Why I’m Leaving Facebook

They are not my parents, we met on Facebook

They are not my parents, we met on Facebook

My friend, The Best Judge has very strong feelings about a range of things.

We sometimes disagree, because he tends to see things in fairly black and white terms. He sometimes gets angry about things I couldn’t care less about, as I tend to see the world as fairly “grey”.

And yet on the issue of Facebook, it’s the issue of the “greyness” of it all, that’s causing me some concern at the moment, and which has made me decide, finally, this week to close down my Facebook account.

On the issue of Facebook, The Best Judge recently wrote…

After about a week and the thirty-seventh “virtual beer”, “virtual pet” and “virtual gift” I received, I wanted to rip my friends apart limb from limb. I’d started to despise people I genuinely cared about in real life. After the twentieth time I’d been asked to do a quiz and then send it on to “20 of your friends,” I thought “why are you people torturing me?!?!”

I don’t really care about the poking and the gifts and all the virtual things, because I know you can turn that stuff off.

But yeah, I’m going to close down my Facebook account, nonetheless.

Nothing’s happened. No dramas. No late night drunken status update that I’ve come to regret.

I’ve just come to a conclusion it’s not the right social network for me. Good for many people, but not for me.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m really grateful for many things that Facebook has allowed to occur. I love, for example, the way in which it’s allowed me to make contact with people from my past, and the way in which it’s allowed me to keep up to date with people both intimately on the periphery of my day to day existence. I love knowing about when someone has a cough or a cold. Or when someone has had a relationship bust-up. I also often use it to contact people for work purposes.

My feelings have always been that it’s a much “deeper” social media experience than many of the others on offer. You get to share photographs, ideas, and connect with others who you know and (perhaps) feel strongly for. It’s not about your job (Linked In), and it’s not about the witty riposte (Twitter).

But I’m increasingly concerned about the way in which the lines between public and private information have been blurred.

I’ve concluded I like the privacy of email, and the openness of a blog, Twitter and Buzz. I like the way in which you know how much information you’re sharing with the world.

Sharing information isn’t an issue for me. For many years I was on the radio, and was always sharing bits and pieces of my life with those listening. I also share an awful lot of information about myself with the world through my blog. Every day I write something about my life. That said, I almost never write about work, and I never talk about friends except in a fairly general sense.

The sharing I do via my blog, though, is always on my terms. I think fairly carefully about how much I want the world to know.

Facebook on the other hand is more grey. What exactly is Facebook? Is it email? Is it a web-page? Is it both things and more? Or is it something new?

I have a nervous feeling about Facebook. I worry they’re sharing information I don’t want shared. I never write anything on Facebook that I wouldn’t want the rest of the world to see. I never write anything I feel like I would regret.

Rather, it’s the connections with friends, family and workmates. I don’t like the idea Facebook will misuse these connections to advertise and direct-market, and thus, to exploit those connections. It’s a philosophical concern, more than a personal one.

I admit, when arguments have been put forward about privacy issues and so on, I’ve always been quite a defender of Facebook, arguing you only share as much as you want to.

Even though I think Google has its own set of “issues”, I actually trust them a little more with the information I’ve shared with them. It’s kinda irrational, I know, because Google has access, via gmail, to far more intimate information including passwords, emails to family and friends and so on.

Sure, they kinda stuffed up the early days of Buzz with the default being to share information with everyone. They quickly learned from that experience and the default is now to share only with people you choose to. Facebook, on the other hand, seems to have gone with sharing information to a few, to sharing information with many.

I’m not going to do it overnight. I’m going to give my friends a few days notice, so that if our main point of contact is Facebook, we find an alternative means of communication. So if we’re Facebook friends, from now on, please contact me via Buzz, Twitter and my blog (where I’m sharing information knowingly with the world), or via email (where I’m choosing to keep it private).

