Monday, January 24, 2011

The Facebook dilemma

A friend recently asked why I left Facebook (FB). Many have written about their FB dilemma, and why they leave, join, leave, join. Several things bother me about FB - here's a few:

1. Privacy: Ongoing privacy issues with its app developers (they get your info then can sell it to others). FB keeps backing off when caught but the young geeks in charge really do not get the privacy issue and I do not trust them.

2. Advert magnet: FB's core business is to create communities to whom advertising can be targetted. It can do this since FB knows a great deal about its users. I'm against this insidious practice in principle.

Truest quote I've heard about FB was on CBC radio awhile ago. About free social media sites like FB,  a social media expert said , "If it's free, what they are selling is YOU."

3. Quasi-voyerism: FB is supposed to be a social medium, but, like mailing lists, most people lurk and make few, if any, posts. No communication, no interaction, just a kind of harmless 'voyeurism', presumably getting pleasure from glimpsing the lives of others. The volume of genuine personal interaction among the 'friends' compared to deadening silence (or total drivel) is low.

4. Friends - really?  Once on FB, you get many friend requests from people who in no way are your friends. Indeed, some barely know you and some you may not have even gotten along with that well. It's hard to refuse a 'friend' request because you know the person will not understand, may be hurt, and just wants to touch base with a colleague or acquaintance.

Yet it's ridiculous to give virtual strangers access to your daily activities, thoughts, and feelings, assuming you use FB as a true social medium. I do not like dealing with this dilemma time and time again.

5. Posing: FB lends itself to posing and posers. Naturally, all users tend to reveal the parts of themselves they want others to see, i.e., their admirable selves, their bragging points, etc. FB is somewhat akin to those Christmas cards with long updates that some people send in which their kids are practically Nobel prize winners and they are happily planning their annual family get together in the hills of Tuscany. It's all harmless, but the hypocrisy tends to get to me.

6. Time waster: FB can easily become a huge time waster as you scroll through the drivel to get to the gems. Since our time on earth is finite, time on FB must be assessed against other activities. In most (not all) cases, FB loses. To me, few, if any, important things in life happen in front of a computer screen.

That said, now that I've left, I truly miss interacting on FB with my friends. The choice to opt out of FB was not an easy one. Most people just go with the prevailing flow (500 million users and growing), but I've never been good at that. I often think of returning but have resisted so far.
Currently, I'm trying a new experiment with twitter. Follow me here:

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