On the turning away

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And so it begins.  Over the next few (3, 6, 12, more?) months, I plan to slowly leave Facebook.

Perhaps it will be a complete departure, or perhaps I’ll keep a lingering presence that lies dormant most of the time.

Why, you (may) ask?  It’s not that it takes up too much time.

For many, that is the reason they delete their Facebook accounts, usually with a final fanfare post lamenting Facebook’s time-sucking vortex.  No doubt that much like a bar or casino with no windows or clocks, Facebook makes it very easy to kill about 4 hours of time in what seems like 15 minutes.

Facebook is aware of the neurotransmitter rush people unknowingly experience when they share their lives on the internet and they’ve engineered their site to manipulate such neuropsychology, but let’s face it: it’s not entirely Facebook’s fault, as every computer and smartphone have a clock.

It’s also not the endless emails that are driving me to leave Facebook; those settings can be adjusted, leaving your inbox relatively clutter-free.

Nor is it the games or apps; I stopped playing them several years ago (2010?  2011?) and I consider it one of the biggest improvements I’ve made to my Facebook experience.  Rejecting someone’s invitation to play Flying Jeweled Unicorns creates momentary awkwardness at most, and then everybody shrugs and moves on, not giving it another thought.

So why am I planning an Exodus?

That is a tougher question to answer, because the gist of it is hard to pin down, but it comes down to an overall, visceral disgust and distrust.  Several aspects and characteristics of Facebook led me to the conclusion that they are annoying at best, and dangerous at worst.

1.)  The Privacy Issue – this has been discussed and debated ad nauseum, so I won’t repeat everything here.  Some may say–and I agree, to an extent–that if you don’t want the info to get out into the public, don’t post it online.  Yes, this is true.  It’s good general cyberhealth advice, right along with “never assume you’re anonymous” and “once it’s out, you can’t take it back”.

However, one can defend the idea that many of us posted detailed or personal info because once upon a time, Facebook was fairly privacy-respectful at its core (you needed to sign up just to see what people posted).  Which brings me to…

2.)  Bait-and-Switch Policies/Philosophy – from 2005 to 2010, Facebook essentially did a 180-degree flip on its privacy stance and its respect for its users.  In 2005, their privacy policy stated, simply and succinctly, that “no personal information you submit…will be available to any user…who does not belong to at least one of the groups specified by you in your privacy settings.”

By 2010, however, that integrity had gradually but completely eroded, resulting in: “When you connect with an application or website, it will have access to…your and your friend’s names, profile pictures, gender, user IDs, connections…” (“likes”) “…and any content shared [with] Everyone.”

What’s more is, “the default privacy setting for certain types of information is…Everyone. …[Y]our privacy settings only control who can see the connection on your profile.  If you are uncomfortable with the connection being publicly available, you should consider removing–or not making–the connection.”

TL; DR?  I understand.  Basically, in 2005, Facebook said, “don’t worry, All Your Info Are Safe With Us”, implying that we could go hog-wild with confidence.  Many of us did.

By 2010, Facebook was saying, “too bad; we have you by the jewels and although we know you’ll bitch about your name, city, profile pic, and all your 1100 ‘likes’/pages being made public, you probably won’t be upset enough to go through the hassle of leaving Facebook, so sit down, shut up, and carry on, or remove the info you posted.  Except for…

3a)  NAGGING about ever-more info – if your Facebook profile is completely filled out (hometown, etc), and you delete any of it, the immediately begin to nag you about re-supplying that info.

If you fill out some movies, that’s not good enough; they want more.  Quick little yes-no questions appear in the margin “have you seen this movie?” “Have you watched this TV show?”  If you eventually oblige them with a Yes or No, they rapid-fire a few more of these questions in their place.  But much like making a sacrifice to God(dess)es at an altar, Facebook’s satisfaction is temporary; soon, they will want you to rate them based on 1 to 5 stars.

3b) NAGGING about just about anything else – “Import your email contacts!”  “John Smith used the email finder to find friends on Facebook; you should, too!”  “Jane Smith’s birthday is today!  Write on her wall”, which quickly becomes, “send her a gift!”, with “convenient” gift suggestions that lead back to companies Facebook is in bed with, like Starbucks or iTunes.  “Liking” a post or page isn’t good enough for Facebook, either.  As soon as you do, at least 3-5 more suggested “similar” pages pop up for you to “like”.

