Farewell Facebook - One Month Later
People Don't Question Most Personal Decisions
If someone says, "I don't eat meat," a lot of people take the statement at face value without questioning it. It's just a fact about that person. Even if that person's friends may not agree with whatever reasoning the person has, they generally accept it without debate.
If someone says, "I don't watch reality TV," friends don't debate that person. If anything, that person can now be considered less stupid than previously thought. :-P
If someone says, "I don't drink soda," it's the same as if someone said, "I don't eat meat."
If someone says, "I don't smoke," people either support the person or don't think anything of it. No one questions the decision.
I now know there are two things that people are shocked if someone chooses not to participate: drinking and Facebook. I also think people are more understanding about the former.
Jim Gaffigan once did a standup routine about the fact that he doesn't drink. If you've ever seen the reaction of your friends or family when a friend says this, you know just how true this clip is (relevant part starts about 1 minute in).
I found that people complain a lot about Facebook. "The layout is shit." "The privacy settings are confusing." "My friend have annoying status updates." "Facebook is evil!" Yet, you are expected to have an account. This makes no sense to me.
You Must Use Facebook
Years ago, when people met, they would exchange phone numbers. Years after that, people exchanged screen names on Instant Messenger. Now, people become Facebook friends. If you meet someone and you don't have a Facebook account, you're considered a geezer who doesn't understand modern technology.
I've been in bar debates (always productive, I know) and discussions about different opinions and viewpoints. We all have. At some point in everyone's lives, each person had to defend an opposing position, even if it's as unimportant as what TV show you will all watch. I've talked about religious and political views and spent entire days debating and discussing them with friends.
I've never had to verbally defend myself more than when I deactivated my Facebook account.
Facebook Serves No Purpose For Me
I've found Facebook to be nothing more than a time sink. It wasn't fun or entertaining. It was just another thing I had to maintain.
- My main reason was that I never used Facebook. I've learned that is an invalid argument. Apparently, I'm supposed to leave my account idle, not deactivated.
- The privacy setting issues never bothered me. I understand that the primary purpose of the Web is to share information. If I don't want to let anybody else see it, I don't post it on a (mostly) public forum. I don't have the delusion of privacy on Facebook, a company whose primary income is selling your information and targeting ads at you using that information.
- I like to keep my stuff. According to Facebook, anything you post becomes its property to do whatever it sees fit. Any picture or article you put on the site is a gift to the company. You no longer can claim sole copyright. Why would I use Facebook to share anything when better, more direct alternatives exist?
- I find most people who live on Facebook to be insufferable. I've known people who can talk at me for hours at a time about Farmville and other Facebook shit. I don't care. I never cared. There is an entire class of people who make fun of World of Warcraft players for never going outside, only to bail on plans because they have to harvest their Farmville crops. Why are these things considered to be different?
- Many of the people I know don't have a thought without posting it on Facebook. Apparently, I'm supposed to friend them, then hide them. At that point, why even fucking bother?
- Too many Facebook posts are just copies of tweets. When applications started giving the ability to post on both services, it was the beginning of the end. Other than character limit, there's not much of a difference between the two feeds anymore. Also, a lot of people stay under Twitter's character limit when posting just to be able to post to both simultaneously. Worse still, some people use services like TwitLonger or Too Long For Twitter (purposely not linking to these) to completely remove the limit, giving me a link that I'm not going to click instead. Even "liking" something is analogous to "retweeting" it. Facebook is threaded; Twitter isn't. That's about it.
- Even event invitations aren't useful anymore. At one point, Facebook made it easy to invite your friends to a birthday party, a road trip, a concert, etc. I guess it made doing this too easy. It seemed that any time any of my Facebook friends was going to a bar (somehow that is a special event), was playing in a concert (which they did weekly), or any other non-special occassion, the person would invite every person on the friend list. Are you singing one 3-minute song in a coffee shop in New Zealand? Don't invite me. I'm not flying from New Jersey, USA, to see you. And yes, this really happened.
