A few years ago, I decided to leave Facebook. It was part experiment and part annoyance. There were a number of features I had grown tired of in the online application and I outlined them in the article. But in the few years that have passed since I originally posted that article, I have once again grown weary of the online giant for all of my original reasons and a few more.
Namely, I have tired of the litany of advertisements I receive from FB. They are always there, flashing at me from the mobile app, the browser version and even from the people I follow. The people I am connected to often share something from some advertising site only adding to an already clogged feed. And of course there are all of the not-so-funny somecards.com postings to wade through as well.
But I think I have realized something in the 5-6 years I have been a FB user and it seems so obvious I wonder why I have not realized it before. I enjoy my face-to-face interactions with friends and family members so much more. FB has become too commercial and even the relationships I have with my connections via the application has a certain commercial nature to it. I chalk this up to the Hawthorne Effect. Even if you have a rather small set of connections (I had 50-60), there is still the power of observation in all of those connections. It causes us to be less genuine. And if there is something I am learning about relationships as I age, it is that being genuine is everything. It’s what makes us like one another and enjoy being with one another. We remove that exponentially with the more observers we add. And the impersonal nature of FB only exacerbates the situation.
It’s a paradox. The more people I am connected to, the less connected I feel.
So in addition to the reasons I have above, below are longstanding reasons I have decided once again to deactivate my account…permanently. Ironically, the last paragraph – written two years ago – is the same reason I am leaving two years later. I guess I never learn my lessons…
This article was written as a means of examining User Experience in a much larger context – a social context that extends beyond a web application and into our lives. I have become fascinated with how extensive UX Design can become. Facebook provides a very good case study.
I don’t know how to say this. But I’m leaving you. What once started out as such a promising and beautiful relationship for us has turned into loathing and discontent. I’m sorry and I know this is terribly blunt. But it is true.
Everyone remembers a guy or a girl they had a crush on at one point in their lives. Or maybe a first date with someone
truly attractive you had been drooling over for months. Then the first date came. And the second. And then you were going steady. But somewhere along the way the magic faded. The person you had been so enamored with no longer seemed as attractive. In fact, you grew to loathe their company and what was once a dream had now turned into a bitter ending.
The emergence of the Internet with instant messaging, chat rooms and forums began shaping the way we socialized in the mid-nineties. That was version 1.0 of our social lives being reshaped and “online dating” became a catch phrase more than a decade ago. Facebook, you represent version 2.0 and unfortunately it is a step backward for a number of reasons.
I know this is tough for you to hear and that you will miss my company dearly. But I have to end this. It has no future. I am struggling through this just as I’m sure you are. And, I am trying to understand it all. I know you probably feel confused with unanswered questions. So here are the 5 reasons why I am ending our relationship.
Reason #1: You are too social in the broadest sense.
You are simply too social and too many people can see too many things about me leaving me no room to filter my posts to
certain groups. Google+ might have a leg up on you in this respect. (But, I am not ready to jump into another social networking relationship.) Say I want to share information with only a subset of people (Google+ calls these circles). For example, my ex-Marine buddies are much more tolerant of my raunchy posts and language than my professional associations are. I could set a circle up with Google+ and share my Hustler cartoon collection with only them. Someday, you may have this capability, Facebook. But right now, anything I post is in clear view for any of my connections. Even if I use lists, the content is still available on my timeline. That can get a little sticky sometimes. And before I move on to the next subject, let’s consider our real social lives – you know, how we interact with real humans (we do still do that, don’t we?). This concept is quite present in our true lives where we invite certain guests to certain events and socialize differently with different circles.
Reason #2: I am forced to accept friend requests.
