An Honest and Open Letter to Facebook: You Are on Notice
Before I get started, I would like to affirm that these are my own thoughts and are in no way reflective of Distilled or any of its other employees opinions or beliefs. Viewer discretion is advised.
I have read a handful of articles in the last few weeks about why people are or are not quitting Facebook. I have been sitting on the fence now for the last week or so and have been dangerously close to pulling the trigger and ending what has been a rather tumultuous relationship. At the risk of sounding like a hipster, I genuinely do miss the old Facebook.
It’s not that I really mind if my father reads my status updates, or that a potential employer may find pictures of me holding a beer in a picture or twelve. I genuinely believe that for my generation (of 20somethings) there is a different attitude about these things. First, I think we’re smart enough to detag and protect our profile and images well enough that these images should be relatively difficult to find if it’s a concern. But secondly, if a Presidential candidate can admit trying cocaine and still get the job , I hardly think that it’s reasonable to rule me out of a less important job for imbibing from time to time.
Don't Push Me, 'Cause I'm Close to the Edge
Reason 1: Privacy
The first reason I nearly quit is that I, like so many others, have a genuine issue with Facebook’s privacy standards and carelessness with personal details. Again, this goes beyond my worrying about people finding pictures of me making a fool of myself, it’s much bigger issues.
For example, the fact that TechCrunch recently ran an article about how easily a user could read other users (even with whom they were not friends) personal conversations on Facebook chat is a clear indication of the types of dangerous loopholes that may still exist in the coding. For a site worth so many billion dollars, it hardly seems to be locked up very tight.
Reason 2: Nostalgia
The second reason I nearly quit is because I miss the old Facebook. I’m not trying to say that Facebook should have kept the doors closed to the general public. In fact, the openness of Facebook and the access it provides me to old friends and family long lost are one of the few reasons I’m staying.
However it is my opinion that every single update to the system has made the platform less user friendly. Whilst some of the features added along the way have been great (sharing photos, chat, embedded images and videos) they have been poorly executed. I used to enjoy interacting with people on Facebook, now I just rely on the newsfeed.
Reason 3: Greed
Facebook no longer really does anything for me. I get most of the quality/interesting articles I read from Reddit or Twitter. I find it difficult if not annoying to navigate thanks to recent changes. The “notifications” system has gotten worse (I don’t even check my emails from Facebook anymore and it stopped working on my smartphone) and it takes for granted the purpose “The Facebook” was designed to fulfil.
It was a great way to figure out who the cute girl in your class was during Undergrad, but it’s no longer an effective way for me to meaningfully engage with other users. I can hardly find my friend’s birthdays on the thing anymore and my head nearly explodes just by landing on the homepage. Facebook is no longer a manageable and useful social media platform for me anymore.
Reason 4: Vanity
The fourth reason I nearly quit is because Facebook has made me more self-centred. I am not trying to absolve myself of responsibility, in fact, I know I let it happen and I am to be blamed. Facebook went from a place where I would happily go see what my friends were up to at other schools or on their year abroad to a point where I was so overwhelmed by the constant flurry of activity that I could no longer be bothered.
I have a pretty sad confession to make and I doubt very much I’m alone here: if I’m not tagged in a photo, I usually don’t care. This obviously isn’t always the case, but when my newsfeed is filled with images of people I have spoken to since I was 13 years old and 50 new pictures of their babies, my A.D.D. kicks in and I end up browsing aimlessly before ending up back on my own homepage, usually forgetting why I signed on in the first place. And more often than not, if someone hasn’t posted something on my wall I don’t remember to check what they’re up to either.
This is, unfortunately, a part of growing up. You lose touch with people you care about, but I have a dreadful feeling that this process was made a lot quicker as a result of Facebook and the mindscramble I receive every time I log on.
Reason 5: Fear
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I find the advertising practises of Facebook to border on unethical. I know some may find this amusing (or even hypocritical) coming from an SEO, but it’s true. I’m not against marketing, and I’m not against people helping me find what I’m after- in fact it’s my job to ensure this. Paid advertising campaigns through Facebook that resort to tactics like “targeting people with misspellings in their profile” for alcoholic beverages is abhorrent.
The level of targeting that Facebook peddles to advertisers as the holy grail of advertising success provides some pretty obvious and despicable opportunities for the less honest amongst us to take advantage of people and manipulate them into buying things they neither need, nor want.
And as is the case in the above REAL example, this leaves a lot of room for advertisers to hurt the industry and society a great deal. And though they will claim it’s not their job to police these advertising schemes, it illuminates quite clearly the positive efforts Google has taken to combat some of these issues (such as penalising sites advertising steroids and other illegal substances).
So, Why on Earth am I Still on Facebook?
Reason 1: Forgiveness
I’m willing to give Facebook a chance to get their shit in order. At this point, it is not so much what they have done with their massive databases of information (that they own whilst your account is alive) it is what they reserve the right to do with it that scares me.
The moment I find out that a picture from my Facebook profile has been sold for stock images will be the moment I close the door on Facebook for good.
Reason 2: Reliance
Because there is not an equivalent, well populated site where I can easily share things with my friends and family. I live several timezones away from many of my nearest and dearest. I want to make a genuine effort to be better about keeping in touch, but there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to write them all as often as I’d like.
If and when there is a better/safer alternative (one that I hope Diaspora will provide) I will consider a move. The only problem will be convincing the most important of my 1,256 acquaintances (they can’t all be true “friends,” can they?) with me.
Reason 3: Responsibility
Because as Danny Sullivan points out in this article, the internet is my livelihood. As much as I may disagree with Facebook, I need to understand it to do my job effectively and it’s quite difficult to get involved and advise clients when I no longer use a product or service.
Reason 4: Openness
And, ultimately it’s less my privacy about which I’m concerned. I have plenty of skeletons in my closet, but I trust the people I care about enough to know that any truly damaging information would not be aired out on Facebook.
I am a bit of an open book and I am human and I make mistakes, we all do. However, I am fortunate enough to trust the security of my friendships and relationships enough that I don’t worry myself too much with Facebook’s questionable, at best, privacy policies.
To my close friends and family, please treat this as the most public apology I can offer (odds are you ignore my links and photos on Facebook as much as I do yours). I honestly will try harder to stay in touch even if it means picking up the phone, writing an email, or-heaven forbid- a letter or a postcard.
Finally, to you Facebook: you are on very thin ice, consider yourself warned.
Facebook User 2004-?
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to include them below or find me on Twitter (a slightly less invasive social media platform).