David A. Windham

Facebook Weirdness

It’s been almost three years now since I’ve used Facebook. Oh, I’ve logged in to get developer keys tune up other folks business accounts, but otherwise I turned off all notifications and left my personal account untouched. I had started out back in 2007 when I received an invite from an old friend and had previously somewhat enthusiastically written in 2008 about it’s potential. Although it took me five years to quit, the enthusiasm began to wane within a year and half. The primary reason I quit is that I did not want to support Facebook policies or practices as an online medium and I wanted to lead by example. Another reason, perhaps the more central issue, I quit is that I felt as if it had started to creep into my life too much. I started having people I really didn’t care about in my dreams. Aside from the basic psychological perspective that folks were curating their online identities which in no way represented their real lives, I started to find that my real life conversations were beginning to revolve around Facebook posts. It took a while to come to that decision because I tried other methods first. I deleted half my so called friends. Mind you this was before the unfollow feature which allows you to sort them out but not unfriend them. I worked with the Facebook granular controls for privacy and created lists/groups. I stopped accepting friend requests of folks I really didn’t know. I blocked relatives so I didn’t have to answer Facebook related questions during the holidays. I bemoaned the Facebook invasion into my privacy every time they reset some setting to public or added a new feature. So I made a conscious effort to stay logged out.

I’m pretty sure some folks hadn’t even noticed I’m absent. At the time of my Facebook departure, I was working on a Facebook app for a web publishing project I was involved in. I learned all about writing custom Facebook queries. I learned how I could determine the last time anyone logged in and some other basic Facebook data that you wouldn’t think they’d provide. But they do and they make it relatively easy to access. I think everyone knows about the privacy gaffe, but they seem to not concern themselves with privacy or the pigeon-holing of the internet as a whole into a proprietary vacuum. I started to detest their policy and practices and I made note of it elsewhere online like many others. Articles like Theft, Lies, and Facebook Video are indicative of these practices. In recent years, I think they are being forced into some more accountability but the problems persist because of the architecture of the product. Their new publisher platform… eh. blah. Facebook is speeding up the internet for them… just like they’re giving free internet to other parts of the world. There’s no free lunch online either. Now I will say that Facebook is obviously doing a lot of stuff right. I’d hope so since they’re flush with cash and resources, but they’re making an effort to open source some of their techniques. Facebook React is spot on. It tackled the important issue of rendering javascript server side and many companies have since adopted it. The obscene adoption rate of users doesn’t lie. Facebook is a very usable feature-rich platform for many people and companies. I don’t blame them whatsoever since that’s where the people are, but it’ doesn’t leave me feeling any better about my own personal usage.

For me, It still feels like a family or high school reunion that you can never leave. When I quit It wasn’t just family or old friends anymore, it was now colleagues, coworkers, and random people that I had no idea if I knew them or not. I had too much trouble filtering out the folks I actually care about from the mild acquaintances. It wasn’t really building the app that logged me off for good. The final straw for me was when my parents joined and I think that’s why the curve of Facebook users has continually trended up in age as young users depart. When my parents joined Facebook, they suddenly decided that this new medium was the way to communicate all the time. It was enough that they had learned how to send text messages. I’d call and they’d say “hey, did you see my Facebook post” or “did you see what x posted”. Now Facebook was really invading my personal space in that I can no longer carry on a conversation with my own family. I still call my parents about every other week, just to chat and check in on everything. And now they have to ask “how are things”, “whatcha been up to” and the like. It’s nice. The same thing almost anyone has to ask me in person when I see them. I logged in a couple days ago and dug around a bit. I noticed that not much has changed. It still a wasteland of communication for the most part. The subtleties of question and response are gone. It’s wide open nonsensical, non-linear, self-promotion, copyright violations, and mostly just plain crap sprinkled in with some personal copy and photographs. I don’t suspect it’s the medium, but rather the users… or possibly just my friends. Although I really believe that you can get whatever you want out of it. I’ve worked online for over ten years now and I know damn well that the medium is rather indicative of internet communications and possibly even human communication as a whole. But for some reason, regardless of what I know, I still am still trying to see the bright side of it all.

So maybe I’m doing it wrong. Maybe I’m lumping this medium in with the ideal communication I’d like to have from my friends and family. Maybe it’s that I’ve confused the word friend with what Facebook calls a friend. A true friend recently emailed me to check in. However, instead of calling or starting a series of emails, I logged into Facebook to see what’s going on with him. And I said to myself, now this is a decent use case scenario. He then proceeded to post what I sent to him on Facebook. I checked in again after I notice traffic coming here from the link I had sent. Since I’ve turned off all personal notifications I generally have some outstanding tags and whatnot that I tend to ignore when I log in. I don’t feel bad about it and I generally feel more connected to the folks that I actually keep in touch with. My email and website is listed and I even list a phone number on the homepage of my site that you could text or call anytime. I do, however feel non-supportive to these acquaintances at times. When I accept friend requests, I have a generic message I send back to friend requests informing them of my lack of participation. And although I hope they respect my opinion, they seem to forget because when I’m out and about, they always ask “did you see blank on Facebook?” like they expect everyone to be there regardless. It’s still so weird to me. I’m unsure that some of these folks know of any other way to communicate online. I recently started going back through this old site of mine and I realized that it’s mostly junk too, so who am I to critique the online communication of anyone else. And in that way I am doing it wrong. So now, I think I might log into Facebook and post this post, maybe try and whip up some new people lists that I might enjoy …and then try to shake the weirdness off when I log out. Or the more likely scenario… I’ll log in, confirm some requests, send em a blanket statement and quickly get out of there before any weirdness sets in.