4) The CONSTANT notifications (up at the top) – luckily, you can turn off the “feature” in which each individual notification is sent to your email address, but that doesn’t stop little red tags with numbers from appearing, tempting (or even compelling) you to click on them.  “Jack Smith (friends with John Smith) also commented on his status.”  They finally enabled one to go and “Unfollow Post”, but that option doesn’t show up right away.  Until then, you’re stuck with “Joni Smith just took a shit.”

5) The incessant change and redesigning – it’s very frustrating to log on one day, only to find that the entire layout has changed and everything you were familiar with has been scrambled, shifted into different places and now you have to essentially re-learn the site.  Over and over again.

6) The fact that they turned our written, text-based information (in our About page), into “connections”.  Suddenly, my whole movie and music lists were automatically linked with that entity’s Facebook page.  That in itself isn’t a bad thing, except for 2 points:

  1. These “connections” were made automatically public, without any option of making them private (maybe someone doesn’t want their Christian Evangelist boss to find out they’re Wiccan or agnostic, or maybe I’d rather my clientele not be able to find out I like guns), and the only way to protect that information is to remove the connection altogether;
  2. Any text you entered in your Facebook profile in the early days that could not be converted to a connection was outright removed.

Uh, thanks, Facebook; first you hound me for info and then you delete it because you couldn’t find a mould in which it could fit.

7a) NEWS FEED issues, Algorithm Version – I have about 1100 “likes” and 400-450 friends on Facebook.  So why is it that my news feed consists of 8 posts each from about 4 friends/pages?  Facebook’s “algorithm” doesn’t show them to me.  To find out what someone is up to, I often have to specifically visit their wall.  FB claims that they’re trying to show you “relevant content” based on your past “likes” and other activity.

Well, I’m someone that likes to spread the love pretty wide.  I find their ultra-concentration on such few topics/people very monotonous and best, and manipulative at worst.  Just because a “like” a post or page, that doesn’t mean I want that entity to dominate my news feed.

7b) NEWS FEED issues, Algorithm Version, Part 2 – Facebook is insanely UNsuccessful at determining what it is I like and don’t like.  I have no kids, don’t plan to have any, and have never posted a baby picture to my wall or profile in my lifeWhy on God(dess)’s green earth am I inundated with baby pictures?  I don’t think any aspect of the detailed info I regrettably shared with Facebook even suggests that I’d have a remote interest in: “Jeanie Smith was up all night!!!!  #tiredmama”.  I don’t really care that Jayden Smith went through 19 diapers today.  And yet?  “53 people like this”.   Really?

7c) NEWS FEED issues, Algorithm Version, Part 3: Pay to Play – I administer several pages/groups on FB.  However, Facebook has purposefully limited my audience to anywhere from 8 to 12% of my total members.  This means that any time I post something on that page, FB has purposefully suppressed the other 88-92% of my viewers from seeing it in their news feed.

Why?  To extract from me, the page owner, a fee to promote that post.  The more you pay, the more people Facebook will allow to see you.

7d) NEWS FEED issues, Spam–I mean, “Sponsored Stories” Edition – Ah yes, while Facebook is hiding from you relevant content from actual friends and “liked” pages, they’re also populating your news feed with posts from pages (usually business) that you don’t know or care about.

This is exactly the same as spam, in my book.  I made it a (stubborn and spiteful) point to “Hide” any “Sponsored” post, just to send Facebook (and these companies trying to buy our attention through yet another avenue) a message.

8) Facebook essentially owns your information, despite empty promises to the contrary.  Real content ownership includes having control over what happens to the information you post.  If we truly owned our Facebook content, we wouldn’t have to worry that it would:

  1. be made public when we didn’t want it to;
  2. be used in ads or for other purposes, especially without our explicit permission;
  3. be copied and distributed without our permission;
  4. remain on Facebook’s servers after one deletes an account, etc, etc.