So if we’re Facebook friends, and you want to stay in touch, please do so via http://www.twitter.com/JamesOBrienAU or jamesobrien.id.au

  1. Leaving you say? Ha ha, you’ve actually got to work quite hard to leave Facebook. Deactivating your account does not delete the data. In fact you can reactivate it at any stage and all friends/applications/data will be exactly as you left them.

    Read this, especially the bottom section on deleting your account, for all the steps you need to go through: ZDNet.

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  2. mscherrylane May 10, 2010 at 23:28

    i think the big “nervous” issue is that you are fb friends with some huge blabbermouth who tells the whole world what they think they heard you saying or what they thought they saw you doing etc etc…and then the effect of that rippling through the internet grapevine. however for me what I despise most about fb is how incredibly superficial it can get- eg people you don’t even know friend requesting you just cos you have mutual acquaintances…i also don’t understand why people you know IRL still insist on fb-ing you even if they are sitting right next to you- I don’t get this young generation it’s just like people who live in the same house calling each other on their mobiles(!) I preferred how the world used to be…

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  3. I closed my Facebook account after a couple of months after being indudated with all manner of messages, pokes and friend requests from strangers that threatened to use up all my time.

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  4. Woooh…heavy stuff James! Giving up the evil F word must be like detoxing from heroin! I’m still waiting for someone to invent a social networking site/service that doesn’t do all the stuff that F-Book does that drives me insane. Someone, somewhere must have a workable concept.

    I wouldn’t mind being on a social networking site – it is just that F-Book is really, really bad.

    Ooh quick James, send this to 20 of your friends!

    ;-)

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  5. twistinthedark May 11, 2010 at 06:55

    One of the problems with Facebook is that everyone expects everything for free these days. It costs a helluva lot of money to develop and maintain something on this scale but no one wants to pay for it hence advertising. A lot of people these days are getting better at ignoring advertising so companies like Facebook have to get better at getting the message across. Otherwise their income source dries up and they close the service down.

    I’m not saying this to defend Facebook since I do have a lot of reservations about it (and could still bolt away from it at a moment’s notice). At the end of the day, it’s a tool like any other and it depends on how one uses it. I have my privacy settings on max, only allow real friends (not acquaintances) and have absolutely minimal information on it. There really isn’t much of my personal information to be shared. And I must be one of the few people on Facebook who can quite proudly say that he has met and interacted face to face with all his Facebook friends, even those I originally met through the internet through other forums.

    I agree with mscherrylane above. The thing I really hate about Facebook is how superficial it is making friendships. I see it as a way of keeping in touch with people I don’t normally see on a regular basis. It is not a substitute for real communication and connections with people, more of an aid. You still can’t beat a drink at the pub or a phone call. And don’t get me started on texting! ;-)

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    1. Didn’t I meet you on Facebook?

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  6. I’ve been a great Facebook defender until recently. I just keep reading things which make me think they’ve lost direction. I don’t mind them monetizing things by offering me appropriate advertising – ala Google – but it does worry me the information is being passed on elsewhere. It’s a bit like when you enter a competition and you have to tick the box to say the information can or cannot be shared. Facebook doesn’t have that box. The issue that concerns me is not so much the information you share, but the interactions you have. You chat to so and so, comment on their posts, and so on, and connections/conclusions are drawn. Anyway, it’s my choice, and I’ll do the deed this weekend.

    Here’s some comments on Facebook to my posts…

    * Makes sense. I’ve been reading about what Zuckerberg’s been up to in various tech blogs and I’m starting to get a little scared of Facebook.
    Yesterday at 22:16 ·

    * I must admit James I shared similar feelings on facebook to you… which is why I avoided being drawn into the whole phenomenon for years. But in the past few months I’ve caught up with friends I haven’t seen or heard of in 20 years. I’ve seen how they’ve grown (or aged!) + shared some fantastic memories of the good times that we’ve long left behind. Plus had a chance to share some very daggy photos. Luckily I don’t know or even understand this poking stuff or treasure island or any other “game” that facebook has initiated. I just use it now to check in on people, that they’re still there and they’re doing well. Hope twitter/blogging and email fills the void. I’m sure they will!!!

