I was notified today that someone at my office created an official office Facebook group of some sort, and I filled out a usage survey for it created by that person. It was a good survey and it even had a radio button for “Yeah, I don’t have a Facebook account.”
I decided to write down my thoughts on Facebook and why I’ve decided so far not to have an account of my own with the service.
Sometimes it’s preferable to write about the reasons for doing something and sometimes it makes sense to write about the reasons for not doing something. Sometimes the best fit is to list both, which I’ve chosen to do here.
Reasons to Use Facebook
I’ll start with the reasons I would like to use Facebook, in the order that I think of them (not in order of importance):
- So my wife can send me the occasional thing she wants to share from Facebook. Relative importance: Very low.
- So I can get notices from my daughter’s school, which I think uses Facebook more than, say, email. Relative importance: Medium.
- So I can get notes from my home-owners’ association. Relative importance: Low.
- So I can find deals on stuff to buy using for-sale lists. Relative importance: Highest of this set of reasons, but still pretty low.
- So I can look up people I hear about or whom I haven’t seen in a very long time to see if they’re still pretty. Relative importance: Really low — and rather base.
I can’t think of other reasons for me to use Facebook.
I don’t feel at all that it is necessary to explain to others why I would or wouldn’t do something. This post, and the entirety of this blog, exist to help me remember specific things from specific times and to have a low-friction place to refer friends when I’ve written something I think they’ll actually read. Note that at the time of this writing I have either zero or one reader of this blog, to my knowledge. (Hi, Frank! I know you use Facebook for work — but, critically, it’s none of my business when, why or how you use it anyway.)
Facebook for Business
I’ll also note that I see valid reasons to use Facebook for certain business situations. If I use Facebook in the future, I believe it will be specifically because I felt it was best for my business.
My initial, gut response to someone asking why I’m not on Facebook is to wonder why they are on Facebook. Maybe they have a good reason, but have they really considered it? The privacy concerns and general creepiness aren’t enough to keep them off of Facebook? I seldom voice this response to that question.
Do they trust Facebook’s intentions? Do they trust the people with whom they may share info on Facebook to have the same or compatible opinions about what should be shared? Do they trust every friend of every friend of every friend? Do they trust the other people who may have access to the information collected by Facebook about you and your goings on?
My main reason for not using Facebook is that I don’t trust Facebook the company and I don’t trust my (or any) government.
Is everyone marked as a friend inside Facebook actually a friend?
The word “like” at is used in Facebook is a misnomer and a corruption of the word through redefinition.
The things in Facebook are stuck in Facebook, it seems. Ever ask someone to send you a page outside of Facebook? Doesn’t work so well in many cases that I’ve run into.
I don’t like the speed of the thing. Too much churn for me. As an aside, I got a Pinterest account the day before yesterday. I filled out a page of my interests (didn’t like that, but decided to give it a whirl). Anyway, I was looking at the (I originally, naively, wrote, “my” instead of “the”) page of stuff it had surfaced for me. And after refreshing it or coming back to it after clicking on something in it, the page had changed drastically. Not just stuff added to the top, but it was a new scramble of the things that were already there! I found this very irritating. I like certain things to stay put. Not enough time had gone by for this scramble to have been organic, it felt.
Noise > Signal
I remember the first time I logged into my wife’s Facebook account, which was on a normal computer. With her permission, I was looking for pictures of our daughter at a school event posted by the school or another parent. I wanted my own copies of the photos. I found the thing to be really high on noise and really low on signal, for me. It just assaulted me with busy-ness. It was like watching twenty newsfeeds at once. I didn’t like it. Perhaps worse, I didn’t find the photos! I got no product. She had already tried and failed to find them again herself.
I’ve found it hard to find something already seen on Facebook in the past. It’s happened to me multiple times with my wife where she said she saw something and I wanted to see it and she couldn’t find it again. I want the devices and services which serve me to help me by reducing randomness and confusion.
Who controls what you see? Who controls if you see something or not, or what is shown before another thing? Some algorithm designed and maintained by people you don’t see with purposes and masters you cannot know.
There’s just no way, from what I’ve seen and read, that the goals of Facebook the company are aligned with my personal goals. I want to raise a healthy family and provide for the common good. Facebook wants to sell my attention at the rate of probably $3/year to whoever will pay for that attention. If it does some good along the way, that’s a happy side effect in my book, because it’s going to come second to feeding the monster.
What about ramifications of adding/removing someone from your Facebook group? Do they have the same exact idea of what it means to friend or unfriend someone? Does this stupid, artificial interaction of unfriending send some subtle message that you don’t intend? Look, maybe they just don’t want to be bothered with what you’re posting and are trying to improve the signal:noise ratio of their feed. This doesn’t mean their relationship to you is actually different than it was before Facebook became a proxy for your relationship.
There’s a frictionlessness to Facebook that I find un-charming and intrinsically creepy. While I really enjoy removing friction from many aspects of my life (for example, finding the best tool for a given job or automating something tedious with software), that doesn’t mean I want all things to be friction-free. What if the front door of my house were friction-free? It would cease to be an impediment to those who would enter my home with their bodies or their perception. Some friction is A-okay with me. Friction can be natural and positive.
Privacy will never be Facebook’s default.
I believe that the reason most people have Facebook is to keep up with their friends, by passively watching their activities and posting their own. I don’t favor this way of keeping up with my friends. Too much information, too often. If I want to catch up with my friends, I still prefer to actually ask them what they’re up to, not to passively (and, actually, pretty anonymously due to the lack of natural friction) eavesdrop on them. Certainly, they allowed it. But do they know exactly what they allowed? Did the Facebook settings they chose migrate slightly into having a different meaning over time? Was it completely clear when they made those choices what exactly every choice was going to mean in every possible situation? Did they even pay attention to those choices? Did the people who designed those choices care at all about privacy? How much did they care? The default sentiment was certainly “share” above “privacy.” I value privacy above sharing.
I find it embarrassing to solicit attaboys from everyone I’ve ever been more than an acquaintance of — and some amorphous army of their direct and indirect relations. I don’t want to contribute my own attaboys to others seeking the same. I prefer a conversation with one or a few people at a time, in a setting under our mutual control and, if not of my choosing, with my explicit accord. Come on over, we’ll kill a bottle of wine together and have some laughs.
On the other hand, I’m confident that Facebook posts serve a very similar role for millions of people that this blog serves for me — a personal (albeit not private) journal for their use and to share with friends. I also recognize that Facebook provides a little more control (if confusing and ever-changing by design) over who gets to see such journal entries than this blog affords me.
Deny all, accept selectively. I prefer to turn the faucet on by my own hand and gradually increase the flow. For me, Facebook is a waterfall by default with the potential for infinite streams of water you cannot even see, some accidental and many certainly there by design.