In a 2009 blog post, Facebook says: “Our philosophy is that people own their information and control who they share it with.  When a person shares information on Facebook, they first need to grant Facebook a license to use that information so that we can show it to the other people they’ve asked us to share it with.  Without this license, we couldn’t help people share that information.”

I don’t remember granting them a “license”; do you?

Oh wait, maybe it was buried in that endless (14,000-word), legal jargon-saturated Terms of Service (TOS) that I merely scanned through (and let’s face it, you probably didn’t scrutinize it any better than I did).

9) Coming Soon: Spammy Ads in the Notifications list – Yep, that’s right.  The last bastion of Facebook usefulness–its notifications menu–will soon be peppered with ads for “Sponsored” games/apps, etc.  For Christ’s sake, it was bad enough when someone you actually knew sent you invites to games you had no interest in, but now “sponsored”??

So that little red number tag at the top could be something meaningful, such as someone commenting on your status or someone designated as a Close Friend posting something…or it could be “Come play Scrabble Jewels! [Sponsored]”  Uggggh.

And there are many other reasons that I’ve got my crosshairs set on Facebook…

  • Zuckerberg’s complete disdain and disregard for the users that built him.
  • Constantly-changing, confusing, and cumbersome privacy settings and user/account preferences.  And every time there’s a fundamental change, your privacy settings often mysteriously default to Public!  Oh, and then epic-failing to disclose or notify you of any changes, while the only we we find out is by reading tech-based news or someone graciously gives us a heads-up.
  • Slow, cludgy server, with a constant refresh of the news feed, whether you wanted it to refresh or not, even if you’re currently in the middle of clicking on a post, or “liking” or even in the middle of commenting (!) on the post.
  • Constant pressure for mobile phone numbers and alternate email addresses (although these pushes come in spurts)
  • Childish demand for real names, and the petty restrictions placed on such names.  You can’t use Dr. ?  Really?  And you can’t use initials?  Well, what about those folks who are actually named “J.T.”?  (Yes, they’re out there.)
  • Having to opt out of everything (being Google searchable, having your default privacy settings set to Public, etc) instead of being able to opt-in.
  • Forcing change upon its users instead of letting users decide.
  • Censoring groups it doesn’t agree with – these groups were not engaged in any wrongdoing or mischief, and they were not breaking any laws.  Facebook just didn’t like them, or agree with their politics.
  • Occasionally denying the ability to post certain links that criticized FB – this happened to me several years ago, when I tried to post a link that was disparaging (but not dishonestly so) toward Facebook on my wall.  Facebook would not even let the link post to my wall.  I had to doctor it quite a bit and try several times just to get it to post.  (I finally succeeded, but not without a lot of work.)
  • Constant nagging for the email addresses of people not on Facebook (the cult-like recruitment of fresh blood—uh, new members).
  • Lack of transparency – the truth is, we don’t know what Facebook is doing with “our” content, nor can we be comfortable that when we delete an account, it’s deleted (it’s actually not).
  • Cozy bedfellow relationships with governmental surveillance agencies.  I suspected such arrangements years ago, and was vindicated when the Prism news story broke.

So now I’m headed off for what I hope are greener pastures.  I was fairly successful at avoiding (or stamping out) exposure to drama on Facebook.  Thankfully, I was never stalked or threatened.

(I was friend-requested and hit on out-of-the-blue by someone with whom I had zero mutual friends, no shared networks, and at least 1500 miles of geographical distance.  I admit, that was a little strange.  How did this person find out about me and what drew them to me?  Unsettling.)

But so far, I’ve managed to escape the other common Facebook plagues; I never had my account hacked, never been under a phishing attack, I’ve never been denied a job due to my Facebook profile, and I’ve never been suspended or locked out of my account.

I’m just tiring of it is all.  I’m sick of the over-stimulation, the coercion and manipulation, the baiting-and-switching, and the treatment of users like ignorant cattle who gripe but eventually suck it up.

Well, this time, I’m not just sucking it up, and I know I’m not alone.  My new social media destination is growing by 10-15% every week, and in the last 24 hours, I’ve been responsible for 5 of their newest members.  Maybe the grass is greener over here – at least it’s not “Sponsored” or automatically default-set to “Everyone”!


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