- I don't care about your pets. Every picture is either of a dog, cat, baby, or a duckface (as I said, I do live in New Jersey). With babies, family might want to see those photos, so I'll give them a pass. Facebook even has the ability to create profile pages for dogs and cats. People can post as their pet. Seriously, Facebook, fuck you.
- Facebook is full of attention whores. Explained below.
Facebook's True Nature
If you were on the Web before Facebook, you might recognize it for what it really is: a gigantic bulletin board with a custom skin. Every status update is a new thread. A wall post is just a new thread in a subforum named after the wall's owner. Both have user profiles. Both supporte private messages (which are basically forum-specific e-mail). People used to share photos on public BBS's, too.
If you are one of these people, then you also remember how many boards died: too many "look at me!" users. It's a cycle:
- A BBS has a few users. They all start talking.
- The discussions become interesting/helpful. Other users looking for this information or topic find the board through friends or search engines.
- The board becomes popular. It is in its prime.
- More users means more threads and topics. Even if the ratio of posters to lurkers is the same, both are in greater number. New threads are constantly being created.
- With more users comes more n00bs. Rather than searching the forum for a relevant topic or thread, they just create a new thread, sometimes on an arbitrary board. This is the beginning of the end.
- Other n00bs who have been there "since the beginning" (read: a few months on a 5-year old forum) start posting responses. They want to be recognized or feel they should contribute. Many times, they will go to Google or Wikipedia and parrot a phrase, claiming they are an expert in the topic.
- Around 50% to 75% of the original users have left the board by now. The forum has become tedious and tiresome.
- All the new "experts" start complaining how the forum "used to be good." Every new thread basically becomes a copy-paste of another thread or is pointless and off-topic.
- The last of the original users has given up hope. They have either found another forum or stopped going on forums altogether.
- The board eventually falls dormant, closes down, or stays populated by these new users for what seems like forever. The forum is a shell of its former self and can never recover. The users start to look around for other forums to infest.
Facebook is the last type of board. Facebook still exists because it found a way to make money off the whole ordeal: advertising and selling personal information. There's an adage that has been true since the dawn of commerce. If the service is free, you are not the customer; you are the product. Every pointless status update helps Facebook target ads at you. What do you really get by "liking" a corporation's Facebook page? Coupons? Discounts? If Facebook wasn't so popular, they would find another way of getting those to you. Facebook just gives them an already-hungry, consumer-culture audience with disposable income.
When I started typing this, it wasn't going to be a rant about Facebook. As I put my fingers on the keyboard, I started to think of the all the people who thought that not having a Faceboook page is absurd. People reacted like I was either stupid or a snob. I'm dumb for not understanding why Facebook should be central to my life, and I'm a snob because I'm "above" Facebook, similar to all those people who raise their noses up in the air and claim, "I don't watch TV. I don't even own a TV."
I'm not dumb or "better." I just don't think Facebook fits in to my life. Whether you enjoy Farmville or just crave attention from others who want the same, go for it. I don't judge you. I really don't care. We all have our hobbies. If you take nothing else from this article, please just take these two points:
- Understand that while you enjoy spending time on Facebook, I and many others enjoy something else. Your time on Mafia Wars is my time with my soldering iron.
- If you talk at me for hours on end about how your Farmville crops are doing, realize that I can do the same thing right back at you with Dungeons and Dragons stories. (After all, whenever someone talks about Farmville, I'm just picturing SimFarm anyway.)
Also, as a warning to those who do deactivate their Facebook accounts, if you click a link that leads you to a Facebook page on a computer where you saved your password, Facebook will automatically reactivate your account without telling you. That computer automatically logged in for you, which is all Facebook wants you to do to reactivate you. You'll know it's happened when the "Sign In" button has your profile picture again.
With all that said, I already have my next challenge lined up. Stay tuned.