    * Will Be sorry to see you go. All the best with whatever you choose….xxxx
    Yesterday at 22:59 ·

    * Would love to keep in contact as it’s been what 30 years – almost!?
    Email me, call me next time you are in Londinium or …
    17 hours ago ·

    * PS I kinda agree…
    17 hours ago ·

    * Can I have all your Fish Farm points? :)
    14 hours ago ·

    * I’ve always been a reluctant fb user, but am on it because almost everyone else I know is. It’s a great way to keep in touch with people you’d otherwise lose contact with. Have you explored any other social networking sites?
    12 hours ago ·

    * Well put James.
    When I work out what buzz is (lol) I may catch you there.

    And yes, I’m quite interested in this http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/196017994/diaspora-the-personally-controlled-do-it-all-distr as it sounds like it has the principles of social media which I support. It might be a terrible con, or it might be quite naive. But it suits me.

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  7. Someone else who really likes Facebook but is concerned about THEIR decisions about your privacy.

    http://mattmckeon.com/facebook-privacy/

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  8. James, you’re just an old fogy: Wired. ;-)

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    1. I am so not a fogey. And don’t even think of calling me a boomer. I am sooooo Gen-X.

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  9. how will you search for your work? You need an account to be able to find people. ?? I think.

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    1. I do less and less of that kind of research these days, so I think I’ll be okay.

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  10. oh, yeah. how will i let u know when i have a cold?? I have one now. But what about after this weekend? This is *important!* ;-)

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  11. twistinthedark May 13, 2010 at 18:13

    Something that has always surprised me about Facebook was how much personal information, people seemed quite willing to put up on the web, much, much more than other services like MySpace. I saw someone’s profile the other day and it had her home address and phone numbers for all to see.

    The thing you have to be careful about with Facebook is the way they keep moving the goal posts. They tell you in the small print but honestly, who actually reads all that stuff even if you have to tick a box to say you have? I’m guessing it would be a minority.

    But then again, Google aren’t exactly saints when it comes to privacy either and I suspect that many other online sites are just as bad. It comes down to some common sense about what personal information you decide to put on the world wide web. Many (like James) are sensible and think things through before making a decision about what is right for them but on the other hand, there are many who are not.

    I would quite happily pay a reasonable subscription fee to cover the running of services like Facebook and that way you wouldn’t have to worry about advertising and sneaky corporations. Unfortunately, we do now have a generation of people who think they shouldn’t have to pay for everything and as we all know, nothing in this world is for free. There’s always some hidden catch.

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    1. It seems to me the “subscription model” is coming to an end. Due to the ubiquitous nature of advertising these days, there seems to be an acceptance that the way you pay for things is through ads. That said, I got Foxtel so I wouldn’t have to see ads, and I pay for Foxtel AND I get ads. Where’s the logic in that?

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      1. there is no time for people to watch ads now, either. so “ad-avoiding” stuff is going to sell well.
        Everything should just go on ebay and appear when asked for. not unprompted.

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        1. There’s a fascinating discussion along these lines on http://twit.tv/twig42 at about the 16 minute mark.

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  12. I hate those pesky hidden catches!
    I was told to get one by my workplace — cos we have to be up on ‘social media’.

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  13. Obviously I’ve got the Facebook people scared now.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/facebook/7718537/Facebook-to-tackle-privacy-concerns-at-emergency-meeting.html

    Facebook has ordered all staff to attend a crisis meeting this afternoon to discuss growing concerns about user privacy on the social networking site.
    Facebook has faced mounting criticism from users in recent days from users regarding the complexity of the site’s privacy settings, which dictate how information is shared with friends and acquaintances.

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