suddenly rational, thoughtful, non-violent friends turned into terrifying monsters. Screaming for blood and desperate to see the young rioters gunned down in the street. “You stole a pair of trainers! Death, death, DEATH to you! You young, hooded-top clad, socio-economically under privileged human being!”
Words are just misdirected bullets
They didn’t mean it.
None of them meant it.
But they still FUCKING SAID IT! And I still had to fucking read it. Day after day of shocking, tabloid fuelled, feeding frenzy. The dark mirror of the post-Diana mass hysteria, only this time we wanted more blood, not less. And no, nothing had been learned from the horrifying events in Norway mere weeks before, where youngsters being brutally slaughtered by combat weaponry seemed to be rather poor form…
It wasn’t everyone. It was probably a minority. But from that moment I found myself resenting my Friends list, and from there it got worse. As the reality of those disgusting events in English cities faded to a memory, Facebook continued to show my friends in a worse and worse way. Complaining about work, obsessing about TV. Moaning about their shameful 1st world problems. It wasn’t everyone, it wasn’t all the time. But there was a sense of attrition. A build up of toxins that was poisoning how I felt about my friends.
The problem was, I was seeing too much, and interacting too little. Every daft little thought was writ large, ripped out of context and embalmed for posterity in the Facebook newsfeed. Those comments that a conversation would have justified or corrected or argued over in a warm and fair manner just sat there like a rotting apple on top of the fruit bowl. It’s not fair to judge people, especially your friends on such superficial output. I would be no different. I bet that enough of my own posts were sulky complaints or glib nonsense.
No more. I don’t want my relationships to be led by such crude mechanisms. The distorting prism of thoughtless comments is no way to base a friendship. The time was ripe to pull out. And when the latest design changes arrived, I knew that the quantity of whining would be all but intolerable. The time had come.
Your life, your whole actual life!
And about those new changes.
I’m not a fan. The ongoing erasure of the chronological newsfeed was increasingly irritating. I didn’t trust or believe that the algorithmic version could possibly predict my actual taste. The subscription system led me to believe that I would have to manually edit the settings for every single person on my Friends list. It looked like hard work.
Then I saw the new Activity feed. A comprehensive list of everything that the people I knew were doing, whether they wanted me to know or not. I felt uncomfortable, voyeuristic, and not in the catholic girls sixth-form changing room kind of voyeurism. (Still reading? Good, carry on..)
These people didn’t choose to share this stuff with me. I didn’t want to know. And I don’t want to broadcast my every single click to everyone I ever met.
We have entered the black hole of Facebook privacy
As I write, the full implications of the Timeline are still unknown. It could be a magnificent tool for social communication, it could be a horrifying exploitation of your every mistake. I’ll stay away from the needless hysteria and simply say that I don’t want it. Simple as that.
Mr Zuckerberg, it’s a great idea, but no thanks.
Maybe if I had control, maybe if I could set visibility privileges. Maybe if I trusted Facebook to respect my privacy and maintain my right to control my data then I may say yes, please.
Into the nuclear sunset
Is this the end of FB? Or at least the beginning of the end? Anti-hysteria demands that I say, “No!”
But there is a tiny corner of my rational mind that is feeling irrational. It thinks that maybe this is a day that we will look back on and knowingly nominate as the day *it* started to go wrong.
People are fickle. Populations are capricious and unforgiving, and technology moves quickly. New approaches and new technologies can have seismic effects on the establishment.
Right now, Facebook are bulletproof, bomb proof. But their unwavering, completely obsessive company philosophy that information wants to be free could be their downfall. They are too obsessed, they are actually fundamentalist on this point. Nobody really wants privacy, is their true agenda.
Everything must be exposed, to everyone, all the time.
If there is a swing in user belief away from this notion then Facebook will be as unable to cope with the implications as the old media companies have been with the digital world. And right now, the mass public have no idea about online privacy. You and I, we’re plugged into the fucking Matrix in comparison to the true mass populace of FB users. And when I say “no idea” I mean that very specifically. They have no idea that it is even a concept. I’m the one bleating from the sidelines as people look on in confusion. People don’t have the wrong belief about online privacy, they don’t even know there’s something to believe in at all.
And when the user base does catch on, if they come down on the side of privacy, then Facebook will be sunk. Torn to pieces on the iceberg of dogmatic hubris.
Chances of this happening?
Yeah. Very slim. But to be honest you don’t really know much more than I do so we’ll agree to disagree and go the pub to laugh it off over a pint.
Not an electronic hermit
So what’s left? Well, I’m far from being an electronic hermit. I still have my Twitter account, my Google+ account, this blog, that LastFM. I’m out there, baby!
I still have a mobile phone, I still have a TV, I still read books and buy clothes. I’m still part of the 21st century. I’ve just unsubscribed from a single web service. That’s all.
Jogosity doesn’t know how long the Facebook exile will last. Right now, the account is Deactivated, not deleted. Maybe the break will do him good and in a month or so he’ll be back with the quips and sarcasm. The negativity forgotten and the privacy tools better understood. He really, really doesn’t know.