In the real world, it’s easy to slough off invitations to parties, events or happy hour get-togethers. You just make an excuse and pretend to be busy. I don’t have to socialize too much with acquaintances and those who I might consider “sort of a friend.” But Facebook, you’re a little different. When someone requests to add me or “friend me,” I can hit the Ignore Button. But, they eventually figure out I am ignoring them. Strange situation there when you run into them on the street or at an event. It’s sort of like telling one friend your busy and can’t meet them for drinks and running into them at a bar when you were supposed to “be busy.” Busted. They know you dodged them. The whole Ignore Button concept provides a problematic social situation because the person on the “snubbed end” knows they are being snubbed. I’ve had people request me over and over again and I am just guessing they eventually figured out I was ignoring them. Some people don’t seem to understand that “Friending Them” is the equivalent to inviting them over for dinner. In some instances, it is a little more personal than that given my wall postings, pictures of family and information about my life. I might not share these things over dinner with my contacts. So in many instances, I have had people whom I would not invite to dinner (not that I don’t like them – I just don’t know them that well), request me as a friend while I repeatedly ignored them. The social equivalent: There they were, standing outside my door, ringing the bell while I hid inside with my car parked in the drive and obviously home.
Reason #3: I find out too much about people.
I had somewhere around 75 contacts (or friends), when I decided to leave you. Many of them I liked prior to accepting their friendship. Some were professional acquaintances – many of whom I respected. Others were just people I knew, but didn’t know too much about. Some were friends I had known for years. But then this strange thing happened. They began divulging all of their information – their religion, their political rants, their Beanie Baby collection photos and their Farmville scores. Most of this I could tolerate and some of it indeed was cute. But there were more than a few of those I “Friended” that I would have preferred to know less about. Admitting that you support a certain politician for president doesn’t automatically make me hate you. But, it’s something I didn’t need to know and we wouldn’t discuss at the dinner table (should I so decide to invite you for dinner). There were also more than a few friends whom I grew to loathe. Your morning Facebook prayer has no place in my feed. Nor does your extremist political view or inappropriate links etc. There were just too many people whom I grew to know too much about and actually liked them less as a result. This situation led to my next problem.
Reason #4: I cannot get rid of friends (i.e. “Unfriending”).
A lot of people have hundreds of contacts/friends on your platform, Facebook. My daughter currently has 150. I can remember a few years ago when it was easy to slink off and “unfriend” a person in anonymity. Hey when you have 150 contacts, how in the world would you notice I unfriended you and am no longer in your feed?!?! That was an easy solution to a complex problem. But then came the third-party apps and those apps that would send you a message as soon as I unfriended someone. My first experience with one of these applications resulted in an email from the person asking “why I was not her friend anymore.” That leaves me in a bad position I never wanted to be in. Nevermind, this person never interacted with me (see reason #5 below) or I with her. That didn’t matter. It was just the thought of being spurned that apparently prompted her message. So you see Facebook, I sort of have this situation here where I get my arm twisted into friendships I can’t get out of.
Reason #5: I only interact with 20 percent of my contacts
But the final reason, Facebook, relates to the 80/20 rule. I only interact with 20 percent or less of my acquaintances.(They’re usually the people I actually like.) I realized this as I would look at my feed each morning. Most of the people I knew – to include myself – led a pathetically boring and mundane existence. I no longer want to see pictures of their children I have never met. I no longer wanted to know what that guy from high school thought about the current political climate in the Middle East – the guy whom I hadn’t heard from in 20 years and had no experience or education in Political Science. I didn’t interact with him anymore now than I had in the past 20 years. And as I note above – I couldn’t get rid of him or refuse his friendship request. Ultimately, I noticed my feed was clogged with posts from people I wasn’t interested in and some I had grown to loathe.
It’s not you Facebook, it’s me. I’ve changed. I’ve realized some things about myself and my life that I had not seen before. The problem isn’t that I don’t have enough friends or can’t keep in touch with them. Oh I thought that was the problem when I started this relationship with you. But now, I can’t turn the volume down. I have too much interaction, too many “friends” and not enough simplicity. I’m going back to my old ways and I’m not saying you and I can’t see each other anymore or be friends. Maybe we can. Maybe we can have dinner or drinks sometime in the future and re-hash this whole thing. That’s a possibility.
But, I’m busy on Friday.