Overactive Vocabulary

When In Doubt, Ameliorate


Putting Facebook on Ice

This is the last thing posted to my Facebook profile, probably forever:

"Time to ice my Facebook account. Going to cut it to just family, turn off the Twitter bridge, and disable all notifications."

This morning I did exactly that: I hopped on Facebook, removed all my non-family friends, deleted all my “Likes”, deleted all the Apps I had given access, left all groups, and went through and (laboriously!) turned off every email notification Facebook has. I now exist on Facebook, but really only as a pointer to where I’m actually participating online.

So two questions immediately come up: why? And why not go all the way and delete the account altogether?

The why is pretty easy: I’ve come to despise the social model of Facebook. The simplistic, synchronous “friend” model is good at putting content in front of me that I feel compelled to read, but bad at putting content in front of me that actually enriches my relationships. Add to that the giant sucking sound that is Facebook’s effort to grab as much personal content and then make that content as public as they can get away with, and I end up with a tinge of self-loathing every time I lose a half-hour to reading about the intimate details of the lives of people I don’t even know any more (if I ever did at all).

Facebook feels (to me) like Pleasure Island in the story of Pinocchio - a fun place designed to draw you in and make an ass of you, so that eventually you’ll turn a profit for the owners. I don’t feel that there is much empathy from the organization for their users, rather that the trajectory of the company is to exploit baser human tendencies to “drive higher engagement” and make a quick buck. Even the usage of an advertising business model in a social context just feels crass in a way that (for instance) Google ads never have; sort of like that person you found out invited you into their social circle so that they could sell you Amway products.

This is of course just my personal take: I know many folks get a lot of mileage out of Facebook, and feel that it has merit, and I say, “More power to them!” Which brings me to the second question, well put by Mr. Bass:

"Go all the way… just deactivate it completely!"

Why not go all the way and just delete the account? Well, first of all, there is no such thing as “delete” on Facebook, at least not as far as I can tell. While going through and cutting my Friend list down, there were two people, including one Matthew Bass, who were still in it even though they had “deleted” their account. So it seems kind of like a pointless gesture.

More importantly, my goal here is to stop putting value into Facebook, not to punish myself by disappearing from it completely. People can still find me by my email addresses, see where I’m actually hanging out via the links in my profile, know that I am related to that other Talbott they know, etc. If anything my super minimal ongoing presence on the site makes more of a statement than deleting the account would, by saying, “Yes, I know about Facebook, and I actively choose not to participate in it.”

And, with a still valid Facebook account, I can continue to check out the services that require it, take a peek when Facebook does something new to tick off the internet (I bet your listed email address on the site is @facebook.com, isn’t it?), and generally not get totally out of touch with non-geek consumers, which is an important set of people to understand. And I get all of these ongoing benefits without much more attachment to the site than I would have had I “deleted” my account.

So, going forward, you can find me on App.net and Twitter. And contact me via email. And read my latest thoughts here on the blog. And you can probably even send me a message on Facebook… but if a message gets sent via Facebook and there’s no email notification, will it ever get read? Probably not.